Dear Prime Minister Blair
I once wrote to a war criminal. This is the letter. It was heartfelt at the time, consumed with righteous indignation as I was. Now it only seems terribly naive. Written on August 11, 2006.
Dear Prime Minister Blair,
I read with great interest your speech (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/politics/5236896.stm) to the World Affairs Council in Los Angeles. It is an amazing speech. One can instantly see that it was meant to be a memorably eloquent outpouring of sincerity and high-minded rhetoric. It is unfortunate, however, that for all the effort put in by yourself and your speech-writers, the impression actually conveyed was somewhat different. One would never mistake you, Mr. Blair, for Mr. Schweitzer after this and one would have some trouble indeed separating you from your partner in the war enterprise, Mr. George Bush.
The lack of judgment and the lack of intelligence shown here are remarkable enough, but even more profoundly notable is the sheer degree of obfuscation and evasion and, yes, outright falsehoods. A man so totally out of touch with reality, either by his own mental deficiencies or, worse, deliberate effort, has no business giving public speeches as representative of absolutely any nation in the world.
I was baffled enough to pore over your speech word for word and I’m going to address the, shall we say, inconsistencies here.
At the very start of your speech, Mr. Blair, you pay a what has now become routine homage to the Armed Forces. You praise the ‘extraordinary courage and commitment of our armed forces who risk their lives and in some cases tragically lose them, defending our country’s security and that of the wider world’, and declare that ‘We should never forget how much we owe these people, how great their bravery and their sacrifice.’
In brief, you echo the stickers from China – ‘Support Our Troops’.
I’m tired of hearing such sentiments from people who are personally never likely to be in the firing line themselves. Perhaps, Mr. Blair, you should dust off the poetry volumes from the Library at 10 Downing Street and see if you can find Siegfried Sassoon‘s take on the subject. He was a man who knew what he was talking about.
No, Mr. Blair, your troops are not out there defending your country‘s security and that of the wider world.
They are out there committing acts of aggression, acts of outright murders, on your behalf.
For that, they are getting themselves shot and butchered.
Your fine words of support amount to nothing for those who, owing to your incompetence and foolhardiness, will have to live the rest of their lives, day after day, with mental trauma, knowledge of crime, and the adjusted reality of life as a disabled veteran. Because, eventually, medals tarnish, the fickle media finds a new tragedy, the jingoistic crowd switches to soap-operas, and Prime Ministers and Presidents leave office – but one still has to figure out how one is going to make it to the bathroom alone, with both legs shot off and eyesight gone.
Then, Mr. Blair, you predictably bring up Lebanon. The cause of the conflict, you claim, is apparent – Israel was provoked. Yes, one can see that. Three Israeli soldiers were kidnapped and, of course, one can agree that it wasn’t the kosher thing to do. But, if you step back a little, the picture tilts slightly. One hears about the two Palestinian Civilians – a doctor and his brother – who were kidnapped by Israel exactly a day before (http://www.democracynow.org/2006/7/14/noam_chomsky_u_s_backed_israeli) Captain Gilad Shalit was taken and who too have not been heard of since. One hears of thousands of Palestinian prisoners who have been detained in Israeli jails since the last war, quite in violation of the Geneva Conventions. One hears about illegal Israeli air excursions (http://www.commondreams.org/views06/0808-23.htm) into Lebanese territory and of Israeli Secret Service Cells which are in the business of assassinating Lebanese citizens in their own country. And then the role of Israel as the wronged party, the perpetually harassed party that was finally provoked into aggression, gets skewered.
You say, “We will continue to do all we can to halt the hostilities”.
Giving the Israelis more time to destroy Lebanon doesn’t sound like it, Mr. Blair. Especially when you surely must be aware that your partner in the peace coalition, Mr. George Bush, is sending over more bombs and supplies to Israel? That is a very curious effort to halt the hostilities.
You say, “We will not win the battle against the global extremism unless we win it at the level of values as much as force, unless we show we are even-handed, fair and just in our application of these values to the world.”
Of course, you won’t. But the problem here is that, given the destruction and deaths that have already occurred and continue to occur, it is going to be an uphill struggle – if not an outright impossibility – of convincing the concerned people in this regard. I mean, try telling it to the survivors of Qana or Falluja or the mistreated prisoners of Abu Graib and Guantanamo. They know first-hand how even-handed, fair, and just you are in the application of your stronger, better, and more fair values, Mr. Blair. They have already realized that your values have nothing to do with those of ‘tolerance, freedom, respect for differences, and diversity’. And you show your ‘ideology of reaction, division and hatred’ when you offer your simplistic view-point of a struggle between reactionary Islam and moderate Islam. Why is it that you fail to mention your fundamentalist Christian values and the hard-line Jewish values as yet other reactionary branches of this struggle?