The Age's Tory, Tony Parkinson, on what Tony Blair can teach our ALP:
"This week, as Latham raged bitterly against party colleagues, the media, and "the system", Blair was delivering to his party conference a speech rated as among the best of his prime ministership: bold, resolute, challenging, uplifting.
"For a man written off not so long ago as a leader in terminal decline, this was a vibrant, high-intensity performance, reminding critics that Blair is far from a spent force. Confident about who he is, and what he stands for, the British PM appears also to have an acute sense of what matters most in the lives of those he is elected to lead.
"The contrast with the identity crisis of the ALP could not be more pronounced."
The Guardian's John Harris on why Blair's Labor conference is "so scared of debate":
"...With the [Labor] party long since becalmed and the activists still on board adjusted to the supposedly tough realities of power, those at the top would have us believe that Labour now moves with a hard-headed kind of rationality. But strangeness still rules - only now, riotous chaos has been replaced by a bizarre spirit of contorted denial. What, you wonder, does the outside world make of the fact that repeatedly hailing the London Olympic bid is obligatory, but mentions of Iraq must be avoided? How about the news that on the second day, Labour's National Executive resolved not to make any decisions on what resolutions to back, so as to avoid being "divisive"? And what of the see-through fact that the debates are so transparently managed?"
Parkinson is right. Blair is a figure to be admired and cherished. Shame about those pesky Iraqis murdered in the name of "freedom." Parkinson should listen to David Clark, former Labour government adviser:
"On Iraq Blair is not simply discredited: his personal pride has become a fundamental obstacle to any rational discussion about what now needs to happen. It has been obvious for some time that the presence of British and American troops is causing more problems than it solves, but to change policy would be to admit error and that is something he will never do. As long as Blair remains in office, saving face will take precedence over saving lives."
Parkinson reminds me of a belligerent child, not unlike James Morrow, an American Sydney-based journalist that I debated last night. The topic was "Why Hate America?" Morrow insisted that the anti-war movement in America was "petering out", we shouldn't really care about the environment and global warming because that was little more than praying to an Earth goddess and the Vietnam war was perhaps slightly misguided but essentially about eradicating Communism in Vietnam.
When I suggested that Iraq was never about spreading freedom and democracy in the Middle East, Morrow suggested that George W. Bush had said otherwise during his State of the Union address and therefore should be taken at face value. He seemed perplexed when I dared suggest Iraq was strongly aligning with Iran, America's new whipping boy.
Morrow was pleasant enough, but seemed to live in a world of absolutes, good vs. evil, a kind of Fox News/Weekly Standard perspective. There's a term for such individuals who love using the American military to spread "freedom": chicken hawk.
Let me make a reasoned suggestion. Morrow needs to get out more and actually meet some of the millions of Muslims who feel outraged by America's "War on Terror". They can smell hypocrisy a mile away and Bush's America is their justified focus. They wonder why the freedom-loving USA supports despotic regimes around the world. They're curious why Iran's nuclear capability is unacceptable but Israel's is encouraged. And they'd like to know how many innocent Iraqis can be killed by the Americans or the insurgents - most of whom started their campaign of terror after the US invasion - before the Americans realise a terrible mistake has been made.
When will the Morrows of this world actually look beyond the corridors of Washington, London and Canberra for the true price of Western policies?