Boys & their War Games: Blair's hypothetical "pretty please" to Bush Jnr Print E-mail
Pakistan -- Wednesday, May 17, 2006, Rabi-us-sani 18, 1427 A.H.

By George, this man needs help!

By Mahir Ali

IRAN’S president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, in his recent letter to George W. Bush, mildly (but at great length) berated his American counterpart for, among other things, straying from the true religious path. The United States decided not to dignify that missive with a response.

The “no reply” strategy has attracted some flak from commentators who feel that a polite rejoinder would have done little harm. After all, it was the first contact at that level between the two countries since 1979 (although the two of them have, in that interim, not only communicated at lower levels but also cooperated whenever their interests have coincided ­ which is more frequent than one might imagine).

Bush is presumably at the receiving end of a great deal of daily mail. Much of it probably never finds its way to his desk, and it is unlikely he reads everything that is placed under his nose. After all, it is common knowledge that the US president is a less than voracious reader.

Be that as it may, I suspect Bush would make an exception were the following letter to come his way. He’d even make an effort to decipher the handwriting. Chances are he would respond, too, after consulting the usual suspects: Dick, Karl, Condi, Rummy, the entire motley crew. As for the nature of that response, your guess would be as good as mine. The letter in question might go something like this:

My Very Dearest George,

You will be surprised to hear from me in this manner, but I’ve been reluctant to use the phone since reading all those newspaper reports about CIA listening devices and the like. I realise the presidential hotline is unlikely to be targeted, but one can’t be too careful these days. What I have to say to you is absolutely confidential. In case there’s any confusion, I’ll translate that for you: Top Secret, George.

As you know, George, I’ve been totally, completely and unequivocally loyal to you from the outset. I’m sure we would have been the best of friends even if 9/11 hadn’t afforded us a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to remake the world, starting with Afghanistan.

We would have done great things together, you and I, even without Osama bin Laden’s timely assistance. We would have got Saddam anyhow.

But all that is by the by. What I wanted to remind you, George ­ as though you need any reminding! ­ is that I have stood shoulder to shoulder with you through thick and thin. I have alienated the United Nations, large parts of Europe, the Labour Party and even the British public. I’ve fobbed them off with half-truths and even untruths, and they know it.

But it didn’t matter ­ none of it mattered ­ as long as you and I stayed on the path you had chosen. When I’m with you, George ­ even if it’s only in spirit ­ I forget about everything and everyone else. (Even Cherie has noticed that my attitude towards you goes beyond statesmanlike warmth and borders on infatuation ­ I think she described it as an obsessive-compulsive disorder ­ but I really don’t care.)

Now before you start thinking that this preamble is leading towards a request for marital counselling from the Leader of the Free World (and may I say that never before has that appellation been so accurate), I should hasten to point out that my troubles run much deeper than that.

I’m awfully sorry to have to break it to you this way, George, but there is a distinct possibility that it may soon become impossible for me to be of further service to you. In fact, it’s more than that ­ it’s a virtual certainty. And it’s not the case, I assure you, that I have changed my mind in the slightest about all that you and I have done. If anything, it’s quite the opposite.

To put it bluntly, George, my job is in jeopardy. A sort of regime change looms. And for the life of me I can’t imagine how I could continue to serve you once I’m no longer ensconced at Number 10 Downing Street. (That’s my current residential address, in case you’re wondering.)

I wonder if you’ve caught my drift, George. What do I need? Help! When do I need it? Now! What’ll happen if I don’t get it? You’ll have to make friends with Gordon Brown. (I know what you’re thinking, but no, he’s not the chap who wrote The Da Vinci Code ­ he’s never written anything much fancier than memorandums.)

I suspect you may be a bit perplexed, George, and I don’t like it when that happens, so perhaps I should fill you in, in case the CIA and your other sources of intelligence haven’t done a good job (yet again). A bit of background (just skip a few paragraphs if you lose interest): Back in 1994, this Brown fellow was one of my competitors in the race for the Labour Party’s leadership.

So, just to shut him up, I promised to let him be chancellor of the exchequer when we won government, and to allow him some leeway in social policy, and to pass the baton to him after a couple of terms.

The last of these prospects seemed so distant then, and I couldn’t have foreseen you, or 9/11, or even the exhilaration that accompanies power. Anyhow, Brown and his mates have been nagging me over the years to pick a date for handing over.

I’ve dilly-dallied, I’ve made promises in private that I had no intention of keeping ­ mainly for your sake, George, but also because I’m not through with Britain yet: my country’s transition to a one-party state isn’t quite complete, though I’ve brought it a long way.

Unfortunately, after the events of the past couple of weeks, it’s no longer possible for me to keep Brown at bay. He’s not accepting private promises any more. He’s been going on and on about a written agreement, signed and witnessed. Many of my ungrateful partymen are taking his side. Brown has publicly threatened me with the appalling fate that befell poor Margaret Thatcher (ask your dad about it).

We can’t let that happen again, can we? I mean, I was desperate to lead the Labour Party because that seemed to be the only way of guaranteeing a new lease of life for Mrs Thatcher’s exceptional legacy, given that the Tories were at each other’s throats.

Now the same thing is happening to Labour. May has been an exceptionally nasty month for me. First my home secretary, Charles Clarke, found himself in a spot of trouble after it turned out that a large number of foreign criminals had been let loose. It wasn’t really his fault ­ the courts here are abominable, with judges constantly going on about human rights and all that nonsense. I’ll put an end to that even if it’s the last thing I do.

Then my deputy got caught with his pants down, having it off with his secretary. Believe me, this man is no Bill Clinton ­ ask your staff to show you a picture of John Prescott and you’ll see what I mean. Then came the local council elections ­ predictably, a disaster for Labour and something of a triumph for the Tories under their new leader David Cameron (he’s just an overgrown schoolboy, really, and I trust you won’t be conned by the Conservative tag ­ note that it hasn’t got a neo in front of it).

Anyhow, the upshot is that I’m being blamed for all this. My cabinet reshuffle created more problems. I sacked Clarke, deprived Prescott of his portfolio and demoted Jack Straw ­ after your people complained about his injudicious comments against invading Iran (I had, if you remember, done the same to Robin Cook on American advice).

Hard to believe, but my popularity is lower even than yours. Iraq keeps being mentioned, for some reason. My position is becoming untenable. I can’t possibly hang on for more than a year and may have to go much sooner than that. I’m sinking, George, and I need you to throw me a lifeline.

If you’re wondering just how that can be done, I’ve given the matter some thought and decided that extraordinary rendition for Brown and Cameron (and a few others), tempting though it may seem, wouldn’t be the best way out. Why, it may even spur further anti-Americanism, and we wouldn’t want that, would we?

For very similar reasons, it may not be a good idea to invade Britain and restore the status quo ante after Brown rudely shoves me aside (even though the Pentagon will know exactly where he stores his WMD), because the natives may not take kindly to an occupation. A Fallujah-on-the-Thames would be extreme even by my standards.

But how about Iran? Do it now. Coalition or no coalition, I’ll be willing. No WMD just yet? No problem: you can order an invasion in response to Ahmadinejad’s impertinence in sending you a proselytizing letter.

A new war would end all this talk of a prime ministerial handover. You’re dying to do it anyway. I’ll be a goner if you don’t do it. So how about it, George? Pretty please.

I shall eagerly await your reply.

Your adoring and obedient servant,

Tony Blair