Blair may rule, but Thatcher still leads

By Steve Myers
web posted November 1998

Perhaps Abraham Lincoln had a point about fooling people but, with the world so uncertain just now, it is time for bold statesmanship rather than shallow showmanship. The duplicity and the insubstantial nature of the Showman-in-Chief can be seen by his apparent belief that he will be transformed from disgraced, peripheral buffoon into world statesman by donning his pince-nez half-glasses, an idea he probably saw in a film. Any fool, especially one with David Rockefeller standing at his elbow, can give away chunks of Israel in exchange for Yasser Arafat's solemn promises, which hold about as much value as his own. This particular fool, who operates quite comfortably within the sordid world of protection rackets, just did so. Unfortunately for the Israelis, for the Palestinians who will discover the consequences, and of course, for the long-suffering American people, the fool in question happens to occupy the office of President. Only the efforts of King Hussein of Jordan, now sadly very ill with cancer, saved the day. Hopefully his successor will possess Hussein's considerable leadership presence to ensure stability in the Middle East.

So it is that during a period absent of true leadership, the world's mischief makers busily ply their trade, as the past two weeks illustrate. Indeed, events show more clearly the dimensions of the Oval Office vacuum than anything Kenneth Starr has said or done, though one wishes the dear man would say or do something relevant to the sort of crimes ordinary people understand - murder, embezzlement and racketeering - rather than just adultery and the cover-up thereof, which so many seem to blithely condone.

If Bill Clinton's ephemeral weakness was illustrated by the Middle East "peace" deal, that of British Prime Minister Tony Blair was shown by his handling of the former Chilean leader, General Augusto Pinochet. Having accorded Senator Pinochet a diplomatic welcome when he arrived at Heathrow Airport for one of his regular visits - on this occasion to conclude aircraft and ship purchases for his country and to have back surgery - Mr. Blair then acquiesced in his arrest after a request by a maverick Spanish judge, while the general was recovering from surgery in The London Clinic (the very building in which your beloved editor was born). He was charged with having committed human rights violations while President of Chile. In his time, he certainly led a brutal regime of violence, terrorism and repression. Yet when all the facts are known, what distinguishes him in that regard from other dictators and terrorists, like the IRA's Gerry Adams who is warmly received at 10 Downing Street, or President Jiang, to whom Mr. Blair has just paid homage in Beijing, or for that matter, Bill Clinton himself, about whom no more need be said?

Aside from being inhospitable and hypocritical, how does Mr. Blair feel about the ethics of arresting a frail octogenarian guest in his hospital bed? On that basis, maybe the Chinese Dictator, Jiang Zemin can be lured to London for tea and crumpets at Fortnum and Mason and then clapped in irons while he sips his Earl Grey. Would Mr. Blair condone the arrest of every world leader whose regime had murdered opponents, staff members or the occasional princess who knew too much? If so, where does that leave Queen Elizabeth? While Mr. Blair may wish to emulate Mr. Clinton by alienating his allies, it is, to put it mildly, a most unusual way of conducting diplomacy. With the British Government focused on what it is pleased to call an "ethical foreign policy", it was left to Lady Thatcher to speak up for ethics and common sense, and amazingly, even the Archbishop of Canterbury agreed with her.

Lady Thatcher embarrassed the British Government into a change of course with the uniquely British method of writing a letter to The Times; it is even more poignant as she wrote it from Kentucky. Here's how she demolished Mr. Blair's "ethical" foreign policy in three short paragraphs:

From Baroness Thatcher, OM
Sir, I have better cause than most to remember that Chile, led at that time by General Pinochet, was a good friend to this country during the Falklands War. By his actions the war was shortened and many British lives were saved.

There were indeed abuses of human rights in Chile and acts of violence on both sides of the political divide. However, the people of Chile, through successively elected democratic Governments, have determined how they should come to terms with their past. An essential part of that process has been the settlement of the status of General Pinochet and it is not for Spain, Britain or any other country to interfere in what is an internal matter for Chile. Delicate balances have had to be struck in Chile's transition to democracy, balances with which we interfere at our peril.

General Pinochet must be allowed to return to his own country forthwith. Next week, Britain will welcome the democratically elected leader of a country [Argentina] which illegally invaded British territory, causing the loss of more than 250 British lives. It would be disgraceful to preach reconciliation with one, while maintaining under arrest someone who, during that same conflict, did so much to save so many British lives.

Yours faithfully,
House of Lords, London SW1A 0PW

If this is an example of Mr. Blair's "ethical foreign policy", perhaps the British people as a whole, and Mrs. Blair in particular, should be relieved he did not promise "the most ethical administration in history".

The difference between "ruling" and "leading" may be lost on Mr. Clinton and Mr. Blair. Leadership is attained not by winning elections, but comes only with the kind of moral stature Lady Thatcher possesses and which the twin adolescents currently running the US and the UK clearly do not. Leadership is scarce. The Conservative Party, except Lady Thatcher, is silent. Queen Elizabeth and Prince Charles are enmeshed in a row over his 50th birthday celebrations. His mistress, Camilla Parker-Bowles, is to host a party at Highgrove, Prince Charles' country house, and as a result, Queen Elizabeth, who is adamant about never being in Mrs. Parker-Bowles' presence, has had to rearrange the official celebration for the previous night. Charles and Camilla deny collaborating with Penny Junor's new book which damns Princess Diana, and leaking the idea that Diana was close friends with her bodyguard, Barry Mannakee, before his death in a convenient road accident in July 1987. Road accidents are apparently as much a specialty of the House of Windsor as they are with the House of Clinton. With a Royal Family devoid of credibility and a Government devoid of ethics, Britain should treasure Margaret Thatcher. Despite having been out of office eight years next month, she remains the only leader of Great Britain.

Current Issue

Archive Main | 1998

E-mail ESR




1996-2020, Enter Stage Right and/or its creators. All rights reserved.