Fuel for a growing fire: a fly-on-the-wall, day-by-day account, by Labour Party stalwart Cook, of British prime minister Tony Blair’s acquiescence in George Bush’s war in Iraq.
Blair’s commitment of Great Britain to the Bush-Cheney “Neo-Con” cause brewed up a terrible crisis in the halls of Parliament, one that led former House of Commons leader Cook to resign from the government in March 2003, just as the Allied invasion got under way. Bad enough, Cook suggests, that the UK was cast in the role of junior partner while other European nations sensibly repudiated the war; Blair’s alliance with Bush, Cook writes, “is symptomatic of a wider problem from New Labour’s lack of ideological anchor. . . . [Blair] never comprehended the perplexity he would cause his supporters at home by becoming the trusty partner of the most reactionary US Administration in modern times.” Cook has no kind words for those agents of reaction; he twits Bush apologist Richard Perle, for example, for storming off a BBC set when confronted with less-than-unanimous support for American hegemony. Public opinion against the war was not so strong as to turn Labour out on its ear—at least in part, Cook suggests, because the Conservative opposition was all for the war, too, giving voters no alternative. Yet Blair’s alignment with Bush pushed away many who otherwise lined up with Labour on several critical issues, adding to a phenomenon Cook observes early in his pages: that “the country beyond Westminster is today much less tribal in its political loyalties. . . . Nowadays voters have a healthy tendency to change their minds between elections and very few buy into the complete programme of even their party of choice.” Blair’s “programme,” Cook suggests, was founded on no small amount of cynicism, as evidenced by its oh-well attitude toward the persistent failure of Allied intelligence to find weapons of mass destruction anywhere in defeated Iraq—an attitude that Cook repeatedly, and effectively, disparages.
A rueful portrait of war made into politics by other means.