Jan 7, 2009
Only the second week of January, and yet it is safe to say that the announcement that President George W. Bush has awarded Tony Blair the Presidential Medal for Services to Freedom must take the prize for the most nauseating single news item of 2009.
Of course, we can understand why Bush in the dying days of his disastrous presidency would want to ‘honour’ the national leader who took his country into two aggressive wars alongside America, when Blair might actually have prevented them by refusing to join in.
The Medal is really a consolation prize awarded to one rejected warmonger (prematurely retired as Prime Minister in 2007, largely because of Iraq) by another (a President with the lowest poll ratings in history, again because of Iraq).
Tony Blair with George W Bush at the White House. The US leader has awarded Blair the Presidential Medal for Services to Freedom
Yet instead of being awarded a medal, Blair ought to be standing trial for criminal deception of the British Parliament and people by dishonestly leading them into an illegal war against Iraq.
How bitterly ironic that now he is supposed to be a Middle East envoy - a task at which he has proved to be so totally ineffectual. He has made no difference to the situation there and is routinely ignored by everyone involved - just look at the invasion of the Gaza Strip by the Israelis.
Compare his complete lack of success in the role of bringing peace with the diligence and enthusiasm he showed when starting a war.
Such was his commitment in that role he ought to be standing trial in an international tribunal for war crimes, including the plotting of aggressive war (the central charge against the Nazi leadership in the Nuremberg trials in 1946) and crimes against humanity.
A masked demonstrator during an anti-war rally in London in 2003
Consider the evidence already documented by the Hutton Inquiry in 2003 into the circumstances of weapons expert Dr David Kelly’s death, and the Review of Intelligence on Weapons of Mass Destruction carried out in 2004 by a committee of Privy counsellors under Lord Butler.
This evidence in both these inquiries makes clear that Blair and his accomplice Alastair Campbell, with the supine connivance of their ‘sofa-cabinet’ colleagues, deliberately set out to deceive the nation by claiming that Saddam Hussein presented an immediate threat to the UK through his ability to deploy weapons of mass destruction within 45 minutes. In fact he possessed no WMD at all.
The Butler Report of July 2004 paints a gruesome picture of how Blair and his colleagues, together with the compliant John Scarlett (chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee) set out to manufacture a dossier that would convince the British people that an attack on Iraq was acceptable.
According to Butler, the 45-minute claim should never have been included. The dossier should have made clear that the evidence of WMD was limited and unreliable. What’s more, the Joint Intelligence Committee should never have authored the dossier, as this gave it undue authority. And finally, the key decisions over its drafting and publication should have been taken by the full Cabinet - not by Blair’s cronies.
The importance of this dossier for an indictment of Blair for war crimes lies in two things.
Blair, shown here meeting with Israel’s Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, has been irrelevant in the Middle East process
First, it documents how in 2002-3 Blair and Co were actively endorsing aggressive war against another sovereign state and second, Blair was to go on using its dodgy evidence and false arguments in his public speeches, in TV interviews, and finally in the crucial House of Commons eve-of-war debate in March 2003 which gave him an overwhelming vote in support of the invasion.
That debate stands as a special example of Blair’s skill at deceit - not only because of what he said and the trembling, heartfelt oratory with which he said it, but also because, with British and American forces in the Gulf already on their startlines, it was already too late for Britain to stand aside.
Thus did Blair launch his war of aggression. We now know for sure that it was an illegal war, lacking as it did authorisation from the UN Security Council, and breaching as it did the UN Charter outlawing war except in self-defence. In fact, we now know that only because of enormous personal pressure from Blair and Co did Attorney-General Lord Goldsmith change his earlier advice that without a further UN resolution (the UN had previously passed a resolution demanding Iraq fulfil disarmament obligations) the war would indeed be illegal.
By committing the UK to join President Bush’s invasion of Iraq, Tony Blair is responsible for the deaths of hundreds of British soldiers and thousands of Iraqis
Such is the case against Blair on the central count of planning and perpetrating armed aggression. But what about the other counts in an indictment of Blair for war crimes - such as crimes against humanity?
Blair’s wars and occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan have so far cost the lives of 316 British servicemen and women, plus some 7,000 wounded. For this needless waste of life and limb, and the grief of their families, Tony Blair is the man responsible.
When it comes to the sufferings of the Iraqi people, Blair’s culpability cannot be separated from Bush’s. But just as the Nazi leaders were collectively as well as individually indicted at Nuremberg, so Blair and Bush should be collectively indicted for the human and material consequences of their attack on Iraq.
A US warship launches a Tomahawk cruise missile into Iraq. Blair took Britain to war based on lies, says Correlli Barnett
Nobody knows for sure the total of Iraqi men, women, and children slaughtered in the cross-fire between insurgents and the occupiers since the invasion, but estimates vary between 100,000 and 600,000.
The number of refugees within Iraq and of those who have fled to neighbouring countries like Jordan and Syria stands at some four million. Four million!
And even today, six years after the appalling ‘shock-and-awe’ onslaught of cruise missiles and bombs on Baghdad and other cities, Iraq’s infrastructure has still not been restored to what it was under Saddam Hussein.
The world long remembers the Germans’ bombing of Guernica in 1937 during the Spanish Civil War as a prototype war crime and the precursor to the Luftwaffe’s destruction of Warsaw in 1939 and Rotterdam in 1940.
In each of these cases the attacks were launched against countries posing no threat to Germany - just as Saddam Hussein’s Iraq posed no threat to America or Britain.
What then would, or should, an international war-crimes tribunal make of ‘shock-and-awe’ or the pitiless American bombardment of Falluja in 2004?
Although the strategy and the armed forces were American, Tony Blair was Bush’s loyal accomplice throughout. He is therefore ‘an accessory after the fact’ in these war crimes, and as such, also indictable.
Perhaps Blair should sport Bush’s ‘Freedom’ medal when he finally stands in the dock in The Hague.