My last post was about a gruesome figure from recent British political history, Margaret Thatcher, Milk Snatcher. So I apologise for writing about another such figure in this post. However, I feel obliged to comment on the news story earlier this week about a London restaurant worker called Twiggy Garcia. One evening Garcia noticed that a certain Tony Blair had just stepped into his place of employment – Tramshed, a trendy and no doubt costly eatery in Shoreditch – and decided on the spur of the moment to carry out a citizen’s arrest on the former Labour Party prime minister.
Garcia did this because he considered Blair to be a war criminal, on account of his role in the invasion of Iraq in 2003 and its subsequent occupation. The invasion was launched in order to depose Saddam Hussein who, it was claimed, possessed Weapons of Mass Destruction. It transpired, though, that these WMDs didn’t actually exist and it became obvious that Blair and his invasion partner George W. Bush had spun a web of lies beforehand to make people believe that they did. By the end of the conflict, though, it wasn’t just the WMDs that didn’t exist. According to the Associated Press, approximately 110,000 Iraqi civilians up until 2009 (600,000 up until 2006 if you believe the Lancet) had stopped existing too, thanks to George and Tony’s actions.
Indeed, a decade after the American-led, British-backed invasion and occupation of Iraq, the country remains a violent basket case. On Tuesday this week, at the same time that I heard about Blair’s meal being disrupted in the Tramshed Restaurant, I read a newspaper article reporting the deaths of 28 people in a series of bomb-blasts in Baghdad. The same article said that fighters linked to al-Qaeda are currently entrenched in Fallujah and one official warned that they “possess enough heavy weapons to storm into Baghdad.”
George Bush once donned a flak jacket, posed on board an American aircraft carrier and boasted that the ‘mission’ in Iraq was ‘accomplished’. That seems a very long time ago now. Mind you, through the dubious involvement in the supposed reconstruction of Iraq by outfits like Halliburton, the debacle succeeded in lining Dick Cheney’s pockets very nicely, which I suppose was the real point of it.
Of course, the Iraq War put some coinage into Tony Blair’s pockets too. Thanks to his support for one of the most right-wing and incompetent presidents in American history, the ex-PM is now revered in Republican circles and he makes more than a few bob on the USA’s public speaking and lecturing circuit. (He’s also profited from dealings with the South Korean oil firm UI Energy Corporation, dealings that may also have involved Iraq: http://www.sundaytimes.lk/100328/International/int_02.html.) I suppose his continuing popularity in America reduces his pain at being less admired in other parts of the world. For instance, I worked in India during the worst phase of the ‘official’ Iraq War – Abu Ghraib and all that – and whenever I read the Indian English-language newspapers, his name seldom appeared in a sentence without being accompanied by the words ‘poodle’ or ‘lapdog’.
But the fact that everything that happened in Iraq was a reprehensible failure – morally, diplomatically, even in terms of making ground against Osamu Bin Laden and co in the supposed War on Terror – has never dented Blair’s belief that he did the proper thing. He was right and those millions of people who came out on British streets at the time to protest against the invasion were wrong. I suppose this was because Blair regards himself as a good Christian. With God on his side, he reasoned, his decision to back Bush was divinely sanctioned. (Bush, of course, professed to be a Christian too, although one couldn’t imagine the gimlet-eyed draft-dodger being as zealous about it as Blair.) Actually, Blair’s take on Christianity puts me in mind of something said by the late William S. Burroughs in his spoken lyrics for the song Words of Advice for Young People: “If you’re doing business with a religious sonofabitch, get it in writing. His word isn’t worth shit, not with the good Lord telling him how to f**k you on the deal.”
It would be nice to report that following Twiggy Garcia’s citizen’s arrest, Blair is now in a cell at Shoreditch Police Station and preparations are being made to fly him out to The Hague, where he will stand trial for crimes against humanity on the same spot that was recently occupied by Liberia’s Charles Taylor. Alas, that hasn’t happened. Blair first tried to argue with Garcia, asking, “Shouldn’t you be worried about Syria?” Apparently, two wrong wars of mass slaughter make one right war of mass slaughter. Then someone in Blair’s party fetched his plainclothes bodyguards from another part of the restaurant and Garcia had to make a run for it. His employment at Tramshed seems to have ended there and then, although if I was the manager I’d offer him his job back, with a pay increase. He’s certainly done wonders for the venue’s publicity.
Over the years, I’ve heard people admit grudgingly of Margaret Thatcher: “At least you knew where you stood with her. We hated her and she hated us.” In that regard, Blair, who ended his premiership with his hands drenched in Iraqi blood, was even worse. He was as vile as his handbag-wielding predecessor but, unlike her, he also tried to be ingratiating. He sported a sickeningly big smile and made out that he wanted to be everyone’s pal. And he headed a political party that claimed to have some conscience, principles and scruples, the supposed antithesis of Thatcher and her cynical gang. For that reason, I hope that when Tony Blair shuffles off this mortal coil (or someone pushes him off it), the celebratory street parties and bonfires will be much bigger, brighter and noisier than they were for Thatcher’s passing.
Here’s what the Independent said about the Tramshed incident: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/tony-blair-subjected-to-humiliating-citizens-arrest-at-tramshed-restaurant-shoreditch-9073064.html. And if you’re interested in carrying out a citizen’s arrest of Tony Blair, here’s a website for it: http://www.arrestblair.org/.