Sunday, September 5, 2010

The Poodle Speaks - "namby-pamby peacenikery."

The New York Times

September 4, 2010

The Poodle Speaks



Even in the thick of a historical tragedy, Tony Blair never seemed like a Shakespearean character.

He’s too rabbity brisk, too doggedly modern. The most proficient spinner since Rumpelstiltskin lacks introspection. The self-described “manipulator” is still in denial about being manipulated.

The Economist’s review of “A Journey,” the new autobiography of the former British prime minister, says it sounds less like Disraeli and Churchill and more like “the memoirs of a transatlantic business tycoon.”

Yet in the section on Iraq, Blair loses his C.E.O. fluency and engages in tortured arguments, including one on how many people really died in the war, and does a Shylock lament.

He says he does not regret serving as the voice for W’s gut when the inexperienced American princeling galloped into war with Iraq. As for “the nightmare that unfolded” — giving the lie to all their faux rationales and glib promises — Tony wants everyone to know he has feelings.

“Do they really suppose I don’t care, don’t feel, don’t regret with every fibre of my being the loss of those who died?” he asks of his critics.

In Iraq, marking the transition to the “post-combat mission” for American troops, Defense Secretary Robert Gates was eloquent with an economy of words.

Asked by a reporter if Iraq would have to be a democratic state for the war to benefit U.S. national security, Gates cut to core: “The problem with this war for, I think, many Americans is that the premise on which we justified going to war proved not to be valid — that is, Saddam having weapons of mass destruction.” He added, candidly: “It will always be clouded by how it began.”

Iraq will be “a work in progress for a long time,” Gates said, and, “how it all weighs in the balance over time, I think remains to be seen.”

Blair writes that he thought he was right and that he and W. rid the world of a tyrant. But he winds up with a bitter anecdote: “I still keep in my desk a letter from an Iraqi woman who came to see me before the war began. She told me of the appalling torture and death her family had experienced having fallen foul of Saddam’s son. She begged me to act. After the fall of Saddam she returned to Iraq. She was murdered by sectarians a few months later. What would she say to me now?”

There is no apology, but Blair sounds like a man with a guilty conscience.

He concedes that the invasion of Iraq was more about symbols than immediate security, about sending “a message of total clarity to the world,” after 9/11, that defying the will of the international community would no longer be tolerated.

In other words, Osama bin Laden had emasculated America, and America had to hit back, and did so against a country that had nothing to do with him or 9/11.

Blair did not want to be W.’s peripheral poodle. He wanted to “stand tall internationally” with Britain’s main ally and not “wet our knickers,” to use a Blair phrase, when the going got tough (or delusional).

Blair fantasized that Saddam might someday give W.M.D. to terrorists. This, even though the dictator didn’t like terrorists because they were impossible to control, and even though, as Blair admits, (the secular) Saddam and (the fundamentalist) Osama were on opposite sides. (When Saudi Arabia felt threatened by Saddam’s invasion of Kuwait, Osama offered to fight the Iraqi dictator.)

It is criminally na├»ve, given the billions spent on intelligence, that Blair and W. muffed the postwar planning because they never perceived what Blair now acknowledges as “the true threat”: outside interference by Al Qaeda and Iran. So the reasoning of the man known in England as Phony Tony or Bliar amounts to this: They had to invade Iraq because Saddam could hypothetically hook up with Al Qaeda. But they didn’t properly prepare for the insurgency because they knew that Saddam had no link to Al Qaeda.

He knew Dick Cheney had a grandiose plan to remake the world and no patience for “namby-pamby peacenikery.”

“He would have worked through the whole lot, Iraq, Syria, Iran,” as well as “Hezbollah, Hamas, etc.,” Blair writes of Cheney, adding: “He was for hard, hard power. No ifs, no buts, no maybes. We’re coming after you, so change or be changed.”

The religious Blair fancied himself a conviction politician who had intervened for good in Kosovo and Sierra Leone and would do so again in Iraq. So he did not, as he said others did, “reach for the garlic and crucifixes” when Dick hatched his sulfurous schemes.

If he had challenged W. and Cheney instead of enabling them, Blair might have stopped the farcical rush to war. Instead, he became the midwife for a weaker Iraq that is no longer a counterweight to Iran — which actually is a nuclear threat — and that seems doomed to be run one day by another brutal strongman.

Maybe Blair should have realized the destructive Oedipal path W. was on. At their first meeting at Camp David, W. screened “Meet the Parents.”

Copyright 2010 The New York Times Company

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"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs


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