Saturday, October 14, 2006

A Very British Coup

Around the world this autumn, the military seems to be rocking the boat. First of all, we had the traditional military coup in Thailand - which seems to have had some popular support - and now we are having a very British version here.

It's mind-blowing - completely unprecedented in the modern history of Britain - for the army to disparage so publicly and so fundamentally the foreign policy set by the elected government. And superbly done, say I - General Sir Richard Dannatt, Chief of the General Staff, has publicly called for the removal of British troops from Iraq 'soon', and has stated we are doing harm to the country by being there. In my view, he is acting in the best British traditions of speaking truth to power and with luck he will get away with it.

Hopefully this will be the catalyst which will bring the Labour Party to the boil and finally goad them into doing what they should have done years ago.

I have some sympathy with Tony Blair. He is possibly the best politician around in the UK, and has taken a fair few good and hard decisions. However, his decision to take the country to war in Iraq - and it seems to have been virtually decided by him single-handedly under the influence of George Bush - was catastrophically misjudged; so serious he can't recover from it.

The fall-out has been so bad. The endless cycle of the milirary quagmire in Iraq; the destabilisation of the Middle East; the increased rush to go nuclear by Iran; the increased risk of terrorism at home; the growing social isolationism of Muslims in the UK (and the rise of violent Islamophobia): all are pretty depressing developments. And then we've had the alleged suicide of a government scientist for trying to tell the truth; the BBC trashed by a judicial whitewash for telling the truth; cabinet miniters' careers ruined for telling the truth. And now we have the army being bolshy - great and amusing in context, but still, a step out of their necessary constitutional role and in some small way another destabilisation of the fragile and unwritten British Constitution. But initiated by Thatcher and developed by Blair, the office of the PM has been ever-increasingly Imperial, in itself causing stress to the healthy functioning of democracy.

The Downing Street memos demostrate that T. Blair had excellent FO advice before the war that the Americans had neglected to plan for the occupation of Iraq. And there were many warnings of the obvious dangers of invading at the time - all of which have proved accurate, so it's really impossible for Tony to say he could not have foreseen the disaster.

And yet, he clings desperately to power. We are sacrificing young soldiers' lives, the good name of our country, and the possibility of peacefully ending the clash of civilisations, on the altar of one man's ego and vanity. Tony, in this case History has spoken already. Another six months won't really change anything.

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