The press hounds barked over 'Cheriegate', so why are they silent on Iraq?
by Jackie Ashley
Hands up all those who really think that George Bush is not determined to attack Iraq some time soon. Hands up all those who think that if he does so without UN authority Tony Blair will turn round and say: "Sorry Buddy, you're on your own." Not many takers, I bet. And yet the political conversation in this country has become surreal. Tony Blair and the rest of the government speak and act as if we are going through a patient, careful, international review of Iraq's weaponry. War, they say, may still not happen, so it's pointless to discuss "what ifs".
Everyone knows this is nonsense. We are preparing for conflict very soon: tens of thousands of American troops are already in the region, British and US warships are sailing, special forces and marines are being inoculated against anthrax, Bush has cancelled his trip to Africa. We are going to war, but Tony hasn't quite got round to telling us. By the time we wake up from our Christmas hangovers, the momentum will be unstoppable, just as in 1914, once the armies were moving, it was too late to alter the railway timetables.
You might have imagined that the country would be riven by argument and debate. After all, most people seem at best confused about the need to attack Iraq. The connection between the terrorist threat at home and the Bagdhad regime seems more rhetorical than proven. Ministers in private express their bemusement and count through unanswered questions on the fingers of both hands. But they, like the anti-war party, inside the Labour party and outside it, sound fatalistic. So far, there's been a great national shrug. If this is what Tony wants, this is what Tony will get. It is almost as if the country has lost the power of speech, let alone any relish for disagreement.