February 6th 2003 (plus updates to May 29th)

It is advisable when considering the current debate on the United Nations Security Council's position to avoid getting caught up with discussions about good and evil.  There is no doubt that the authoritarian control of society practised by Saddam Hussein's regime is based on unlimited levels of brutality, which are used to deter and control dissidence or resistance. Should collective resistance raise its head, the possession by a small military elite of chemical and biological weapons renders even a rebellion by the Iraqi military impossible.  There is no doubt that the regime would like to develop a nuclear capability as well and has been trying to do so, not to threaten countries outside the Middle East, but to secure its own position and to play a major role in Middle East politics, waiting for the chance to take over any state it manages to destabilise.

Due to the enmity between the regime and the United States and its allies, there is no reason to suppose it would object to terrorists operating from Iraq acting as an additional deterrent against any external intervention to remove them from power. It would be likely to assist them. However it is unlikely that there would be friendly relations between Muslim fundamentalist Al Qaida and Saddam Hussein. They would each like to be seen as the defenders of the Palestinians, but even that would not make them allies. On the other hand it would not mean that there would not be elements within each that colluded in measures against the US and its allies. The fact that the threat of such terrorism acts as a deterrent against enforcing the latest UN resolution has been proved by polls of public opinion in the UK.

There are rational causes for a majority of the Iraqi people to believe that the United States has been an abusive consumer of Middle East oil.  The fact that their oil would have little value if they [Iraq] were the only consumer, and that the economies of the west developed the society, education, science, technology and finally machinery that uses it as energy source, does not assuage their feeling that the power of the United States exceeds its wisdom and its appreciation of other civilisations.  The fact that technology pioneered by the US will probably be central to future post-oil, eco-friendly energy systems does not warm their hearts either.  Though they may fear and detest Saddam, it must be understood that their experience of the United States has not left a good impression.  George Bush Senior and Junior have each, in their own way, managed to undermine the credibility of the US in Iraqi eyes very, very seriously.

The current UK government policy on Iraq is based the clear proposition that a choice has to be made now between three courses of action. These are:

1. To continue with the policy of containment and sanctions until the regime controlled by Saddam Hussein implements the conditions of the cease fire signed at the end of the Gulf War and abides by all the UN resolutions concerning Iraq passed during the last 12 years. Implicit in this choice is to continue the patrolling of the no-fly zones or abandon these areas to the military dominance of Saddam with probably severe consequences for the inhabitants.

This has been the reluctant choice for the last 12 years, as the option of overthrowing Saddam was quite rightly rejected at the end of the Gulf War operation Desert Storm.  Quite rightly because that war was fought on behalf of the United Nations by the United States and a coalition of forces with a mandate to expel Saddam Hussein's forces from Kuwait and so doing restore its status as a member of the UN.  Subsequent to the Gulf War, there was an attempt by a significant movement in Iraq to overthrow Saddam.  There was no chance of doing this by free and fair elections, but they believed that the encouragement for a popular rebellion by the then US President George Bush implied that they would get military support from the US and UN if they initiated the uprising.  They were gravely misled in this and the uprising was crushed, with the further consequence of making any further change of regime by the people of Iraq unthinkable.

The adverse consequences of choice number one so far are known. They are:
The adverse consequences if this choice were to continue are considered by all authorities likely to get worse.
The effectiveness of the containment is diminishing and destined to fail.

For this reason choice number 1 is considered to be unsustainable by all members of the UN security Council without exception. They have held this view for some years, but now they have come to the conclusion that an alternative approach must be implemented without delay.  Since the consequences of a change in policy will also involve risks, the democratic nations that make up the Security Council should encourage public discussion and seek parliamentary approval.

2. Choice number 2 is to lift the sanctions. This would presumably require an increase in surveillance and patrolling the no-fly zones until the UN was satisfied that there was no military build up.  It might be thought that using inspectors on the ground and aerial surveillance would enable this choice to be a viable option.  To understand why it is not, it is necessary to have an understanding of the limitations of both means of monitoring.  Even if we imagine hypothetically infinite resolution all-weather aerial reconnaissance and 100 skilled inspectors on the ground, it is not possible to prevent the Iraqi regime from purchasing, developing and concealing WMD if it has developed carefully planned methods of non-cooperation and deception.  To appreciate why, one needs to have some mathematical understanding of areas and volumes and the time and methodology involved in evaluating data. Inspectors can only ensure compliance with the UN resolutions if Iraq cooperates fully. If it did, sanctions could be lifted.  

Since Iraqi officials have been seriously dishonest in previous declarations, they have unfortunately lost the right to prevent access by the UN inspectors to areas, materials and documents on the grounds that these are legitimate defence secrets. It has to be 'Access All Areas'.

Choice number 2 has been ruled out so far by Saddam, presumably because once he has no WMD in the hands of his personal supporters, he would be vulnerable to a coup d'etat in the event of outside military intervention.   It may also be true that he does not want to reveal defence systems and plans that are not WMD but are relevant to his own personal survival.  Ironically, the continuing situation of attempted containment and sanctions (choice number 1 above) suits him perfectly. That is why he will try to keep it going as long as possible.

3. Choice number 3 is to enforce the latest UN resolution.  That is the only choice that has been suggested by anyone in the event that the first 2 choices are ruled out, which they have been.  It has therefore been adopted as the current policy of the US and the UK.

In order to enforce the resolution, military intervention on behalf of the UN is required in the last resort. Because the threat of military intervention cannot be a bluff, and because carrying it out may result in casualties and even a risk of increased terrorist retaliation in the short term, the UK Government will seek not only parliamentary approval but support from a majority of the British public.

It is likely that parliamentary approval will be forthcoming in the event that a majority of the UN security council are in favour of enforcement. However, the British public appear to be seriously affected by the threat of terrorist action should the resolution be enforced.  A substantial majority will only approve if there is a further UN Security Council resolution calling for enforcement.  This is in part because they understand the desperation of the Palestinians.  Although Israel is not a threat to its neighbouring states, it has occupied territory to which it is not entitled to which Palestinians have a reasonable claim.  If military action can be taken to enforce a UN resolution without specific approval of the Security Council, why are the Palestinians not entitled to take International Law into their own hands and use whatever weapons they have, including suicide bombers, to remove illegal settlements?

There may be an answer to that question, but many UK citizens do not know what it is. On the other hand, if there is a UN resolution approving military intervention, the British public will support it, in the case of Iraq or in the case of Israel.

The difficult case would come in the event that a majority of the Security Council approve intervention in Iraq but not all are in favour, or one permanent member casts a veto (that last is unlikely but not impossible).

In the event a majority of the British public are against enforcing the UN resolution by military means, the UK could still take part in enforcement unless the British Parliament is also against it.  In the event that both parliament and a majority of the public are against it, then the government would have to back down, even if the consequences are more appalling than those attributable to war now to disarm Saddam Hussein.

This war is still not inevitable.  The UK and the US are going to great lengths to avoid it. The anti-war protesters are many and genuine. Sadly they probably make it more likely.

The important thing is they have the freedom to assemble peacefully and put their views.  They are listened to.

In Iraq you can only assemble to praise Saddam.
* * *
UPDDATE February 7th 2003
The presentation by Colin Powell on this day to the UN Security Council did not add anything significant. It was unlikely to, since the public revelation of intelligence and sources would be a mistake if war is likely to ensue, and an even bigger mistake if a judgement is made to hold off in the unlikely event that Saddam cooperates fully and manages to remain in power.

It is strange that the British government has been criticised for not revealing the name of an Iraqi student in California responsible for collecting some historical evidence on Iraqi Intelligence Services. In view of the exposure and risk it would have subjected him to and the litigious nature of American society, I would have thought he could have sued them for millions if they had done so at this time. As for the charge of plagiarism, I think the views of the Great Lobachevsky are applicable. In any event, it would seem to me to be an excellent independent source in the circumstances.

UPDATE February 11th
Members of the NATO Alliance are not impressed, and the Americans are angered, by the refusal of France and Germany to approve the implementation of NATO defence plans for Turkey necessitated by the possibility of military action to enforce UN Resolution 1441.  Since both France and Germany had voted for 1441 and then committed NATO to enforcing it at their last meeting, it seems on the face of it as if the French and German governments have lost their marbles. So what is the explanation?  Many slants, some of them most derogatory, have been put on these actions, but the fundamental truth that lies behind them is this:

The United States has enjoyed popularity amongst the majority of the citizens of France and Germany for many years. The French have fought hard against US 'cultural imperialism' and against quite a lot of the global free market and commercial principles championed by America. Nothing wrong with that, intelligent and challenging opposition is necessary and good for both parties. Much American culture has been adopted, but much French culture has been fortunately been preserved. France initially opted out of NATO under de Gaulle but slipped back in quietly later.

Germany has on the whole felt less vulnerable and has had exceptional trading and defence alliance with the US. It has been at the heart of NATO by housing major elements of the US and UK military units at NATO's disposal in Europe in addition to their own forces.  US citizens have, with a few exceptional terrorist incidents, enjoyed popularity and security in both countries as residents and tourists.

But whatever Americans think of George W. Bush, whatever the truth is about George W. Bush, the majority of French and German citizens think he is an ignorant and dangerous cowboy who has confirmed their worst suspicions about America.  As a matter of fact, half of the UK public think the same, and the other half, although they suspect from his actions that he is not dangerous and that he is learning fast about a world he was abysmally ignorant of, and that there are many other US politicians who are experienced, wise and knowledgeable in world affairs, realise that G.W.B. had 'blown it' with most of Europe's citizens long before 9/11, to such an extent that they were very sorry but not all that surprised when the twin towers were attacked.

The result is that now, at the very moment when the governments of Europe and the NATO alliance need to act with a united foreign policy alongside the United States in very difficult circumstances, these governments find themselves unable to count on the support of their domestic electorates for any policy that depends on following America's lead unless they can see beyond a doubt that it is in their own interest as well. That is what has put Chirac and Schroeder in a position where, having signed up to resolution 1441, they are now trying to put off approving the US enforcing it by military means until they have convinced their electorates at home that all other options have been exhausted.

They realise that it will be absurd if the next UN resolution is to the effect that the one before (1441) is not to be enforced. Yet they think that if they join in the NATO preparations their electorates will see this as committing to war before the case has been made. If Bush had not lost the trust of so much of the French and German public, this would not be the case.

For this reason, although the actions of Chirac and Schroeder are absurd in logic and in truth so ridiculous that the risk of their damaging the NATO alliance is actually less than if they had some basis in reality rather than perception, the Bush administration has only itself, and principally G.W.B. himself, to blame.

The above, to the best of my knowledge is fact, not opinion. The following paragraphs will include my opinion.

It seems to me that world affairs are proceeding correctly in every respect  - errors are exposed in the course of facing up to unfolding reality, and however painful it may be we will move on.  There is much discussion, argument and passions are aroused.  Opposing views are put out loud, feelings are getting hurt.  At some point unless there is a miracle people are going to get hurt. But anyone who watched the programmes presented by John Simpson and Ben Anderson on BBC2 this evening  (Tue Feb 11) can hardly fail to see that it is the duty of the UN, not just the US, to disarm Iraq and to remove Saddam Hussein from power.

When Charles Kennedy was told during the debate on Wednesday, BBC1, that his position on Iraq was contradictory, illogical and hypocritical he made only the defence that it was nevertheless the position held by the majority of the British Public.

That  is not a defence of the position - it is a comment on the British public today.  To defend the British public from this conclusion he would need to defend the coherence, logic and sincerity of his position.

By his own admission he could not.

As a Liberal Democrat supporter on many issues, I am more than disappointed.

Nor was I impressed by Rubens' arguments on behalf of America, but if that is why he supports enforcing 1441, then so be it.

The situation is that this whole mess, caused in a large part by the United States, has now got to be cleared up starting with the removal of Saddam Hussein at the expense of the US taxpayer, frightened by 9/11 into footing the bill in dollars and lives if it comes to war. British lives are at risk as usual.

As a francophile, a committed European, in favour of the Euro, a common defence policy and rapid reaction force and the EU as a balance to the United States, and as a critic of George Bush since the day he took power, I find it hard to admit that right now I say thank God for America.

It is up to parliament if the UK is going to side with France, Germany and Belgium in the event that the inspectors report that Iraq is in material breach of 1441. The UN has to enforce its resolutions. The fact that the missiles Iraq has been testing have a range a bit longer than that agreed by the UN is not, of course not, a reason for declaring war. It is other material breaches and the consequence of allowing Saddam to carry on and sanctions to continue which will decide.

As soon as 1441 is enforced, by war or diplomacy, Israel has to get out of the settlements and the Palestinians have a recognisable state of their own in the very near future. 

There may well be terrorist attacks which are made on the UK and the US but that in no way alters the realities above.

War is the last option, but we would never have got to the point where there is the ghost of a chance of avoiding it if the US and the UK had not got the agenda moved on to where it is now, by the policies they have followed over the past few months. Policies which the anti-war protesters have derided. Of course Bush is just a disaster area in his own right, but there is nothing we can do about that. After all, nobody else wants the job. You don't see Senator Sam Nunn running for President.

As for Blair, he may have been naive concerning quite a lot of domestic policy, but I think his advice from the people he had to advise him including the established civil service was faulty. In the case of Foot and Mouth, it was absurd from day one right to the end, on every aspect of the problem and the action to take.  He has been badly served.  He has not publicly blamed his advisers but taken the blame himself.  Quite right, but because of that he has been branded an non-delivering spin doctor, a liar and worse. The British Public will blame anyone but their confused selves. For example, no national Health service could deal with what we throw at it. The fact that a large number of us think that the military presence at Heathrow was a PR exercise to promote war in Iraq reveals that we are so out of touch that we are not really not worth consulting on anything from Saddam Hussein to the Euro.  I am a committed European and in favour of  adopting the common currency as soon as possible, but I doubt if we will now.

Britain decides?  It's a joke.

I have just heard Rosie Boycott say on Any Questions that if ONE PERSON risks losing their life at Heathrow it should be shut down.  If she really thinks that, she should retire to an asylum as soon as possible. If one person a day died at Heathrow due to terrorism, or aircraft noise, or agoraphobia, or a heart attack or all of the above and more every day, it would still be no reason to close the airport.  On Rosie's thinking we should close all roads, immediately. Pity, I like Rosie, but she has definitely lost it.

UPDATE 14th Feb
Hans Blix and Mohammed al-Baradei have submitted their latest report to the UN.  There has been no movement of substance at all, but a predictable increase in process designed to appear friendly and co-operative.  In other words no progress at all.  Hans Blix was certainly fair, in that he pointed out that some of the intelligence photos presented by Colin Powell were not on their own proof of the movement of material before inspectors arrived. The vehicles could have been moved as a matter of routine. Er..... yes, they could have.... He also said that the Iraqis did not know that the Inspectors were coming. Perhaps. But if they had something to hide, they could have guessed.  Personally I did not think the intelligence presented by Powell added up to much, but I did not expect it to.

Much more important, Blix appeared to say that it looked as if Iraq COULD be peacefully disarmed by inspection. Hurrah! If that is the case, all we have to do is put a deadline on the START of this process. Another year? Another decade?  Another 12 years? All we have to do is decide, and then the UN can pass another resolution. The wording is simple: "We refer you to the last resolution 1441, which refers to the ceasefire agreement resolution. We really meant it the first time, but now we really, really mean it".  If Iraq does not comply by [fill in as appropriate] we will have to have another meeting of the Security Council and decide to make Iraq disarm.  

Meanwhile the sanctions and Saddam Hussein between them wreak their deadly effect on the country and the people.

There is of course one threat which would make Saddam disclose all, and that is rubbing out all his palaces, for he believes in his own myth and his legacy and fame in the future. So he will pack all the human shields, voluntary or not, in these, claiming they are non-military targets, air raid shelters or whatever.  The Americans will probably play it by the book and not take them out. That is presumably why they have not said they are a target.  How marvellous it would be just once to be surprised - by anything.

But there is still a chance of avoiding this war!!!  Of course the peace protesters think George W. wants war. That's because George W. needs to make Saddam Hussein damned sure he means war, and a war which will mean the end of Saddam and his role as a hero in history.  Some peace protesters are sincere, many are just plain scared, most are very confused as well.  But this is how history is made.  All must play their part, for what it is worth. I forget who it was who said it, but the quote is: "People are what they are, they will do what they will do, and the results will be what they will be". Quite so.  I really enjoyed the French Foreign Minister's speech today at the UN. I could have written it in advance for him.  All good stuff - as was Jack Straw's reply! It is good to see all these people on their feet and talking with real feeling.

One thing I know - if any of these peace protesters knew what was really going on in Iraq and what it is like for Iraqis, even if Saddam Hussein has NO WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION AT ALL, they would know it was their duty as human beings to liberate Iraqis from this tyranny. To those who say "Why there, why now, where do you stop?" the reply is "Where do you start?" and the answer is "Iraq, now, before it is too late."

It needs a bit of bottle to do it, and there are risks, but the excuse that there is not an international law that obliges us to do it is an excuse that will not wash.  Laws, international and other, are always made to deal with situations that have already occurred. As history progresses, new laws are agreed to cover new cases after hard lessons are learned.  I trust there will be a new UN Statute in the future that OBLIGES the UN to step in and remove a leader like Saddam Hussein from power before he can take millions with him if attacked, because the alternative is a containment process that is destructive to all.
Meanwhile the UN must authorise the necessary action or accept the fact it is not up to the job of enforcing its own resolutions in critical situations. In view of the inevitable global evolution of technology and life on this planet, the absence of enforceable international law would mean international anarchy with predictably painful results.

Today we had the 'anti-war' rally in Hyde Park. No surprises there.  The Prime Minister at the Labour Party meeting in Scotland at the opening of the campaign leading up to the May election put the moral case for action.  A brave Iraqi citizen in Hyde Park put the same case.  I should point out here it was after all Britain that created Iraq as a country after World War One, out of a desert area occupied by various warring groups and tribes, and worked hard to bring stability. Of course there was oil interest as well as the proper political desire to bring peace after a horrendous war. So what? Only relatively prosperous organised countries can give a lead in bringing law and order and peace with freedom. The new monarchy eventually fell and military dictators took over. The fact that Donald Rumsfeld later helped Saddam when he was fighting a (losing at the time) war against  what  America (whether right or wrong) perceived as a threat to stability in the whole area from Iran lead by Ayatollahs does not absolve us from standing by the Iraqi people now. If anything it obliges us even more strongly. The more we are responsible for Saddam being there, the more we are responsible for getting him off their backs now.  

The peace protesters have now made it very, very much more difficult for this can be done by diplomacy, even though Blix is doing a magnificent job. They know that, and the fact is they don't care.  They hate George Bush so much that the Iraqi people can be ignored as far as they are concerned. Also ignored is the fact that it is Bush who got Blix into Iraq. The tabloids claim Bush has been Blixed. Without Bush, Blix is blocked - he would never be allowed in Iraq in a thousand years. But hatred of America and fear of reprisals and bodybags has merged to give the protesters a powerful emotional drive.  The usual demagogues are on screen to take full advantage.  With luck this exposure will do just that - expose the demagogues for what they are, in all their appalling self-glorification.  

On the other side of the coin, I seem to have missed a Texan on the Today programme yesterday who appears single-handed to have converted more listeners to the Anti-War persuasion than George Bush. Among his theories was that the French have no culture.  Some listeners thought he was a spoof character from Dead Ringers.  It seems to me there is a growing likelihood that derision of some Americans thought to be typical is going to be the factor that undermines their ability to lead the International Community.  Perhaps our football hooligans disqualify the UK from claiming we are a peace-loving nation.  This does still not absolve the United nations from facing up to Saddam Hussein.

Today on the World at One, Margaret Beckett addressed the complaints of those who claim that the Prime Minister keeps changing his reasons for preparing for military action in Iraq; those who claim that now he is talking 'regime change' when before he was talking Al Qaida and before that weapons, and on other occasions just the requirement to implement a crease-fire agreement that was forced on him. She rose to the occasion, with one of the clearest and most logical expositions to date of the Prime Minister's position - a position he has indeed held throughout. His statements on particular aspects of the Iraqi situation, Saddam's role in it, weapons of mass destruction and the action of terrorists have been made from time to time in answer to questions posed by the public and their representatives in parliament and outside parliament. There is not a single one of these different elements which do not in there own right make the removal of Saddam Hussein from power desirable along with the disarmament. Some make it necessary. But the combination makes it  essential and imminent barring his voluntary and personal action to comply with 1441.

John Prescott has added his forthright views in no uncertain matter.  Prescott has been poorly served by Whitehall in the past. His so-called mangled syntax has been as much due to trying to explain the impossible as to any muddle on his own part. I personally found him to be quite clear, though working sometimes to a flawed plan with regard to transport.  In this case, the clarity of his speech reflects the clarity of the subject matter.  Above all, people should respect his defence of Tony Blair as an honest man.  It takes one to know one and dare to stand up for one under fire.

I will pass over the NATO dispute and the Chirac theatre. Not worthy of comment except to say George Robertson seems to be able to keep a cool head.  The Archbishop has given his view on the morality of taking military action and so he should, but he did not make a very credible or creditable job of it.  Clearly he was in the right ballpark.  If he had said: "Go for it Tony, the Church is right behind you" it would have been unhelpful to all concerned. If we go to remove Saddam from power it will not be with the enthusiastic blessing of the Church, as this confrontation can cause conflict between Moslems and Christians even though the tyrant that is the target is nothing to do with any church or any religion. He is right to say that resort to force of arms is to be avoided if at all possible.  But he is wrong in his diagnosis and his judgement of the issue.  

The Archbishop asks if this is a 'Just War' and says: no, since pre-emptive action is not self defense. This may be a moot point, but it is no relevant in the first place.  This is not a war of one country against another.  It is not a war against Iraq at all.  If it comes, it will be an armed invasion on behalf of the UN to remove a regime and its leader because for over 12 years they have refused to acknowledge the legitimacy of the UN and its resolutions with terrible results for its own citizens.  The Iraqi people will not be asked to surrender at the end of this action. It is not a war [in that sense].  Just because George Bush has confused the issue by declaring 'war' on terrorists and a 'crusade' against terrorism, there is no excuse for an archbishop who has acquiesced in the label of an intellectual to follow his lead, thereby showing us clearly he is not one.  

As for being justified, one of the most profound passages in the Anglican prayer book acknowledges that in the sight of God, no man living is justified.  Methinks the PM is a theological level above his primate. It is the latter's job, if he is a spokesman for the moral case against resorting to military force, to put that case as forcefully and clearly as possible. That is what the PM, who has to take the decisions, is entitled to expect. What he got was a beside-the-point comment yesterday followed by a load of waffle today.  I thought the Bishop of Oxford would have been up for a clearer view, but no. Gentlemen, you disappoint me.  The politicians are all working for peace.  They deserve better from you in terms of moral clarity and support in times of doubt and trouble, as does the nation.

Today we have had more people (Mo Mowlam amongst) proclaiming that no country has ever been bombed into democracy. Where have they been living? The sad thing about the anti-war protesters is that they are so useless. Every time they choose a slogan, it is self-evident bollocks. In my lifetime I have seen bombing as the only way countries have been moved from tyranny or autocracy to democracy, or democracy saved from destruction. No need to quote the obvious examples of Germany and Japan.  Perhaps there have been one or two where jungle-warfare was the prevalent means, and civil wars where bombing was not in evidence; but one thing is certain, it took war to bring democracy.  This was true in earlier times too.  The French Revolution was a civil war, the American Revolution was international. These days the media has brought the horror of war to our comfortable living rooms so quite rightly we try to make the threat of war so effective that it need not be used. But as we have seen, the threat cannot work in the case of Iraq since this is not a war. The Iraqis will mostly rise against Saddam if the UN resolution 1441 is enforced by military means.

This is not to say that the immense dangers of instability in the Middle East and elsewhere, fired by the desperate situation of so many of the worlds poor and the breakdown of economies that are responsible for law and order, are not every bit as great as the Archbishop and others point out. They are.  We have to face this squarely and overcome it, as there is no possible future that the terrorists and their supporters can offer the world.  It is the so-called developed world which has to learn a great lesson from all of this, to defeat terrorism over perhaps a long time, sustaining loss and bearing the cost, and over the same period build a better world that reduces the cause of this scourge.  When the poor and dispossessed turn to men of violence as their protectors it is a wakeup call to the more fortunate and successful nations to warn them that if they have a justification for their domestic and foreign policy they had better spell it out loud and clear. In a globalised economy, if domestic policy is pursued for electoral reason without thought for its consequences in the wider world, that wider world may be damaged and turn like a malignancy on the overindulgent parts of humanity.  It is the electorate that has to be educated as much as those who seek their votes.

UPDATE Feb 24th
So what did the Pope and Tony Blair say to each other?  Answer: The Pope said war must be avoided at all costs. Other means must be employed until every path has been tried and failed. Blair agreed.  That much is obvious, whatever else was discussed.

What is the wording of the next UN resolution tabled by the UK? You can refer back to what I said on Feb 14th: The wording is simple: "We refer you to the last resolution 1441, which refers to the ceasefire agreement resolution. We really meant it the first time, but now we really, really mean it". Now we have the new text, and that is what it says (in diplospeak of course) but there is a detail which I should have foreseen.  The text includes the definite proposition that Iraq has failed to comply with 1441.  For this reason France, Germany and maybe others will attempt to stop this resolution from ever coming to a vote, because it will leave them only three choices:
 (i) To abstain
(ii) To vote against (implicit in this is declaring publicly that Saddam Hussein has complied with 1441, game over).
(iii) To cast a veto (this would say the Security Council will not actually make a judgement on 1441 compliance. It was just a bluff).
You will understand, dear reader, how hard they will try to avoid this resolution ever coming to a vote, seeing that they all voted for 1441.  Choice (i) makes them look irresponsible. Choice (ii) makes them look seriously confused unless Hans Blix reports that there has been a change of heart by Saddam's regime. Choice (iii) looks like surrendering to terrorists, though they will say that they do not wish to share the hostility the US has brought upon itself through clumsy wielding of its global economic and military power and its support of Israel, regardless of Israeli policies, on the grounds that Sharon is an elected leader.  I must say I have sympathy with that last position.  The term 'innocent civilians' is used as if to be a civilian makes you innocent, a soldier guilty. This is just not the case. As Richard Ingrams pointed out in the Observer some months ago, civilians who vote a genocidal criminal to power to protect them rather than comply with a UN resolution that demands they hand back territory that the International Community, in this case the legitimate inheritors of the authority that defined the borders in the first place, has determined is not their property, are not innocent. They must take responsibility for the violent results.  Palestinians use the only weapons they have.

If the UN enforces 1441, it will have a powerful case for enforcing those regarding Israel and demanding that the US take the lead.  To do this, George Bush has no need to call on the army, he only has to put away his cheque book when time comes for Israel's annual multi-billion dollar hand out.  With a US guarantee of territorial integrity, Israel has nothing to fear from the Palestinians and never did have, apart from the suicide bombers who are only active because of Israel's failure to withdraw from the occupied territories and recognise a Palestinian state. So although sorting out Israel/Palestine should have come first, it may prove ironically that toppling Saddam will be what forces the US to deal with Israel.

The case is being made that it is unreasonable to ask Saddam Hussein to disarm while at the same time telling him we are going to attack if he does not.  The fact that 'regime change' has been discussed means, say those who argue this case, he cannot disarm, as he would be attacked then for a certainty, with no risk to the attackers.  I have to disabuse the advocates of this theory.  The US would have to choke on it, but put up with Saddam for a little longer, until the people of Iraq, no longer in fear of being annihilated by chemical weapons, rose up and chucked the bum out.  That is why Colin Powell actually made the point that, seeing there was no way out for Saddam in his own country, he could find asylum as a certified maniac (homicidal by inclination) in some part of the world where he would be ignored if he stayed there out of the way.

The case is being made that Afghanistan is not a success, that the War Lords are fighting for regional protection rackets, that the Taliban are regrouping, that Al Qaida is operating out of neighbouring Pakistan.  How then can anyone be so dumb as to think the US can establish the rule of law in Iraq after removing Saddam Hussein?  In fact there are few parallels. There are no war lords, no neighbours harbouring Taliban who once ruled Iraq.  If there are Al Qaida in Iraq now, there may well be some who hang on under cover, but that's life.  There is more chance of getting the different ethnic groups to live in harmony (as they once did under the earlier monarchical regimes) in an interim regime set up by an outside agency cooperating with internal political movements than there is by any other conceivable means of moving to a stable constitution.  There are historical precedents.  I don't have to quote them, do I?  The biggest problem will be getting a solution that suits the Turks and the Kurds in the north.

An interesting development is the extent to which the terrorists are winning, whether or not they are connected in any way with Saddam Hussein or with Iraq.  The US public is joining the UK in shrinking from regime change through fear of stirring up terrorist reaction from those who claim that an attack on any Muslim is an attack on all, regardless of nationality.  Like if the FBI took out an American homicidal maniac who happened to claim he was a Christian, it would be an attack on all Christians world wide, not singling him out because of his anti-social behaviour. On this basis, no Muslim could be subject any law at all other than some Islamic tribunal or self-appointed Cleric. In the UK, it seems some Muslims do not accept the authority of UK law at all. This is just absurd.  They should not live here unless they do.  Religion has nothing to do with it.

Saddam Hussein himself, being a terrorist who came to power by terrorism, has so spooked John Major that he's talking about Armageddon, the unleashing of all his WMD if he faces defeat. maybe. But unless we are going to spend the future appeasing these deluded paranoids we will have to make a stand somewhere.

UPDATE 25 February
As suggested in the last update, there is a move to put off the vote on the latest resolution for a week or two and the UK has gone along with this.  The best and clearest short exposition of the UK government position was put today by Dr John Reid to Jeremy Paxman on the Newsnight programme. Paxman put it to Reid that the Labour Party was in rebellion, that the government had shifted its arguments, that the policy was based on unproven suppositions of Saddam's guilt.  When Paxo finally agreed to shut up, Dr Reid demolished his attack so completely that the anchorman could not wait to bring the entire exchange to an end.  I could imagine his earpiece relaying instructions from a producer behind the scenes advising him to move on to another interviewee. John Reid's mastery of the subject and plain verbal integrity had made Paxman's simplistic arguments look unworthy even of a broadcaster trying helpfully, if patronisingly, to put the questions that an uninformed member of the public would like to hear answered.  When a man of such understanding and clarity of thought speaks on a subject, the public would be well advised to listen.  

Earlier in the evening we had George Michael, a singer, clearly worried about his record sales in the Muslim world.  "How could the US be so stupid as to attack Saddam at the very moment Sharon is being a terrorist in Palestine?"  There is no doubt this is the poison at the heart of the purest motives.  Guaranteeing Israel's security is one thing.  Funding it and arming it so it can carry out its own mistaken policies is quite another.  George Michael may know little of the considerations that oblige the UK to support the authority of the UN in the case of Iraq, but he can see the strangeness of backing Israel just because it is a democracy.  I believe, I hope, that this crisis will force the US to bring Israel to realise it must withdraw from all settlements that are not UN approved and recognise a Palestinian state.

UPDATE Feb 26th
Today there was a debate and a vote in Parliament on the Government's Iraq policy.  It was a debate of a high standard. The results were as I expected, though the number of Labour members voting against the government motion was higher than pundits had foreseen. I thought 200 'rebels' was about right, though why they are called rebels mystifies me. They were right to vote as they thought. This is Parliament functioning as it should do and might encourage the public to see that it is an authentic institution.  The fact that the so-called rebels were perhaps slightly 'off the point' in their voting did not diminish the quality of the debate. They are off the point because the government itself has not yet come to the conclusion that the case for war is irrevocable. The motion has simply pointed out that UN resolution 1441 has not been complied with and that Government policy is to enforce it, hopefully without recourse to military action. The claim that the case for war is NOT PROVEN is actually absurd. It could never beprovedunless failure to take action actually resulted in events that justified it with hindsight.  The fact that Saddam Hussein has not complied with 1441 so far is not even disputed, and Hans Blix's next report will almost certainly not be disputed, so there is no proof involved.

Stop Press: George W. has publicly announced the policy regarding Israel I advocated yesterday,

UPDATE Feb 27th
The news is now turning to the world economy, the cost of the war, the possibility of continuing recession. The evident overcapacity of industry would indicate little likelihood of investment and a rise in employment. The only essentials of life are food, clothing, shelter and security (an enforced social contract, law and order) to match vulnerabilities. There is no world shortage of available essential clothing, shelter is overinvested in though still in shortage only in areas of demand, associated with employment opportunities, some of which may well collapse. Food can go into surplus if the hungry have no money.  My prediction: coordinated action by the G7 will be required to implement a Keynsian recovery. The Pound will collapse because our balance of payments is absurd and industry uncompetitive because of inefficiencies caused by failures in the national infrastructure.  An export led recovery could, in fact, only come about after a devaluation of 20% relative to the Euro which would bring the Pound to its correct trading value.  The price of oil will rise and then fall as demand subsides.  When the Pound reaches its proper value, no longer kept at a value boosted by its use for purposes other than its function as the trading unit for UK plc, it will be seen that the French economy is now, and has been for some time, larger than that of the UK.

Meanwhile Saddam thinks he can stall 1441 by saying he will destroy some missiles, and some people will think this is progress, whereas it is actually trivial.

It looks to me that Saddam is quite near to getting a breather. The reasons for this are as follows:

1. Enforcing UN Resolution 1441 on a matter of principle is a sound policy. Regime change as a by-product would be excellent for all concerned - the argument that what follows Saddam could be as bad or worse under these circumstances is not strong at all. But because so many of the 1/5th of the world who are Muslims prefer to keep Saddam to having America decide and not the UN, because they see America as being on a crusade against Islam, and because the UN Security Council contains a number of members who fear that this perception could cause the reality in reverse (a Muslim war against what they call the infidel) the Council will not vote for war just because American and UK machinery and men find summer in the desert too hot. Saddam's calculated response to getting rid of missiles that the inspectors have managed to find (he could have produced them months ago) will fool millions into thinking 1441 plus a threat of war is succeeding.

2. It follows that the next resolution will have difficulty. Any majority will be small. That is just not good enough. Of course the US and the UK and others in a coalition of the willing could go ahead in mid March regardless. But it is just not a good idea. This in no way means that regime change is cancelled.  It will test the American and British people and the world economic community as never before, as the uncertainty is killing any recovery from the recession. It in no way alters the fact that the disarmament of Iraq has to continue without a stop until the sanctions can be lifted and the no-fly zones rendered unnecessary.  But it may well mean that enforcement of 1441 cannot be carried out in weather conditions that suit the enforcers.  If that is the case, Blair and Bush will be blamed, of course, for putting their own troops at risk.  Just remember that this will be par for the course.  Public opinion can never be satisfied as it is by definition the cause of its own problems.

3. The difficulty of postponing action may be such that the US finds it unacceptable and goes ahead without the UN. In that case, Saddam will have succeeded in causing the chaos he needs to justify his belief in his own methods. He will be able to claim that all power comes out of the barrel of a gun as per Mao tse Tung, and that the only way to rule is his way. Some people think that holding back from launching an attack would mean a loss of face for the US. This is not the case at all if it meant the threat of force had worked.  The problem is quite simply how to disarm Saddam's regime. Sitting in the desert with an army waiting, indefinitely, is not a solution to this problem. It creates yet another.  Saddam is a very clever man, and he knows he can count on millions of very confused Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, Hindus, Sikhs, Zoroastrians and Humanists to react in the way he thinks they will.


Provision for regime change under the UN Charter has been avoided in the past on the grounds that there is no internationally agreed formula for non-tyrannical standards of government. With the coming of age of the technological revolution, it has been pointed out that certain minimum standards must now be set, for the security of the planet. it is however more likely that these will be set as a result of the present crisis than established in time to deal with it.  Failing that, and failing any other way to achieve regime change and disarmament, the US and the UK will have proved their case that it is up to them to lead a coalition of the willing.

A disillusioned and cynical UK commentator, by name A.N. Wilson, rules out action by such a coalition on the grounds that the motives of the willing are flawed.  I could not agree more that they are flawed, but Wilson does not understand how Nature works.  Nature calls on the self-interest of its plural elements to achieve its end. Biological evolution is not an accident, political evolution is not an accident. The unification of Germany and the rise of that country from despair was necessary. Hitler was called upon because all others had failed. The country was then almost bound to go through the 'manifest destiny' syndrome that every civilisation and every leader falls for.  But nature makes sure that there are forces to control the result.  Those forces are supplied by other parts of humanity, if by then in existence, acting in their own as well as the wider global interests.  Saddam Hussein will teach America a lesson, America will remove Saddam Hussein. The experience can then be incorporated into human history and form the basis of future UN constitutional provisions to deal with future Saddam Husseins before they can spend 30 years digging themselves in.

Tony Blair has just admitted, yesterday, that the motivation that actually keeps his courage to the sticking post is FEAR. Fear of not doing his historical duty, fear of not being up to the job, fear of the judgement of history. A flawed motive if ever there was one - but not the only motive and hugely mitigated by the fact that he is quite prepared to be outvoted and have to resign.  This is what makes it more than vanity and worthy of respect.  It does not make him RIGHT or WRONG in his judgement, it makes him right in his behaviour, and that is all that is required of any of us.

UPDATE March 02
There will now be short pause in this diary.  It is still impossible to predict if or when military action may be initiated but, in my book, good use is being made of all national and international institutions and communication media. No honest participants in this debate need fear discussion.  Dishonest arguments (like "war cannot lead to democracy" when it is indisputable fact that democracy has rarely been brought about by any other means) will be exposed by debate. As will statements such as the one made in all seriousness on the Panorama debate this evening: "The US will not install democracy. What would happen if the new Iraqi government nationalised the oil industry and refused to sell oil to the United States?".  It is this level of ignorance which makes referenda such a useless political tool.  A new Iraqi regime can sell their oil to whoever they choose. It is a world market, based on supply and demand. They can be a member of Opec or not, as they wish, and no country can prevent them from deciding what to do once UN sanctions are removed, nor would they have anything to gain or lose by so doing. Iraqi oilfields are national property anyway, they do not have to be nationalised. If there are foreign assets by way of wells and refineries etc., they are subject to the usual political risks of appropriation with or without compensation, within or without international or domestic law.  Personally, I am still of the opinion war may be avoided, but in that case I am not sure how long it will take Iraq to reach democracy via benevolent dictatorship.  The contention that the Kurds, Sunnis and Shiites all hate each other so much that this is impossible is not one that impresses me. There is so much to gain - Iraq will not need financial aid from the developed world to raise the standard of living of its inhabitants. All they need to do is have the sanctions lifted and sell their oil, and spend the income on something more sensible than Saddam Hussein and his palaces.

David Dimbleby's interview of Donald Rumsfeld was very well handled - by both parties.  But only on two points did David shake the US Defense Secretary, right at the very end.  Rumsfeld was sensitive and defensive when charged with being fundamentally pro-Israel in his thinking, betrayed by his use of the phrase "the so-called occupied territories".  He was technically right, to the extent that while some are undisputedly occupied, some are less clearly defined. But his claim that they are subject to negotiation was clumsy, as the negotiation status as recognised by the International Community refers to security issues more than ownership. He had to take the point that use of the phrase made him appear biased.

A more deadly shaft by Dimbleby was aimed at Rumsfeld's faith in America's basic view of its proclaimed values as being self-evidently admirable and imposable on the world.  Indeed we might take issue even with the statement "We hold these truths to be self evident...." - personally I always have thought that to be rubbish. Not only are people not created equal, no two people are created equal in any respect except identical twins who are equal in quite a few but not all. What the man meant to say was that all people should be treated fairly, and with respect unless they have been shown to be unworthy of it by obviously unworthy behaviour. Handsome is as Handsome does is the true cry of the true revolutionary. But Rumsfeld came over as less defensive on this point, powerfully though Dimbleby made it. On the whole, if we look at the values proclaimed and enforced by other societies, particularly those who denounce America, his lack of embarrassment is understandable

Today we have Hans Blix's report. It was quite clear. Some serious disarmament of short range missiles has taken place, though these missiles are not particularly relevant to compliance with resolution 1441. They are being destroyed because they have been offered up as a sacrificial delaying tactic, and are illegal in the context of UN accords signed by Iraq. If continual and further cooperation were to continue covering the list of chemical and biological weapons, their whereabouts or the details of their destruction, over a period of months the inspectors could verify compliance or non-compliance.  Unfortunately there is no sign of even a START to discussing the subject. There is still denial that any such list is available.

Though Hans Blix's report is clear, the reporting of his report by the BBC was far from clear.  In its PM programme and the 6pm news, it was reported that Blix had asked for more time to for the inspectors to do their job.
He most certainly did not. He stated that at the current rate of progress, if Iraqi cooperation shown over the missiles were to continue [and therefore be extended to other weapons and weapons production programmes], it would take some months to complete the job. We all know that. It is blindingly obvious. He can have all the time he wants to do that.

The BBC then reported that Colin Powell had rejected Hans Blix's request. He did not. There was no request. There was a report, and Colin Powell accepted it. It described the position, and Powell made it clear that this position did not show compliance with 1441 or even the acceptance of 1441.

Those of us who have been hoping from the beginning that a united stand by the Security Council would enable us to disarm Saddam without actually intervening militarily are increasingly disgusted by the lies that infest the arguments of those who call themselves 'anti-war'. Looking back over the slogans, the arguments and the excuses, if one excludes the rare moments of honesty when the 'anti-war' lobby admit they are motivated by dislike of Bush-America and/or fear of revenge by Muslims who would rather defend a genocidal maniac than have him removed by unbelievers, one is left with a collection of so called arguments which are lies based on ignorance or ignorance based on lies. As an anti-Bush Francophile, EU and Euro enthusiast I find that as this saga unwinds it is the straight choice between honest people and dishonest people that I hope decides the outcome.  If just one anti-war argument (apart from the two just mentioned) could stand up and be defended by an honest protagonist  I would fasten on it. But so far not only are there none, the anti-war protesters have revealed themselves as liars to themselves at best, bent as corkscrews at worst.

Regardless of the outcome, I do not want a future based on lies, governed by those who will swallow anything rather than risk the unknown consequences of speaking the truth as best they can. I do not hate Saddam Hussein. He is at least courageous. He is a product of circumstances and will follow his violent and brutal methods, modelled on Stalin. He is not a hypocrite. But he should acknowledge the authority of the UN and the UN should enforce its authority. The idea that he will comply given time is now even more unlikely than it was before, as to increase the pressure on him without actually starting the invasion is difficult, and only pressure achieves results. The French contention that the pressure is working and should just be maintained is an interesting point of view. Perhaps France would like to finance the presence of the US and British troops hanging around at battle readiness for the next 5 months.  In that case they should say so.

The modified draft resolution to follow 1441 now gives Saddam till March 14th to comply. That means to produce a list of the WMD that has been destroyed and the location where this took place and the personnel who carried it out. Alternatively he can say where it is now. It is unclear if any nations will veto this resolution, and unclear who will abstain or vote against it.

UPDATE March 10th
It had always seemed to me that once a few British and American commentators had said that the French would come on side at the last minute and repeated this ad nauseam that the chances of this happening would be effectively nil. There is a limit to how many insults any nation can publicly swallow, even if justified. In addition, the French have a different approach to counter-terrorism to the UK and the US, which involves a rather more subtle approach and use of velvet gloves and iron fists. They can't afford to upset Muslims who are not breaking French law in France, and they need to play their own diplomatic game. The 'Old Europe' line has really got up their nose, and there is no way they will support any resolution now that has a deadline of military action against Iraq on behalf of the UN.  There is more chance of Russia backing a new resolution if it can be framed in language that does not put a date for hostilities, but the chances of Russia now signing up to a March 14 deadline are now gone.

Clare Short is looking to her future. She has been a truly excellent Overseas Development Minister, but her future lies in her public support, and Clare's public is not interested in supporting George Bush. We will now see just how principled or otherwise the players on the world stage are. Those who are prepared to trim their sails will start to weaken, and Saddam has been counting on this all the way. Clare Short is not a trimmer, but her charge of recklessness will give trimmers more excuses.  Then we have the lawyers, pretending that enforcing 1441 is illegal without a further resolution. Kofi Annan was very careful not to say that. He asked the Security Council to get behind any further resolution to give it legitimacy, without which it would obviously lack legitimacy progressively in proportion to the number of permanent members and others who did not support it.

When I started this diary, it was in the hope of adding to the understanding of how war could be avoided if the UN was resolute and united. There would be a chance of removing/disarming Saddam without war. Now, having listened to the drivel talked by those who have divided the UN, I see war as actually desirable as soon as possible. [That was an intemperate remark - I withdraw it - I am all for these matters being up for discussion].

UPDATE 12th March am
I may be out of reach of this web site for a few days so will say a few words on the current argument on legality and war crimes.  If fear of terrorists prevents the collected elected authorities of the Western World from taking action against terrorists then we might as well surrender the world to Islamic fundamentalism that holds that believers are immune to criticism of their behaviour by secular law. If fear of our secular law as expected to be implemented by the International Court in the Hague is such as to prevent our armed forces from implementing the law in the first place when those responsible for leadership have been stopped in their tracks by fear of causing more terrorism, then we will really have shot ourselves in the foot.  We must stop agonising and cease the pretentious stance that if there is one chance in a million that we could avoid war that we should go on looking for it.  The validity of the secular state goes back to a powerful debate that took place 2000 years ago and was dealt with in a single sentence: "Render to Caesar....". As for the threat of being charged with war crimes if there is not a majority in the Security Council, when members of that Council are hostage to pressures from electorates who don't like the chief of police (I don't fancy him either but he is not on his own in thinking that containment cannot be sustained, and cannot be abandoned unless Saddam is removed), it is time to trot out in full the oldest reply: pull the other leg - it has bells on.

UPDATE March 18th
There is really no need to update this file today. Everything that has occurred has been expected. Robin Cook's resignation speech was a fine one - but then he has been the best speaker in the house for a very long time. He was in addition a good Foreign Secretary who knew when to step forward and do for the UN what the UN could not do for itself. How ironic that he, of all people, should be unable to stand up for an ethical foreign policy, just because some UN Security Council members appear to think its Charter confers on it the duty to stop war at all costs. It has higher ethical aspirations than that I hope. If not, it should be scrapped. Clare Short is made of sterner stuff. She knows when a job has to be done. She disapproves of it but is aware of the lack of alternatives.

To sum up, there is only one point to be made in summing up. Tony Benn claims today's vote in the House of Commons is a charade because the decision to go to war has already been taken in the Azores. Wrong. A decision was taken some months back when the major deployment of US and UK troops started. The decision was not one to go to war, but that by the end of April Saddam Hussein would be either have resigned, or been verifiably disarmed, or removed. Since the first two have not been achieved by mid March, implementation of the last must now be put in hand. To delay would put our troops at more risk, and the operation more difficult to achieve. The individuals entrusted by the UK electorate with approving this action, the members of the House of Commons, are today asked to approve it. They could stop it in its tracks. They will not, because they know it is right. If the reader cares to look back through this diary they will see where it was made clear that the approval of parliament and public opinion would be sought, and that the opinion of parliament would be important in the event that the Security Council was not unanimously in favour. This message timed at 18.00.

When Saddam appeared on TV after the attempt to target him, it seemed obvious to me that it was not Saddam. It did not look like Saddam, move like Saddam or sound like Saddam. I was quickly contradicted by experts who said the voice print was Saddam - so I am puzzled.  I am not puzzled, however, that all Iraqi troops are not surrendering (though many are), as to do this is not so easy when you have been trained, brainwashed and even paid to defend Saddam for your entire military life. The danger of betraying Saddam is not to be ignored and, as I wrote at the start, America is held accountable by many who do not realise how Saddam has manipulated the sanctions for much misery in Iraq. Nor is it surprising that there is not dancing in the streets of Basra. Relief would be the best emotion that could be expected just now. If all goes well, there may be a time for dancing later.

For the moment, I would like to reprint here an extract from the speech by the British commander, Lt-Colonel Tim Collins, to the 1st Battalion of the Royal Irish at Fort Blair Mayne, near the Iraqi border on March 20th.

    "It is my foremost intention to bring every single one of you out alive, but there may be people among us who will not see the end of this campaign. We will put them in their sleeping bags and send them back. There will be no time for sorrow.
    "The enemy should be in no doubt that we are his Nemesis, and that we are bringing about his rightful destruction. There are many regional commanders who have stains on their souls, and they are stoking the fires of hell for Saddam. He and his forces will be destroyed by this coalition for what they have done. As they die they will know their deeds have brought them to this place. Show them no pity.
    "It is a big step to take another human life. It is not to be done lightly. I know of men who have taken life needlessly in other conflicts. I can assure you they live with the mark of Cain upon them. If someone surrenders to you, remember they have that right in international law, and ensure that one day they go home to their families. The ones who wish to fight, well, we aim to please.
    "If you harm the regiment or its history by  over-enthusiasm in killing or by cowardice, it is your family who will suffer. You will be shunned unless your conduct is of the highest, for your deeds will follow you down through history. We will bring shame on neither our uniform or our nation.
    "Iraq is steeped in history. It is the site of the Garden of Eden, of the Great Flood, and the birthplace of Abraham. Tread lightly there. You will have to go a long way to find a more decent, generous and upright people than the Iraqis. You will be embarrassed by their hospitality even though they have nothing.. Don't treat them as refugees, for they are in their own country.
    "As for ourselves, let's bring everyone home and leave Iraq a better place for us having been there. Our business now is north."

[reprinted from The Independent, Friday March 21st]

March 23 - 21.00 - It is clear that Saddam Hussein has spread his supporters out to all the cities he does not want to surrender, and that his terror machine is still powerful. Surrender is not coming easy, and distrust of America following the failure of Bush senior to back an uprising in 1991 means they cannot risk throwing in their lot (see earlier paragraphs of this diary where this problem was foreseen). More serious, though, has been the report of a surrender that was used as a trick, after which the Iraqis opened fire with loss of US lives. This will make future surrenders suspect. We can look forward to difficult days. Saddam will surely try to suck the allies into Baghdad at the end and try to force the Americans to use their own (supposedly non-lethal) chemical weapons, so as to prove the hypocrisy of their position. These may well cause some fatalities and give Saddam the excuse to reply with chemical and biological weapons. All these terrible difficulties can be dealt with, though maybe at some cost. The only deadly enemy is the part of the outside world that denies the need for this action and refuses the legitimacy of the enforcement of 1441. That is what made Robin Cook give up. If the British and American and Australian public and that of the other 35+ nations that are giving moral support are not up to the battle, it will be a lonely job at the top and at the front.

A social contract, be it domestic national or global, has no validity if not enforced by the sovereign power (Ref. Thomas Hobbes, not challenged as a theory for a few hundred years now). In this case 1441 spells out a condition of the global social contract, and the sovereign power is the UN. However guilty the enforcement agency (the US being a chief player) of past actions that may have contributed to the current ill, If 1441 is not enforced by this coalition the global social contract will fail. That means a stalinist tyranny that takes hold can never be stopped, anywhere, by outside intervention.

It would follow that blocks such as North America and Europe would have to revert to a fortress, protectionist mentality. Political Asylum as a right would be finished for ever, as would freedom of travel and trade. Maybe that is what people want, but they will have to make up their mind, and the UK would have to decide to be part of Europe or part of the US. If public opinion does not back the coalition to the end, Bush and Blair may be brought down and Saddam remain. That would be a disaster. On the other hand if Saddam is brought down and Bush is humbled, that would be the sort of symmetry that Nature is probably called on to achieve from time to time if evolution is to avoid extremes and proceed on a sustainable path.

This evening we hear on the one hand of an uprising in Basra, and on the other hand a British woman with family there who told us earlier that for the new generation of Iraqi youth, Saddam is their hero. They have been brought up to recite his praises every day. They have been brought up to believe that the cause of all Iraq's troubles are Britain and America. They have been brought up to repeat the creed that will ensure their survival in Saddam's Iraq, and that they now believe it. We hear that troops who stopped fighting 2 days ago have returned to Basra to join the fight against the 'invaders'. Attacks against British forces outside have been carried out by Saddam's supporters using civilians as shields to prevent them being fired on. Food and medicine is due to arrive now for the injured and hungry in Basra, so the outcome of the next 48 hours there will be critical. The situation is about as complex as it can get. There is no safe haven within the town, and it will be almost impossible for British soldiers to enter before first light as a night assault would cause yet more confusion.  If Saddam's 'gestapo' are also able to call on an indoctrinated equivalent of 'Hitler youth', it will be harder still to make any city safe until the regime in Baghdad is deposed. If the uprising in Basra has been badly timed, and there are reprisals before the British can go in, they will be blamed again for letting the civilians down. Meanwhile a sandstorm has delayed the advance on Baghdad.
This entry timed at 19:10 March 25

UPDATE MARCH 26th - There was no uprising (thank goodness, the timing was not good). It was just a protest - probably because of food or water restrictions.  But are we doing what innocent, decent Iraqis want? A peace protester who went out as a human shield has changed his mind and thinks we are.

 - try this, from Johann Hari in the Independent:

Yesterday's explosion in a market in Baghdad will put to the test the resolve of the allies. There is, inevitably, a huge part of the Baghdad population whose knowledge of America is only that they have witnessed through the media. The idea that dropping leaflets will convince those with little real knowledge of the world that they should welcome people who bomb them as liberators is a non-starter. Remember too that nobody who knows that this is true can discuss this without fear of betrayal to the security services and immediate execution. This means that the action now undertaken to remove Saddam must be carried out in the face of hostile world opinion and in the teeth of Iraqi opposition right to the end.

It is also true, despite the facts put so clearly in Johann Hari's article referred to above, that many Iraqis in Baghdad who have just been trying to survive and loath all outside intervention since it was outsiders that helped Saddam to power, will not even care if the explosion in the market was caused by the Americans, the British, or Saddam Hussein himself. They consider them all the enemy, and the war to have been caused by all of them.

Make no mistake, this will be the ultimate test of resolve. The temptation will be, at some stage, to back off.  The temperature will rise, in deserts and in hot heads. There will be cries of blame and recrimination.  The motives of the liberators will be questioned by all those who impute their own motives and mentality to their opponents. It is a tale as old as time, retold age by age, with the level of complexity and consequence for humanity and its future notching up every time.

Do not get seduced into the idea that there is right or wrong on one side or the other. There is some on each. But on one side we can work openly together to search for the best for all, in a world for all. It is sufficient that everyone does what they believe to be right, informing themselves as best they can. Handsome is who handsome does. It will remain to be seen how handsome anyone can be when fighting Saddam Hussein, a master terrorist who knows the mentality of his people as well as a stage hypnotist.

The best case scenario: In 50 years, we will not be using oil in the way we do now. Other engines, power systems, heating processes will have been developed by the societies that will have used the oil age to create the technology to follow it. If we reach the best possible scenario, a country such as Iraq will invest its oil revenue in ways which will give value to its desert, returning it to a Garden of Eden, irrigated by systems using solar power, wind power and other systems of generation and storage. The Global Warming threat will retreat as we cease to burn hydrocarbon fuels. Water wars will be avoided. All this is possible. We should not worry too much about America's waste of energy in transport or air conditioning, or Russia's in heating, if the best of the world's brains work together through our new communications media to move on to the next stage. The worst case scenario is the destruction through anarchism or tyranny and obscurantist wars.

More civilian casualties in Baghdad. It seems clear now that the combination of the patriotic reflex and the unpopularity of America plus the utter failure of the UN to present a united front now means this operation to remove Saddam with the cooperation of much of the Iraqi people has been seriously prejudiced. It will now have to proceed with no hope of any support until it has succeeded at least in a significant area and in a main town. It will be an enforcement plain and simple. The logic is inescapable. From the very beginning there were only these possiblities:
Let us not think for a moment that there was ever, ever a peaceful way of removing Saddam or an ethical, moral way of the International Community carrying on with its business while he remained in power.

That left the UK and the US and allies to enforce the resolution that the UN Security Council had voted unanimously, and to take the risk. The British and Americans have in the past fought for the liberty of other nations. They have a track record. After the Second World War, America did not remain as an occupying power. It funded the rebuilding of Europe. The building of empires was an activity of the era before.

The Iraqi exiles are now saying they want the UN to be involved. They are right. It should have been all the time. It failed them.  The UN must now get back together to take over progressively immediately Saddam has gone.

I want to say just a few words about the American 'hawks' and Donald Rumsfeld. It might be said that the failure of Bush and Rumsfeld to arouse any emotion in much of the world but contempt was part of the reason for the diplomatic failure which led to the impotence of the UN. But the reason for their unhelpful performance rests, I believe, on a relatively simple error in their thinking. They thought they could frighten Saddam Hussein or at least his henchmen. They failed totally in this, as there is no way you can frighten anyone with the mentality of Saddam Hussein, and those of his supporters who are sensible to fear are far more frightened of him than anything America can do to them. But in the process of trying to scare Saddam, they scared the rest of the Arab world and much of public opinion.

But let us be fair, the majority of the world's population has little or no idea why it is essential that the UN enforces 1441. There are very fundamental reasons for this, established by centuries of history, but they are never discussed. In the UK, schoolchildren are given airtime on the BBC to give their views on the rights and wrongs of what is now a war. But not one of their teachers, or the BBC interviewers, appears to have studied enough history or philosophy or biology or general science to explain to them why it is happening. The public level of debate is still not on the first rung of the ladder in most arenas.

We hear complaints that Iraqi soldiers dress as civilians to attack the allies. Saddam's regime says these are civilians defending their country. For once, here I agree with them.

Saddam has been preparing the population with non-stop propaganda for 12 years for this moment.  Iraqis have been told day and night that the Americans will come, pretending to be friends, and will bomb them, drop leaflets, broadcast lies and then taken over their country and make them work as slaves, and take away their best women.

Now, the trigger sown by brainwashing has been pulled. Imagine if just half the population are affect by this. There are genuine nationalist feelings aroused as well

For instance, take the example of the news that a contract to operate the port through which Iraqi oil exports will leave is going to an American firm, to which Iraq will have to pay fees. This can be seen as proof that Saddam is right. It should be the UN that operates the port until the Iraqis take over, right?

OK, then it should be the UN that pays for the operation Free Iraq.

But the UN has no money, right?

Yes, but that's because the US does not pay its subscription up to date, isn't it?

But if the US was to send the UN a bill for services rendered over the past two decades, it would be the UN that owes the US, not the other way around. Rather a lot.

So , it's a Catch 22, only solvable by a fudge, which will be gone along with by all until someone under pressure to justify their political existence can profit by exposing it.

But all this is academic at this stage as Iraqis will act on conditioned reflex and will not be going into any such thinking. There is no point in blaming Iraqi civilians for doing what they believe to be right.

There will soon be calls for the allies to call a ceasefire, on the basis that although the job has not been done it can now be done by negotiation. This would actually be true if Saddam Hussein did not believe in himself as the great leader, the saviour of the Arab world etc. etc. Unfortunately the evidence is he does, and all his close supporters depend on him.

However, we will see what transpires. One thing is for sure. At the start of this diary, the point was made that the status quo in Iraq was unacceptable and was not sustainable. We now have movement. There is pain and tragedy, but there is movement, and this had to come. To go through these agonising developments, and learn from them, is what the surface of this planet is for.

This diary aims to bring the FACTS. Not about the events of war, we have to rely upon the reports from correspondents on the spot for that, but the facts about the arguments and dilemmas that make up the basis of decisions. Not just the decisions for the politicians, but the decsions for ordinary individuals inside and outside Iraq, of any nationality.

One of the tools of logic is the Reductio ad Absurdum - this means you take an extreme case of a variable situation to see if the variation of factors in a particular direction leads to a particular direction in outcome. Today, as seemed likely in view of the public reaction to civilian and military casualties, we have calls from Robin Cook to cease operations and pull out. he later denied this to say that he just wanted the war to go faster.  More significant are reports that many Iraqi civilians inside and outside Iraq who detest Saddam Hussein would rather live with him than have their country 'invaded' by America/Britain.

So let us take a hypothetical example wherein we assume that 100% of all Iraqis are now, because of the combination of new circumstances, unwilling to accept Saddam's removal by the only external powers capable of doing the job without indiscriminate slaughter, i.e. the current coalition. Is there a PLAN B which could be applied to satisfy them?

The answer is YES. The allies do not have to continue this war. They could return all Iraqi refugees in their countries who are of this opinion to Iraq, to join Saddam, and they could pull out the troops, and construct a defensive position against Iraq as a whole.  We could go back, in effect, to the status of the period before the military buildup was started. But there would be a difference: having accepted that the Iraqis do not want to be liberated, the refugees who voted for that would all have to leave coalition countries and go home to Iraq and sanctions would have to be maintained.  Why? Because otherwise Saddam's tyranny would create endless, ENDLESS streams of refugees coming out, and with oil money he could bribe Iraqi nationalist scientists to work on his WMD and become many times more dangerous to remove than he is today.  The belief that his regime could become benign if allowed to flourish is not founded in reality.

The anti-war movement is still basing its argument on a single proposition: that Saddam Hussein, his heirs and his system could be removed later, without this American action, at this time. This proposition is false. It is only now that America can take this action, an action of extreme danger.  It is as dangerous as all the anti-war protesters think, and this was known from the start. However, since the aim was to get Saddam and/or his WMD out of Iraq without a war, it would hardly have made sense to say in advance how black the alternative of war was going to be for those enforcing it and for innocent civilians. To avoid war, the threat had to be credible. Saddam and his ilk bank on the belief that the 'soft' western public cannot face an assault on him. Even now, he aims to terrifiy our troops with threats of what will happen to them in the desert, in the summer, or in the streets of Baghdad.

There is one more thing to remember: If Saddam Hussein is not removed, there is not a chance in hell of getting a state for the Palestinians. For myself, speaking personally, that is the single greatest justification for this campaign. I believe that with Saddam Hussein and his ilk removed from Iraq, there is a chance to force Israel, through financial pressure, to withdraw from the occupied territories. The US will have the support from their domestic electorate to do this.

For the above reasons, even if every Iraqi in the world were to want this war stopped now, it would be an act of the utmost cruelty, cynicism and danger to so do. Plan B has been considered, it was considered before the military builup started, it is considered all the time, and rejected with reason. There is no Plan C.

This 'friendly fire business is getting me down. It appears American troops are badly trained. They cannot recognise British tanks and they are unable to stop a car full of women and children without killing half the occupants. With all their small-arms are they not capable of shooting out the tyres?

Rumsfeld is a worse diplomat than Bush, and that is saying something. He makes this unpleasant task a hundred times more difficult than it need be. However, if people are really so incapable of independent thought that they back Saddam Hussein against the coalition regardless of his behaviour, then they must make their choice. They will not change the mind of those who believe that behaviour, not membership of a particular race, is what makes a human being a member of civilised society. The Syrian foreign minister claimed this evening that everyone knew that America would never liberate, only occupy, because it always occupies.  I instantly brought to mind Occupied France, Occupied Japan, Occupied Germany, Occupied Italy and how they suffer from this occupation.

Considerable advance has been made by the Americans as they approach Baghdad, and it is reported that they have eliminated a further significant part of the Republican Guard as an effective fighting force. This has been denied by Saddam. If Saddam is right, then what has been destroyed is not as significant as the Americans suppose. The possibility is that these formations were calculated to be disposed of and have been used simply to use up Americam fuel, time and ammunition. The real confrontation was not ever meant by Saddam to be there, or to be now.

The order has gone out to the holders of satellite mobile phones in Iraq to hand them in to the authorities. If some operators of these were ever thought by the allies to be potentially on their side they must realise by now that they may have been fooled. This would be a ridiculous assumption were it not for the fact that we hear that US intelligence has already admitted it had been misinformed about the feelings of most Iraqis about the Bush family and the betrayal of 1991.

Zbigniew Brezinski is talking great sense this evening on BBC 2 to Jeremy Paxman. After this operation, peace must be established between Israel and the Palestinians. That means Israel withdrawing from illegal settlements  Zbig is sceptical about the willingness of the Bush administration to really push this process. I have got news for him and for George W. Bush and the US administration. Willingness will be forthcoming, and the American electorate, who have been supporting this operation in Iraq for reasons which they will discover are not the real ones (worthy though the real ones are) will concentrate their minds wonderfully on that task. I stick with the opinion of Winston Churchill: America will always do the right thing, after exploring all other possibilities.

For now, we still have this awful campaign to finish, and the worst is yet to come.

I think I have figured out the coalition strategy. If I am right, I have to admit it is brilliant. I shall therefore cease this diary until something occurs that leads me to believe their strategy differs from what I have arrived at.

The strategy is as I thought, but the tactics differed slightly to what I expected. They were bolder. Four terrible days have passed, but much has been achieved. In Basra things have gone very much better. Due to the careful work over the past weeks and the initiative and good judgement of the commanders in the field, the coalition is now in military control of Basra. At last, the terror is lifted there and more and more people feel able to speak openly and welcome the British soldiers.  I did not realise that the military would not act to prevent looting. I appreciate that there can be good reasons for them not getting involved in domestic police operations, but locals robbing a bank is not helpful to the community at this stage. The robbers may just as likely been working for Saddam before the relief of Basra as not. I am pleased to hear that troops did not stand by on that one. Now they need to get local community leaders in place as soon as possible. There will be a period during which they will have to ensure security for the new Iraqi authorities. The return of exiles, badly needed, will be a delicate matter. The difficulties will be considerable and continual, but to quote a famous American (Thoreau was it?) on his death bed: "I know that the enterprise is worthy, I see that things worlk well, I hear no bad news". That should not be misunderstood. Seriously injured children are not 'good news' as we understand it. The sentiment being expressed is that the suffering of humanity is neither meaningless nor wasted.

In Baghdad, the tactics have been bolder than I imagined. But they have been the best possible and carried out with great bravery. The priority was to get Baghdad freed as soon as possible, balancing casualties over time, risk and security of outcome; and when special forces and intelligence spotted chances they had to be taken. Very, very courageous work. Regrettable civilian casualties, but unavoidable. We can at least hope that the Iraqi tank crews who abandoned their vehicles will live to be part of the new Iraq, not to fight on in the final stages.

Iraq is a big country. The overall strategy will now be tested. The hot weather is coming.

As for the UN involvement, much careful diplomacy will be required. The French, Russians and Germans will have to decide whether or not they will vote for resolutions which accept the validity of the forcible removal of the Baath party regime, based on its refusal to accept UN authority (let alone abide by it), its criminal nature and its psychopathic leaders. If they do, it will make UN involvement much easier at the higher levels, and UN authorisation and recognition will confer legitimacy from the start. If they do not (and it is their choice) then the UN can be involved in a different way through its agencies in rebuilding the nation. Iraq's UN status will then await the installation of an elected government some time in the future. I see no logical, moral or legal difficulty for the Security Council as a whole to accept the fact that 1441 has been enforced, even though they did not vote for it. Accepting a fact is always a good starting point. Not accepting a fact (as we have seen from some performances on Iraqi TV) is not helpful to progress of any sort, whatever one's opinion or aims.

However, the military operations are not yet over. Public UN involvement will greatly assist in the shortening of hostilities and futher casualties. It is up to France, Germany and Russia to decide if they will assist in this process. If they do, the UN will be greatly strengthened. Civil authority must be restored in Baghdad and Basra and elswhere urgently. This entry time at midday UK time.

This evening it is clear that the removal from effective control of the regime has left nobody in civil charge of the populations of Basra or Baghdad. Here we have evidence of a serious miscalculation by the coalition. The troops are still fully occupied with securing their own position throughout the country. Because there has been so much opposition from the regime, although there are many professionals left to maintain services if they are given international help there is no police force.  The looting will cause fear and loss amongst law abiding citizens. The coalition must ensure they get generous assistance from the International Community as soon as the situation is stabilised. For the moment, the military threats are far from over and the situation remains volatile. Clean water is badly needed in Basra, but the situation is not yet secure enough for full technical and humanitarian aid to commence. The most sickening news of all is of the complaints from those Arabs outside Iraq who preferred that Saddam should remain in power rather than have the US remove him. They are disappointed that there was not a greater fight for Baghdad, resulting in greater bloodshed.  It may take some time before the liberators of Iraq will be seen in a good light, in spite of the cheering crowds we saw today on TV. In the 21st century the British military do not go into action for glory or for thanks. When they go in, it is to do a job that has to be done.

Air Marshall Burridge and his men appear to have addressed the looting problem in Basra, but Baghdad is in chaos. Hospitals have had equipment removed by looters. But the cry from the UN that America is in breach of the Geneva Convention which demands that an 'occupying power' protects the civil institutions from damage is frankly a load of unparalled cheek !  For starters, neither the coalition as a whole or its constituent members is yet an occupying power. It has its hands full just trying to defeat the hardline resistance coming from the fanatical beligerents (some who have actually come from other countries to defend the Iraqi regime) who have been encouraged, by the failure of the Security Council to support the operation, to believe that the the position of the allies is illegal. The hypocrisy of those responsible for this failure is beyond words. Edward Mortimer is waffling on TV as I write, speaking for the UN, and backing down under tough cross questioning by the BBC interviewer (Mishal Hussein - a breath of fresh air)

 In due course, history will record, regardless of what happens in the year to come, for good or ill, that the failure of the Security Council to approve the military enforcement of resolution 1441 was a disgrace, a shameful dereliction of duty. The failure of the BBC to have faith in the credibility of the British Prime Minister and his cabinet, and to portray them as dubious players in an operation of dubious legality was also a shameful performance and has cost many lives, for which they will be called to account. They are making a bit more sense now.  They made the same mistake over Yugoslavia.

I wrote yesterday "
The return of exiles, badly needed, will be a delicate matter. ..."  Today we learn that a very significant returnee was assassinated. His death will deter other badly needed exiles from returning. Police could not have stopped that assassination; a united UN, however, would have created a world view that would have deterred such action.  The lesson to be learned form all of this is that we have FACE UP TO OUR RESPONSIBILITIES and not give in to the threats of deluded fanatics, or of tyrants.

The UN has said that the weapons inspectors should go back in. Oh bravo, bravo. In you go lads. But just accept you may find it a bit dangerous if you want to look round Tikrit in the next few days. Personally I don't think a search for WMD has any significance. We need to interview the key personnel, if they or their families are not being held by Saddam and hardliners in inaccesible places.

The taking of Kirkuk by the Kurds has been excellent. It need not cause any problems at all. It is good news that only 2 or 3 oil wells there have been fired by Saddam's men.

In spite of all the bad news I am optimistic. The difficulties caused by the sudden release of a people with no self control, due to being repressed for years are considerable. The youths have no sense of right or wrong as they have been shown nothing but the law of force. They will steal and loot without shame. But Iraq will be reborn. Religious differences will as ever cause endless disputes, but society can be open and the torture chambers will be gone.

I am more interested in the practical difficulties in restoring electricity to Baghdad. Saddam's men may have made that very difficult indeed. Miles of undergroud tunnels which they alone are familiar with present a nightmare for the American army.

Baghdad is now slipping into total anarchy. This will be a lesson that the world will never forget. Of course the anti-war chatterers will claim it as another reason for justifying their original stance, not realising that civilisation all over the world hangs by a thread anyway. That is why, as we moved towards a globalised social structure, a tyrannical regime that is not based on a rule of law is so incredibly dangerous. Let there be no mistake: what we are seeing could happen anywhere in the world if a regime bases its survival on repression without law and the artificial support of its suppressed population through a system of aid, unconnected with the individual responsibility for supporting the community. If Saddam had been left to continue, to be overthrown in a later, inevitable civil war, the carnage would have been worse, the weapons used worse.

To understand why this appalling moment in history has to be gone through, the reader should re-read this diary from the beginning. The status quo was unsustainable. The poison was building. The only alternatives were:
There is no doubt that in Baghdad, the coalition is now in deep trouble. This fabric of life, the supply of food, depends on controlled and protected internal trade. Agricultural produce is required to feed urban populations. The millions of inhabitants dependent on international aid will have seen the structure collapse. They have no means of support, so the law of the jungle will replace the imposed tyranny. Bringing peace to Baghdad is not possible if people cannot feed themselves.

As proposed earlier (see MARCH 1st in this diary), Saddam Hussein will teach America a lesson but America will remove Saddam Hussein. As a true student of Stalin, Saddam is destroying Baghdad to deny it to the coalition. The wretched people caught in the middle, who wanted the International Community to act as one to remove Saddam and his regime, will be the ones to suffer most in Baghdad. American troops will be unable to control the situation because they cannot run the urban systems and the economy. They tried desperately in the early stages to preserve the structure, but Saddam's regime in their final acts have denied them that in Baghdad. The results will be truly appalling unless the entire International Community acts as one, now, to support a coalitionhumanitarian effort.  Aid must go in with military support, whether the aid agencies agree with this or not, airlifted in through Baghdad Airport and others. This was ALWAYS the case from the very beginning.  A bigger lesson to be learned now is by certain urban chattering classes in the BBC who, it has become evident, have no idea of the realities of life. They have tried, through their own vanity, to stand above what they considered to be political power play. As a result they have driven the military up the wall, occupying them with trying to justify their actions instead of being free to do the job.

There are huge realities of life which will now be exposed. With luck these will teach us how dependent urban populations are on agricultural produce, monetary and transport systems and the rule of law. Unless these things are understood by the British public, one day what is happening in Baghdad could happen here in London.

On the other hand the media are absolutely right to point out the fact that life has become much more dangerous for people in Iraq now that Saddam has been removed, just as it did in Moscow when the totalitarian regime there fell [even though a fullly functional regime remained in power and the systems were undamaged]. In the circumstances in Iraq, the dangers are a hundred times worse. The Prime Minister is being ridiculous when he denies this. There is bound to be an appalling period to go through because those who were not an official part of Saddams regime but dependent on it will have no employement. Even if they hated Saddam this group will include thugs who will rob banks and businesses and even hospitals to survive. In Baghdad as in London, the professional middle classes have no idea of working realities of life for the really underprivileged. The 'honest citizens' were protected by Saddams terrible regime. They now expect protection from the invading armies until a new regime is in place.  Honest our PM may be, but his naivety never ceases to astonish me.

PM addendum....
As for the appalling Mr Rumsfeld's remarks on the looting this evening, this arrogant man will get his come-uppance in due course, of that one can be assured. The generals on the spot will have to take on the task of stopping the chaos whether they like it or not. Those in the UK and US military who have had to put up with Rumsfeld before and during this war will I am sure make sure that he is not allowed to take credit for the success or avoid blame for what is going on now.
The media has been a bloody nuisance up till now, though many of their correspondents have been as brave as the soldiers, but today they are getting it right. Looting was inevitable, but Rumsfeld's response is disgusting and his description of what is going on as absurd as was the daily briefing of Saddam's Minister of Information.

A senior Iraqi general familiar with the country's defense strategy and weapons programmes has surrendered today. He was one of those who negotiated with the UN weapons inspectors and maintains that he told the truth, and that Iraq has no WMD. Perhaps he can also explain why in that case they refused to say where the WMD they had previously had has been disposed of. That was, after all, what the WMD argument was about.  My personal support for the removal of Saddam Hussein did not depend on the possession of WMD by the Iraqis as a nation. It depended on the possession of WMD by a nation controlled by Saddam Hussein, a criminal regime, a totalitarian regime with a messianic message and goal, a regime with enough oil money to buy materials and scientists from anywhere in the world, a regime with no foreseeable possibiity of removal by its own suffering people.

Peter Tatchell has been telling us on BBC 'Any Questions' what we should have done. We should have armed the Iraqi opposition parties, he says, and they would have overthrown Saddam. Rumour has it that Peter Tachell is human and lives on this planet, but this must now be seriously questioned. I think he may be an actor paid by the media to put points of view that nobody else will in order to demonstrate how daft they are. In the same programme he claimed the British were foisting new local government leaders on the Basra area, after hearing reports that a potential leader had put himself forward to the British military commander whose first action was to call a meeting of local people to see if they would support him or not.  It seems Mr Tatchell is a man who likes to take a view and then try to invent facts to fit it rather than the other way round.

The diehard opponents of war though always fall back on the one mantra: "It's all about oil". In one sense they are correct - we are at the peak of the graph in the  'oil window'. That is a very brief moment of human existence when we must use the limited amount of accessible, usable oil on this planet to achieve a global economy that can develop and then use and share the next phase of energy technology. This phase will enable us to work together globally without the need for an ever increasing level of physical tourism or of commuting to work. It will also enable us to carry out the travelling that is still necessary without dangerously polluting or heating our atmosphere. Just as in an era of atomic weapon technology and chemical and biological weapons we have to make sure that these are not in the hands of people like Saddam and his psychopath family and followers, we also need to make sure that the same sort of people do not misuse the precious oil reserves. These reserves will be used up in the next few decades, leaving a residual amount that can be used for more specialist uses than just burning for transport or heating. If the US heavy consumption was just used for building palaces and maintaining supremacy, it would be just as big a misuse and any other. But in an open society where the worlds best minds can work without fear, the US and the G7+ nations will develop the technologies of transport, heating and electricity generation and storage for the post-oil era. Iraqis in a free Iraq can play an important role in this. So yes, it is all about oil, because we are in the oil phase of human development and Iraq has an important part to play.

It is now time to make a judgement on on the liberation process so far. The efficiency and bravery of the coalition troops has been remarkable. Those who claim that this has been easy have no idea of the training that the soldiers have undegone or the rigours of the development and production of their arms and munitions. It has taken the efforts over many years of some of the worlds greatest economies, educational establishments, industries and political and military institutions. It has been a terrible task, and one of the worst things about it is that it has had to be done under the overall dominating control of Mr Rumsfeld. We have to admire any man who will take responsibility for driving forward such appalling tasks, but such a personality is bound to contain obstinacies, blockages and insensitivities that may be very damaging to the actual process. While I have no doubt that the electricity supply in Baghdad was probably disabled by Saddam's men before they left the capital, the failure to protect the hospitals, the buildings containing records and the museums can now be seen as a direct result of Rumsfeld's view that the management of the whole operation was based on looking after the US troops, the US economy, and US interests whenever there was the slightest conflict with the interests of Iraq or obligations to the Geneva convention. In the early period it was clear that some looting would take place and protection of premises would be limited. But there was no attempt at all. This will be seen now to have been strategically counterproductive and Rumsfeld will be called to account by the US congress.

The BBC has been quite correct to report the results of the failure in Baghdad to attempt any kind of control of the civil population. It is probably quite true that a certain amount of looting has to be permitted until the military is able to turn its attention seriously to that task, since attempting to stop it and failing would bring troops in conflict with civilians and could lead to very harmful perceptions in the minds of both the coalition soldiers and the civil population. But this has nothing to do with the failure to protect certain priority sites.  That is the minimalist approach. A more effective approach would have been to have policing forces based in Kuwait or other sites ready to move in as soon as Baghdad arport was operational and under allied control.

However, the BBC will also be called to account for partiality in its reporting during the entire operation. Richard Sambrook, the corporation's head of news, said "It is not the BBC's role to second guess what the impact of its reports might be on anyone involved in the conflict. What is important is that reporters report what they see." Mr Sambrook has completely missed the point.

It is indeed important the reporters report what they see [ though there are limitations on this if they have a privileged view provided by the allied military which may not be available to others and which is tactically or strategically sensitive to the war. There will be time later to report on such details]. The complaint is not about people reporting what they see. It is about giving a voice on the BBC World Service radio and television, after the military action had started, to those who maintain that the war was unnecessary, illegal, immoral, anti-islamic, about oil, run by idiots or criminals, carelessly caried out, deliberately targetting civilians. These views may be held, but freedom of speech does not include giving a platform to such people on the UK's international broadcasting system, in wartime, after the UK government has voted by an overall majority and a majority in all parties to commit its troops and its country to a military and political course with great risks, for what has been judged good reasons.

Not only were such people given a platform, they were give star billing, since those with the responsibility for pursuing the policy embarked on had no wish to propagandise unnecessarily on an argument already won in open political debate over many months. Furthermore, many BBC commentators have been avowedly anti-war and against UK government policy. "Freedom of speech" has never meant the BBC is obliged to give equal time to anarchists, racists pacifists or criminals with respect to the airtime given to those who represent the values that have built and sustain the culture and institutions that have created and now sustain. Freedom of speech means that you can say what you like providing it is not an incitement to violence or racial or religious hatred. Other restrictions could be put on on it too, such as restricting the right to encourage actions that would instruct disaffected individuals in how damage the public health. A recent discussion on BBC Radio 4 on 'freedom of speech' chaired by Laurie Taylor revealed a remarkable immaturity of thinking on the whole subject.

These precious freedoms, of speech, travel, association and religious belief depend, for their survival, on not being abused. With every freedom comes an associated responsibility. The BBC has a great responsibilty because it has great power and great freedom. Mr Sambrook's staff may not be the ones who have abused it, but the BBC certainly has in its selection of opinions and airtime given to them. Martin Bell and Charles Wheeler were lauded on a recent Radio 4 programme as people whose experience and judgement were almost beyond question. I have listened to practically every world each of these individuals have said on the subject of war, politics and America over the years. I am a perpetual critic of America. But I do not respect either Martin Bell or Charles Wheeler's judgement on everything. I think there is a lot missing in their understanding of the world.
I have no doubt that time and events will show up all the errors in thinking and in action of all politicians, but I do not see these two gentlemen as repositories of wisdom, however hard they attempt to play this role.

"It is not the BBC's role to second guess what the impact of its reports might be on anyone involved in the conflict. What is important is that reporters report what they see."  However, it is the BBC's role to second guess the impact of the privileged platform it gives to individuals and movements, in time of peace and in time of war, because the huge audience that it commands makes the speaker more powerful than a head of state addressing his country's legislative body. Unless the BBC wishes to usurp the role of parliament, it should take on the responsibility that is appropriate for the incredible freedom and financial support it is given by parliament, freedom and finance which exists in combination nowhere else on this planet.

It is now becoming clear that the US administration has grossly neglected the plans and provision for stabilising Baghdad after the Baath regime was removed.  Saddam has left behind a sabotaged electricity network and emptied the worst elements from gaols to run riot. This was an easily predictable act of a regime with no real culturall values. It was a criminal regime. How is it possible that the American planners did not anticipate this? They have no people in Baghdad even now who have the slightest idea of what should have been done, or the means of doing it. How are we to interpret this? As stupidity, or of deliberate negligence? For the first time I am now deeply pessimistic about the chances that the the United States can play any popular role in rebuilding Iraq. They have failed on every single count so far, and have alienated every section of the community. If this had been not for want of trying, they would be forgiven. But there is no evidence that the slightest intention of dealing with this easily predictable situation was even contemplated. It is a public relations disaster of incredible proportions, and it will reflect very badly on the UK as well. Even if the situation is recovered now by a massive improvement in security and humanitarian aid, the US will never be forgiven.

On the other hand there is much nonsense being talked about the impossibilty of a democratic Iraqi government. As we know, and I assume even Americans know, administration is one thing, politics another. The only requirements for a democratic government is a justice system, police and armed forces that uphold a constitution that provides for free and fair elections every 5 years, while keeping civil order in between. Free speech and a free media, restricted only by an interdiction on incitement to crime, violence and racial hatred, is another required ingredient. The government can be of any complexion, providing it abides by such a constitution. It must enforce the social contract by constitutional means while in office, and allow opposition parties to challenge it at general elections.

The first task now is not to arrive at a democratic government but to put in place an administration with a provisional constitution, to ensure that Iraqi people are employed in the tasks that keep the country running, and the young people are trained in the skills required for the future. A democratic government comes when there is sufficient law and order and preparations to hold a free and fair election, when the people can choose between political parties on the basis of their manifestos including, if they wish, the personally expressed values of the individuals leading those parties. Providing there is no intimidation at the time of the election, there is no way that an undemocratic government can be foisted on a free people. Even if they choose a regime that bcomes despotic, it is the sworn duty of the armed forces to protect the constitution against abuses that would allow that regime to deny the chance of the electorate to throw it out.

Iraq has, in its oil reserves, a national asset to finance its social aspirations and to equip its people and country for the post-oil era as well. The suffering of Europe in the first half of the 20th century is not unrelated to the advance of Europe in the latter half of that century. The suffering of Iraq and others in the Middle East may not be wasted if it leads to a brighter future for the whole region and Iraq in particular. But this war is not over. There are huge amounts of arms all over the country, and a great many people who may use them very unpredictably now. There are obviously movements that are still financed by the old regime. To stop them sabotaging the next stages the coalition needs to set society and the economy back on a viable footing, with salaries and wages. But the banks have been looted and the records gone, so they will have virtually re-start the currency. It is a massive task. Maybe the coalition and the UN have thought this through and have the means to deal with it. If so they are remarkable at hiding the idea that they have the smallest clue.

The UN should have backed this operation from the start, and controlled such operations as the protection of museums from the start by enquiring what provisions were in hand in the first stages of occupation. That the coalition was left to do this necessary job on its own is, as I have never ceased to say, a disgrace. What I wrote on April 11th still stands. It looks to me like the coalition is in deep trouble.

President  Bush's report on the state of affairs in Iraq today is about as realistic as the briefings of Comical Ali during the advance on Baghdad of the Americans.  According to Bush, water food and medical supplies are being delivered right now. According to reporters on the ground, the only supplies reaching hospitals in Baghdad are items they already have and do not need more of. They need electricity, water and above all security so that the staff can return to work. They do not have this. It would seem that Saddam's strategy so far is superior to Rumsfeld's. Baghdad is being destroyed all around the US Army. A classic Stalinist strategy.  

Now perhaps we can appreciate more clearly the charge of recklessness that Clare Short levelled at the UK government on March 10th. The recklessness she referred to was not in standing up to Saddam but trusting the Rumsfeld plan.  The moment we started to hear him talking in public about 'shock and awe' it was clear Rumsfeld knew nothing about the Arab mind. Only Americans are shocked and awed by American displays designed to shock and awe. What a pillock that guy is.

There is still hope that this exercise will achieve what this commentator most desired, the fall of Saddam and the fall of Bush, but if we are also to get the Israelis out of where they do not belong, the Palestinians are going to have to play a serious hand and get serious support from the UK and Europe and the UN Security Council. If they blow it by thinking now is the time to increase the suicide attacks they will lose a unique opportunity. The price paid so far by Iraq is so great that this opportunity must not be wasted.

It is fascinating to see how Clare Short is now being attacked by everybody, from the left, from the right, by pro-war and anti-war. That is because she has been clear headed all along, a Stateswoman who has risen above her own career interests and accepted the responsibility of living in the world as it is. She is now accused, because she is criticising the lack of preparation for this phase of the campaign, of playing a part for the benefit of the Prime Minister. Yes, the part she plays is Clare Short. It usually benefits all those who trust in her. That will include the innocent people on whose behalf she works [not excluding the PM she reproved for recklessness].

Meanwhile, the war in Iraq is far from over.

Jay Garner and Tim Cross are now on the job, with specialist teams coming in. Reparing the damage done by criminal looters is one thing,
sabotage and theft done by Saddam's supporters will be another and probably far more difficult unless they get inside help, particularly if it is continuing. We can only wish the coalition well now in its endeavours and hope that the International Community will support the humanitarian aid effort.

It is very interesting to observe the exactly choreographed chants and body movements of the organised spontaneous crowds representing religious or political viewpoints. We were told people were never able to congregate and demonstrate over the past 20 years to express anything other than support for Saddam. The people we see these days are synchronised in their present chants and movements better than a team of trained dancers. I think they could come on and perform for anyone's script after a half hour's rehearsal.

And then we have the documents purporting to prove that George Galloway, the man dedicated to ending sanctions over the past decade, was being financed by getting a percentage on oil sales and deals he helped to arrange for the regime. Charles Moore, editor of the Daily Telegraph stands by the story that his reporter found these documents under circumstances that make their finding as a plant impossible, and therefore their forgery implausible. George Galloway stands by his contention that he never in his life met an Iraqi security service official. What is the truth? The truth is that fooling both Charles Moore and George Galloway is like taking candy from a baby.  Charles Moore probably never knows that half of what appears in his paper is planted, sometimes by his own staff, sometimes by others, for a variety of motives good, bad or ugly. George Galloway is probably a very nice guy who does not realise that half of what goes on in his head is planted, again by a variety of people for a variety of motives. But one has to admit that Galloway stands alone and independent and can at least talk straight, unlike the tribal upper-class bumbling mumble of Moore.

If the documents are a plant (which is likely considering the unidentifiable signature and the timing and circumstances) it is unlikely that they were planted by anyone trying to discredit Galloway. Much more probably by someone trying to discredit the DT and anyone gullible enough to believe this story, and to make the public believe that this is the type of dirty tricks the British government uses on its opponents. Whether Galloway has ever been given money by the Iraqi regime is something else again.

If the documents are not a plant but genuine, it could be that an associate of Galloway was taking his name in vain to get more money out of Saddam. But in that case Galloway will have a lot of work to do to convince any court of law that it was not just a cover, and that the associate was not acting on his behalf.

I have left almost a month before adding anything here, mainly because it has been so depressing to realise that Bush and his team had absolutely nothing up their sleeve in the way of sensible ideas or plans to deal with the counter-forces loosed in Iraq, probably financed by Saddam, and the hostile and humiliated Iraqi nationalists. It is hard to credit how ill prepared the American administration has been for anything other than the military push to overthrow the regime. One begins to understand why Clare Short used the term reckless. It is not impossible that Iraq can be pulled together under a reasonable leadership, but given the utter cluelessness of George Bush and the strange naivety of Blair, the odds get worse by the day.

The suicide bombings in Saudi and elswhere are hardly unexpected. I am putting this diary on the back burner now, as the key decisions have already been taken. Now its just a long slog with unfortunately a lot of unpleasant obstacles and happenings along the way. The war is not over in Iraq, even if Bush thinks it is. On the other hand the people bleating about not finding weapons of mass destruction are a complete waste of time, theirs and everybody else's.  A serious effort will continue to find them, but whether they are found will have no bearing at all on the legality, legitimacy or advisability of moving to remove Saddam and his regime.

THAT'S BETTER! A unanimous UN Security Council containing all the right measures and above all THE REMOVAL OF SANCTIONS. This was the aim of the exercise. It is understandable that the Syrians were not there for the vote - they would have had to consult with all the Arab nations before they could cast a vote, it would have taken a considerable time for them to have formulated a position, and there is no time to spare, as things in Iraq are really bad - a good deal worse than when Saddam was in power. But now that the sanctions are lifted and the coalition countries are able to at least start preparing the oil wells and processing plants for future exports, with the UN in a monitoring role and progressively coming in on the immense requirement for humanitarian aid and rebuilding of the nation, it might be possible to rescue the situation.

But it is going to need a massive effort. So much harm has been done during the last 12 years by the effect of sanctions, made worse by Saddam, and finally by what one can now see as the US administration's inability to imagine even approximately the realities of life in the middle east and quite definitely not in Iraq. George Bush based his arguments for regime change (which was of course essential if the sanctions were to be lifted) on a simple premise: "We cannot allow the worlds most lethal weapons to be in the hands of the worlds most evil leaders". To which one might reply "We cannot allow the worl'd most powerful nation to be run by the world's most ignorant leaders".

As has been pointed out, George Bush is certainly not evil, and what he actually does at the end of the day is not so much the problem. It is just that every time he opens his mouth he makes most of the world despise hm, and the rest of them wish Osama bin Laden would at least manage to take him out in the next Al Qaida extravaganza. The troops he sent out there were totally unprepared for the job, and far too few to keep order after they had smashed the china and removed the existing civil authority. Those who like me thought that at least he had some competent advisors have been proved wrong so far, though people like Richard Haas are in theory of very high calibre indeed. Additional trouble is caused by his speech writers, one of whom was chatting to us on BBC Radio 4 recently and came over as naive beyond all imagining. Now we hear that the 'Axis of Evil' was changed from 'Axis of Hate' by another speech writer. The world is being screwed up by speech-writers who do not have a boss who understands English or History or anything utside Texas. Imagine what Roosevelt would have done if he had been served up with a script like that.

The endless discussion fuelled or fanned by the media on whether or not Saddam had WMD at the start of the war and whether the danger of him using them was exaggerated is utterly pointless. A complete waste of time. There were only ever two possibilities: the sanctions remained in place and were tightened, or Saddam Hussein had to go. There were no other conceivable futures. Any idea that the terms of the original Gulf War ceasefire could have been waived and sanctions removed with Saddam in power are just ridiculous. Keeping or tightening the sanctions was a seriously bad idea, so that left only one other possibilty. In retrospect, the peace marches were just rubbish. Furthermore the mess that has been made of the postwar situation is as much the fault of Clair Short as anyone. With the advantage of hindsight, certainly not the British military. It can now be seen quite clearly that what was suggested here politely in February, that the peace protesters and all those who did not straighten up and fly right would make things worse for all, before during and after, is all too true. Even the motives of Bush and his supporters are in the final anlysis irrelevant. The sanctions had to stop, and that was the only way.