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Interesting set of contributions. I think Edward Leigh's approach is one we should soon adopt - in a nutshell, the war was a mistake and is a disaster, and we have to work out how to leave and what we leave behind. There is no point more soliders dying in pursuit of a vain hope.

A sound suggstion by Edward Leigh, studiously ignored by Hague. Pity. What was left was a series of observations of steadily diminishing value right down to the fatuous "morality" stance of the vomit-inducing Bercow.

I am also with Edward Leigh although it would have been better to have made this U turn before the last election when what he says was already clear. For that, I suppose, we must blame Michael Howard (and Dr Fox). It seems a pity that when Cameron has reversed so many other policies, including some which were popular at least with the Party's supporters, that our front bench sticks so close to its original stance despite its unpopularity. Note the recent recovery of the Lib Dems in the polls as the ghastly mistake of Iraq becomes clearer day by day. It's not just about popularity though, Bush and Blair have been proved wrong. When Brown comes in and starts changing the policy we are in danger of being left high and dry.

Iraq is one big mess - and I can't see it changing for some time (if ever!). Maybe we should give it over to the UN and pay for Arab soldiers to police the country?

Ghastly mistake? 130 British deaths in 4 years? It is practically the least lethal war of all time. More died in the first five minutes of the D-Day landing.

This nonsense about 'if I know what I know now, I wouldn't have voted for it', is largely meaningless and devious. Do they mean that if they knew there weren't going to be any WMDs, they wouldn't have done? Interesting, since how else could we have found out? And interesting, since how else could we have prevented Saddam from getting them (the NYT recently revealed Hussein was a mere 2 years off getting nukes)?

You know, if Blair knew then what we know now, I'm sure he wouldn't have tabled a resolution for war centered around WMDs. What does it matter?

What does it prove to say it?

The fact is we are there. We can stay or we can go. Each will have enormous impact militarily and diplomatically, with both our enemies and allies. On balance I prefer staying. The lethality of doing so is almost nil. But the benefits for the Iraqis, the region, our allies Israel and the USA, and the strong, unflagging message it sends to all our enemies great and small, are enormous.

Iran won't be the hegemonic power if Iraq succeeds, Rifkind, you daft cnut. If we leave now, and it descends into chaos, it will be. Wrap your ancient, useless, sappy old brains around that fact, would you?

CAWP - Iran, whether we like it or not, is already the most powerful state in the region. By invading Iraq the US, UK and allies actually made things easier for Teheran to spread its influence.

Leaving a messy civil war behind is increasingly looking inevitable, so why stay?

CAWP, I rather agree. Reading the contributions of some of these people makes me think that perhaps Pontius Pilate did have a backbone after all.

I would also prefer to prolong our stay if I thought that it would actually achieve anything. (Other than delaying the inevitable day when a full scale civil war breaks out in Iraq which I suspect will entirely coincidentally be after the architects of this war have left office).
As far as I can see not many of the players involved outside the immediate coterie of George Bush actually believe that this 'surge' will succeed. Still I suppose even this plan is better than that of the British who are hanging around losing lives with no strategy or plan whatsoever other than to see what the Americans do and then seek to support it. We even ridiculously supported the Baker-Hamilton plan until Bush rejected it so now we are supporting the surge! We make noises about downscaling our troops this year but when Ming asks for a timetable of withdrawal that apparently would be a 'gift to the terrorists'. What a pathetic and unbelievable situation!
CAWP interested to hear why you think 'Iran won't be hegemonic power if Iraq succeeds' when the pro Iranian sentiments of the current Iraqi government become more apparent ever day?

Michael Ancram's desire for "unthreatening dialogue" has changed my opinion of him for the better. George W’s infantile Axis of Evil speech must go down as one of the most counterproductive ever.

I am deeply concerned about the decision to invade Iraq. Knowing the Blair track record I am convinced he misled Parliament about the justification for war. The consequence is the near state of Civil War in Iraq, thousands of innocent men women children killed. Many British and American troops killed. Blair denies that the increased terrorism is anything to do with the invasion of Iraq. The man is a fool!
Insofar as his absence from yesterday's debate is concerned this is inexcusable. If things were going well do you think he would have decided not to attend?
I consider he is the worst Prime Minister we have had for a very long time. He deserves my contempt and I suspect many more people may agree with me.

Mark Fulford:George W’s infantile Axis of Evil speech must go down as one of the most counterproductive ever.

You can't expect me to pass up a challenge like that. Here's some alternatives:

* Socrates' defence? (induced the jury to condemn him to death)

* William Jennings Bryan's cross of gold speech? (destroyed Democrats credibility with business for the best part of a generation at a stroke)

* Khrushchev promising "we will bury you"? (he got it the wrong way round)

* Enoch Powell's exploratory study of the future composition and flow-rate of English rivers? (probably didn't quite hit the right tone)

* Slobodan Milosevic's attempt on the 600th anniversary of the Battle of Kosovo to explain how socialism can further both Serbian pride and Yugoslav unity? (later, when forced, he would drop the Yugoslav unity, the socialism and eventually the Battle of Kosovo ideas)

Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear.

The present Iraqi government has Iranian sympathies and influences (a lot of the ministers were exiles living in Iran for some time), I'll agree, but not egregiously so - not to the detriment of thier rival interests in the region and world; they are not a client-state politically or economically, and their interests only coincide the less successful we and the Iraqi army at securing their country, since then the Iranians do become top dog - and then only in the Shi'ite portions of the parliament, who would be secure in the allegiance. The Kurds and Sunnis are an entirely different matter. And Iraq has a budget of 49 BILLION DOLLARS and enormous rival oil reserves, which Iran has nothing whatever to do with. Iran is not the hegemon yet, not in any meaningful way. The U.S., post-invasion, was! - remember Libya giving up its weapons, Syria pulling out, Iran being rather quiet, etc, etc? Now it is very much up in the air.

The fact is we still control our own fate. We could easily, if we had the will, and could stomach the least lethal war in the history of the world for a few more years, be victorious. Iraq is such a significant state regionally, with its present and potential future wealth, access to the Gulf, and position amongst the rival Islamic faction-countries, that we cannot afford to let it tear itself apart, or be torn apart by the countries surrounding it.

This isn't Vietnam, a piddling little jungle country of almost zero geopolitical significance (for all the hype about Maoists at the time). This is a central, vital Middle East power. Walking away from it is the most ridiculous and shameful thing we could do. You'd think that since it's a Lib Dem position, Tories would be naturally hesitant about adopting it (the Lib Dems are yet to have any good ideas about anything else, after all). But no. I mean, how much common cause have Leigh and his Cornerstone chums EVER found with the LDs on ANY other matter?


William, I confess to hyperbole. The 6th most counterproductive speech ;-)

CAWP and McGowan,
I agree with the pair of you. The fact is this war is something we chose to do and as such it is incumbent on us to see it through. Perhaps the belief in WMD was wrong but it was hardly unique to the British (or even to just the British and American) secret services at the time. Many other countries, including some who opposed the war, agreed with the existence of Saddam's stockpile.

I would have been won over with the regime change argument myself. Though I readily concede you can't just change any regime you dislike (Mugabe, Kim Il Sung, Castro etc.) I think there can be good reasons for choosing some earlier than others and Iraq is one of those.

There probably isn't much more to be done in the south, the trouble now mostly is in the centre - the local government & police in the south may have severe problems but is in control there, it is Baghdad and the central region that need focusing on now. Iraqi Security Forces are growing in strength by the day and even if coalition troops were to leave ASAP would be the most powerful military forces remaining in Iraq.

The war was right, an evil regime was removed, the Rumsfeld strategy though failed to commit enough troops from the start and the US perhaps had naive ambitions for what sort of government should be achieved after the war, a military coup might have been better. The war publicity was also mishandled, fabricated dossiers just intensified opposition to the war, to point out the regimes past record, the likliehood that they had chemical weapons, that they were working on new missile guidance systems and missiles exceeding the 150km limit and that they were destroying Iraq's social structure, economy and ecosystem with ethnic cleansing, draining the marshes, cutting down vast numbers of trees and huge palaces and statues in Saddam's honour, and that the ludicrous wars launched by the regime not only threatened stability in the region but ran up huge debts for Iraq, in fact Iraq's annexation of Kuwait was primarily an attempt to avoid repaying a debt to them.

CAWP hardly worth arguing with you. Clearly you have not studied the current Iraqi government in the slightest. Most of the leading US Generals do not share your optimism either. Perhaps before you call Sir Malcolm rude names you should look in the mirror.

Mugabe, Kim Il Sung, Castro etc.) I think there can be good reasons for choosing some earlier than others and Iraq is one of those.
Robert Mugabe is running out of time and the likliehood is that his successor will seek to unite the country, Fidel Castro really was pushed into siding with international Communism by the stubborn refusal of the USA to accept that Cuba would no longer be somewhere easily accessible to gamblers from the US, North Korea unfortunately is next to China and Chinese sensibilities have to be taken into account although if China could be persuaded to change the regime this would ber an improvement. In Iraq it was obvious that a relative of Saddam's would take over and that those in line were if anything worse than he was.

Useless, useless, useless!

Defence is the Tories' key policy area. It was Mrs Thatcher's only policy area at both her re-elections. Now, as Blair and his cronies are getting ready to stab Bush in the back and defecate on the Iraqis, the Tories could put clear blue water between themselves and the Government. But they won't.

They've failed on this issue just as they've failed to defend Christianity against the sodomites. That's two serious and potentially fatal failures in one week. It's unlikely that they'll recover any time soon.

I thought this article a bit lightweight to say the least but the Q& A s were revealing. Cameron comes across as a very grounded fellow but I think he's wrong in two key areas.
1) The policy of the Conservative party on the EU is not 'settled'. One only has to read any debate on this subject on this blog to realise that. The more the EU wishes to take power to itself the greater the appeal of BOO will become.
2) I also think he's wrong about state funding in principle ,whether the proposals are 'modest' or not.

Sorry put the above on the wrong thread. Should have been on the Time Magazine thread.


It's hardly very clever to claim you are so correct in your positions that there's no point in articulating them, and then accuse me of total ignorance compared to your superior knowledge - and yet not offer one example of either.

I've looked in the mirror. I've looked at Sir Malcolm. Ugly as I am, I preferred my reflection to the site of nude and incompetent idiocy.

Sir Malcolm is a disgrace.

He's also Scottish, though, so.

Now, as Blair and his cronies are getting ready to stab Bush in the back and defecate on the Iraqis
Congress is getting ready to pull the financing necessary to continue funding the US presence in Iraq, Tony Blair and most of the government continue to give their backing over the War in Iraq - Peter Hain is a notable exception.

>>Interesting set of contributions. I think Edward Leigh's approach is one we should soon adopt<<

We will!

After Prime Minister Gordon Brown has announced his flagship pullout policy.

I laugh about those "if I knew then what I know now" claims that politicians make.

What has changed is not the facts about Iraq. What has changed is the poll numbers.

Does anyone believe that the average politician spends more time studying Middle East policy than he/she does studying the polls and how to get elected?

It's not so much that the arguments of Rifkind, Leigh et al are wrong, but that the arguments they make are fueled more by polls than by truly considered foreign policy views.

Having watched the speeches on the Parliament programme, I can say unequivocally that the one by IDS. Not only was it principled in its recognition that we should not abandon the Iraqis, it was also practical.
Anyone who followed the build-up to the war both in Britain and America, would have understood that the Americans were talking regime change. Blair leads a spineless nation whose inclination is to pull the curtains closed rather than confront the problem. Our nation is encouraged by nonentities such as Rifkind, Clarke, most of the Labour Party and all of the Lib/Dems.
Our combined forces deposed an evil dictator whose revolting crimes were highlighted by Ann Clywd. It was right that we should have deposed him. Would Rifkind like to turn the clock back?
Michael Ancram is right to say that the situation in the Middle East is more dangerous than at anytime in living memory. Unfortunately, dialogue will not succeed, although I agree it should be tried. It will not succeed because the nature of the enemy is unlike any we have faced in our lifetimes. The Prime Minister of Thailand has tried dialogue for the last three years. It has not stopped Islamic nation builders from killing 1800 Thais in their inexorable push northwards. Dialogue will not stop them in their aim of making Thailand an Islamic state. The Thai Prime MInister is now trying capitulation by agreeing to some Sharia law. A dispassionate observer will see this as the thin end of the wedge. Rifkind and Leigh would be proud of him.
We had better prepare for war. It is inevitable.

Sorry! Above posting a bit rushed. Wife waiting to get on computer. Meant to say IDS gave best speech

Ghastly mistake? 130 British deaths in 4 years?

Fair point....and quite a few were non-combat deaths - I bet we lose 20 or so in a normal year of training

Bush should have pointed out a long time ago that for the Iraq war to reach the lethality of Vietnam, at the present rate of things we'd have to wait till 2070.

Whatever happened to never, never, never surrender? Have we really fallen to such indolent, pathetic lows? In older, less Presidential times, Blair would have made an excellent Foreign Secretary in a future Cameron government.

Except of course Bruce, that Rifkind has been utterly consistent from the beginning in his opposition to the Iraq so your claim about him being influenced by poll numbers is patently untrue.Welcome back to this blog 'though, it is along time since we crossed swords.

As far as Iraq goes we have become Brer Fox stuck in the tar pit - there is no easy way out and no-one is going to come through with a helping hand.

It is becoming increasingly a proxy war between Sunni/Wahabi and Shite/Iranian interests supporting their militias & "insurgents". The Iraqi government is compromised by the Shite militia leaders it contains, the armed forces & police by those same militants.

There is no will in the US or UK for the instigation of a proper anti-guerilla war with all that entails (forced movements of civilian populations into protected villages/settlements, massive troop deployments) so the best hope is to fund and arm that segment we believe is most likely to be close to our interests. Which is what we are doing in practice.

The troops will leave, on basis that the Iraqi Government has sufficient control and the Iraqi forces can manage, just as US troops left South Vietnam (34 years ago yesterday Richard Nixon announced "peace with honour") with the US President saying mission accomplished.

Iran, Syria, Hamas and Hezbollah will be strengthened, claiming victory - because they will still be there and survival is victory in a War on Terror.

I agree with the Editor and others that this is a war we can't afford to lose; where we differ is I think we already have. As the Art of War suggests at such times its best to withdraw to your fortresses, build those up, defend and prepare a new strategy of aggression/action.

CAWP makes good points about the low mortality rate - but that is a result of our superiority in technology and in itself a weakness. The PM can name the casualties weekly so we recognise more clearly the cost. I look at our village War Memorial and see the name - and see his parents, brothers & sisters - and ask if it's worth another name be added to another memorial.

Sober, sobering stuff Ted. But by what measure have we lost it? Not by deaths of course. Not in material or territorial terms. Our options are not practically exhausted in any measure, direction or variety. No measure or tactic is beyond us. We could do what we want if - if - if we wanted to do it.

Which we don't.

Which is how we have lost. We have lost our will, in the battle of wills, and are little eager to find it again.

Re-reading those speeches, I believe IDS' to be the best: principled, serious, concerned with the national interest not his party's, disrespected by liberal fools, but absolutely spot on the money.

He'd be a good leader, if we hadn't already tried that. Could we try it again? I know it enraged all the lib-cons to the point of open rebellion, but screw 'em.

I find Edward Leigh's intervention to be disquieting in the extreme. He just adds to my longtime impression that he and his Cornerstone colleagues have a rather more developed taste for populism than for principle. This smacks of bandwagon-jumping.

What seems to be forgotten is that it is perfectly consistent to say that we were wrong to vote to go into this war FOR THE REASONS THAT WE DID, but that we have indeed installed the structures for a functioning democracy to replace a cruel dictatorship, and that we now have a duty not to just run away from the mess that has created. Rather, we've a duty to make those structures workable. It is quite sensible to say that we were wrong about this war, which was so disingenuously presented to us in the first place. That doesn't by any stretch lead to the conclusion that the desireable course of action is to run away. Far from it.

On reading the report of IDS's speech, I felt the same as others such as David Lonsdale and CAWP evidently did: it was principled and statesmanlike, saying what he felt needed to be said, however unpopular with LibDems, lib-cons and anti-Americans.

Whatever the rightness or wrongness of going into Iraq in the first place, we cannot abandon the Iraqis for the sake of cheap political expediency and popularity.

Malcolm, my assertion that politicians such as Sir Malcolm Rifkind are more influenced by poll numbers than principles in their foreign policy stands is hardly refuted by your pointing out that Rifkind has been opposed to the war from the start. The two assertions don't necessarily contradict each other. On a brighter note, I appreciate your "welcome back".

>>I find Edward Leigh's intervention to be disquieting in the extreme. He just adds to my longtime impression that he and his Cornerstone colleagues have a rather more developed taste for populism than for principle.<<

I wonder where they're taking their cue from? For once the left and right wings of the party appear to be united in opportunism.

As I have predicted, it wan't be long before the Government jumps on the bandwagon also. You can start the countdown from what increasingly looks like it's going to be the coronation of King Brown.

That's consensus politics for you!

eh Bruce? The clear implication of your first post is that Conservative politicians are turning against the war because it is now unpopular. In Rifkinds case that is patently untrue as I'm sure you are aware.
He was against it when for a brief period it was popular and has not changed his view now the public have mostly realised how foolish this war is.

I just can't believe that anyone who really wants to bring democracy to the middle east would support taking out troops out know. If we do quite clearly we can never think off making that region any better than what it is know whatever the antis say.

"130 British deaths in 4 years? It is practically the least lethal war of all time." What about all the innocent civilian Iraqi deaths? Presumably those who think this war has been a country picnic are all in favour of the US stance of not counting those?

Re Vietnam, I do not accept that it was not important. There was a danger of a whole region going Chinese Communist then - this posed a much clearer danger to US geo-political interests than did Iraq. But, even though I think it was more justified, Harold Wilson had the sense to offer only passive support but not troops. Wiser than Blair.

As for Oliver McCarthy's idea that Mrs T's only policy area at the 1983 and 1987 elections was defence - well that's about as accurate as talking about "sodomites" is balanced and rational. And I post as someone who favours the Roman Catholic Church's view on adoption by homosexual couples. People shouldn't post on historic matters without some attempt to find out what went on. If he was actually around at the time, Oliver must be suffering from a severe case of selective memory loss.

Malcolm, while none of us are privy to the goings on in Sir Malcolm's Rifkind's admittedly exellent Scots brain, isn't it possible that he assumed from the start that the war would turn unpopular, either partywide, nationwide or in his constituency-to-be? Or that by positioning himself more with the BBC's point of view, he would enhance his media presence and thus his future chances to lead the Tory Party? He would not be the first politician to have so acted.

Personally I think we have no alternative but to stay in Iraq until we clear up the mess we and the Americans have largely made of the country.
When a country decides to go to war its inevitable and this as been true throughout history that opinion is not divided by party but by principles and opinions. Iraq as been no differant.
I don`t believe its right that we continually question politicans motive for holding an alternative view to ourselves.I have no doubt that when we come to war ninty nine per cent of politicans come to there view through there principals and conscionce and nothing else.
We should show respect to those politicans who we disagree with and not forever question there motives. This does no one any good at all.

Bruce, Sir Malcolm predicted I think that the Iraq war would be a disaster. He was right.

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