Fake Faith and Epic Crimes

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 was deliberate.”

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.

John Pilger is an internationally renowned investigative journalist and documentary filmmaker. His latest film is The War on Democracy. His most recent book is Freedom Next Time: Resisting the Empire (Bantam/Random House, 2006). Read other articles by John, or visit John's website.

9 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. rg the lg said on April 2nd, 2009 at 9:27am #

    All I can say is that it is about time.

    Too bad that, as Americans, we can not admit to our complicity.

    We are no better than the Germans, 1923 – 1945, who tolerated the rise of the Nazi … and were also complicit.

    But then, again, we imported ex-Nazi apparatchik after WWII … so we should have known we were not all that different.

    We defeated the ‘other’ fascist empires … in order to preserve our own? Maybe the best thing W & Co. did was galvanize the ethical portions of the human soul to acknowledge the crimes we have been committing since our founding.

    In Cynicism and Skepticism,

    RG the LG

  2. bozh said on April 2nd, 2009 at 11:23am #

    right, rg lg,
    vast numbers of euros were and are still vastly enserfed and disenpowered. amers were intially mostly euros. it is not that some people have not seen this such phenomena even before the rise of socalled early civilizations such as sumer, egypt, akkad.

    however, most of such observers faced death, banishment, or were executed. tnx

  3. John S. Hatch said on April 2nd, 2009 at 1:01pm #

    It’s simply amazing to me that ubercriminals like Blair, Kissinger, Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld et al would enjoy any purchase except against the bars of a jail cell.

    Obama’s continuation of Bush’s vile policies is proof that not only is change impossible, but so is hope misplaced.

  4. rg the lg said on April 2nd, 2009 at 5:42pm #

    “Obama’s continuation of Bush’s vile policies is proof
    that not only is change impossible, but so is hope
    misplaced.”
    Thus, spake JSHatch. And, therefore, the so-called ‘good guys ‘ we learned about in our history classes are not at all good?

    It makes one think that everything is a fraud … and perhaps it is. It made an idealist into a cynic … cynicism being the hard shell aidealist grows to protect the idealism from reality.

    It makes one skeptical … when the word ‘hope’ is used and misused … one begins to think not in terms of making things better, rather a return to the status quo, ante.

    And thus the ultimate apparent hypocrisy of Mr. O’Bama … just another in a long series of presidents who are thoroughly in support of the empire and its domination. We, complicit in that alleged hope, voted for him … made him president … and he promised some form of ‘hope’ for a past that never was … nor ever will be.

    So much for freedom … and what we were taught was democracy. We won’t even think about something as transient as justice. And, the ubercriminals have and will continue to triumph … and so long as we have our alleged rights of access to wealth … the rest of the world can simply go to hell.

    The Ubercriminals won, and will continue to win, because (as co-conspirators) that IS the way we want it to be.

    In cynical skepticism ….

    RG the LG

  5. john andrews said on April 2nd, 2009 at 11:53pm #

    Another brilliant piece JP. Thank you.

  6. john andrews said on April 3rd, 2009 at 3:46am #

    I’m currently reading John Newsinger’s wonderful book ‘The Blood Never Dried – A People’s History of the British Empire’, and have just come across this superb section:

    ” Public life was to a large extent a fraud … the insincerities of debate were ingrained in him … if he had a new distasteful policy to pursue his first objective was to persuade himself into a belief that it was really congenial to him, and at this he worked until he had made himself his own convert … Thus he was always saved the too close consciousness of his insincerities …”

    No, this wasn’t written about Blair, but another ‘great British statesman’, William Gladstone. They are the words of one Wilfred Scawen Blunt writing over a hundred years ago. As Mr Newsinger comments a good deal more recently:

    “The problem was not that Gladstone was a liar, but rather that he had the very useful facility of being able to convince himself that anything was right.”

    They say, don’t they, that people may teach themselves to defeat lie detector machines not simply by dreaming up an alibi, but by convincing themselves the alibi is true.

    There can be no serious doubt that Blair should be charged with war crimes; and nothing better illustrates the sick cynicism of our ruling elites than the appointment of this man as Middle East ‘peace envoy’.

    It is also interesting to point out that Mr Newsinger’s superb expose of a few of the disgraces of the British Empire, although only published in 2006, has mysteriously disappeared from sale. The copy I eventually found is from the other side of the country at Bristol public library.

  7. Bob said on April 3rd, 2009 at 5:38am #

    @ rg: The problem is, we Americans believe in “The System”. There are buttons to push, levers to pull (the public ones do nothing, just keep the people busy) and everyone’s happy. Sort of like the kiddie seat in the car with the steering wheel and beep-beep horn, we get to act like we’re driving the car. Problem is, most of us believe it.

    The Bush years showed us the truth of the matter, if we cared to look.

    Although there was a “congress assembled” in the name of “We the people”, the former had very little to do with acting in the intersts of the latter. When the vice president was apprised of the fact that the public was not pleased with his and other’s actions, he summed up the situation in one word:

    “So”?

    We were given the not so subtle hint that “citizenship” was at the pleasure, convenience, and whim of those in charge and “problem children” would get punished most severely.

    They didn’t quite go so far as Pinochett, the Greek Colonels, or the Argentines during “The Troubles” but the potential was always there and a lot of people knew it. It’s a little softer under this regime’, but the potential has been assessed, and they’ve got a bit of a taste for it.

    Finley Peter Dunne gave a good comment about the world court and the miscreants involved about a century ago. I’m not comforted to see that his assessment is still spot on.

  8. mary said on April 3rd, 2009 at 7:30am #

    As you say John Andrews, we can read another fine article by John Pilger.

    I agree with your views on Newsinger’s book and recommend it often to friends. Unfortunately I don’t own a copy although I have tried to purchase one. When I last borrowed it from the public library, they had to acquire the one copy in the possession of a neighbouring county. As you say there is something odd going on. The thought police do not want us to read it perhaps.

    The self appointed priest to the world community, Blair, is still jetting round the world preaching his messages. Recently he was in the Middle East and the Far East – see his Faith Foundation
    http://www.tonyblairfaithfoundation.org/
    and was even writing in the Jewish Chronicle yesterday about Rwanda Does he have illusions of grandeur or is he just delusional?

    This link to the Blair War Crimes Foundation takes you to a steadily growing list of signatures.
    http://blairfoundation.wordpress.com/
    Some of the comments left indicate the opprobrium in which he is held and the disgust people feel about his crimes and anger that he is still free.

  9. Brian Koontz said on April 3rd, 2009 at 6:15pm #

    “We defeated the ‘other’ fascist empires … in order to preserve our own?”

    Of course. Hitler was a threat – not to democracy but to the existing Western empire. Hitler was too ambitious, too radical, and Germany too dangerous.

    The Western elite have no principles, certainly no concern for democracy, and fascism is just another tool to be used or not used or somewhat used for the sake of their own power.

    That America was fighting a “war against fascism” was merely propaganda, to allow the populace to feel good about and support the war.