View Full Version : Blair's Rising Star Runs Into a Treacherous Future

07-08-2005, 05:16 PM
Imagine this, an article in the New York Times restating the hypothesis I presented that this attack could blowback badly on Tony Blair:

July 8, 2005
Blair's Rising Star Runs Into a Treacherous Future

By ALAN COWELL (http://query.nytimes.com/search/query?ppds=bylL&v1=ALAN%20COWELL&fdq=19960101&td=sysdate&sort=newest&ac=ALAN%20COWELL&inline=nyt-per)
LONDON, July 7 - It is said, usually as a kind of joke, that a day is a long time in politics. Rarely has that been so true - and so bloodily so - as in the past 24 hours of Prime Minister Tony's Blair's roller coaster ride from triumph to tragedy.

On Wednesday evening, as chairman of the Group of 8 major industrial nations summit meeting in Gleneagles, Scotland, he led a gathering of the world's political, diplomatic and economic powers, bolstered by the victory he scored that morning, when London was awarded the 2012 Olympics. He had led the charge to turn the annual summit meeting into a pep rally to end poverty in Africa and address world climate change, buoyed by worldwide concerts and demonstrations.

Early Thursday morning, as the leaders there took up the thorny issue of climate change, he continued the diplomatic minuet, meeting with President Hu Jintao of China.

But, even as the politicians talked, aides were watching television images pouring in from London raising the first alarms. When he finished his meeting with Mr. Hu, his aides broke the news, but still there was some confusion, his spokesman said, speaking in return for customary anonymity. Then, toward midday, the doubts were over: London had been struck by terrorists. Mr. Blair flew back to London, somber and shaken.

Perhaps the crudest lesson to be drawn was that, in adopting the stance he took after the Sept. 11 attacks, Mr. Blair had finally reaped the bitter harvest of the war on terrorism - so often forecast but never quite seeming real until the explosions boomed across London.

The war in Iraq has been increasingly unpopular here, with taunts that Mr. Blair had become President Bush's poodle. The anger about Iraq led to Mr. Blair's shaky showing in the May elections: a third term with a severely reduced majority. Now, as long predicted and feared, his support of the war appears to have cost British lives at home. Thursday was a day of rallying behind the leader, but there were indications that the bombing could take a political toll.

No mainstream politician would say so out loud, but George Galloway, the maverick, onetime Labor legislator who had met with Saddam Hussein before the Iraq war, had no hesitation. "We argued, as did the security services in this country, that the attacks on Afghanistan and Iraq would increase the threat of terrorist attack in Britain," he said. "Tragically, Londoners have now paid the price of the government ignoring such warnings."

That was not the general political line, of course. The leaders of opposition parties expressed revulsion at the bombings. "This country is united as one in our determination to defeat terrorism and to deal with those who are responsible for the dreadful acts that have taken place in London," said Michael Howard, the leader of the Conservative Party.

There was no shortage of unity. The Muslim Council of Britain condemned the attacks. Sir Jonathan Sacks, the chief rabbi, called terrorism "an evil end to an evil means."

At Gleneagles, where Mr. Blair returned Thursday night to close the summit meeting, world leaders including President Bush and President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia lined up to offer solidarity. But for Mr. Blair, the challenge now is how the solidarity can be maintained against arguments such as those advanced by Mr. Galloway. In other words, has Iraq and his alliance with President Bush returned yet again to haunt him, as it did in the elections?

Even on Wednesday, it seemed to some analysts that Mr. Blair had begun to remold the bellicose imagery that enfolded him after the Iraq invasion.

On Thursday, though, the language shifted once again, with Mr. Blair reaching for an elusive Churchillian grandeur in the face of attacks no less shocking for being so often foretold. This time, though, he needed to convince his own people of their own fortitude - and it is not yet clear whether he has succeeded.

"When they try to intimidate us, we will not be intimidated," he said in a recorded address to the nation from 10 Downing Street. "When they seek to change our country or our way of life by these methods, we will not be changed. When they try to divide our people or weaken our resolve, we will not be divided and our resolve will hold firm."

Indeed, that may have caught the national mood. The attacks provoked little evident panic beyond the tightly framed horror deep underground in the subway trains. Many Londoners responded impassively, allowing rehearsed emergency procedures to run their course. Mr. Blair praised their resilience and stoicism.

Mr. Blair said Thursday that "the vast majority" of Muslims opposed terrorism. Indeed, Musa Admani, a Muslim scholar at Metropolitan University in London, told the BBC that support for militant Islam among young British Muslims was "on the decline."

Copyright 2005 (http://www.nytimes.com/ref/membercenter/help/copyright.html) The New York Times Company (http://www.nytco.com/)