The Scottish Mail on Sunday



‘Saddam is Hitler. You are Chamberlai­n. I am Churchill.’

He was, in that case, a very inferior version. In the 1930s, Churchill had wilfully exaggerate­d the danger from the Luftwaffe, although he was not wrong about the threat that Hitler posed to peace and freedom.

Now Blair wilfully, and disgracefu­lly, distorted evidence of Saddam’s weaponry, and also falsely claimed that the Iraqi leader represente­d a ‘serious and current’ threat to British interests.

Even so, and after two utterly specious ‘dossiers’ were published by Downing Street, a poll in January 2003 found 30 per cent of British people in favour of war and 43 per cent against.

DONALD RUMSFELD, Bush’s Defence Secretary, was the oldest man ever to hold the office, and maybe the most Churchilli­an.

While explaining the need for a missile defence programme, Rumsfeld stated: ‘Winston Churchill once said, “I hope I shall never see the day when the forces of right are deprived of the right of force.” ’ On the day after September 11, Rumsfeld told Pentagon staff: ‘At the height of peril to his own nation, Winston Churchill spoke of their finest hour. Yesterday, America and the cause of human freedom came under attack.’

Asked if he would allow deliberate deception of the press in the course of military operations, the US Defence Secretary replied: ‘This conjures up Winston Churchill’s famous phrase when he said… sometimes the truth is so precious it must be accompanie­d by a bodyguard of lies.’ That particular Churchilli­an line, too, had been wilfully abused.

Although speaking of wartime deception and disinforma­tion – at which the British had excelled – Churchill meant deception of the enemy, a ‘bodyguard of lies’ once the war was being waged.

What Rumsfeld, Bush and Blair had engaged in, though, gave the concept fresh meaning: deception of their own people to persuade them to go to war in the first place.

In 2002, a decision was taken to invade Iraq, and Blair promised, come what may, British troops would take part in the invasion.

This was followed by a campaign of unpreceden­ted mendacity waged by both Bush and Blair on behalf of a preventive war – the type that Churchill had repudiated many years before.

Operation Iraqi Freedom began in March 2003. ‘Now that the United States is again engaged in battle,’ the American critic Edward Rothstein wrote, ‘Churchill is again an inescapabl­e presence.’

Amid all these specious invocation­s of the past, Blair was undone by personal and national vanity, seduced by the notion of Bush and himself as the new Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill.

On May 1, 2003, when Bush would have been better advised to echo Churchill’s ‘Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end’, he unwisely pronounced: ‘Mission accomplish­ed.’ Blair was no less hubristic.

Over his long life, Churchill made very many mistakes. His name is clouded by his dark prejudices – not least his contempt for Arabs and for Islam.

He might perhaps have supported a brutal assault on Saddam Hussein, but at least he wouldn’t have been so foolish as to think that Iraq was ripe for turning into a constituti­onal democracy, or that it would then become friendly to the West.

In the lead-up to that war, Tony Blair had quoted a newspaper editorial published after Chamberlai­n’s return from talks with Hitler and about the policy of appeasemen­t.

He said the British people’s great hopes back then had been disappoint­ed and he concluded: ‘Now, of course, should Hitler again appear in the same form, we would know what to do.’

But Hitler had not appeared again, in the same form or any other form.

Abridged extract from Churchill’s Shadow, by Geoffrey Wheatcroft, published by Bodley Head on August 19 at £25. To pre-order a copy for £22.25, including free UK delivery, go to or call

020 3308 9193 before August 22.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United Kingdom