by Felicity Arbuthnot
August 21, 2010
"Let me ask you one question, is your
money that good? Will it buy you forgiveness? Do you think that it
Masters of War
Sometimes a topic simply will not go away.
Anthony Charles Lynton Blair, Q.C.,
former British Prime Minister, alleged potential war criminal, surreal
Middle East Peace Envoy - who led an administration which shared
responsibility for, if not quite rivers of blood, bloodied market places,
mosques, squares, homes, humans, hospitals, beyond counting - just keeps
coming back and back.
Fresh from the Balkans, after accepting a solid gold "Freedom Medal",
Kosovo's highest Award - from a nation less than a shining example of the
rule of law, where streets and the capitol's main square are named after
him,(1) he immediately re-invented himself as best selling author.
signing is a "must attend" event, at literary emporium Waterstone's showcase
store, in London's Piccadilly, on 8th September (2) - if you are prepared to
relinquish your handbag, laptop, keys, cash, backpack, and other belongings,
to a stranger, at the door.
Symbolic, really. Iraq and Afghanistan were stripped of their assets at
missile and gun-point. Blair, seemingly, will have armed body guards.
A certain furore has greeted the book signing, for which he reportedly
received a £4.6 million advance, on top of the now estimated up to £46
million, since he left office, including from interests in oil exploration
in Iraq, over which he is reported to have fought a two year battle with the
(UK) parliamentary independent scrutiny committee, to be anything but
Details he said, were "commercially sensitive." You bet.
networks of companies through which his money gushes are, says Mike
Warburton, senior partner at tax accountants Grant Thornton:
We do not know where the money comes from or where it goes to, but at the
end of the chain, you have a company that does not file accounts, so one can
only presume it is to keep secret."
Financial diversities too numerous to mention include:
to appear at the opening of a methanol power plant in Azerbaijan last year."
Three years on from his relatively modest Prime Ministerial salary of under
£200,000 a year, his family property portfolio:
" ...now contains seven
homes worth £14 million, including four in central London. Latest addition
is a four-storey, Grade II-listed town house, a snip at just under
£1.3million, a few streets away from (their) £3.7million Connaught Square
"His elite security team costs the taxpayer £6 million annually, because he
is also accompanied by up to five personal bodyguards while traveling the
However, with Teflon Tony's latest re-invention of himself as author, has
has also re-invented himself as bountiful benefactor.
In recognition of:
"...the courage and sacrifice the (UK) armed forces
demonstrate day in, day out...", he is, seemingly, to donate the full £4.6
million advance for the book to the armed Services charity, The Royal British
Legion, after: "...having witnessed (Services actions) in Iraq,
Afghanistan, Northern Ireland, Sierra Leone and Kosovo", stated a Blair
minion, omitting that anything he had witnessed was a carefully
orchestrated, literally "blow-in" photo-op, by helicopter, to a
mega-fortified base, flanxed by a sizeable personal army and a larger
Hardly sleeve-rolling-up, coal face mastery or solidarity.
Also unsaid is that arguably, in four out of the five stated places, British
troops had no business being, with the Iraq invasion openly declared
illegal, even by no less than the former UN Secretary General.
"This is his way of honoring their courage and sacrifice", added the
hireling. "The proceeds will go to the Royal British Legion's "Battle Back"
challenge centre, a project that will provide state-of-the-art
rehabilitation services for seriously injured troops returning from the
front line", he clarified.
Whilst the Charity's Director General expressed his delight at "this very
generous offer", it is worth casting an eye on what Lord Blair of Kut al
Amara - as dubbed by Robert Fisk, referring to one of the British army's
most humiliating defeats - has cost the country in the historic folly of
just Iraq and Afghanistan.
Under a Freedom of Information Act request (4)
sums revealed include, for Iraq:
£2.3 million in compensation to troops suffering from trauma
£6.1 million compensation for 179 killed and hundred injured
£14 million in one off payments to families of those killed
£9.4 million in other payments to dependents of the dead
A "flood" of claims is expected relating to the (as now) 325 service
personnel killed in Afghanistan. To now, only £317,000 has been paid out.
Meanwhile other charities, such as Combat Stress, are struggling with the
psychological fallout from the invasions, dealing already with over 4,000
cases. They point out that the majority of serious problems, on average,
take fourteen years to present, a ticking financial, Blair-generated time
bomb, for maybe decades, to come. Their expenditure is around £20 million
Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Famies Association expend well in
excess of £40 million; Help for Heroes, who aim to rehabilitate the numerous
who have lost limbs - some, all of them - sight, movement, is aiming for £20
million this year. The British Legion needs around £40 million annually.
These figures, relating directly or indirectly to Blair's feckless, forays,
however pale against the cost, so far of the Afghan and Iraq oil, mineral
and resources grabs to Britain, in "fighting", and in which, strangely,
"diplomacy" is factored: £20 billion, to the taxpayers of a small island
So has Mr Blair's munificence contributing to delivering a mollified and
grateful public? Not exactly.
First to weigh in was Peter Brierley, whose young son Shaun died in Iraq,
and who had refused to shake Blair's hand at a commemoration service for the
troops, at London's St Paul's Cathedral.
They were, he said, covered in
"Blood money" he said of the donation to the Press Association,
adding: "£4.6 million cannot wash Blair's hands clean."
Political satirist and columnist Mark Steel was less than compromising:
"Imagine if the British Legion announced: 'You'll never guess what. Today we
got another donation of £4 million, from the latest DVD by Osma Bin Laden.
It really has been our lucky week."
Writer and activist, David Wilson, suggested other book signings he deemed
apt for the relevant week, to the Guardian:
"Waterstones are pleased to announce a program of book signings for
the week of 6 - 10 September 2010.
6 September, Osama bin Laden: 'Town Planning in Manhattan'
7 September, Radovan Karadzic: 'Hill Walks above Sarajevo'
8 September, Tony Blair: 'A Journey'
9 September, General Than Shwe: 'Gated Communities in Rangoon'
10 September, President George W Bush: 'Shock and Ore.' "
Judas feeling guilty over his thirty pieces of silver crops up a bit.
Daily Finance unkindly point out that:
"The donation will significantly cut
his tax bill, by an estimated £2.3 million."
Seeming acres of ungenerous comments gather pace. However, here are some
different financial costings:
£4.6 million, is exactly the estimated
amount of Iraqis displaced by the invasion, internally and
externally, who have lost everything. His donation would equal one
For the five million orphans created
since 2003, less than a pound each
For the million widows, a little over
four pounds each
To the families of the upper estimate of one and a half million resultant
dead, under four pounds each.
The Book Signing Occasion, falls in the week that America commemorates
That day, arguably, the beginning of Blair's "Journey" - into dodgy
dossiers, destruction of two of nations, the spectre of the unexplained
death of an eminent scientist, weapons inspector, Dr
David Kelly, having
said publicly he thought the WMD claims might have been "sexed up" - and his
unshakeable, blind, messianic certainty of being "right."
On the course of this journey, between Iraq and Afghanistan, possibly
approaching two million dead, lie strewn along the way.
A shame the signing could not be moved to Saturday,11th September. Were
there an arrest, citizens' or otherwise, no more fitting day for him to
begin another journey - to the Hague.
One can only wistfully wish, and fantasize.
On 28th July, former weapons inspector, Hans Blix, told the
in to the invasion, of a conversation he had with Blair on 20th February,
2003, when the invasion was already, clearly, unstoppable:
"Wouldn't it be
paradoxical if you invade Iraq with 250,000 men and find very little?"
As this was being written, Britain commemorated the 70th anniversary of
Winston Churchill's speech of 20th August, 1940, which includes the lines:
"Never has so much been owed by so many to so few."
Perhaps it should be
re-fashioned for our times:
"Never have so many died, for being ripped off
by so few."