Jack and Condi: not so much a match made in heaven as a computing error at Dateline 4

“Is that a rendition order in your pocket, or are you just pleased to see me?”

By Alison Rowat in The Herald

Condoleezza Rice is expected to pop the question when she arrives in Britain for her visit to Jack Straw’s constituency. The world’s most powerful woman and most eligible bachelorette might come out with it at the airport. Or she could wait till they are in Blackburn itself. But when the moment is right the US secretary of state will look into the British foreign secretary’s eyes and utter the immortal words: “Is that a rendition order in your pocket, or are you just pleased to see me?”

Expect a lot more of this as the love-in between Straw and Rice spreads across the weekend papers like an oil slick. When Straw visited her last October in her home town of Birmingham, Alabama, she took him to a football game and to a family dinner. He will escort her to what is billed as “a major industrial site” (Blackburn men know how to show a girl a good time), a school, and then on to Liverpool, home of Rice’s favourite band, Frankie Goes to Hollywood. Or it might have been The Beatles. Anyway, all will be revealed as Rice and Straw skip their way, hand in hand, through fields of swaying anti-war protesters.

So far, her visit to a mosque has been called off due to the threat of protests, and the host of a concert she is due to attend has pulled out. Faced with this level of discontent, any other pair would call the whole thing off and stay in London. Not these two. Not the Warrior Princess and the Straw Man.

Jack and Condi: not so much a match made in heaven as a computing error at Dateline. What they have in common is anyone’s guess. It will likely become clearer when Straw writes his memoirs. We know he will be writing them because he told MPs so this week, shortly after he explained why he was banning civil servants from doing the same.

Perhaps this is what the Rice visit is about ‘ gathering material for his book. A spot of student activism aside, Straw has led an honourable if largely uneventful life.

There was that moment after he switched from specs to contact lenses and shook Mugabe’s hand by mistake, but you can’t build a weighty tome around one incident. Not when you are up against T Blair for the Christmas No 1 spot in Waterstone’s.

Another reason why Straw might have invited Rice here at vast expense to the British taxpayer is that he has decided to run for the Labour leadership. Never underestimate the quiet man of Blackburn. He has been around Westminster for more than 30 years, starting off as an aide to Barbara Castle and rising steadily through the ranks as Labour leaders came and went. Only the wiliest of coyotes survive that long in politics.

As an aspiring Labour leader, Straw has been led to believe that this season’s must-have accessory is an American politician. Gordon Brown has been basking in the southern glow of Clinton, so Jack gets his picture in the paper with the woman who could be America’s first female president.

But we mustn’t mention the P word. Everywhere Rice goes she is asked if her visit is part of a warm-up for a run at the presidency in 2008. Despite her protestations, and hints that if she aspires to anything it is the vice-presidency, her fans refuse to buy the denials. The “Condistas” watch her every move for signs of a candidacy, the latest being that she has taken up golf. Her biggest fan, however, remains Laura Bush. “I’d love to see her run,” the first lady has said. “She’s terrific.”

Straw certainly thinks so. In advance of her visit, he sent an open letter to the people of Liverpool, outlining why they should give her a warm welcome. No achievement went unlauded. Condi was the former head of a world-class university, Condi speaks fluent Russian, Condi plays the piano. The usual stuff of a thousand Condi profiles.

You do have to admire the woman. When it comes to Teflon politicians, she makes Straw look like a burnt-out chip pan. The British public, like the American people, are meant to be so dazzled by her achievements that they forget the other parts of her CV. Like the Iraq war part.

There are two ways to look at Rice’s role in Iraq. Either she tried to play the part of wise counsel to a lot of war-hungry old men but was not up to the job. Or she simply saw it as her duty to tell the president what he wanted to hear. Either way, it’s not good.

Hopefully, Rice’s visit will pass off peacefully and she will enjoy her time here. We are nothing in this country if not polite. Let her go to Blackburn, Lancashire, and find out why there should be 4000 holes there (it’s bothered her since she bought her first Beatles record, apparently). But if we could just keep the Brief Encounter in Blackburn stuff to a minimum it would be much appreciated.

Like the female star of the real Brief Encounter said, there will come a time in the future when we shan’t mind so much about things like Iraq any more. We’re a long way from that point yet, chuck.

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4 thoughts on “Jack and Condi: not so much a match made in heaven as a computing error at Dateline

  • Chuck Unsworth

    The revelations about Rice's musical taste and her apparent inability to fathom Beatles lyrics are a reasonable indication of her intellect. Not that I'm against 60's music, but one always wonders whether the choice of 'favourite' music might just depend on the next destination in her global Presidential warm-up tour.

    This woman is, simply, an operator. She's in the business of doing whatever it takes to get where she wants to be. What one has to consider is, where is that?

    This charade of a love-in with Straw (an intellectual giant de nos jours) is a truly ghastly spectacle, akin to observing two Dinosaurs in flagrante delicto. Not to put too fine a point on it, they richly deserve each other.

    The pity is that we all have to have this sordid 'affaire' continuously rubbed under our noses. Neither of these two have anything of real value to offer to mankind. I just wish they would both go away and carry on with their mutual gratification in the privacy of their own homes.

  • Richard II

    First, the Blair and Bush love affair; now Straw and Condi – God preserve us!

    Here's something the "mainstream" media is not talking about: child prostitution in Iraq (boys are particularly vunerable):


    Economic hardships precipitated by America's ruthless economic policies are worsening this human tragedy.


    "Where are the voices of the Human Rights Campaign, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, and the U.S. commercial gay press demanding that the enrollment of Iraqi youth, by criminal gangs using force and threat, into a life of prostitution be ended by U.S. occupying forces?

    "Why haven't our U.S. gay institutions demanded of Washington that it use all its influence to prevent the puppet Iraqi government it finances, and whose strings it pulls behind the scenes, from criminalizing homosexuality and making it a capital crime, as the religious authorities want?

    "…major gay institutions, by and large,…flee from helping gay youth either at home or abroad for fear of being tarnished with suspicions of pedophilia in the context of the anti-pedophile witch-hunts in this country (only heightened by the endless revelations of the sexual exploitation of children by the hypocritical, conservative closet cases of the Catholic Church). This silence, this ostrich-like attitude, is shameful."

  • Richard II

    Lest people think all Iraqis are hell bent on executing their children for engaging in same-sex relationships or for prostituting themselves, the IRIN report mentioned in the article quotes an Iraqi mother:

    "'We are a poor family and my husband cannot work because he has serious epilepsy,' Um Zacarias, a mother of two child sex workers, said. 'Three months ago, Abu Weled came to our house offering us money if we let our two teenage [aged 13 and 14] boys work with them.

    "'Thanks to him, today we have a good income. People may find it surprising, but at least we can eat now and I'm proud of them.'"

    Parts of Iraq now resemble a Third World nation, where children are forced into the sex trade to survive.

    Right after the 2003 invasion, Bush began reshaping Iraq's economy to suit big business, with no regard as to how people would survive without jobs, without sufficient income, without a safety net.

    Bill Clinton promised to "end welfare as we know it." Bush, after invading Iraq, ended welfare ALTOGETHER – as if Iraq belonged to him! And the results have been disastrous.

    Iraq's economy was devastated by years of the harshest sanctions any nation has had to endure. "Economic shock therapy", a euphemism for implementing policies corporations and investors favour, was not the answer.

    You don't kick someone's head in, to the point of unconsciousness, and then punch them in the stomach to revive them.

    However, for foreign corporations, it has been a bonanza.

    Here is a list of British corporations that are burping with satisfaction after gorging themselves on Iraq:

  • Richard II

    "Under Shari'ah or Islamic law, homosexual practise is a religious crime that carries the death sentence.

    "The transition constitution in place in Iraq for the past two years does not address homosexuality. A new constitution is currently being drafted.

    "Whether or not homosexuality it illegal, it is a taboo subject in Iraq and homosexual acts are strongly condemned by Muslims."

    Time us "more civilized" Westerners start to make this topic less taboo.

    America and the media's silence is disgraceful.

    I spoke to an Iraqi online, who'd left Iraq to escape the chaos. He didn't like gay people either, though he wasn't extremist – he was very "pro-Western". Many are.

    I told him you're no better than Saddam Hussein, tyrannising others; he had his favoured group of people – you have yours!

    He didn't like me saying that, but it had to be said, so I said it again. I told him, why should you have your freedom, when you're denying others, theirs.

    His response was irrational: "Gays might take over society," he said. "It's happening in the West."

    Sure, it is! When I go out, gay people are everywhere, accosting me at every turn. I live in total fear of them!

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