From New Year’s Day 1998 until I went to hospital in April 2006 I kept a diary. Out of interest today I looked back six years. Here’s a few excerpts.
Ali Carew came for lunch. We had it outside in honeysuckle corner. I listened to George W Bush’s ultimatum to Saddam Hussein. War has been inevitable for quite some time but now the clock is ticking visibly. Howard pledges support, Clark says no and Robin Cook has resigned in the UK. The only sure thing about a war is that it will have unforeseen consequences. I have never doubted their capacity to take Saddam out. But then what. Bush argued the legality of the action, appealed to the Iraqi people and then braced the American for likely terrorism action. It proved very hard to settle after that. For entrée I picked a handful of runner beans and steamed them for five minutes, blanched them in cold water and then fried them with garlic and parsley. A lovely flavour. Bill English has come out in support of America. Great flip-flopper that one.
Tony Blair won the vote in the House of Commons for war but 219 opposed it including 135 Labour MPs. I looked at some of the speeches on the internet. I must say the standard of debate just leaves ours for dead. It almost surreal as we watch them sleepwalk into engagement. Especially as it was a gloriously fine March day. Bizarre, the war teeters on the verge of war and I am pickling onions. I poured boiling water on to them to assist in the skinning (and it stops the tears). Even so it took me three-quarters of an hour to do two bags. I leave them in brine overnight.
Turkey will let American planes over-fly but not land and no ground troops allowed. There is talk of Turkey invading northern Iraq. Old rivalries are churned up when war is imminent. The USA black and white approach finds it hard to comprehend century-old enmity in that whole Balkans/Middle East region. The war began at 3 30 our time when a cruise missile sought a ‘window of opportunity’ on Bagdad. Obviously the Americans had struck at Saddam Hussein. He appeared on TV later so it looks as if they didn’t get him. But was it a pre-recording, or a double. It is a Graeme Greene situation. I watched the TV for a while. It is portrayed in intellectual speculation. It might be a quick war but it will not be a nice war and the long-term consequences for American popularity cannot be estimated. ... Iraqi missiles miss their targets in Kuwait. It’s a minnow against a white shark.