Blair’s legacy: Militarism abroad, social devastation at home
By Editorial statement
May 11, 2007, 19:14
[Editor’s Note: We do not normally “feature” reprints from other publications on Axis of Logic. But because it marks the historic end to the bloody 10 year reign of this particular war criminal, we decided to give this WSWS article a special place. Earlier today we heard Tony Blair state on NPR, “Hand on my heart, I thought I was doing the right thing [invading Iraq].” We say, “Tell that to a million Iraqi dead, their families; many more who have been physically and mentally disabled, families destroyed … lives counted as rubbish by the invader-occupiers. Like George Bush and the neocons behind him, if justice is served, they will one day be held accountable for their war crimes. The international anti-war movement will do everything in its power to doggedly hold their crimes over their heads until their very last days on earth. Their victims and our responsibility as human beings insist on nothing less. – Les Blough, Editor]
11 May 2007 – On Thursday, Tony Blair announced the timetable for his departure as leader of the Labour Party and therefore as prime minister. He will not formally leave office until the end of June so as to enable the party to select his successor, which will almost certainly be Chancellor Gordon Brown.
Blair’s announcement is probably the most long-awaited resignation in living memory. Ever since the 2005 general election there has been much talk that Blair’s departure was imminent.
For a man who has made so much of the “hand of history” being on his shoulder and of his “legacy”—a word now being bandied about by Downing Street and the media—there was no good time to announce he would stand aside.
Even more detested in Britain than his mentor Margaret Thatcher—officially the most hated prime minister in recent history—opinion polls record that his legacy is one soaked in the blood of the preemptive war and occupation of Iraq. Some 50 percent of the population believe it is for this ignominious reason that Blair will find his place in the history books. The next highest numbers believe it will be due to his alliance with President George W. Bush.
Blair leaves office as an unindicted war criminal and the first sitting prime minister in history to be interviewed as part of a police investigation (the “cash for honours” scandal). It is no coincidence that Lord Levy had earlier announced that he would stand down as the prime minister’s special Middle East envoy. In his capacity as Blair’s chief fundraiser, Levy has been arrested and questioned under caution by police investigating the alleged sale of peerages in return for party loans.
The prime minister has reportedly been planning his retirement for some time in discussions with the likes of Rupert Murdoch and the then-chief executive of British Petroleum, Lord Browne. It has been suggested that out of concern that he not be seen to be cashing in too quickly, his first project will be to establish a global foundation to foster “greater understanding” between the three “Abrahamic faiths” of Christianity, Judaism and Islam.
This is an obscene conceit in itself, considering his role in the Middle East. But no doubt Blair will once again be able to utilise his skills in soliciting donations from rich benefactors. His real money-making venture is expected to be speaking tours of the United States. Estimates as to what he can expect to earn in his first year out of office range between a conservative £5 million and £10 million, and a book deal is estimated to be worth between £5 million and £8 million.
There is no question that Blair will be feted in right-wing circles, especially in the US. This is first of all for his record of unbridled militarism in alliance with Washington. He is also valued in these circles because, just as in the US, his “war on terror” rhetoric has been used to justify the most antidemocratic and authoritarian measures.
Just as importantly, his reputation has been built on the huge transfer of wealth from working people to the global financial corporations and the super-rich that he helped engineer in the UK.
Last month’s Sunday Times Rich List recorded that the richest 1,000 people in Britain more than trebled their wealth under Blair. Their fortunes grew by 20 percent last year alone, to a combined £360 billion.
London has been described as a “magnet for billionaires,” attracted by the UK’s reputation as an “on-shore tax-haven” in which the wealthy—many of whom earned their fortunes through asset-stripping, privatization and financial speculation—pay next to nothing on their incomes.
In contrast, the number of people living in poverty in Britain last year rose from 12.1 million to 12.7 million, a rise of 600,000 people, whilst the number of poor children increased by 200,000 to 3.8 million between 2005 and 2006.
Read the rest here.