Blair’s knighthood triggers public outrage

January 9, 2022 - 10:20

TEHRAN- More than one million people have signed a petition calling for former Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair to have his controversial knighthood removed with the number rising literally by the minute.

The fact that the knighthood was announced on New Year Eve, and the petition has reached such a milestone so quickly is evidence that public anger in the UK against the former Premier has not gone away. According to a YouGuv survey only 14% of the public approve of Blair’s knighthood. 

It is perhaps not so surprising how an illegal war saw a politician go from an amazing 93 percent approval rating when he entered office in 1997 to one of the most hated public figures in the UK. 

Critics say the man who led Britain “shoulder to shoulder” with former U.S. President George W. Bush into the disastrous and illegal invasion of Iraq deceived the British parliament and the British public into doing so. 

The war led to the killing of around one million Iraqi people. Ironically under the title of the “war on terror”, it also led to the formation of more barbaric terrorist groups that are still active in the country today. Blair’s decision to side with Bush and play a major role in waging the war was unspeakably a catastrophic one in every aspect you look at it. 

Nobody wanted the former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein to stay in power, but an invasion of the country and destroying its entire infrastructure alongside the suffering of almost every single Iraqi to this day was certainly not the way to go about removing Saddam. 

Indeed the conclusions of Chilcott inquiry into the Iraq war states: at the time of the invasion of Iraq in 2003, Saddam Hussein did not pose an urgent threat to British interests; intelligence regarding weapons of mass destruction was presented with “unwarranted certainty”; peaceful alternatives to war had not been exhausted; the UK and the U.S. had undermined the authority of the United Nations Security Council; the process of identifying the legal basis was “far from satisfactory”; and war was unnecessary.

Blair’s critics describe the former British Premier as a war criminal who has the blood of one million Iraqis on his hand and should be prosecuted for war crimes and crimes against humanity at the international criminal court. 

The petition, which has surpassed one million signatures, says Blair "caused irreparable damage to both the constitution of the United Kingdom and to the very fabric of the nation's society. He was personally responsible for causing the death of countless innocent, civilian lives and servicemen in various conflicts”. 

"For this alone, he should be held accountable for war crimes. Tony Blair is the least deserving person of any public honor, particularly anything awarded by Her Majesty the Queen. We petition the prime minister to petition Her Majesty to have this honor removed.”

Following Blair’s departure from office, he has been accused of being amazingly pathetic in his role as a “peace envoy” in West Asia. The rest of his time, he has been receiving as much money as possible from extremely authoritarian regimes and dictators in exchange for “advice”.

As Blair went on to live a comfortable life, making tens of millions of dollars in “appearances”, those who exposed war crimes in Iraq would be and continue to be punished. 

Labour MP Richard Burgon has written on social media that “It says a lot about what is wrong with our system when, after being one of the leading architects of the Iraq war, Tony Blair is honored with a knighthood while Julian Assange, who exposed war crimes in Iraq, faces extradition to the USA and a lifetime in prison.”

Assange who many analysts and pundits say should be awarded has been languishing for more than one thousand days in his continuous incarceration at Britain’s maximum-security Belmarsh Prison. The journalist’s legal and human rights have been trampled on. For more than two years now hundreds of doctors have repeatedly demanded Assange be released to a university teaching hospital or freed; warning that he may otherwise die in prison.

This is while Britain’s Stop the War Coalition has described the decision to award Blair with knighthood as a “kick in the teeth for the people of Iraq and Afghanistan”. 

The anti-war movement says “it’s pretty incredible given that this year, we’ve seen the collapse of Afghanistan, which [was] Tony Blair’s first major war. We have 8 million people on the edge of starvation in Afghanistan now. We have Iraq in a terrible state now, nearly 20 years after the invasion”.

The movement added, “it’s a kick in the teeth for the people of Iraq and Afghanistan and a kick in the teeth for all the people who protested against the war in Iraq and who have been proved right”. 

As much as the title is ceremonial, nevertheless, it means the British public and media should refer to him as “Sir Tony” which brings about a sense of privilege for a man who will now undoubtedly believe that his reputation has been re-established. In fact, the privilege bestowed upon the former British premier has only widened the argument about the institution that hands out the “honor” of becoming a Sir.

Blair was a recipient of “the Knight Companion of the Most Noble Order of the Garter”. That’s his new title in its entirety. The knighthood is the highest possible ranking Blair was appointed to by the Queen in the UK’s new year honors list. This knighthood is also the only appointment that is received without advise from the Prime Minister’s office. There are now 21 non-royal companions in this ultra special knighthood club out of a maximum of 24. 

Almost all decisions made by the Queen are actually made by the Prime Minister but this decision was taken by the Queen herself. 

Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s spokesperson confirmed that it had not been the Prime Minister’s choice to award Blair the honor saying  “appointments to the Order of the Garter are a matter for Her Majesty the Queen, there is no involvement of the prime minister or government, so it wouldn’t be one for me to comment on”. 

That has put into the spotlight again the role of the British monarchy and what analysts say is the unfair system of distributing honors to the public. 

British tax money goes towards the British monarchy’s lavish lifestyle. A centuries’ old monarchy that has never been elected and never held accountable. Questions have been raised about whether a referendum is needed in the near future to gauge public opinion into the centuries-old undemocratic Royal Family that has pretty much turned into a useless tourist attraction today. 

And it’s this royal family that decided to award the “war criminal” Tony Blair with such a high honor, to the astonishment of so many; since he left office, Blair’s legacy has been described as toxic mainly because of the Iraq war. It begs the question about whether the Royal Family saw the two million people who protested in the British captain London alone against the war before the invasion started. 

It was the largest demonstration in Britain’s history and if the Royal Family thought time would make people forget, the uproar and the outrage Blair’s knighthood has triggered clearly points to a disastrous error in judgment.

Worse still, the fact that Blair lied to the public, parliament, and to the armed forces makes the decision even more catastrophic. Whether the Queen will reverse the move is something that remains to be seen but it has certainly proved extremely unpopular with the British public who are directing their anger mostly at the Royal Family. 

It’s perhaps fair to argue that not many will refer to Tony Blair as Sir Tony, but he will always be remembered as the war criminal that escaped justice.

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