boom for Bush and Blair
NEW YORK- When Tony Blair became an unrepentant
US ally following in the dangerously close footsteps of the Americans
in their overseas military misadventures, the British Prime Minister
was described as a political lapdog of the White House. Perhaps
a more biting comment came from an American comedian who said, rather
sarcastically, that Blair would never have a sun-tanned skin because
he lives perpetually in the dark shadow of the US president.
But last week was a week of political contrition
for the military sins committed in Iraq. At a joint news conference
in Washington DC, the British Prime Minister and the US President,
long joined at the hip, admitted the rash of mistakes before and
after the invasion of Iraq. While conceding their collective bungling,
they still refused to admit their monumental blunder in invading
|President Bush greets Britain's Prime Minister Tony Blair,
right, on Thursday as he arrives at the White House to meet
with Bush. The two have been besieged by complaints about their
wartime leadership and are expected to talk about Iraq's future
and the role of their troops there. AP
Back in 2003, Bush was so confident of a "cake
walk" victory in Iraq that he challenged the Iraqi insurgents
to "bring it on": an American macho phrase daring the
enemy into battle. At the White House last week, Bush said he regretted
throwing that challenge. And three years later, the insurgents are
still holding the upper hand turning Iraq into a Vietnam-like military
quagmire for the Americans. The death toll of both American soldiers
and Iraqi civilians has kept mounting into the thousands.
Bush was also repentant that he was determined
to get Osama bin Laden "dead or alive:" reminiscent of
posters outside the sheriff's office in gun-blazing Hollywood Westerns.
Both challenges projected an aggressive pride — backed by
firepower — that was staple of cowboy movies. As the New York
Times said, the outside world got the impression that Bush was "a
cowboy commander in chief" of the United States.
"Kind of tough talk, you know, that sent
the wrong signal to the people," Bush sheephishly admitted
to reporters. "I learned some lessons about expressing myself
maybe in a little more sophisticated manner." Bush also said
one the biggest military mistakes was the mistreatment and humiliation
of Iraqi prisoners in the notorious Abu Ghraib prison outside Baghdad.
The images that were splashed across newspapers and TV screens throughout
the world did irreparable damage both to the US and the American
Irene Khan, Secretary-General of Amnesty International
(AI), told reporters last week: "What we are looking at is
the situation of the Iraqi people, the human rights of Iraqi people,
and whether those that are responsible for upholding them are doing
so, and that means looking at the Iraqi government, looking at the
coalition forces, US, UK and others, and looking at the armed groups
in Iraq. In every case there has been a dismal failure to protect
the human rights of Iraqi people."
Speaking during the launch of AI's 2005 annual
report in London, she warned that the US war on terror does not
justify violations of human rights and the rule of law. The US keeps
arguing that virtually everything is permissible — including
tapping telephones and transgressing civil liberties — in
the name of fighting terrorism.
Khan said: "The war on terror and the way
it has unfolded actually is premised on the principle that by eroding
human rights you can reinforce security," she pointed out.
"And that is why as part of the war on terror we see restrictions
being placed on civil liberties around the world." In short,
she said, the war on terror is provoking more terror.
She also criticised the infamous US-run Guantanamo
Bay detention centre "where people that are considered to be
dangerous by the US Administration are being locked up without any
charge, without any trial, indefinitely."
"That cannot be the best way in which you
fight terrorism. Because it plays straight into the hands of those
who would want to destroy human rights," she declared.
Blair, who has been politically crucified in his
home country for sending British troops into Iraq, has seen his
popularity taking a heavy beating in polls. So has Bush. As he plans
to step down as Prime Minister, Blair is also looking to leave behind
a political legacy. And so is Bush. But neither may succeed.
When a reporter hinted that this may be Blair's
last official visit to Washington in his capacity as British premier,
Bush had to frantically come to his rescue. "Don't count him
out," said Bush, consoling his political buddy, "Let me
tell it to you that way. I want him to be here so long as I am the
president." Bush will leave office in 2009. But Blair's party
leaders may want him out of 10 Downing Street long before that day.
Meanwhile, if the opposition Democratic Party
gets an overwhelming victory in the upcoming November elections
in the US, there is speculation that both the House of Representatives
and the Senate may have the required Democratic votes to call for
an impeachment of Bush for his failures in both domestic and foreign