Skip to comments.Mark Steyn: The British wrest defeat from the jaws of victory
Posted on 06/07/2003 6:31:49 PM PDT by Pokey78
I had a weird experience a few days ago. I flew from the Middle East to North America. In Iraq, 95 per cent of the people I met told me they were happy to be liberated and regretted only that various disappeared loved ones weren't around to see it. In the US, the great victory has been digested and folks have moved on to newer distractions, like the travails of the indicted style guru Martha Stewart. In their different ways, these are both rational reactions.
But, en route from east to west, I briefly touched down in the strange area known as "Europe", where possibly due to a freak electrical storm or some other phenomenon the people of Britain appeared to be in the fevered grip of some mass psychosis, perhaps a variant of Sars (Sudden Alternative Reality Syndrome). Peter Worthington, the Canadian columnist and veteran of the Second World War and Korea, likes to say that there is no such thing as an unpopular won war. Tell it to Downing Street. If I understand correctly, the British, having won the war, are now demanding a recount. Across the length and breadth of the realm, the people are as one: now that the war's out of the way we can go back to bitching and whining that Blair hasn't made the case for it.
This is all very odd. In Kirkuk the other day, they found another mass grave, this time with the bodies of 200 children who had been buried alive. Yawn. Doesn't count. Wake me if they find a toxic warhead among the teeny skulls. The naysayers were wrong on so much - millions of refugees, Vietnam quagmire, Stalingrad, etc - you can't blame them for clinging to the one little straw that hasn't shrivelled up and slipped between their fingers: Come on, Tony, where's the WMD?
Or as Iain Duncan Smith put it in the House of Commons: "The truth is nobody believes a word you say now." Well, I do. Because what Mr Blair said is not only in line with what American officials told me, it is in line with what Continental officials told me - as recently as two weeks ago, when a big-time Euro paused midway through his harangue about the illegality of the war to assure me that "of course" Saddam had been up to WMD monkey business.
That's why, if you notice, the axis of weasels (France, Germany, Russia) and its short-pants league (Belgium, Luxembourg, Canada), while undoubtedly enjoying Mr Blair's discomfort, have nevertheless declined to join in the show-us-the-sarin taunts. They know what their intelligence services say (assuming, for the purposes of argument, Luxembourg has an intelligence service), and it's the same as the British and Americans. The Leader of Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition is presumably privy to more high-level briefings than I am, so his tawdry opportunism is especially contemptible.
What IDS merely implied, Max Hastings spelt out in these pages last week: "The Prime Minister committed British troops and sacrificed British lives on the basis of a deceit." Sir Max, the liberator of Port Stanley, has somehow morphed for this war into Belgrano bore Tam Dalyell: his thesis is that Blair and his American masters lied to the world about Saddam's arsenal in order to justify an invasion that would prove no such arsenal existed and that they were a bunch of liars.
Insofar as this is a serious argument, let's rebut it in terms the armchair accusers can understand: Liberty. Not the liberty George W Bush has brought to Iraq, which Eurosophisticates are so sniffy about, but the Liberty on Regent Street. I once ordered a sofa from Liberty and, as is the way, I had to wait till they made it. They didn't have the sofa itself, but they had sofa capability. That's what counts: capability, not inventory. It would obviously be easier to wait and pick the evidence of WMD out of the rubble of Birmingham, but for the Americans it is capability that's the determining criterion.
In that sense, the contrasting post-war fates of Bush and Blair are instructive. The President has always been so straightforward that, in an interview with ITV 15 months ago, Trevor McDonald seemed to have difficulty taking yes for an answer. "I made up my mind that Saddam needs to go," Bush told him.
"And, of course, if the logic of the war on terror means anything," Sir Trevor responded, "then Saddam must go?"
"That's what I just said," said the President. "The policy of my government is that he goes."
"So you're going to go after him?" pressed Sir Trevor, determined not to let Bush get away with these evasions.
"As I told you, the policy of my government is that Saddam Hussein not be in power."
And now he's not. Mr Blair could never put it like that. And the moment he prevailed upon Bush to go the extra mile with the UN, it was inevitable that there would be a fair amount of what I believe the British call "total bollocks". That is, by definition, the official language of multilateralism, and one reason why I have little time for it. For 18 months, my position on Iraq was consistent: I was in favour of whacking Saddam because the price of leaving him non-whacked was too high for America's broader interests. But once you get into auditioning justifications in front of a panel comprising France, China and Guinea, you're in for quite a tap dance. In the end, Britain officially went to war on a technicality, and given that that technicality - Saddam's technical non-compliance with Resolution 1441 - still holds, the WMD song and dance is irrelevant, both de facto and de jure. And as politics, two months after victory, it's pathetically immature.
In America, Mr Blair is still Churchill. In Britain, Mr Blair has fast-forwarded to the Churchill of 1945: his own party never liked him, his wartime coalition with Clement Duncan Attlee has broken up, and the ingrate voters have had enough of wartime austerity - the wretched hospitals, the broken trains - and would like a domestic panderer rather than a global colossus.
Fair enough. Settle your differences with Blair at the next election. But on this issue he was right, and there's nothing to be gained for British Conservatism in subscribing to theories of deliberate deceit that in America are exclusively the province of paranoid cranks. Some of those besmirching British victory in a noble cause should be ashamed of themselves.
Interesting slip(?) here: I was in favour of whacking Saddam because the price of leaving him non-whacked was too high for America's broader interests.
Does Mark really think of himself as an American? He'd be welcome to move into my swell new spare room in NC while he sorts out his citizenship ...
Tomorrow I'm flying over to Iraq with whatever WMDs I can dig up around here and I'll toss them down and old well and point the boys in the right direction.
Let's see, I can spare a few cans of Sarin, a half a bottle of Anthrax (don't ask), and a few pictures of Maureen Down (REALLY don't ask). That should be enough for starters.
Anybody else spare some WMDs?
Some of those paranoid cranks have chimed in on Free Republic.
He lives in New Hampshire.
An excellent point, which only further underscores how ridiculous this entire whacky left tin-foil mad hat conspiracy theory is.
I could donate some Barbra Streisand CDs.
And yeah, Travis...that one took this out of the "funny" category.
I see. I was born in California. Sometimes bad things happen to good people ...
Steyn is the king of quips!