A young and impressionable barman at a trendy East London restaurant has done something all decent people have wanted to do for a long time.
He arrested Tony Blair.
Having espied Tony having dinner with friends (with no doubt some burly bodyguards in close attendance), the youngster put his hand on the ex-PM’s shoulder and said, “Mr Blair, this is a citizen’s arrest for a crime against peace, namely your decision to launch an unprovoked war against Iraq.”
The exact wording of the mantra wasn’t improvised. It came from the website arrestblair.org, specially created to do what its name says.
The website offers a bounty to anyone attempting to nab Tony, and it lays down what looks to me like an airtight case. Yo-Blair, as he was referred to by his accomplice George W. Bush, was directly responsible for starting a criminal war that has so far cost the best part of a million lives.
Personally I’m less troubled by the illegality of the Iraq war than the young barman seems to be. As far as I’m concerned, a UN Security Council resolution is as weak a reason to start a war as its absence is not to start one.
The problem with the Iraq war isn’t that it wasn’t authorised by an (at best useless) international organisation but that it was unjust, stupid, cowardly and shrouded in a tissue of lies.
Witness the number of times the putative casus belli changed in the explanatory speeches delivered by the perpetrators.
First, it was all about WMD which Iraq turned out not to possess – something Blair & Co knew from the beginning.
Then it was about regime change – Saddam was a nasty bit of work whose toxic presence could no longer be tolerated by a world as comfortable with Putin, Lukashenko and Kim Jong Un now as it ever was with Lenin, Stalin, dozens of communist chieftains and, from 1933 to 1939, Hitler (TIME’s Man of the Year, 1938).
After that the mendacious explanations grew more altruistic. Iraq was a nation that deserved to be ‘built’ – specifically by Tony, who was doing his level best to destroy his own nation.
American neoconservatives contributed their own penny’s worth by explaining that Iraqi people were being denied democracy, the only political system that can ever have even a shadow of legitimacy.
Since then the Iraqis have demonstrated – as if it needed demonstrating – that their affection for democracy is less urgent than their desire to be left alone so they can continue to kill one another. The country is being drowned in an ongoing bloodbath, and we ain’t seen nuthin’ yet, as Tony’s accomplice would say.
Moreover, the war has escalated into an ‘Arab Spring’ offensive, claiming even more lives, getting rid of some nasty but internationally impotent regimes, destabilising the Middle East and making the world an infinitely more insecure place.
Unfortunately, the teenaged barman didn’t succeed in bringing Blair to justice. Tony talked his way out of trouble by unsheathing his rhetorical weapons. These proved sufficiently powerful to work on poorly educated teenagers, if no one else.
“Shouldn’t you be worried about Syria instead?” asked Tony, which is a bit like a burglar claiming he shouldn’t be arrested because there’s so much other evil in the world.
Then came the clincher: “But don’t you agree that Saddam was a brutal dictator and he needed to be removed?” The youngster replied “Not by an illegal war,” which isn’t an answer I would have given. He should have said that the second part of the question is an utter non sequitur.
Of course Saddam was a brutal dictator, but from this it doesn’t follow that he should have been removed by foreign powers. Said powers should only unseat foreign governments in their own national interests – otherwise the world would be turned into an incessantly bubbling cauldron full of blood.
Neocons, American and alas now also ours, are driven by their Trotskyist DNA to seek a permanent armed conflict, preferably a global one. The slogan they inscribe on their banners isn’t ‘revolution’, which their spiritual father favoured, but ‘democracy’, yet the animus is exactly the same temperamentally.
For at least a couple of decades neocons have been exerting a strong influence on US foreign policy, to which our spivs habitually play poodle. The war in question is a direct result.
Our Tone, to do him justice, lacks even such petty and asinine convictions. He desperately craves only two things: power first and money derivatively. And he knows that usually only wartime leaders go down in history as ‘great’.
Churchill, who incidentally extolled Hitler as ‘a strong leader’ in early 1934, was a vacillating and often unsound peacetime politician. But because he did well as an inspirational wartime PM, Churchill now enjoys a sterling posthumous reputation.
In that vein, Tony was clearly hoping that his valiant attempt to reduce Britain to third-world status would be written off by successful martial exploits. That hundreds of thousands were to die in the process wasn’t a minor consideration for him. It was no consideration at all.
That makes the next question he asked the arresting youngster so particularly emetic: “Don’t you know how many people died in the ‘80s?” Quite a few, would be my guess. Which was of course an excellent reason to kill many more, by orders of magnitude, in the 2000s.
I do hope one day Tony will be arrested for real and spend some serious time in prison. The pleasure one would derive from this would be purely aesthetic, for we’re only ever likely to have similar nonentities at the helm.
Still, don’t knock aesthetic pleasure. It’s better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick.