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Backing Bush wins no votes and no thanks
Evening Standard ^ | September 4, 2002 | Andrew Rawnsley

Posted on 09/04/2002 5:00:15 AM PDT by ejdrapes

Backing Bush wins no votes and no thanks

by Andrew Rawnsley.

Hell no, they won't go. The Europeans, the Gulf states, Nelson Mandela, the Russians, the Chinese, even American Republican grandees, they are all coming out against the White House War Party. The number of foreign friends on whom George W Bush can call is rapidly shrivelling into the smallest club in the world, a club with a membership of just one. Whereas everyone else with any sort of clout is expending their energy warning the United States against striking at Iraq, when support for a war is declining even in the United States, yesterday Tony Blair made his most passionate appeal yet for the imperative of dealing with Saddam Hussein.

There is something rather admirable about the Prime Minister's willingness to put himself on such an isolated limb. Never again can he be stereotyped as a politician governed solely by craven adherence to the focus group and the opinion poll. The latest poll of British opinion produces a majority of almost three to one against any military enterprise in Iraq.

The more loudly the drums of war are beaten, the more vociferous are the regiments of opposition within the Labour Party. Even John Burton, the ultra-loyalist agent in the Prime Minister's own constituency, the man who first talent-spotted Mr Blair when he was a London barrister looking for a safe seat, even Mr Burton reports that party members in Sedgefield are not convinced by their MP.

The majority of Mr Blair's Cabinet share the widespread apprehension that any American venture into Iraq would backfire with the most catastrophic consequences for the region and the world. The Prime Minister is currently allied with Dubya and Iain Duncan Smith against most of the Labour Party: not a course which would be recommended to him by any sage political strategist.

Tony Blair is not an idiot, he is not a masochist and he is not mad. So there is only one persuasive explanation why he has placed himself in such an exposed place. I think he is sincere when he says that he believes that it is simply "the right thing to do".

He must be convinced that Saddam Hussein represents a clear and present danger so great that it is worth hazarding many of the goals of his premiership - perhaps even the premiership itself - for the cause of prosecuting action against the Iraqi dictator.

One certain consequence of war is a surge in the price of oil which would threaten to tip the already fragile economies of the West into recession. The growth forecasts upon which the Government depends to deliver better public services would go up in smoke - and, with them, Labour's central strategy for re-election.

A war in Iraq would also add a further formidable handicap to Mr Blair's mission to take Britain into the European single currency. Not because a war would necessarily-have much influence on voter opinion about the euro; more because any Prime Minister can only do one big thing at a time. It's not humanly possible for Mr Blair to be simultaneously engaged in hostilities against Saddam and a battle for the euro.

MR Blair's willingness to be so unstintingly supportive of this White House is all the more remarkable when he has received so little from the Americans in reciprocation. His private appeals to George Bush to attend the Earth Summit were rudely snubbed. Despite the large concessions already made to the United States, America still won't commit to the International Court to bring war criminals to justice.

While the Prime Minister bends all his powers of persuasion to the effort to construct support for action against Saddam, the Americans seem pathologically determined to alienate their allies and hand ammunition to their opponents.

The first step towards buildingany kind of international legitimacy for an assault on Iraq is to get a mandate from the United Nations.

By pouring so much scorn on that notion, the American hawks have allowed the Iraqis to portray the issue of weapons inspections as a pretext for a military attack which the United States was always determined to launch in any circumstances.

The case for a pre-emptive strike on Iraq could be persuasive, but it rests on proving that the policy of deterrence and containment has failed. There may be compelling evidence that Saddam has or is near to acquiring nuclear weapons, but if such evidence exists, the Americans have yet to provide it.

Mr Blair implicitly conceded that the propaganda war against Saddam has been woefully mishandled with the promise that the long-awaited "dossier" against the Iraqi dictator will now be published in a few weeks' time.

His own Government has been extremely disciplined about containing its divisions. In so much as any ministerial dissent has surfaced, it has only done so by nod and wink.

No one in the British Government- - even Clare Short has managed to restrain herself - has let rip with their hostility to the Bush administration. From the other side of the Atlantic comes a cacophony of confusion about the intentions of the White House.

It is hard to stand shoulder to shoulder with someone who keeps barging about all over the place.

The effort of doing so has put the British leader in a posture where he can be widely depicted, in his own country and abroad, as Mr Bush's poodle. Wounded as he clearly is by that suggestion, the Prime Minister continues to offer himself as America's most steadfast friend and ambassador.

In the immediate aftermath of the attack on the Twin Towers, Tony Blair told George Bush: "We will be with you to the last." This is proving to be more literally true than Mr Blair surely imagined at the time that he uttered that rhetorical flourish.

When self-interest and selfpreservation would counsel a much more prudently detached approach from the Prime Minister, his willingness to make a principle of standing alone with such a lonely President is highly creditable. As it is also deeply perilous.


TOPICS: News/Current Events
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1 posted on 09/04/2002 5:00:15 AM PDT by ejdrapes
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To: ejdrapes; dighton; Poohbah; MadIvan; aculeus; Orual; general_re
Lest anyone forget, there is one country that is unequivocably and vocally pro-American, willing and ready to leave the trenches with us, cross no-man's-land, and assault the enemy wherever they are ... and it isn't Britain.

It's Australia.

2 posted on 09/04/2002 5:03:57 AM PDT by BlueLancer
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To: BlueLancer
Lest anyone forget, there is one country that is unequivocably and vocally pro-American, willing and ready to leave the trenches with us, cross no-man's-land, and assault the enemy wherever they are ... and it isn't Britain.

Wrong. Rawnsley is a left winger, and is writing as such. Would you like us, in comparison, to take Molly Ivins as gospel for what you lot think?

Regards, Ivan

3 posted on 09/04/2002 5:05:34 AM PDT by MadIvan
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To: BlueLancer
aussie BUMP!
4 posted on 09/04/2002 5:09:45 AM PDT by Honcho
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To: BlueLancer
Britain will be solidly in our corner when the time comes.
5 posted on 09/04/2002 5:12:52 AM PDT by CharacterCounts
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To: MadIvan
Sorry, MI, but I wasn't referring to the article or its writer. I was talking about the atmosphere of support in general. Australia stands with us, publically and vocally, against the ICC, the Kyoto Treaty, and the like. While I am most grateful for the support of the Tories and Tony Blair, it is disheratening to hear that 60+ percent of the British polled don't believe action against Iraq is needed or that Saddam Hussein isn't a potential threat. Tony Blair hasn't yet faced an open rebellion in the Labor party over Iraq ... when the balloon goes up, he will, and it will be interesting to see which way the government jumps.

I'm all in favor of the Pax Americana/Britannia, but would only wish that more credit was given to the Anglo-Saxons down-under and to their unqualified support, and would redefine my terms as the Pax Americana/Britannia/Australius.

6 posted on 09/04/2002 5:14:25 AM PDT by BlueLancer
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To: BlueLancer
While I am most grateful for the support of the Tories and Tony Blair, it is disheratening to hear that 60+ percent of the British polled don't believe action against Iraq is needed or that Saddam Hussein isn't a potential threat.

There is a reason for that; the media in Britain, much like your media, has gone into overdrive about saying why we shouldn't attack Iraq, meanwhile the political leadership has hitherto been silent as to why we should.

Similarly, this is why poll numbers in America have fallen as well; though Bush has spoken more on the subject than Blair. This should not be read as a lack of commitment to the alliance.

Regards, Ivan

7 posted on 09/04/2002 5:17:23 AM PDT by MadIvan
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To: ejdrapes
The Europeans, the Gulf states, Nelson Mandela, the Russians, the Chinese, even American Republican grandees, they are all coming out against the White House War Party

Is it just me, or does it seem like everyone needs a little refresher: The United States was attacked one year ago. In assessing our options, the powers that be have determined that a good way to avoid future attacks is stop those willing and able to perpetrate them.

Now, I'm willing to listen to the people who say we shouldn't do it. I happen to disagree with them. But Bush, and his supporters, didn't start this thing.

8 posted on 09/04/2002 5:21:27 AM PDT by Mr. Bird
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To: MadIvan
One of the things that must be understood in this prewar period is the sheer volume of noise put out by the Left and the Hestitation crowd.

The average Brit, once the case is laid out to him, will support his Prime Minister. The case must be made, however. Right now, the megaphones are held by the likes of Polly Toynbee and John Pilger. Soon, with an assist of information provided by MI6 and the CIA, Mr. Blair will begin to dominate and shape the debate within Britain.

What is manifestly not understood by this columnist is why Tony Blair would stick his neck out like this if he knew facts from various intelligence services that were keeping him up nights. The New Blair is the soul of caution. His Government has none of the revolutionary sense of Reform that Roy Jenkins was able to engineer in the Labour Party of old (producing results that many Britons, and certainly most Tories, probably consider baleful after the passage of time). Rather, there is a sense that Tony Blair governs by small steps in his Second Government. The first Blair Government was punctuated by the self-righteous act from time to time. The handgun ban in the wake of Dunblane seemed the most telling example of a rush to enact law; devolution (except for England, of course) was another.

When the planes struck the Twin Towers, Blair's Second Government was tied up in the minutiae of trying to make the Trains Run on Time at the National Health Service. Further, there were rumblings within the Trades Union Congress. The various General Secretaries had been good boys during Blair's first Government. Now, they wanted payback. Usamaa bin Laden stole the headlines, and the agenda, but only for awhile. The TUC is back, however. In addition to their agitation, the Firefighter's Union is about to strike.

Now comes Iraq. Many members of Labour and the TUC are in open revolt, dismissive of Blair as George W. Bush's "poodle". Bush has approached this war without a great sense of nuance that the left so enjoys, and that is what irritates many in Europe. Bush understands, and Blair apparently does as well, that the issue is rather simple once the billingsgate is stripped away: the West will either allow a megalomaniacal psychotic like Saddam Hussein to have the bomb, with all that entails, or the West will not. Period.

Crucial to this effort will be the upcoming Labour Party Conference, in Blackpool, iirc. That is where the Back Bench will try to stage a revolt (with an assist from a few ambitious Ministers). Part of the reason the Americans are ready to go public with what we have as early as next week that Blair needs help convincing his people and a larger European audience that Bush simply can't reach.

Bush himself is in far better shape domestically. Basically, given what he has, Bush must simply pursue the civic ritual, vitally important in our Constitutional framework, of summoning the Congress to debate the issue of war or peace. This campaign will be vital in the larger war against terrorism in particular and Islamic Fascism in general, and the nation must be presented with the task at hand. I am very confident that once Bush and Blair have made their respective cases, the public will see the necessity to do what we must do.

Be Seeing You,

Chris

9 posted on 09/04/2002 5:52:22 AM PDT by section9
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To: ejdrapes
"I don't give a shit, what the Europeans think."

George W. Bush

"There is something rather admirable about the Prime Minister's willingness to put himself on such an isolated limb."

Tony Blair has joined with the 800 lb gorilla, while the mice in the field are squeaking complaints. Who's isolated?

World cuts itself off from US, America doesn't notice

10 posted on 09/04/2002 6:05:34 AM PDT by Kermit
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To: Kermit
"t's not humanly possible for Mr Blair to be simultaneously engaged in hostilities against Saddam and a battle for the euro. "

This nugget came to the author while he reached for the TP.

But hey, if helping us remove a tyrant with WMD keeps the Brits from going to the Euro, I am all for it.
11 posted on 09/04/2002 6:29:42 AM PDT by Yehuda
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To: Kermit
There is now no longer a choice but to go to war.

America has committed itself to this endeavor and must now follow through. There is no turning back. We would be weak and spineless to do so. The world must be shown that Iraq is a nation of terror and we are not messing around. When Sadamm's head is on a stick and the proof is then revealed to the world, the USA will again be proven to be the leader in the FREE world. Who cares how loud the hemp wearing, goatee, green freaks scream. When tens of thousands die from some bacteria, we will all be sorry that the USA listened to some jerks. There is no choice. Get ready.

12 posted on 09/04/2002 6:55:24 AM PDT by Afronaut
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