I thought to myself: ‘How would George Bush interpret the “With you, whatever” memo?’ So, I put myself in George Bush’s shoes and tried to think like a privileged man, who is used to getting his own way and yearns for glory and huge wealth for himself and his inner circle.
This is what I came up with. It’s long and sounds nothing like dubya, but I’m putting it on here cos I can:
I will be with you, whatever.
‘Whether we choose to go to war or not Tony says he will be with me. Cute. He loves me.’
But this is the moment to assess bluntly the difficulties.
‘What difficulties? Rums and Wolf have it covered for the American people.’
The planning on this and the strategy are the toughest yet.
‘Blaahdy Blah! Englishman. Yes. I know. I have my own advisors.’
This is not Kosovo. This is not Afghanistan. It is not even the Gulf War.
‘Yes. This is a licence to print money regime change. He!He!’
The military part of this is hazardous but I will concentrate mainly on the political context for success.
‘Sweet of you to offer, Tony. Leave the military planning to us while you take the political heat at the UN. Oh! And Europe… Interesting, Tony. Go on.’
Getting rid of Saddam is the right thing to do.
‘Tony wants regime change as much as I do. Maybe for different reasons. But what’s in for him. The power. The glory. Aahhh! You want to be loved, Tony.’
He is a potential threat.
‘Tony thinks he’s a threat. Tony wants to change the world like I do. Tony is a man of principle. I want revenge and show me the money.’
He could be contained. But containment, as we found with Al Qaida, is always risky.
‘Yes. Strike first and strike the head. No more pussyfooting around with politics at the UN. Let’s show the world and take out the bastard and redistribute his wealth.’
His departure would free up the region.
‘I’m not sure what you mean, Tony. I’ll have to ask if it means “No Saddam and we can impose our will on the region and make it in our image.” That’s my legacy: Bush the liberator and bringer of freedom.’
And his regime is probably, with the possible exception of North Korea, the most brutal and inhumane in the world.
‘Yeah the SOB deserves it and no one will be sorry when he’s dead. But we ain’t goin after North Korea next, co we ain’t stooopid. I’ll have to get Rums to reign Tony in on that.’
The first question is: in removing him, do you want/need a coalition? The US could do it alone, with UK support.
‘Tony, you are my man. Offering your country! Cool! I’ll pay you back. What kinda beads d’ya like?’
The danger is, as ever with these things, unintended consequences. Suppose it got militarily tricky. Suppose Iraq suffered unexpected civilian casualties. Suppose the Arab street finally erupted, eg in [REDACTED]. Suppose Saddam felt sufficiently politically strong, if militarily weak in conventional terms, to let off WMD.
‘Tony, you think of everything. We can sort it out. But first let’s get in there and see what we’ve got. Huh! He truly believes in the WMD… and they call me dumb.’
Suppose that, without any coalition, the Iraqis feel ambivalent about being invaded and real Iraqis, not Saddam’s special guard, decide to offer resistance. Suppose, at least, that any difficulties, without a coalition, are magnified and seized upon by a hostile international opinion. If we win quickly, everyone will be our friend.
‘We’ll win quickly. Don’t you worry. “Shock and awe!” Rums and Wolf know. Them ——-’ll fall at our feet and thank us for liberating them. They’ll be our grateful friends. Why the fuck think beyond that! In.The.Pocket!’
If we don’t and they haven’t been bound in beforehand, recriminations will Start fast. None of these things might happen. But they might, singly or in combination.
‘Jeez, Tony, paranoid! You do go. But I like that you are thinking of covering all the bases but let’s leave it at “None of those things will happen.”’
And there is one other point. We will need to commit to Iraq for the long term. Bedding down a new regime will take time. So, without support, the possibility of unintended consequences will persist through and beyond the military phase.
‘Bedding the regime. Oh yeah! … We’ll run the show, Tony! There’s no hiding the fact that you and I know regime change is coming to Iraq.’
So, I’m keen on a coalition, not necessarily militarily but politically.
‘Fuck it! Tony. You just wrote: “With us, whatever.” You must know we want your military on board. What do they say in the UK? “In for a penny. In for a pound.” You’re coming with us, Tony. You’ll thank me for the glory coming your way. Think of it: “Tony Blair the man who stood with Bush against tyranny.”’
I am a little alarmed at the report back I’ve had from our various officials’ meetings in the US. They say everyone over on your side is pretty optimistic that we could neutralise or gain support from most of the Arabs; and that the EU, in particular even the French, but certainly the Italians, Spanish and Germans, would be with us. I have to say that’s not my reading. The trouble is, everyone says: they will support action, but they add a rider and the rider is not always sufficiently heard or spoken. The Arabs may support but are far less likely to do so, if the MEPP is where it is now. When I met [REDACTED] and said we would do Iraq,
‘Fuck! Yeah! We’re gonna do Iraq. You know it. And you wanna be with us when those statues topple. But there’s something in that. Better tell Tony to sort those wimps out. Too much shit for the US to be bothering with.’
he said: ‘fine – just do it with total force’.
‘“Total force!” Beautiful. That’s music to my ears. A green light. Fucking A! Go, Tony! What is the problem? Just get the others to think that way. How many countries in the EU? Get them on board.’
But when we started later to talk about the MEPP, he said he was far more optimistic about it. ‘Why?’, I asked. ‘Because obviously, with Iraq coming up, the US will put it in a quite different place’, he said. When I said, we couldn’t guarantee that, he looked genuinely shocked. Then Iraq would be a very different proposition, he said.
‘Not sure I what you’re saying, Tony. It’ll be America’s place. Alright, you can have some pissant corner away from central power.’
In my opinion, neither the Germans or the French, and most probably not the Italians or Spanish either, would support us without specific UN authority. Again, they express this by saying ‘yes’ and then adding the rider. But the rider is real. Stoiber might be different from Schroeder, but again I doubt it. In fact, if we launched it in exactly the same state as we are now, there is a chance the French would actively oppose us and start to create real waves inside the EU.
‘Uh! Maybe you have a point. I get where you’re going. We need to sort some shit out first cos those folks in Europe are just too dumb to see what we’re doing for them.’
I know the French are anxious to escape their anti-American outlook. I know Berlusconi and Aznar personally strongly support you. Stoiber will be desperate to come on board with the US. But some of them are very tied to specific positions about the UN which they will find it very hard to ditch.
‘Uh. Talk to the palm. Sort this shit out then so we can go to war.’
And – here is my real point – public opinion is public opinion. And opinion in the US is quite simply on a different planet from Opinion here, in Europe or in the Arab world.
‘The main point. Ya coulda got there quicker. Alright! Well sell it to them pussies, then! I’ve got an election in two years. And the public is on my side. They don’t give a shit about that EU/Arab stuff. Push it through. Tony, believe! Uh. I’ll have to flatter the dude a bit more.’
In Britain, right now I couldn’t be sure of support from Parliament, Party, public or even some of the Cabinet. And this is Britain.
‘Like I give a shit.’
In Europe generally, people just don’t have the same sense of urgency post 9/11 as people in the US; they suspect – and are told by populist politicians – that it’s all to do with 43 settling the score with the enemy of 41; and various other extraneous issues like steel etc have soured the atmosphere at little.
‘Ha. They’d be half right, those populists. Ha! Ha! Tony, you are the Prime Minister. Just play it close to your chest and push it through. Fuck up those who stand against us and show’em what they will lose. Fuck it! Make examples of the SOBs to bring’em into line. We can help.’
At the moment, oddly, our best ally might be Russia!
‘Russia!!!! I don’t believe it! New World Order! Praise be. New World Order! In our image. And for us! I am bringing freedom to the world.’
A Strategy for, Achieving a Coalition
‘Slow down, Tony boy. Strategy is our thing. Just make sure everyone is sweet.’
Here is what could bring opinion round.
(1) The UN.
We don’t want to be mucked around by Saddam over this, and the danger is he drags us into negotiation. But we need, as with Afghanistan and the ultimatum to the Taleban, to encapsulate our casus belli in some defining way. This is certainly the simplest. We could, in October as the build-up starts,
‘“The build-up!” You know it’s happening, Tony. The date is set. No going back.”
state that he must let the inspectors back in unconditionally and do so now, ie set a 7-day deadline. It might be backed by a UNSCR or not, depending on what support there was (and I’m not sure anyone, at present, would veto it if Russia was on board). There would be no negotiation. There would be no new talks with Annan. It would be: take it or leave it.
I know there will be reluctance on this. But it would neutralise opposition around the UN issue. If he did say yes, we continue the build-up and we send teams over and the moment he obstructs, we say: he’s back to his games. That’s it.
‘Tony, you devious British bastard. What’s that word you used “Duplicitous.” This sounds good.’
In any event, he probably would screw it up and not meet the deadline, and if he came forward after the deadline, we would just refuse to deal.
‘Tony, I see the glory of the Lord coming for Saddam. Pincer movement. Got him! Read him his rights and waste the SOB! The simple plans are the best. Them anti-Americans will moan and see through it but they can’t do a fucking thing. Sweet Jesus, we are in the clear politically. Tony, you are the… what? The builder of strategy here. Strategy Master’
(2) The Evidence.
Again, I have been told the US thinks this unnecessary.
‘Yeah. Totally. But I’m listening now. I wanna look as good as possible for history.’
But we still need to make the case. If we recapitulate all the WMD evidence; add his attempts to secure nuclear capability; and, as seems possible, add on Al Qaida link, it will be hugely persuasive over here. Plus, of course, the abhorrent nature of the regime. It could be done simultaneously with the deadline.
‘So what you’re sayin’ is blacken his name and lynch him.’
My judgement is this is essential and whatever the Arabs say at one level, at another this is in the very soul of their attitudes. So it is worth a real effort to get a proper negotiation going. [REDACTED] but at the moment there is no other option. But this negotiation won’t start unless someone takes charge of the detail in the negotiation. But for the Arabs, MEPP doesn’t have to be settled. It just has to start in earnest.
‘Talk. Talk. Bullshit. And then we act! Who’s gonna stand against us once we’re in? Let them… What was the word: “Whinge.”’
(4) Post Saddam
Suppose we were able to say as follows. Regime change is vital and, in the first instance, it must be one that protects Iraq’s territorial integrity and provides stability; and hence might involve another key military figure. But it should lead in time to a democratic Iraq governed by the people. This would be very powerful. I need advice on whether it’s feasible. But just swapping one dictator for another seems inconsistent with our values.
‘In time, Tony. We’re giving them freedom and our values. They’ll owe us. Tell Rums to appeal to his vanity, then give Tony some advice: Take a chill pill. Ha!’
(5) The Arab/Moslem World
Some will fall into line. But others won’t and others still -Syria and Iran to name but two – might be actively hostile or use it as a means to support terrorism in Israel. We need a dedicated effort to woo the Arab world, to offer the hardliners a very hard-headed partnership or put them on the ‘axis of evil’ list. But we shouldn’t just leave this to chance and their own (bad) decision-making.
‘No shit, Sherlock! Iran won’t like having the USA on its doorstep. But what can they do? I am “The Liberator. The Democratizer.” So, Tony, why not call yourself something fancy. Treat yourself to the title of “Peace Envoy to the Middle East” and set about remaking the region with good ol’Christian values like tolerance, love, justice and mercy. A lasting legacy. The new Churchill.’
We need this to be going right, not wrong. It is out one act of regime change so far, so it had better be a good advertisement. My hunch is it needs renewed focus and effort.
‘Temporary setbacks. Those ingrates are arguing amongst themselves. Tribes and clans fucking it up. Corruption everywhere. They disgust me. All wanting to be kept sweet. Iraqis are all Iraqis they’ll be kissing our asses when Saddam goes. Total regime change. Quit with the worries, already.’
It goes without saying that the Turks and the Kurds need to be OK. Strangely, I think they are going to be the easiest, despite the Turkish elections. They both want our help badly and will play ball, if offered enough.
‘Easy. “offered enough.” I love your diplomacy, Tony. You mean bribe the fuckers! Promise them Turks some EU shit. And say something different to the Kurds. They’ll get over it. They’re used to bein’ pissed on and fucked over.’
I would be happy to try to put all this together, ie to dedicate myself to getting all these elements (1-6) sorted, including involving myself in the MEPP. But it needs a huge commitment in time and energy. So it’s only really worth doing if we are all on the same page.
‘You understand, boy! The page is written.’
The Military Plan:
Finally, obviously, we must have a workable military plan. I don’t know the details yet, so this is at first blush.
The two options are running start and generated start.
The first has the advantage of surprise; the second of overwhelming force. My military tell me the risks of heavy losses on the running start make it very risky. Apparently it involves around 15-20,000 troops striking inside Iraq, with heavy air support. The idea would be to catch the regime off balance, strike hard and quickly and get it to collapse. The obvious danger is it doesn’t collapse. And there is the risk of CW being used.
‘CW. No risk at all. You think I’d send US troop into Iraq to get gassed. I ain’t LBJ. Keep swallowing that hogwash. Think of the glory not the truth.’
For that reason, a generated start seems better. It could always be translated into a more immediate option, should Saddam do something stupid. Also, the build-up of forces in such numbers will be a big signal of serious intent to the region and help to pull people towards us; and demoralise the Iraqis. This option allows us to hammer his air defences and infrastructure; to invade from the south and take the oilfields;
‘We are way, way ahead of you on those oilfields, Tony. But thanks for reminding!
to secure the north and protect/stabilise the Kurds. Then effectively with huge force we go on to Baghdad.
‘Baghdad will be in meltdown before the main force gets there. We gotta get in and secure the important places first, my puppy.’
We would support in any way we can.
‘Dumbass! We want your troops and politics. You sweet talk the UN and do the other politics thing. Aircraft, too. And we give you some reflected glory. Team America leads the way.’
On timing, we could start building up after the break. A strike date could be Jan/Feb next year. But the crucial issue is not when, but how
‘A strike date! You want this war, too. But git down, boy. We go in March 2003!’