It turns out that Saddam sought nothing in Niger and that the British government was wrong. By the time that became clear, however, it was too late. We were already at war and learning not just how badly the CIA and the Pentagon could screw things up, but that British intelligence, for all its tea services, wasn’t worth a damn, either.
This was truly shocking. I don’t know about you, but whatever Bush said in the run-up to the war I took with a grain of salt. After all, the man could hardly speak English. But Tony Blair was a different matter. Blair spoke perfect English, full and well-rounded sentences—subject, predicate, verb. He was Bush’s adult translator and when he stood in the Commons, placed his notes before him, and fulsomely Winstoned about the coming war and the dangers of appeasement, I paid attention. He sounded so awfully good, and behind him, seen but unseen, was all of British intelligence, never wrong and always well-dressed, heirs to a legacy dating back to the East India Company, Gordon in Khartoum, Lawrence in Arabia, Bell in Baghdad, and even George Orwell and Leonard Woolf, serving the empire (and taking notes) in far-off Asia: Bond. James Bond. ~Richard Cohen, Slate
If I had had any idea that Bond movies could induce this kind of unthinking Anglophilia and general nitwittery, I would have been urging their ban for years. Encouraging some dunderheaded awestruck reverence for the competence of the British Government (!) in the old colonials has to be among the worst consequences of the Bond phenomenon. Anyone who could come away with the impression that dowdy little Tony Blair with his vapid speeches and his ridiculously large ears was the natural heir to the tradition of “Chinese” Gordon and T.E. Lawrence is someone with a serious case of Received Pronunciation-envy. Would anyone confuse David Cameron with the heirs of the legacy of Marlborough or Wellington? I should think not. And where did anyone get the idea that British intelligence was never wrong? Please don’t tell me, “I saw it in Live And Let Die!”
But Cohen isn’t done yet:
In my mind, Bush was not exactly Leighter, but Blair was definitely Bond. When the British prime minister spoke, he did so with a forthrightness and authority that Bush lacked. He seemed the very voice of Newtonian, Darwinian, Shavian reason. “We do not want war,” he said shortly before the war began. “No one wants war.” I thought Bush did. I thought Blair didn’t.
Why? In what deranged fantasy world did you have to be living to think that Blair, who deploys military forces to kill other people the way most people brush their teeth, did not want war? Besides the occasional speech about Europe and the launch of a new failed initiative here and there, Tony Blair has done nothing else for the past nine years than start, engage in or otherwise become enmeshed in a war somewhere. Sometimes it was for the sake of human rights, sometimes to bring peace, sometimes to back up the Yanks, but always and everywhere he was ready to send British soldiers on missions that no one else in Britain understood or supported.
Anyway, after all this time, are we Americans really so completely pathetic that we still cannot get over our sense of inferiority to the Brits? Are we still that impressed with the ability of some sizeable percentage of their population to speak our language (and theirs!) with fluency?
Anyone suffering from excessive confidence in the intelligence-gathering capabilities of MI6 is encouraged to watch The Tailor of Panama. Of course, it’s a fictional story, just like the Bond movies, but maybe it will be the cure for what ails you.