“You’ve got to put in prison those who deserve to be there,” said Tony Blair this week—criticising the Tories. Of course he doesn’t believe that those who ram through cuts and attack workers should be locked up.
His fury was reserved for justice secretary Kenneth Clarke’s timid proposals to reduce the prison population.
It takes a particularly warped mind to demand jail for others when you are personally involved in some of the greatest crimes of this century—the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Fresh from presiding over the deaths of more than a million people in concert with George Bush, Blair dared to call for the full force of the law against people involved in a Saturday night brawl.
It was therefore a delight that Blair had to cancel a signing of his new book A Journey in London this week for fear of anti-war protests.
The Stop the War Coalition was right to say this was “a big victory” and a sign that Blair cannot go anywhere in public without being confronted with protests about war crimes.
Blair himself tried to brazen it out. “I have decided not to go ahead with the signing as I don’t want the public to be inconvenienced by the inevitable hassle caused by protesters,” he said.
“I know the Metropolitan Police would, as ever, have done a superb job in managing any disruption but I do not wish to impose an extra strain on police resources, simply for a book signing.”
Displaying his unabashed arrogance, Blair added in a statement, “I’m really sorry for those—as ever the majority—who would have come to have their books signed by me in person. I hope they understand.”
A few days earlier in Dublin Blair got a taste of what he would have got in London. Around 500 protesters met him when he arrived at Easons bookshop on O’Connell Street to sign copies of his memoirs.
Protesters screamed “war criminal” and “arrest the butcher Blair” while throwing shoes, eggs, bottles and placards in the direction of Blair as he made a quick dash into the shop.
Demonstrators scuffled with gardai (police) manning the barriers around the shop. Large sections of the city centre had to be closed down as the authorities struggled to contain the protest. In the scuffles a couple of protesters were arrested for getting past the first line of barriers.
As well as gardai, members of the British secret service MI5 and snipers were on site to protect Blair.
“All this to protect a war criminal from anti-war demonstrators,” writes the SWP in Ireland.
Kate O’Sullivan, a Palestine solidarity activist from Cork, got to Blair and attempted to perform a citizen’s arrest. She was tackled by five security guards and ejected from the store.
As Socialist Worker went to press, protesters were preparing to disrupt a party at the Tate Modern to “celebrate” Blair’s book.
The emptiness of US claims that it had ended its war in Iraq were shown on Sunday when US troops helped repel an attack on a military headquarters in Baghdad. This was just five days after the US formally “ended combat operations in Iraq”. A US military spokesperson also said the Iraqi military asked for support from helicopters, drones and explosives experts.
The Stop the War Coalition planned a protest outside the House of Commons on Wednesday this week as parliament prepared to debate Afghanistan.
The latest poll shows that only 7 percent in Britain think the Taliban can be defeated and 72 percent believe the troops should come home. Paul Flynn MP said, “At the moment parliament is not doing its job. The majority of the public would like to see the troops home before Christmas, and Parliament is not reflecting that. The government and all the main politicians are in denial on this. They are divorced from reality.”
For full report and video of Dublin protest, go to www.swp.ie
Afghanistan: Time to Go: national demonstration
Saturday 20 November, 12 noon, central London. Called by Stop the War Coalition, CND, British Muslim Initiative.
For details go to www.stopwar.org.uk