The media is at its most slobbering and indulgent when interviewing home-grown war criminal Tony Blair wishing to present himself as a pillar of wisdom and insight.
Stop the War Coalition
13 September 2011
As the tenth anniversary of 9/11 approached, you could hardly turn a page of a newspaper or watch a TV screen without being confronted by war criminals with the blood of hundreds of thousands on their hands.
From Dick Cheney to Donald Rumsfeld, from Colin Powell to mass murderer-in-chief George W Bush, they all exploited the 9/11 marketing brand for all it was worth to justify some of the worst crimes against humanity in a generation, usually with a convenient book to flog at the same time.
But most prevalent of all -- at least in the UK -- was Tony Blair, glorifying his warmongering years in office and quick to suggest more countries ripe for foreign intervention -- top of his list for future shock and awe being Iran and Syria.
As ever, the media was at its most slobbering and indulgent when interviewing a home-grown war criminal wishing to present himself as a pillar of wisdom and insight.
Above all, Blair took the opportunity to dispute that the west's military intervention in the Middle East has radicalised Muslims and encouraged them to engage in acts of terrorism.
The problem is not what we do to Muslims that provokes a response, he insisted. It is not the slaughter of their civilians, the occupation and devastation of their countries, the stealing of their resources, the torture, the secret prisons, the endless violations of international law and Geneva Conventions, or the support for brutal tyrants and dictators when they toe the line of the imperialist agenda; no, says Blair, terrorism is caused by the religion of the terrorists, which he summed up in a classic Blairism:
"Understand one thing - they believe in what they believe in because they believe their religion compels them to believe in it."
We'll leave on one side the matter of Tony Blair's and George Bush's religion, both of whom have said they were guided by their faith -- directly by God in Bush's case -- in their decision to wage war on Iraq.
In Blair's eyes, the key issue facing today's world is a clash of civilisations -- or more accurately -- a clash between our civilisation and the lack of it in the countries we invade and occupy.
"The way to defeat this ideology ultimately is by a better idea, and we have it, which is a way of life based on openness, democracy, freedom and the rule of law."
How admirable this sounds: openness, democracy, freedom and the rule of law. But how exactly was Blair's ten years as prime minister an advert for this "better idea"? Let's look at each characteristic of our "way of life", as itemised by Blair, and see how this informed his own behaviour, not least in what will forever be seen as the defining event of his premiership: the Iraq war.
In April 2002, Tony Blair met with George Bush as his home in Crawford, Texas, where, according to British ambassador to the US Sir Christopher Meyer, they secretly "signed in blood" an alliance to take both of their countries to war with Iraq, a country which presented no threat to even its neighbours, let alone the world beyond.
This secret decision was kept from most government ministers, from parliament, and from the British public. Blair then spent the next year plotting to drag Britain into a war which he knew -- because his legal advisors told him -- was illegal,.
In July 2002, a secret letter from the then attorney general Lord Goldsmith -- subsequently revealed by the Iraq Inquiry -- told Blair categorically that deposing Saddam Hussein was a blatant breach of international law.
In response, Blair's admiration for "openness" was somewhat notable by its absence. He issued an instruction to gag Lord Goldsmith and banned him from attending Cabinet meetings. He ordered a cover-up to stop the public finding out. He concealed from his own Cabinet the legal advice given by the government's top law officer, fearing it would spark an anti-war revolt.
Blair and his spin meister Alistair Campbell then cajolled and threatened the British intelligence services to come up with evidence to show that Iraq was a threat to British national interests.
The spirit of openness was again decidedly lacking when it came to publishing two dossiers intended to justify a war that by then was opposed by most people in Britain. Each dossier was full of spurious statistics, fabrications, distortions and downright lies, and, in the case of the notorious "dodgy dossier", included long passages culled from a student's PhD thesis that Alistair Campbell's team found on the internet.
The pressure on the intelligence services to lie became so intense that it eventually drove one intelligence officer, David Kelly, to take his own life, after he had leaked what Blair's propaganda team was up to.
The limits to Blair's openness didn't stop at standing "shoulder to shoulder" with George W Bush in prosecuting an illegal war.
Just three among many other examples are: the "cash for honours" scandal in which the rich and corruptible were promised peerages if they made donations to the Labour Party; the ditching of the corruption inquiry into the BAe arms deal with Saudi Arabia; and the very murky affair with the Indian steel magnate Lakshmi Mittal, whose backhander of £125,000 was enough to get Blair to write a letter to the Rumanian prime minister supporting Mital's bid for a steel contract.
The overwhelming majority in Britain opposed the war in Iraq, as was clearly expressed in the two million strong demonstration in London on 3 February 2003 -- the biggest protest in British history.
Rather than respond to the will of the people, Blair's version of "democracy" had him -- in the last weeks before the invasion date he had agreed with George Bush -- blackmailing and intimidating Labour MPs into supporting the upcoming parliamentary vote for war. Seeing all of the supposed waverers individually, he told them that if they didn't vote for war and he was defeated, he would have to resign and the government might fall.
Blair even had his wife Cherie -- who had no political role whatever -- to come into the House of Commons to meet individually with all the female Labour MPs to intensify the pressure for a yes to war vote.
In short, Blair was telling Labour MPs to ignore the views of their constituents, most of whom rejected the case being made for war, and support Blair whatever his evident lies and distortions.
In the event Blair got his green light but the rebellion of 139 Labour MPs was the biggest ever against a Labour government.
One freedom that the countries of the Middle East might welcome is freedom from unprovoked acts of aggression, invasion and occupation by another country. Particularly if -- as in the case of Iraq -- it leaves a million civilians dead, drives four million from their homes and so devastates the infrastructure that people are deprived of basic necessities, such as access to electricity, clean water, a functioning sewage system and a viable health service.
Freedom from tyrants and despots supported by the West would also be welcome, such as Egypt's Mubarak, who was being described by Blair as "immensely courageous and a force for good" almost till the day he was toppled by the Egyptian people, ending 30 years of tyranny in a true expression of democracy.
And Palestinians might like at least a sliver of freedom from the state of Israel, which receives unqualified support from Blair, despite its serial breaches of human rights and international law and its imposition of a Medieval siege on the people of Gaza.
The rule of law
If the rule of law had real jurisdiction over war criminals like Tony Blair, instead of pontificating about our superior "way of life", proposing new wars in Iran and Syria, roaming the world picking up huge cheques for 40 minute speeches to the rich and powerful, collecting directorships and consultancies paying millions a year for a few days "work", or being treated with deference and respect by the media as a venerable and honoured statesman, he would be behind bars awaiting trial, not least for committing the worst of all war crimes, as specified in the judgement of the International Court, following the trial of the major Nazi war criminals in 1945-46, which concluded:
"To initiate a war of aggression, therefore, is not only an international crime, it is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole."
It is to be hoped that one day the rule of law -- which Blair says is the foundation of our "better" way of life -- will apprehend him. Just as it did momentarily another war criminal: Chile's General Pinochet. But, unlike Pinochet, who was sprung from captivity by then home secretary Jack Straw, perhaps we will one day see Blair held to account for his monumental crimes.
That really would be a triumph for "openness, democracy, freedom and the rule of law".