It's time to forgive and forget Tony Blair's war crimes and celebrate his achievements
Calling Tony Blair a war criminal is vulgar abuse, says The Guardian's Zoe Williams: infantile dwelling on his foreign affairs record obscures his splendid achievements at home.
Thank God for Zoe Williams, restoring a much-needed sense of perspective on the left, with her timely call in The Guardian for an end to the vulgar abuse of Tony Blair as a "war criminal", lest the infantile dwelling on the details of foreign affairs obscure his splendid social-democratic achievements at home.
"The [ Labour] party itself has had its voice strangled, not by its collusion in voting for the war (this doesn't trouble any Conservative that I can think of), but by its inability to reach an accommodation afterwards. In the party they may mumble about why they voted the way they did, but generally speaking they have allowed Blair to become a pariah – and this leaves them unable to celebrate his achievements, incapable of examining what didn't go to plan. It leaves them without any pride in more than a decade of Labour government.."
Frankly, Ms Willaims speaks for everyone who is sick of this harping on about Iraq, which puts one in mind of nothing so much as the way the tiresomely ungrateful Irish refused to allow the great Gladstone to go about his divinely-inspired reforming work unimpeded.
Indeed, it is past time for an "accommodation" – time for pride no less! "When Blair came in, there were 3 million pensioners living in poverty; when he left it was 2 million," Williams reminds us. That is a 33% reduction, or a full 2.5% of pensioner poverty eliminated for every year Blair and Brown were in Number Ten.
I think there will be few who will cavil at an estimate that each percentage point reduction must have at least 1,000 Iraqi deaths set off against it. Indeed, the two million pensioners who alas remained in poverty at the end of New Labour's model social-democratic government must be earnestly wishing that British troops had not been withdrawn from Iraq so prematurely.
The National Minimum Wage – a crowning reformist achievement! Of course, it would be indecent to enter in the ledger a purely monetary figure against fatalities in Basra and Baghdad. Nevertheless the Iraqi people themselves would, I believe, be the first to acknowledge a small sense of satisfaction at the knowledge that the occupying soldiers have had the opportunity to be better remunerated when they returned to "civvy street" in their own country. It was most likely for just that reason that they so persistently begged them to go home as soon as possible, to take advantage of the better-paid job they had heard were now available.
And contrasting the National Minimum Wage with the unfortunate disturbance in Mesopotamia surely suggests a bold new standard for the next Labour government to match. If Ed Miliband proves himself a worthy successor to Mr Blair, and takes the next step by introducing a Living Wage, then surely he will thereby secure sufficient credit to launch a Middle Eastern War of his own.
The Iranian and Syrian peoples must be praying for the election of a Labour government which will really tackle low pay on these grounds alone, and will doubtless send a delegation to the United Nations Security Council, in the admittedly improbable event of a Labour government taking any of its war proposals thither, to ensure that considerations of wage rates in Birmingham are not overlooked in the fuss.
Zoe Williams reminds us of New Labour's advances in childcare. I hear it abroad that Rose Gentle, Reg Keys and Peter Brierley are to form a combined touring platform to take the gospel of Tony Blair's childcare achievements into every corner of the country. Any passing regret that their own children cannot join them at their speaking engagements, fallen as they have in the great search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq (and when did hide-and-seek become a 'war crime' I ask), will be more than overcome by their pride at having the opportunity to set these matters in their proper context and proportions.
Finally, Ms Williams calls to our attention the improvements in health care under Mr Blair – in accident and emergency facilities above all. Surely it is overdue that these A&E departments were rebranded Shock & Awe units, so that those unfortunate enough to need them will have cause to reflect on the integral beneficence of New Labour as they await treatment from the appropriate contractor. If healthcare still struggles in Iraq itself by contrast, this is, I am confident, something Mr Blair is raising on the board of J P Morgan regularly.
To call such a man – who combines the love for children of a Dr Barnardo, the care for the sick of a Florence Nightingale and the detestation of low wages of a Jack Jones – a "war criminal" speaks only to the petty-minded prejudices of those who demonstrated against his foreign policy. It also shows a staggering lack of historic perspective. For example, which of us who have had the pleasure of motoring in Germany have not reflected on Herr Hitler's motorway construction achievements – how absurd to dwell on Treblinka or Stalingrad when travelling so smoothly and efficiently?
Let us say it plainly (and I hope I am not putting words in Zoe Williams' mouth here!) – there is no depredation in the less favoured parts of the world which cannot be discounted if its perpetrator can point to decent reforms in the heartlands of contemporary civilisation. That is the way humanity will progress, and the blessing of little wars like those in Iraq and Afghanistan is that they give the benighted a better chance of catching up in the great race – those that can still stand, of course.
And this is Zoe Williams' greatest merit – she has recalled to a jaded world the true ethical spirit and moral compass of British liberalism. For such service, may her article be widely circulated!
Reg Keys, whose son was killed in Iraq, says Tony Blair is a war criminal.
Source: Stop the War Coalition