Blair's forbearance: To mark the third anniversary of the Iraq war, British Prime Minister Tony Blair delivered a forceful speech that did not just reaffirm the tropes of Anglo-American foreign policy, but also directly challenged some increasingly common criticisms of it. Even detractors and wobbly supporters in the blogosphere credit Blair's self-defense with an unarguable eloquence.
Harry Hatchet, founder of Harry's Place, a forum of democratic socialists who are unapologetically pro-regime change, cheers the Labor premier for keeping the credentials of the internationalist left well-burnished: "Blair is correct and his viewpoint expresses what should be the values of the democratic left - one of the strangest ironies of his Premiership has been that his most radical and progressive voice has been found in foreign policy yet it is exactly in this arena that he has met with so much hostility from the left." At the classically liberal Dean's Place, Scott Kirwin pines for such linguistic liquidity on this side of the Atlantic. "Damn. Why can't Bush say this - or someone who has more of a silver tongue in the administration?"
Euan MacDonald at The TransAtlantic Assembly is less impressed: "The speech is thoughtful at points, almost always eloquently written and occasionally surprising; however, a little closer analysis removes much if not all of its apparent lustre. The usual reductions, generalisations and half-truths are present, and all are still seeking to serve the same justificatory function."
Consider U.K. resident James Crossley a detractor. At his blog Earliest Christian History, he scorns the speech: "[S]trangely no mention of British support for dicators who boil their opponents and fincancing secret police. No mention of Western involvement in the Middle East putting in whatever governemnt, no matter how out-of-date, to support western needs…" Ditto, chimes "Jo Swift" at Radical Left: "For some conspiracy theorists, here's a sinister thought: by chance as the Prime Minister was speaking, so was Dan Plesch, Strategic Analyst, warning that there are signs the US 'is poised to destroy 10,000 targets in Iran in a surprise attack using Stealth and BV52 bombers'…This will alarm many that in this speech Tony Blair is not just begging for support to carry action in Iraq through until democracy wins - but he may be softening up for action ahead in Iran."
Helen hath fury: Veteran White House correspondent Helen Thomas got her wish yesterday when President Bush, in a rare televised press conference, finally decided to call on her. A vocal critic of the administration, Thomas jumped on Bush about his "real" reasons for taking the country to war. Bloggers are characteristically split between hosannas and eye-rolls.
Journalist Gary Goldhammer at Below The Fold praises his former colleague: "Administrations change, but good journalism should not. I have met Helen several times … and she is as sweet when not working as your grandmother. But like your grandmother, she will get in your face if you step out of line." Liberal "pessimist" at The Left Coaster has renewed hope after yesterday's tête-à-tête: "If anyone should be remembered for showing that King George is a blithering idiot, it's Helen Thomas!"
But Betsy at Betsy's Page thinks no war has been won or lost over this Helen: "The President should hold more press conferences. And he should call on Helen Thomas every single time. … She is so eaten up with her own conclusions about the President that she wasn't even interested in hearing what he had to say. And that was all on display." "Van Helsing" at Moonbattery applauds Bush's measured response: "Bush did so with the perfect touch, never losing his graciousness, much less stooping to the yapping-dog level of his MSM detractors, as he put the loathsome little troll in her place by patiently yet passionately describing some of the recent historical events that made the invasion of Iraq all but unavoidable."
ETA's end of violence? The Basque separatist group ETA declared a "permanent cease-fire" today, marking the public-relations end of a campaign that has killed 800 people in Spain over 40 years. In the wake of the 2004 Madrid train-bombing, many interpret the move as one to gain political leverage.
Conservative Kyer at Whatsakyer "translates" ETA's video message proclamation: "We're getting our butts kicked and this whole 'violent separatist revolution' thing just isn't working out any more so please don't hunt us down like the vile scum we are and prosecute us." Mary Beth at the pro-Bush Random Thoughts sees "never again" as "not until the next time": "The last 'permanent' cease fire declared by ETA was in 1998 and ended in 1999."
Lady M, a London leftist, is more appreciative of the call to disarm, if not exactly trusting of a group that dresses like this: "I'm all in favour of a permanent ETA ceasefire, and look forward to seeing an achievement of Basque nationalist goals through strictly non-violent means. But when the ceasefire declaration is coming from people in get-ups like these ... can you blame the Spanish for being a wee bit sceptical?"
Read more about ETA's cease-fire.