Last week was the anniversary of the 7/7 terror attacks in London 11 years ago that left death and destruction in its wake. The anniversary fell at a time when the country’s politics is on a roller-coaster after the referendum vote to leave the European Union, the Prime Minister announcing his resignation and the main [...]


Battered and bruised Blair remains unrepentant


Last week was the anniversary of the 7/7 terror attacks in London 11 years ago that left death and destruction in its wake. The anniversary fell at a time when the country’s politics is on a roller-coaster after the referendum vote to leave the European Union, the Prime Minister announcing his resignation and the main political parties in the throes of internal strife.

Former British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, delivers a speech following the publication of The Iraq Inquiry Report by John Chilcot, in London. REUTERS/Stefan Rousseau

Into this political witches’ broth was added the long-awaited report by the John Chilcot committee that inquired into Britain’s role in the lead up to the invasion of Iraq 13 years ago and its tragic aftermath which is still being played out in Iraq and beyond.
Sceptics expected the Chilcot report to go the same way as many other inquiries- from the “Bloody Sunday” massacre of innocents in Northern Ireland nearly 45 years ago to more recent ones.

The Chilcot report has fortunately punctured that doubt and chained Tony Blair to the rack but in a civilized manner that does not evoke the horrors of the Spanish Inquisition.  Though the language is mild and nuanced consonant with decades of such tempered usage by Whitehall mandarins and the legality of the invasion is left alone as being outside its remit, Chilcot’s conclusions are clear enough to nail Blair for going to war in support of Bush junior when all other non-military options had not been exhausted.

Though most of us are yet to read the voluminous report in its entirety-three times the size of the Bible it is said – the executive summary and news reports have provided enough of the inquiry’s findings to dispel fears that this would be yet another cover-up.

Since most readers interested in the subject, especially in the light of the judicial inquiries now being considered into our own war that ended seven years ago, would by now be acquainted with the important facets of the Chilcot report, there is no need to reiterate the findings except to buttress our own comments over the years and to expose Tony Blair for what one always thought he really is.

Over the coming weeks and months interested readers will peruse the Chilcot report and find in it nuggets of useful information they have not been privy to all these years which expose how governments and their leaders work often clandestinely while misleading the public into believing in the honesty and integrity of those who govern them.

But one thing they will not find there is how some of those in authority in Sri Lanka also behaved, inviting this former Prime Minister reviled by many in his own Labour Party and by a remonstrating public for leading their country into war, to deliver the Lakshman Kadirgamar memorial lecture last November.

It was unbelievable irony that a person who invaded a sovereign country undermining the UN Charter and acting against severe opposition from three permanent members of the security council was allowed to deliver a memorial lecture on a respected former Sri Lankan Foreign Minister who believed firmly in upholding the integrity of the UN and its basic principles and opposed the Iraq war.

If that shameless betrayal of Kadirgamar’s beliefs and thinking had not penetrated the pea brains of those who made those decisions to have Blair deliver this lecture at a time when the man was being condemned the world over for being instrumental in sowing the seeds of ever-increasing discord, death and destruction in the Middle East, perhaps the Chilcot report might be helpful in transfusing into them some urgently needed grey matter.

But I doubt it, to judge by the servile complaisance to the west and western leaders even if they are war mongers, by those policy makers in the foreign ministry and diplomatic mediocrities who considered a passing acquaintance with the Blairs as reaching the Himalayan heights of their professional competence.

It might be recalled that when it was first discovered late last year that Blair would deliver the Lakshman Kadirgamar Memorial Lecture the foreign ministry tried to hide the news as though it was protecting the family inheritance.
The Blair family eventually turned up in Sri Lanka last November supposedly on a two-week holiday.

One can now understand why everybody in the know buried their heads in the sand. Obviously whoever made this ghastly mistake was embarrassed at inviting a former leader under investigation for his role in invading Iraq and any war crimes flowing from it that they wanted to keep it under wraps until the last minute. Kadirgamar respected the UN and international law. Blair had proved he respected neither.

Had they read the book by Blair’s biographer Sir Anthony Seldon which is what is expected of diplomats, Colombo should have been advised about Blair’s reputation back in the UK. “To a controversial premiership, which ended in May 2007, Tony Blair has added a still more controversial post-premiership”, said Seldon who called Blair “the most reviled Prime Minister since 1945.”

One can understand the Sri Lanka government desire to rebuild relations with the west since the UNP was historically a pro-west party. But did our foreign policy makers have to kowtow to a neo-imperialist former Prime Minister reportedly using his previous official contacts and friendships to construct money-making ventures raking millions of dollars to Blair’s private foundation?

It is bad enough that the Middle East “Quartet” for whom Blair was playing the role of a peace-maker got rid of him, albeit diplomatically, from his assignment with the Arabs bearing down on Blair, it appeared that the man seemed intent on carving out a role for himself in Sri Lankan affairs, no doubt with some help from those who led him up to the Kadirgamar Institute.

During Blair’s meeting with President Sirisena last November, he thrice mentioned his readiness and availability to help Sri Lanka. Like Julius Caesar who at the Lupercal thrice refused a kingly crown Maithripala Sirisena very wisely thrice ignored Blair’s overture to more western shenanigans.

That is not all. The British media reminds us that Blair does not do anything for nothing, that invitations for Blair to deliver a lecture costs the hosts a very large sum – something like £200,000-£250,000 for 45-minutes.The Blairs – both husband and wife – are hardly known for altruism.

For the benefit of some of our political leaders and diplomats who hardly inform themselves of the Blair necessities, let me quote from a Newsweek article on Tony Blair published in early November 2015, coincidentally at the time the Blairs were holidaying in Sri Lanka and Blair (Tony not Cherie) was readying himself to praise Kadirgamar.

Alex Perry writes: “Many Britons consider him to be a Machiavel with a Messiah complex, a war criminal who claims – the deviousness of the man – to be saving the world. He is said to be a fixer for dictators, bankers, media barons and billionaires, a method actor who believes in lines, a globe-trotting Iago with penny-pinching addiction to free holidays who charges a small fortune for a 45-minute speech and more for advice and whose speed dial is a diabolical list of 21st century power, fame and money….Blair was up to something. He was always up to something. He lied about Iraq. Probably lied about everything. Always seemed to make out himself. Insufferable, slippery, greedy, shameless, sun-tanned bastard.”

This was the opinion of an incisive journalist after a series of interviews conducted in three countries.
If the initiator of the Blair ‘infiltration’ and others who take credit for having persuaded (if persuasion was indeed necessary) the Blairs to ‘holiday’ in Sri Lanka have hardly recognised Machiavelli or Iago, then the sooner they do their home work, the sooner our country will be saved from further tragic errors of judgment.

A more damning report around the same time the Blairs were in Sri Lanka appeared in “Global Research” by Felicity Arbuthnot who had spent much time in Iraq and used to write frequently to London’s Gemini News Service when I was working there as a copy editor.

In her article headlined “Tony Blair heading for handcuffs and a war crimes indictment”? she quoted former Director of Public Prosecutions Sir Ken Macdonald’s scathing attack on Blair:

“The degree of deceit involved in our decision to go to war on Iraq becomes steadily clearer. This was a foreign policy disgrace of epic proportions …It is now very difficult to avoid the conclusion that Tony Blair engaged in an alarming subterfuge with his partner, George Bush.”

So is Tony Blair, QC. finally headed for handcuffs and a trial at The Hague Arbuthnot asked adding that “Ian Williams, Senior Analyst with Foreign Policy in Focus, New York, has a view. He believes:

… it’s increasingly serious enough to be worrying to him. And I think Tony Blair is rapidly joining Henry Kissinger and Chilean Dictator Augusto Pinochet and other people around the world.”

The Chilcot report naturally avoids any mention of possible charges against him for this was beyond its remit. But it certainly damns him on several other counts including the case he placed before parliament that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction and they could be deployed in 45 minutes threatening British interests in the region.

The Swedish diplomat Hans Blix who headed the UN inspection team searching for any evidence of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs) or signs of Iraq restarting the programme wrote last week that months preceding the invasion UN inspection forces carried out 700 inspections without finding any WMD.

He said in the months that followed inspections by the US came to same conclusion.
Blix argues that Blair and other leaders misrepresented reality urging war over a faulty picture they had created. Chilcot seems to concur.

Blair speaking after the report was released was still defiant with regard to his decision to go to war to topple the dictator. He said the world is a better place without him. What he did not say was who created the monster, urging him to attack Iran and promoting the Kurds to confront Saddam and then letting the Kurds down and also providing the chemicals and ingredients for WMDs.

The problem is that while regime change appears to have been the prime purpose and agreed to with Bush, the reasons adduced by Blair in calling for the Commons to vote for his decision to go to war was the imminent threat posed by Saddam with his WMDs that did not exist.

Blair argued that he took the decision in good faith and he would do it again. Blair who subsequently embraced the Catholic faith might have taken a lesson from Thomas Aquinas whose doctrine of “just war” said that war must be the last resort. In the case of Iraq it was not so as Chilcot observes.

Those who promoted the Blairs to come to Sri Lanka and those who invited him to deliver the Kadirgamar lecture could do one thing for Sri Lanka. Forever hide their heads in shame.

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