by Olatunji Dare
British Prime Minister Tony Blair, also known as Phony Tony, and as Tony Blair, came calling last week in Abuja, one of the few capitals where he can still count on a respectful welcome. It was his third visit in just a little over four years.
In February 2010, his hands still wet with the blood of tens of thousands of innocent Iraqis liberated from this world and from their relations in a military invasion that he helped gin up with a raft of lies, Blair was invited – along with fellow war criminals former U.S. president George W. Bush and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice – by one newspaper basking in false affluence to speak at a ceremony in Abuja honouring distinguished Nigerians past and present.
Blair even got to meet acting President Goodluck Jonathan, as he then was, to discuss “matters of mutual interest” between Nigeria and Britain, and how he would like that relationship to remain strong.
He was back nine months later, declaiming with the unctuousness that becomes him so well that the “international community” was nursing a great deal of interest and excitement in Nigeria’s elections scheduled for 2011.
More to the point of his new career as a money-grubbing influence peddler, he declared, with JP Morgan chief executive officer Jamie Damon beside him, that the global financial giant’s decision to upgrade its Nigerian office to a full branch was a demonstration of confidence in Nigeria and in President Jonathan’s effort to transform the economy.
Shortly after that visit, JP Morgan bagged a huge chunk of Nigeria’s controversial Sovereign Wealth Fund, even as it recorded huge losses resulting from reckless transactions.
His most recent visit to Abuja was no accident. It was designed to secure future access in the Buhari dispensation for the major players in international high finance, for which he is a well paid lobbyist.
It was entirely in character that Blair should have presumed at every stop to speak for the “international community,” though he holds no public office and is in fact a hugely discredited politician who, in a just world, should be in prison serving time for war crimes.
So unpopular and discredited had he become at the end of his record tenure as prime minster that he could not embark on a farewell tour of Britain, where he was sure to be greeted with shouts of “Liar, Liar” and pelted with tomatoes and eggs. They even re-christened him Bliar. And so, he travelled instead to bid farewell to British troops in Basra, in Iraq, and in Afghanistan.
Blair’s quest to become president of the European Council ended in humiliation. The British Government withdrew its backing when it became clear that member countries wanted nothing to do with him. The Middle East for which Blair was designated international mediator has rarely witnessed greater turmoil.
The last time Blair went to testify before a parliamentary committee looking into how the UK entered the unholy alliance that invaded, occupied and destroyed Iraq, he had to be smuggled into the committee room through a back door, to save him from the wrath of protesters.
This was not the way the script was supposed to end for the youngest prime minister since 1812, the accomplished politician who rescued Britain from the exhausted Tories, redefined its place in world politics, and led his Labour Party to three successive election victories. He seemed destined for greatness.
But hubris and delusion soon set in, and glory turned to ashes.
The September 11 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States presented him an opportunity to project himself as a statesman of global reckoning. The United States would not fight alone, he assured Americans. Britain would stand “shoulder to shoulder” with them as they confronted the terrorist threat.
From then on Blair made it his business to confect a casus belli, just in case the United States could not come up with a compelling one. First he published a dossier on what he said was Iraq’s weapons-of-mass-production programme. It was a “dodgy” document, copied in part from a sophomoric doctoral dissertation that an American university had rejected.
Next, he put it out that Iraq had sought to buy uranium cake from Niger Republic. The document detailing the alleged transaction was a transparent forgery. The minister who purportedly signed on behalf of the Niger Government had left office at least eight years earlier. It is as if Federal Government documents dated May 2014 were to surface today bearing the signature of Sule Lamido as Nigeria’s foreign minister.
He also claimed, falsely, that Iraq had developed nuclear weapons that it could assemble and deploy for combat within 45 minutes — the same Iraq that could not shoot down a single plane from the armada that had been patrolling its air space and since the end of the Gulf war and bombing military and non-military assets at will.
The United States quickly latched on the document as proof that its homeland was imperilled, and that it could not afford to have its skies darkened by a mushroom cloud before striking.
For his domestic audience, Blair declared that Iraq had developed missiles capable of hitting British forces in Cyprus. Why Iraq would want to attack British troops in Cyprus he never explained.
So determined was Blair to take Britain to war that even when Bush offered him a chance to change course, fearing that the British parliament might not share America’s enthusiasm for war, Blair deployed his forensic skills to stay the course, with no consideration for the massive anti-war demonstrations in London and around the world.
Whenever he prefaces a statement with “to be perfectly honest” or “to be absolutely candid,” which he does very often, you could be sure that he was going to zap you with a falsehood, a barefaced lie.
Contrived earnestness, evangelical fervor, and the ability to tell a blatant lie with a straight face: That is the quintessence of Tony Blair
No weapons of mass destruction were ever found in Iraq. But by the time British forces pulled out, hundreds of thousands of Iraqi had been killed. Hundreds of thousands more had been displaced, and Iraq lay in ruins. Hundreds of British soldiers had also been killed – all for a lie.
Blair says he is not sorry for that lie because others also believed it. True, Britannia no longer rules the waves, but when did Britain become just another country?
He compounds his war crimes each time he asserts that removing Saddam from power was the right thing to do. But at what cost?
The hundreds of thousands of Iraqis whom Blair’s warmongering removed from this world, and the hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqis it turned into refugees or otherwise brought to ruin have no place in Blair’s consciousness.
He condoned or turned a blind eye to torture. Four years ago, to head off trials that would have embarrassed the authorities, the British Government agreed to pay out millions of pounds to persons tortured by officials in parts of Iraq occupied by British forces.
No wonder then, that when Blair offered to donate the earnings from his memoir to the families of British troops killed or wounded in Iraq, they rejected it angrily, calling it “blood money”.
In a just world Tony Blair would be serving a long jail term — my aversion to capital punishment is total and unconditional, unlike his — for war crimes and crimes against humanity.
By receiving Blair in Abuja, President-elect Buhari has returned whatever favour he owes for the photo opportunity Blair accorded him in London earlier this year.
Olatunji Dare wrote this piece for The Nation.
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the writer.