The response is mixed. To some, these are the empty words of two men far out on a plank together, tightly bound by the need for success, suddenly aware of the potential for desert disaster. But on others, the effect is very different.
Tony Blair seems almost mesmerized by the president’s song, just as at times George Bush is said to have been wowed by his ally’s wordplay.
When the prime minister is asked how he knows the new deaths are executions, he says: “The reason I used the language I did was because of the circumstance that we know.” That is the rhetorical nadir. When asked by the same reporter why there are so few allies alongside Britain and America, he sweeps up into a great finale of the duty to future generations as well as of the need, “when it is all over, to go back and ask why this has happened.”
“Because you two are both crazy,” says a last voice from the left side. The men leaving the podium do not hear. Tony Blair wants the minimum possible gap between his own view and the president’s view. That is what this coming walk is all about. Time alone with the president to ask difficult questions and to judge genuine determination is the most important part of the trip. So, while others may be winding down, the prime minister is winding up.
When George Bush returns, he is in blue tracksuit and jogging shoes, as though for a power walk, not a stroll in the hills. The two set off along the path, alone except for a security buggy with a faulty horn. Peep-peep, Peep-peep sounds the escort in perpetual distracting cry, as they map out the next steps for their nervous audience around the camp and around the world.
SATURDAY, MARCH 29
Morning headlines: U.S.forces ready for assault on Baghdad . . . Bomb falls on crowded market . . . Tony Blair appeals to Iraqis’ sense of history and national identity . . .
In the foreign office the theorists and the planners are turning their minds to the more distant diplomatic future. They assume now that Saddam Hussein is already “history” in the American sense, as good as dead.
MONDAY, MARCH 31