TV review: The Iraq War, BBC2

 

Whatever else it has done, The Iraq War, Norma Percy's three-part history of the conflict and its aftermath, has greatly increased our understanding of diplomatic prevarication. Every colour in the spectrum of mendacity makes an appearance in these programmes, from the infra-red of the outright lie to the ultra-violet of polite euphemism.

My favourite from last night was the "fraternal visit", the phrase used by Jack Straw to describe the trip to Baghdad he made in the company of Condoleezza Rice. They'd gone to visit the then Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari, a man who'd disappointed the Americans by failing to quell the activities of Shia militias. And to be fair, al-Jaafari does seem to have been a bit of a disappointment.

After al-Qa'ida militants bombed the al-Askari mosque in Samarra – one of Shia Islam's holiest shrines – Jaafari was disinclined to impose the curfew that might have restrained revenge attacks. His reasoning was situated somewhere to the red end of the spectrum: "People want to vent their feelings, that's fine... In a democracy, people must have room for disagreement," he said. And, as he almost certainly knew would be the case, those disagreements were mostly expressed with a bullet in the back of the neck for scores of Sunni civilians.

The "fraternal visit" was designed to oust al-Jaafari and install some more congenial figure in the premiership, a mission that was naturally preceded by a press conference insisting that this was the very last thing that Straw and Rice had gone to Baghdad to do. Deciding who the Iraqi Prime Minister was going to be was, of course, the sole privilege of the Iraqi people. Then Condi softened al-Jaafari up with flattery and Jack went in and delivered some brotherly advice. We're supplying the security, he said bluntly, and we're supplying the cash. So resign now. Al-Jaafari, who could clearly recognise a horse's head at the bottom of the bed when he saw one, obliged.

Next man up was Nouri al-Maliki, chosen as the best of a bad lot by the Americans . Al-Maliki gained some momentary points for candour here with his description of the opportunity he'd been offered by the Americans: "Whoever agreed to be Prime Minister of Iraq would have to be adventurous or insane," he said. As sectarian killing mounted in Iraq, nobody on the Coalition side found it easy to decide which al-Maliki was, though his decision to fly to Basra and personally oversee the ousting of Muqtada al-Sadr's militiamen certainly tilted analysis in favour of insanity. "We thought it would be easy," al-Maliki recalled, a terrible phrase for a politician to utter, and one that should be inscribed on the tombstone of the some 170,000 civilians who've been killed since the invasion.

Like both previous programmes, this offered a depressingly detailed account of the failures of the war. Unlike the first two episodes, though, it brought that account of failure up to date, finishing with Obama welcoming al-Maliki to Washington and praising "Iraq's most inclusive government yet", immediately after a sequence that highlighted the increasingly totalitarian nature of his regime. The Americans got another strongman, but last month in Iraq was the bloodiest for five years, with 1,045 Iraqis killed in sectarian violence (two days before transmission around 70 people died in tit-for-tat bombings and murders).

In fact, this final episode did its job so effectively in exposing the hollowness of claims about the success of the war that it left you hankering for the one important journalistic component that has been missing from the series – simply because of the way it is constructed – tough and forensic cross-examination. Bring back Tony Blair and Jack Straw, you thought by the end, and force them to answer some harder questions. Really? Was it all worth it? For this?

twitter.com/tds153

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Feeling all at sea: Barbara's 18-year-old son came under the influence of a Canadian libertarian preacher – and she had to fight to win him back
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Living the high life: Anne Robinson enjoys some skip-surfed soup
TV review
Arts and Entertainment

Great British Bake Off
Arts and Entertainment
Doctor Who and Missy in the Doctor Who series 8 finale

TV
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Chvrches lead singer Lauren Mayberry in the band's new video 'Leave a Trace'

music
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Home on the raunch: George Bisset (Aneurin Barnard), Lady Seymour Worsley (Natalie Dormer) and Richard Worsley (Shaun Evans)

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Strictly Come Dancing was watched by 6.9m viewers

Strictly
Arts and Entertainment
NWA biopic Straight Outta Compton

film
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dormer as Margaery Tyrell and Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones
Arts and Entertainment
New book 'The Rabbit Who Wants To Fall Asleep' by Carl-Johan Forssen Ehrlin

books
Arts and Entertainment
Calvi is not afraid of exploring the deep stuff: loneliness, anxiety, identity, reinvention
music
Arts and Entertainment
Edinburgh solo performers Neil James and Jessica Sherr
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
If a deal to buy tBeats, founded by hip-hop star Dr Dre (pictured) and music producer Jimmy Iovine went through, it would be Apple’s biggest ever acquisition

album review
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith is joining The Voice as a new coach

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Dowton Abbey has been pulling in 'telly tourists', who are visiting Highclere House in Berkshire

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Patriot games: Vic Reeves featured in ‘Very British Problems’
TV review
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
    Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

    The Arab Spring reversed

    Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
    King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

    Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

    Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
    Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

    Who is Oliver Bonas?

    It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
    Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

    Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

    However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
    60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

    60 years of Scalextric

    Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
    Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

    Why are we addicted to theme parks?

    Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
    Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

    Iran is opening up again to tourists

    After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
    10 best PS4 games

    10 best PS4 games

    Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
    Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

    Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

    Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
    Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

    ‘Can we really just turn away?’

    Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
    Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

    Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

    ... and not just because of Isis vandalism
    Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

    Girl on a Plane

    An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
    Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

    Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

    The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent