Lovely column by Geoffrey Wheatcroft which includes this gem:
As to the idea, flourished after the event by the dreaded liberal hawks as well as neoconservatives, that an invasion would bring democracy to Iraq, it’s tempting to say that comment is superfluous. In fact there is still something to be said – and it was said by Jacques Chirac at a meeting with Tony Blair that has been described by Sir Stephen Wall.
While reiterating his opposition to the war that was about to begin, Chirac made a number of specific points. He reminded Blair that he and his friend Bush knew nothing of the reality of war but that he did: 50 years ago, the young Chirac served as a conscript in the awful French war in Algeria, which Iraq resembles in all too many ways. Then he said that the Anglo-Saxons seemed to think that they would be welcomed with open arms, but they shouldn’t count on it. In a very percipient point, Chirac added that a Shia majority shouldn’t be confused with what we understand as democracy.
He ended by asking whether Blair realised that, by invading Iraq, he might yet precipitate a civil war there. As the British left, Blair turned to his colleagues and said, doubtless with that boyish grin we happily see less of nowadays, “Poor old Jacques, he just doesn’t get it.” Well, who got it?