THE controversy continues over awarding the highest rank of knighthood to former prime minister Tony Blair in the New Year’s honours list. At the time of writing, more than 425,000 people have signed a petition on change.org (link here) demanding that his award of “Knight Companion of the Most Noble Order of the Garter” be rescinded.
There are a good many people in the UK who believe that the only thing Tony Blair should be awarded is a trip to the dock in the International Court of Justice in The Hague to be tried on war crimes and crimes against humanity for his part in fabricating the false evidence of weapons of mass destruction which was used to persuade the House of Commons to agree to British involvement in the invasion of Iraq in 2003.
The Iraq Body Count Project estimates that between 185,000 and 210,000 Iraqi civilians have died as a result of the US-led invasion of Iraq – which was enthusiastically supported by Blair – between 2003 and 2020. Some estimates place the figure even higher. Between 2003 and 2005, the independent British- American group estimates that some 37% of the 24,000 Iraqi civilians who lost their lives during that period were directly killed by US and allied forces.
Further Iraqi civilian deaths resulted from the violence of armed groups such as ISIS, who were able to gain a foothold in the country due to the failure of Blair and his American allies to plan for Iraq’s reconstruction after the destruction created by their eagerly sought invasion. Iraq has been mired in violence and chaos ever since president Bush and prime minister Blair decided to lie and cheat in order to secure the downfall of the dictator Saddam Hussein at any cost.
Since leaving office, Blair has hardly behaved any better, making millions of pounds from an advisory company he set up which courted controversial clients ranging from oil corporations to the authoritarian government of Kazakhstan, which has been accused of repeated human rights abuses. But then if you are prepared to lie in order to start a war in which perhaps as many as a quarter of a million people have died, then you’re probably not going to be overly troubled by the imprisonment of journalists and the banning of opposition parties by a commercial client who is paying you a fortune.
Giving a high-profile and prestigious state award to such a highly divisive and controversial individual merely reinforces the impression that senior figures in the British establishment are beyond accountability, and that their behaviour will continue to be rewarded no matter how egregious or inappropriate, even when many believe that their misdeeds reach the standard of the most serious criminality.
Despite the many thousands who have signed the petition, it is unlikely that Blair will be stripped of the award. Speaker of the Commons Lindsay Hoyle defended giving Blair the knighthood, insisting that it was “the right thing to do”.
Appointments as Knight of the Garter are made by the Queen without advice from the Prime Minister, and now Blair joins such other luminaries deemed by the Queen to merit such a high award, like Prince Andrew. The honour is granted for life, unless a Knight or Lady Companion offends against certain “points of reproach”. These points of reproach do not apparently include starting a war on the basis of a lie. Or allegedly having sex with a sex-trafficked teenager, which Prince Andrew has been accused of and strongly denies.
It’s further evidence that the Royal household is hopelessly out of touch with the people it purports to represent. In reality, it represents wealth, privilege and a lack of accountability or moral probity – so in that light, giving Blair a gong is entirely on-brand for the Windsors.
This piece is an extract from today’s REAL Scottish Politics newsletter, which is emailed out at 7pm every weekday with a round-up of the day’s top stories and exclusive analysis from the Wee Ginger Dug.
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