The Agreeable world of Wallace Arnold: Yes, the war is the British columnist's finest hour

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The Independent Online
Dark days, indeed. But we must plug on, whatever the combined forces of fate and Mr Milosevic might seek to throw in our faces.

Yes, these past few months have been a ghastly struggle, involving much blood, sweat and tears. But at the end of the day I have emerged from it all having managed to pen three articles a week, all of them dispensing my expert day-to-day advice on how we should set about winning this unearthly combat.

No doubt you saw my piece in the Times on Wednesday last. You did? Too kind! It received a fair amount of attention, and was, I am delighted to say, singled out for a mention on the Today programme. It was headed "An End to Shilly-Shallying" and offered a handy five-point plan for bringing Milosevic to his knees:

Britain parachutes 10,000 infantry in surprise night raid on Belgrade. Torches to be shared between every two soldiers. Raid itself to commence after a good night's sleep, so that troops are fresh for the long day ahead.

Overnight accommodation to be found in local bed and breakfasts and guest houses. Prior booking essential.

After breakfast, ablutions, settling of outstanding bills, thank yous, etc, infantry to assemble in main square. Whispered roll call on site, providing element of surprise. With all present and correct, attack begins.

Mr and Mrs Milosevic to be rooted out. If in doubt, ask for immediate directions to home address at corner shop or from milkman.

No ifs or buts from the Milosevics. Unconditional surrender imperative, or further attacks on Chinese embassy will ensue asap. War brought to an end. After a routine tidy-up, troops home by 19.30 hours.

Popping into the Garrick for a swift glass of the fizzy stuff on Wednesday evening, I was delighted to bump into my old friend and quaffing partner Sir Robin Day, who was good enough to congratulate me on an excellent piece. "You're quite right, Wallace," he added, "when you say we must clear out without further ado."

I cleared and re-cleared my throat, took a reviving sip of bubbly. "Ah, yes," I said. "You must be referring to the piece I wrote 10 days ago for the Daily Mail."

"Admirably forthright," he chipped in. "But since then I've written an expert's-eye view for the Telegraph saying we must continue to play the long game. And a piece for the Sunday Times arguing it would have been better had we never gone in the first place.

"But the Times piece today was my most long-term view yet. It should hold good for at least 24 hours."

"Ah! The goodly Arnold!" It was Lord St John of Fawsley in his crushed velvet knickerbockers. "Excellent article you wrote in the Independent a month back saying that it was high time Blair and Clinton sent in the bombers. They seem to have heeded your words, dear boy!"

Invigorating, indeed, that my humble pen should have generated so much positive reaction. But, in time of war, one must keep one's nose to the grindstone, and no sooner has one article disappeared than another must be brought in to take its place. Hence my piece in today's Mail on Sunday ("...by Wallace Arnold, The Man the Generals Listen To") offering my thoughtful and provocative "Strategy for Peace in Three Days". Day 1: Stop bombing of Belgrade at once. Day 2: Send ground troops into Belgrade. Day 3: Resume bombing of Belgrade.

And of course, in tomorrow's Independent I say we must press ahead with our diplomatic initiatives. The best way to swing the Russians to our side is to inflict a few casualties on the civilians of that ill-begotten nation. A tragic loss of life involving the innocent citizens of Moscow going about their everyday business might be just the thing. Then, and only then, would the broad sweep of the Russian population - not to mention their leaders, if any!! - throw down their arms and come over to our side.

Brave, decent, resolute: the war brings out the best in the British columnist. As I was leaving the Garrick on Wednesday last, who should I bump into but my old friend and quiffing partner William Rees-Mogg, who has been directing the allied forces with such brilliance these past few weeks. "It'll all be over in three days," he confided, a point of view he has held consistently these past six weeks. "Whatever you do, don't tell the editor of the Independent on Sunday," quoth I. "He's just commissioned me to pen a series of weekly strategy briefings all the way through to late August, bless him."

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