Every morning there is an argument about how much intelligence information to divulge. What are the risks? What are the benefits? Today the cabinet’s worries about the effect of “Shock and Awe” on British opinion outweigh the natural caution of the security services.
Foreign Secretary Jack Straw still thinks that the TV message from Baghdad is a problem. Reporters are saying that “Shock and Awe” is a deadly show for the media, a form of aerial theater, like the worst pornography, in which real people get hurt. The bombing may be precise, but to noisy doubters in the street—fewer but angrier than a month ago—and to one or two quiet doubters in Downing Street, it does not look very precise.
SUNDAY, MARCH 23
Morning headlines: U.S.Patriot missile brings down British Tornado, killing two . . . British journalist feared dead in American advance . . . Basra close to surrender . . .
Tony Blair has been in the country. He returns cheerfully, in jeans and open-necked blue shirt, his face colored by safely sitting outside where the only mooing and moaning is from farm animals. His mood does not stay light for long.
“Anyone watching TV would think we’d lost already,” says an angry voice in the outer office. “There’s nothing but Americans killing Brits, Brits killing Brits, Americans being captured, even a dead reporter.”
“We have helicopters that can’t stay in the sky and missiles that don’t know whose side they’re on. Isn’t there any good news?”
As Tony Blair goes upstairs to change into an interview suit, the face of George Bush in the White House Rose Garden is on the flat-screen TV. The president is predicting “a tough time ahead.”
The camera crew is ready. The prime minister arrives, and the business is swiftly done. The cause for which men have died, he says, is of “vital importance for the world,” and that is forcefully said.