Category Archives: International

Making a dummy out of Bush

I READ in The Independent that many of Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s supporters turned up at a rally yesterday “with effigies of Mr Bush”.

Now, am I the only person who finds this a bit odd? Am I alone in being unaware of Iran’s thriving papier mâché industry?

Mind you, they’d probably sell more of them if they weren’t so combustible. Every time I see one on TV, it’s caught fire and the owner’s looking pretty peeved (I assume they’re quite expensive).

Can I suggest to The Tehran Effigy Company (“We make ’em, you burn ’em!”) that instead of soaking them in petrol before they go in the shop window, they instead fill them with sweeties or something? That would make for a much nicer day out and everyone could go home afterwards in a much better mood.


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Filed under International, Whimsy

Bush praises his ‘gallant friend’

PRESIDENT Bush made a very moving, personal and true tribute to Tony Blair today when presenting him with the Medal of Freedom. 

Hat-tip to Guido, who has published it in full without comment. I’ll do the same:

The first day I met Tony Blair, almost exactly eight years ago, he was in his second term as Prime Minister and I was just starting out. After our first meeting, a reporter asked if we’d found anything in common, and I jokingly replied that we both used Colgate toothpaste. (Laughter.)

The truth is I did feel a close connection to Tony Blair. As I said after the first meeting, I knew that “when either of us gets in a bind, there will be a friend on the other end of the phone.” My friend was there, indeed, after America was attacked on September the 11th, 2001. And it just wasn’t on the phone line. When I stood in the House Chamber to ask the civilized world to rally to freedom’s cause, there in the gallery was the staunch friend, Prime Minister Tony Blair.

He was there in a moment of trial to affirm the special relationship between the United States and the United Kingdom. And he was there to show America, and all nations, that he understood the stakes in the war on terror. As he said, “just as the terrorist seeks to divide humanity in hate, so we have to unify it around an idea. And that idea is liberty.” Under Tony Blair’s leadership, the might and the moral authority of Great Britain have been applied to the war on terror from the first day. Our nations have worked proudly together to destroy terrorist havens, liberate millions, and help rising democracies to serve the aspirations of their people.

Tony Blair’s entire career is defined by his devotion to democratic values and human dignity. At his very center, this man believes in freedom — freedom from oppression, freedom from hunger, freedom from disease, and freedom from fear and despair. In the House of Commons, as the longest-serving Labour Prime Minister in history, he fought to lift up his nation’s communities and better the lives of all its people. He helped turn generations of violence in Northern Ireland into years of peace. He drew the attention and conscience of the world to the suffering in Africa, and he continues to serve the cause of peace and democracy as the Quartet Envoy to the Middle East.

Out of office but still in public life, Tony Blair remains on the world stage as a man of high intelligence and insight — and above all, as a man of faith and idealism and integrity. The former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom will stand tall in history. And today the United States of America proudly honors its gallant friend, Tony Blair.


Filed under International, United States

Hamas in their own voices

THE HUMANITARIAN crisis resulting from Israel’s military action in Gaza has lost it a lot of support internationally.

Yet very few of the letters and emails I’ve received from constituents about the situation have called for a ceasefire on both sides. Hamas, by virtue of being the elected government, seem to have escaped criticism. Their culpability in deliberately provoking Israel’s attack has been largely overlooked, as have Hamas’s obnoxious political and religious views. 

This video, which I saw over at Iain Dale’s Diary, might be useful in reminding people just how democratic Hamas actually are:


Filed under International

Congratulations, Tony

WHAT a pity I won’t be able to see for myself the violent expulsion of soggy muesli from the mouths of thousands of Guardian readers as they open their papers in the morning to see that Tony Blair is to be given America’s highest civilian award.

Well done, Tony – well deserved. The sensible parts of the country will be proud of you.


Filed under International, United States

Grabbing our attention by behaving like a spoiled brat

WHAT  a spiffing wheeze, those oh, so talented and clever Channel 4 executives must have thought.

Have Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, that well-known Jew-hater and president of a nation that funds terrorist attacks on British troops, give the alternative Christmas message! Fantastic idea!

“And yet,” those young, daring tribunes of free speech must have thought, “doesn’t this pose a moral dilemma for us?”

And of course, it does: after all, how on earth will Channel 4 be able to trump this next year? Having offended so many people in one fell swoop, who can they book for the Christmas Day 2009 slot who will offend even more people? Assuming Osama bin Laden’s agent still isn’t passing on messages, who can they get? Peter Sutcliffe, perhaps? 

And no, I’m not making an attack on free speech; I’m not suggesting Channel 4 should not have the right to book anyone they want for their silly little self-indulgent three o’clock slot. I’m merely exercising my own right to freedom of speech by suggesting that offering a platform to someone who thinks Israel should be wiped off the map, and whose country actively funds Islamist terrorism, is disloyal to one’s own nation and amazingly irresponsible.

But hey, that’s Channel 4 for ya – irreverent and whacky, those rascals will just keep on “challenging our preconceptions”, as they themselves might describe it.

The rest of us would probably prefer to call it pathetic attention-seeking.


Filed under International, Media, TV

Long-term peace is no closer after Israel’s reaction

MANY of my constituents, judging from my email inbox, are appalled at Israeli action against Gaza in the last few days. Most of the messages I’ve received have been couched in quite sensible, moderate terms, though the anger and dismay of the writers is no less apparent.

Unfortunately, when it comes to Israel and the Middle East, western writers and demonstrators find it almost impossible to use sensible or, dare I say it – proportionate – language. One of the many demonstrations outside the Commons a few years ago named Blair, Bush and (then Israeli prime minister, Ariel) Sharon as “the world’s greatest terrorists”. When faced with that kind of half-witted rhetoric, there really is no point in engaging, is there?

Someone who can always be relied upon to bring some sense and perspective to recent events is David Aaronovitch. In today’s Times, he pleads lucidly and wisely for some sensible use of language when analysing recent events. And because his knowledge and understanding of Israel and its history is so much greater than my own, I will opt for the lazy option and simply endorse what he says:

When Hamas refused to renew the Egyptian-brokered ceasefire ten days ago, and then when it allowed a series of rocket attacks on Israel, what did its leadership think was likely to happen? We know that it was warned by both Egypt and its Fatah rivals that there would be an Israeli reaction, but did Hamas believe such warnings were exaggerated, or did it want there to be such an attack? Unlike the Israeli Government, whose representatives have been all over the media in the past two days, at the time of writing not one Hamas bigwig had put himself up for interrogation.

… the friends of the Palestinians would be best advised to put pressure on Hamas never to launch another of its bloody rockets and to stop its death-laden rhetoric, and the friends of Israel well placed to cajole it into making a settlement seem worthwhile. All else is verbiage.

Last year a constituent – a former member of the Labour Party, as it happens – came to see me at my surgery and asked me to write to the Foreign Secretary concerning Israel. We chatted about the various issues, and at the root of his concerns was the fact that Israel exists at all. He saw the “two state solution”  as fundamentally unfair to the Palestinians whose claim to the whole of Israel (including Israel within its pre-1967 borders) he thought should be honoured.

Of course, it’s far too easy – and inaccurate – to claim that all Palestinians and every one of Israel’s western critics want to have Israel removed from the map. Most hope earnestly for a two-state solution.

But it is also true that there is a clear reluctance to condemn Hamas as supporters of Islamist terrorism, or the firing of thousands of rockets at Israeli civilian areas from Gaza over the years.

Aaronovitch is undoubtedly right to predict that the Israeli reaction to the attacks from Gaza will do nothing to secure the elusive long-term peace that most Israelis and Palestinians are desperate to achieve.


Filed under International

An Iraq inquiry will change nothing

ACCORDING to TheyWorkForYou, I voted “strongly against” an inquiry into the war in Iraq. Apparently.

Now that a date has been set for withdrawal of British troops from Iraq, an inquiry is back on the agenda. But an inquiry into what? Nick Clegg says he wants an inquiry into “an illegal war“. So, no prejudging the outcome there, then.

And if Nick doesn’t think the legality or otherwise of the war needs to be looked at, what does he want to be examined? An inquiry into the conduct of the war, or of events leading up to the start of the war, would be fair enough. But I would not support an inquiry seeking to make judgments about political decisions made in February and March 2003 by ministers and MPs. Yes, MPs sometimes make mistakes, and when that occurs, they are responsible for those misjudgments to their electorates, not to an inquiry headed up by some judge or other who isn’t accountable to anyone.

Similarly, ministers should be responsible to parliament, not to an inquiry. Supposing Judge Whoever decides that the decision to go to war should not have been made. He or she is entitled to his or her view. But my judgment, and the judgment of most MPs, was that it should. The electorate have since had an opportunity to make their own judgment.

Whenever an inquiry is held, and whatever its structure, it will be a huge disappointment to many people. Many of those calling for an inquiry are doing so only because they expect it will bolster their own view on Iraq.

But I doubt if there is a single person in the UK (among those who care one way or the other) whose mind is not already made up about the justification, or lack of it, for the invasion of Iraq. Personally, I’m not about to change my mind just because an inquiry tells me I should. And before you start fulminating at my arrogance, just remember that the same goes for those who opposed, and still oppose, the occupation: will any of them change their mind if the inquiry concludes the invasion was justified? Of course not.

An inquiry will happen; an inquiry should happen. Just don’t expect it to draw a line under this particular episode.


Filed under Government, International, LibDems, Nick Clegg, Parliament