"That there’s a falsehood in his looks
I must and will deny.
They say their master is a knave
And sure they do not lie"
As the summer break draws near, the thoughts of politicians, as those of ordinary mortals, turn to sunny beaches where one can forget the travails of life and relax in pleasant company. For the British and American soldiers sweltering in temperatures of 50 degrees, dodging Iraqi bombs and bullets, this pleasant prospect is further away than for most of us. And for Tony Blair, besieged by an ever more hostile press and public, the holiday season cannot come quick enough.
As a means of getting away from his increasingly vocal critics at home, Tony has decided to seek an early break in the pleasant surroundings of the US congress. Here he can find a momentary refuge from the "slings and arrows of outrageous fortune" and bask in the sun of public approbation and the enthusiastic plaudits of American congressmen (and women).
Tony Blair last night used the rare opportunity of a historic address to the US Congress to declare that history would "forgive" him even if no weapons of mass destruction are uncovered in Iraq. This is a significant change of tune! Hitherto (and even in his speech to an admiring Congress) Mr. Blair has insisted that the information that he gave to the British parliament and people on the issue of weapons of mass destruction was "the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help me God." Now it turns out that all this may not have been true at all.
If it is the truth we are looking for then the last place to look is the speeches and declarations produced by the London "spin doctors". This breed of professional liars are paid large sums of money to deceive the public and "doctor" the facts. Mr Blair's aides are said to have "sweated blood" on this speech, which Mr Blair regards as one of the most important he has ever made overseas. And it was greeted with an unprecedented number of standing ovations. After the first ovation, Tony joked: "This is more than I deserve and more than I'm used too, frankly." These were the only truthful statements in the whole speech.
In the period of capitalist decay, the quality of the leading statesmen is not what it was. In the old days Trotsky said that the political leaders of British imperialism did not think in decades but in centuries. Now they cannot think even twenty-four hours ahead. Instead of intelligent strategists like Lloyd George and Macmillan we have the political equivalent of second hand car salesmen - a breed of people whose intellectual shallowness is equalled only by their propensity for sharp practices, carried out with a perfectly straight face.
When it comes to the gentle art of barefaced lying, our Tony beats them all. By comparison, George Bush is a mere amateur. He stumbles through his speeches, gets his verbs and adjectives hopelessly mixed up and forgets his lines. This is not a good thing when it comes to telling a convincing lie. George W. Bush is not only dishonest - he looks dishonest. This is a most serious handicap. Worse still, he has yet to learn that in order to lie effectively it is necessary to stick to the same lie, not to make any concessions and to give the impression of absolute and unshakable conviction.
Our British prime minister is far more adept at this game than his friend George, who recently has made the mistake of admitting that some of the evidence (relating to Iraq’s alleged purchase of nuclear material from Niger) was, in fact, false. Bush passed the blame to George Tenet, head of the CIA. But Tony would never have done such a thing. Faced with unanswerable evidence that Iraq possesses no weapons of mass destruction; that the people of the US and Britain were systematically lied to, deceived and cheated by their governments; that the war against Iraq was fought on false premises and entirely illegal under international law, what is one to do? Well, obviously, continue to lie, bluster and bluff your way out of it!
On such ground as this, our British prime minister has no equal in the world. He can effect a 180-degree turn on any question without even blinking. Moreover he can do this without for a moment losing his customary "believe-me-I-am-a-born-again-Christian" expression. Up till now Downing Street has stubbornly maintained that its stance on Iraq's banned weapons was correct and that anyone who dared to question it was guilty of high treason. Now the prime minister stood before hundreds of members of Congress with a perfectly straight face to admit that he may eventually be proved wrong.
"Can we be sure that terrorism and weapons of mass destruction will join together?" the prime minister asked his audience of Republicans and Democrats. Mr Blair then made a rare admission of fallibility: "Let us say one thing. If we are wrong we will have destroyed a threat that, at its least, is responsible for inhuman carnage and suffering. That is something I am confident history will forgive."
Translated into normal English this means: Well, OK, so George and I lied in our teeth in order to force our countries to go to war. But, hey! We won the war, didn’t we? So why not shut up and let us get on with it." And in any case, like Mr. Micawber, Tony is still confidently expecting that the weapons may still turn up.
For months Tony Blair has been repeating ad nauseam that the famous weapons would be found and that the doubters in the Commons would have to eat their words. But lately he has been quietly sliding away from this position. Last week he declared that Britain and the US may only uncover a weapons programme, rather than actual weapons. With critics likely to seize on his admission, Mr Blair insisted that he still believed he would be proved right. "If our critics are wrong, if we are right as I believe with every fibre of instinct and conviction I have that we are, and we do not act, then we will have hesitated in the face of this menace when we should have given leadership; that is something history will not forgive."
When Tony Blair is in trouble he always resorts to the same trick. When he is unable to prove something (because it is patently untrue) he raises his eyes to heaven, places his right hand on his heart and starts telling everybody how sure he is that it is really the case; how deeply he believes in what he is doing; how every fibre of his being tells him that he is right - and so on and so forth.
People who are unaccustomed to thinking may be impressed by this appeal to sincerity. But it is rather obvious that the fact that someone sincerely holds a belief does not make that belief correct. The Spanish Inquisition sincerely believed that it was right to burn at the stake all who did not accept its doctrines. And when it comes to deeply held convictions, one would have to say that both Mullah Omar and Osama bin Laden are equally convinced that they are right. Indeed there is a very long line of villains throughout history that were very deeply convinced of the rightness of their cause. But what is necessary is to examine the cause itself, whose interests it served and whose interests it harmed.
Having given up looking for non-existent weapons of mass destruction, the British and Americans are now concentrating on looking for mass graves. This is a far easier task. It also has the advantage of distracting attention away from the WMDs and concentrating people’s minds on the fact that Saddam Hussein was an evil dictator - something that few people would deny. However, the war in Iraq was not a war against an evil dictator, because both the USA and Britain maintained excellent relations with that dictator in the past and helped him build up his stocks of weapons of mass destruction. We have explained all this in the pages of marxist.com many times and there is no reason to repeat it.
The sum total of Blair’s speech to the Congress was merely a tedious repetition of the spurious arguments he and his friend in the White House used in the months leading up to the War to justify an act of naked aggression against a weak Middle Eastern state that happens to be sitting on the second largest reserves of oil in the world. In the whole miserable harangue there is not the slightest attempt to answer the point that there are no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and that therefore the entire campaign to justify unilateral military action by the USA and Britain was no more than a crude propaganda exercise based on lies and false "intelligence" reports designed to deceive the people.
At the end of his speech, the British prime minister went out of his way to praise "American values", in effect, pledging himself (and the British people) to unconditional support for US imperialism, no matter what it does in the future. Watched by a roll call of America's great and good, Mr Blair received the strongest applause when he praised America for "upholding freedom". The prime minister praised the US as a "light of liberty" in the world. Such abject grovelling recalls the conduct of a subject chieftain throwing himself at the mercy of the Roman senate in the hope of being called "friend of Rome". Unfortunately, the "friends of Rome" were more likely to be cheated and robbed by Rome than anyone else.
In a pathetic attempt to introduce a "critical" note into his utterly servile panegyric of American imperialism, Mr. Blair used his platform to deliver an "uncompromising" message to both Europe and the US: that it is a two-way relationship in which both sides must be prepared to give ground. He declared: "To be a serious partner, Europe must take on and defeat the anti-Americanism that sometimes passes for its political discourse. What America must do is to show that this is a partnership built on persuasion, not command." America must show that it is even-handed in the two areas of the Middle East peace process and the Kyoto protocol on climate change.
On the Kyoto protocol, Mr Blair attempted to woo the president to the cause of the environment by making an economic case. He said: "Climate change, deforestation and the voracious drain on natural resources cannot be ignored ... If this seems a long way from the threat of terror and WMD, it is only to say again that the world's security cannot be protected without the world's heart being won. So, America must listen as well as lead, but don't ever apologise for your values."
It is a wonder that the congressmen did not fall over themselves laughing at this point. One really must pay tribute to their self-discipline! The ant delivers an "uncompromising" message to the elephant and informs him that he really must do so-and-so. But as the world’s only super-power, which accounts for some 37 percent of world military expenditure and 40 percent of world arms production, the USA can do pretty much as it pleases, and does not really have to pay much attention to the opinions of an ant that tells it what it must do.
Praising President George Bush for his efforts in the Middle East, Mr Blair said: "I want to be very plain. Terrorism will not be defeated without peace in the Middle East between Israel and Palestine." Yes, thought the congressmen. We are all in favour of peace throughout the Middle East - Peace under American control. We will ask the Israelis to be a bit nicer to them - or at least to make less noise while they are teaching them to behave. In the meantime there are elections coming up and there a lot more Jewish votes in the USA than Palestinian ones. "Bravo, Mr. Blair!"
The British prime minister likes to think that he has some influence over the American President and Congress. In general he seems to be suffering from delusions of grandeur - the same illusions that convince him that he can trample over the opinion of the British people and in particular that of the overwhelming majority of the Labour Party and trade unions. But "pride comes before a fall" and Mr. Blair is heading for a very big fall.
This delusion is reflected in phrases like "we will march shoulder to shoulder with America". In point of fact Britain cannot march shoulder to shoulder with America because Britain is now a second rate world power, increasingly irrelevant to the big decisions in world affairs, whereas the USA is the world’s only superpower. Far from showing Britain’s influence in the world, Blair’s speech only served to underline its servile dependence on US imperialism.
In a blatant attempt to curry favour with his audience Blair's toughest message was for the French president, Jacques Chirac, who he hinted wanted to turn Europe into a rival power to the US. He said: "There is no more dangerous theory in international politics today than that we need to balance the power of America with other competitive powers, different poles around which nations gather." In other words: it is pointless to oppose the USA, the most powerful nation on earth. So we must all bow down to Washington and carry out its orders on all issues without question.
This message is, of course, music to George W Bush’s ears. The phrase "you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours was well illustrated by Mr Bush’s comments. He later lavished praise on Tony Blair for his "fabulous" speech. Speaking at a joint press conference at the White House, he said: "The prime minister once again showed the qualities that have marked his entire career. Tony Blair is a leader of conviction, of passion and of moral clarity. He is a true friend of the American people."
Far from marching shoulder to shoulder with George Bush, Tony Blair does not reach much higher than his ankles. The American President, having received so many favours from Tony Blair, does not give many in return. He is not even willing to hand over a couple of poor devils in Guantanamo Bay to British justice. In other words, he shows his gratitude by revealing his hindquarters to the British prime minister, as Jehovah did to Moses, and Mr. Blair is so delighted at this rare privilege that he sings his praises before the assembled US Congress with every indication of rapture. The sight of such dedicated loyalty proved so touching that it moved even the most flint-hearted congressmen to tears. They duly showed their appreciation. After all, America does not have many such true friends in the world today.
The prime minister's remarks, as he became the fourth British prime minister to address a joint meeting of Congress, were greeted with such a display of standing ovations as has rarely been seen on Capitol Hill The prime minister received 19 standing ovations during his 32-minute speech. It seemed that he only had to say "it is a bit stuffy in here, will somebody open a window" and the serried ranks of congressmen (and women) would immediately jump to their feet and begin to applaud with the wildest enthusiasm.
There may, however, be a more mundane reason for this enthusiasm for Mr. Blair. The American forces have been having a hard time of it lately in Iraq, and there are certain signs of a shift in thinking in Washington. It has emerged that the US has begun talks with other countries about establishing a new United Nations mandate for an international stabilisation force in Iraq. The US secretary of state, Colin Powell, said he had held talks with some foreign ministers about "whether or not it would be appropriate to start discussions about a UN resolution".
We recall that before and during the war, the US administration treated the rest of the world - and particularly the UN - with the utmost contempt. Yet now they are talking about the UN participating in the stabilisation of Iraq. Why the sudden change of heart? Is this proof positive of the influence of Tony Blair in Washington? Hardly. Today’s Guardian comments:
"The almost daily deaths of American soldiers in guerrilla attacks and the waning of popular enthusiasm for the conflict has prompted the US to try to persuade other countries to share the burden of policing Iraq, but several nations are insisting on more explicit UN authority before they send troops.
"US diplomats said that they had no plans to put forward a proposal of their own, but said that Washington was prepared to listen to ideas for a new UN resolution on a stabilisation force from other capitals."
The US occupying forces are in deep trouble and, as the proverb goes, "misery likes company". The attempt to install a US puppet regime has failed. US administrator Paul Bremer said last night that Iraq could hold its first free elections as early as next year. The exact timetable for elections would depend on how fast the new Iraqi governing council could write and ratify a new constitution. But this is an empty promise. The guerrilla attacks are directed not only against the US and British forces but also against Iraqi collaborators. The number of those willing to sign on as American puppets is declining since, although the pay is quite good, there is a serious problem with life insurance. This means that the US will have to keep troops in Iraq for the foreseeable future.
Unfortunately for our Tony, his latest Sermon on the Mount comes at a time when a growing number of Americans are voicing opposition to the war and demanding that the US army get out of Iraq as soon as possible. There is now a serious possibility that George Bush will not be re-elected. The ground is beginning to shake under the feet of Republican congressmen, and they do not like it. Not only Democratic but also some Republican congressmen are beginning to voice doubts about whether Saddam Hussein still possessed banned weapons in his final months in power. They are now stuck in a messy quagmire. This will have the most serious consequences in the USA and also among the US troops in Iraq, a disproportionate number of whom are poor blacks and Hispanics.
US generals admit that there is now a guerrilla war in Iraq (these gentlemen admit only what it is impossible to deny) and that US troops are being shot and killed every day. American soldiers are asking to go home and demanding the resignation of Donald Rumsfeld (read, George Bush). The mood in America is changing by the day. Sooner or later Bush and his cronies will have to face the consequences of their actions - as will Blair and his clique.
Abraham Lincoln once said: You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time. The war against Iraq was an unjust and unprovoked act of aggression. Its consequences have been disastrous for the Iraqi people. It has solved nothing and has made the world an even more dangerous, violent and unstable place. Those responsible for this war will not be forgiven but condemned by history.