http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2007/01/12/wiraq812.xml His manner is astonishingly portentous and self-regarding, with phrase succeeding phrase in such a manner that it often seems the rolling tide of clichÃ© and prevarication will never come to an end. There is a school of thought according to which if Mr Browne has any military value at all, it is as a tape recording to be played in order to make prisoners crack and promise to tell all if only the machine is turned off. But like a desert scattered with precious stones, so Mr Browne's speech every so often throws up statements of such sublime banality that a book entitled The Wit and Wisdom of Des Browne, or even a comedy in the manner of Ionesco, could be formed entirely from these gems. We first noticed Mr Browne's comic potential when he told the committee, in reply to a question about whether American operations in Baghdad will produce greater Iranian pressure on Basra: "If you press a balloon here it may swell there." Moments later, Mr Browne added: "We already knew this." He went on to tell us that Iraq has "always been on the border of Iran". The simplicity of these statements has a touch of greatness about it. As Mr Browne got into his stride he told the committee: "I'll answer this question in some detail but it's not exhaustive." The superfluousness of the words "but it's not exhaustive" could not be bettered. Mr Browne will doubtless claim he was being ironical when he told the committee: "I accept that Basra and Baghdad are part of the same country." But if so it was the insulting irony of a man determined not to do them the honour of telling them anything. Soon he was informing MPs: "This is of course a difficult and challenging environment," to which he added: "The fact of the matter is we are where we are."