A Straw in the Winds of War

This week, Tony Blair reshuffled his Cabinet after the Labour Party took yet another hammering in local elections. This may seem like uninteresting political arcana to everyone outside the UK (and to most people inside it as well), but there was one move in the reshuffle that could have enormous ramifications for the rest of the world. For among the many sackings and switchings, Blair removed the most powerful Cabinet voice against joining the US in military action against Iran: Foreign Secretary Jack Straw.

Straw has been making a nuisance of himself for the Bush Gang in Washington wit
h his repeated insistence that military action against Iran is "unthinkable," even "nuts," as he described it recently. At every possible turn, Straw has ruled out an attack on Iran's nuclear facilities - a stance that has irritated Blair, a prissy, pampered man who, like his equally cossetted preppy comrade in the Oval Office, revels in the bellicose stance of a "War Leader." In fact, the Bushists called Blair on the carpet for Straw's statements, the Guardian reports; and Blair dutifully began pressuring the Foreign Office to stop Straw from speaking publicly about his resistance to an attack. Blair himself has repeatedly taken the he-man Bushist position that "all options are on the table." All options includes, of course, the nuclear option, which Bush and Blair pointedly refuse to rule out.

So now Straw is gone, replaced by Margaret Beckett, one of Blair's most loyal ministers. If Tony wants to get on the Tehran war train with George, Beckett certainly won't stand in the way. No one is shedding any tears for Straw, of course; he was intimately involved in the machinations and deceptions that lead to the brutal act of aggression against Iraq, and he is entirely complicit in the war crime committed by Bush and Blair. Perhaps his stance against the insane - but increasingly likely - idea of attacking Iran is a belated act of conscience; but it comes too late - hundreds of thousands of innocent lives too late - and is now moot, in any case.

We live in dangerous times. Both Bush and Blair are afflicted with a messianic belief in their own unassailable righteousness, coupled with a decided bent for bloody military solutions to international political problems. Both men are now politically wounded, deeply unpopular, and counting down their last days in power. Neither will face the voters again. They have nothing to lose in giving vent to their most reckless impulses and their vain yearnings for historic "glory" - a concept which, like most physical and moral cowards, they associate almost exclusively with having other people fight and die - and kill - in their name while they rest comfortably behind a gargantuan wall of security.

And that's the real news of the Blair reshuffle.