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Tony Blair Goes to War

In a new book, a British journalist documents the day-by-day march into conflict in Iraq

Afterward, he talks quietly of how “this is always the worst time, when the fighting has begun and the end is notnear, or even known.” He might be a veteran of a hundred wars. He is right about this war, he says. Then he goes upstairs to see his wife and children.

 

MONDAY, MARCH 24

Morning headlines: American and British troops face fierce resistance in southern Iraq . . . Advance continues on Baghdad . . . Iraqi TV shows four dead U.S. soldiers and five prisoners . . .

In Iraq, according to words supplied by the Ministry of Defense, the southern oil fields are out of Saddam Hussein’s control, there are only “pockets of resistance” in Umm Qasr, and Basra cannot any longer be used as an Iraqi base. After four days of conflict, a “crucial moment” is approaching.

In his room high in Westminster, Tony Blair adds his own final rhetorical flourish: “That we will encounter more difficulties and anxious moments in the days ahead is certain. But no less certain, indeed more so, is coalition victory.”

He pauses. His generals are still doing better against their opponents in the desert than he himself is doing against his opponents here. The war is still unpopular. “We have 40 percent of the sand,” said the chief of the Defense staff this morning, and for once seemed quite pleased. Forty percent political support would be welcome too.

 TUESDAY, MARCH 25

Morning headlines: American forces attack Republican Guard positions sixty miles from Baghdad . . . Protests rise at humanitarian “horror”. . .

Tony Blair tries to move his mind away from grim thoughts of bombed city streets, reminding himself that there were desperate shortages before war began. He asks about what is happening outside the cities in what he calls Iraq’s “agrarian areas.”

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