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Commentary :: Environment
Tony Blair, Poster Boy
01 Oct 2004
A little humility can go a long way, unless it's too little... and too late.
As the presidential candidates in the U.S. prepare for their debate on Thursday, Great Britain's Prime Minister, Tony Blair, stood on Tuesday before his own Labor Party and offered what is being described as a "qualified apology" for having taken his country to war in Iraq under false pretenses. You see, the election on the other side of the pond isn't until next year, and Blair's popularity with his constituents is somewhat on hold as Iraq comes to be seen as more and more of a pitfall for the incumbent.

At their annual convention, Blair suddenly became very candid about all this, saying things that no doubt make President Bush grind his teeth. "The evidence about Saddam having actual biological and chemical weapons as opposed to the capability to develop them has turned out to be wrong," he said... BUT.

"The problem is, I can apologize for the information that turned out to be wrong, but I can't, sincerely at least, apologize for removing Saddam... The world is a better place with Saddam in prison, not in power." At least he knows what the problem is. Our government doesn't even seem to understand that there is a problem. Even so, from here it looks as if Blair will gain some support for his measured admission of responsibility. If Bush were to make a similar statement, his ravenous backers would view it as nothing short of a sign of weakness (the rest of us would think he'd either been stricken with an epiphany, or was off his medication).

While it would do him no good politically, Blair should get his lying ass on a plane and fly to the U.S., which is footing both the bill and the deployments in the war, and utter those same words to the American people. After all, it was flawed British intelligence that wormed its way into Bush's 2003 State of the Union address (those infamous sixteen words, you recall). That's the beauty of the beast that is politics, both here and in the country we crushed for our Independence. All you have to do is get up there and say you're sorry, and nearly all will be forgiven. Humility, at least in merry old England, is still an honorable trait in a person, especially a person in power.

Tony Blair did not mention the two British soldiers who were killed by Iraqi insurgents on the day he gave his speech. He did not mention the weapons expert who allegedly killed himself over the matter of faulty intelligence. He failed to revisit any of his own wild claims about Saddam's ghost of an arsenal, which he probably knew were overblown to begin with. He certainly did not mention the fact that widespread resistance is rampant across nearly all of Iraq at this point, with three thousand mortars having rained down on Baghdad since April.

He did try to distance himself from George W. Bush somewhat, denying that he had been "pandering" to the world's superpower in the prewar gauntlet run. That may be, but he certainly has learned from Dubya what to do when cornered - recite the letters "Nine-Eleven." Of course, nothing happened in Great Britain on that day, but nonetheless, Blair stated that such was the impetus for the way he now views his own nation and the other nations of the world.

The slaughter of Israel's Olympic athletes in Munich in 1972, the bombing of a Pan Am airliner over Scotland, the hijacking of the Achille Lauro cruise ship and the Oklahoma City bombing, then, were minor temblors in Great Britain's overall seismic relationship to global terrorism - not enough to warrant any real attention. Perhaps Margaret Thatcher and John Major, conservatives as the British have come to know them, were simply asleep at the switch, or were shallower in their convictions than is Tony Blair. And Northern Ireland, well, that's just another domestic issue that demands ignoring, like jobs and health care and the economy.

As an American opposed to the war in Iraq, I'm personally enjoying watching Blair squirm before his Party. In doing so, he becomes the poster boy for flip-floppers - wanting (needing) to be recalcitrant, knowing he'll lose his job if he isn't convincing enough, but not wanting to say he was wrong even though he (and the world) knows he was. It's a special place for him to be.

Bush would never find himself in such a predicament, because the conservatives who lionize him are no less arrogant than he is. They wear it like a merit badge. Surrounded by novices and yes-men who came into office thinking Anthrax was a metal band that should have stickers put on its CD covers, Bush is insulated in a way that Blair is not; the British apparently ask more of their government than we do.

Therefore, the only way for Americans to get such genuflection from our own leader is simply to fire him. That's precisely the scenario Tony Blair is hoping to avoid next year. Bully for him.
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