I DOUBT whether any senior member of any of the countries involved in the invasion and occupation of Iraq has been obliged to listen to such insistent criticism of their policies as was Condoleezza Rice, Mr Bush's nomination as Secretary of State, during her US Senate confirmation hearing earlier this week.

President Bush had hoped to hold Dr Rice's oath-of-office ceremony last Thursday, immediately following his own inauguration, but the Senate Foreign Relations Committee had insisted that she should face questioning from the full Senate before her appointment was approved. Although most of the hostile comments came from Democratic senators, several Republicans joined in. Perhaps this was because this confirmation hearing provided an opportunity for the most extensive and substantive Senate debate on the war in Iraq since late-2002 when Congress voted to approve the resolution authorising the sue of force aganst Iraq.

In both Britain and the United States there has been a democratic deficit in the handling of approval for action against Iraq. In the crucial House of Commons debate the Prime Minister either misled MPs or was economical with the truth about weapons of mass destruction, according to one's understanding of what he said, and there has been no substantive debate since on the outcome of the action. The same is true in the United States, so it was no surprise that the Senate took its opportunity this week to tell the person it believes to have been one of the main architects of the Iraq policy about its misgivings.

Whether the criticisms will have any effect on the way Dr Rice runs the State Department remains to be seen but it has to be said that, unlike her predecessor Colin Powell, she appears to be just as hard-line as her President, if not more so.