Just Above Sunset
March 7, 2004 - An item indicating Bush is lucky folks here are not really that angry with him...

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Bush has had a rocky few weeks, but poor Tony Blair!

Bush may have told us we were all going to die unless we took out Saddam Hussein and eliminated those weapons of mass destruction – and they weren’t there, and never were.  And we were going to be welcomed in Iraq as liberators, and loved and admired – and it didn’t exactly work out that way.  Yep, the mission wasn’t exactly accomplished.  Heck, we keep getting new after-the-fact explanations of what the mission REALLY was every few weeks.  So maybe the mission really was accomplished.  One never knows. 

But Saddam Hussein gone from power would mean things would be better – opposition to our occupation would dissolve?  Well, that depends on what the word “better” means.  And “dissolve” is a verb, a process, right?  It could happen, I guess.  Oh, so many other things….  We were going to actually fund AIDS programs in Africa, and check out which of our schools here were not performing well and make them better by funding improvements.  And there was making sure everyone who earned over three hundred thousand a year got, at the very least, a sixty-two grand tax break - and that would obviously create millions of new jobs.  Oh well.  The ideas were fine.  They just didn’t work out. 

I suspect the persistent harping on Bush’s somewhat casual service in the Texas Air National Guard in the early seventies is motivated by a nagging sense that Bush tends to live in a world he wants to be one way, and the rest of us know isn’t quite the way as he sees it.  Folks want to pin down what makes them uncomfortable with seeing him on the deck of an aircraft carrier in a combat flight suit crowing about the war we just sort of won, maybe.  So we’re always doing these reality checks – “He said what?”

But we love him anyway.  He’s amusing, like the goofy kid in the back of the classroom who, when forced, innocently gives some really wild dumb-ass answer to the teacher’s question, one he really thinks, or hopes, might be the right answer – and it’s so off the wall teacher rolls her eyes while all the other students snigger.  Then everyone starts laughing.  And he says, “What’d I say?  What’d I say?” And then he gets angry and stamps his feet and stammers that he knows he’s right and everyone else should just shut up and not make fun of him.  Then everyone smiles and the class moves on with the business at hand.  It’s like that. 

He’s kind of our national joke.  We move on. 

But over in the UK it seems no one wants to treat Tony Blair so graciously. 

See Extreme measures: The only way to bring down Blair and change the political context is to take direct action
George Monbiot, The Guardian (UK), Tuesday March 2, 2004

Here’s George’s take on Tony:


So now what happens?  Our prime minister is up to his neck in it.  His attorney general appears to have changed his advice about the legality of the war a few days before it began.  Blair refuses to release either version, apparently for fear that he will be exposed as a liar and a war criminal.  His government seems to have been complicit in the illegal bugging of friendly foreign powers and the United Nations.  It went to war on the grounds of a threat which was both imaginary and known to be imaginary.  Now the opposition has withdrawn from his fake inquiry.  Seldom has a prime minister been so exposed and remained in office.  Surely Blair will fall? 

Not by himself, he won't.  If we have learned anything about him over the past few months, it's that he would rather stroll naked round Parliament Square than resign before he has to.  The press has a short attention span, Iraq is a long way away and the opposition is listless and unpopular.  He has everything to gain by sweating it out. 


Yep, reminds me of the hypothetical goofy student in the back of the classroom mentioned above. 

But this guy doesn’t want to let Tony off the hook. 

Of course, he thinks getting anything done may be difficult:


British people know that our legal system stinks.  Over the past week, the attorney general's conflicts of interest have been exposed three times.  First we discover he instructed that a prosecution be dropped when the case threatened to reveal his own advice to the prime minister.  Then we discover that he took his decision in consultation with the government.  The "Shawcross principle" he invoked in the House of Lords (ministers shall be consulted over a decision to prosecute) sounds very grand.  What it means, of course, is that the law is applied only when it is politically convenient.  Thirdly we find that he changed his professional opinion about the legality of the war to suit Blair's political needs. 

We also know that our MPs are weak and frightened, that the civil service remains in the grip of the upper middle classes and that the press is run by multimillionaires, whose single purpose is to make this a better world for multimillionaires.  Yet somehow we continue to trust that all these twisted instruments will deliver us from evil, that the sound chaps in the system will ultimately do the decent thing.  How we reconcile our understanding with our belief is a mystery, but this mystery is a perennial feature of British political life.  As a result, we now wait for the establishment to bring Blair down.  We could be waiting forever. 


Well, Monbiot, welcome to the club.  It’s not that much different on this side of the pond. 

Of course this Monbiot fellow suggest for the Brits something we never do, or haven’t done much since the sixties:


… nothing happens now unless we get off our butts and make it happen.  This means abandoning that very British habit of expecting someone else to act on our behalf.  Worse still, it means recognising that, for all the complexities and evasions of a modern political system, the motive force of politics is still the people, and the people remain responsible for what is done in their name. 

The formula for making things happen is simple and has never changed.  If you wish to alter a policy or depose a prime minister between elections, you must take to the streets.  Without the poll tax riots, Mrs Thatcher might have contested the 1992 election.  If GM crops hadn't been ripped up, they would be in commercial cultivation in Britain today.  In the 1990s, protesters forced the government to cut its road-building budget by 80%.  Most of the cities where roads were occupied by Reclaim the Streets have introduced major traffic-calming or traffic-reduction schemes.  Gordon Brown stopped increasing fuel tax in response to the truckers' blockades. 

Direct action, in other words, works. 


It does?  Perhaps we should try it. 

This fellow claims it works because it “ensures that the issue stays in the public eye, and therefore exposes the government to continued questioning.”  


I guess.  The idea is that if the campaign is well organized and popular, the issue becomes a liability, and politicians seek to protect themselves by dumping either the policy, or the author of the policy.  Monbiot says in this case it's too late to dump the policy.  The idea is to dump Blair. 

And he adds this:


If we depose the prime minister through direct action, he will doubtless be succeeded by someone almost as bad, but the political context in which that someone operates will have changed.  He will be forced to govern with one eye on the people, and to demonstrate that his policies differ from those of his predecessor. 

… To become a civilised, moderate, responsible nation, in other words, we must first become a nation of extremists. 


Oh my.  Didn’t I just hear the ghost of Barry Goldwater say something about extremism? 

In any event, over here, one doesn’t “take to the streets.”  That’s so sixties.  And anyway out here the streets are clogged with Hummers and Excursions and Escalades – so it’s too dangerous.  Thus Bush gets a pass.  But poor Tony….  


Copyright 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
The inclusion of any text from others is quotation
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