Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Critcism is a two way street

On Sunday evening Annie and I went to listen to Clare Short discussing her new book. It was an event that is part of the Birmingham Book Festival. Her book is called “An Honourable Deception” and is about the political issues surrounding the Iraq War.

Clare Short is an interesting politician who has always been a rebel in the Labour Party. She is outspoken and she resigned her Ministerial position over the Iraq war. I admire people immensely who feel so strongly and I wish more politicians had her convictions and acted accordingly in resigning.

She is critical of the motives for war of both British and American leaders. We did not buy the book but the evidence she talks about lies in high places sounded pretty compelling.


The main thing that put us off buying her book was the way she reacted so aggressively to someone who asked her what, to us, seemed a reasonable question.

I think it is great that people have strong views and that we can all express those extreme views in our society. It is even OK in my book that leaders in politics can be personally criticised and Clare Short was indeed very critical of Tony Blair.

When she is then criticised it is only fair she takes it on the chin rather than reacting aggressively in my opinion. In other words 'people in glass houses should not throw stones.'

I am sure the book is a good read and I am also pretty sure she is technically correct about many of the things she says. On a human level I wish she could accept criticism a little more graciously – the aggressive reaction does her no favours whatsoever.

She was also critical of the close relationship between Britain and America and suggested the two countries are too close. I can see what she means and I know there are many people in Britain who agree with her about that. I don’t.

My view is pragmatic. I want to be on the side of America. Britain is a small country that one day may need America in my opinion. We have desperately needed America in our past and we should remember that.

My position on America and Britain is best summed by the quote of former US President Lyndon B. Johnson.

“It’s probably better to have him inside the tent pissing out, than outside the tent pissing in.”

Please excuse the swearing – Johnson’s words not mine – I just agree with the sentiment.


mike said...

We see the same attitude in our politicos here, too. And, sadly, it is not limited to the opposition--both sides of the aisle do the same. One test I have always used to evaluate how I feel about someone's integrity (the key leadership quality) is how willing they are to look at an issue in realistic terms rather than spouting the party line. I hate that in work as much as in politics.

Trevor Gay said...

When I worked in the National Health Service I often found myself with a minority opinion and I always prefer working with people who held a minority view - often against corporate line. The easy option is to stick to the party line . The difficult and the most uncomfortable path is the minority voice 'against' the party line but at the end of the day I feel it is better to say how you really feel - even if it is against the party line. If that means the parting of the ways then so be it - it is better to feel free than to feel constrained in my view.

Brian said...

Iraq is an emotional and I'm afraid at times an embittered issue. People feel strongly, some for and some against, and then there is that vast multitude 'somewhere in the middle' who just wish it wouls all go away.

I'm afraid there is no easy answer.

Having said that, I feel that going to war in Iraq was a big mistake. The evidence now strongly supports the view that British and American citizens were led down the garden path by Blair and Bush, the latter wanting to finish the job his father started, and the former wanting to curry favor with the yanks. Some would argue that Saddam was a tyrant, which I agree with. However, how many tyrants are there in the world, and should the so called free, democratic nations wage war on all of them? Where does one draw the line? Remember the Crusades was such a campaign, which to this day still lives on in the hearts and minds of the oppressed nations who felt the wrath of the crusaders.

So the author reacted to your question in an embittered way...I'm not sure what the questions was, but I do have empathy for her position and emotions on the topic. So too do the families and loved ones of the 2,000 US troops who have laid down their lives in the pursuit of a dubious goal.

Cheers mate...and keep rattling the cage!

Brian Ward

Trevor Gay said...

Hi Brian

It was not MY question that Clare Short responded too aggressively - it was a gentleman in the audience who asked her a reasonable question.

As regards the War itself yep I take your points fully.

As you might expect my view is pragmatic. Hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraq civilians are NOT now being ruthlessly murdered on the orders of an evil dictator. It is awful and tragic that British and American troops are dying. I feel terrible about that. Ok there may be other such people in the world. Ok the legality may have been questionable but the bottom line for me Brian is that sometimes in life difficult choices just have to be made. We can stand by and watch but ignore mass murder. OR we try to do something positive to help those totally innocent people. Just because we are not in every country where there is a tyrant does not mean we should no be in one country that has consistently ignored UN order for 15 years. Of course you are right about motives of Bush and Blair – that is politics I’m afraid - all politicians regardless of their party have their own motives.

The war is a tragedy – all wars are tragedies – anything that can be done to prevent people killing each other in the name of war shouod be tried before we reach that point but if all else fails than I always support my government – whether that be Labour, Conservative or Liberal party. I am a Blair supporter and a Labour Party supporter but I equally supported Margaret Thatcher and the Conservative Party on The Falkland Islands War over 20 years ago and that was a conflict with equally dubious ethics.

The main point I was making about Clare Short was that she was happy to throw personal insults at both Bush and Blair in a public setting but as soon as one member of the audience suggested she was avoiding answering his question she very aggressively ‘put him down.’

In simple terms if you give out flack you must expect it back.

Thanks for your great response mate and always keep it simple and rattle cages.

Brian said...

Thanks Trevor
Points well taken. I still however hold to the view that Iraq was not the issue. UN monitors went in, found nothing, and then IRAQ said enough is enough, out you go. After the troops went in, they found nothing either. Case proven. Bush and Blair put their minnions under pressure to produce evidence, which proved to be wildly inaccurate, even 'false'. Therefore, TRUST in these two leaders is now an issue, and a BIG one.

When the evidence was proven to be non-existent, Bush then played the Al Qaeda connection card, which proved to be a BIG bluff! Irag and Al Qaeda are not associated with each other, the former being a secular dictatorship, and the latter of course being a fanatical religious terrorist group. It has even been reported that Saddam and Bin Laden hate each others guts.

I fear China and Korea much more than little Iraq. Not to mention the conflict between Pakistan and India, two nuclear powers. Should the US, Britain and their allies invade these countries? After all, Pakistan is ruled by a military dictator! I shudder to think what would happen if they did. But then these are not the easy target that Iraq was, or at least we thought it was (which assumption has now proven to be horribly wrong).

When the book is finally written on this dreadful mess, I think Bush and Blair will have a lot to answer for.

Cheers mate...and keep rattling the cage!!!

Trevor Gay said...

I think you are now clearly 1-0 ahead mate!

You make lots of good and valid points that I find difficult to argue with. I still keep coming back to wondering if in the other countries you mention whether hundreds of thousands of people are dying at the hands of dictators - maybe I am getting wrong information. Iraq may be 'little' compared with some of the major players but the facts are fairly obvious that Sadam is a ruthless murderer killing his own people in massive numbers and something just had to be done. That is my best albeit emotive response to your more well argued points mate!!!

Fabulous exchange!! - keep rattling the cage and keep it simple :-)