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Sudden Death for War Critic


Losing Wellstone was bad enough; now Robin Cook takes a hike to the great beyond


Not matinee idols, but heroes anyway: Cook (left) and Wellstone both stood up against the war in Iraq.

Robin Cook, who resigned as leader of the House of Commons on the eve of the invasion of Iraq, died unexpectedly today after collapsing during a walk in his beloved Scottish highlands.

It’s a worse blow to the anti-war movement than even Paul Wellstone‘s death in a plane crash in October 2002.

Like Wellstone, Cook was not a telegenic politician. Both of them, though, were ready for prime time. Cook was the U.K.’s foreign minister from 1997 to 2001. Then he took the job as Leader of the House of Commons, kind of like the job of House Majority Leader in the U.S. — the one that evangelical exterminator Tom DeLay now holds.

Wellstone — the harshest critic of John Bolton‘s credibility as a diplomat — and Cook were both internationalists. Both were also respected for their ability to argue without being argumentative. Now they’re both unexpectedly dead.

Even if you’re taking your medication regularly, I wouldn’t blame you for sniffing around some conspiracy theories to see whether one of them fits this sad situation — did the same mechanic who fiddled with Wellstone’s plane also spike Cook’s water bottle?

Just wondering.

Cook’s resignation speech, on March 17, 2003, was memorable. Without bitterness — and without first issuing a press release — he resigned on principle, castigating his colleagues in Tony Blair‘s Labor Party for leading Great Britain into the Iraq misadventure. George Galloway is always fun to listen to, but Cook’s speeches demanded respect.

Here’s an excerpt:

On Iraq, I believe that the prevailing mood of the British people is sound. They do not doubt that Saddam is a brutal dictator, but they are not persuaded that he is a clear and present danger to Britain.

They want inspections to be given a chance, and they suspect that they are being pushed too quickly into conflict by a US Administration with an agenda of its own.

Above all, they are uneasy at Britain going out on a limb on a military adventure without a broader international coalition and against the hostility of many of our traditional allies.

When Cook was finished, he got a most unusual standing ovation, and commentators hailed the speech as one of the finest in decades.

He continued to speak and write against the war. Just last month, as I pointed out, Cook was quoted in the New York Times as having written:

The chaos in Iraq today is a direct consequence of the decision to invade it, and the unforgivable failure to plan how to provide security for the country we had taken over.

If you’re not fully medicated, here’s something to think about: Who do you suppose leaked the Downing Street Memo and other Foreign Office documents to Michael Smith of the Sunday Times (U.K.) and other British reporters?

I don’t know, and I certainly wouldn’t expect an answer. But if it was somebody within the Foreign Office, that somebody was probably quite sympathetic to Robin Cook — perhaps even someone who served during Cook’s tenure there.

Or was Robin Cook himself the Deep Throat to Michael Smith?

Just wondering.

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