21 May 2004

Iraq Hand-over Plans 'A Shambles', Says Tory MP

A Conservative MP who has just returned from Iraq delivered a scathing broadside on US policy in the country today, saying preparations for the hand-over of sovereignty on July 1 were a 'complete shambles'.

Crispin Blunt, a former Army officer, said the Americans had failed to prepare for the aftermath of last year's war and said their approach to occupation appeared little more than a 'Ccampaign to intimidate the Iraqi people'.

'We are seeing the collapse of American policy,' he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

'The conduct of the occupation by America is almost a campaign to intimidate the Iraqi people. It is extraordinary how they have carried on and their general attitude and now we are seeing a complete shambles in the run-up to the hand-over of apparently full sovereignty on July 1.'

Mr Blunt's comments come a day after party leader Michael Howard called on Prime Minister Tony Blair to speak out publicly when he disagreed with US President George Bush's actions on Iraq.

Mr Blunt said that British forces in Iraq did not yet know what their status would be following the transfer of authority to a home-grown interim administration in less than six weeks' time.

The Iraq situation is bizarre, but the situation in Washington is worse than bizarre. I've now read the transcripts of appearances before various congressional committees of

With the exception of Taguba all they're saying is that everything in Iraq is wonderful except for the bad apples of Abu Ghraib. The vaunted congressional hearing seems to be restricted to 5-minute and 10-minute bursts of questioning by individual members, many of whom begin by congratulating the witness on being wonderful. The witness then avoids the questions as hard as possible until the time runs out and the next legislator goes on to tell the witness how wonderful they are.

Question time has its limitations in Canberra and London but it's better than this nonsense. Rumsfeld, the world's most notorious micromanager, managed to forget to take a copy of the chain of command and his only explanation was: 'Oh my!' Rumsfeld did not get the ICRC memo about Abu Ghraib, or the Taguba report, or the photos. That speaks for a level of bureaucratic incompetence we have not seen from him before. The Henry Ford of defence secretaries is fast morphing into Alfred E Neumann. 'What, me worry?'

The chain of command is really quite simple. Rumsfeld is in charge of what the US Army does in Iraq. He's taken 'full responsibility'. He should act on that by resigning.

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