July 18, 2010
"If justice and truth take place,
If he is rewarded according to his just desert,
His name will stink to all generations."
(William Wesley, 1703-1791.)
It has been a good couple of weeks of medal gathering for Charles Anthony Lynton Blair, QC. To add a lucrative and glittering array (1) he has added to the (30th June) announcement of the (US) National Constitution Center's Liberty Medal, the award of a second "Freedom Medal" (first, January 2009, from the US) on 10th July.
The man who scribbled: "I just do not understand this", in the margin of the advice from his top Law Lord, that the the invasion of Iraq would be illegal without a second United Nations Resolution, ignored, or dodged legalities, committing his country to the destruction of a sovereign nation, has been honoured again, this time, some might say, appropriately.
The awarding country is Kosovo, where the rule of law, it seems, has yet to become the rule of thumb.
According the the (US) Overseas Security Advisory Council, "Kosovo 2010 Crime and Safety Report", there is: " ... a high level of crime ... violent crimes can and do occur - even in downtown (capitol) Pristina ... stay alert ...If you normally carry a wallet ... put it in a front pocket and put your hand in your pocket to hold onto it when in a crowd. Better yet, leave your wallet with your driver’s license and U.S. department store credit cards in the hotel safe. When walking with a purse or bag (ensure) it is closed and tuck it under your arm ...
Do not leave your purse or bag over the back of your chair at a restaurant, watch that no one kicks your bag or purse out from under your table at a restaurant, and be particularly vigilant of where you place your belongings when at a sidewalk café. Make a copy of your passport data page and carry the paper copy instead of your actual passport ... it is inadvisable to use (credit cards) for incidental purchases, each use increases the chance of compromise." Using an ATM should be "avoided."
If the visitor decides the rural scenery might be preferable: "Driving is becoming increasingly dangerous (with) a 30% increase in traffic fatalities ... and a 55% increase in hit-and-run incidents. Defensive driving is a must (but) given the sharp increase in injuries and deaths, it may not be enough. Do not drive unless you really have to, and limit your driving to hours of daylight ..."
Avoid public celebrations, a magnet for pickpockets - and people are : "...occasionally, killed by the falling bullets." Still set on the ultimate living-on-the edge adventure holiday? ".... the relative availability of ... weapons has led to ... RPG attacks, grenade attacks, and use of automatic weapons—even in downtown Pristina."
"All international security and intelligence agencies regularly portray a dismaying image of the province, a sort of 'European Medellin or Cali.' " (3)
It also has to be wondered if "I'm a pretty straight forward sort of guy", Blair, has read any of the reports on the level of corruption in this State he supported with characteristic gung-ho righteousness:
"Drug barons in (neighbouring) Kosovo, Albania and Macedonia (with links to the Italian Mafia) had become the new economic elites, often associated with Western business interests. In turn, the financial proceeds of the trade in drugs and arms were recycled towards other illicit activities (and vice versa) including a vast prostitution racket between Albania and Italy." Albanian criminal groups operating in Milan: "have become so powerful running prostitution rackets that they have even taken over the Calabrians in strength and influence."
Further: "The application of "strong economic medicine', under the guidance of the Washington based Bretton Woods institutions, had contributed to wrecking Albania's banking system and precipitating the collapse of the Albanian economy. The resulting chaos enabled American and European transnationals to carefully position themselves. Several Western oil companies including Occidental, Shell and British Petroleum had their eyes riveted on Albania's abundant and unexplored oil-deposits. Western investors were also gawking Albania's extensive reserves of chrome, copper, gold, nickel and platinum.... " (4) In 1999, one mine owner told a journalist that the region including Kosovo, was "the Balkans' Kuwait."
And for the thrill seeker, just getting out of Pristina airport might present the challenge sought. In March 2009, the UN Secretary General's Office devoted a long Report on corruption levels at the airport, after an investigation by the UN's International Task Force. It included:
The Deputy General Manager of Pristina Airport having a criminal conviction for "the trafficking of persons across borders ..."
"Allegations of theft and corruption arising out of the collection of handling and landing fees and de-icing costs for passenger aircraft using Pristina Airport .."
And "The Task Force also received reports that some commercial Airlines had been the subject of extortion in the payment for landing slots ..." Eye watering amounts in fraudulent cargo charges were also also recorded as disappeared, and there was misappropriation of funds from everything from huge sums meant for ventilation, to heating to car park construction.(5)
In May 2009 The American Council for Kosova noted, in "Organised Crime in Kosova":
"As can be seen by the documents, cash and projects that should have helped the people, lined the pockets of crooks, cronies and dodgy officials ... it now appears that this money has disappeared, raising all kinds of questions about the ... unaccountable organisations running countries. (6)
This then, is the country to whom Blair is unreservedly, a hero. Streets are named after him. For his visit, Pristina was plastered with posters of Blair, lauding him as: "A Leader. A Friend. A Hero." Seemingly not one defaced with "Bliar", "Liar", "War Criminal" or "Blair Lied, Thousands Died." He was met by the Prime Minister, and "serenaded by the Kosova Ceremonial Guard."
In the main square (also named after him) it transpired that children too are named after him: "Tonybler" (not satire.) He met nine Tonyblers, all nine years old, honouring him for the 1999 bombardment, of the former Yugoslavia - as Iraq, without a United Nations Resolution, and largely cooked up with his friend Bill Clinton (who is to present him with the Liberty Medal.)
Bill Clinton has an eleven foot bronze statue in Pristina. Hope it is well bolted down, shame if it found its way to a smelt to be flogged off in small lots.
The Toniblers sang: "We are the World", in Blair's honour. "He is a very great man", said one little lad. Some still believed in fairies when they were nine. The gold Freedom Medal was presented to him by President Fatmir Sejdiu. The Tonibler's hero said what he always says of unmitigated atrocities: "I did what was right. I did what was just. I did not regret it then. I do not regret it now."
What was "right" and "just" included 35,000 bombing sorties between 24th., March and 11th., June 1999. As David North wrote (wsws.org) three days after the bombardment ended: "Nearly all the major highways, railways and bridges have been extensively bombed. The electrical transformers, central power plants and water filtration systems upon which modern urban centers depend are functioning at only a fraction of their pre-bombardment capacity. Several hundred thousand workers have lost their livelihoods because of the destruction of their factories and workplaces. Several major hospitals have suffered extensive bomb-related damages. Schools attended by a total of 100,000 children have been damaged or destroyed." Cluster bombs were dropped on residential areas.
The great Danube river, 2,850 kms long - immortalised by Johann Strauss's haunting "Blue Danube Waltz" - which rises in the Black Forest and falls in to the Black Sea, defeated Charlemagne's tinkering in 793, and flowed through the centuries, but the pollutants unleashed in to it by the bombing, are reminiscent of some of the world's most catastrophic environmental vandalism. Fish and bird life floated, poisoned, on the surface, with eco-systems lost, decimated, beneath.
Further war crimes included the bombing of the building housing Serbia's state television and international networks, a passenger train on a railway bridge (twice) markets, the Chinese Embassy ("wrong map") a prison, killing eighty five prisoners - also bombed previously, killing a guard and three inmates - petro-chemical and car plants, industrial sites, releasing vast amounts of carcinogenic pollutants - and the use of depleted uranium weapons which has left the terrain, as Iraq and Afghanistan, a haunting of cancers and birth defects, to stalk not alone current, but future generations throughout the region. Kosovo may yet rue its gratitude.
There were some small setbacks in Blair-land over the same period though. It has transpired that when Prime Minister, he had over-ruled the Foreign and Commonwealth Office's efforts to provide a British citizen, held in Zambia, to provide Consular support to his return to the UK. He was subsequently "rendered' to Guantanamo. With five hundred thousand additional documents now having been identified as possibly relevant regarding the alleged relationship between the UK and US relating to possible co-operation over transfers to Guantanamo, under Blair's tenure as Prime Minister, a few clouds might yet be forming over "Teflon Tony."
In context, it is perhaps pertinent to record, that in the dying days of her Premiership, Margaret Thatcher, who many would argue, outdid stubborn and right wing: "... came under pressure from British spies to be complicit in the use of torture." She thought and consulted and: " ... in her very last days in power, issued instructions to the intelligence services: that they were not in any circumstances 'to use intelligence that might in any way have come from torture.' We know this from the extraordinary testimony of the former British Diplomat, Craig Murray,* who under questioning by MPs revealed that British policy on torture was explicitly changed under the Blair regime."(7) Trafficking for torture comes to mind.
His publishers, Random House might also be asking questions as to the wisdom of their £4.6 million advance on his memoirs, not officially due out until 1st September. He was reportedly forced to change the name from "The Journey" to "A Journey", the latter sounding "less messianic." Whatever, it can already be bought on Amazon for £12.37 (down from yesterday's £14.99) the official retail price being £25.00. Six new copies are available "from £6.38." Gravitas is further eroded by it being listed next to: "The Bartenders Assistant : A Guide for the Journey" (£4.99.)
Of Blair's book title, a less than generous spirited friend emailed: "To the Hague?" She is undoubtedly not alone.
But if all collapses, there will be a little corner of the world, that will, for the moment, for ever welcome "Tonybler." A place he could feel at home. Perhaps in a governmental advisory position. Honoury President - even advising the Deputy Manager of the Airport.
Oh, and wonder if he got that gold Freedom Award out, unscathed.
4. http://www.wsws.org/articles/1999/apr1999/kla-a10.shtml (Chossudovsky.)
* Former British Ambassador to Uzbekistan, Biography, "Murder in Samarkand."
7. Peter Oborne, Daily Mail, 17th June 2010.