Posts Tagged ‘Tony Blair’

Guantanamo – America’s Shameful Prison

Tuesday, January 11th, 2022

Amnesty International protesters close to the US Embassy

January 11th was for quite a few years a busy day for protests; it marked the anniversary of the setting up by the United States of a military prison as a torture camp at the disputed US Guantanamo Bay naval camp on the island of Cuba.

Prisoners’ had taken turns in the cage overnight

Set up in the aftermath of the 9/11 attack as a part of George W Bush’s ‘War on Terror’, the camp and the activities which took place there destroyed any final vestige of higher moral ground America could lay claim to in its role of world policeman, something that its various largely clandestine involvements in various South American American coups and activities in the Middle East and elsewhere had already largely laid waste.

Guantanamo is still there, still open, though the great majority of the 779 men brought there have been released. Most were totally innocent, victims of a US policy of offering $5,000 rewards for the capture of ‘terrorists’ to Pakistani and Afghan groups, who took the money for turning in anyone they felt would get them the money.

In October 2021, there were still 39 men held at Guantanamo, including ten who had long been cleared for release. Very few of those held over the years have faced trails trials and very few were involved in any acts of terrorism. Bush and Obama acted slowly but together released well over 700 of the prisoners, but Trump only released one, effectively stopping the process.

Protests continue in the UK, but on a much smaller scale, particularly since the last British resident, Shaker Aamer was released without charge or trial after 13 years of imprisonment and torture in 2015.

In 2008 Amnesty International organised a large protest in Grosvenor Square, a few yards from the US Embassy, though the street in front of the embassy had been closed to prevent protests there. They brought with them two cages, similar to those in which the prisoners were imprisoned outdoors at Guantanamo, with a large group of people wearing the orange jumpsuits which they are made to wear there. Protesters dressed as guards in military style uniforms harassed the ‘prisoners’ interrogating them and threatening them with violence and with aggressive-looking dogs.

From Grosvenor Square I went up to the Regents Park Mosque, where activists from Cageprisoners and the London Guantánamo Campaign, some also in those orange jumpsuits and one manacled hand and foot. There they were handing out leaflets to those attending Friday Prayers.

Later I went with them to Paddington Green Police station, where terrorist suspects are detained and questioned in this country. They were going on to continue to protest in Parliament Square, but I returned first to the US Embassy, where the London Catholic Worker Community was holding a two hour vigil closed to the corner of the Embassy, holding placards and lighting candles for those still held and several who had died there. Several were alleged to have committed suicide, but later evidence emerged strongly suggesting they had died during torture.

The final event of the day was a rally in Parliament Square organised by Cageprisoners and the London Guantánamo Campaign with a number of speakers including Victoria Brittain, former Guantanamo prisoner Moazzam Begg, laywers including Gareth Peirce, Bruce Kent, Yvonne Ridley and Jean Lambert MEP.

It was dark, cold and wet, but those present were cheered by the announcement at the end of the rally that Scotland Yard were investigating allegations of 14 criminal offences committed by Tony Blair and Lord Goldsmith and others which resulted in the deaths of Iraqi citizens during the armed invasion and occupation of Iraq.

Unfortunately and predictably these investigations came to nothing, and though the Chilcot report was damning in parts, Blair not only got off scot-free but this New Year was awarded a knighthood. A few days ago one of several petitions to have his “Knight Companion of the Most Noble Order of the Garter” rescinded reached over a million signatures. Mine was one of them.

Six years of Guantanamo: Amnesty
London Guantanamo Campaign / Cageprisoners
Guantanamo – London Catholic Worker
Guantanamo – Parliament Square Rally


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Blair lied, Millions Died – 6th July 2016

Tuesday, July 6th, 2021

Labour scraped in at Batley and Spen by a few hundred votes, which was enough to take the pressure of calls for a replacement for Keir Starmer off the boil for at least a few months. And for the media to call upon some of the more grisly figures from the Labour past to come on and repeat their vilification of Jeremy Corbyn, and call for a return to those policies which had made Labour – New Labour – unelectable.

It had started with a great burst of support and enthusiasm in May 1997, when we really believed that ‘Things Can Only Get Better‘, but soon the disillusion set in. One of the major early problems came with PFI, launched by John Major in 1992, but taken up and expanded greatly under New Labour. Private companies were contracted to build and manage major public projects, enabling some very flashy announcements but failing to say we would be paying through the nose for them for many, many years – and in many cases for another 20 years or more from now.

‘Blair’ and ‘Bush’s’ bloody hands – and the cash.

It essentially privatised many public projects, with often poor negotiating skills by civil servants unschooled in such matters resulting in excessive profits for the companies involved. There were many critics of PFI at the time, and in 2011 a critical Treasury report. In 2018 then Chancellor Philip Hammond stopped any new PFI projects.

PFI has been particularly disastrous for the NHS, causing huge financial problems and leading to the cutting down an closures of hospitals. The 127 PFI schemes had a total repayment cost (according to Wikipedia) of £2.1m in 2017 and continuing to rise until 2029. In 2012 seven NHS Trusts had to be given emergency financial support as even with cuts they were unable to meet their PFI repayments.

But, as the recent death of Donald Rumsfield reminded us, the most clear public failure of New Labour was to support what was largely his personal vendetta in the disastrous invasion of Iraq. Richard Wolffe, writing in he Guardian headlined his article ‘Rumsfeld’s much-vaunted ‘courage’ was a smokescreen for lies, crime and death‘ – and Blair colluded whole-heartedly in the deception, with the ‘dodgy dossier’ and various other statements and decisions. His was a special relationship with Bush most politely described as brown-nosing.

This of course is Britain, so instead of taking action we eventually had an inquiry, with Chilcot taking over seven years to allow the long grass to grow. Set up by Gordon Brown in 2009, six years after the invasion, it produced its report on 6 July 2016, when the protest here took place. Wikipedia quotes Richard Norton-Taylor of The Guardian as describing it as “an unprecedented, devastating indictment of how a prime minister was allowed to make decisions by discarding all pretence at cabinet government, subverting the intelligence agencies, and making exaggerated claims about threats to Britain’s national security”.

A banner uderestimates Blairs crime – there were millions who died

Clearly Blair was a war criminal. But of course no legal action followed – and that war criminal and proven liar continues to be invited to give his opinions in the media – and there are even those who suggest he should be brought back to lead the Labour Party. Financially he has done well out of his time as Prime Minister – and probably even better from his property investments, with an estimated net worth according to some of £100m. But as the placards say, ‘Blair lied, Millions Died’ and if there was any justice he should have gone to jail.

More at Blair lied, Millions Died – Chilcot


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