Con Coughlin in The Daily Telegraph:
The British and American military that participated in Operation Iraqi Freedom had indeed achieved a remarkable military victory. Within the space of three weeks, they had decisively defeated the ragged remnants of Saddam’s Republican Guards and taken control of the country. More to the point, the coalition’s precision bombing tactics meant that only key military and Ba’ath party personnel and installations were targeted, so that Iraq was still a functioning state by the time coalition commanders assumed responsibility for governing the country. And had things stayed that way, there was every possibility that the difficult transition the Iraqi nation was about to undertake from tyranny to functional democracy could be achieved without the country dissolving into civil war. That was certainly the view taken by the Foreign Office’s phalanx of Mesopotamia experts. “Cut the head off Saddam’s regime, and keep the rest intact to run the country,” was how one senior British intelligence officer explained his vision for the post-Saddam administration of Iraq…Much of the blame for this must attach to Mr Blair himself. As President Bush’s closest and most steadfast ally during the military campaign, Mr Blair was the only world leader with the power to influence events in Washington. His key foreign policy advisers on Iraq, highly experienced diplomats such as John Sawers and later Sir Jeremy Greenstock, made Downing Street well aware of their opposition to the wide-ranging de-Ba’athification programme and the wilder extremes of the neocon agenda. But, at a critical moment in Iraq’s history, Mr Blair appeared to be more interested in making fatuous statements about Iraq than involving himself in the crucial decision-making process about the country’s future. And when people do look back on this time, they will see that Mr Blair failed in his duty to the peoples of both Britain and Iraq.