“It’s Time To Say Sorry For Iraq’s Agony “
That’s what Mary Riddell says in The Observer in a well argued piece that also gives a historic perspective.
“History will forgive the war on Iraq. Or so Tony Blair told the US Congress in July 2003, as the first cold shadows fell on the invasion. The Prime Minister also warned of ‘many further struggles ahead’. He cannot have imagined that these would include being gunned down by the head of the British army.
“By calling for a pull-out from Iraq, General Sir Richard Dannatt has reversed the view of the French wartime leader, Georges Clemenceau, that ‘war is too serious a matter to entrust to military men’. In Dannatt’s view, it is too vital to be left to the sofa warriors of Downing Street. His men have had enough, and he has said so.
“The military can barely hide their glee. The previous head, Sir Michael Jackson, was seen by soldiers as Blair’s puppet. Now they have a leader who puts the army first. Dannatt may not share this jubilation. Naivety, or every general’s tendency to rank himself just below God in the cosmic line management structure, led him into an unintended row.
“As he must know, Iraq is rarely kind to generals. In April 1915, General Sir Charles Townshend had a nervous breakdown on the road from Basra, shortly before his troops were decimated. His successor, General Sir Stanley Maude, died of cholera. Almost a century after the last, doomed British invasion, another general decides that the game is almost up.
“Blair, briefed throughout the night as the mutiny unfolded, has smoothed over the cracks, but Dannatt has been warned to stay out of trouble. Ever since Caesar defied the Senate and crossed the Rubicon, politicians have been wary of over-mighty soldiers. Another outburst, and this one would have to go.
“Many war-brokers bend their constitutional roles. Blair has behaved as an unanointed commander-in-chief: Dannatt has adapted the role of General MacArthur, fired by President Truman for trying to declare war on China. Unlike MacArthur, Dannatt has become an all-purpose hero, feted not just by soldiers but by troops-out campaigners.”
The BBC quotes provide excellent examples of double-speak and fudging that’s going on. “Mr Blair said he suspected Sir Richard had given a long interview to the Daily Mail and had then been taken out of context…I’ve read his (Sir Richard’s) transcript of his interview on the radio this morning, and I agree with every word of it.”
And now see what the top Iraqi officials are saying:
“A spokesman for Iraqi President Jalal Talabani said the departure of multi-national troops now ‘would be a disaster’.
“Iraq’s ambassador to Britain, Dr Salah al-Shaikhly, said British soldiers were close to completing their mission.”
“In Basra, Maj Gen Ali Hammadi, the Iraqi security co-ordinator, has told BBC’s Newsnight that if the British stopped arrest operations in the city, the level of violence there would drop by 80%.”
And the double-speak goes on…
For more on Sir Richard’s comments and Tony Blair’s reaction, the Sunday Times has interesting details.
“In other circumstances a military officer defying his political master might have been sacked. But Blair was in no position to call all the shots. For while Downing Street was furious, the reaction among Dannattâ€™s own men was one of exultation. At last someone at the top had spoken out for the ordinary soldier â€” and there was nothing Blair could do about it.
“The army internet forums were full of praise. ‘I think itâ€™s bloody brilliant a CGS (Chief of the General Staff) gets up and says â€˜For my ladsâ€™,’ one soldier wrote.
” ‘The General has obviously decided to stake his job on this,’ another added. ‘At last, someone who has integrity and genuine concern for his men and his country.’ “