Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Clinton turns into a pretzel on British TV 

Bill Clinton, on his book signing invasion of Great Britain, nuances himself into oblivion, trying to defend Tony Blair without giving aid and comfort to George Bush:

"What [Blair] was trying to do was to preserve the integrity of the UN resolution, the unity of Europe and the transatlantic alliance and in the end it became impossible to do all three. So he had to decide – it was a terrible, terrible dilemma and any British prime minister would have been in, I think, a terrible position here,"
Clinton told Britain's Channel 4.

"Mr Clinton said Mr Blair had three options to consider when most thought he only had two – to go to war or not.

"He said there was also the possible position of the role of the weapons inspection team.

" 'If Hans Blix had finished his job, or said ‘I can’t do any more because this man won’t cooperate, so I think he has chemical or biological weapons, which were unaccounted for’ – that’s the proper language, unaccounted for – then I would have supported actions,' he said.

" 'That was Tony’s position, so they tried one more time to go to the UN to get enough votes for that position, but they couldn’t do it'."
In other words, Tony meant well and tried his best, but it was not to be, or as Clinton said in defence of his Third Way pal, "I agree with Tony on this. He believed at the time, and I think British people need to at least take into account of this in judging whether he did right or wrong."

This is all very reminiscent of Clinton's recent comments that he agreed with Bush's decision to go to war against Iraq, but not with the timing of the war. On the other side of the Atlantic, Clinton now seems to be saying that in the end, even bad timing can be forgiven, particularly if your name is Tony.

If it all sounds like too much hair-splitting to you, it probably is. Purely cosmetic glosses aside, the US and the UK position on Iraq was pretty much the same all along, and so, what's good for Tony should also be good to George. But if not as charitable to his successor as he is to his British pal, Clinton at least avoids recriminations and conspiracy theories about Bush's rationale for the war:

"They thought they could make a new democracy there, shake up the authoritarian machines in the Middle East, increase their leverage to make peace between Israel and Palestinians and they thought the peace-making process after the conflict would be much easier than it has been."
Which doesn't sound all that bad, does it?


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