Wednesday, June 18, 2003

Tony Blair, paying the price for having Bush as a friend:

Tony Blair pays a heavy price today for the war in Iraq. Victory, synonymous with the elimination of Saddam Hussein, gained the Prime Minister an ephemeral state of grace. But now he basks rather in a state of disgrace, ever since his real motives, modeled closely on those of George W. Bush, for overthrowing the Master of Baghdad have begun to arouse the deepest skepticism, when they are not just purely and simply condemned.

According to a poll published last Saturday in The Times, 58% of the British believe that Mr. Blair and Mr. Bush "deliberately" exaggerated the threat of Iraqi weapons of extermination to justify the intervention of Anglo-American troops in Iraq. Fifty-eight percent of them, certainly, still judge that recourse to force was justified to get rid of the Baathist tyranny for the Iraqis. But that's 6% less than those who in April believed London and Washington had a basis to resort to force.

Finally, and above all, doubt about Tony Blair's integrity is taking root. More than a third of the British ( exactly 34%) affirm that they are no longer disposed to trust the head of the government in any matter whatsoever, given his behavior over the Iraq case. Quite a rebuff for a political leader who situated all his activities in the framework of the sincerity of his convictions and moral rigor.

This stain that attaches to the Prime Minister risks lasting as long as the weapons of mass destruction remain indiscoverable. In this regard, the testimony of expert witnesses from Australia and New Zealand should add to Mr. Blair's troubles. Steve Allison, British chemical engineer, UN expert, who belonged to Han Blix' disarmament inspectors team, describes as "absolute nonsense" "intelligence" that London and Washington furnished them about supposedly sensitive sites. In an interview with the paper Christchurch Press, he deplores having had to investigate, on the basis of this information, vacuous evidence just "to placate Washington". According to him, an episode that raises two questions that have still not been answered: "Did the Americans dispose of intelligence they hid from us or did they give us their best tips?" Two months later, in any case, proof is still lacking.

The Australian, Andrew Wilkie, an intelligence service expert, resigned from his position as government advisor last March to protest against "the exaggerations" of John Howard's government with regard to the Iraqi threat. He has agreed to testify this week in London before the Foreign Affairs Commission of the House of Commons, which is inquiring into the truth of the information given by Tony Blair's government precisely on the Iraqi threat. Mr. Wilkie has no doubt either. The reality of the danger was "strongly exaggerated". Undoubtedly, "Iraq possessed weapons of extermination at one time". And, most likely, traces of this arsenal "will be discovered", he recognizes. "But nothing as imminently dangerous as they wanted to make us believe," he adds in an interview with the Sydney daily, Morning Herald.