Dam Bursts over DenialIn an historic development just before 10 pm last night (Thursday 12 Oct 2006) the head of the British Army, (and Chief of the General Staff) Sir Richard Dannatt publicly announced that the British Army's presence in Iraq is making matters worse; and not just in Iraq, but around the world. It is about as blatant a challenge to official Government policy as it is possible for him to make without actually parking his tanks in Downing Street.
This could be, and should be, politically seismic.
To begin with, the politicians cannot dismiss or reject the strategic judgement of their most senior military advisor.
The fact that he has gone public tells us a number of things:
1 - He is voicing the consensus of the British Military establishment. He will not have taken this position without the active support of his peers.
2 - He has been making their position known to the politicians for some time and they have consistently refused to budge. In particular they have refused to concede a final or even conditional departure date for Iraq (their policy is to stay as long as the Americans - fig leaf to the end.)
3 - A tactical decision has been taken by the General staff to bring the matter to a head - by taking their objections to the people, over the heads of the politicians.
They are relying on the previously supine media to lead the campaign of public pressure to force the government to change direction. This has not happened to a British government, at least not so publicly, since, at least, Wellington. I suspect they will succeed.
Their message is quite simple:
"We don't do military coups in a civilised country but it is my duty as the head of the British Armed Forces to inform the people that, in our professional judgement your politicians have got it wrong and, as a result, we are wasting young British lives for no good purpose. It's not our role to change the minds or personnel in governments. That's your job."
This is A VERY British Coup.
The government is now boxed into an interesting corner.
They cannot dismiss or replace Dannatt. If they do, they'll probably face the resignation of the General Staff - which would sink any government without trace.
If they simply concede, they will be so discredited that they will probably have to resign and call a general election anyway.
They cannot pretend that this is their own revised government policy and that they were merely allowing Dannatt to announce it first.
There is no way they can spin this to make it look like the General's opinions and analysis are anything but diametrically opposed to the extraordinary denial of the bleedin' obvious which they've been indulging in since March 2003; peaking, of course, since the London bombings.
Nor is there any way these men and women - none of whom have spent a single minute of their lives under hostile fire - can justify continuing to instruct "our boys" to die in support of a mission that even their military leaders clearly no longer (if ever they did) support.
There is, in fact, only one way for the government to buy themselves a breathing space.
Now is the time for all Prime Ministers to come to the aid of the Party. Pick up your orange jump suit on the way out, Tony.
(If it's any consolation, it won't work. Your party will lose the next election anyway, once the tabloids start falling over each other to profit from the sheer depth of the utter incompetence revealed by this strategic disaster. So at least you'll all go down together. More or less.)
Better still. It may not end with the departure of Blair and the subsequent fall of the Labour Government.
I would be rather surprised if the British Military analysis is not entirely in accord with American Military analysis. And if they "come out" singing the same song on the other side of the pond, not only would Bush and the Neocons be swept from power, but the Police State might actually be forced to slow down a smidge.
All in all, a good news day. It might just turn out that Sir Richard Dannatt has, at last, nudged the world one step in the right direction.