A word in your ear: what Tony should tell George tomorrow
As Tony Blair abandons Bermuda for the chillier climes of Washington, the Guardian asks a range of leading figures to offer their advice to the prime minister ahead of his summit with George Bush
Research by Amy Iggulden and Matthew Falloon
Thursday April 15, 2004
Former Northern Ireland secretary (1984-85), home secretary (1985-89) and foreign secretary (1989-95)
"George, my defence secretary Geoff Hoon was a little puzzled over the weekend to be telephoned by a colonel in the Pentagon, who asked for an assurance that we were not going to pull British troops out of Iraq. Apparently he was ringing round all the coalition and we came between El Salvador and Guatemala ... I'm not complaining about the alphabet, we are sometimes referred to as Great Britain.
"Certainly our troops will stay the course. There's still a chance of the UN putting together a group of Iraqis as a government with roots down into their own communities. I'm sure we should give them a clear mandate to do this. The UN have access to people like Sistani which we don't - and to put it crudely, they have less blood on their hands.
"You're right to stick to June 30 for the transfer of sovereignty. I'm frankly not sure how much power you actually mean to transfer. If your generals remain in command of the Iraqi security forces, it will be hard to persuade Iraqis, or anyone else, that much decisive has happened.
"One last point. You met George Robertson when he was secretary general of Nato. I am sending him to Baghdad with instructions to report direct to me and Jack Straw. He is sensible and knows your military well. The way things are developing I must have a political representative out there where big decisions will be made at short notice. And it may cut the telephone bill of that colonel in the Pentagon."
Secretary general, Muslim Council of Britain
"Hey, George. You know I have been with you every step of the way in the "war on terror" despite the misgivings of many people in my country. I've told them repeatedly that they've got you all wrong, George.
"Many people around the world - including millions of Muslims - have witnessed what your troops did to hundreds of innocent Iraqis, including small children, in Falluja, courtesy of al-Jazeera. Over the past couple of years we have needlessly alienated the majority of over 1.5 billion Muslims around the world.
"Listen, George, I think I can see a way out of this mess that you haven't made. After 9/11, at the Labour party conference in Brighton, I outlined a vision of a world in which the richest countries were committed to helping "the starving, the wretched, the dispossessed, the ignorant, those living in want and squalor from the deserts of northern Africa to the slums of Gaza, to the mountain ranges of Afghanistan". And I got applause when I called for Palestinians to receive "justice, the chance to prosper and in their own land". So, George. We can make a start by ditching unilateralism and sticking to the path of multilateralism and international legality. We need to implement UN resolutions and give the Palestinians their own state. And if the Israelis won't go for it, then let's help create one democratic state for both the Jews and the Palestinians.
"Same with Chechnya and Kashmir. Let's get Putin to honour the treaty that Yeltsin signed with the Chechens and ask the Indians to hold the plebiscite on Kashmir that the UN called for over 50 years ago.
"Let's try and win more friends, George."
"George, you must keep upmost in your mind that the primary responsibility of the occupying powers' coalition forces is to ensure the safety and welfare of the Iraqi population; you must respect and abide by the fundamental principles of international humanitarian law.
"In recent days at least 600 people have been killed in Falluja and the majority are civilians, children and women. We have made a terrible mistake by invading Iraq, we have failed to deliver, stability, security, and peace and we are now in a quagmire.
"Mr President, you continue to insist that you will be transferring the sovereignty to the Iraqi people on June 30, but you don't even know to which governing power you can transfer the administration of Iraq.
"There is a need for more international participation, which we have been unable to attain under the US-led coalition forces. We need to hand over the role to organisations which have proven successful at nation building and peacemaking operations such as Nato and the United Nations - as in Bosnia and Kosovo.
"Even if we were Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt we wouldn't be able to succeed on our own."
Secretary of state for Wales (1993-95), Conservative MP for Wokingham
"First off, George, let me congratulate you on your economic strategy. The potent combination of tax cuts and very low interest rates is powering the US economy ahead. My country should be dragged along in the slipstream, benefiting from growth across the Atlantic.
"I hope you continue with this same approach - it will enable you to switch your image from war leader to the man who turned the economy round. The gains you have made in the economy will make moving on from the war a bit easier.
"It is now clear that we have backed a difficult war, and are still far from reaching a harmonious peace in Iraq. We both face elections and we are both growing concerned about voter backlash. We need to move in the direction of a more rapid and successful transfer of power in Iraq, allied to a strong thrust for early democratic elections there.
"We need to involve more and more troops and governments from the rest of the world, and to ease the UN back in. We also need to work together to convince the electorate that we went to war on solid grounds, despite the apparent holes in the intelligence.
"If we can show real progress in returning authority to Iraqis and involving the UN more we may be able to get through this. But I fear that holding on to war rhetoric will make it much easier for our opponents to plug into the public unease about the invasion and its aftermath."
Environment minister, (1997-2003), Labour MP for Oldham West and Royton
"Well, George, on Iraq, we need to bring forward the date for full elections. This is going to be a very difficult period but being able to announce the elections in order to reduce tensions among Shia and Sunni Muslims is becoming absolutely imperative.
"If there is a resolution to the terrorism problem, one way to undercut the impact of al-Qaida and to begin to resolve the worldwide crisis is by America taking a strong lead over the Palestine issue. What we need is you [Mr Bush] standing by what you agreed on the establishment of a Palestinian state - otherwise the situation will go from bad to worse.
"Now, let's talk about the environment. I've just seen the Pentagon's report that says that climate change is now a bigger threat to US interests than world terrorism and, since the Pentagon is not made up of soft-headed lefties, what are you going to do about it? Your own people are telling you it's time to rejoin the Kyoto protocol, so when are you going to do it?
"I have also just seen the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine report that estimates 160,000 people are dying each year now as a result of climate change due to malaria, dysentery and malnutrition. What no responsible country can do is to stand by with its arms folded. America must realise it really is vital to show it is committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The climatic consequences of America failing to be part of this world system are now too severe to ignore.
Professor Andrew Roberts
"As my predecessor Margaret Thatcher said to your father during the first Gulf war: "This is no time to wobble, George." The political attractions in a presidential election year of staging a phased withdrawal of American troops from Iraq are huge and obvious, but I firmly believe you should stiffen your already strong resolve not to take the easy way out.
"The new Iraqi government after the June 30 handover must be allowed to call upon as much US armed might as it will need to crush all armed resistance to its rule.
"We need to discuss and decide on exactly who to devolve power upon on June 30, carefully choosing the correct moderate Shia leaders, calmest Kurds and wisest middle class Sunnis. Furthermore, the timetable must be kept to scrupulously, since any slippage would be immediately interpreted in Iraq as a western desire to continue to exercise sovereignty there.
"I must also urge you to agree to assign many more coalition troops to the operations to capture Bin Laden now largely being carried out by the Pakistani army. A timely arrest in September or October would do wonders for your re-election prospects, upon which the English-speaking peoples' chances of winning the war against al-Qaida ultimately rest.
"What we must be careful to avoid discussing, George, is the forthcoming trial, conviction and execution of Saddam Hussein. That must be left entirely up to the post-June Baghdad government and the due processes of Iraqi law."
Dr Rosemary Hollis
Head of the Middle East programme, Royal Institute of International Affairs
"George, let's think 'out of the box': what's the worst that can happen?
"We brook no opposition, pile in more forces, assert control and even though we win in military terms, the death toll is high and the Iraqis are only grudgingly compliant for a year or so. Also, this could play badly in the coming months ahead of your election.
"The alternative is to capitalise on current developments. General Abizaid [head of central command in Iraq] is already re-recruiting some of the old Iraqi senior officers. Ahead of the June 30 handover, we select one of these to be in charge of the Iraqi armed forces and our troops withdraw from visibility in the city centres. The Iraqi Governing Council, meanwhile, is showing some mettle, so let's beef them up and hand over political authority to a combination of them and the UN.
"Then we can say, Iraq is free, in transition to electoral democracy and we are providing support in the background. We point out that we never wanted to occupy Iraq, only to liberate the people from the oppressive rule of Saddam Hussein. We've done that and now America is pouring in funds for reconstruction.
"By the way, can you hold back some of your corporations from taking too large a slice of the pie in terms of contracts? And can we make sure that the UN mechanism for handling aid transparently is more visible? I think this package could work to our advantage in the near and the long term."
Director, Amnesty International UK
"George, if we are going to achieve security in Iraq it must mean absolute respect for human rights. This must mean that an Iraqi death or injury is treated with as much seriousness as an American or British one; we must investigate an apparent "disappearance" of an Iraqi citizen with all the urgency as would a hostage-taking involving Russian, Chinese or Japanese nationals. Furthermore, I believe detention must come with judicial safeguards.
"In short, George, even-handedness is the only way out of the quagmire. This is true right across the region.
"We talk about supporting human rights and freedom in the Middle East, but we both lead countries pursuing agendas that are often seen to turn a blind eye to friendly governments who undermine these values. Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Israel, Yemen and various Gulf states imprison people without trial, often citing "security" or combating "terror" as supposed justification. This process has accelerated under the post-9/11 international "security" agenda.
"With the deadly threat from al-Qaida and other armed extremists, the temptation for governments is always to move the line on human rights. But, George, this is a disastrous mistake. It leads to catastrophically bad decisions like the American idea to set up Guantanamo Bay. We must look to rid ourselves of this human rights hypocrisy as a vital step towards transparent international justice."
Major Eric Joyce
Labour MP for Falkirk West
"First, I know you're deeply sceptical about the effectiveness of the UN when it comes to sorting out despots and spreading democracy. But you can make it more than just a worthy concept by helping the UN to find a meaningful role in the reconstruction of Iraq.
"Second, if your Middle East road map is to succeed, then your full re-engagement is fundamental. Ariel Sharon will move unilaterally now but you have to make it clear that the new line can only be temporary. Only full respect for the green line will lead to two states, each secure within their border.
"Third, from the UK right now it looks like Republicans and Democrats are both tending towards greater protectionism. OK, it's an election year. But fair and free trade is good for us all, and it's the only way ahead, so let's reverse the trend. In return, I'll argue, as ever, for CAP reform in Europe."