Sunday, 30 March 2003

Dignity isn't all that Blair may be losing

George Bush has humiliated his most compliant and loyal ally, writes Jonathan Freedland in London.

Tony Blair could still get his Churchill moment. Basra might fall, Baghdad could follow, with the British and Americans finally winning their long-promised tears-and-cheers welcome from grateful Iraqis. Blair would be vindicated as surely as Winston Churchill was 60 years ago.

If that happens, the prime minister will carry all before him. Opponents will be lumped in with the anti-war crowd: nay-sayers who lack the PM's wisdom and vision. For Tony Blair, victory in Iraq will mean victory everywhere.

But this week another scenario emerged. We are not there yet, but in the past few days we have glimpsed an alternative future - one in which this ill-thought out and badly planned war claims the prime ministership of Blair as yet another of its unintended victims.

These first 10 days have disproved two of his core, pre-war arguments: that Saddam has weapons of mass destruction and that his people would instantly see foreign invasion as liberation. If, heaven forbid, Baghdad had let loose a chemical warhead or two, it would have confirmed everything Blair and George Bush had said: that Saddam has these vile weapons and is prepared to use them.

But this war has been neither hard enough nor easy enough to prove Blair right: instead it is turning out to be a slog that shows he and the military planners read Iraq wrong.

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