Straw Man


London's Daily Telegraph has published a piece, based on government documents shown to the newspaper, alleging that Tony Blair "was warned a year before invading Iraq that a stable post-war government would be impossible without keeping large numbers of troops there for 'many years.'"

The article goes on to note: "The documents, seen by The Telegraph, show more clearly than ever the grave reservations expressed by Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, over the consequences of a second Gulf war and how prescient his Foreign Office officials were in predicting the ensuing chaos."

It is probable that Straw had something to do with the leaked documents, as his relations with Blair have reportedly deteriorated of late and the situation in Iraq gets worse. The information shows that Straw and his people were unconvinced of the charge that Saddam Hussein's regime controlled WMD. Peter Ricketts, the Foreign Office policy director, noted there were "real problems" with the weapons threat and wrote: "Even the best survey of Iraq's WMD programmes will not show much advance in recent years. Military operations need clear and compelling military objectives. For Iraq, 'regime change' does not stack up. It sounds like a grudge match between Bush and Saddam."

Indeed, but that sounds a trifle too convenient, doesn't it? Straw may have been doubtful, but he also backed the government line on Iraqi WMD, and supported his soul mate Colin Powell when the U.S. secretary of state defended the Iraq WMD claims before the UN Security Council in early 2003. (Straw's sympathetic ear was even on the other end of the phone when Powell referred to Bush administration hawks as "fucking crazies.")

There is also the question of how long the U.S. and Britain would remain in Iraq. It was obvious for some time before the U.S. attacked the country that American forces would be there for years, so that anyone in Britain who was following the debate across the Atlantic could have guessed that a British commitment probably meant going in for the long haul as well.