Opinion: What Brown should be saying to Bush

Recently Lib Dem leader Ming Campbell commented on three things that Gordon Brown should be saying to George Bush;

“There are three things which should be on Gordon Brown’s agenda when he meets President Bush: renegotiation of the one-sided extradition treaty; the closure of the Guantanamo Bay detention centre; and a negotiated withdrawal of British forces from Iraq.

“These should be the objective of a candid friend. The excessively subordinated relationship between the President and Mr Blair should be put to bed.”

I agree wholeheartedly with all three. The problem is – as Lib Dems will well remember from Harrogate, when Ming offered Brown “5 tests” – that if you list things out loud then what is not included becomes just as important.

Four obvious omissions are:

1. Action on global warming; and

2. The US should do more to get the peace process moving in the Arab-Isreali conflict. In fact to be more specific, the US should stop its one-sided support of Israel which is making a settlement impossible. It is noticeable that we Lib Dems have not debated this matter at our conference since the last general election, which seems odd as we pride ourselves for debating issues that others do not touch.

3. Not to attack Iran, and not to consider using nuclear weapons against Iran. Presidential candidates from both Republican and Democrat parties have refused to rule out the possibility of using nuclear weapons against Iran.

4. Other troublespots, such as Afghanistan, Darfur and the Democratic Republic of Congo, need to be discussed at least. There is a serious lack of action in these areas. Meanwhile, the south and east of Afghanistan appear to be lost, and difficult questions remain about how to protect the north from the Taliban.

Another mention needs to be made, too, about ‘extraordinary rendition’, which Ming has been very strong on but is not mentioned here. To be brutally frank about it, this process is one in which the US is happy to send suspected terrorists to countries where they know they will be tortured.

In effect, the US government now supports torture, as long as someone else is doing it. There has been little public debate about this in the US, yet this fundamentally illiberal behaviour has no democratic legitimacy and damages the reputation of the west.

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4 Comments

  • wit and wisdom 1st Aug '07 - 1:05pm

    Ming’s approach is absolutely right. First he’s used the rule of three so his comments are likely to be remembered, at least by some people. Secondly, he has gone for potentially closed ended commitments.

    The Palestine/Israel issue is not going to be resolved any time soon, neither is the dispute with Iran or the various problems mentioned.

    The ‘wish list’ quoted is very well chosen. This is, after all, Ming’s strongest area by far.

  • ahh but there is the ‘rule of three’. If we want to influence President Bush we should utilise the same campaigning techniques we use elsewhere. Three strong messages used repeatedly. The debate is which three should be prioritised.

  • My sixpenneth worth:

    1) I wouldn’t go so far as to say we need to push for the negotiated withdrawl of troops from Iraq, although with that as our objective, we should be pushing for a clear (re)statement of the terms for negotiation.

    With clarity of positions achieved, confusion over role responsibility is removed and any mandate for action (ie advance OR withdrawl) is enhanced and contentiousness is reduced, thereby making withdrawl more likely and easier to accomplish.

    2) That any rendition may be extraordinary is completely unacceptable.

    3) The issue of Guantanamo Bay cannot be divided from other camps which are used for similar purpose in East Africa and elsewhere.

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