British foreign secretary condemns Guantanamo

According to a story in Aljazeera, “The British foreign secretary has launched one of her government’s sharpest attacks on the Guantanamo Bay prison, saying the US camp is ineffective and damaging.” Beckett said:

The continuing detention without fair trial of prisoners is unacceptable in terms of human rights. But it is also ineffective in terms of counter-terrorism.

It is widely argued now that the existence of the camp is as much a radicalising and discrediting influence as it is a safeguard to security.

I’m trying to make sense of this statement in combination with the remarks of the Army Chief of Staff published yesterday. My best guess right now is that Tony Blair’s government is laying the groundwork for a major shift in policy regarding its relationship with the United States. I’m guessing that the days of British prime ministers as American presidential poodles is now over.

Tony Blair survived a party revolt recently by promising to step down within a year. As the futility of American policy in Iraq becomes ever more manifest, Blair may be concerned about his legacy as Bush’s poodle, his record of participation in the invasion and occupation of Iraq, as America’s most enthusiastic and committed ally. Despite the foolishness of this, one only has to watch Blair in question time at Parliament to realize he is no fool. He is at least as articulate as Bill Clinton, and probably as smart. He must surely recognize that his record now stands as one of participation in a mass killing of horrific dimensions. And one question that remains for Blair in the year or less he has left is how to frame that legacy. Another question is the dilemma in Iraq he would leave for his successor, if he remains loyal to the Labor Party and wishes it to remain in power.

An obvious answer is to change course, to claim he was, in essence, misled by the Americans, and to leave the mess where it should have been from the beginning, in Bush’s lap.

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