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Thursday, 29 August, 2002, 11:38 GMT 12:38 UK
Bush 'no Churchill' says grandson
President George Bush in Churchill's seat at the cabinet war rooms, London
Bush visited Churchill's war rooms last summer

The MP grandson of Winston Churchill has said America's policy over Iraq stands no comparison with the British war leader's stance against Hitler.

Nicholas Soames was speaking after US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld drew parallels between Churchill's "lone voice" in the 1930s and American warnings about Saddam Hussein.

Churchill would be anxious about the Americans' apparent constant grandstanding without giving the reasons

Nicholas Soames
Former Armed Forces Minister Mr Soames told BBC News Online he was not offended by the remarks but said his grandfather would have been much more careful to make the public case for action.

Churchill would also have thought more about the wider consequences an attack on Iraq could bring, said Mr Soames.

With Arab states voicing their opposition to military action in Iraq, Mr Soames that the coalition against terror could "fall apart at the seams" if more care was not taken.

Hitler parallel?

George Bush keeps a bust of Churchill in the Oval Office and during his visit to London last year made it a priority to tour the cabinet war rooms he used during the Blitz.

In a speech this week, Donald Rumsfeld invoked Churchill's name as he said there were only a few voices of concern about Adolf Hitler.

"There was no unanimity. There were people saying: 'Do not do anything, he will stop, he won't do anything terrible," said Mr Rumsfeld

Winston Churchill
Churchill was a great thinker about the wider picture, says Nicholas Soames
"And as they occupied one country after another country after another country, it wasn't until each country was invaded that they said, well, maybe Winston Churchill was right."

Conservative MP Mr Soames said Mr Rumsfeld was entitled to make what comparisons he liked.

'Mass hysteria'

But he continued: "I do not think there is any comparison.

"This is building into a mass hysteria this Iraq thing and clearly President Bush is going to have to make up his mind about what he wants to do...

"One thing my grandfather would have been very cautious about is that if the United States wishes its allies to come with it, it must share with its allies, with the people of both countries, the information it has that leads it to believe the situation is so serious that it requires pre-emptive action."

Nicholas Soames
Soames wants America to get a fresh UN resolution
Mr Soames does not think that exchange of intelligence is currently happening - something that would hamper any UK prime minister's natural instinct to support America.

That view chimes with the comments of the former US ambassador who claimed a senior adviser to Tony Blair had complained Washington was giving nothing in return for "unstinting" British backing.

Mr Soames said: "I think Churchill, if he was alive now, would be anxious about the Americans' apparent constant grandstanding without giving the reasons."

"There will be a major problem here for the British to be going to war alongside America without the public being very well informed."

'No pushover'

There was "no doubt" about the need for action in 1940 and in the appeasement years Churchill had made his warnings about Hitler using information in public.

Mr Soames said it was clear there would be US action, although not before the New Year, and he warned Iraq would be "no pushover".

As one quarter American himself, the MP stressed he would love to support the US over Iraq but argued it needed to "take people with her".

Saddam Hussein was an "absolutely grotesque figure", he said, but that was not necessarily a reason for "regime change" - there were no plans to topple Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe, for example.

Middle East tensions

Mr Soames continued: "I also think one of the comparisons that does not stand up was that Churchill was a great thinker in the round of the whole scene.

"It would be lunacy to pretend you can just go into Iraq without having regard to what is going to happen in the Middle East."

He urged America to secure a new United Nations resolution on dealing with Iraq.

He added: "There is no doubt there is a problem. What's the scale of the problem? There are military arguments for getting rid of Saddam Hussein.

"My own view is that it's better to be jaw, jaw than war, war. It's much easier to go to war than it is to go to peace."


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See also:

28 Aug 02 | Politics
28 Aug 02 | Middle East
21 Aug 02 | Politics
19 Aug 02 | Politics
24 Jul 02 | Politics
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