Just as the London bombs in the summer of 2005 were Blair’s bombs, the inevitable consequence of his government’s lawless attack on Iraq, so the potential bombs in the summer of 2007 are Brown’s bombs. Gordon Brown, Blair’s successor as prime minister, has been an unerring supporter of the unprovoked bloodbath whose victims now equal those of the Rwandan genocide, according to the American scientist who led the 2006 Johns Hopkins School of Public Health survey of civilian dead in Iraq. While Tony Blair sought to discredit this study, British government scientists secretly praised it as “tried and tested” and an “underestimation of mortality”. The “underestimation” was 655,000 men, women and children. That is now approaching a million. It is the crime of the century.
In his first day’s address outside 10 Downing Street and subsequently to Parliament, Brown paid not even lip service to those who would be alive today had his government – and it was his government as much as Blair’s – not joined Bush in a slaughter justified with demonstrable lies. He said nothing, not a word.
He said nothing about the added thousands of Iraqi children whose deaths from preventable disease have doubled since the invasion, caused by the willful destruction of sanitation and water purification plants. He said nothing about hospital patients who die every day for want of equipment as basic as a syringe. He said nothing about the greatest refugee flight since the Palestinians’ Naqba. He said nothing about his government’s defeat in Afghanistan, and how the British army and its Nato allies are killing civilians, including whole families. Typically, on 29 June, British forces called in air strikes on a village, reportedly bombing to death 45 innocent people – almost as many as the number bombed to death in London in July 2005. Compare the reaction, or rather the silence. They were only Muslims. And Muslims are the world’s most numerous victims of a terrorism whose main sources are Washington, Tel Aviv and London.
And he said nothing about his government’s role in Afghanistan’s restoration as the world’s biggest source of opium, a direct result of the invasion of 2001. Any dealer on the streets of Glasgow will have the stuff, straight from warlords paid off by the CIA and in whose name British soldiers are killing and dying pointlessly. He said nothing about stopping any of this. Not a word. Not a hint.
Do the dead laugh? In the new Prime Minister’s little list of priorities was “extend[ing] the British way of life”.
The paymaster of the greatest British foreign policy disaster of the modern era, Brown could not even speak its name, let alone meet the military families that waited to speak to him. Three British soldiers were killed on his first day.
Has there been anything like the tsunami of unction that has engulfed the departure of Blair and the elevation of Brown? Yes, there has. Think back a decade. Blair, wrote Hugo Young of the Guardian, “wants to create a world none of us has known, where the laws of political gravity are overturned”, one where “ideology has surrendered entirely to ‘values’”. The new chancellor, effused the Observer, would “announce the most radical welfare Budget since the Second World war”.
The “values” were fake and so was the new deal. One media-managed stunt followed another as Brown delighted the stock market and comforted the very rich and celebrated the empire, and ignored the longing of the British electorate for a restoration of public services so badly damaged by Margaret Thatcher. One of the first decisions by Harriet Harman, Blair’s first social security secretary and a declared feminist, was to abolish the single parents’ welfare premium and benefit, in spite of her pledge to the House of Commons that Labour opposed these impoverishing Tory-inspired cuts. Today, Harman is Brown’s deputy party leader and, like all of the “new faces” around the cabinet table with “plans to heal old wounds” (the Guardian), she voted for an invasion that has destroyed the lives of tens of thousands of women.
And when Blair finally left, those MPs who stood and gave him a standing ovation finally certified parliament as a place of minimal consequence to British democracy. The courtiers who reported this disgrace with Richard Dimbleby royal-occasion reverence are flecked with the blood spilled by the second-rate actor and first-rate criminal. They now scramble for the latest police press release. That the profane absurdity of the going of Blair and the silence and compliance of Brown – political twins regardless of their schoolboy spats – may well have provoked the attacks on London and Glasgow is of no interest. While the crime of the century endures, there almost certainly will be others.