updated 10/7/2006 12:37:41 PM ET 2006-10-07T16:37:41

The British government tried to rein in U.S. policy in Iraq from the outset of the March 2003 invasion but found itself powerless to do so, a former cabinet minister was quoted on Saturday as saying.

David Blunkett, Home Secretary at the time of the invasion, told newspapers that Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld could not be diverted from their goal of dismantling the Iraqi Baathist government system.

“The issue was: ‘What the hell do you do about it?’ All we could do as a nation of 60 million off the coast of mainland Europe was to seek to influence the most powerful nation in the world,” he said in interviews to publicize his new diaries.

“We did seek to influence them, but we were not in charge, so you cannot say that if only the government recognized what needed to be done, it would all have been different. The government did recognize the problem,” he added.

“We dismantled the structure of a functioning state,” he said, adding that the British view was: “Change them by all means, decapitate them even, but very quickly get the arms and legs moving.”

British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who vowed after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the United States to stand shoulder to shoulder with President George W. Bush in his “war on terror”, has seen his popularity plummet over the war.

Tempo of violence hits new heights
Blunkett’s revelations come as the tempo of violence in Iraq reaches new heights, with an average of 100 people a day being killed by car bombs or bullets in sectarian carnage.

Bush too has found himself increasingly isolated over the Iraq war, and this week there was a note of warning from the influential head of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

John Warner told reporters after a visit to Baghdad that Iraq had reached crisis point.

“In two or three months, if this thing hasn’t come to fruition and if this level of violence is not under control and this government able to function, I think it’s a responsibility of our government internally to determine: Is there a change of course that we should take? ... And I wouldn’t take off the table any option at this time,” he said on Thursday.

“We’re not going to give up hope yet. Let’s give it more time to work,” Warner added.

Blunkett was forced to resign in 2004 and then again after being reinstated following elections the following year amid scandals about his private and public life.

He admits in the interviews ahead of the newspaper serialization starting next week of his diaries “My Life in the Bearpit” that at the height of the first scandals over his affair with a married woman that he nearly had a breakdown.

“At one point, I did really think I was going mad. I was barely sleeping, yet I was being asked to sign government warrants in the middle of the night,” he disclosed.

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