eight years ago, the choir of British liberalism celebrated a
new age. Tony Blair, wrote the liberal thinker Hugo Young, "wants
to create a world none of us have known," a world which "ideology
has surrendered entirely to ‘values’ [and where] there are no
sacred cows … no fossilized limits to the ground over which
the mind might range in search of a better Britain." Besotted
minds ranged far. In a Tonier-than-thou piece for the Guardian,
Martin Kettle hilariously declared Blair an honorary Australian.
"He is not in awe of the past," he wrote. "He is
not intimidated by class. He is a meritocrat, a doer. … He
is simply happy making his own history. … It would be nice
to think that one day these would be thought of as British characteristics,
too." Former Labour Party deputy leader Roy Hattersley described
one of the most ideological regimes in modern British history
as "untainted by dogma"; Blair was "taking the
politics out of politics.""Goodbye, xenophobia,"
was the Observer’s postelection front page, and "The
Foreign Office says, ‘Hello world, remember us?’" The Blair
government, said the paper, would push for "new worldwide
rules on human rights" and implement "tough new limits
on arms sales."
Let’s pause to consider the truth. When Blair demonstrably lied
about weapons of mass destruction in order to help an extremist
regime launch an unprovoked attack on Iraq, a defenseless country,
the Foreign Office’s deputy legal adviser Elizabeth Wilmshurst
resigned, calling it, correctly, a "crime of aggression."
The blood shed by more than 100,000 civilians killed and 300,000
injured is her and our witness. Now consider the "tough new
limits on arms sales." A study by ActionAid reveals that
the Blair government has sold weapons to 14 impoverished African
countries where there is internal conflict. The people of Aceh,
stricken by last year’s tsunami, have been terrorized by British-supplied
Hawk fighter jets, machine guns, and ammunition. Britain is a
world leader in the export of small arms, even depleted uranium.
Almost everything about a Blair regime was known before it was
elected. Blair’s Vichy-like devotion to Washington was known:
read his speeches about a new order led by America . His devotion
to Rupert Murdoch, who flew him and Cherie Booth around the world
first class, was known. His devotion to an extreme neoliberal
Thatcherite economics was known, spelled out in Peter Mandelson’s
and Roger Liddle’s The
Blair Revolution: Can New Labour Deliver?, in which Britain’s
"economic strengths" are listed as multinational corporations,
the "aerospace" (arms) industry and "the preeminence
of the City of London." His class contempt for the poor was
known; his pre-election attacks on single mothers passed quickly
into law, assisted by the majority of his new, opportunistic female
Those trying to cover for Blair and "move on" from Iraq
refer to the reduction of poverty as one of his "achievements."
In fact, relative poverty in childless households in the UK has
reached record levels under Blair, up to 13 percent — and
a greater number than under Margaret Thatcher or John Major. A
certain PC-ism, such as the sound and fury over dropping the gay
age of consent, adds to the illusion of a Labour government that,
had it not fallen in with the awful Bush, would be celebrated
as "progressive." Tell that to the people of a faraway
country, more than half of whom are children, whose lives have
been devastated by the fanatical Blair and his court of apologists.
Read the robotic Hoon’s statement on the use of cluster bombs
— how Iraqi mothers would one day be "grateful"
for the use of weapons that killed their children — and Ministry
of Defense letters to the public that lie about depleted uranium
and its Hiroshima effect. The silence of those who regard themselves
as commissars of this country’s and Europe’s respectable, moral,
liberal class is quite disgusting.
In a superb piece in the Guardian on Feb. 24, Victoria
Brittain asked: "How can it be that not one mainstream public
figure in Europe has denounced [Bush’s systematic torture regime]?"
She points out that The
Torture Papers — more than 1,200 pages of government
memos and reports, edited at New York University — shows
systematic torture, approved and directed from on high. Such is
the regime of a man with whom Blair "shares values."
I thought of this when I noted the current debate in the Church
of England about the "rift" caused by the "issue"
of gay marriage. Compare that with the "issue" of the
slaughter of tens of thousands of innocent people, about which
not a word is heard from those who claim moral courage as a deity.
Read the searing account of Dr. Salam Ismael, who took aid to
Fallujah in January. He describes the ordeal of a 17-year-old
girl, Hudda Fawzi. Her father opened the door to U.S. Marines
who shot him and a friend dead, then shot her elder sister, having
beaten her senseless, then destroyed the family’s furniture. Wounded
people were dragged from their homes and run over by tanks; a
clinic was destroyed by missiles. "It became clear to us,"
Ismael wrote, "that we were witnessing the aftermath of a
massacre, the cold-blooded butchery of helpless and defenseless
It is not surprising that the Blair government has refused Ismael
fresh permission to visit and speak out in Britain. His testimony,
and that of many other reliable witnesses, is known and feared.
Last April, the U.S. command agreed that it may well have slaughtered
as many as 600 people in Fallujah. When a listener asked Judy
Swallow, presenter of the BBC World Service Newshour program,
why the BBC continued to suppress this truth, Swallow sent this
e-mail to a colleague: "Oh God, Mike — do you take care
of these sorts of things, or do we ignore them?" On the BBC
Web site, she describes Newshour as "exposing injustice
and challenging lies." The silence is almost never broken
by those paid to "expose injustice and challenge lies,"
let alone set the record straight. On Channel 5, a member of the
public, Neil Coppendale from Shoreham-by-Sea, confronted Blair
with this question: "Bearing in mind that tens of thousands
of innocent men, women, and children have died as a result of
the invasion of Iraq, how do you sleep at night, Mr. Blair?"
When did a journalist, one with privileged access to Blair, ever
ask that? For their part, the BBC’s Downing Street man Andrew
Marr (apparently together with his wife) and his colleague from
the Today program James Naughtie have been over to the
prime minister’s country home,Chequers, to sup with the killer
Blair. It was Marr who, at the fall of Baghdad, told viewers that
Blair had "said they would be able to take Baghdad without
a bloodbath, and in the end the Iraqis would be celebrating, and
on both these points he has been proved conclusively right."
And it is Naughtie who has played a leading role in the British
American Project, set up by Ronald Reagan to find a "successor
generation" to those who propagated the Cold War on America’s
If shame has no place in what is called "public life,"
then the rest of us should break their silence for them. The Guardian
says the electorate is "cross" with Blair. Cross? Such
a genteel word. Supporting Blair, in his propaganda and his contemptuous
need for another term of office, is supporting mass murder.
Pilger was born and educated in Sydney, Australia. He has been
a war correspondent, filmmaker and playwright. Based in London,
he has written from many countries and has twice won British journalism’s
highest award, that of "Journalist of the Year," for his
work in Vietnam and Cambodia. His new book, Tell
Me No Lies: Investigative Journalism and Its Triumphs, is
published by Jonathan Cape next month. This article was first published
in the New Statesman.
John Pilger 2005