- These are extraordinary times. With the United States
and Britain on the verge of bankruptcy and committing to an endless colonial
war, pressure is building for their crimes to be prosecuted at a tribunal
similar to that which tried the Nazis at Nuremberg. This defined rapacious
invasion as "the supreme international crime differing only from other
war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the
whole." International law would be mere farce, said the chief US chief
prosecutor at Nuremberg, Supreme Court justice Robert Jackson, "if,
in future, we do not apply its principles to ourselves."
- That is now happening. Spain, Germany, Belgium, France
and Britain have long had "universal jurisdiction" statutes,
which allow their national courts to pursue and prosecute prima facie war
criminals. What has changed is an unspoken rule never to use international
law against "ourselves", or "our" allies or clients.
In 1998, Spain, supported by France, Switzerland and Belgium, indicted
the Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, client and executioner of the West,
and sought his extradition from Britain, where he happened to be at the
time. Had he been sent for trial he almost certainly would have implicated
at least one British prime minister and two US presidents in crimes against
humanity.. Home Secretary Jack Straw let him escape back to Chile.
- The Pinochet case was the ignition. On 19 January last,
the George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley compared
the status of George W. Bush with that of Pinochet. "Outside [the
United States] there is not the ambiguity about what to do about a war
crime," he said. "So if you try to travel, most people abroad
are going to view you not as 'former President George Bush' [but] as a
current war criminal." For this reason, Bush's former defense secretary
Donald Rumsfeld, who demanded an invasion of Iraq in 2001 and personally
approved torture techniques in Iraq and at Guantanamo Bay, no longer travels.
Rumsfeld has twice been indicted for war crimes in Germany. On 26 January,
the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Manfred Nowak, said, "We have
clear evidence that Mr. Rumsfeld knew what he was doing but nevertheless
he ordered torture."
- The Spanish high court is currently investigating a former
Israeli defense minister and six other top Israeli officials for their
role in the killing of civilians, mostly children, in Gaza. Henry Kissinger,
who was largely responsible for bombing to death 600,000 peasants in Cambodia
in 1969-73, is wanted for questioning in France, Chile and Argentina. Yet,
on 8 February, as if demonstrating the continuity of American power, President
Barack Obama's national security adviser, James Jones, said, "I take
my daily orders from Dr. Kissinger."
- Like them, Tony Blair may soon be a fugitive. The International
Criminal Court, to which Britain is a signatory, has received a record
number of petitions related to Blair's wars. Spain's celebrated Judge Baltasar
Garzon, who indicted Pinochet and the leaders of the Argentinean military
junta, has called for George W. Bush, Blair and former Spanish prime minister
Jose Maria Aznar to be prosecuted for the invasion of Iraq - "one
of the most sordid and unjustifiable episodes in recent human history:
a devastating attack on the rule of law" that had left the UN "in
tatters". He said, "There is enough of an argument in 650,000
deaths for this investigation to start without delay."
- This is not to say Blair is about to be collared and
marched to The Hague, where Serbs and Sudanese dictators are far more likely
to face a political court set up by the West. However, an international
agenda is forming and a process has begun which is as much about legitimacy
as the letter of the law, and a reminder from history that the powerful
lose wars and empires when legitimacy evaporates. This can happen quickly,
as in the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of apartheid South Africa
- the latter a specter for apartheid Israel.
- Today, the unreported "good news" is that a
worldwide movement is challenging the once sacrosanct notion that imperial
politicians can destroy countless lives in the cause of an ancient piracy,
often at remove in distance and culture, and retain their respectability
and immunity from justice. In his masterly Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde R.L.
Stevenson writes in the character of Jekyll: "Men have before hired
bravos to transact their crimes, while their own person and reputation
sat under shelter .. . . I could thus plod in the public eye with a load
of genial respectability, and, in a moment, like a schoolboy, strip off
these lendings and spring headlong into the sea of liberty. But for me,
in my impenetrable mantle, the safety was complete."
- Blair, too, is safe - but for how long? He and his collaborators
face a new determination on the part of tenacious non-government bodies
that are amassing "an impressive documentary record as to criminal
charges", according to international law authority Richard Falk, who
cites the World Tribunal on Iraq, held in Istanbul in 2005, which heard
evidence from 54 witnesses and published rigorous indictments against Blair,
Bush and others. Currently, the Brussels War Crimes Tribunal and the newly
established Blair War Crimes Foundation are building a case for Blair's
prosecution under the Nuremberg Principle and the 1949 Geneva Convention.
In a separate indictment, former Judge of the New Zealand Supreme Court
E.W. Thomas wrote: "My pre-disposition was to believe that Mr. Blair
was deluded, but sincere in his belief. After considerable reading and
much reflection, however, my final conclusion is that Mr. Blair deliberately
and repeatedly misled Cabinet, the British Labour Party and the people
in a number of respects. It is not possible to hold that he was simply
deluded but sincere: a victim of his own self-deception. His deception
- Protected by the fake sinecure of Middle East Envoy for
the Quartet (the US, EU, UN and Russia), Blair operates largely from a
small fortress in the American Colony Hotel in Jerusalem, where he is an
apologist for the US in the Middle East and Israel, a difficult task following
the bloodbath in Gaza. To assist his mortgages, he recently received an
Israeli "peace prize" worth a million dollars. He, too, is careful
where he travels; and it is instructive to watch how he now uses the media.
Having concentrated his post-Downing Street apologetics on a BBC series
of obsequious interviews with David Aaronovitch, Blair has all but slipped
from view in Britain, where polls have long revealed a remarkable loathing
for a former prime minister - a sentiment now shared by those in the liberal
media elite whose previous promotion of his "project" and crimes
is an embarrassment and preferably forgotten.
- On 8 February, Andrew Rawnsley, the Observer's former
leading Blair fan, declared that, "this shameful period will not be
so smoothly and simply buried." He demanded, "Did Blair never
ask what was going on?" This is an excellent question made relevant
with a slight word change: "Did the Andrew Rawnsleys never ask what
was going on?" In 2001, Rawnsley alerted his readers to Iraq's "contribution
to international terrorism" and Saddam Hussein's "frightening
appetite to possess weapons of mass destruction." Both assertions
were false and echoed official Anglo-American propaganda. In 2003, when
the destruction of Iraq was launched, Rawnsley described it as a "point
of principle" for Blair who, he later wrote, was "fated to be
right." He lamented, "Yes, too many people died in the war. Too
many people always die in war. War is nasty and brutish, but at least this
conflict was mercifully short." In the subsequent six years at least
a million people have been killed. According to the Red Cross, Iraq is
now a country of widows and orphans. Yes, war is nasty and brutish, but
never for the Blairs and the Rawnsleys.
- Far from the carping turncoats at home, Blair has lately
found a safe media harbor - in Australia, the original murdochracy. His
interviewers exude an unction reminiscent of the promoters of the "mystical"
Blair in The Guardian of than a decade ago, though they also bring to mind
Geoffrey Dawson, editor of The Times during the 1930s, who wrote of his
infamous groveling to the Nazis: "I spend my nights taking out anything
which will hurt their susceptibilities and dropping in little things which
are intended to sooth them."
- With his words as a citation, the finalists for the Geoffrey
Dawson Prize for Journalism (Antipodes) are announced. On 8 February, in
an interview on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Geraldine Doogue
described Blair as "a man who brought religion into power and is now
bringing power to religion." She asked him: "What would the perception
be that faith would bring towards a greater stability . . . [sic]?"
A bemused and clearly delighted Blair was allowed to waffle about "values".
Doogue said to him that "it was the bifurcation about right and wrong
that what I thought the British found really hard" [sic], to which
Blair replied that, "in relation to Iraq I tried every other option
[to invasion] there was". It was his classic lie, which passed unchallenged.
- However, the clear winner of the Geoffrey Dawson Prize
is Ginny Dougary of the Sydney Morning Herald and the Times. Dougary recently
accompanied Blair on what she described as his "James Bondish-ish
Gulfstream" where she was privy to his "bionic energy levels."
She wrote, "I ask him the childlike question: does he want to save
the world?" Blair replied, well, more or less, aw shucks, yes. The
murderous assault on Gaza, which was under way during the interview, was
mentioned in passing. "That is war, I'm afraid," said Blair,
"and war is horrible." No counter came that Gaza was not a war
but a massacre by any measure. As for the Palestinians, noted Dougary,
it was Blair's task to "prepare them for statehood." The Palestinians
will be surprised to hear that. But enough gravitas; her man "has
the glow of the newly-in-love: in love with the world and, for the most
part, the feeling is reciprocated." The evidence she offered for this
absurdity was that "women from both sides of politics have confessed
to me to having the hots for him."
- These are extraordinary times. Blair, a perpetrator of
the epic crime of the 21st century, shares a "prayer breakfast"
with President Obama, the yes-we-can-man now launching more war. "We
pray," said Blair, "that in acting we do God's work and follow
God's will." To decent people, such pronouncements about Blair's "faith"
represent a contortion of morality and intellect that is a profanation
on the basic teachings of Christianity. Those who aided and abetted his
great crime and now wish the rest of us to forget their part - or, like
Alistair Campbell, his "communications director," offer their
bloody notoriety for the vicarious pleasure of some - might read the first
indictment proposed by the Blair War Crimes Foundation: "Deceit and
conspiracy for war, and providing false news to incite passions for war,
causing in the order of one million deaths, four million refugees, countless
maiming and traumas."
- These are indeed extraordinary times.