Category Archives: Iraq

195. The arc of history – USA election 2008

“It’s the answer that led those who have been told for so long by so many to be cynical, and fearful, and doubtful of what we can achieve to put their hands on the arc of history and bend it once more toward the hope of a better day.”
— Barack Obama, Chicago, 4th November 2008.

barack-obama-and-family-chicago-illinois-usa-4th-november-2008It’s just three miles and a lifetime’s journey from the South Side of Chicago to Grant Park, and I can remember every step.

How marvellous it was that the US election race this year should find its long-awaited finish line at the same spot as the Chicago Marathon — one of many high points I’ve shared with this incredible country through a relationship that stretches right across my adult life.

I entered the United States late one August night in 1981. Seventeen hours out of Halifax, Nova Scotia, we drove across a bridge and into Maine. Next morning, six hours and a brief stop in Portland later, I stepped wearily off the bus in downtown Boston — completing my journey from England to New England, where the history of this great nation had started.

That visit took me down the east coast to New York and Washington, in an arc via Pittsburgh to Niagara, and then back into Canada for a return flight home.

My memories of America from that trip? Coin-fed TV sets in lonely Greyhound bus stations. The wind on Cape Cod. Looking across the Charles River on a long walk out to Cambridge.

washington-monument-capitol-from-lincoln-memorial-usa-h4num4n-flickrThe view from the Empire State Building. The sound of dusk on Broadway. The New Jersey Turnpike. The Smithsonian. The Capitol.

A quote carved into the Washington pavement —
‘One of these days this will be a very great city, if nothing happens to it’ (Henry Adams).

My love affair with America had begun.
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190. Conventions and rallies – Sarah Palin and the US Open

andrew-murray-us-open-flushing-meadows-2008-c-bbc-co-ukThe news this week from America was electrifying.

After a titanic struggle, the young pretender had seen off the hot favourite. Now only destiny and history awaited.

The crucible of battle beckoned – a chance to banish the incumbent powers through destroying the old master.

And no, I’m not talking about the US Open tennis, even if for just for one moment in the second set it looked like Andy Murray might almost have the game to beat Roger Federer, just as he had swept away Rafael Nadal.

It was the American party conventions and the battle between Barack Obama and John McCain which intrigued. After glowing coverage of the Democratic bash in Denver, the Republican affair attracted little comment here initially.

Flicking the channels for a glimpse of Flushing Meadows last week, I came across a speech by Fred Thompson. The Senator’s deadpan style might almost have been compared by The Guardian to the dullest and most plodding rhetoric offered by our own Gordon Brown, but Thompson gave it a passable attempt.

The speech set out John McCain’s credentials, recalling his suffering and extraordinary courage during the Vietnam war. McCain was a principled and dignified statesman, he said, willing to stand up for what was right, and to fight the establishment machine. Willing to take risks in support of his beliefs.
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173. Lines on the New Hampshire primary 2008

So. Farewell then
barack-obama-the-audacity-of-hope-random-house.jpg Barack Hussein Obama
The Audacity of Hope

For five January days
We believed
The world could change

And then New Hampshire
Told you
They’d changed their minds

With apologies to EJ Thribb (17 ½)

* * * * *

Coming soon:
To mark the start of USA 2008 new-hampshire-snow-by-atonal-at-flickrdotcom.jpgthis column is taking temporary residence deep in the snows of New Hampshire.

Please see From Scratch for a specially syndicated Roads of Stone, reporting on the US primaries.

173. Lines on the New Hampshire primary 2008 : : 173. Lines on the New Hampshire primary 2008 : : 173. Lines on the New Hampshire primary 2008 : : 173. Lines on the New Hampshire primary 2008 : : 173. Lines on the New Hampshire primary 2008 : : 173. Lines on the New Hampshire primary 2008

Related articles:
84. Election Special
110. The hands that built America – Houston skylines
barack-obama-nashua-new-hampshire-2008.jpg148. Farewell to Tony Blair
4. GO British ! Chicago Marathon 2002
17. It’s puzzling – a letter on Iraq, to Tony Blair
71. How the West Was Won – Iraq implodes

148. Farewell to Tony Blair


The manner and style of yesterday’s resignation speech showed just how much of a presidential style of politics Tony Blair has brought us. We elected a Prime Minister, and created a President, and I’m sure that was never quite our intention, even if it was maybe his.

blair-bush-baby-by-suzannelong-flickrcomLooking back now, over these past ten years, and the reality which finally emerged from the long-held dream of a Labour government, what should we decide to make of Tony Blair ?

The press reviews are rightly mixed this week, as we witness both British and US soldiers perishing, for the most part pointlessly, each and every day.

And beyond Baghdad and back at home, it’s clear to anyone that this government is tired, and has been lame for far too long as it awaits the departure of the king.
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46. On the front line – Crawley’s echoes of Madrid

The London bombers of 21st July 2004 were convicted today, including Omar Khyam and Jawad Akbar, from Crawley.

(This article was first published here on 01st April 2004; see also the 7/7 attacks on London and further writing under Iraq).

Every week, since December, I’ve run this route. And all those months, I’ve run past that house, safely unaware that someone inside was planning to kill me.


It’s just seven miles, but in many ways it’s a microcosm of England. Starting alongside factories, warehouses and office blocks, across the main road by the new shopping park, and through the bleak housing estates. Continue reading

84. Election Special

Yes, I’d like to remind you, I’m running for President
– appreciate your vote, and here is an industrial love song.
Joe Walsh, Eagles – November 1980


We’re having an election here. On 5th May.

So much has happened since our last, in 2001.

And can eight years really have gone by, since John Prescott was dancing away the London small hours to the heady optimism of D-Ream’s ‘Things can only get better’ ?
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