Blair Agrees with Dannatt

It sounds like Tony Blair really got himself painted into a corner here:

Britain's top soldier was vindicated as Tony Blair was forced to claim he agreed with every word of his devastating assessment of British policy in Iraq.

After a remarkable day in politics, Sir Richard Dannatt appeared safe in his job despite having made a series of unprecedented criticisms of Government policy.


While the Ministry of Defence insisted he had wanted to expand on his remarks, some saw echoes of the department's treatment of weapons scientist Dr David Kelly, who was forced to make a televised appearance before a Commons committee and later committed suicide.

But if Labour's spin doctors had hoped Sir Richard would use his TV and radio appearances to appear contrite and backtrack on his remarks, they were disappointed.

While Sir Richard denied a "chasm" with the Government, he proceeded to make a further series of provocative statements.

He suggested troops should come home within two years, a flat contradiction of Mr Blair's insistence that they will stay "as long as it takes".

And he warned that keeping them in Iraq any longer could "break" the Army.

His remarks and were a serious blow for an already weakened Mr Blair, who is desperate not to be remembered chiefly for chaos in Iraq.

By yesterday evening, it had become apparent to Downing Street that they had been outmanoeuvred and an isolated and humbled Prime Minister broke off from talks on the future of Northern Ireland to offer the General his full support.

"What he is saying about wanting the British forces out of Iraq is precisely the same as we're all saying," Mr Blair claimed.

"Our strategy is to withdraw from Iraq when the job is done."

Mr Blair insisted Sir Richard was "plainly not" saying that troops should be withdrawn from Iraq now.

Mr Blair said when Sir Richard talked about the troops' presence exacerbating problems in Iraq, he was "absolutely right".

"I've said the same myself, in circumstances where the Iraqis are ready to take over control of areas and we're still there," he claimed.

But in places like Basra, the presence of British troops was still "absolutely necessary", he insisted.

But the Prime Minister was facing growing calls from his own MPs - increasingly exasperated by his refusal to make way for Gordon Brown - to set out a clear exit strategy.

And check out the headlines from these supplemental stories about Sir Dannatt: Friends say controversial Army General is honest and has 'no political agenda'; or, An honest Army man who spoke for his men. From a political perspective, that's not how you want your opponent cast - as an honest man just trying to protect his troops from the machinations of the political class. Ouch. Here in America, we'd start hearing rumors about his possible gayitude within hours: "Did you know that he's a bachelor?" What rank amateurs those Brits are. Don't they know that you never agree with your detractors, no matter how valid their points?

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