Out Of The Frying Pan And Into The Fire


Blair tried to spin his announcement of a reduction of British troop levels in Iraq as some kind of victory by telling us that the situation was now safe enough for a handover to Iraqi control. Obviously this is contrary to the evidence coming out of Basra where troops seem to be largely confined to base and liable to be attacked as soon as they venture out.

In a comment entitled "The British Defeat in Iraq" the pre-eminent American analyst on Iraq, Anthony Cordesman of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, in Washington, asserts that British forces lost control of the situation in and around Basra by the second half of 2005.

Now we are hearing of another reason for the proposed troop reduction. Yep, they're going straight to Afghanistan. 1,600 soldiers leave Basra and more than 1,000 are off to Helmand for the Taliban Spring offensive. So how much of a victory does Basra look like now? Tony, of course, is still in denial about military overstretch despite what his generals tell him. Presumably it's just a coincidence that these two announcements came within 48 hours of each other.

Afghanistan is turning into a meat grinder for British troops with 48 killed since their deployment. And let's not forget that just under a year ago John Reid as Defence Secretary told us that:

"We would be perfectly happy to leave in three years and without firing one shot because our job is to protect the reconstruction."

There is an interesting video piece with Keith Olbermann talking to MSNBC Political Analyst Richard Wolffe about the British troop reductions in Basra, amusingly entitled The Blair Ditch project (via Chicken Yoghurt). The neo-cons are being characteristically ridiculous over the news of a partial pullout of Iraq by Britain. Condoleezza Rice is insisting that the coalition of the willing is still intact, stressing that some British troops will remain and neglecting to mention that Denmark is also abandoning the sinking ship and Lithuania too is looking for the life jackets. Australia is still loyal to the cause and Dick Cheney went over to remind them that:

The notion that free countries can turn our backs on what happens in places like Afghanistan, Iraq, or any other possible safe haven for terrorists is an option we simply cannot indulge...

We are determined to prevail in Iraq because we understand the consequences of failure. If our coalition withdrew before Iraqis could defend themselves, radical factions would battle for dominance over the country.

This is, of course, one day after the news broke of British troop reductions when he said:

Well, I look at it and see it is actually an affirmation that there are parts of Iraq where things are going pretty well...

In fact, I talked to a friend just the other day who had driven to Baghdad down to Basra, seven hours, found the situation dramatically improved from a year or so ago, sort of validated the British view they had made progress in southern Iraq and that they can therefore reduce their force levels.

The spin never stops.

Inquiry Into Iraq 'in due course'


Jack 'Man of' Straw has apparently announced that there'll be an inquiry into the Iraq War 'at the appropriate time'. Blair is on board with this, although he wasn't last week and the wrong time to have an inquiry is 'while the troops are out there' as it will 'send the wrong message'. Judging by ARRSE, the message the troops have got - 'we expect you to fight for a lie without adequate equipment' - hasn't exactly done wonders for their view of Mr. Blair. I'm sure big, tough, cynical British squaddies aren't squeamish about Parliament having an inquiry into what they know is a crock of shit. Mr. Straw must have rather a low opinion of them, which is just one reason I have rather a low opinion of Mr. Straw.

Of course, the right time for an inquiry, from Tony Blair's point of view, is about a nano-second after his private jet leaves UK airspace, heading west.


Another Blair Interview - take a deep breath...


For those of you that missed it this morning, here is Tony Blair's 30 minute Iraq interview on Radio4.

No time right now, but it Fisks itself...

Make sure you have a big stick ready, to beat yourself over the head whilst you listen, it helps!

Iraq Troop Numbers - The Unasked Question


So, we're going to withdraw our troops and the US is increasing their troop levels. The obvious question is,if we are allies, why are we leaving and not reinforcing the US surge?

If anyone can find an 'official' answer we'd love to hear it. Unofficially though, is it because the UK military is horrified at the US tactics towards civilians which they believe has increased the insurgency?

Or is it because the Palace doesn't want photos of Prince Harry blasting away at Iraqi civilians all over the papers?

Or are we leaving in the hope of preventing a wipe out in the May elections and spoiling Gordon's ascension? Or all three?

A Message from our dear leader to the STWC...

Stop the War Coalition is shocked but very pleased to receive this message from Prime Minister Tony Blair and to hear of his interview with award-winning peace campaigner Brian Haw:


Unfortunately, I can't join your national demonstration against my war policies in London on 24 February (see below for details), but I'm very pleased to hear that my record WAR - WHAT IS IT GOOD FOR? will be featured at the protest. You can read my reasons for making this record, see my video for the song and find out how to buy it on this website:

If enough of you buy WAR - WHAT IS IT GOOD FOR? it will go into the charts, which the media won't be able to ignore. This will spread the peace message and help bring the troops home. The record is available to buy now, either by texting PEACE1 to 78789 or by download at

Any profits made from the record will go to Stop the War Coalition and help them continue campaigning against my slavish support for George Bush and his warmongering, which has led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan and which George and I are now planning to spread to Iran. Please buy WAR - WHAT IS IT GOOD FOR? and forward this message to everyone you can.

To publicise your demonstration and to promote my musical plea for peace, I have given an interview to the anti-war campaigner Brian Haw, which you can view here:

By the way, Stop the War tell me that coaches are coming from all over the country to be at Saturday's demonstration. It's very gratifying to hear that my reputation – what I call my legacy – can draw such huge crowds to the capital. You can find a coach in your area here:

I also hear that hundreds of thousands of leaflets and postcards will be distributed across London this week and that Wednesday 21 February has been designated LEAFLET THE TUBES day, when Stop the War hopes to publicise its demonstration at every tube station in the city. Anyone who wants to help or leaflet their neighbourhood or workplace, should contact 020 7278 6694 for leaflets or postcards.

I'm very pleased to learn that you have organised THE DEBATE PARLIAMENT WON'T HAVE on 20 March 2007 – exactly four years after George and I invaded Iraq. MPs, politicians from the USA, a range of experts, campaigners and other witnesses will discuss the Iraq war and its consequences. I'm afraid I won't be able to join you, as it's my policy never to be present when the Iraq war is discussed seriously. Judging by what an easy ride my war policies have had in parliament, this seems to be the policy for most MPs too. (See below for details of March 20 event.)

I do of course wish your demonstration on 24 February every success (not). You will be representing the vast majority in this country who have always opposed my warmongering and I've always said that my government should be the voice of the people.

Yours, as nauseatingly hypocritical as ever,

Prime Minister
10 Downing Street

via Stop the War Coalition

Not To Be Missed


From the Downing Street website:

Margaret Beckett will be online on February 21 to answer your questions in the latest of our Policy Review webchats. The Foreign Secretary will discuss the theme of "Britain and the World" and the global challenges that face us all in the 21st century.

So we get a chance to ask  to ask our Foreign Secretary a question. Judging by previous performances it should be entertaining. Anyone got any suggestions?

A Request for Funds - via Dahr Jamail

Help Support Continuing Middle East Independent Reportage

Friends, I would like to introduce myself. My name is Jeff Pflueger. I've worked closely with Dahr since nearly the beginning of his reporting from the Middle East, using my skills on the web to reach as many people as we can with Dahr's important journalism.
As you know, Dahr has contributed invaluably towards informing the international community about the realities in Iraq.
What you might not know, is that it is primarily because of your support that this was possible. So thank you!

Dahr has been getting the story right on Iraq when the U.S. corporate media reporting was so wrong. While most of the U.S. media were practicing “hotel journalism” or embedding themselves with U.S. troops, Dahr went out into the streets to get the stories that weren't being told.

Now, for two years in a row, Dahr has been honored with two of the top ten stories of the year from Project Censored. Just this year, he was honored with the #1 story of the hottest stories of the year from Inter Press Service. Dahr has appeared on innumerable radio and tv programs, and has toured internationally giving over 100 presentations to packed auditoriums.

He would not have been able to achieve any of this without your support.

Now, with the situation in the Middle East more critical than ever, we need to reach even more Americans with the realities on the ground in the MidEast.

That's why I plan to join Dahr on his next assignment to the Middle East. As a photojournalist who has worked for the New York Times, National Geographic Adventure and other major U.S. periodicals, I will help Dahr tell his stories with compelling images. As Dahr's webmaster and multi-media producer, I will be able to put Dahr's reporting and my images into exciting formats directly from the field. We anticipate that these multimedia productions will reach far more people in this age of YouTube and streaming video than a text-only story could.
If we can raise the funding, our plans are to spend a minimum of one month reporting from different areas in the Middle East this spring, longer if the funding is adequate.


The Dahr Jamail team is bumping it up a notch - You are invited to come along for the ride.

We need your support for this coming project.
With two of us going loaded with lots of equipment, our expenses are considerably more than what they have been in the past.
For those of you that have contributed generously in the past, thank you for supporting Dahr's work.
For those of you who follow Dahr's work, but have never donated, if you each gave as little as $5.00, we'd would reach our funding goals for this new and exciting project.

Any amount will help.

There are three ways that you can choose to donate:

Visit the website here
And choose what you can give. Any amount helps.

Donate By Mail
Donations can also be mailed directly to:
Dahr Jamail
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Tax Deductable Donations
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Thank you for your support of Dahr's work.


Jeff Pflueger


For more background on Dahr's reporting, see his main site at or check out our interview with Dahr from last year.
Please repost this as widely as possible, thanks.

State Of The Union Speech


We've finally finished analysing the full text of the speech and it can be summarised as:

"All we are saying, is give war a chance"

Lieberman, Blair and Iain Dale


Joe Lieberman is an odd fish, indeed - ostensibly, even proudly a Democrat, yet signed up to the increasingly beleagured and unpopular neocon agenda. Rejected by his party, yet elected by his public, and now recommended by Iain Dale. Iain's support for the Iraq war is well known, and he's entitled to his position (I believe that people are entitled to their position if they can spell, punctuate and construct coherent sentences, incidentally - criteria that exclude the President of the United States, who's entitled to nothing more than my boot up his harris should I ever catch him bending over. I digress). Having read the article and from what I've seen I totally disagree with Iain, and I suspect that more people are moving towards my position than his (70% of the US population for a start). Considering he's likely to be standing for Parliament and I'm extremely unlikely ever to ('Vote Tom for sensible public transport, a moral foreign policy and the nailing up of David Blunkett by the thumbs') is a bit strange - you'd have thought he might want a few votes, for which a mainstream rather than an extreme position could be an advantage. He'll certainly find it hard using Lieberman's arguments to a cynical British audience, as they're identical to Tony Blair's, and we know Britain is fed up with him.

On the other side of the fence, it's quite a shock to find who our fellow travellers are these days - sold-out, sold-up Blairite Peter Hain, Republican Senator Chuck Hagel - not the sort you'd expect to see joining us great unwashed out on the streets in the 'Bush #1 Terrorist' shirts. However, when you survey the wreckage of the neo-con agenda - still an array of familiar faces from the American 'Enterprise' Institute, Dick Cheney, Nick Cohen, Christopher Hitchens and of course the Hornswoggler-In-Chief, Tony Blair, still gurning and spewing over the TV and papers, it becomes clearer. Many of these are of course 7/10ths frothingly insane, so why is a decentish, affable Tory like Iain still urging us to back them? It's hard to draw much connection between any of them and traditional British conservatism, which is a carefully crafted ploy to play chess by keeping all the pieces exactly where they are, not a revolutionary movement that intends to throw all the pieces in the air and work out what to do after they land.

To have any chance at understanding, we need to don our long rubber gloves and waders and see what Joe's been writing. Oh dear. From the first line it appears that we're deep in the ideological territory where an undefined 'win' in Iraq is linked closely, and with no evidence, to the security of the USA. He goes on to portray Iraq in the same glib, unreal language as Tony Blair - moderates versus extremists, without specifying precisely whom he considers to be on each side. The hallmarks of extreme neocon rational detachment are still strongly visible - Iraq and 9/11 are linked, mysterious 'thems' are conjured out of thin air, but never expounded upon. Rhetorical flourish replaces analysis (sound familiar?) and the lack of evidence is overwhelming.

More pertinently, he talks about 'surrendering' Iraq, which will come as a surprise to anyone who might have thought that handing over Iraqi sovereignty in a carefully stage-managed ceremony 2.5 years ago actually meant anything. Clearly, in Lieberman's mind, the US is holding Iraq as a bulwark against extremism, which isn't quite what we were originally supposed to be doing there (disarming Saddam, if you believed Tony Blair). You can't hold a sovereign nation except by force of arms and military occupation, which is so clearly the neo-con strategy that they aren't even hiding it these days.

We then move on to illogicalities - Saddam was a 'danger' (not to the US, he wasn't), a 'barrier' to a democratic Middle East - so was the Shah, so are President Mubarrak, General Musharraf, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia/any other strong man with a secret police concerned about the voice on the street. If a democratic Middle East is the goal, let's judge them on results. Can we hear the Voice of the People? Nope, a deathly silence, punctuated only by the glad cries of the arms companies as we give them the green light to supply our friendly dictators. What would be the result of democracy spreading across the Middle East at this point - moderation or extremism (as defined, or rather as not defined, by Lieberman)? Joe doesn't say, perhaps for obvious reasons - the result of the Iraqi invasion on the 2005 Iranian elections is clear and unequivocal.

Perhaps it's Joe's views on politicians that caught Iain's eye? I hope not:

I think we are elected to lead

There was I thinking they were elected to represent. Many are clearly capable of neither, so what the hell were they elected for?

We then turn to a telling part which indicates quite clearly that Lieberman has a good grasp of the stick. At the wrong end.

we've turned the tribal leaders to our side, against al Qaeda

Whisper it - al Qaeda isn't going to be a popular mass movement unless we help it. No one likes a fundamentalist, particularly if you're a powerful, proud tribe used to getting your own way and doing things your way. The arrival of bearded foreign fanatics with wild-eyed talk of jihad and martyrdom and the profound importance of murdering as many Shias as possible is at odds with this. It's the least surprising thing in the world if Sunni tribes decide that the al-Qaeda boys are better off out of their fight. It would, of course, take a powerful common enemy to bring such people together, a powerful enemy like, oo, a foreign military occupation. That would do it, so what Joe's unwittingly advocating here is pulling out and letting the Iraqis dictate their own future, which will be without al Qaeda.

[My goodness, this is like reading raw tripe. The things I do to prove that neocons are irrational, insane and dangerously deluded fools]

Mr. Lieberman is also frustrated that those supporting the resolution are dodging the tough questions.

The tough questions posed by this highly partisan interviewer have the same tangible existence as those elusive WMDs.

We then come to predictions of dire catastrophe if we pull out. Well, there will be a dire catastrophe whatever we do, for the simple reason that there's a dire catastrophe now, which we started; the people who started it are still running it and there'll be a dire catastrophe as long as they're running it. It's a damn good idea to change horses in midstream if the horse you're on is galloping towards the waterfall and not listening to you shouting 'WHOAAH'. Lieberman's predictions are of course rubbish - al Qaeda will not take over in Anbar for the reasons outlined above - without a common enemy the locals will boot them out. Iran will not take over in the south unless we make it easy for them - President Ahmedinejad is in a poor political position at the moment, although we can easily improve that by attacking him. As for the prospect that the people who attacked the US on 9/11 'achieve a victory' if we leave? They're dead, or in Afghanistan or Pakistan, and in a sense have been winning on points since 2002 without actually having to do much work. Mind you, if the mooted Taliban offensive in the spring proves hard to contain, then fingers should be pointed at people like Joe Lieberman who actively supported pulling US troops out of Afghanistan into the Baghdad meatgrinder...

...[a]nd then the same group of people who attacked us on 9/11, they achieve a victory,

Quite, Joe. Anything else on your mind?

If we pull out and essentially surrender to the extremists and terrorists, they are naturally going to follow us right back to our shores

Except for the Taliban, apparently. Logical stuff, Joe. Clearly the first thing people do on getting the ruins of their country back is to jump into imaginary aircraft or ships and head for the USA. This sets up the interesting position that while there's one 'terrorist' left in Iraq (which there will be as long as the US is there) you can't pull out. Catch 22, unless of course you actually want to stay there permanently.

What's noticeable is the degree to which Joe's rhetoric closely resembles Tony Blair - this isn't so surprising, since they've both made the same journey from Clinton-acolyte to fully paid-up swivel eyed neocon Bush fancier. Check this out:

We know that some of our American soldiers are being killed by sophisticated IEDs from Iran. The evidence is just closed, clear, compelling. . . .

Remind you of anyone?

"(Saddam's) weapons of mass destruction programme is active, detailed and growing. The policy of containment is not working. The weapons of mass destruction programme is not shut down. It is up and running....
Tony Blair, 24/9/2002

Uncanny. And both wrong, if you trust our Armed Forces (which surely any good Tory would?). It's difficult to see why Iran would help the Mahdi Army with IEDs (since the Mahdi Army specialise in death squads, defence of Shia areas and internal Iraqi politics) and impossible to see them helping the Sunni insurgency, which contains elements (Baathists and Sunni fundamentalists) who are profoundly opposed to Iranian influence. That leaves the Shia militia in the south, who are sporadically attacking not the Americans, but the British, or precisely the people who are emphatically saying that no proof has come to light that the Iranians are supplying the weapons. Game, set and match, I think - the same people are giving us the same spiel we got four years ago, and it doesn't add up any more now than it did then. This is a propaganda piece from the US far-right, brought to you steaming and hot from the rear end of the real anti-Americans. The words 'Wall Street Journal' at the bottom of the article rather give the game away.

Ladies and gentlemen - I give you Joe Lieberman - incoherent, illogical, ill-educated and not someone worthy of any British bloggers recommendation. Time for the adults to take over, I think.

Tony Blair's Enthusiasm for Debate


Tony Blair - 12 January

It is not easy to have this debate with the swirl of recent publicity about the conditions of our Armed Forces - however wrong or exaggerated it might be; or when we are in the middle of two deeply controversial engagements of our troops. Yet this is the right time to debate and decide it precisely because of such stormy argument.

The reason for the storm is not this or that grievance or conflict. Its origin is the new situation we face. The post Cold War threat is now clear. The world has changed again. We must change with it. I have set out the choice I believe we should make. I look forward to the debate.


Sunday Times - 21 January

THE prime minister is to shun the first major debate on Iraq held in parliament since 2004.

Tony Blair has said he will not attend the Commons session, although it is taking place straight after prime minister’s questions on Wednesday.

Fancy that!

FAO Peter Hain


A message for you Peter, from an anonymous commenter on the previous post.

The same Peter Hain who…..
Voted against the war [sic]? Watched other cabinet ministers resign on principle? Has always thought the war and tactics totally wrong? Decided to stay in government? Who voted against an inquiry into the criminal war approval process?

Who now feels confident enough to speak out and try and wash his hands of responsibility?

So you didn’t agree with the war, you knew it was wrong and saw Robin Cook and Clare Short show you the correct course of action, yet you stayed in government. You have collected your money while soldiers are dying for your government. You swapped your integrity, self respect and credibility for the perks of high office. When the people you were elected to represent wanted an inquiry you voted against. Why would someone who opposed the decision to go to war and its conduct want to stop a public inquiry? Surely it would have justified your own personal view and your government surely has nothing to hide has it?

You opposed the inquiry to save your corrupt government in an act of pure self-interest. You fucking coward. Spineless wankers like you are the reason British troops are dying in a war started by wilful criminal deceit. Maybe if one more minister had the morals of Cook and Short the war could have been avoided. Greed over responsibility, spin over honesty and then shirk the responsibility. You need to write to every family of those killed and injured and apologise for betraying our armed forces, no bollocks about spreading democracy or war on terror, just beg their forgiveness.

Yes you will resign. I thought I better spell it out as you will get no guidance on the decent thing to do from those around you in cabinet. All so Gordon Brown, your new boss if you play ball, can try and pretend it was nothing to do with anyone but Tony. In the real world, away from Westminster, your actions are viewed as those of a worthless individual, with not a scrap of common decency; a coward.

You accepted the responsibility of government that sent troops to their death when you knew it was wrong, help suppress the truth and now confess publicly how it was nothing to do with you. Unless you haven’t noticed they are still there mate. You should be charged with something serious, very serious.

Be under no illusion it was Bliar's war, Labour's war with help from the Tory's who remain scared of doing the right thing.


For a more detailed review of Peter Hain's position on the war - see

I fought apartheid. I'll fight Saddam
(My critics are wrong: they are merely propping up a dictator...)

There is vigorous public debate about Britain's support for UN sanctions on Iraq. I have no intention of ducking this debate, because I am convinced Britain's policy is right.

And his attack on dinner party critics:

'There's now a kind of dinner party critics who quaff shiraz or chardonnay and just sneeringly say, "You are no different from the Tories",' he said. 'Most of the people in this category are pretty comfortably off: it's not going to be the end of the world if they get a Tory government. In a working-class constituency like mine, this is a lifeline. It's not a luxury.

The leader had 'got the message' about their displeasure, Hain said, arguing that those who still disagreed over Iraq or civil liberties should reopen the arguments after the election.

The argument never closed Peter...

Rats Spotted Leaving Sinking Ship


One of the public signs of Blair's decline is his lack of authority over his ministers. Gordon can now do whatever he wants and beat Blair to pronouncements on subjects far, far outside his brief.

The other ministers know which way the wind blows and are steadily distancing themselves from their past decisions and responsibilities. The Blairites are going into detox. They also need to deal with Tony's most poisonous legacy, Iraq. So they're coming over all contrite saying Labour has to admit it's errors. Note that it's 'Labour' and not I who was wrong, for all their mealy mouthed, weasel words they don't take any personal responsibility. But it is the first sign of the rats leaving the sinking ship; tough on sinking, tough on the causes of sinking. Expect these voices to get bolder and grow louder over the coming months.

Hilary Benn let us be clear about that truth. Look, the intelligence was wrong, the de-Ba'athification went too far, the disbanding of the army was wrong
Peter Hain The problem for us as a government ... was actually to maintain a working relationship with what was the most rightwing American administration, if not ever, then in living memory.
James Purnell I think the biggest mistake is that you always need to learn the importance of moral legitimacy and international support.
Yvette Cooper I think if different decisions had been taken early on, we might have seen a different course of events

And there's more. Writing an interesting piece on Europe Peter Mandelson says How, post Iraq, can we establish a more equal relationship with the US except by putting more effort into building common European positions, as we have done on Iran?

Interesting, even Mandy's saying Blair got too close to the US.

Blair's Speech - The Lads On The Ground Respond


We discussed Blair's speech to military commanders and academics earlier, in detail but we noticed that soldiers have taken exception to his words, especially "On the part of the military, they need to accept that in a volunteer armed force, conflict and casualty may be part of what they are called upon to face."

Blair - I've no doubt you've been on this website and I hope you're reading this.

I sit here typing this in tears of anger, frustration and despair.

Having never served, HOW FCUKING DARE YOU make a comment like that. The finest, brightest, strongest, bravest young men and women in this country signed on the dotted line in selfless service of their country and you BETRAYED them by sending them into unsound conflict without adequate support.

YOU have made the decision to send young soldiers into a HELL from which some have never returned.

And if you think I'm being unreasonable, consider for a second my friends and comrades who will never again see the light of day. Consider the parents who leave their brave young son's bedroom just as he left it in the false hope that he might one day come home to them. Consider the children who, whilst you were no doubt enjoying a family Christmas, wept and sobbed because daddy wasn't there to open his presents - Because you murdered him in your political pandering.

May your dreams be haunted for the rest of your days by the youth and laughter which you've so smugly poured away.

Blair. You fcuking cnut.

Bush asked Blair to send more troops to Iraq


Listening to Tony Blair's recent speech aboard HMS Albion in Plymouth in which he stated his desire for Britain to be involved in even more wars, you'd get the impression that he'd jump at the chance to send more British troops to Iraq, especially if asked to do so by his lord and master in Washington. However, it seems now that our war addicted Prime Minister was given such a request and, strangely, balked at the idea.

TONY Blair formally rejected an American appeal to send hundreds more British troops to Iraq to help with US "surge" tactics, Scotland on Sunday can reveal.

The Prime Minister was confronted with the request for extra help to supplement the thousands of American reinforcements on their way to Baghdad, during conversations with President Bush before Christmas.

But he turned down the plea for around 2,000 extra British troops - to add to the 7,200 already stationed around Basra - because it would conflict with the government's hopes of scaling down Britain's Iraq presence in the coming months.

In his speech Blair said that:

The risk here - and in the US where the future danger is one of isolationism not adventurism - is that the politicians decide it's all too difficult and default to an unstated, passive disengagement, that doing the right thing slips almost unconsciously into doing the easy thing.

How does that square with his refusal to send the requested troops? Is this a tacit admission that our armed forces are in no state for an escalation of an already disastrous conflict, or has Blair decided that in the light of the huge opposition to this failed war, and in consideration of his all-important legacy that it's all too difficult and that doing the easy thing is also doing the right thing? Perhaps in an all too rare moment of lucidity Blair has realised that Bush's escalation plan goes beyond batshit crazy and is doomed to fail. Either way this is the best indication so far of a possible split between London and Washington. No doubt this welcome decision will be used as evidence of Britain's independence from the USA after the recent stinging criticisms of Blair's subservience to Bush. I'd be more inclined to believe that if I heard an unequivocal statement that Britain will not in any way be part of an attack on Iran. I can't help suspecting that Blair's bellicose speech was partly an attempt to smooth some ruffled feathers in Washington.

Interestingly, the same article in Scotland on Sunday had this little gem:

Bush yesterday challenged opponents of his new Iraq plan to put forward their own strategy for stopping the violence in Baghdad.

"To oppose everything while proposing nothing is irresponsible," Bush said in his weekly radio address.

There was another strategy proposed for ending the violence in Iraq. It was called the Iraq Study Group report and Bush ignored it.

Tony's Defence - Nice of Blair to notice us at last


From today's Independent

Speaking to an invited audience of military commanders and academics on board a warship in Plymouth, the Prime Minister disclosed his fears that the West no longer had the stomach for sustained military campaigns. He also appeared to blame the media for the global outrage provoked by the war in Iraq.

I hadn't read much of Blair's speech before this (my main reading yesterday was the Guardian in a pub - recuperation is such a nuisance sometimes), but it seems to be a humdinger deserving of much fisking for its vivid portrayal of a man let down by everyone - the army, the media, the British public. We've let ourselves down, we've let the school down and worst of all we've let Tony down and we should all stand in the corner wearing a big hat with a 'D' on it until the State Dunce Police come to pick us up. Strangely, the only people who haven't let him down are 'The Enemy', who have given him his life purpose back. That they're largely an imaginary friend of his own devising does nothing for anyone trying to argue that Blair is still sane.

In reality, of course, this is classic projection and another indication that the Prime Minister isn't mentally fit to lead the country any more.

With this in mind, I set out to search for a full transcript of the speech, rather than some journalist's juicy bits (an unpleasant image, I think). Oddly enough, the Number 10 website has it. Here goes:

First thing to note is that this is one of a series of lectures the Lord Protector is giving on the subject of 'Our Nation's Future'. Since about the only thing we know is that Tony Blair isn't going to be part of our nation's future if us or 78% of the electorate have anything to do with it, it's unclear what the utility of this is beyond Tony's pathetic attempts to go out leaving us 'wanting more'.

What stands out:

In this lecture, I shall argue that today's security threat is qualitatively new and different

It's always new and different. I'd expect Tony to react to a change in the decoration of the Kellogg's Corn Flakes packet by annoucing solemnly that this momentous event requires a qualitatively new approach to breakfast. It's dangerous baloney when applied to real-world conflict as it absolves those in charge from any necessity to look to the past for any lessons, including those that they should have learnt from their own mistakes. To learn from one's mistakes first requires that you admit them, which as we've seen before is always a little difficult for Tony.

There are two types of nations similar to ours today. Those who do war fighting and peacekeeping and those who have, effectively, except in the most exceptional circumstances, retreated to the peacekeeping alone.

A dig at the French, I think, who after all are doing peacekeeping in south Lebanon these days but unaccountably declined to participate in the Iraq jaunt. Presumably Tony would have preferred them to join him and Dubya in backing the Israeli attacks on the Lebanese population. Blair is fond of dividing the world into easy-to-understand lumps, and conjuring up a defeatist/pacifist Francosphere is quite in character. The fact that the French were right on Iraq and have pointed this out repeatedly has made no impact on Blair whatsoever. So much for the alliance with Europe he talks about elsewhere (ranked after the alliance with the US, naturally).

The strain on the UK Armed Forces was exacerbated by Suez. The failed invasion, undertaken with France and opposed by the US, forced a reassessment of our place in the world and reinvigorated the relationship with the USA.

Two things here - he neatly forgets the considerable involvement of Israel in the Suez crisis. The implied message (which runs throughout) is that the UK fails when it undertakes military action away from the US umbrella (and with those perfidious Frogs to boot), but should be actively involved when the US turns up. We're lost without America in other words - the presence of the USA sanctifies us. Still, pre-1997 history in a Blair speech is a novelty, thought typically he gets it arse-about-face and gets in another dig at the French.

The army has only declined in size by a very small amount since 1997.

While the demands on it have gone up dramatically, including running several wars in parallel. Has no one else spotted that he's effectively admitting having a failed defence policy?

The era dominated by anti-submarine patrols requiring large numbers of frigates was over.

Why's he buying the massively-expensive Astute class hunter-killer submarine then, that's 4 years late and a billion quid over budget, almost entirely on his watch. The only contribution each of these three (yes, we're only getting three of them at something over a billion quid each, although BAE SYSTEMS shareholders will be delighted to hear that Tony and the boys are ordering another one) can provide to the kind of operations Tony has in mind is to fire cruise missiles, the counter-insurgency weapon of choice for military morons. Dare I suggest that there are better delivery mechanisms than a 7800-ton nuclear submarine and better uses for the money?

So much of what is written distorts the truth or greatly embellishes it.

Beyond irony. There's no qualification to say what distortions so exercise the PM, but it's possible he's referring to later on in his own speech, such as this bit:

In October 2001, the Taleban in Afghanistan was subject to military action. Within two months by the use of vast airpower, they were driven from office. In military terms the victory seemed relatively easy.

Yes, he believes the Taliban were defeated by air power, rather than us teaming up with some really quite unpleasant warlords (with more than a passing resemblance to the Sierra Leonian 'gangsters' he refers to at another point) to help them win a pre-existing civil war. It often occurs to me that if you did an identity parade with the leaders of the Northern Alliance and the Taliban in it, the average Sun reader wouldn't be able to tell the difference. Beards, AK-47s, Korans, antique attitudes to women's rights - like any civil war (apart from ours, where we helpfully put on fancy dress) it's extremely hard to get a handle on it from outside.

Eighteen months later, with Saddam consistently refusing to abide by UN Resolutions and with alarm at the proliferation of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons, Iraq was invaded. This time it was more difficult and more costly. Nonetheless, Saddam was removed within 3 months, again by the exercise of overwhelming military firepower.

What was unclear then but is very clear now is that what we were and are confronted with, is of a far more fundamental character than we supposed. September 11 wasn't the incredible action of an isolated group, a one-off strike masterminded by Osama Bin Laden.

Why the juxtaposition of Iraq and bin Laden? Why was it 'unclear' 18 months after 9/11 when we'd supposedly been concentrating on it (actually, we weren't, we were concentrating on invading Iraq, weren't we? Another Blair failure of priorities)? Why does he say three months instead of three weeks (17 March - 9th April 2003)?

The notion that removing two appalling dictatorships and replacing them with a UN backed process to democracy, with massive investment in reconstruction available if only the terrorism stopped, could in any justifiable sense "inflame" Muslim opinion when it was perfectly obvious that the Muslims in both countries wanted rid of both regimes and stand to gain enormously, if only they were allowed to, from their removal, is ludicrous. Yet a large part, even of non-Muslim opinion, essentially buys into that view.

Here he's started veering off the path of sanity big style. It's 'ludicrous', apparently, to suggest that the vast upsurge in terrorism in Iraq, the terrorism here by people quite openly pointing to Iraq as a factor indicates that there's somehow more terrorism around. He's also setting up a classic straw man by trying to suggest that the argument is that it was just the removal of Saddam that increased the threat of terrorism. It's not, of course, it's the military occupation and promotion of sectarian politics that came after Saddam. As for Afghanistan, unlike Saddam, the Taliban didn't go away, so by conflating the two he commits yet another sin against common sense.

The enemy knows something else also. That when they kill our soldiers, it provokes not just understandable grief and anguish, but resulting from that, a questioning of why we are "there"; what it's got to do with "us"

Accelerating over the sanity horizon, he's now suggesting that when people question why UK soldiers are 'there', there are two reactions, an understandable one and by implication a non-understandable one. That the understandable one is an emotional reaction and the non-understandable one is a rational question is incredibly revealing. Blair likes his public emotional and passive (think Diana). Rational and pro-active citizens really don't float his boat. We like to think we're in the second category, so this is a pleasant conclusion to draw.

Any grievances, any issues to do with military life, will be more raw, more sensitive, more prone to cause resentment.

There follows a long segment arguing that the problem with war reporting is that there's too much of it, it's not controlled tightly enough and there's a bit too much 'reality' in it for his liking. In Tony's world we'd have less reality and more propaganda, which smartly contradicts what he said earlier about distorted or embellished truth. Frankly, if I watch a video of an IED attack on a US patrol, I think the exultant whoops of 'Allahu akbar' as the bomb goes off would give me a clue that the originators were of an Islamic jihadi persuasion, just as the Fox News logo in the corner of the screen would give me a clue that I was being fed the neocon line. Oops, I'm using that cool, rational component of my brain again, in direct contravention of Tony's desires.

Failed states threaten us as well as their own people. Terrorism destroys progress

Two more assertions without any backing. Failed states can't threaten us, they're failed states, for crying out loud. Terrorism doesn't destroy progress, it destroys lives, property and creates distress and hatred, but it's not going to stop Apple launching the iPhone or someone setting up a flower selling business. It can't threaten the integrity of the state.

They will say yes in principle we should keep the "hard" power, but just not in this conflict or with that ally. But in reality, that's not how the world is.

Whenever Blair describes something as 'reality', assume the opposite is true. In this case the opposite is that Britain should keep its Armed Forces but use them rationally. Sounds pretty sensible to me. Blair is effectively admitting that in his 'reality' we shouldn't make rational decisions about the deployment of the Armed Forces. He's saying, before an audience of servicemen and women, 'Trust Me With Your Lives, I'm Mad'.

This terrorism is an attack on our values. Its ideology is anti-democratic, anti-freedom, anti-everything that makes modern life so rich in possibility...Using force against them to prevent such an act is not "defence" in the traditional territorial sense of that word, but "security" in the broadest sense, an assertion of our values against theirs.

Blair wields supreme power on a minority vote and uses this power to suppress democratic protest and ancient freedoms. He then redefines 'security' to mean 'pre-emptive attacks to impose his way of thinking' and attempts to remove the word 'defence' from the military lexicon. He has no need of defence, only attack. Breathtaking.

On the part of the military, they need to accept that in a volunteer armed force, conflict and therefore casualty may be part of what they are called upon to face.

Because people join up thinking it's a gadget filled opportunity for exciting foreign travel? This insults everyone in the Army, Royal Navy and RAF who know bloody well what a volunteer armed force is.

On the part of the public, they need to be prepared for the long as well as the short campaign, to see our participation alongside allies in such conflict not as an atavistic, misguided attempt to recapture past glories, but as a necessary engagement in order for us to protect our security and advance our interests and values in the modern world.

I'd settle for protecting our security, given the results of Blair trying to advance what he thinks are our interests and values. I'll use the old-fashioned definition of security, not Tony's redefinition, thanks. And I'll continue to call our alliance with the US neocons in Iraq a bloody mistake of epic proportions, too.

But even we have immense challenges to overcome; and in terms of international institutions capable of helping build a nation, the international community woefully short of where it needs to be.

Oh, an attack on the UN now.

It is not easy to have this debate with the swirl of recent publicity about the conditions of our Armed Forces - however wrong or exaggerated it might be

'You're wrong, I'm right'.

The post Cold War threat is now clear.

Only in your reality, Tony. The rest of us haven't the faintest idea what you're on about.

I look forward to the debate.

No you don't, you look forward to stating your beliefs and ignoring anyone with a professionally grounded opinion, as you usually do. I look forward to reading ARRSE and PPRUNE for some actual debate from the bits of the Armed Forces that matter.