by RAY FLEMING
AFTER the nauseating exchange of congratulations between President Bush and Tony Blair at the White House Rose Garden on Thursday it was a relief to hear former President Jimmy Carter's assessment of their relationship during an interview he gave on BBC radio's Today programme yesterday morning. In Mr Carter's opinion Blair's “almost undeviating support for the ill-advised policies of President Bush in Iraq have been a major tragedy for the world.” He said that the Iraq war had caused “deep schisms on a global basis” and that Mr Blair's “subservience” to the president may have had the effect of prolonging the war and increasing the resultant tragedy.

These are serious charges and they are made by a serious man, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, who has a deep knowledge of the Middle East and its tensions. They come as a necessary and timely corrective to the outpourings from the mutual admiration society that President Bush and prime minister Blair have formed. To hear Blair talking about Bush's “unyielding and unflinching leadership” and Bush responding by describing Blair as “this good and courageous man” was frankly too much. The only point at which their exchanges touched reality was when Bush said he had difficulty in finding words to “reflect the depths of what we have done together”. Jimmy Carter had no difficulty in finding the right words for those depths when he described their joint endeavours as ”a major tragedy for the world”.

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