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Madness at the top

14/10/06
According to David Blunkett’s diaries, the Prime Minister told cabinet sceptics in February 2003 that “the management hadn’t lost its marbles” on the eve of the Iraq invasion. But it was clearly a few balls short of a full bag.

Any sane UK administration mighthave wondered what it was getting itself into when the Americans insisted that there would be no need for any civil administration in Iraq. Or military reconstruction after the war. Or that the Iraqi army could be dumped on the dole.

But the madness has now been replicated in Afghanistan where. The sane and well balanced Dr John Reid, when he was Defence Secretary, said British troops would return from Afghanistan “without a shot being fired”. Senior military analysts have been trying unsuccessfully to identify which planet Dr Reid has been living on. In Afghanistan, the army has been facing its most testing military engagement since the Korean War.

With everyone above the rank of junior minister now booking in to the Priory, it’s not too surprising that the generals have decided that they will have to fill the vacuum. The head of the armed forces, General Sir Richard Dannatt, stepped up last week and said what everyone but the government can see as clear as day. That the Western military occupation is part of the problem in Iraq; that we are making the insurgency worse in many areas; that the soldiers are exhausted; and that we should get out as soon as possible. At last, someone talking sense.

This astonishing break with protocol – no serving chief of general staff ever criticised a government publicly for the conduct of a war while the war was still being fought – caused astonishment among politicians of all parties. Even Labour critics of the war, like the former defence minister, Doug Henderson, said Sir Richard had gone too far.

But the Prime Minister, Tony Blair, said he “agreed with every word” Sir Richard had said. Now, this really is the politics of the funny farm. If Tony Blair endorses this assessment, then it seems very difficult to know how he can remain in office without sacking himself.

At the very least, the government should be preparing for a change in policy following the imminent departure of Tony Blair from Number Ten. A new beginning, perhaps a few modest apologies, peace with honour. But no. Following the delusional tradition of this administration, the Chancellor, Gordon Brown, seems to have decided that, now the war is finally lost, it is time for him to start supporting it.

For, just as everyone accepts that the war has damaged community relations, undermined civil liberties and – through the Iraq engagement – antagonised Muslim nations, the Chancellor has launched a cultural revolution. In his Chatham House speech last week Brown called for a “cultural war” on terror. All government departments, he says have to start fighting a “generation long” struggle against extremism. He wants ID cards and 90 day detention too.

This all sounded rather more Mao Tse-Tung than moral compass. Kim il Jong isn’t the only delusional politician in charge of nuclear weapons. The madness of King Tony seems to be infectious.

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About iain2macwhirter

Writer and journalist.

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