I heard Tony Blair being interviewed on the radio this morning (it's the Labour Party Conference this week, and he delivered his keynote speech yesterday - presumably only to be upstaged when guest speaker Bono takes to the stage this afternoon). I'm categorically not a supporter of the war in Iraq, and I have been appalled at the way that we were led into the conflict behind the figleaf of weapons of mass destruction and the alleged link between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda. Tony Blair of course has an absolutely critical role in this, and has been a prime mover in making sure that Britain backed up George W. Bush in what would otherwise have been a unilateral action by the USA.
Anyway - there are millions of bloggers out there talking about just these things. What I wanted to mention was that in spite of all this, when I heard Blair on the radio this morning, I was reminded that he is essentially a decent man in a really difficult job. He spoke of how dreadful he feels about the whole Kenneth Bigley affair, and how sorry he feels for the family - and yet he can't (and shouldn't) give in to the demands of the terrorists. Of course he does! In all the press hysteria it is easy to lose sight of this guy's basic decency. For all the political capital they have made at his expense over the war, I do not believe that the Conservative party could have steered this line. For all that he is Bush's lapdog over Iraq, he seems to be trying as hard as he can to get the Arab-Israeli peace talks reopened because he recognises (apparently unlike Bush) that this is one of the major causes and recruiting grounds for extremists.
Don't get me wrong. I think we were led into war under false pretences, and that now we are stuck in Iraq without any clear exit strategy. I believe that the government has made a lot of mistakes in this area (some of which they now seem prepared to admit). In a healthy democracy, we are right to ask questions of our leaders and to hold them to account for their actions.
Taking all of that into account, I think I'm actually grudgingly admiring of Tony Blair - I like the fact that we are led by someone who is making some difficult, perhaps even impossible decisions, but at least he looks like he is agonising over them and striving to select the best option. George Bush just seems to swan around dealing with black and white issues - you are with us or against us. I like to think that Blair sees that there are some shades of grey.
Bit political and heavy, but there you go.
In other news, I see that scientists have discovered that extracts from pine cones hold the key to battling the so-called "superbugs" that have antibiotic resistance. I take it this means that squirrels are going to take over the world?
ST (via email - let's hope this works, eh?)
Reading to escape
5 days ago