- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 6, 2002

LONDON The government of Prime Minister Tony Blair, Washington's closest ally in the war on terrorism, is smarting over a wrap on the knuckles by President Bush's national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice.
A respected columnist for the Times of London, Anthony Howard, wrote this week that the close and unqualified backing for the United States by Britain is repeating the "mistake" of former Labor Prime Minister Harold Wilson over Vietnam, which contributed to his loss of electoral power in 1970.
The dispute began Friday when Foreign Secretary Jack Straw suggested that Mr. Bush used the term "axis of evil" in an attempt to boost Republican prospects in November congressional elections.
Several British newspapers characterized Mr. Straw's comments as the first open dissent between Britain and America since the September 11 attacks on the United States.
Miss Rice shot back in a television interview Sunday. "This is not about American politics, and I assume that when the British government speaks about foreign policy, it's not about British politics," she said.
The British government also found itself on the defensive yesterday over its response to a crescendo of anti-American press coverage over the handling of prisoners at U.S. Naval Base, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
The mass-circulation national daily, the Mirror, on Monday, criticized Mr. Blair over what it called his failure to condemn "the latest horrific picture" of prisoners at the American base.
It showed an orange-clad manacled prisoner being transported by two soldiers on a stretcher to an interrogation session. Ironically, American newspapers used the photo to illustrate stories of modern medical treatment being given to wounded prisoners, even though the prisoner was in fact injured in the conflict and being taken to an interrogation room by stretcher because he was unable to walk.
The front-page newspaper headline asks: "What's Next Tony Electrodes?"
The British government responded yesterday by defending U.S. treatment of its prisoners, pointing out in an official statement that "we know for certain that the U.S. authorities helped save the lives of many of the detainees."


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