One of the problems about assessing the state of American public opinion on President Bush's policies towards Iraq is the absence of a “leader of the opposition” to focus criticism and dissent. Although more people voted for Al Gore than for George W Bush in November 2000, he has been almost invisible since the notorious vote counting in Florida took the presidential prize away from him. Under the American system opposition to the Administration becomes the responsibility of Senators and Congressmen in Washington DC once the Presidential fight has been decided.

On Monday, however, Al Gore decided to speak out, and did so forcefully. He told an audience in San Francisco that last year's terrorist attacks had not yet been avenged and that Mr Bush's policy on Iraq would make it more difficult to punish those who were responsible. His key words were these: “It is impossible to succeed against terrorism unless we have secured the continuing, sustained co–operation of many nations, but our ability to secure that kind of multilateral co–operation in the war against terrorism can be severely damaged in the way we go about undertaking unilateral action against Iraq.” Predictably, the Republican Party said Gore's criticism was an early shot in a campaign to get the Democratic nomination for the presidency in 2004. It did not sound like that. It sounded like a warning shot about current US policies from a man who spent eight years in the White House as Vice–President.

Ray Fleming