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War On Iraq A Tough Sell

I don't like wars. I've covered a couple and they hurt. But sometimes, they're necessary.

To regain occupied territory, or to protect oppressed minorities. Pretty simple, straight forward and, many might say, admirable ambitions.

Thus it was with World War II , The Falklands and what we're all beginning to call, "the first Persian Gulf War". We all knew what we were doing then and why we were doing it. But the trouble with war is that it never discriminates in favour of the innocent. It seems to me that it's always the guiltless lady in the canteen who gets blown to pieces first. Only after that's happened do the villains of the piece begin to get their just desserts. And the sad truth is that they often survive, sign the surrender and prosper as the next set of good guys.

Now the UN weapons inspectors have discovered thousands of documents linked to nuclear arms technology at a scientist's house in Baghdad, and we're told that conflict looms ever nearer. And the prospect frightens the life out of me. Our Prime Minister and your President share the English Language and no military experience. But both are pretty gung ho and seem eager for conflict. Both are advised by aides who seem in conflict with each other. From here it looks like Rumsfeld vs Powell and then Cheney versus Powell and particularly Rice versus Powell.

Oh, and don't worry, we have the same internal disagreements in our Government. I have a personal problem with the credibility of our Prime Minister. As one who voted for his party, I can, with my hand on my heart, say that I do not believe a word he says. His is the world of convenience, the world of the sound bite, and always, the rush of temper when more moderate souls disagree with him. Not a great statesman. Not a Wellington or a Churchill. Not even a Thatcher.

As you'll gather, I'm not persuaded that anyone, least of all Mr. Bush or Mr. Blair, knows what's at the bottom of the black hole into which we're about to be hurled and what they plan to do after we've reached it. There are many people here in Britain and across Europe who will be wary of being rushed into a war with one tinpot murderous dictator ... in preference to any of the other tinpot dictators with whom we sometimes find it convenient to link ourselves.

By Simon Bates