Saturday, March 15, 2008

Negotiate with al Qaeda!

That straightforward, and already controversial suggestion, is from Jonathan Powell, former chief of staff to former British Prime Minister Tony Blair from 1995-2007

That comment coming from the man recognized as key to establishing the 1997 Northern Ireland accords, was issued as part of an interview fronting his new book, “Great Hatred, Little Room.” Powell simply says: The West needs to start negotiating with al-Qaida and the Taliban.

“There's nothing to say to al-Qaida and they’ve got nothing to say to us at the moment, but at some stage you’re going to have to come to a political solution as well as a security solution. And that means you need the ability to talk.”

The comments came from an interview Powell offered as part of a publicity tour to promote his new book on the Northern Ireland peace process.

Suffice it to say, the book probably won’t be anywhere close to Blair’s nightstand. Not with tidbits like this:
• He did not think Labour had governed boldly enough because it feared losing power.
• Blair had a tendency to change his mind about things and could be “a bit of a flippertygibbet.”
• Blair had failed in 10 years of government to sell Europe to the British.
• Relations between the Blair and Brown camps were so toxic that Gordon Brown did not talk to him for 10 years.

Already, the book is controversial outside of Blair’s house, with the “negotiation” comment. Gordon Brown’s Foreign Office has already weighed in:
“It is inconceivable that (Her Majesty’s Government) would ever seek to reach a mutually acceptable accommodation with a terrorist organisation like al-Qaida.”
I’m sure not only the current administration, but any future one, will have just as much a knee-jerk reaction.

Powell is the senior member of Blair’s government to serve his full 12 years. His book, “Great Hatred, Little Room,” will have excerpts serialized in The Guardian starting Monday, March 17.