Dear Mr and Mrs Blair,
I have just had to mark Tony’s essay, Why We Must Never Abandon This Historic Struggle in Iraq, and I am extremely worried.
Your son has been in the sixth form now for several years, studying world politics, and yet his recent essay shows so little grasp of the subject that I can only conclude he has spent most of that time staring out of the window.
His essay, of course, is written with his usual passion and conviction, but, in the real world, passion and conviction do not count for many marks.
Crucially, Tony does not seem to have read any of the first-hand accounts that are easily available and describe what is really going on in Iraq. On the recent escalation in violence, for example, he writes: “The insurgents are former Saddam sympathisers … terrorist groups linked to al-Qaida and, most recently, followers of … Moqtada al-Sadr.” This is simply not good enough. Tony ignores the multitude of reports indicating that revulsion against the occupation is now widespread among ordinary people.
Tony’s essay also displays a dismal ignorance of the key factors involved, such as Paul Bremer’s closing down of the small circulation newspaper run by Moqtada al-Sadr.
To be honest, Tony seems to be totally unaware of what has been going on in Falluja. Back in June 2003, David Baran described how Falluja was a town at peace, until US forces took over, opened depots to looters, established a military base in a school, and kept the residents under surveillance through binoculars: “A gross invasion of privacy in a conservative area, where women keep out of the sight of strangers.”
When residents protested, the Americans responded with bullets and grenades, killing some of them. Tony cannot simply ignore these factors if he is to stand any chance of being taken seriously in his AS-levels.
In fact, I begin to wonder what goes on in the boy’s head? Does he really believe that the 600 Iraqis whom the US has now killed in revenge for the four “civilian contractors”, were all “terrorists” or Ba’athist supporters – despite the fact that those manning the hospitals report that most of the casualties are women, children or old men?
Tony’s uncritical acceptance of information supplied by the US reveals a naivety that would be surprising in any sixth-form pupil, let alone one who has hopes of going on to university and then government, as I know Tony does.
He writes: “On the one side, outside terrorists, an extremist who has created his own militia, and remnants of a brutal dictatorship … On the other side, people of immense courage and humanity …” This might do in the infants, but I’m afraid by the sixth form we expect something a little more sophisticated.
He totally fails to place events in the larger political context, and seems to imagine that the US intends to establish what he calls “a sovereign state, governed democratically by the Iraqi people” with “the wealth of that potentially rich country” becoming “their wealth”.
Does he really think that an Iraqi government that has been hand- picked by the neo-conservatives in the White House is democratic? Does he really think that the 120,000 US troops that will remain behind in Iraq will make it “a sovereign state”? And does he really think that the forcible selling off of Iraqi industry to foreign companies (mainly American) will help to keep the wealth for the Iraqi people?
I can only give Tony three out of 10 for this current effort and must warn him to pull up his socks if he wishes to carry on in this subject.
To be quite candid, Mr and Mrs Blair, it’s lucky that your son is not in a position of power, otherwise his lack of insight and his crass ignorance would place us all in appalling peril.
· Terry Jones is a writer, film director, actor and Python.
Tony Blair’s article appeared in the Observer on Sunday