The longest reigning Labour PM is passing his mantle on to his soon-to-be French counterpart, writes Gamal Nkrumah
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The French President-elect Nicolas Sarkozy (right) picks up from where outgoing British Prime Minister Tony Blair's greatest legacy left off -- as US poodle
Anthony Charles Lynton (Tony) Blair, the outgoing British prime minister, has long been derided by his detractors as "Bush's poodle", not without good reason. United States President George W Bush counted Blair as an invaluable ally and the two men deceived the world for the sake of their wicked ends -- oil and personal aggrandisement. They spearheaded the invasions of Afghanistan -- to capture the still-at-large Osama bin Laden, and Iraq -- citing the presence of weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) on Iraqi soil. When no WMDs were found, they shamelessly changed tact, presumptuously professing that it was really all about introducing democracy to the Arab world, starting with Iraq.
Blair's lasting legacy will no doubt be these terrible tragedies which have resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands, including not a few American and British troops, and left these countries devastated, with little hope on the horizon for either. Bush and Blair promised peace and democracy, but brought only chaos and destruction. They have presided over the most damaging debacle of contemporary world politics. Their warmongering and Machiavellian machinations to pilfer the proceeds accruing from Arab oil on the pretext of spreading democracy and fighting terrorism have led to utter disaster.
The British public demonstrated time and again that it did not believe in the fibs of the silver-tongued Blair but he never gave up, spinning evermore intricate webs of lies. The outgoing British premier will go down in history as the more sophisticated liar, Bush -- the infinitely more ingenuous.
But there is even more to this "legacy". Iraqi resistance to American-British occupation has continued to intensify, giving the lie to the Bush-Blair theory of Western invincibility.
Today, Blair restricts himself to a few oracular and ineffectual comments. His popularity sank to such an all time low that he was forced to announce his resignation at this year's Labour Party conference. He will never be able to shake his ghastly legacy.
Yet another facette to his legacy concerns the plight of the Muslims of Britain, some of whom suffered years of mental and physical torture at the hands of US thugs in Guantanamo. The debacles in Afghanistan and Iraq became a matter of embittered debate in Britain. Their overtly anti-Muslim character also created an identity crisis for Britain's many Muslims, most of whom were born and raised there. Can the two seemingly conflicting identities -- whether to be a British citizen or a Muslim -- blend? Blair openly criticised the Arabs and Muslims of Britain for condoning terrorism. These utterances, evidently well-intentioned, nevertheless, ascribed guilt for the homicidal bombings in London to the Arabs and Muslims of Britain. Somewhat trivial in itself, but illustrative of Blair's approach. And, his attitude did filter down.
Blair's legacy of badgering British Muslims reflects his broader legacy to the Arab and Muslim world, relations with which have gone from bad to worse in the wake of 9/ 11 and the American- British invasions of Muslim nations. Recall that one of Blair's favourite hangouts is with the Labour Friends of Israel. And by what moral authority did our pious hero defend US atrocities in Abu Ghraib?
No instinct is more compelling than that of self- preservation. Western leaders ought to have known that naked aggression would not prolong their stranglehold on the region. Indeed, the outcome of the West's bombast about democracy and terror was an escalation of resistance to the puppet regimes the West hurriedly installed in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The West's policies also led to increased terrorist attacks in Western capitals, yet another page in the book of our hero's legacy. In spite of the massive increase in surveillance (read: spying on citizens) instituted by Blair, there were attacks by homicidal bombers on London's mass transit system on 7 July 2005 and -- God forbid -- there will probably be more.
The world does not know what the current Chancellor of the Exchequer, Gordon Brown, Blair's heir apparent, will do about the foreign policy farrago bequeathed him by Blair. Nor is it clear whether Brown will follow in Blair's footsteps with glittering election victories (for Blair in 1997, 2001 and 2005).
Blair's champions claim that at least he left a golden economic legacy -- Britain is today the world's fourth strongest economy, the country's once notorious crime rate has fallen and unemployment is among the lowest in the world. When Baroness Thatcher, the Iron Lady of Britain, came to power joblessness was the bane of Britain. Blair scrupulously stood by the Thatcherite economic policies. His approach was conducted at a rarefied intellectual level by the gurus of neo-liberalism with such success that he is now being touted as the successor to the infamous Paul Wolfowitz at the World Bank. Well, I guess even Blair might be a step up on that one.
NATO will no doubt receive a great boost with the coming to power of the dashing French President-elect Nicolas Sarkozy. On 16 May, Sarkozy became the 23rd president of the French Republic. He is a great admirer of Anglo-Saxon neo-liberal economic successes. Indeed, outgoing French President Jacques Chirac gave Sarkozy the green light to follow Blair's example and liberalise the economy on 13 June 2006. Sarkozy, like Blair in Britain, deeply offended the ethnic and religious minorities of France who he dismissed at one point as "scum". He insisted that immigrants be carefully registered in police files widely considered a "trap" as far as immigrants are concerned. In the wake of the riots by these "scum" in France, his popularity plummeted among these disgruntled minorities.
While Sarkozy disapproved of the US-British aggression against Iraq and the occupation of the troubled country, he openly denounced what he termed "French arrogance taking delight in [the Americans'] troubles". Blair's years in power were a tremendous historic watershed. Britain's role as the most powerful engine of Pax-Americana in Europe was reinforced. I dearly hope I'm wrong, but it looks at this point that despite Sarkozy's pro forma criticism of US foreign policy, he is picking up from where Blair's greatest legacy left off -- as US poodle.