Magazine article The Spectator

Blair's Willingness to Follow Bush into Any Torture Chamber Shames Britain

Magazine article The Spectator

Blair's Willingness to Follow Bush into Any Torture Chamber Shames Britain

Article excerpt

All my life, till this month, I have felt more proud than I could say to be British. I felt there were special and irreducible things that we stood for and would, if necessary, fight for: freedom, decency, fairness, humanity, the rule of law. Of course there have been blots - the Amritsar massacre, Bloody Sunday. But on the whole the conduct of British troops during the 30 years of the Troubles in Northern Ireland, or our record during the second world war, has been outstanding. We have been a force for good in the world.

Today there is no pleasure in being British. We are almost a pariah nation. Ordinary British citizens are now starting to learn about the terrible things that have been done in our name. We have been collaborators with the Americans in something so gross, murderous, barbaric and obscene that it defies belief. It is no excuse that US troops have been responsible for the most bestial of the atrocities. We are part of a joint command in Iraq, and thus share the joint shame. Tony Blair went to great lengths to share the credit with President Bush during their triumphalist, flag-draped victory summit 12 months ago. Now he must stomach the disgrace.

The Prime Minister appears not to sense any of this. But hopefully this low-grade and wretched man will be out of Downing Street before long, because many of his party are starting to feel the moral humiliation that already grips the rest of us. The most sordid moment yet of Tony Blair's increasingly despicable premiership came two weeks ago when, in a response to Sir Peter Tapsell at Prime Minister's Questions, he defended the murder of hundreds of innocents in Fallujah.

It was a deadly moment this, an apotheosis: the final fulfilment of the Prime Minister's policy of complete identification, come what may, with the United States. Tony Blair's dedication to George Bush is so total that he will follow the President into any killing field or torture chamber. It may in due course become highly relevant that Britain, but not the United States, has signed up to the International Criminal Court. What a very curious thing that Tony Blair came to power pledging a special kind of morality.

Historians will seek to explain this paradox for many years to come. I think there is a personal explanation for this. The Prime Minister has never known, not properly, who he is. All students of his life have noted his way of attaching himself to more cogent individuals - Gordon Brown, Peter Mandelson, Alastair Campbell, etc. - as a method of personal self-affirmation. Blair cannot survive without such a crutch, as the government's listless, drifting ineptitude since the departure of Campbell nine months ago demonstrates.

Just as the Prime Minister lacks a real personality, he has no sense of Britain as an independent state with its own magnificent values and history. He does not really esteem our country, hence his prostration before the United States. He does not grasp that Britain will not tolerate atrocities, especially not from our allies. If Tony Blair had even an ounce of the strong ethical sense that he constantly used to boast about, the pain and outrage would have flared out of him when he answered Sir Peter Tapsell's question in the Commons. Instead he squeaked out a routine defence of American barbarism. For all the protestations, decency and morality are not of overriding concern to Tony Blair. His policy as Prime Minister is best summed up like this: he is the partygoer who automatically sucks up to the most powerful man in the room. …

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