Tuesday 14 January 2003

Blair is dangerously wrong about this US government

Fetch Tony Fetch.... Good boy.... Tony Blair is neither wicked nor stupid. This puts those of us who disagree with his Iraq policy under an obligation. We need to do better than merely caricature his policy or insult him. We need to show why his assessment is wrong.

Though Blair speaks often now about Iraq, he rarely does so candidly. Much remains merely implied, especially about the relationship with Washington. Even at yesterday's press conference, he certainly concealed more than he revealed. In some ways it is as hard to get an absolutely clear overall picture of Blair's views on Iraq as about Saddam Hussein's weapons programmes themselves.

Blair's most recent remarks on Iraq came in his new year message, in his speech to British ambassadors a week ago, in the first prime minister's questions of 2003 and now in yesterday's Downing Street press conference. Through all of them there has run a pronounced vein of pessimism. It first caught the headlines in the new year message, which spoke of unprecedented dangers and difficulties.

What exactly is the source of this pessimism? The primary answer can be found in the speech to ambassadors, in a passage which was relatively overlooked in most reports, since these concentrated on Blair's "America must listen" message.

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