Monthly Archives: June 2007

A shot at redemption


I respect Tony Blair for not taking the easy route.

He could have sat on the back benches for a few years then hit the lecture circuit, making a lot of money for relatively little effort. His post as Middle East envoy will be anything but easy.

Despite his successes in Kosovo and Northern Ireland — and his achievement there must be applauded — Iraq will overshadow his legacy as Britain’s prime minister. He authorised his country’s involvement in an invasion based on lies and an occupation that has led to hundreds of thousands of deaths, as well as shattering his international standing.

The Mideast post is his shot at redemption.

He failed to bring peace to the region as PM, but clearly feels he can now it’s possible to devote his full energies to the situation.

But he has a long way to go to convince the various parties in the region that he is a credible envoy.

He will represent the US, EU, UN and Russia; the European Union and United Nations have made enormous contributions of aid and humanitarian work, while Russia has historic trade relations with a number of Middle East countries. Various policy decisions ranging from total support of Israel to the invasion of Iraq have weakened US credibility.

In an editorial yesterday, The Guardian said Blair’s new role “could be a painful reminder of the most unhappy aspects of his premiership, as he encounters Arab suspicion that he is merely a lackey of George Bush, and Arab anger over Iraq and the Lebanon war of 2006″.

He came in for criticism over Lebanon for doing little to stop the fighting between Israel and Hezbollah, a path the US also took.

So this is the baggage he brings to the Middle East. It will take a lot of hard work on his half to become a man all sides can do business with or for this to be seen as more than a political goodwill job.

I believe it is possible for Blair to have some success. By adopting an even-handed approach and by really throwing himself into the job he can win over some — though never all — of his doubters.

The Quartet has said Blair’s first job will be to mobilise international support and assistance for the Palestinians, and Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert has promised to give all necessary assistance in this.

Starting small is the key.

The Hamas situation complicates things, but if Blair can work on getting aid to the people who really need it he may build the foundations for a more concrete solution.

This may be the start of a long road for Tony Blair.

There is no chance of a quick resolution to the many political and social problems affecting the Middle East. There is no hope at all of a lasting peace as long as the Palestinians are split in two. But there is a chance that what he does in the next 12 months can make a difference in the years to come.

One man’s road to redemption could change everything. Maybe Blair will make a difference, maybe he won’t. But good luck to him for at least having the balls to try.

Charity meme

Gavin tagged me, so:

And so I tag:






Egyptian discovery

Zahi Hawass — a god among Egyptologists — is set to announce that the mummy of Hatshepsut has finally been identified.

It is being billed as “the most important find in Egypt’s Valley of the Kings since the discovery of Tutankhamun” in 1922.

Hatshepsut is Egypt’s most famous female pharaoh. Her tomb was found by Howard Carter in 1920 but the sarcophagus was empty.

Now Hawass believes Hatshepsut is one of two mummies found by Carter in 1903; he’s hoping DNA tests will prove it.

Hatshepsut ruled from 1479 to 1458 BCE, having initially been regent for Tuthmosis III. She declared herself pharaoh and donned royal attire such as the headress and ceremonial false beard, or at least is portrayed as doing so in surviving artwork (that sticking-out thing you see on all Egyptian statues was actually strapped on to the person’s head):


(Picture: Keith Schengili-Roberts)

She commissioned hundreds of building projects and, like all pharoahs, wanted to be remembered in grandiose style. This was her mortuary temple, where Egyptians were supposed to worship her after her death:


(Picture: James G Howes)

Tuthmosis III, perhaps understandably, resented being usurped and demolished Hatshepsut’s monuments after her death — a desperate bid to erase her from history and prevent her soul from rest. Looks like he didn’t do a very good job!

Benoit murder-suicide


I’ve been left shaken by the news Chris Benoit murdered his family before killing himself.

What exactly happened is unclear, although police say the details will seem a little “bizarre”. The 40-year-old is believed to have killed his wife and seven-year-old child over the weekend and himself on Monday.

(Update: police have said he strangled her, smothered the child and then hanged himself. The incident may be linked to steroid-induced depression or ‘roid rage’)

For those who don’t know Benoit, he was a performer with World Wrestling Entertainment. He was due to appear on Sunday night’s Vengeance pay-per-view, but was withdrawn due to “personal reasons”.

He was also one of my all-time favourite pro-wrestlers, although I haven’t followed the industry for several years.

According to WWE, the company asked authorities to check on Benoit and his family after being alerted by friends who received “several curious text messages sent by Benoit early Sunday morning”.

The bodies were found in three separate rooms of the wrestler’s Atlanta home.

Born in Canada, Benoit trained in Calgary with the legendary Stu Hart and competed for Hart’s Stampede Wrestling group from 1985-89.

His strong grappling style won him legions of fans in Japan, before enhancing his reputation in the US with a stint for Extreme Championship Wrestling. He style earned the nickname “Canadian Crippler”.

His career blossomed in World Championship Wrestling after he became one of the Four Horsemen (along with Ric Flair, Arn Anderson and Brian Pillman). A lengthy best-of-seven feud with Booker T propelled him toward the upper ranks before Benoit jumped ship to WWE.

He, along with the likes of Eddie Guerrero — who died of heart failure in 2005 — were the workers who renewed my interest in professional wrestling.

Although I was always aware of the backstage booking work, I was genuinely surprised when Benoit defeated Triple H in 2004 at Wrestlemania XX (the first time WWE’s flagship PPV ended with a submission). The footage of Benoit celebrating in the ring with Guerrero, who also won a world title that night, is one I will remember for a very long time.


In an industry replete with characters, Benoit was one who stood out. He wasn’t good on the microphone, nor was he a showboater, nor was he charismatic in a traditional sense.

He won the crowd over the old-fashioned way: by working hard in the ring, using his physical strength and demonstrating one of the best technical-wrestling arsenals of recent years.

This was what brought me back to wrestling. I seldom found the storylines compelling, but the in-ring work by the likes of Benoit was compelling. He made me appreciate the traditional aspects of the industry. It was a combination of no-nonsense physical grappling and expert ring psychology. His was never a “brawl for all” style, but you could see his use of tactics to bring down his opponent.

(Yes, the finishes etc are scripted. But it’s one thing to be told what to do and something completely different to go out there and make it realistic.)

A combination of moving home for work and then night shifts for the Examiner put paid to my WWE watching. I occasionally checked in on the website but never recovered the passion.

It is disturbing to think one’s heroes could be capable of such terrible acts. There could be many reasons, but it would be uncouth of me to speculate without a deeper knowledge of the facts.

All I can say is that professional wrestling has lost a true great, and I have lost an idol.