Incompetence over Iraq
- 52 retired Foreign Office Arabists advised against the war. They were ignored.
- The Foreign Office appears not to have offered any analysis of the "likely consequences" of invading Iraq ("Ministers never asked for it; officials never gave it"). No one in Whitehall recalled "the difficulties of Britain's imperial involvement in Iraq" in the past; no one "pointed out that Saddam's removal would very probably give a boost to to Shia Islamists and strengthen the Islamist parties that were allied to Iran"; officials "were poor in forecasting future scenarios" and were "weak on Iraqi history".
- There was a "failure to comprehend that western armies cannot successfully take over Arab countries and force them to run along western lines"; that people "prefer to run their own affairs"; that occupations are "inherently humiliating"; that people "resent foreigners taking over their own country".
Blair's style was "not to encourage his policy preferences to be questioned, or call for nuanced assessments of possible consequences". In November 2002 he invited 6 distinguished academics to Downing Street: three of them specialists on Iraq. According to one of them (George Joff) they all stressed that Iraq was a "complicated country", that there are "tremendous intercommunal resentments" and "don't imagine you'll be welcomed". Blair's response? Just what one would expect of a Happy-Clappy bible-thumper: "But the man (Saddam) is uniquely evil, isn't he?" It begins to look as though Blair's was a "faith-led" Premiership, with no regard for empirical realities.
Steele's account reveals what Brown might call "an incompetence" of truly staggering proportions; on a scale that is scarcely credible. Politaholic is just a humble ordinary guy. But from where I sit, if I were a PM contemplating a war, I'd want ooodles of advice from people who know what they're talking about, and I'd bloody well listen to it. Wouldn't anyone? Er, no; not Blair, and not his compliant Cabinet either. On Steele's account, these people are not competent to run an ice-cream stall.