Letters to the Editor: Mar. 2010

The Vienna Review welcomes letters from its readers.

To the Editor,

I was amazed to read Justin McCauley’s editorial in the last issue of your paper, entitled “It should have been Tony”.  Mr. McCauley proposed that Mr. Blair would have been more suitable than Mr. Van Rompuy as President of the European Council.

Many people on this earth regard Tony Blair as a war criminal, one of the world leaders who was responsible for the total destruction of the country and society of Iraq and, because of his irresponsibility, arrogance and close association with George W. Bush,  accountable – not only for thousands upon thousands of deaths –  but also the flight of hundreds of thousands of refugees who, as a result of the war and occupation,  had to leave their land.  In addition, Blair recently had the audacity to say that he would have been for the war against and occupation of Iraq even had he known there were no weapons of mass destruction.

On Feb. 3 Oxford professor Avi Shlaim published an article in The Guardian, not about Iraq but about Gaza (“Gaza’s Great Betrayer”). In it he writes:

“What is often overlooked is that this was only one aspect of a disastrous British policy towards the Middle East, inaugurated by Blair, and which shows no sign of changing under his successor. One of Blair’s arguments used to justify the Iraq War was that it would help bring justice to the long-suffering Palestinians.” Shlaim goes on to say “…Blair has totally failed to fulfill the official role of the envoy ‘to promote an end to the conflict in conformity with the Roadmap,’ largely for reasons beyond his control…

“Partly, however, Blair’s failure is due to his own personal limitations:  his inability to grasp that the fundamental issue in this tragic conflict is not Israeli security but Palestinian national rights.”

Do Europeans really want such a person to hold the important office of President of the European Council?  I can only say, “Thank Heavens, it was NOT Tony!”

Paula Abrams-Hourani
1070 Vienna


The Author Replies,

First, there is a difference between participating in an illegal war and being a war criminal; all wars are terrible, but going to war in itself does not make one a war criminal. Was it a bad decision? Absolutely, however it doesn’t exactly put Blair in the same boat as Göring or Milošević. Second, Shlaim (who is not without his faults, see Tom Zegev’s critique in The New York Review of Books) seems to make the point that Blair’s inadequacies are as Middle East envoy, not European Council president.

Also, to take my own stab at Shlaim, the fundamental issue in the tragic conflict is both Israeli security and Palestinian national rights; one-sidedness on either side is never going to bring about a final resolution. But this is about European supranationalism, not Middle East peace; Blair gets more press as a philanthropist than Von Rompuy does as president.

In a political order where EU governance has to fight for every inch of respect, a politician who has to be taken seriously is required. Von Rompuy isn’t and won’t be; Blair is, whether you like him or not.

Justin McCauley


To the Editor,

Kettner does a great job of giving a tourist overview in Rethinking Vienna’s Image and it’s so important to mention the changes Vienna has gone through in the past decade, but I think he left out the Euro tourists, who come for the Vienna cliché vibe, but also for the night-life (which is still quite local-based and under-advertised). I also thought the bit about the gay scene could have been more deeply investigated, especially when it comes to huge events like the Life Ball. But still, good stuff!


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