William Rivers Pitt | Tony Blair in the Garden of Gethsemane
Tony Blair in the Garden of Gethsemane
By William Rivers Pitt
t r u t h o u t | Perspective
Friday 14 March 2003
Tony Blair may be doing nothing more than toadying up to the schoolyard bully these days, but he sure isn't hiding from that fact. Unlike George W. Bush, who gave one euthanized press conference before diving back down the rabbit hole, Blair appears before angry British crowds on a fairly regular basis to defend his stance on Iraq. His answers never satisfy, and Bush always looms above him like the shadow of the raven, but at least Tony stands up and takes his beatings like a man.
Some might call this brave. Others call it the maddening squawk of a parrot who hasn't gotten the message yet. Either way, you have to respect Tony a bit for this. Once upon a time, America enjoyed leaders who had enough respect for the people to speak to them. Those leaders could be wrong - they often were - but they didn't hide. Much.
Mr. Blair is facing a decision this week that will determine not only his own political fate, but the final destination of the British government, the Labour Party, and the whole of the British people. It is one he cannot hide from.
Blair must decide what it is worth to him to continue his military relationship with the Bush administration regarding Iraq. As it stands, the war party does not have the required nine votes in hand authorizing a second resolution that would legitimize combat in Iraq. Even if they did, France and Russia continue to stand upon their threatened veto.
The Bush administration has been pushing a vigorous form of "diplomacy": They are using economic blackmail against poor nations that hold voting non-permanent seats of the Security Council - Cameroon, Angola, Mexico, and Guinea among them - to secure a majority for war. These nations face the loss of vital aid and trade agreements if they do not toe the line. Despite these threats, the votes needed by Bush and Blair have not lined up.
The Security Council vote appears to be coming within days. If it does take place, and the new resolution is defeated, Blair will be in a great deal of trouble. An enormous majority of his citizens do not want war, especially if there is no UN resolution. Many Britons fear a war without Security Council approval will destroy the UN, an event they view with disgust. Europeans like the UN; it gives them a collective voice within the American echo chamber. If Blair sides with Bush in a unilateral war with Iraq outside of UN approval, important members of his Cabinet will resign, and his own party will likely demand that he step down.
Mr. Blair is in the garden of Gethsemane, praying for someone to take this cup away from him. Unfortunately for Tony, it will not happen that way. If Mr. Blair wants to avoid crucifixion, he will have to remove that cup on his own.
There is a way.
Mr. Blair should pull George W. Bush aside and tell him to declare victory. Simple as that. Bush can stand before the American people and the international community with Saddam Hussein in his hip pocket. The American military has throttled Iraq into a level of compliance that would have been miraculous ten years ago. Regime change has not taken place, true, but Iraq is being disarmed at speed and Saddam Hussein is incapable of threatening anyone.
Tony should tell Bush to get behind an augmentation of the inspection teams, backed up by the threat of force posed by a smaller American force based in Kuwait and what would be, under these circumstances, a newly compliant Turkey. Tony should tell Bush that, were he to do this, the markets would rebound and international relations would warm considerably. Tony should make this an ultimatum, for he has the stick: Bush will be hard-pressed to go to war without Britain, which is why the administration has bothered with the UN for so long.
If Bush should refuse this reasonable course of action, Tony must perform one last brave act. He must walk away. In doing so, Blair might just save himself, his government, his party, the United Nations, and more than a few lives.
William Rivers Pitt is a New York Times best-selling author of two books - "War On Iraq" (with Scott Ritter) available now from Context Books, and "The Greatest Sedition is Silence," available in June 2003 from Pluto Press. He teaches high school in Boston, MA.
Scott Lowery contributed research to this report.
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