Thursday, February 17, 2011
Mark Steel: Dictators? It's a question of taste
One of the joys of Mubarak's demise was watching his Western backers figure out what they were supposed to say. So the US line was: "It's not our place to intervene in a country run by a dictator we've armed and financed for 30 years."
But the best efforts came from Tony Blair, who didn't bother with diplomatic nonsense and said: "Mubarak has been a courageous man, a force for good. Where you stand on him depends on whether you've worked with him from the outside or the inside." And I'm sure that's true. If you were tortured by him you never got to see his kindly side. The trouble with those victims is they go on and on about electrodes on their nuts and never judge his wider geo-political influence. It's just me me me with some people isn't it?
On and on went Blair with the praise, until you expected him to say "And it was Mubarak who invented umbrellas. And one night the Sphinx collapsed and he rebuilt it with his bare hands, and didn't tell a soul because he's shy. And he won Egypt's Got Talent for playing an accordion while a camel he'd trained did a belly dance, and once scored 275 not out against Hampshire. I bet none of the protesters have done that." Supporting Mubarak's continued rule, he went on: "There should be no rush towards elections in Egypt." Well clearly not, as Mubarak only ruled the place without them for 30 years, so there's no point in being hasty. Egypt's a big place, you can't get pencils across the desert just like that.
Like all great thinkers Blair's a fickle sort. There are some tyrants he couldn't abide, such as Milosevic and Saddam, but others he adores, like Gaddafi, Mubarak and that one in Uzbekistan who boils people alive. Still, I suppose dictators are like cheeses, some you like and some you don't, it's a matter of taste. It might seem Blair's statement was what you'd expect, but it marks a shift in his thinking. Even the Israelis didn't pour out such unqualified support for Mubarak. It was just Blair. So he's not even following the chief warmongering line any more, he's out on his own, thinking he still has influence but ignored even by his old mates from the war on terror.
So Cherie is probably terrified of him finding out Mubarak's gone. When Blair says he's going to ring him, she must dial the number and ring a friend who pretends to be Mubarak and says "Hi Tony, I took your advice on how to ignore a demonstration of millions of people and now all is well I am thanking you much." She must have Sellotaped an old photo of Mubarak to the television so she can say "There he is dear, doesn't he look well. And I hear Mr Bush is back in charge as well, and he wants you to run Mexico, isn't that splendid?" And yet this fool is supposedly a Middle-East peace envoy. It would make more sense to get a random deranged idiot off the streets, as at least they'd be an impartial maniac. They could hold a press conference, where they stood in pyjama bottoms and a jumper on back-to-front, clutching a Tennents Extra, while a reporter said "The envoy announced he'd had a frank exchange with Mr Netanyahu. On the West Bank he said 'Brerraghh aheeeeyuuuugh who you lookin' at DON'T talk to me about paraffin haaaaa ha haaaaa'. All sides praised the statement as more productive than any from the previous envoy, and the Palestinian Authority said they'd offer a full response this evening."
Revolutions tend to have this effect, of accelerating old rulers' descent into madness. But in these globalised free-market times, maybe the Egyptian people should set themselves up as a business, with an advert in the Yellow Pages saying "Are you ruled by a maniac wrecking your country? We'll pop round and overthrow the bastard in just 18 days, yes that's EIGHTEEN DAYS. Call us now for a free quote and look forward to a new future with a tirade of gibberish from Tony Blair ABSOLUTELY FREE."
The Independent Wednesday, 16 February 2011