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Churchill - the truth
There is a certain irony in the timing of this transatlantic adulation. As Tony Blair and Bush trot the globe warning of the evils of chemical weapons, Churchill hardly stands out as a role model. As president of the air council in 1919, he wrote: "I do not understand the squeamishness about the use of gas. I am strongly in favour of using poisonous gas against uncivilised tribes." A few years later mustard gas was used against the Kurds. Nor did his distaste for the "uncivilised" stop there. He branded Gandhi "a half-naked fakir" who "ought to be laid, bound hand and foot, at the gates of Delhi and then trampled on by an enormous elephant with the new viceroy seated on its back".


Liberal and cool: Tracy Chapman. Photo: Michael Lavine
A militant mellows
Remember Tracy Chapman? For a brief while, 14 years ago, she was everywhere - a powerful, clear voice talkin' about a revolution at a time when Reagan, Thatcher, the Berlin Wall and apartheid all appeared indestructible.
No more Mr Nice Guy
So when he criticises US foreign policy in terms every bit as harsh as those he used to condemn apartheid, you know something is up. In the past few weeks, he has issued a "strong condemnation" of the US's attitude towards Iraq, lambasted vice-president Dick Cheney for being a "dinosaur" and accused the US of being "a threat to world peace".
Action can stop the war
Keeping the two in equilibrium over the past 20 years - my entire politically conscious lifetime - has meant lowering standards to maintain a sense of perspective. Unsustained by the prospect of victory, optimism becomes little more than wishful thinking and realism curdles into defeatism. "The greatest tool in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed," argued the late South African black consciousness activist, Steve Biko.
Will win, won't listen
"Just remember how you felt on that dreadful morning of June 10," Neil Kinnock told delegates at his first conference as leader, reminding them of the morning after Margaret Thatcher had won for the second time. "Just remember how you felt then and say to yourselves ... June 9 1983, never, ever again. We have to win ... we can win ... we will win."
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Stranger in a Strange Land – Encounters in the Disunited States
book review
'It often takes an outsider to look inside. This is especially true of the United States.'
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