Galloway - "Comment", 14/7
B.Halligan at yorksj.ac.uk
Mon Jul 14 05:55:04 MDT 2003
Political death of a usurper
An unwinnable war in Iraq and the deceit that led to it have destroyed
the credibility of the prime minister
Monday July 14, 2003
"Now does he feel/ his secret murders sticking on his hands;/ now
minutely revolts upbraid his faith-breach;/ those he commands move only
in command,/ nothing in love: now does he feel his title/ hang loose
about him, like a giant's robe/ upon a dwarfish thief."
Thus Angus spoke of the Scottish usurper Macbeth, whose ambition led him
deep into a river of blood. Less poetically, Clare Short, Mo Mowlem and
Robin Cook are saying much the same of their former cabinet colleague. I
predicted before the war that Iraq would be the political death of Tony
Blair, and it is now almost Shakespearean how the pain from his
self-inflicted wounds is written across his face. It is as if he is
physically diminishing before our eyes as his authority bleeds into the
sands of Iraq.
Each new day brings another stab at Blair's credibility: former cabinet
members in public, current ministers in private, using the round of
summer parties to distance themselves from the fading king. From Hans
Blix, the BBC and the press, from two former heads of the joint
intelligence committee and now, perhaps fatally, from across the
Atlantic, fall blow after hammer blow. Suddenly, comparing the two main
war leaders to wolves - which has got me into such difficulty with the
Labour hierarchy - seems very tame indeed.
Always travelling light on ideological baggage, never having won or
wanted the affection of the Labour clan, Blair's main asset was his
"Trust me, I'm a regular guy" reputation. Now it is gone and will never
That Iraq was lynched by Bush and Blair has become plain as a pikestaff.
Take the saving of Private Jessica. Said at first to have been shot and
held hostage by Iraqi doctors, and now revealed to have been in their
care after a road traffic accident, her story serves as a metaphor for
the mendacity so deep and treacly-black it might be an oil sump: from
the 45-minute warning to the banks of the Niger and the sweepings of the
In their occupation of Iraq, the US and British armies have entered the
gates of hell. Soon it will be 100 degrees at midnight in Baghdad, but
there will be no respite from the need for full body armour. In two
weeks, armed attacks on coalition forces have nearly doubled to 25 per
day. More than 200 have been wounded and over 40 killed in combat since
"victory" was declared by President Bush. Morale among US forces is
dropping towards Vietnam-type levels, with heavy drug consumption, and
commanders turning a blind eye to the prostituting of Iraqi women. No
doubt the spectre of troops "fragging" overly strict officers is on
So hot is the welcome to these "liberators" that the US has now
evacuated its forces from both the vast campus of Baghdad University and
from the hub of the sharpest armed action, in Fallujah. The latter gives
the lie to the repeated calumny that those fighting the occupation are
merely "Saddamist remnants". In truth, Fallujah is the heartland of the
Jubbur tribe, arch-enemies of Saddam whose leaders were purged by the
Takriti Ba'ath party bosses more than a decade ago.
No fighting in this area could take place without the Jubbur, so it must
be more than nostalgia for the old regime that is fuelling it.
Throughout the Calvary of Vietnam, resistance was routinely described as
coming from unrepresentative "hardline elements" or outside the
country's borders. The deeper Johnson and Nixon sank into the quagmire,
the more they spread the war, to neighbouring Cambodia and new killing
fields. Look out for "hot pursuit" operations in the months to come into
Syria, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Iran.
In Vietnam, the Americans installed a succession of puppet governments
in whose name they could claim to be fighting. Though as bereft of
electoral legitimacy as a Jeb Bush Floridian plebiscite, the Vietnamese
juntas had a social base. Yesterday's jokers, the "Iraqi Governing
Council" - handpicked by Iraq's US governor, Paul Bremer - make South
Vietnam's General Thieu look like an authentic national leader. Without
hundreds of thousands of foreign troops, they would be swept away in a
gale of derision.
Iraqis want Britain and America out of their country, that much is
abundantly clear. Only independently supervised elections to a
constituent assembly can produce Iraqi leaders fit to face the outside
world and rebuild their country.
Tony Blair can run around the world on grand diplomatic tours. He can
bask in the adulation of the Republican right in the US Congress. But he
cannot hide from the fact that he has lost the plot at home. He has
entered that twilight which saw the departure in tears of Mrs Thatcher
in a taxi from the Downing Street she once bestrode like a colossus.
The foreign affairs select committee was wrong when it said the jury was
out on the Blair war. Both the public and the Labour movement jury has
already returned its verdict of guilty. Mr Blair will soon exit the
political stage; it would be better t'were done quickly.
* George Galloway is Labour MP for Glasgow Kelvin and a columnist for
the Scottish Mail on Sunday
* gallowayg at parliament.uk
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