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[casi] Blair and Bush IHT, JULY 24

William Pfaff: When time-honored ties become a short leash

Blair and Bush.

PARIS  Tony Blair's current crisis, with a Law Lord inquiring into the death
of David Kelly, the Defense Ministry advisor on biological weapons who
committed suicide last week, surely derives in part from the prime
minister's intense but puzzling commitment to George W. Bush's leadership in
the Iraq war. If he or his entourage cut corners to justify Iraq's invasion,
it was to serve the common cause.

The Blair government has turned the 61-year-old Anglo-American security
alliance into an unprecedented subordination of Britain's security and
foreign policy to the United States. This was the unspoken message of Tony
Blair's emotional address to a joint session of Congress last week.

Defense Secretary Geoff Hoon had already announced, in late June, that
British military forces are to be reconfigured so as to function henceforth
as Pentagon auxiliaries. This is because from now on, "it is highly unlikely
that the U.K. would engage in large-scale combat operations without the
United States."

By depriving itself of the ability to operate independently, Britain will
abandon one of its most important assets, its possession of balanced and
autonomous multi-arm military forces, capable of serving distinct British

In Europe, only France now will have the capacity for sizable independent
military operations. All other non-neutral western European forces have been
turned into specialized units of an American-commanded NATO army.

As David Leich and Richard Norton-Taylor reported in The Guardian last week,
Britain has begun re-equipping its nuclear missile submarines with U.S.-$
made and -maintained Tomahawk cruise missiles, usable only with U.S.

Britain, under Tony Blair, has sold its principal aerospace manufacturer,
BAE Systems, to the United States. The Blair government has just agreed to
extradite British subjects to the United States on demand, without need for
prima facie evidence.

Tony Blair, after taking office in 1997, pledged his government to a "moral"
foreign policy. The Bush government claims a moral result from its
liberation of the Iraqis but also claims, when it wishes, a sovereign
exemption from the constraints of international law and treaty obligation.
It asserts a sovereign right to military domination of the planet.

Why does Tony Blair wish this slow suicide of one of Europe's greatest
nations, whose independent legacy to modern Western civilization, and
certainly to the United States, is so immense? Where is his electoral
mandate for so enormous a decision?

Britain gets nothing from the United States in return (other than
Congressional cheers and a gold medal for the prime minister). If Bush
remains in office beyond next year, Britain might find itself implicated in
what could become an American national tragedy.

Neither does the United States gain anything valuable, merely the
satisfactions of possessing a complaisant satellite.

Far better for it to have an independent friend, who speaks its language,
has independent weight in world affairs, possesses a major voice in the
European Union, is capable on occasion of telling Washington home truths
and, by using its independent influence, to force Washington to pay

A British tragedy is in the making. For many of us who grew up under the
decisive influence of Britain's history and literature, it implies an
American tragedy as well.

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