Sunday, 9 November 2008

Accepting Honour

In July 2003 the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom was voted the Congressional Gold Medal of Honor - known as the Congressional Gold Medal - the American nation's highest and most distinguished civilian award. Originally awarded to military leaders for achievement in battle, it became a civilian medal after the military Medal of Honor was instituted.

'The Gold Medal and the Presidential Medal of Freedom are generally considered to carry the same level of prestige (though significantly fewer Gold Medals have been awarded). The chief difference between the two is that the Freedom Medal is personally awarded by the President of the United States (executive branch), and Congressional Gold Medals are awarded by acts of the Congress (legislative branch). It requires the sponsorship of two thirds of the members of the House of Representatives and 67 Senators.

Each medal honors a particular individual, institution, or event. Although the first recipients included citizens who participated in the American Revolution, the War of 1812 and the Mexican-American War, Congress broadened the scope of the medal to include actors, authors, entertainers, musicians, pioneers in aeronautics and space, explorers, lifesavers, notables in science and medicine, athletes, humanitarians, public servants, and foreign recipients.' (official site of the Congressional Gold Medal).

This is a gift from the American people.

When Blair became only the fourth British prime minister to address the US Congress in July 2003, it was widely thought that he would collect the medal at the same time. But he didn't and, within hours of his speech, the weapons expert David Kelly was found dead. (cf The Times)

The ousted prime minister has never collected the Medal, nor the Ellis Island Medal of Honour also awarded in 2003.

"I don't think it's going to happen now," a spokesperson for that award's sponsor remarked. Recipients are honoured for showing outstanding qualities in their personal and professional lives, while maintaining the richness of their particular heritage. Blair is the first non American to receive the award, whose roll includes Ronald Reagan, Rudy Giuliani and Muhammad Ali, as well as:
Bill Clinton
Hillary Rodham Clinton
George H.W. Bush
Gerald Ford
Bob Hope
Henry Kissinger
Lou Papan
Admiral Robert J. Natter, USN (Ret.)
Michael Finnegan
Goli Ameri
James L. Doti
Michael Novak

Two explanations have been offered formally for this failure to receive acknowledged honours which must be seen as offered to office as well as to the individual occupying that office. The first, particularly offensive, is that the individual design of the Congressional Gold Medal has not been agreed. Nelson Mandela got his in 56 days; John Paul II's took 165. The second, that Prime Minister Blair could not accept such an honour while British soldiers continue to die in Iraq has always been invalid - since when have losses in battle ruled out awards for courage? And for a very long time British troops languish, unused by the American or Iraqi commands, outside Basra. No explanation has been offered for the discourtesy in not collecting the Ellis Island Medal of Honour.

What damage is New Labour doing to the relations between the people of the United Kingdom and the people of America when the publicly offered gifts of the Americans to us are discarded and abandoned by Blair and Brown (who simply left his gift from the United States' President in the aircraft). We know it's 'Me, Me, Me' at all levels in New Labour's world, but in the real world it's 'Us, Us, Us'.

Some explanation must be provided quickly and clearly, to America and to the United Kingdom, on this ill-mannered, destructive behaviour.


Nick Drew said...

Well remembered, HG, I confess I had quite forgetten

2 years ago (& you need to recall what was what at that time) I deposited this at Guido's

Blair’s Medal

Try to remember your speech last September;
You said you’d go, you shameless fellow.
Serial offender, you said you’d surrender
the keys, and make the nation mellow.
Topping the agenda for Party members,
“**** off and die!” - hear your MPs bellow.
Now in December, it’s time to remember, and swallow.

Try to remember the donors and ‘lenders’
The wedge they gave, the dosh you ‘borrowed’.
Honourable Member? then now you must send
a farewell. For you, there’s no tomorrow.
Come next September, we’ll all remember
Your conference speeches – hot, but hollow.
Swallows have flown, so just take your damned medal and follow.

hatfield girl said...

The swallows really have flown now, ND. The refusal to collect such honours, which obviously extend to all the troops who went to war, is very wrong.

I thought it wrong they were sent into those battles at all, but the votes were there and the debates won, despite the protests. The troops went, as ordered, and were wounded and died.

The Americans honoured them and our government ignored those honours. Or so I had thought, but perhaps you are right - the medals were for Blair, personally, and his behaviour reflects on him alone. But if so, and if his, (and as it turned out the New Labour regime's) selling of seats in the legislature practices made him so unworthy, perhaps the Americans should be asked to withdraw them? And give them more directly to those who earned them?