Some highlights from the day when “war” was the most popular Internet search term, topping “sex” and “Britney Spears.”

It’s well-known, of course, that Donald Rumsfeld was considering an invasion of Iraq on September 11, 2001. Today, the Daily Telegraph suggests that Tony Blair was instrumental in persuading the Bush administration to delay the war until now, and to pursue a diplomatic approach. While he may have ultimately failed, Blair’s effort in this regard should be acknowledged.

Polly Toynbee, who has been brilliant in recent weeks, is less forgiving of the Blair government’s recent francophobia, and Liberal Democrat MEP Nick Clegg rejects the glib view that a swift war will return European-American relations to the status quo ante. “Blair’s place in history is now in Bush’s hands,” says Clegg:

Let us be under no illusions. Irrespective of the length of the military assault on Iraq, Nato is a busted flush, the UN damaged, the European-US relationship tested to destruction, relations between EU member states seriously damaged, and public opinion deeply perplexed by the high-handed moralism of Bush and Blair. A short war will not repair this political collateral damage overnight. …

[…]The facile illusion nurtured by Blair and the Conservatives that the UK can forever straddle the Atlantic, avoiding a choice between America and Europe, will collapse. The French, above all, are now determined to force us to make that choice. … To use New Labour speak, sometimes you need to take tough choices. Wake up. Grow up. Get real. It’s time to decide.</blockquote>

A day wouldn’t be complete without Richard Perle saying something despicable. Today’s Guardian has a Perle op-ed reprinted from the Spectator entitled “Thank God for the death of the UN.” The gist:

Saddam Hussein … will take the UN down with him. Well, not the whole UN. The “good works” part will survive, the low-risk peacekeeping bureaucracies will remain, the chatterbox on the Hudson will continue to bleat. What will die is the fantasy of the UN as the foundation of a new world order. As we sift the debris, it will be important to preserve, the better to understand, the intellectual wreckage of the liberal conceit of safety through international law administered by international institutions.</p> The UN is actually situated on the other side of Manhattan, on the East River, and the idea that a major figure in US foreign policy establishment isn’t aware of that is kind of worrying. But not as worrying as the rest of the article.

Nor would a day be complete without the Sun sinking to new lows. Now they are calling Jacques ChiracSaddam’s Whore“.

The inevitable has already happened: thirteen coalition soldiers were killed yesterday, including the first combat fatality. There seem to be no details of Iraqi casualties (don’t hold your breath), but the Sydney Morning Herald reports that “one of the first encounters of the ground war was more like a massacre than a fight.” Senseless. The words are inadequate.

Let the liberal consequentialist justifications for war begin!

Update: I missed a couple of good bits. A Guardian leader comes out against Perle’s lawsuit against Seymour Hersh in Britain. They see a wider issue at stake:

…Every ounce of common sense suggests that Mr Perle should settle his score with the New Yorker in New York.

So why is Mr Perle threatening to cross the Atlantic to bring his libel action? Our potential claimant is engagingly frank on this score: London is simply the best place in the western world for anyone wanting to take money off publishers.

[…]The courts – here and elsewhere – must urgently stamp out this tendency to go forum shopping which, an an internet age, could have grotesque implications for the sort of freedom of speech…</blockquote>