Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Tony Blair, the Icarus of Europe's Body Politic (Huh?)

Now that Australia's John Howard has been reelected, America's George W Bush has been reelected, and Denmark's Anders Fogh Rasmussen has been reelected, let's see how other members of the coalition of the willing have chances of being punished for siding with Uncle Sam (poodle-style) and choosing war over "peace". Silvio Berlusconi, it is true, is not doing too well at the moment, but let's see how Bush's foremost ally is faring.

There are two constants in MSM articles about Tony Blair . The first is that they all point out how much he has suffered because of his "ill-advised" decision to ignore British opinion polls and follow Dubya's arrogant, war-like policies.

In March the New York Times' Alan Cowell spoke of "how far Mr. Blair has fallen, Icarus-like, from 1997". According to an editorial in the same paper,

As everyone knows, Mr. Blair has made Britain an unwavering member of President Bush's coalition of the willing in Iraq, at his own political peril.
During the Labour Party's 2004 summit at Brighton in September, Le Monde's Jean-Paul Langellier reported how Blair had felt compelled to exercise "uncommon humility concerning Iraq" and the allies' inability to find any WMD. (The PM, though, refused to present any excuses for having caused the departure of Saddam.)
Tony Blair remains threatened in Brighton by a political defeat on Iraq.
In an IHT letter, an Englishman writes that
Nicholas D. Kristof states that "Tony Blair genuinely believes in the Iraq war." On behalf of my countrymen, I assure you that he is one of a small minority. Most of us are opposed to the war and want our troops to come home.
Back in July, Robert Harris specified that Blair had led the bulk of the Labour Party "into an unpopular and possibly illegal war", allying it "with the most reactionary American administration in living memory." And that was in the Daily Telegraph.

And on and on it goes, with reports on the war's impopularity, on the BBC, on officials' suicides, on the scandal of British torture in Iraq, and so on. (Here are some more horrid photos from the British troops in Iraq…)

It should perhaps be mentioned that this hand-wringing is not new. One year before the Iraq war (and barely six months after 911), the Economist's Bagehot investigated "what his critics take to be unquestioning loyalty to America".

Then, of course, there was this grumpy Brit ranting about Blair's hankering

after what, when all the rhetoric and fancy packaging is stripped away, is a client-state relationship with America.
Roy Denman goes on to ask, "does Tony Blair have to accept immediately every dot and comma of the American plan?" and "How can a Britain intent on being America's poodle ever fit [into the EU]?" So, is Blair Bush's poodle? No, Clinton's. Denman's article appeared in the International Herald Tribune in February …1998.

And over the years, the former representative of the European Commission in Washington has made it a habit of following the self-serving EU line (and its "every dot and comma") in which falling in step with the EU is an unqualified victory towards a brighter future while falling in step with Washington is nothing less than the darkest of ignominies.

Of course, this is only one double standard which, it turns out, to nobody's surprize, that many of Blair's critics (whether claiming to be objective or otherwise) are constantly applying. Including in the basic definition of democracy.

Thus, a Londoner asks in the IHT:

On the subject of democracy, is there any chance some of it may reach Britain in the near future? In the coming election, a thoroughly discredited, increasingly paranoid and repressive government, led by a quisling prime minister, who is deeply despised, is certain to win a third term of office. And there is absolutely no chance of an American withdrawal.
"Certain to win a third term of office."

Therein lies the rub, eh?

This brings us to the second constant in all MSM articles about the husband of Cherie Blair. Once they've explained what a mistake (or what a crime) the "thoroughly discredited, increasingly paranoid and repressive government" has made in ignoring the will of the British population (i.e., opinion polls) — something that often takes up more than half the article — they then comment almost nonchalently that the "deeply despised … quisling" is likely to win the elections — a task they sometimes get rid of in a sentence or two. Indeed, the Labour PM is slated to win an unprecedented third-time consecutive electoral victory.

Thus, in the New York Times article in which he compared Tony to Icarus, Cowell goes on to say that in the final analysis, "Few people here think that Mr. Blair and Labor are headed for defeat in the end."

As for Le Monde's Langellier, during the Tories' congress in October (one week after the Labour summit), he reported that Britain's opposition party is losing steam, that three voters out of four do not consider it ready to return to power, and, last but not least, that the party has nothing to gain by opposing Blair on the Iraq war.

Indeed, a Guardian poll places Iraq only at the 10th rank of British preoccupations (far behind health, education, and security), and in fact 49% of Britons (an increase of 9%, as opposed to 42%) want Her Majesty's 9,000 soldiers in Iraq to remain in place until the establishment of a "stable democracy". (Which, incidentally, puts the lie to the common claim mentioned in both IHT letters mentioned above.)

In fact, according to a Langellier column (written two weeks before his article about the above-mentioned Labour summit),

Tony Blair has the best chances of succeeding himself.
No wonder the piece is called Tony Blair Is Back! (By the way, Jean-Pierre Raffarin has disputed the charge that his British counterpart is simply running a vassal government to the United States.)

As for the Economist, an article mentioned positive views of Uncle Sam, something that is downplayed — if not ignored outright — in the MSM media, American and British as well as elsewhere. Specifically, it mentioned a poll on the eve of the president's visit to Britain in November 2003 that "showed a majority welcoming Mr Bush and believing that the war was justified, and that America is a force for good in the world. Labour voters are especially supportive." And that poll came from the Guardian!

Again, needless to say, its content goes totally against the grain of accepted wisdom, not least that of the two IHT readers mentioned above, especially the one from London who bemoaned the alleged absence of democracy in Britain, and the fact that Blair's predicted reelection victory means that the voters' desires aren't being respected.

As for the Telegraph article, Harris writes that

And yet none of it seems to matter. Blair enters his 11th year as Labour leader, Gordon Brown's grumblings notwithstanding, entirely secure from external threat; only his own appetite for the job remains in question.
This post could end here, but what is most interesting about Harris's piece is his conclusion that Blair's success is due to the fact that, in the final analysis, he is a Tory PM running a Labour government:
Little wonder, therefore, that the Tories are in despair as to how to deal with him. A Conservative prime minister presiding over a Labour government is a devilishly difficult coalition to defeat, and Mr Blair's staunchness in supporting America's war on Iraq — in contrast to Michael Howard's recent vacillations — has begun to find resonance in the most unlikely reaches of the political spectrum.

"On course to a comfortable victory at the next general election, prescient, brave, eloquent and in charge … a prime minister not just a party leader … if he wants to, he can win again" — this was not some Blairite lackey outlining a rosy future for New Labour, but the ex-editor of The Daily Telegraph — and official biographer of Margaret Thatcher [of all his predecessors, she is the one with whom Blair evidently has the closest rapport] — Charles Moore

Read how much truth there is to the
charge that Blair is America's poodle

Read some memorable Tony Blair quotes

Don't forget to thank Tony

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