Oh Do Stop Nailing Blair to the Cross: He Enjoys It

Tony Blair’s Jesus Christ Sings Edith Piaf per­form­ance yes­ter­day at The Queen Elizabeth Conference Centre, giv­ing testi­mony at the Chilcot enquiry into Britain’s involve­ment in the Iraq War, dis­ap­poin­ted a lot of people who hoped he would get nailed, or at least express a few regrets.

I’m not one of them.  Now, I enjoy a good scour­ging as much as the next man, espe­cially in the wake of a war that has cost so many lives, but it seems to me that the expect­a­tions of the media and pub­lic played into Blair’s (stig­mata) hands.  Tone the Catholic con­vert bar­ris­ter excels at cru­ci­fix­ions and turned in a per­form­ance Mel Gibson would envy yes­ter­day, hanging from the cross of his ‘belief’ that ‘remov­ing Saddam Hussein was the right thing to do’.  For all the spears in his side, noth­ing was made to stick.  He won’t need to rise on the third day because unlike Our Lord Jesus Christ he didn’t die — instead he thrived.

Besides, the thing that many if not most people in the UK long to pin on him – per­sonal and com­plete respons­ib­il­ity for our involve­ment in a dis­astrous US war – isn’t some­thing that can be really pinned on any one British politi­cian, how­ever annoy­ing his grin.  It has to be pinned on his­tory.  The his­tory of the UK’s ‘spe­cial rela­tion­ship’ with the United States.

Blair is more than happy to play the self-aggrandising role he’s been allot­ted by pub­lic opin­ion and the pub­lic is only fur­ther infuri­ated by the evid­ence of this.  Blair of course inter­prets his role not as The Man Who Invaded Iraq Illegally And Has Blood on His Hands, but as The International Statesman Burdened by Heavy Responsibilities, Special Knowledge and Big Decisions Reluctantly Made to Guarantee Our and An Ungrateful World’s Safety.  But it’s essen­tially the same role: A big­ger one than he deserves.  Blair is a much more piti­ful fig­ure than most of his enemies are will­ing to admit.

Perhaps I shouldn’t be offer­ing Blair a vinegar-soaked sponge, but scape­goat­ing him as all sides of the polit­ical spec­trum want to do – He lied to us!  He was syco­phantic to Bush!  A poodle!  A nar­ciss­ist! – obscures the lar­ger, much more pain­ful issue: that the UK invaded Iraq not because of weapons of mass destruc­tion.  Nor Al Qaeda.  Nor Saddam’s tyranny.  Nor Zionism.  Nor even for oil.  And cer­tainly not because Tony Blair is a weak man or a strong man.  No, in the final ana­lysis there was only one reason why we invaded Iraq. Because the US wanted us to.

Jump is what mil­it­ary satel­lites of imper­ial powers do when their mas­ter tells them to, and it’s very dif­fi­cult to ima­gine that any other British Prime Minister since 1940, with the pos­sible excep­tion of Harold Wilson (and look what happened to him – you can be sure that Blair did) could have said ‘thanks, but no thanks’ to Uncle Sam’s kind invit­a­tion, espe­cially after it had been attacked on 9–11 (the fact that Saddam had noth­ing to do with that attack is irrel­ev­ant — or at least it was for America’s need for ven­geance).  The Tories cer­tainly wouldn’t have done, and their attempts now to wriggle out of their enthu­si­astic sup­port for the war –without which Blair would not have won his Commons war vote – by bleat­ing about being ‘misled’ by Blair is just shame­less opportunism.

The former premier that Blair most calls to mind is Anthony Eden, who was forced out of office after the dis­aster of Suez in 1956.  Eden bigged up Nasser as a ‘mon­ster’ threat­en­ing his own people and The World – and also fam­ously lied to Parliament to jus­tify  inva­sion, but this isn’t why he was shamed and shunned, even more so than Blair.  By fatally mis­judging America’s wishes Eden had rubbed the UK’s nose in its post-war sub­ject status.  Suez was actu­ally a much more ‘jus­ti­fi­able’ war from the point of view of British interests than Iraq –  the canal was British and French owned and the route to (what was left of) the Empire.

But the Americans were not amused: they were com­pet­ing with the USSR at the time for anti-colonial cred and told us to bog off home. And we did, pronto.  Eden was so reviled at home not for lying as many claimed, or even for los­ing, but because he suc­ceeded in mak­ing it embar­rass­ingly clear to every­one, most espe­cially the French, that the UK no longer had a sov­er­eign for­eign policy.  He shamed us in the world’s eyes.  In our own eyes.

Likewise with Blair.  Those loud com­plaints about Blair’s ‘syco­phancy’ to George Bush over Iraq – well, really it’s mostly about how we don’t like to be reminded of our national syco­phancy towards US interests, unavoid­able as it may very well be.  Sometimes its that very unavoid­ab­il­ity that makes it so painful.

Blair, ever the actor, decided to make a vir­tue of what was essen­tially a polit­ical neces­sity.  Being some­thing of a devotee of the Method School, he prob­ably even suc­ceeded in con­vin­cing him­self of that neces­sity: and yes, doing so meant that, like Thatcher before him the US gave him a global stage to preen upon.  But this is what the US has done to the UK since the Second World War.  As a mil­it­ary satel­lite of the US – or giant American air­craft car­rier, as the great American anti-imperialist Gore Vidal puts it – we’ve been bigged up by US power as a way of fur­ther pro­ject­ing that power around the world.  Like, say, Austria-Hungary was by Germany in the early Twentieth Century, but with slightly less inter­est­ing headgear.  As a res­ult we have remained far too big for our post-Imperial, post-industrial, post-everything breeches.  Though we of course prefer to term it: ‘punch­ing above our weight’.  As if punch­ing above your weight was some­thing clever.  Even when you’re not tee­ter­ing as we now are on the verge of bankruptcy.

In hind­sight, to save our sens­ib­il­it­ies Blair should have made it look like the UK wasn’t so easy.  He should have made Bush wine and dine us more – and put up more of a vir­tu­ous struggle before giv­ing Bush everything he wanted and was going to get any­way.  Instead Tone seems to have gone the whole way on the first date.  We feel cheap instead of ‘special’.

True, the way Blair and his min­ions set about ter­ror­ising us and his own party with fairy stor­ies of WMDs was very naughty indeed, but as he now cheer­fully admits, if it hadn’t been WMDs it would have been some­thing else.  After all, we elect politi­cians to lie to us.  And did any­one, apart from David Aaronovitch, really believe any of it?  Something else that shouldn’t be for­got­ten: Blair would prob­ably still be in power and only hated by a small ‘bit­ter’ minor­ity of the British pub­lic if the US occu­pa­tion of Iraq hadn’t gone so spec­tac­u­larly awry – he was remem­ber, like his mas­ter Bush, feted by the press and much of the pub­lic in the imme­di­ate after­math of the inva­sion. They only fell out of favour when they seemed like losers rather than winners.

Nailing Blair to the cross of Iraq now won’t change what happened, or even stop some­thing like it hap­pen­ing again.  In fact, by obscur­ing the real nature of our ‘spe­cial rela­tion­ship’ with the US and instead blam­ing one man’s weak­ness and men­dacity, it may make it easier for it to hap­pen again.

And it is already hap­pen­ing again. In a war that threatens to make Iraq look like a pic­nic.  Despite all the dis­cus­sion and debate in the UK media about why we’re still in Afghanistan after eight years, what we hope to achieve, and what tac­tics should be employed, every­one in the media knows – but doesn’t say – there is only one reason why we’re in Afghanistan.  Because the Americans are. Everything else is hot air.  Or, in the case of Brown’s claims that the war in Afghanistan has to be fought to stop ter­ror­ist attacks in London: another 45 Minute WMD lie that no one believes.  After the UK dis­tin­guished itself in the 7/7 London bus and tube bomb­ings as being the only coun­try in the world that has suc­ceeded in rais­ing, hous­ing and edu­cat­ing its own sui­cide bombers, every­one knows that the real prob­lem the UK faces with rad­ical Islamism is homegrown.

Gordon Brown, Chancellor of the Exchequer at the time of the Iraq Invasion and now Prime Minister in large part because of Blair’s unpop­ular­ity over Iraq, is very for­tu­nate to have US imper­ial interests rep­res­en­ted these days by someone much more appeal­ing and per­suas­ive than George W Bush.  Someone who gets handed plaudits and Nobel Peace Prizes just for being elec­ted.  But how­ever nice his smile is, the Emperor is the Emperor and our troops must still die for him.  Why are we send­ing even more troops to Afghanistan?  To lib­er­ate women, build power plants, and stop people being blown up on London buses?  No.  They’re going because Barack ‘I-didn’t-vote-for-that-war!’ Obama says so.

Blair should be held to account for his actions of course, but we shouldn’t fall for his self-aggrandising view of him­self and his­tory.  Even if it takes our mind off the rather vul­gar details of the ‘spe­cial rela­tion­ship’ and how embar­rass­ingly, van­ish­ingly small our influ­ence is over our transat­lantic boss.

© Mark Simpson 2010

15 thoughts on “Oh Do Stop Nailing Blair to the Cross: He Enjoys It”

  1. Mark S:I’m sure that Wilson had con­sid­er­ably more prin­ciples than Blair knew were pos­sible in a politi­cian; and he was cru­ci­fied for them. The fact about degree of con­tri­bu­tion is that it’s not the num­ber of troops that counts in Iraq and Afganistan , but that the U.K can be lis­ted amongst the agust ‘Coalition of the wil­ing”; notice that any­one else who joined in could pos­sibly be called a sig­ni­fic­ant nation. Moldovia only sent 24 troops; Estonia 40; Indeed there were hardly enough non-American troups to hold a cookie bak­ing party. Except the U.K .did send 46,000, which is a lot more than any­one else. Notably if Bush had his way he would have each con­trib­utor ship their entire pop­u­la­tions over en mass.

    The fact is that most of these coun­tries were clearly under America’s thumb, and the entire con­coc­tion had notion to do with any­thing but to con­vince mind­less Americans that there was a pop­u­lar cause: to sim­u­late the pro­spect of ” WW2 allies, that we were not being fooled, as we were.

    Blair lit­er­ally gave Bush the jewel in that taudry crown which has pre­ven­ted any Americans to revolt and riot as we did over Vietnam. I dare say that if Britain had staunchly refused-told Bush to shove it– his efforts to pro­mote the war would have been sti­mied. The so called “Multinational force” without the help of the U.K and Australia would have been a pub­li­ciy joke.
    We must never for­get that America is not like other coun­tries in hav­ing a free Press (all Media). Nonetheless, it’s hard to make a mousse out of cow dung, even for Rupert Murdoch.

  2. I hate to bring it down from the intel­li­gent obser­va­tion that is the above piece, but — y’know, Mark.S… I didn’t par­tic­u­larly want to fuck you before, but… now, I have bone my friend.

  3. Because of Wilson’s wili­ness, or per­haps his prin­ciples, we didn’t send any troops to Vietnam — the only time we didn’t do as we were told by the American Caesar. MI5 and the CIA almost cer­tainly con­spired against him as a res­ult, spread­ing smear stor­ies. Ironically though, if Wilson had given the Americans the troops they asked for in Vietnam, we might have, like you, long since lost our appet­ite for ren­der­ing to Caesar any­thing more than the most super­fi­cial observances…

    Oh, and most Americans have already for­got­ten the UK’s role as largest non-US con­trib­utor of troops to both Iraq and Afghanistan, if they ever noticed.

  4. Jeez, didn’t you guys learn any­thing from Vietnam? In Australia we got screwed by the incom­pet­ent U.S mil­it­ary dur­ing that war. Since then we have been a little,ah, dip­lo­matic with mil­it­ary mat­ters con­cern­ing America. That is we sign up for the war, send the smal­lest amount of troops pos­sible (mostly in sup­port roles) and get out as soon as we can. Anything more and you are just flush­ing troops and money down the drain. Five years after the war the Hollywood roman­cing of it will have begun and your involve­ment will be for­got­ten in the U.S.

  5. Why is the homo­sexual fas­cin­a­tion with per­son­al­ity, style, cha­risma and sur­repti­tious per­ver­sion and free­dom so taken aback and flattened by Realpolitik?
    Every issue in easy times is about per­son­al­ity: elec­tions, ideo­logy, art … always sex appeal and per­sonal poise. But whenever a glossy, well mar­keted per­son­ally like blair or obama don’t live up to their gim­micks and stage show, everything is INEVITABLE.
    If blair has such a nar­ciss­ism and a mar­tyr­dom com­plex, why couldn’t he have thrown brit­ish national interests to the wind and refuse the mil­lion little advant­ages that the amer­ican pro­tect­or­ate, mys­ter­i­ously still called a “king­dom” instead of a prin­cip­al­ity or vas­sal, and stand like Wilson, or even more glam­our­ously, Zedekiah against Nebuchadnezzar.
    The pun­ish­ment, were it to be as vile as the put­ting out of eyes like Zedekiah, would only feed his own fantasy of being a real per­son­al­ity in his­tory.
    Yet they never do, when it comes down to the wire. These “per­son­al­it­ies” in the west, like blair and obama, always seem to chicken out and fol­low com­fort and money.
    Surely no one would argue that Dubya, without the entire US eco­nomy and mil­it­ary behind him, was ever any kind of a stronger per­son­al­ity than a poodle like blair. If ever there were an emperor without clothes, W. was it.
    Don’t any­one get tired of being suckered?

  6. Your pro­gnosis for the U.S. is tra­gic­ally com­ing to full mani­fest­a­tion far to rap­idly for much of any­one to see that we’re careen­ing off a cliff. Obama didn’t change much-indeed he just enlarged Bushes mil­it­ary action –com­mit­ting another tril­lion dol­lars to sol­diery in Afghanistan.

    As this relates to Blair and Britain, just a curs­ory exam­in­a­tion of British news­pa­per reports(from Corporate Watch) makes it clear that the British Corporate struc­ture took flight in Iraq– 61 large Corporations were engaged, includ­ing a major secur­ity firm with 20–30,000 employ­ees; mer­cen­ar­ies which did more than British troops and even con­trib­uted to the high jinks in Abu Garib. The British Council also approved the use of cluster bombs on Iraqi civil­ians.
    As of 2006, these com­pan­ies had grossed sev­eral bil­lions of pounds. I couldn’t ascer­tain how much pay­ment came from the U.S. Treasury or from British tax­pay­ers. It wouldn’t mat­ter to Blair since he would be filling private pock­ets at someone’s expense. But rest assured none of it was used for any good purpose.

    It seems that while the U.S. had snakes in wolves cloth­ing for lead­ers, the British had a pit viper done up like a brain dam­aged poodle.

    As in America, what mat­ters is who pays for cam­paigns, not the dum­mies who vote that matter.

  7. Well Mark U did it again with your com­mon sense,and some­what cheeky per­cep­tions of the real cause of our mal­ad­ies. Being a 73 yr old amer­ican who as a teen­ager worked dur­ing President Eisenhowers 2nd term renom­in­a­tion bid, there was a time when bipar­tis­an­ism, (as mea­ger as it was,) truly exis­ted. The Republican Party is dead, what you see now is a weak party struc­ture taken over by right wing extrem­ists. It is now offi­cially the Obstructionist Party even though Scott whats his name from Massachusetts is in the news for now. I agree with the pun­dits that when it gets closer to the more import­ant elec­tions, Mass voters are going to find out that Scott isn’t as mod­er­ate as his pub­lic image. Lets face it with the cur­rent supreme court decision on cor­por­ate giv­ing to polit­ical causes,it’s just the icing on the cake for these cor­por­ate wel­fare queens. You don’t try to raise moral issues with amoral people. Maybe the future of the USA is with a 3rd world style taliban gov­ern­ment with a chris­tian ven­eer Rush Limbaugh, Sarah Palin style of pup­pet rule with the nations infra­struc­ture run by the won­der­fully inept cor­por­ate “con­tract­ors.” By the way i’m a chris­tian believer who feels that much of what passes for “chris­tian­ity” in this coun­try isn’t! Mark you hit the nail on the head when you iden­ti­fied the real prob­lem of our woes is the usa fail­ing to under­stand we are the major part of the problem.

  8. Oh, BTW, there is areal Western interest in Afghanistan: The Oil Pipeline from Azerbaijan and Central Asia to the West. All of our Fortresses are inter­est­ingly built pri­cisely along that route. Strange.

  9. I feel a little at a loss try­ing to assess the British involve­ment in American imper­i­al­istic wars. It is a queer reversal given Europe’s with­drawal from Empire crav­ing after Hitler’s example. America just took the torch from the Nazis in pro­mot­ing World domination::”The Wolfowitz Doctrine” writ­ten dur­ing Clinton’s administration.

    It has to be kept clearly in mind that Americas adven­ture as pub­licly fraud­u­lent as it turned out, did have a clear­cut and well executed busi­ness agenda–after the fail­ure of dot coms in our eco­nomy , the next best busi­ness focus was too pil­lage the Treasury of the many tril­lions of dol­lars that were paid to the many (no bid) prof­it­eers who were lined up before the war for destruc­tion, mer­cen­ary armies, arma­ments and then the very high priced recon­struc­tion & fraud which cost the U.S .people 250–400 bil­lion /year in tax money. ( Total cost approx­im­ately 9 tril­lion! ) That excludes Oil of course, which is an ancil­ary bene­fit: 4 com­pan­ies werelined up with con­tracts before the War.
    (BTW one was British)

    What the British have to ask, inev­it­ably, is: what kind of pay off did the British busi­ness sec­tor get? The people of the UK have to be very naïve, if in the light of the out­rageous crimes com­mit­ted against the American people for immense Corporate profits, who gained on your end? I can’t ima­gine that Blair was just being an inno­cent albeit stu­pid play dog for a pit of vipers like Bush, Cheney , et. al. He was brought up in the same ken­nel as blood­less crim­in­als like Thatcher, after al.

    The silly thing About Afghanistan, is that on close exam­in­a­tion, none of the goals are even remotely real­istic. First, the people they are fight­ing against are per­haps the greatest res­ist­ance fight­ers in his­tory; when they were occu­pied by lit­er­ally over a mil­lion Soviet fight­ers, they whipped their asses. There is not the remotest chance of win­ning . The more we send troops in the more miser­able everyone’s lives become.

    Secondly, and more import­ant, Al Queda, who are the World ter­ror­ists, who we were sup­posedly root­ing out aren’t there any more. Even the U.S General Franks, admits that they moved on : they’re a world organ­iz­a­tion. More in our cit­ies than any­where. We are fight­ing the Taliban, who are local war­lords, with no interest in World ter­ror­ism, but only local con­trol of vil­lages. As sev­eral experts put it ‘The West is pun­ish­ing a bunch of hotel keep­ers, whose residents(al Queda) have long gone, for the guests they had ”

    Three, as far as women go , they have more than reaped the har­vest of tor­ture and death from being lib­er­ated and would rather get back in their Burkhas and live in peace. The men are throw­ing acid on their faces, con­demning them to pros­ti­tu­tion, and leav­ing only a very few women with influ­en­tial seats in gov­ern­ment. They can’t have jobs otherwise.

  10. uroskin: I’m sorry, I coudn’t watch the whole thing it was too tedi­ous. But I did notice that Cherie Blair’s rain­coat in that doc when she vis­its the First World War grave­yard has a fussy bit of cloth going down the back that looks like angel’s wings. Cherie: the angel with a gargoyle’s face.

  11. Brilliant writ­ing Mark; a refresh­ingly clear-eyed and dir­ect cri­tique of Blair’s men­dacity. It’s not often I’ve read some­thing like this that really made me laugh too but “Tone seems to have gone the whole way on the first date. We feel cheap instead of ’spe­cial’” is priceless.

  12. Blair´s mar­tyr com­plex is def one for future historians

    I bear the scars on my back after just two years in Government … so heaven knows what it will be like after a bit longer.” 6 July 1999

  13. I think you’re under­play­ing the role of reli­gion in Tony Blair’s polit­ical frame­work. And espe­cially the role of Cherie Blair in that regard. I just watched a Channel 4 doc­u­ment­ary series on the his­tory of Christianity, one epsi­ode of which was hos­ted (and pre­sum­ably scrip­ted) by Cherie lament­ing the loss of Christendom in Europe and how much bet­ter it is in America where all those mega-churches are the way of the future (even if they never fea­ture a cru­ci­fix or reli­gious sym­bol in their mall-like struc­tures): if the Arndale Shopping Centre some­how could be con­ver­ted into a reli­gious mall, all should be well with Europe, she basic­ally implied. Her little cosy chat with Laura Bush was creepy, and you really have to ask what the powers behind the thrones in the USA and Britain were dur­ing most of the last dec­ade.
    Watch here: http://www.channel4.com/programmes/christianity-a-history/4od#2934277

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