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Archive for the tag “Tony Blair”

Mission accomplished

A lot of people mocked George Bush when he proclaimed “mission accomplished” after the US invasion of Iraq.

Well, perhaps it was a bit premature, but time is proving him right, as these reports show.

Robert Fisk: Exodus. The changing map of the Middle East:

Across the Middle East, it is the same story of despairing – sometimes frightened – Christian minorities, and of an exodus that reaches almost Biblical proportions. Almost half of Iraq’s Christians have fled their country since the first Gulf War in 1991, most of them after the 2004 invasion – a weird tribute to the self-proclaimed Christian faith of the two Bush presidents who went to war with Iraq – and stand now at 550,000, scarcely 3 per cent of the population. More than half of Lebanon’s Christians now live outside their country. Once a majority, the nation’s one and a half million Christians, most of them Maronite Catholics, comprise perhaps 35 per cent of the Lebanese. Egypt’s Coptic Christians – there are at most around eight million – now represent less than 10 per cent of the population.

The invasion was calculated to destroy Christian communities and to make sure that radical Islamists had more say in the running of the country, and that is being achieved.

Tariq Aziz: villain or victim? – Opinion – Al Jazeera English:

So what really lies behind the decision by Iraq’s high tribunal to pass a death sentence on Tariq Aziz, long serving Iraqi foreign minister and number two to Saddam Hussein? The decision has caused shock waves around the World, largely because the sentence has the feel of vengeance to it. The Iraqi High Tribunal took what must be a highly unusual step in effectively rescinding the earlier judgments against him. For Tariq Aziz’s twenty seven year sentence has effectively been reduced to a matter of months by his death sentence. Aziz has now been found guilty of “the persecution of Islamic parties”, whose leaders were assassinated, imprisoned or forced into exile.

Now I don’t think harrassing leaders of Islamic parties (or anyone else) is a good policy, but nor do I think that the assassination, imprisonment or sending into exile of Christians is a good thing either, and that is one of the chief “accomplishments” of George Bush’s mission. Replacing one evil regime with another is really not a useful exercise.

Tariq Aziz: villain or victim?:

Tariq Aziz is of course a Chaldean Christian, who along with the Assyrian Christians, have suffered terribly since the War, with more than half of their number now living in exile. Being the only Christian in a secular Ba’athist dictatorship was a factor apparently exploited by Saddam, with veiled threats being made periodically to Aziz’s family. I remember being in Iraq and hearing that Aziz feared Saddam, and that he was only too aware of the fragility of his family’s safety. Which is not to excuse Aziz for “following orders”, but it may go some way to explain why Aziz stayed in Baghdad even when it was obvious to him, if not Saddam, that America and Britain were deadly serious about invading.

The destruction of Christian communities in the Middle East surely cannot be described as an unintended consequence of the invasion. It was both forseeable and foreseen, and therefore must have been intended. It is an integral part of the Bush-Blair legacy. It is said that one should not ascribe to malice what can be explained by ignorance and stupidity, but the leaders of the most powerful nation on earth cannot have been that stupid…. can they?

New Statesman – Blair must be arrested

New Statesman – Blair must be arrested:

Now consider the Proceeds of Crime Act. Blair conspired in and executed an unprovoked war of aggression against a defenceless country, of a kind the Nuremberg judges in 1946 described as the ‘paramount war crime’. This has caused, according to scholarly studies, the deaths of more than a million people, a figure that exceeds the Fordham University estimate of deaths in the Rwandan genocide.

In addition, four million Iraqis have been forced to flee their homes and a majority of children have descended into malnutrition and trauma. Cancer rates near the cities of Fallujah, Najaf and Basra (the latter ‘liberated’ by the British) are now higher than those at Hiroshima. ‘UK forces used about 1.9 metric tonnes of depleted uranium ammunition in the Iraq war in 2003,’ the Defence Secretary, Liam Fox, told parliament on 22 July. A range of toxic ‘anti-personnel’ weapons, such as cluster bombs, was employed by British and US forces.

Hat-tip to Neil Clark: who notes

Let’s just hope that when Blair is finally in the dock, he doesn’t come up against a judge like Judge Griffith-Jones.’Started an illegal war which led to the deaths of 1m people’? ‘Took part in the illegal bombing of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia as well?’
Well, you have a rather respectable background and you’re not a lower-class yobbo so I’ll only give you three months in jail.’

In May 1999 someone set off nail bombs in various places in London, and Tony Blair went on record as denouncing this as “barbaric”. And at the same time there were news reports that Father Milivoje Ciric, who left a special service in his church to help victims of a Nato bombing, has been decapitated by a follow-up blast. This is a typical terrorist tactic — set off a bomb, and when a crowd gathers to help the injured, kill even more people with a second blast. You can read about the incident here, and see pictures here.

The nail bombs, of course, were barbaric. They were designed to cause the maximum injuries. But Natos cluster bombs were designed to do exactly the same thing, only far more efficiently. Look at the pictures, and see Tony Blair’s handiwork. Yes, it is truly barbaric.

As the playwright Harold Pinter noted on his web site, quoting the Socialist Review, – Serbia and Kosovo:

When the bomb went off in Old Compton Street, Mr Blair described it as a barbaric act. When cluster bombs go off in Serbian marketplaces, cutting children into pieces, we are told that such an act is being taken on behalf of ‘civilisation against barbarism’. Mr Blair is clearly having a wonderful time. But if Britain remains America’s poodle, she is now a vicious and demented poodle. The Nato action is in breach of its own charter and outside all recognised parameters of international law. Nato is destroying the infrastructure of a sovereign state, murdering hundreds of civilians, creating widespread misery and desolation, and doing immeasurable damage to the environment.

Barbaric? Yes. But as the prophet Nathan said to King David, “Thou art the man.” (I Sam 12).

But there is one crucial difference, for it is recorded that King David repented, but Tony Blair has not.

Tony Blair pushed Gordon Brown to hold Iraq war inquiry in private

Tony Blair pushed Gordon Brown to hold Iraq war inquiry in private: The Observer:

Tony Blair urged Gordon Brown to hold the independent inquiry into the Iraq war in secret because he feared that he would be subjected to a ‘show trial’ if it were opened to the public the Observer can reveal.

The revelation that the former prime minister – who led Britain to war in March 2003 – had intervened will fuel the anger of MPs peers military leaders and former civil servants who were appalled by Brown’s decision last week to order the investigation to be conducted behind closed doors.

Could this be the same Tony Blair? Blair Threatens Milosevic With War Crimes Trial

Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic will be held accountable for any further war crimes in Kosovo British Prime Minister Tony Blair said yesterday. Blair s threat was the first time any Western leader has singled out Milosevic for possible war crimes committed by forces under his command. Blair ‘President Milosevic and his commanders must … understand that NATO will not stand by in the face of renewed repression in Kosovoor atrocities like the one we witnessed in Racak. Nor can the International War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague’ Michael Evens London Times 9 Mar .

Could it be that the man who wanted others held accountable for their alleged warmongering is shying away from accountability himself? And remember that the “Racak atrocity” was shown to be a fabrication, unlike Tony Blair’s very real involvement in the invasion of Iraq.

It seems that the belligerent Mr Blair made a habit of lying to take his country into war.

Politics and pessimism

So it looks as though Barack Obama is going to win the US Presidential election, and that the Democratic Party in the US will have a majority in the legislature as well.

No doubt his supporters will be elated.

For myself, I’m relieved, rather than happy.

I’m relieved that the nightmare of an unpredictable warmongering president of the US threatening to start World War III that has dominated the last eight years may be over.

I think there are many others who feel the same way.

There is widespread relief around the world that the Bush years are almost over.

But why not elation?

I suppose for me the reason is that history has shown that the Democratic Party in the US is no less inclined to war-mongering than the Republican Party. It’s just slightly less lunatic and unpredictable about it.

Bush (father and son) may have bombed Baghdad, but I cannot forget that it was Clinton, a Democrat, who bombed Belgrade.

And it was his colleague Madeleine Albright who forced war on Yugoslavia with just as much manic determination as George Bush II forced it on Iraq, and it was she, who, when asked if the lives of half a million Iraqi children was a price worth paying for American hegemony in the Middle East, said “We think the price is worth it.”

But in another respect, one can hope for better things. Under Bill Clinton’s Demcratic Party the US at least had balanced budgets, while the Republican administration of George Bush spent like there was no tomorrow, and have left the mess for Barack Obama to pick up. Will eight years be enough to sort out the mess that George Bush left?

So I hope Barack Obama lives up to the hopes that have been placed in him. I think back to the time when Tony Blair was elected as Prime Minister of the UK, and the hopes he aroused. Like Obama, he was young and dynamic and was a new broom promising change. But in the end he was a disappointment, and turned out to be as much a warmonger as Bill Clinton and George Bush combined.

Of course young dynamic leaders are attractive, but age is not necessarily a barrier. In South Africa Nelson Mandela was the best President or Prime Minister the coutnry has ever had since the union was formed in 1910, and he was also, at the time he was elected, probably the oldest.

His successors seem determined to destroy his legacy by squabbling over the spoils of office in bitter personal rivalries and factions. It is sad to see the ANC destroying itself like that.

There’s much talk about Mbhazima Shilowa and Terror Lekota forming a new party, which has been dubbed “Shikota” by journalists. But they somehow don’t bring as much hope as Barack Obama. I wonder how much they are driven by principle, and how much by sour grapes. Shilowa at least had the vision of an integrated transport system for Gauteng, and the progress in building the new commuter train line between Johannesburg and Pretoria is a tribute to his vision and energy. So perhaps there is some hope there.

Well, I hope Barack Obama will live up to the hopes of his supporters. I hope he will not start any new wars, and that he will succeed in bringing an end to the ones started by his predecessors. But somehow I don’t think history is on his side. Undoing the damage done by George Bush in the US and in the world may take a lot more than eight years, more likely eight generations.

See also Abstractions: Remember, remember, the 5th of November…, with some interesting links.

Mbeki: ‘Thank you and goodbye’

The Prez has gone.

President Thabo Mbeki resigned under pressure from his own party, after hanging on for nine months after he was replaced as ANC president at its conference at Polokwane last summer.

The Times – Mbeki: ‘Thank you and goodbye’:

Announcing his resignation as president last night, Mbeki defended his legacy, which suffered a major blow when a Pietermaritzburg High Court judge ruled that he and his cabinet had interfered with the work of the independent prosecuting authority.

‘We have never done this and therefore never compromised the right of the NPA to decide whom it wished to prosecute or not to prosecute. This applies equally to the painful matter relating to the court proceedings against the president of the ANC, comrade Jacob Zuma,’ Mbeki said.

Other bloggers have commented ad nauseam, so why am I adding my chirp? I suppose it’s because of the reference to his legacy, and because the manner of his going is reminiscent of the departure of Tony Blair last year, which invites comparisons.

Thabo Mbeki and Tony Blair were pretty much political contemporaries, though in character they were very different. Tony Blair was more extrovert, Thabo Mbeki was always more taciturn. But they both dominated the politics of their countries from 1997-2007 — though Mbeki only became president in 1999 he was nevertheless taking a more active role in the couple of years before that as Nelson Mandela neared retirement.

Both made an impact on foreign affairs, though in different ways. Tony Blair was a belligerent warmonger, and led his country into three foreign wars — in Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and Iraq. Thabo Mbeki was more of a peacemaker, trying to bring peace to troubled areas of the continent, though his extraordinary patience with dictators like Robert Mugabe did not seem to produce much fruit.

When I looked at the leaders of other countries, like George Bush and Tony Blair, I was glad we had Thabo Mbeki.

At home, however, he was far more ruthless, and just how ruthless is only now beginning to be revealed. He was ruthless in eliminating potential rivals — like Tokyo Sexwale, Cyril Ramaphosa and Jacob Zuma. When Sexwale and Ramaphosa abandoned politics for business I at first thought they were selling out, and showing that they were more concerned with making money than nation-building. But it now seems that they were keeping quiet out of loyalty to their ANC struggle comrades, and preferred not to cause a split. Only now has it been revealed to those outside the inner circle how they were forced out of politics.

One day historians will have to add up the pros and cons of Thabo Mbeki’s legacy, but on the whole I’m inclined to be sympathetic.

For me the most memorable moment of his career, and perhaps symbolic of the positive aspect of it, was when he acted out of character, threw aside his usual taciturnity, and joined in the celebrations of South Africa’s victory in the rugby world cup last year. The team hoisted him on their shoulders and that moment captured the best of his presidency and the best of South Africa and South Africa’s hopes. I can’t imagine the English team doing that to Gordon Brown if they had won.

It didn’t last, of course. The rugby team came home to acrimonious in-fighting and the dismissal of the successful coach, and Thabo Mbeki came back to much the same thing. But whatever his faults, and they are many, history can’t take that away from his legacy. It was a glimpse of what might have been, and in some sense still is.

Mbeki — world’s worst President?

John Carlin, writing in the Guardian Unlimited, asks “Is Mandela’s heir one of the world’s worst presidents?” and after praising Mandela goes on to say:

Pity, then, about his successor, Thabo Mbeki, who chose the month when Mandela is immortalised in bronze to remind us of just how far short he falls of the best his country has to offer; how strong a candidate he is to rank, with his friend Robert Mugabe, among the worst Presidents in the world.

That’s really something, in a world in which George Bush and Robert Mugabe are still going strong. Of course Tony Blair was a Prime Minister, not a president, though his style seemed to have a lot in common with P.W. Botha’s imperial presidency. Tony Blair participated enthusiastically in not one, not two, but three wars of aggression, and Carlin has the unmitigated gall to ask if Thabo Mbeki is the worst president in the world?

But since Blair has retired, he’s out of the running. Bush and Mugabe are running neck and neck for first place in the race for the title “Worst president in the world”, so let’s leave them out of it.

I look around the world at presidents and prime ministers in various countries, and ask myself, “Would I rather have X as our president than Thabo Mbeki?” And in most cases, my answer is “No”. For all his faults, Thabo Mbeki is much better than many of the heads of government of other countries.

Who would I rather have?

Gordon Brown? John Howard? Vladimir Putin? Hugo Chavez? Nouri al-Maliki? Omar Hasan Ahmad al-Bashir? Kostas Karamanlis? Angela Merkel? Levy Mwanawasa? Joseph Kabila? Romano Prodi? Guillaume Soro? Alexander Lukashenko? Ali Khamenei? Pervez Musharraf? Ehud Olmert?

I don’t think so!

Does Carlin seriously suggest that Mbeki is worse than all of those?

Mbeki has many faults, most notably his “see no evil” approach to Zimbabwe and his vacillating Aids policy, but he hasn’t yet started any wars of aggression, like Bush, or tried to suppress the opposition by force, like Mugabe.

But I’ve noticed this morning that Sky News is also trying to do a hatchet job on Mbeki, implying that he is urging people to put their faith in quack remedies rather than antiretroviral drugs. What I find interesting is that they don’t provide any evidence of their allegations — if they had a sound bite or a video clip of Thabo Mbeki saying this, it might be more convincing than the unsupported assertions that they have been making.

So I wonder — why do the Brit media suddenly have it in for Thabo Mbeki?

Thanks to Leo Africanus for the tip, though unfortunately he has disabled “Link to this post”.

Vorster rules – in Britain!

Banning, detention without trial and other features of Vorster’s South Africa are on their way to Britain, if Gordon Brown has his way, and 83% of Sky News viewers approve of 90-day detention, according to what I saw on the TV a few minutes ago.

Back in 1963, when Vorster introduced 90-day detention in South Africa, the British Labour Party was one of the outspoken opponents of such violations of human rights, and generally supported the anti-apartheid movement. Who would have thought, back then, that the day would come when South Africa would have a constitution that protected human rights, and the British Labour Party would be seeking to turn Britain into a fascist state?

Of course such measures are necessary to protect law-abiding members of the public against terrorism (that’s exactly what Vorster said). But perhaps that would not have been necessary of Tony Blair had not led Britain into so many wars, and terrorised civilian populations in Yugoslavia, Iraq and other places by bombing them. He should have heeded the warnings of Mrs Bedonebyasyoudid in Charles Kingsley’s The water babies.

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