Monday, May 22, 2006


Today Tony Blair made a surprise visit to Iraq, joining Iraqi PM Nouri Maliki for a news conference earlier this morning.
Mr Blair said it had taken "three years of struggle" to reach the formation of a government.

"For the first time, we have a government of national unity that crosses all boundaries and divides, that is there for a four-year term and [is] directly elected by the votes of millions of Iraqi people."

He refused to lay out a timetable for the withdrawal of troops, but said there was no excuse for the "terrorism and bloodshed" to continue.

"If the worry of people is the presence of the multinational forces, it is the violence that keeps us here. It is the peace that allows us to go."

He sharply dismissed reporters who questioned the worth of the invasion of Iraq.

"Here we are at a press conference where you are able to put me, the British prime minister and this, the new Iraqi prime minister, under pressure. That is what has happened in Iraq," he said.
Although the BBC report doesn't mention it, he then had the pleasure of trying to convince the rest of us that life in a democracy is preferable to living under a dictatorship. It might seem obvious to most, but you can never take too much for granted in politics. Even those whose livelihoods are reliant on the democratic process don't necessarily appreciate its importance (although 77% of Iraqis seem to).

It's just a guess, but on current form I'm reckoning Ken Livingstone won't be cheering on the rise of democracy in Iraq. After all, last week he managed to have another one of his "Did he really say that?" moments:
It's been a few months since Ken Livingstone dropped a decent clanger, so thank goodness London's Mayor retains a deeply-held affection for the People's Republic of China.

Back in January, Ken used a visit to Beijing to defend the Communist regime's human rights record, comparing the Tiananmen Square massacre to poll tax riots in Trafalgar Square.

Yesterday, history repeated itself. During his weekly Mayoral Question Time at City Hall, Livingstone, right, decided to stick up for one of the last century's foremost dictators, Chairman Mao.

Asked about his attitude to regimes alleged to abuse human rights (the Tory questioner cited China and Venezuela) Ken claimed Mao's cultural revolution was "justified", because it improved chiropody.

"One thing that Chairman Mao did was to end the appalling foot binding of women," he announced. "That alone justifies the Mao Tse-tung era."

The comment met with disbelief from members of the London Assembly. They note that Jung Chang's recent book on Mao blames him for the deaths of seventy million people.

"At first, we thought it was just a flippant joke," says one. "But it soon became clear that Ken was being serious."
On the one hand he condemns Israel for "horrendous things which border on crimes against humanity" and on the other excuses mass-murderering tyrant for his efforts to improve the state of his nation's feet. No doubt Mao got the trains running on time too, eh?


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