“They’re just doing what they always do,” says Chief of Staff Jonathan Powell unhelpfully, evoking images of donkeys and dry fields of weeds.
“We have got to get out the humanitarian stuff, the U.N. stuff,” says Campbell (who would resign in August amid controversy over the handling of British intelligence about Iraq). “We are going to Camp David tomorrow, but we are also going to Kofi Annan in New York.”
With the mention of the United Nations Secretary General, the air lightens. The name has been appropriated as a verb, an adjective, an adverb, as well as a noun. Labor M.P.s like “a Kofi plan.” “We’d better Kofi this” means to cover with a good coat of humanitarian waffle. “Let’s speak Kofi” is what the mood in London demands.George Bush is not a Kofi-phile. The less the White House has to Kofi, the better it likes it.
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 26
Morning headlines: U.S. forces closer to Baghdad . . . Shia “uprising” reported in Basra . . . Two soldiers killed when one British tank fires on another . . . Germans say Washington should pay bill to rebuild Iraq . . .
“We’ve been hit,” says a voice from the business class seats.
“Bloody hell. Is it a Scud, or what?”
It is 9:45 p.m. London time. Most members of the Blair team are dozing. Still ahead is a helicopter ride to the Catoctin Mountains and a home-style dinner with the president and first lady at Camp David.
The sides of the aircraft shake like a tin tray struck by a stone. Then nothing more is heard but a tense string of jokes about Patriots and friendly fire. After about a minute the captain comes on the intercom and confirms that the prime minister’s plane has been struck by lightning.