Apr 2006

Condi got me thinking

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice (her parents named her after an oil tanker, or so I’ve been told) visited the UK last week. According to one news source, the visit was a “PR nightmare”. What truly staggers me is the idea that UK Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw – who hosted the visit – could have expected anything else.

The UK government is in power by default, not because they are popular in any sense of the word. They are – in fact – deeply unpopular. Not only that, but the current US administration, of which Rice is a well-known figurehead, is easily the most reviled that there’s ever been. On top of all that, Blackburn – Straw’s constituency and location of the visit – has a very substantial Islamic community; many of whom – rightly or wrongly – view the current American government as waging a war on Islam. Anybody living in the real world would see the inevitability of “a PR nightmare”.

I’m also bemused that – given all this background – Straw would choose BAE systems fighter-jet factory as the first stop on this diplomatic visit. It’s the sort of touch you’d add to a political satire that would tip it over the edge and make it feel ham-fisted…

Secretary of State visits UK in current political climate. First stop… fighter-plane factory. Gaze lovingly and approvingly at weapons of death recently used to drop bombs on Iraqi people. Next stop… deliver speech in which you admit to “thousands” of “tactical errors” during the war in Iraq. Final stop, meet some Muslim community leaders and get reported as “shrugging off” the anti-war protests.

Rice is often listed as one of the intellectual heavyweights of the Dubya administration. Of course, one only has to look at the company she’s in to realise this could be being said in jest. Y’know, the way you’d point at a mentally feeble aunt in a family known for its stupidity and call her “the intellectual heavyweight of the bunch”.

If it’s not a piss-take though, and she really is one of the sharper tools in that particular shed, then maybe she could answer this question… “what, in practical terms, is the difference between a regime that outlaws all protest and a regime that ignores all protest?” Being told that we are “lucky” to live in a democracy and have the right to protest is easily the most patronising thing a politician can say. It ignores the fact that “luck” has nothing to do with it, and that the “right to protest”, like all such rights, has been wrestled – spilling blood, sweat and tears – from those in authority by the protesters. She is paid by the people in order to serve the people. It’s time she thought about how lucky she is that we, the people, have given her the right to step down from power without the aid of a guillotine. The protesters are lucky to have their rights? I think not. Especially not when members of the ruling class feel comfortable patronising or ignoring them. Let them eat cake, eh Condi?

Much is said of her childhood prodigiousness… the fact that she graduated from university whilst still a foetus. And then people say that she’s a “concert pianist”. But they forget to point out that’s actually one and the same point. She went to university on a piano scholarship.

Don’t get me wrong… I’m a music geek, and excellent musicians impress the hell out of me. I have a deep and abiding respect for anyone who can make genuinely beautiful music. But it doesn’t automatically make you an “intellectual heavyweight”. And it certainly doesn’t mean you’re a good choice for Secretary of State. I believe, for instance, that Prince is one of the handful of most talented musicians to have ever lived. I would nonetheless question the wisdom of putting him in charge of US foreign policy.

I suspect he’d do a better – albeit weirder – job than is currently being done, but I still don’t think Sign ‘O’ The Times merits that level of power. Call me old-fashioned, but there you have it.

Yes, yes, yes, I’m sure Condoleezza isn’t a one-trick pony. No doubt her intellectual talents extend beyond good keyboard skills. But they clearly can’t extend much beyond, given the complete shambles being made of the world by herself and her mates. To be wrong-headed is one thing… but Rice and her gang (and I include Straw, Blair and all the other nuLabor running-dogs in that) aren’t merely implementing the wrong policies / policies I disagree with, they are doing it with truly historic incompetence.

Maybe the world would be worse if smart, competent people were implementing the bad policies. But it wouldn’t be half as frustrating. Watching complete morons do a dreadful job is excruciating for most of us with half a brain. Watching them do it knowing that your personal safety may depend upon the quality of their work makes it that much worse.

For Rice to heap praise (as I’m certain she did) on weapons makers, and then introduce the world to a new euphemism for murdering innocent people with those weapons* whilst “shrugging off” those who object, is almost as incompetent as conducting a war on an abstract concept; the repercussions of which have been wholly disastrous. It displays a complete inability to grasp the consequences of her actions, or else – more chillingly – a psychotic disregard for those consequences.

Either way it must surely, in a sane world, be grounds for excluding her from power. Her and all her incompetent / psychopathic friends. Sadly, the American people are the only ones who can possibly do this… the only ones who can get rid of the people currently raining death and destruction down wherever they choose, using the money and the legitimacy conferred by the US population. I say “sadly”, because the American people really aren’t doing a great job of holding their politicians to account. Dubya can get away with all those dodgy electoral shenanigans in Florida, then lead America into an illegitimate shambles of a war and still get returned to power.

It beggars belief.

Of course, the UK re-elected nuLabor and here in Ireland we’ve had an eternity of centre-right corporate politicians running the show. So this isn’t unique to the American people in any way. But the bigger you are, the harder you fall. When America is run by imbeciles or crazies, then tens of thousands of innocent people, half a world away, die horrible deaths. It’s just not acceptable. And there’s a moral responsibility to put an end to it.

* Clearly a decision has been made that the phrase “collateral damage” has been worn out. A memo was circulated… party-line is now to refer to the murder of civilians as “tactical errors”.

Posted in: Opinion