Go on! Be honest! Do you prefer tuning in to Who Wants to be a Millionaire or Eastenders rather than CNN or the BBC? If so, you don’t know what you’re missing. This week in politics was far more entertaining than your run of the mill quiz program or soap. It even gave Comedy Club a run for its money. However, if you are a Fox News viewer, stick with it. Real politick cannot compete with pure Vaudeville.
It began with the ‘My friend Igor’ show ‘produced’ by Britain’s Foreign Secretary Jack Straw. When the Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov turned up at Number 10 Downing Street, even the Sky News anchor was taken aback by the salivating Straw’s effusive greeting. Straw, doing his imitation of the Cheshire cat, fairly flew out of the Prime Minister’s London residence to engulf the amazed Igor, in what the Sky reporter referred to ‘a Russian bear hug’.
Things got even funnier as the day progressed. After lunch, the two foreign ministers gave a joint press conference. By this time Straw’s grin had become fixed, rather like an actor doing re-runs for a toothpaste ad. He kept referring to the dignified Russian as his good friend, calling him ‘Igor’. The not so jolly Ivanov, who formally referred to his British counterpart as ‘the Foreign Secretary or Secretary Straw’, however, didn’t reciprocate such intimacy.
After they both assured the public of the unprecedented level of cooperation between the British and Russian governments and how they both agreed on everything under the sun, Igor was seen later in the day rushing out of Down Street with unnatural haste in what only could be described as a huff. His buddy Jack was left looking surprised, even desolate on the steps of number 10, while Ivanov, like the Biblical Lot, never looked back. Jack never even got a desultory wave.
The following day we were treated to Prime Minister’s Question Time in the House of Commons when Blair assured Members of Parliament that a second UN Iraq resolution was in the bag. No problem at all. After all, with someone like Jack Straw willing to wiggle his toes and his ears hoping to make friends and influence people, one can understand Blair’s confidence.
But such enthusiasm turned out to be spectacularly misplaced as just a few short hours later, what did we see? There was dear Igor lined up in Paris with his real best friends – going by the body language and the genuine camaraderie – announcing that Russia, France, Germany and China would not support any second resolution. Oh, the pain of betrayal! I wouldn’t be surprised if poor old Jack shed a tear or two into his Earl Grey.
Meanwhile over in Qatar, there was an emergency summit of the Islamic states, which replicated the kinder-garden ambience of an earlier Arab League meeting in Sharm El-Sheikh. Live television coverage of the Arab League’s discussions was brought to a close when the ever-entertaining Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, attired like a Sub-Saharan African chieftain, accused the Saudi government of being an American puppet. This insult prompted the Saudi delegation to go through the motions of walking out, before being persuaded to return to their seats by a sycophantic squad saying please, please pretty please.
Qatar witnessed squabbles between the old protagonists Iraq and Kuwait with ‘traitor’, ‘monkeys’ and ‘curses on your moustache’ being bandied about. This time it was Kuwait’s turn to threaten to walk out. Did they? What! And miss the fun? What happened to the mutual hugging in which both Iraq and Kuwait indulged during last year’s Arab League summit in Beirut?
Later on that day (Wednesday) Chief Weapons Inspector Hans Blix gave a press conference at which he stated clearly that during the past month or so Iraq has been proactively cooperating and visibly disarming. He explained that Iraq’s destruction of its Al-Samoud missiles must be considered as real disarmament and said that they had interviewed seven Iraqi scientists without minders and tape recorders. He also stated that there is progress with the verification of whether Iraq had destroyed its stocks of anthrax and VX nerve gas some 10 years ago.
Blix was asked whether he considered Iraq a danger to its neighbours and to the rest of the world. He replied in diplomatic-speak saying that Iraq was militarily far weaker than it had been in 1991 and it could hardly get up to mischief while it was surrounded by hundreds of thousands of enemy troops.
Shortly afterwards, up pops Colin Powell while Blix’s encouraging words were still fresh in our memories. He said that Iraq had shown no signs of cooperating and adhering to resolution 1441 whatsoever and was a real and growing danger both to the US and to the planet. Huh!
Hans Blix is fast becoming a veritable thorn in Powells’ side. During the last UN General Assembly meeting, Blix’s fairly positive report on the Iraqi disarmament, including criticism of Powell’s earlier claims and accusations, embarrassed the American Foreign Secretary in to throwing away his prepared speech, forcing him to adlib. Those guys really ought to coordinate.
And talking about school children, for that is surely what we have been doing, thousands of Britain’s kiddiewinks played truant or walked out of classes to protest against war with Iraq outside the Labour Party headquarters. Bags of manure were dumped outside the front door as a symbol of the protestors’ thoughts on Blair’s foreign policy.
In another one of the Bush-supporting countries Australia, protesting women lined up to cast off their clothing forming an anti-war message on a hillside, drawing a further protest from a British news anchor who moaned he was tired of watching ladies’ derrieres.
But such blatant anti-war libertarianism was frowned upon by a New York shopping mall, where, according to Reuters, a man wearing an anti-war T-shirt he bought in the mall was arrested for trespassing when he refused to take it off. I don’t suppose the incarcerated man who was sentenced for making a joke about a ‘burning bush’ thinks much of America’s new constrained atmosphere either.
Against all odds, the Bush crowd is determined to have its war and it will go to any lengths to achieve its hegemonic aims. Britain’s Observer reported that US intelligence agencies have been told to listen in to telephone calls and monitor emails made by Security Council members to afford arm-twisting ammo when it comes to the next vote.
Blair has already shown himself willing to manipulate the truth as he did over the debacle of the dossier plagiarized from the Internet, and the way that he has jumped about from one pretext to attack Iraq to another. Blair began with the party line of disarming Saddam Hussein, moved onto the spurious Al Queda linkage, turned in frustration to regime change and ended up as Father Teresa out to help the poor suffering Iraqi people. Oh please!
Thanks to American inducements and threats, the newly elected Turkish government is trying to push a new vote through its parliament on the stationing of 62,000 American troops on its soil, in opposition to the Turkish people. The Turks told the Americans to stuff their bribes after seeing their country depicted by US cartoonists as a whore or a carpet-seller. They believe that any American dollars they receive will be bathed in Iraqi blood, but even so their gung ho generals eyeing up northern Iraq’s rich oilfields along with nipping Kurdish autonomy in the bud, are keen to host the Americans.
So, friends, tune in while you can still have a good laugh. At this rate it won’t be long before our tears of mirth will turn to sorrow. The pyrotechnics in Iraq are soon due to go off. The jokers, truth manipulators and the saber-rattlers will have won and rather than watch images of dismembered women and babies on my screen, while we, who live in so-called democracies, are impotent, it’s Big Brother here I come. Enjoy!
Linda S Heard is a specialist writer on Mid-East affairs and welcomes feedback. She can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org