Yesterday, White House Press Secretary Dana Perino announced that “President Bush will award the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, and former Prime Ministers Tony Blair of the United Kingdom and John Howard of Australia.” Perino noted that the three leaders have been strong allies of Bush foreign policy:
The President is honoring these leaders for their work to improve the lives of their citizens and for their efforts to promote democracy, human rights and peace abroad. All three leaders have been staunch allies of the United States, particularly in combating terrorism. And their efforts to bring hope and freedom to people around the globe have made their nations, America and the world community a safer and more secure world.
Support for the Iraq war has become a good predictor of whether one will receive the president’s highest honor. Past recipients include neoconservative godfather Norm Podhoretz (2003), L. Paul Bremer (2004), Gen. Tommy Franks (2004), Gen. Richard Myers (2005), George Tenet (2004), and Gen. Peter Pace (2008)
Given this standard, there are no better recipients than Howard and Blair. Howard joined Bush’s Coalition of the Willing and kept a large number of Australian troops in Iraq until his defeat last year (largely due to his support of the Iraq war). In September 2007, he stated, “We have no closer alliance with any country in the world than we have with the United States.”
Similarly, Blair, derided in Britain as “Bush’s poodle,” had been Bush’s strongest Western ally and pushed the invasion of Iraq. “We’re not making it worse, they (terrorists) are making it worse,” he said, offering no regrets for supporting the war. Recently, Prime Minister Gordon Brown announced a withdrawal of British troops from Iraq.
Uribe also joined Bush in contributing forces to the Coalition of the Willing.