Jewish World Review June 27, 2003 / 27 Sivan, 5763
Debra J. Saunders
The case of the Dodgy Dossier
LONDON In a mystery novel, there's the
scene when the master detective assembles all the
suspects in one room. In Westerns, there is the
showdown on Main Street at high noon. In British
politics, there is a half-hour called Oral Questions to
the Prime Minister.
On Wednesday, pestered Prime Minister Tony Blair
faced down his critics in the House of Commons at
high noon. Well, he kind of faced them down.
Blair's critics -- anti-war tax-and-spend leftists and
pro-war conservatives, who oppose Labor's "stealth
taxes," such as the rise in national health care rates
-- had been eager to draw blood, and had every
reason to expect to see some bloodletting. The
British public largely has opposed the deployment of
British troops in the war in Iraq. War opponents have
tried to make hay of the failure of U.S. troops to find
a monster cache of weapons of mass destruction. It
doesn't help that -- isn't this familiar? --
Blair's staff made minor screw-ups in documentation
used to establish the major selling point for waging
war on Saddam Hussein, the existence of WMD. The
charge is that aide Alistair Campbell tried to "sex up"
the evidence. Now, he's "Campbell in the soup."
The British press have dubbed the story the "dodgy
Question time probably would have started out with a
rush -- except that the awful deaths of six British
soldiers in Majar al-Kabir, Iraq, cast a pall over the
proceeding. On top of the unexpected casualties, the
deaths punctured the conceit, quite popular here,
that American troops were being killed in post-war
skirmishes because Americans are more
heavy-handed and less skilled at dealing with Iraqis
than their British brethren.
Blair started properly by offering his condolences to
the dead soldiers' families. The families, he noted,
"can be immensely proud of (the dead) even as they
Even those who wanted to pin the six scalps on Blair
had to bow their heads in agreement.
The leader of the opposition Conservatives, Iain
Duncan Smith, announced that the deaths should
strengthen the U.K.'s "resolve." Then, within minutes,
Smith asked Blair how much longer British troops
were likely to remain in Iraq.
So much for resolve.
Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy pressed
Blair on what he was doing to bring other countries
into the coalition -- this week. Apparently Kennedy
opposes the war, but that doesn't stop him from
pressing Blair to get other countries mixed up in it.
(While U.K. lefties abhor any sense of old British
"triumphalism," the ghost of triumphalism reigns
when it comes to scoring a cheap political point.)
A voice boomed from the bench, "Is it time to say
'night-night' to Alistair Campbell (in-the-soup)?" Blair
defended the dossier.
But Blair didn't give the battle of wits his all. The PM
noted that the documents were essentially accurate.
But he should have added that there's bloody, and
then there's sloppy. Yes, sloppy is bad when it
comes to making arguments for war, but the overall
evidence of Hussein's bloody agenda is not in
dispute. War opponents ought to pay more attention
to the bloody details -- concerning mass-produced
murder -- than the sloppy part of argumentation.
If they'd lived in a different era, the carpers' beef with
Jack the Ripper would have been his penmanship.
How it must weigh on Blair to have helped liberate an
afflicted people, to have brought down a regime that
had been responsible for as many as a million Iraqi
deaths, and to have worked to allay the threat that
WMD would be used outside Iraq, and here he is
stuck answering question after question from petty
pols carping about the paperwork.
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© 2000, Creators Syndicate