Finally. Blair’s going. But why now? And what has Blair left us behind?
There are many reasons one can guess as to why, but perhaps one of the biggest–yet least talked about–is the “cash for peerages” criminal investigation, which has been getting rather close to home, too close perhaps for Blair’s comfort.
After the arrest and questioning by police in July last year of Lord Levy, Blair’s chief fundraiser, the Independent ran a piece whose title got straight to the point: “Levy arrest lays trail that leads all the way to Blair”. For anyone who needs reminding, the criminal investigation began in March 2006 after revelations that Blair had “nominated four businessmen for peerages who had also given donations in the form of loans, which did not have to be declared.” The loans totalled as much as 4 million pounds. The peerages were scrutinised and blocked by an anti-sleaze committee, all but one which voluntarily withdrew.
When Lord Levy was re-arrested at the end of January this year on suspicion of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice (and later bailed), following the arrest of Ruth Turner, director of government relations at Downing Street, things were really looking bad. So bad that some senior Ministers got together a group of senior Labour MPs–“men in grey suits”–from the backbenches to “urge the Prime Minister to quit”. At that time Blair was adamant that he would not resign while the police inquiry was still ongoing.
The inquiry ended on 23 April this year when police handed a 213-page file to the Crown Prosecution Service for deliberation. “The decision on whether to recommend charges will be taken after consultations with Lord Goldsmith, the Attorney-General, and an old friend of the Prime Minister.” The scope of Lord Goldsmith’s interference in the CPS’ “deliberations” is impossible to discern. But there is no doubt that the Attorney-General is advocating on behalf of his “old friend”.
Just like he did with the Iraq War 2003, where he regressed from his own doubts over the war to advise that the war would be “unequivocally” legal even without a new UN resolution. For many, this in itself is sufficient evidence that our own Attorney-General suffers from a politicized contempt for the rule of law. But it doesn’t end there, because he also “breached his Government’s own freedom of information laws by refusing to make public how he came to the controversial conclusion that war with Iraq would be legal.” Only after a complaint from the Independent to the UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office was he forced to release some information about how he reached his decision in the 10 days running up to the war. But even so, information commissioner Richard Thomas “held back from making Lord Goldsmith publish further documents, including minutes, e-mails and memos, that would show exactly what political or other pressures were in play.”
Notice the manner in which, under Blair, purportedly independent institutions designed to hold the government to account, in practice act as damage control organs of the state in times of political crisis. The CPS, the ICO, even the Office of the Attorney-General, all of them fundamentally compromised and caught up in a web of financial shenanigans.
In any case, the Attorney-General’s distinctly partial advice over the Iraq War–dubbed blatantly illegal by people as far apart on the political spectrum as then UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan (although he took his bloody time about it) and full-time neoconservative fanatic (part-time Pentagon adviser) Richard Perle –was ultimately a stamp of official approval cajoled by Blair to convince British Army chiefs they wouldn’t be prosecuted for war crimes if they went to war. Because Blair had already decided he was “solidly behind” the US invasion plans with or without compliance with international law and the United Nations.
But supposedly we should all be reassured, because in his heart-rending resignation speech, Blair told us: “Hand on heart, I did what I thought was right.” For once, Blair’s probably telling the truth. I mean, Richard Perle put it well when he said: “I think in this case international law stood in the way of doing the right thing.”
At least now we know that people like Blair and Perle think that violating international law to go to war on the basis of fabricated pretexts about WMD, and then on top of that manipulating public offices to support such a violation, is very much “the right thing.” Even Hitler thought he was “right” when he committed the Holocaust to annihilate the Jews (among other groups) whom he saw as a parasitical entity plaguing the German national body. Deluded fanatical violent extremists always think they’re “right”, no matter what. That’s precisely what defines them as deluded fanatical violent extremists.
Perhaps, then, in the global “struggle against violent extremism”, we need to start looking not simply at the Khans and Tanweers of the world, but perhaps more urgently at Western state practices. Given Blair’s record as a war criminal culpable in part in the Protracted Holocaust in Iraq, a Holocaust that has been directly linked to the escalation of the threat of terrorism in the UK by our very own Foreign Office and military strategists, we really do need to start struggling against the violent extremists who run and manipulate the state.
What do I mean by the Protracted Holocaust in Iraq? There is an unfortunate tendency within Western political science, international relations and journalism, to view events like the 2003 Iraq war in historical isolation. There are quite painful cultural reasons for this, largely to do with exposing the extent of our complicity in modern genocidal episodes that issue forth directly from the way our advanced “Civilization” goes about securing its undoubtedly legitimate interests.
The catastrophe that started in 2003 in Iraq is only the end-point of a continuum of genocidal catastrophe that began early in the twentieth century. The British state has conducted brutal military interventions in Iraq on and off for 90 years or so. Of course for legitimate interests. It continued to do so under the leadership of the United States since 1991. I discuss this Protracted Holocaust in Iraq in my book Behind the War on Terror (2003). Dr Gideon Polya, a retired senior biochemist at Le Trobe University working on a scientific analysis of global mortality, has put together a staggering overview of some of most reliable estimates of the number of Iraqi civilians who have died as a consequence of the direct and indirect impact of these interventions and occupations over a period of almost a century. Since 1950, 5.2 million, during the period in which the CIA and MI6 were fostering coups, installing and re-installing dictators until they finally got Saddam himself in power. Between 1991 and 2003, about 1.7 million from the UN sanctions regime. Add to this the figures for the 1991 Gulf War, at least 150,000. And after the 2003 war, as many as 650,000. That’s just under eight million up to now.
The blood of eight million Iraqi civilians on the hands of the Anglo-American axis since the early twentieth century, and still counting What does this say about “Civilization”? About the fruits of “liberal democracy” as it stands? About the wonders of “modernization” and “globalization”? Why is the progress of the West tied to the installation of metaphorical gas chambers in the East?
Blair can happily see himself as a leading participant in this genocidal continuum. He is in the same ranks as Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini, and of course Osama bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri, among others. But if there’s anything that this brief glimpse of Anglo-American historical genocide in the Middle East reveals, it’s that Blair’s resignation means absolutely nothing whatsoever in the way of halting the genocidal march of the global system. Blair was one particularly clever cog in a machine that has yet to run its course.
NAFEEZ MOSADDEQ AHMED is the author of The London Bombings: An Independent Inquiry (New York: Overlook, 2007). He teaches International Relations at the University of Sussex, Brighton, UK.