Sunday, July 26, 2009

Defeat: Why They Lost Iraq, by Jonathan Steele

What if the US had withdrawn from Iraq a year after invading? asks Steele. There would have been no armed insurgency, he argues; Iraq's political class would have formed a real - not a puppet - government, and countless lives would have been saved. Occupiers are always unwelcome, and while reporting from Iraq between 2003 and 2008 for this newspaper, Steele watched a gulf open up between Iraqis and the occupation forces. This excellent book explains why, filling in a back-history of smouldering resentment towards foreign invaders that the White House and Downing Street stubbornly ignored. "If an inquiry into the quality of the British government's pre-war analysis is ever held," he writes, "the results of my interviews with senior officials suggest it will uncover grave lapses, both at expert level and by the prime minister and his staff." Tony Blair's "blithe self-confidence" is everywhere attested to - "a weird mixture of total cynicism and moral fervour". At the Iraq inquiry, let's hope he testifies under oath and in public.

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