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

Arts and Entertainment
Nick Hewer is to leave The Apprentice after 10 years

TV review Nick Hewer, the man whose eyebrows speak a thousand words, is set to leave The Apprentice

Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says

film George RR Martin owns a cinema in Santa Fe

Arts and Entertainment
Clued up: John Lynch and Gillian Anderson in ‘The Fall’

TV review

Arts and Entertainment
The Baker (James Corden) struggles with Lilla Crawford’s Little Red Riding Hood

film...all the better to bamboozle us
Arts and Entertainment
English: Romantic Landscape

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

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

TV
Arts and Entertainment
William Pooley from Suffolk is flying out to Free Town, Sierra Leone, to continue working in health centres to fight Ebola after surviving the disease himself

music
Arts and Entertainment
The Newsroom creator Aaron Sorkin

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Berry (centre), the star of Channel 4 sitcom 'Toast of London'

TVA disappointingly dull denouement
Arts and Entertainment
Tales from the cryptanalyst: Benedict Cumberbatch in 'The Imitation Game'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Pixie Lott has been voted off Strictly Come Dancing 2014

Strictly
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

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

    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

    Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

    As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
    The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

    The Interview movie review

    You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
    Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

    How podcasts became mainstream

    People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

    Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
    Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

    A memorable year for science – if not for mice

    The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
    Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

    Christmas cocktails to make you merry

    Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
    5 best activity trackers

    Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

    Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
    Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

    Paul Scholes column

    It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
    Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

    Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

    2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

    Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

    The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
    Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

    Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

    The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
    Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

    The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

    Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas