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God's Politics


Jim Wallis: A New Challenge for Tony Blair

posted by God's Politics

A month before the war in Iraq began, I took a delegation of religious leaders to meet with British Prime Minister Tony Blair at 10 Downing Street, to urge that he find a better alternative. We met with Mr. Blair for nearly an hour, and along with Iraq, the critical need for a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict figured prominently in our discussions. The Anglican Bishop of Jerusalem, Riah Abu El-As, told Prime Minister Blair, “The road to Baghdad leads through Jerusalem.” Even then, the British government was making the critical connection between peace in the Middle East and the problem of terrorism and Iraq, much more than the U.S. government. The Middle East “Roadmap” to peace was one of his priorities, and he thought he could secure a strong commitment from President Bush. But the war in Iraq became the Bush administration’s almost-sole priority.
Tomorrow, Blair steps down as Prime Minister, and the news is that he will be named as special envoy for the international diplomatic Quartet on the Middle East. He has long had a deep interest in Mideast peace, and according to The Guardian,

The idea of Mr. Blair doing this job is understood to have originated with the prime minister himself in conversation with George Bush, who then suggested it to the U.N. The U.N. secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, is said to be a keen supporter and Washington was reported last night to have mounted “an enormous push” to ensure Mr. Blair got the post.

The Guardian also notes the job description (a thankless task):

The job description does not look attractive. The envoy has four bosses: the U.S., the U.N., Russia and the E.U., who frequently disagree and are currently in despair over how to reunite the Palestinians and inject some life in the peace process.

I believe Tony Blair has a deep passion for peace and human rights, despite our disagreement about the war in Iraq. In the last months before leaving office, he was strongly pressuring the international community to finally do something about the genocide in Darfur. I certainly wish Tony Blair success in his new job, and hope he will be the right person for this crucial role. A solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict remains a key to resolving many other problems in the entire region.



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l'etranger

posted June 27, 2007 at 12:07 am


Er – Umh – Hmm?
Oh stuff it, I give up.
I think Blair is genuinely concerned with peace in the middle east, but I fear his credibility really is shot by Iraq. A great shame.



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Mick Sheldon

posted June 27, 2007 at 12:33 am


Tony Blair is a friend of the United States and of Peace .
Jim Wallis went overseas to another nation to get them to stop helpiung the United States ?
Did I read that right ?



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Mark

posted June 27, 2007 at 1:28 am


Jim –
On the basis of your meeting with Tony Blair, you “believe Tony Blair has a deep passion for peace and human rights, despite our disagreement about the war in Iraq.”
I wish, for the sake of both Palestinians and Israelis, that I could agree with you.
Now, unlike you I’ve never met Mr Blair, but as someone who lived the first 46 years of my life in Britain, participated in numerous campaigns for peace and justice there, and still has the right to vote there, I have come to very different conclusions by observing his decisions and actions rather than listening to his talk.
His stance on Iraq shows clearly where he stands – peace and human rights may be good and desirable things, but they have to give way both to commercial interests and to the “special relationship” with the US imperium. His government introduced steadily more draconian legislation to outlaw legitimate protest at home. It did very little – until the pressure at home got too much – for the British citizens and residents held without trial and without justifiable reason in Guantanamo. It has abruptly shut down an enquiry into the probable massive corruption over many years in British armsdealer BAE’s dealings with Saudi Arabia. It has been trying over the last few years to impose identity cards, carrying biometric information, on the British people. It has pursued policies to maintain (and possibly increase) Britain’s nuclear weapons capability. It has gone along obediently with George Bush’s star wars programme.
Tony Blair is an extremely good actor, and he is particularly good at doing sincerity. For a time, most of the British public were fooled by this. Not any longer. In the light of his behaviour over the Iraq invasion in particular, he has come to be widely (and I think rightly) seen as either a world-class liar or else so naive as to be unfit for public office.
Now, it may be that without the corrupting influence of power he will be different. I truly hope so. Maybe in the process he will be able to recover some of his crumbled reputation.
But please, please, please – don’t listen to what he says in his public speeches, watch what he does.
Disappointedly,
Mark



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Neil Kiley

posted June 27, 2007 at 4:18 am


Mark,
I have been watching what Mr Blair did, and did not do. I think I understand his reasoning, though sometimes I do not agree with it.
Mr Blair, I believe, has a strong desire to do what is right. However, here in the real world, it is not so simple to do what is right.
Before the invasion of Iraq, he took the very brave decision to send our (even braver) troops into the hell that was Sierra Leone, and in so doing saved the country from self-destruction. Nobody in the UK really cared about it – but the peolpe of Sierra Leone will never forget.
Again, before the invasion of Iraq, he and Gordon Brown campaigned with partial success to get G8 nations to write off the debts of thirld world debt. A brave step that not many leaders would be willing to take.
In the UK, his government have endevoured continually to remodel the benefits system so that it provides social justice but not free handouts. This is difficult – and they’ve not always got it right. Neither did any of the previous governments before them!
ID cards are a contentious issue, as are the various anti-terrorism laws that have come out. In this, I do admit that the UK government have been watching too many episodes of “24” and following (or in some cases, leading) the US government in the creation of fear as a controlling tactic. However, it is true that there is a lot of terrorist activity in the UK at the moment (there are currently over 40 terrorism trials underway). The extremist preachers have been given a great deal of help by the US/UK foreign policy in Iraq, though!
And so to Iraq. It is undoubtedly the case that mr Blair made a critical error of judgement in supporting the US in this war, the purpose of which I believe is to demonstrate US military superiority, and establish a permanent beachhead in the middle east. I believe that the reason Tony Blair agreed to support the war was in an attempt to get the US to approach the Israel/Palestine problem from an angle other than solely the Israeli angle. I also believe he wanted our troops to set an example of conduct to the coalition, which to a large extent they have done, notwithstanding some exceptions.
Tony Blair did make an error of judgement, and he did not act ethically in the way he brought Britain into the invasion and occupation. However, I do believe that he was looking at a larger picture – one that naturally he could not talk about in public – which in the fulness of time will come to light.
So what do I think of Tony Blair? A man who has shown strong leadership, tried to do the right thing, sometimes succeeded, and sometimes failed.



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RadicalJonny

posted June 27, 2007 at 4:46 am


The decision to send Blair to the middle east as a peace envoy is ludicrous. His rhetoric and good intentions are thoroughly insufficient. This is a man who has proven beyond any doubt his inability to influence US foreign policy in any way, which is vital to the job. His refusal to condemn Israeli offences in last year’s Lebanon war- which he could have done and still supported their cause- was beyond belief. And I haven’t even mentioned Iriaq yet.
There must have been a time when having started a regional conflict and had it go disasterously wrong would have precluded a person from being considered for the job of peace mediator. I guess that nothing should surprise us anymore.
Finally, as a Belfast resident, I would direct who believes that Blair’s record in Northern Ireland helps his cause to Malachi O’Doherty’s spot-on analysis of that score:
http://commentisfree.guardian.co.uk/malachi_odoherty/2007/06/blairs_flaky_credentials.html
We can do better than Blair… or at least almost do no worse…



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Wolverine

posted June 27, 2007 at 9:22 am


After reading this, and the numerous denunciations of President Bush over Iraq, I am hard put to explain how Bush is portrayed as something of a monster while Blair genuinely wants peace.
That’s not to say this isn’t possible — and I’m pleased to see the acknowledgement that not everyone who supported the war is necessarily a monster — but I need more of an explanation than “he’s with us on Darfur”.
Wolverine



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jmndodge

posted June 27, 2007 at 9:37 am


I certainly wish Tony Blair success in his new job, and hope he will be the right person for this crucial role. A solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict remains a key to resolving many other problems in the entire region. Solution, resolution, total victory and/or defeat, the genocide of population… there are many solutions that are unacceptable. Justice, and human rights demonstrated by neighbors learning to live together in peace. America and Britan have to long pushed their special interests as their solution to foreign national interests. Let us hope that Blair is able to move beyond special interests to seek the building of a community on justice and equality under law.



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kevin s.

posted June 27, 2007 at 1:07 pm


“After reading this, and the numerous denunciations of President Bush over Iraq, I am hard put to explain how Bush is portrayed as something of a monster while Blair genuinely wants peace.”
Something of a monster? No less than the beast of revelation, my friend. A diabolical genius, but also a moronic hick. An arrogant decider who is also a puppet. Someone who doesn’t care about human life at all, but is right about immigration somehow, in spite of hating life. Welcome to a world where nuance does not exist, my friend.
“Jim Wallis went overseas to another nation to get them to stop helpiung the United States ?
Did I read that right ?”
Yes. He highlights it in his book a few pages after he criticizes conservative Christians for wanting to sit at “the big table”, and a few pages before he insinuates that Bush is the anti-Christ. Good read. Wanna borrow my copy?



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Sarasotakid

posted June 27, 2007 at 5:02 pm


After reading this, and the numerous denunciations of President Bush over Iraq, I am hard put to explain how Bush is portrayed as something of a monster while Blair genuinely wants peace. Wolverine
You’re right. We should cut to the chase and just call them both monsters because that is what they are.
Yes. He highlights it in his book a few pages after he criticizes conservative Christians for wanting to sit at “the big table”, and a few pages before he insinuates that Bush is the anti-Christ. Good read. Wanna borrow my copy?
Posted by: kevin s.
Better Wallace than the likes of the people you support.



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l'etranger

posted June 27, 2007 at 5:51 pm


I am hard put to explain how Bush is portrayed as something of a monster while Blair genuinely wants peace. Wolverine
A fair question. I think the reason is that Blair did have a coherent doctrine of liberal interventionism, and a track record of delivering on in it Kosovo and Sierra Leone. Both were relatively successful in their execution.
Bush hasn’t articulated such a coherent doctrine, and the chaos that has followed the poor post-war execution in Iraq (particularly damning is Rajiv Chandrasekaran’s Imperial Life in the Emerald City) tends to encourage the view that the invasion was cynical rather than idealistic.
That said an awful lot of people (maybe the majority) make no distinction between the two. Look at the guardian talkboards for an example



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david

posted June 27, 2007 at 7:00 pm


I think an issue of The Economist a few years ago summed it up pretty well. Headlining the cover picture of Bush and Blair was the title, “Wielders of Mass Deception.”



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libby2max

posted June 28, 2007 at 12:52 am


One thing that bothers me is when one bible verse is pulled to defend a statement. (Islam is going down) How rude and ignorant is that.
Personally, I find it refreshing learning about different cultures and language.
I think I’m going to pull out my Arabic tapes and start listening to that language again. There is a respect that I think is important. And when you know about a culture or language you can dialog better and have a deeper understanding and respect. Not only with Arabic, but any, say France too. I taught French language and culture classes for awhile and loved it.
But hey… I’m for peace and I’m a huge liberal! Yuk huh? What do Liberals have to offer anyway- peace, love, understanding, possibly good dialog with what we might not understand completely. Hey and I might have to offer a good Arabic dialog soon!
And I do think initially Tony Blair wanted peace and still does. I can not say that about President Bush. He had an agenda from the start. Though I respect his position. I do not respect his decisions on many of his policies.
http://www.unitedforpeace.org
Lib



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libby2max

posted June 28, 2007 at 1:00 am


http://www.unitedforpeace.org/
just wanted to post that again so it comes up as a link hopefully. Saw that it didn’t some up as a link on my last post.
Lib



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moderatelad

posted June 28, 2007 at 8:51 am


from the writings of Wallis and other authors on this site I would access that they believe that the UN is more moral than the US or its allies.
You figure…
Be blessed –
.



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Rick Nowlin

posted June 28, 2007 at 10:59 am


One thing that bothers me is when one bible verse is pulled to defend a statement. (Islam is going down) How rude and ignorant is that.
If you believe the Scriptures, it’s absolutely true, so I don’t understand what was “rude” about it. Besides, the context of my reply to Donny surrounded his unfounded fear that this country would be eventually dominated by intolerant Muslim extremists and that God would protect His people — provided they are following after Him.



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libby2max

posted June 28, 2007 at 3:09 pm


Rick,
Thank you for the clarification. Yes, I do believe in scriptures.
Lib



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Moderatelad

posted June 28, 2007 at 3:15 pm


Posted by: Rick Nowlin | June 28, 2007 10:59 AM
Well Said!
Be blessed.
.



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libby2max

posted June 28, 2007 at 5:52 pm


Rick,
I so much appreciated your comment back earlier. Thanks :) I understand the point, but don’t fully agree with it. Or I totally missed it and you were being sarcastic about the tacked on piece.
(Islam is eventually going down). I thought that was very inappropriate and disrespectful.
That would be like someone quoting something out of another holy book then tacking on the end… (Christianity is eventually going down). That is what I am tired of. Use scripture but let’s not be so self-centered in respect to our religion. Is it possible to respect other faiths without using a holy book as a way to throw verses of scripture around to prove that one religion is better than another? That one is going to stay afloat longer than another? Scripture is interpreted many ways to prove points. Maybe I just need to get better at memorizing verses to discredit other faiths?
Plus, I forgot that Christianity is the only religion for the world. If I thought that, then maybe I would agree with your comment a little more.
Lib



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Rick Nowlin

posted June 29, 2007 at 1:13 am


Plus, I forgot that Christianity is the only religion for the world. If I thought that, then maybe I would agree with your comment a little more.
It’s not so much about “Christianity” but Jesus Himself. If He is Who He says He is, He will eventually put all of His enemies under His feet. Unfortunately for them, Muslims do not (at least now) recognize His LORDship, and that’s how and where all eventually will be judged. So I was talking not about Islam in particular but any religion, ideology or group that does not worship the Christ “in spirit and in truth.”
Anyway, Donny feared that Islamic terrorists were going to come over here and force people to convert to Islam. That’s not going to happen because you have to have a critical mass of people on their side to do it. We’re nowhere near that point.



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libby2max

posted June 29, 2007 at 2:23 am


Rick Nowlan|June 29th
Thanks for the post. Really appreciate it. Get what you were trying to say to Donny. And no we are no where near that point.
Honestly, I just really love and appreciate, and am fascinated by religion(s) and sometimes tired of the divide that happens at times. That’s all. And apologize if I came off “rough” in any manner.
But am definitely aware of where we are at in the world and that there are always extremists. But we can’t let extremists (which have been in many different religions throughout history) take away the beauty of the other parts which exist within a particular religion. That would be giving them (terrorists) power they do not deserve.
And I think I am off of what the thread is about…. Tony Blair :) ??
anyway,
“in spirit and in truth”
Lib



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Payshun

posted June 29, 2007 at 1:43 pm


Rick,
I alwasy thought that part was poetry not something to be taken literally.
p



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