Bush and Blair: The Final Failure

I have deliberately avoided commenting on Middle East politics for nearly a year now, but recent events in Lebanon make this a special case. As I write this, we are into day six of the conflict, with no end in sight. But one outcome is now, in my view, beyond any doubt: the actions of the United Nations and the G8 (Group of Eight leaders) have been staggeringly inept.

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By  Anil Bhoyrul Published  July 23, 2006

|~|ab body.jpg|~|Anil Bhoyrul, Editor|~|I have deliberately avoided commenting on Middle East politics for nearly a year now, but recent events in Lebanon make this a special case. As I write this, we are into day six of the conflict, with no end in sight. But one outcome is now, in my view, beyond any doubt: the actions of the United Nations and the G8 (Group of Eight leaders) have been staggeringly inept. When this crisis is over, homes will be reconstructed , boundaries redrawn and lives – despite all the pain – rebuilt. But the reputations of the UN and G8 are forever in tatters. Let’s start with the UN. Three full days after the crisis began, it finally convened a meeting of the UN Security Council. What was it doing for three days? I have no idea, but the meeting was equally bizarre. The UN, supposedly a bastion for peace, could not bring itself to even call for a ceasefire. Never mind that one of the most brutal wars for a decade was unfolding live on our television screens. Add that to the UN’s failure to deliver on Iraq, and the total ignorance by Israel, Iran and North Korea of any UN resolutions, the only conclusion to left to be drawn is that this ailing organisation has finally shown its true colours. It is, mostly, a toothless talking shop for diplomatic has-beens that no longer serves any purpose. Kofi Annan’s legacy of failure and inaction is now complete. Next the G8. Well, where do I start? One of my abiding memories of this conflict will be last Sunday. I was in the office watching the terrible events live on Sky News, with several colleagues. We watched in horror as news came through about the killing of 16 innocent children, whose bus was struck by an Israeli missile (collateral damage or murder, depending on your political persuasion). The pictures sent a wave of silence through the office, and tears rolling down my colleagues' cheeks. Then, suddenly, Sky News cut to live pictures from the G8 meeting in Russia – President Bush and the First Lady, sharing a joke with Prime Minister Tony Blair and his wife Cherie. Two of the most powerful men in the world, with barely a care in the world. And with the timings of a lemming. George Bush and Tony Blair – who effectively control the G8 – are the only two men with enough influence to have brought an early end to the battle. They could, just possibly, have persuaded Israel to halt the bombings at least temporarily, sparing dozens of innocent lives. Instead, over the next hour, Bush explained on at least three separate occasions that the entire conflict was caused by Hezbollah kidnapping two Israeli soldiers. I am not going to get into the politics of this conflict, but – wrong as the kidnapping was - even my eight year old nephew using Google could tell you that this conflict involves wider issues. Two thousand years worth of issues. George Bush is claiming that Hezbollah is the real reason for what’s happening is without doubt his most ignorant statement throughout his presidency – and yes, that does take some doing. But once the lavish G8 dinners and photo opportunities were over, it was time for the leaders to get down to business. They met behind closed doors for eight hours, then a statement was released calling upon Hezbollah to disarm. As for Israel, the statement said the country must be “mindful of the strategic and humanitarian consequences of its actions” and to “exercise utmost restraint.” The statement effectively said: “carry on fighting chaps, but try and be a bit more careful.” Why, why, why, could it not have called for a ceasefire? That the UN failed to do so was in many ways only to be expected. But for the eight most powerful leaders on the planet to be incapable of doing so is nothing short of shameless. Set against the emotional, almost tearful, appeal from Lebanon’s Prime Minister to the outside world for help, it is all the more appalling. This is the one moment during the reigns of both Bush and Blair that their help was really needed. This was their biggest test. Iraq could have waited. Iran and North Korea will wait. But Lebanon needed them to act, both as politicians and as humanitarians. Instead, they fudged, they fiddled and ultimately, they failed the people of Lebanon. ||**||

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