Sunday, December 24, 2006

Mr. Tony's appointment

"Am I dry? Am I dry, Mr. Tony?"

Mr. Tony, if you missed it, is what England's prime minister, Tony Blair, wants to be called these days as he tries to make a victory lap before stepping down as prime minister.

Outside of his own inner circle (and his own mind), the victory lap was never a sure thing. Having scraped and bowed to the Bully Boy and dragged the United Kingdom into the illegal war, Mr. Tony's repuation isn't what it once was.

A triangulator from the beginning, the Poster Boy for "New" Labour, Mr. Tony brought triangulation to the forefront of British politics. Economically, "New Labour" translated as "Tory-lite." In terms of damaging his own party, Mr. Tony is right up there with Harold Wilson.

These days, he's making a show about the Middle East. He's not going to do anything -- and couldn't if he really wanted to because his days are numbered -- but it's the sort of vanity trip that might play well in the history books -- as long as historians don't look too closely. As a slug line, it sounds impressive: "In his final days as prime minister, Mr. Tony showed a strong interest in the Middle East." However, a peace process isn't something you dabble in during your final months.

The Middle East is his legacy. Staying silent during the summer of 2006 when speaking out might have made a difference (and might have curbed some of the illegal actions of the Israeli government). And most of all, Iraq.

Though some in the United States may not realize it, Iraq dogs Tony Blair and has since before the illegal war began. But in the last few weeks, the cross he must bear grew a little heavier.

First up was the disclosure of Carne Ross' 2004 testimony. As the BBC reported last week noting the criticism Mr. Tony was under from the Tories:

The comments come after it was revealed last week that former UK diplomat Carne Ross had told the 2004 Butler review into Iraq intelligence that "at no time did HMG (Her Majesty's Government) assess that Iraq's WMD (weapons of mass destruction) posed a threat to the UK or its interests".
He also claimed that there was no evidence of "significant holdings" of chemical or biological weapons in the possession of Saddam prior to the invasion.
"There was, moreover, no intelligence or assessment during my time in the job that Iraq had any intention to launch an attack against its neighbours or the UK or the US," he added.
Mr Ross's evidence has only just been published because of initial fears it breached the Official Secrets Act.


Mr. Tony had made that false claim. A claim that not only has since been proven false but one that now is revealed to have been known as false when he made it.

That's one of the ways he sold the illegal war to England.

If it all seems familiar, well, it takes a lot of work, a lot of ducks in a row, to sell an illegal war. What was done in the United States was done in England.

And last week, Chatham House, established and well known think tank, issued a [PDF format] report. Six pages but packing a wallop, Victor Bulmer-Thomas' report found that Mr. Tony's close relationship with the Bully Boy had damaged England. The report notes that he failed to sound alarms over the prisoners illegally held in Guantanamo; that he didn't object when Bully Boy came up with the "Axis of Evil" (Iraq, Iran and North Korea) even though the UK had diplomatic relations with Iran and North Korea and even though "there was no link between Saddam Hussein's Iraq and the atrocities of 9/11"; and that he ignored diplomatic measures in the rush to illegal war. For what?

The report grades Mr. Tony very poorly and notes: "The root failure, however, has been the inability to influence the Bush administration in any significant way despite the sacrifice -- military, political and financial - the the United Kingdom has made. . . . Tony Blair has learnt the hard way that loyalty in international politics counts for very little."


The report terms the illegal war a "disaster" and the decision to partner up with the Bully Boy on it "the defining moment of his whole premiership. It will shape his legacy -- for better or for worse -- for many years to come."

Or, as Jackie Ashley (Guardian of London) put it, "Well, Mr Tony, certainly lots of people have got angry about the Iraq war, which an ever-growing number of people believe was a wrong decision. [. . .] Look at yesterday's report from the respected thinktank, Chatham House, which described the war as 'a terrible mistake' which has damaged Britain's global influence. Listen to all those Labour MPs who are saying publicly (a little) and privately (a lot) that the decision to follow George Bush into war with Iraq was a terrible error. Yet Mr Tony still seems to think, as indeed he has implied before, that it doesn't really matter whether the decision was right or wrong - what was important was that he made a decision. It is a truly bizarre theory of government, with extremely frightening consequences."

And that is Mr. Tony's legacy. There is no victory lap to be had. Mr. Tony, your next appointment is with history and no amount of rinsing will wash from you the blood of those who have died in the illegal war you sold.
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