Morning headlines: George Bush offers Saddam Hussein “exile or destruction”. . . U.N. pulls out weapons inspectors . . . France, Russia and Germany oppose use of force . . .
There are still 20 minutes till Labor Members of Parliament gather to be persuaded of the case for war. Tony Blair is in the den, writing notes on the final draft of what he will say.
If Tony Blair fails, the invasion of Iraq will go on regardless. Aweek ago Donald Rumsfeld may have been incautious in saying that Washington would not be stopped by Britain’s political doubts, but he was not being untruthful. The effect on the world of a unilateral American victory is one of the outcomes of tonight’s vote that Tony Blair fears the most.
The television pundits are now surveying the post-Blair landscape. They predict that he will “scrape through” the test, but ask each other enthusiastically about what will happen if he does not.
He doggedly sets out his case. If we weaken now, Saddam Hussein and all dictators will know they can do as they will. The Iraqi government has had 12 years in which to meet the promises it made after its last defeat. Saddam is evil: he punishes dissenters by cutting out their tongues and leaving them tied to lampposts till they die.
The interventions from members of Parliament are feebler than in many less significant debates. The dissenting Labor M.P., former actress Glenda Jackson, tries mockingly to make a point. Tony Blair just ignores her. The one-time star of the stage at his Edinburgh boarding school disdains the attentions of the Oscar-winner.
After all the editing upstairs, he says little more than that the future cannot be known before it happens—with which all can surely agree. But the piling of argument on argument is brutal.