Leading article: Close Guantanamo now

Share
Related Topics

There is something slightly unreal about the Prime Minister's inexhaustible ability to put on a brave face. The looting in Baghdad broke out in earnest on the day the statue of Saddam Hussein was pulled down, and the disorder in Iraq has grown worse ever since. Now, sectarian civil war is raging in four provinces, which include the main population centre of the capital. Yet last week, Tony Blair flew into Baghdad International airport, and then to the Green Zone by means of a corkscrewing helicopter, putting out chaff to decoy the rocket-propelled grenades. For the fifth time. As he did every time before, he hailed a turning point. Elections, a referendum, a largely symbolic hand-over of sovereignty to the Iraqis: this time it was the formation of a national unity government. Mr Blair's optimism is beginning to look like desperation at some distance from reality.

Which is unfortunate, because it undermines the credibility of his message, much of which is right - despite his responsibility for turning Iraq into a charnel house in the first place. British and American forces do have a duty to stay in Iraq. This is not because the violence there is a struggle between terrorism and democracy - that is much too simple. The supposed defenders of democracy have been guilty of human rights abuses, and the allegation that Marines deliberately shot Iraqi civilians is only the latest of a long line of charges against US and British forces. Mr Blair's simplistic picture of Iraq overlooks, too, the extent to which the presence of foreign troops inflames Iraqi nationalism, albeit of a Sunni-tinged variety. Yet British and US troops must stay because the consequences of withdrawal are still worse. Meanwhile, as Malcolm Rifkind argues on page 31, President George Bush and Mr Blair must keep an open mind on the need for a more federal Iraqi state, if that is the only way to accommodate Sunni resentment of Shia domination.

Mr Blair's brave face was on display in Washington too, at his joint news conference on Thursday with Mr Bush. In contrast to previous appearances, they adopted a slightly humbler tone, and looked like two leaders trying to salvage some shred of honour from a policy that has gone seriously wrong. They admitted that mistakes had been made in Iraq, and Mr Bush accepted that some of the rhetoric of the wider "war on terror" had been misplaced, such as saying that Osama bin Laden was wanted "dead or alive".

Yet they failed to ask for several other offences to be taken into consideration. Our report today that 14- and 15-year-olds have been held at Guantanamo Bay is a further reminder of how the stateless prison camp on a US base in Cuba is, in the British Attorney General's words, a "symbol of injustice". Eventually, the US Supreme Court is bound to rule that Guantanamo is unconstitutional. No future president is ever likely to repeat such an experiment in suspending US and international law.

But Guantanamo is a mistake that Mr Bush could actually do something about, as opposed to past words misused, or the invasion of Iraq, or the failure to send enough troops to police the place. If the Prime Minister is worried about his legacy, he should have told the President that if he really wanted to salvage something from the wreckage, he would close Guantanamo now.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - Junior / Middleweight

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: One of the South East's fastest growing full s...

Guru Careers: Marketing Manager / Marketing Communications Manager

£35-40k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Marketing Communicati...

Recruitment Genius: Commercial Engineer

£30000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Estimating, preparation of tech...

Recruitment Genius: IT Support Technician

£14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: You will work as part of a smal...

Day In a Page

Read Next
David Cameron has reiterated his pre-election promise to radically improve the NHS  

How can we save the NHS? Rediscover the stiff upper lip

Jeremy Laurance
 

Thanks to Harriet Harman, Labour is holding its own against the Tory legislative assault

Isabel Hardman
Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

Art attack

Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
10 best wedding gift ideas

It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

Paul Scholes column

With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor