What's in a name?

Before The Beatles hit the big-time about 60 years ago, a British folk album titled “Island Of Dreams” was popular in several countries, featuring a song called "Faraway Places.”

The opening line: “Faraway places with strange sounding names" became stuck in my head last week, after being altered to “frazzled politicians with strange sounding names”.

It began on Wednesday with a Canadian MP called Garnett Genius making headlines by getting into a war of words with a freelance reporter from the Parliamentary press gallery. To have the surname Genius must be an incredible burden, especially for a politician, but his actions on this occasion did not match those of a genius, according to the reporter.

The next day that song was playing again in my cranial jukebox, when the newly-minted British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly was interviewed at the United Nations General Assembly. The topic was Russia possibly using nuclear weapons in the conflict with Ukraine, and Russian President Vladimir Putin’s resentment of NATO.

Cleverly looked into the camera and stated NATO has never been an aggressive force, only defensive. That was really not very clever.

Maybe with his exalted position on the world stage, his head is in the clouds and he forgot the inconvenient truth of NATO's aggressive role in attacking Afghanistan in 2002, and its intervention in Libya in 2011, as well as many members of NATO joining (former U.S. president George W. Bush’s "Coalition of the Willing" to aggressively attack Iraq in 2003.

During that prolonged conflict depleted uranium bombs and cluster bombs were used against Iraqi civilians. Both weapons are strictly prohibited under international law, and with his military background it would have been very clever for Cleverly to have kept his mouth shut, rather than make such a reckless statement.

Of course, such statements are nothing new. About 2500 years ago, Greek playwright Aeschylus wrote: “In war, truth is the first casualty”.

Again, it must be a burden living up to a name like Cleverly in politics. But being reckless reminds me of another recent British elected official. Mark Reckless won a seat in the Welsh Parliament and later as an MP in Westminster.

In his decade as a parliamentarian, Reckless earned a reputation of being a rebel, switching allegiances several times, and representing five or six different parties.

Reckless by name, and reckless by nature.

Bernie Smith, Parkville

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