Mr Blair: About Your Book Signing

Dedication Suggestions

Pride goes before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall.

— Psalms 16:18

I note you will be signing your book, A Journey, at Waterstone’s flagship book shop, on London’s Piccadilly, on 8th September. As this will seemingly be a day when democracy is suspended, security near unprecedented, bags, cameras, briefcases, mobile ‘phones checked in before being allowed to ask for your signature, I may not be able to get to near to you with these suggestions, so some ideas from afar for your dedications.

For your years as enthusiastic partner in the silent slaughter of Iraq’s children under the embargo, a dedication to the seventeen infants in the neo-natal unit of Basra’s formerly fine maternity hospital, all who died on the very threshold of life due to your representative at the UN, with his US counterpart, vetoing importation of oxygen. You were jointly responsible for denying even the air that we breathe to Iraq’s newborn.

Please sign a volume for the premature baby, born at little over seven months, as my own, now strapping, over six foot son was. Unlike his miraculous medical embrace by the paediatric team, Basra’s tiny infant, was, in the looking glass world Iraq had become, placed in an incubator, swaddled in all the staff could find, to keep him warm. Neither the incubator, nor the electricity worked. In your name, incubators too had been vetoed, along with the wherewithal to repair the power grid, in your war against the new born.

This tiny being needed a blood transfusion of a relatively unusual blood group. In desperation the doctor asked me my blood type and from my memory I thought it was the same. I would have course donated, but asked he checked to make sure. There was no laboratory equipment. Giving the wrong blood would be a death sentence. Not giving blood would also be.

Since this is a literary occasion, it would not be complete without some lines to Jassim, suffering from a virulent form of cancer for which treatment, of course was vetoed. His life hung on the thread of an aid agency somehow bringing the necessary medications from Jordan. Jassim was going to be a poet when he grew up. His prose were haunting, way beyond his thirteen years. He died before the medication arrived.

Esra was seventeen, old enough to know she was dying. Her central nervous system had become paralyzed from the cancer that was devouring her. Ethereally beautiful, she had been silently crying for three weeks. More than any thing else, she wanted to live. She had her life planned out, her studies, her career. As I left, her grandmother grabbed my hand: “Take her,” she said, “Take her home with you, find her treatment, make her better.” It was not an unusual occurrence, families were prepared to give their children to complete strangers in the hope that even if they never saw them again, they would recover, have a life. A comment for Esra, would surely be appropriate.

Perhaps a couple of lines could be for the five child shepherds, their father and grandfather, blown to pieces by either an RAF or USAF missiles, illegally “patrolling” the planes near Mosul, with no UN mandate, The youngest child was five and the oldest thirteen. Your Ministry of Defence spokesperson was unable to say who dropped the missile, as the two countries worked in tandem, one ‘plane as a “minder” the other as sheep and shepherd bomber, she said. (I paraphrase.) It took villagers all day to collect enough bits of the bodies to wrap in their shrouds — to bury before sunset, as is customary — trying to make sure the pieces matched, by checking skin texture, hair – and whether remains of hands and feet were those of a very small child, slightly older ones, or adult. So little remained that they were ever uncertain whether they had in fact incorporated pieces of sheep and goats within the seven shrouds.

“Why are you bombing flocks of sheep and child shepherds?” I asked your MOD spokesperson.

“We reserve the right to take robust action if threatened”, she replied.

“By sheep …?” I asked — then gave up, despairing.

You and your partners in crime, Presidents Clinton and Bush Jr’s “boys” definitely had a down on child shepherds. In Basra, ten year old Mohammed, tending his family’s sheep, lost and eye and a foot in a bombing and Omar, about the same age, also watching a flock, was decapitated. Please devote some words to them.

Well deserved of your tribute are the five blood spattered children, hauled out of the car in which their parents had been shot dead by “coalition” troops in Tel Afar in January 2005. Covered in their parents blood, they were made to kneel on the ground, mindless with grief and terror. Surely liberated from all normality for all time. “Why did you shoot us?” Asked one: “We were just going home.”

Between the embargo and the Downing Street untruths which culminated in the invasion, there are probably three million deaths, every one with a name, an address and a plan as to how they were going to spend the day they died. More than an article is required. But you might feel disposed to devote a line to Margaret Hassan, who headed CARE in Iraq, who had told your Foreign Affairs Committee, prior to “shock and awe”, of a country on its knees, and that an invasion would lead to: “… another lost generation of Iraqi children.” She did not skulk around with body guards, she returned to Iraq to prepare for disaster and try to ensure she had enough aid and medications to help, when it did.

When she was kidnapped in October 2004, you may well have contributed to her death, standing in Parliament, saying that now we knew what kind of people we were dealing with, kidnapping a wonderful British woman. When I rang your Foreign Office spokesman on Iraq and asked if there was any way this could be retracted as she was certainly Irish — and the Irish were liked and welcomed in Iraq, the British, for obvious reason, were not – he responded: “We do not need advice from you, Felicity, we are already trying to find out if we had the right woman.” Loose words lose lives, Mr Blair. Winding up those who have absolute control over the life or death of another is also less than smart. When this bravest of beings, begged on video: “Please do not let me die like Ken Bigley …,” you were out to lunch, dinner, grandstanding, or just generally awol.

Please do not omit a note to the five million orphans, liberated from their parents since 2003, to the million widows, liberated from their husbands, and to the nearly five million refugees, liberated from their homes.

Perhaps your last word should be addressed to the parents of another Mohammed, also ten, suffering from leukaemia — treatment vetoed. It was five months before the invasion. “Please, when you go home, ask Mr Bush and Mr Blair, do they want all our children as child sacrifices?” said Mohammed’s father, as the tears of his mother poured down her face, on to her immaculately pressed abaya. The answer to his question now seems obvious.

In the three weeks before the signing, perhaps you could also research some dedications to the charred, maimed and dispossessed of Afghanistan, of Gaza, the 2006 assault on Lebanon, and the May 31st murders on the aid flotilla. No doubt you have access to minute detail, in your incongruous role as Middle East Peace Envoy. Should you have any problems, I would be delighted to offer further (gratis) assistance.

As a self-proclaimed man of faith, embraced by the Catholic Church, the Commandments instruction: “Thou shalt not kill,” must be somewhat conflicting. Perhaps you could think of your Waterstone’s foray as watershed, with a spiritually restorative list of mea culpas.

Should this by some chance reach you and you consider it a little harsh, just think of it as my “journey,” talking to, looking in to the eyes of a great many of your victims, hearing of their dreams — and witnessing the terrors you colluded to unleash, upon those far away, no threat and who wished so fervently, only to be left alone — and to live.

I note that for the signing, there are “special red and gold editions” of your book, for which you received a reported £4.6 million advance. How appropriate, gold for the millions accumulated, in so many ventures, red for the blood spilled in acquiring it.

Enjoy your book signing, Mr Blair. Every letter of every word, on every line, of every page, is written in a child’s, mother’s, or father’s blood.

Felicity Arbuthnot is a journalist with special knowledge of Iraq. Author, with Nikki van der Gaag, of Baghdad in the Great City series for World Almanac books, she has also been Senior Researcher for two Award winning documentaries on Iraq, John Pilger's Paying the Price: Killing the Children of Iraq and Denis Halliday Returns for RTE (Ireland.) Read other articles by Felicity.

8 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. hayate said on August 13th, 2010 at 10:27am #

    A good use for blair’s book would be a fuel under him on the next Guy Fawkes day.

  2. Maien said on August 13th, 2010 at 1:41pm #

    Thank-you for your moving article. I truly hope that those who need to read this, do so. Those who remain in power require this barbaric death and carnage to maintain and grow their positions. The psychopathic quality of Blair and friends makes me pause, when I read opinions that describe these people as some kind of evil reptilian throwbacks or even aliens. Although I may not accept the ‘reptilian shapeshifter’ stories, I sure do understand why the stories persist.

  3. mary said on August 14th, 2010 at 3:27am #

    I just wanted to say to Felicity how much I appreciate, as I am sure many others do too, her several recent articles which tell the terrible contemporary history of Iraq as she witnessed it. It is a very important and accessible record. As my brother David said to me, you made contact with the actual people who became your friends. Bliar does not ‘know’ one single Iraqi apart from the criminal politicians who colluded with the occupation and destruction of their country and its society.

    I sent this link to David this am about Siegfried Sassoon’s cousin. He was powerful in Iraq.

    No surprise there then. Another conspirator with the British Empire who dropped mustard gas in 1923. A brave Englishman L E O Charlton stood up against this. see

    The blood has never dried.

  4. Hue Longer said on August 14th, 2010 at 6:31am #

    Thanks for the article…will be forwarding to the selectively kind I know who will read it

  5. mary said on August 16th, 2010 at 10:03am #

    Is his conscience pricking him just a tiny bit or is it a PR exercise when he realized the extent of the opprobrium in which he is held?

    Bliar – donating advance and royalties to charity – injured British soldiers!! No mention of those he caused to be injured elsewhere of course..

  6. teafoe2 said on August 16th, 2010 at 11:11am #


    thank you for adding to what I’ve previously learned about the amazing Sassoon tribe’s amazing career as embedded nabobs in the British Empire.

    Besides WWI poet Siegfried, other Sassoons of literary note include his cousin Richard, who it is alleged by jilting Sylvia Plath caused her untimely suicide-by-gas-stove, and Richard’s sister Babette.

    Probably the most important of all the Sassoons was Sir Victor who was an intimate of His Majesty, sometimes paying off royal gambling debts, other times engaging in friendly competition to see which could breed the fastest thoroughbreds.

    Or it might have been David S. who restored the family’s fortunes by his foresight in perceiving the opportunities presented by monopolizing the export of Indian opium to China.

    Since at the time of WWI the Sassoons enjoyed excellent relations with and access to the Royal Family and the cream of British Aristocracy, it has been speculated that they may have played a role in encouraging Balfour to issue his infamous “Declaration”.

    If you simply type “Sassoon” into any search engine, you’ll be confronted with a long list of entries and a mass of information. The Sassoon tale stretches from 1492 Spain to Morocco to Baghdad to Mumbai to Shanghai to London, Paris, New York, Boston and Tryon N Carolina.

  7. mary said on August 19th, 2010 at 3:50am #

    Lettersto the Guardian

    Reconsider Blair book-signing Wednesday 18 August 2010

    We urge Waterstone’s to reconsider its decision to host a book-signing on 8 September for Tony Blair to launch the publication of his memoirs (Generous gesture or guilty conscience?, 17 August). We believe this event will be deeply offensive to most people in Britain. A large majority of the British public say Mr Blair told lies and fabricated evidence to take Britain into a war with Iraq that he knew to be illegal under international law. According to a recent poll, 25% believe Mr Blair should be indicted for war crimes.

    In April 2002, Mr Blair gave a secret commitment to George Bush that Britain would join the US in an attack on Iraq, as has been revealed by leaked documents and witness statements to the Iraq inquiry. He then deceived parliament and the country to achieve this. The consequences for the Iraqi people has been hundreds of thousands of killed, 4 million more driven from their homes and the destruction of their country. In Britain, this illegal war was a prime motivation for the perpetrators of the London bombing atrocities on 7 July 2005, as confirmed by Eliza Manningham-Buller, former head of the British secret service, in her evidence to the Chilcot committee. We believe Waterstone’s will seriously harm its own reputation as a respectable bookseller by helping him promote his book.

    Iain Banks, AL Kennedy, Moazzem Begg, Andrew Burgin, Ben Griffin, Lindsey German, Dr Felicity Arbuthnot, Tanya Tier, John Pilger, Michael Nyman, Andrew Murray


    Some wag has written this.

    ‘Waterstones are pleased to announce a programme of book signings for
    the week of 6 – 10 September 2010.

    6 September, Osama bin Laden, ‘Town Planning in Manhattan’
    7 September, Radovan Karadzic, ‘Hill Walks above Sarajevo’
    8 September, Tony Blair, ‘A Journey’
    9 September, General Than Shwe, ‘Gated Communities in Rangoon’
    10 September, President George W Bush, ‘Shock and Ore’ ‘

  8. mary said on August 19th, 2010 at 4:06am #

    The link to the letter is

    The links within it are to Waterstones who are offering Bliar’s book at half price already. Now there’s a snip! Another is to the Guardian article about him donating the advance and royalties to the British Legion. The financial details of this offer are murky of course just like the donor.