Under fire: the architects of war

Tony Blair suffered a backlash from senior Labour MPs over the war in Iraq yesterday when a former minister warned that the conflict could turn into another Vietnam.

The growing political tensions affected the architects of war on both sides of the Atlantic and the Bush administration was forced to deny that its strategy is in disarray. Reports surfaced of a rift between senior US military commanders and Donald Rumsfeld, the US Defence Secretary, over the size and nature of the force sent to oust Saddam Hussein.

In Washington, Mr Rumsfeld and General Richard Myers, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, flatly denied suggestions of disagreement. "That's not true," the US Defence Secretary declared.

And he dismissed suggestions that the 12-day campaign was taking a breather – of anything up to a month, some reports have suggested – to allow reinforcements to arrive at the front line, 50 miles south of Baghdad. "We have no plans for pauses or ceasefires or anything else," Mr Rumsfeld said.

But while air attacks continued on Republican Guard units and on "regime targets" in the capital, the impression is that the US forces are digging in, building up reserves and securing supply lines.

Although the Allies attacked Baghdad, where a huge fire was burning after the Iraqis lit an oil trench close to the city centre, the main action seemed to be around the southern port of Basra. British forces claimed to have captured five senior Iraqi officers and hit the city's television tower. A British soldier was killed when his launch on the Zubayr river came under grenade attack.

In London the unofficial political truce since the war began was shattered when Robin Cook, who resigned as Leader of the Commons two weeks ago, called for British forces to be brought home.

After being accused of disloyalty to the troops by his former cabinet colleagues, Mr Cook said he was not advocating immediate withdrawal and that he wanted President Saddam defeated.

But he stood by his criticisms, saying the Government's hopes for a "quick, easy war" had failed to materialise and that the campaign had been "badly planned". He said there was no sign of President Saddam being overthrown by his associates or the Iraqi people welcoming coalition troops as liberators.

His comments reflected concern among Labour MPs that the war strategy has been blown off course. Doug Henderson, a former armed forces minister, called for a ceasefire. He said: "Unless there is a withdrawal very soon, then we will probably get bogged down in the way that the Americans got bogged down in Vietnam. Half a million soldiers [were] committed in Vietnam; 55,000 American deaths, probably about two million deaths of Vietnamese. Now, do we want to get into the kind of situation that could lead to that?"

The Government, which has been repeatedly assured by the Bush administration that the war is going according to plan, was thrown on to the defensive by Mr Cook's attack.

But the fractures in London are being mirrored in the US, where The New Yorker says in today's edition of the magazine that Mr Rumsfeld turned down requests from top uniformed commanders for more troops, and resisted pleas that the campaign be delayed until more troops were ready.

The US commander, General Tommy Franks, said there had been no new deployment orders since the start of the war, and he maintained that troop numbers were sufficient.

Geoff Hoon, the Secretary of State for Defence, conceded that more British troops might be needed. But he insisted it was "not possible" that the coalition would lose the war. "I am absolutely confident in the military strategy," he said.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
election 2015The 10 best quotes of the campaign
A caravan being used as a polling station in Ford near Salisbury, during the 2010 election
election 2015The Independent's guide to get you through polling day
David Blunkett joins the Labour candidate for Redcar Anna Turley on a campaigning visit last month
voicesWhat I learnt from my years in government, by the former Home Secretary David Blunkett
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (B2B) - Romford - £40,000 + car

£35000 - £40000 per annum + car and benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager...

Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000 ...

Ashdown Group: Data Scientist - London - £50,000 + bonus

£35000 - £50000 per annum + generous bonus: Ashdown Group: Business Analytics ...

Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Development) - Kingston

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Dev...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age

Typefaces still matter in the digital age

A new typeface once took years to create, now thousands are available at the click of a drop-down menu. So why do most of us still rely on the old classics, asks Meg Carter?
Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
The Pan Am Experience is a 'flight' back to the 1970s that never takes off - at least, not literally

Pan Am Experience: A 'flight' back to the 70s

Tim Walker checks in and checks out a four-hour journey with a difference
Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics - it's everywhere in the animal world

Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics

Voting, mutual back-scratching, coups and charismatic leaders - it's everywhere in the animal world
Crisp sales are in decline - but this tasty trivia might tempt back the turncoats

Crisp sales are in decline

As a nation we're filling up on popcorn and pitta chips and forsaking their potato-based predecessors
Ronald McDonald the muse? Why Banksy, Ron English and Keith Coventry are lovin' Maccy D's

Ronald McDonald the muse

A new wave of artists is taking inspiration from the fast food chain
13 best picnic blankets

13 best picnic blankets

Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
Barcelona 3 Bayern Munich 0 player ratings: Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?

Barcelona vs Bayern Munich player ratings

Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?
Martin Guptill: Explosive New Zealand batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Explosive batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Martin Guptill has smashed early runs for Derbyshire and tells Richard Edwards to expect more from the 'freakish' Brendon McCullum and his buoyant team during their tour of England
General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'