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Sat

03

Mar

2007

Britain's pride—America's fall?
Saturday, 03 March 2007 14:58
by Richard Marsden

Tony Blair believes that the British, whom, to their undoubted displeasure, he embraces as ‘we’, should be immensely proud of the work we are doing to help Iraq get on its feet and be the country it wants to be.

He said this a week ago, last Thursday (February 22, 2008), the day after he announced to the House of Commons that British troops would be withdrawing from Basra, during an interview by John Humphrys of BBC Radio 4’s Today program.

The questioning was rigorous. It reminded me of a particularly tough Ph.D viva, with Blair defending his thesis. [Although Humphreys never asked him how Iraq came to be knocked off its feet.] If only Bush were subject to this sort of questioning.

The complete interview (34:12) can be heard here. [The reference to pride occurs around the two minute mark.]

I am interested in what Blair said, but also how he said it.

Barrister Blair

Before Blair was a politician, he was a barrister. This helps explain his tenacity in adhering to a position which has been refuted in the eyes of most independent observers.

Like any barrister, he is an advocate for a "brief":
A summary of the facts of a case, with reference to the points of law supposed to be applicable to them, drawn up for the instruction of counsel conducting the case in court (Oxford English Dictionary).
Regarding Iraq, here are the key elements of this brief, as set out in this radio interview:
  • 9/11 changed the world by dividing it into forces for “progress” and forces of “reaction”, between good and evil, light and darkness.
  • 9/11 also made clear the interdependence of countries and dissolved the distinction between domestic and foreign policy. He sees a responsibility to ‘go out after this threat’.
  • The violence in Iraq is the responsibility of those who are the immediate cause of it—"terrorists"—external extremists who team up with internal extremists: "We are trying to support Iraq against the terrorists", who are trying, through their violence, "to stop democracy functioning".

The Reverend Blair


When Blair became Prime Minister, in 1997, the satirical magazine Private Eye cast him as the earnest and trendy young vicar of St Albion (the archaic name for Great Britain) , the "Rev ARP Blair, MA (Oxon)".

In every issue there appears the Saint Albion Parish News, penned by this Reverend Blair; a spoof of the parish magazines typically published by Churches up and down the country.

It nicely captures Blair’s sanctimony, his show of sanctity or piety. But given Blair’s training as a barrister, we’re never quite sure if he really means it.

Barristers are professional arguers. To that end, they are also professional actors. They often use theatrical metaphors to describe their work. They put on a "performance" for different audiences.

Since it is believed that emotions sully the rational mind, barristers are trained to cultivate techniques to suppress their own emotions.

What they feel "back-stage", however, may be very different to their public performances.

Bush's Emotional Blackmail of Blair?

Who does Blair "hold a brief" for? Who gave the information and instructions embodied in the brief?

Presumably, the United States. Blair’s position is essentially that of  Bush and Cheney et al. They share "talking points". Iraq is subsumed within the "war on terror", and who is not against terror?

Blair holds a brief for the Bush administration.

But why?

Blair is not a stupid man. He must know the weight of evidence against his position. The weightier the evidence, the more tenaciously he defends his brief.

Nor is Blair an evil man, although much evil has been done in Iraq, enabled by his support of Bush.

There is always the possibility that Blair genuinely shares Bush's morality, toothed and fanged in Iraq, but, if so, it’s a very un-English sort of Christian alliance.

One wonders, therefore, if Blair is being blackmailed by the Bush cabal into defending a position which is contrary to his interests and contrary to the will of most Britons.

The type of blackmail that seems the likeliest contender is the emotional kind.

Most of us have experienced emotional blackmail to some degree. Someone close to us threatens to punish us if we don’t do what they want. They threaten to end the relationship unless we give in. They shower us with approval when we give into them and take it away when we do not.

This sounds like the modus operandi of the Bush administration. It is diplomacy as war by other means.

What evidence is there for this interpretation of Blair’s relationship with Bush?

Well, consider Bush's salutation "Yo, Blair!", revealed by an open microphone, at the G8 summit in St. Petersburg, last July.

Blair, with the body language of a waiter, humiliated himself, and those he represents, by essentially seeking Bush's permission to intervene in the crisis in Lebanon.

Bush lacked even the common courtesy not to speak with his mouth full.

This behaviour, of the British Prime Minister before the U.S. President, breathed new life into that dusty verb “court”: "To pay court to, pay courteous attention to; to try to win favour with."

Bush’s salutation, "Yo, Blair!", said it all.

As Alan Attward puts it: “What are the odds that Bush greets his dogs in much the same manner?"

Still not convinced? Then read William Rees-Mogg’s explanation of ‘How the US fired Jack Straw’.

What does the U.S. have over Blair? It controls Britain's supposedly independent nuclear deterrent, Trident. Blair's support for the U.S. in Iraq may be the political price for U.S. support for Trident. [On this see Dan Plesch's The Future of Britain's WMD.]

Britain’s "Pride", America’s Fall?

Let’s return to Blair’s claim that "we" "should be immensely proud of the work we are doing to help Iraq get on its feet and be the country it wants to be". 

“Proud”:
from Late OE prut, prud, meaning brave, gallant. Valiant in combat. A poetic or rhetorical epithet.
More recently, "Pride":
Having or cherishing a high or lofty opinion of oneself; valuing oneself highly on account of one’s position, rank, attainments, possessions, etc.; Usually in a bad sense: Disposed to take an attitude of superiority to and contempt for others; arrogant, haughty, overweening, supercilious [OED].
Isn’t pride a sin?

Yes it is, because pride is self-worship. It entails giving yourself credit for God’s work. If not ‘God’ then forces greater than oneself.

Pride motivated the once-righteous Lucifer to rebel against God, who cast him out of heaven as the wicked Satan.

Pride, then, is self-delusion. It is also self-destructive. One over-estimates oneself and underestimates others. For this reason:
Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall (Proverbs 16:18 RSV).
Over-estimating one's own power and under-estimating the power of others well describes the Anglo-American adventure in Iraq.

Let us now contemplate the destruction and fall associated with this pride.

British troops are "withdrawing" from Basra, not because things are going well, but because of anger back home over their presence in Iraq and pressure from military commanders who realise that it's a quagmire they need to escape from, fast.

This is extremely bad news for Bush, the regime they installed in the Green Zone,  and especially for the more than 100,000 American troops stuck in the middle of Iraq, for two reasons:

1. supply lines to U.S. troops run from Kuwait, through the Basra area, up to Baghdad and beyond.

2. Basra guards Umm Qasr, a port crucial to the continued survival of the current regime.

Those British troops, of whom Blair is proud, were defending these supply lines and this port. As they withdraw, the power vacuum they leave will likely be filled by forces with strong allegiances to—Iran.


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