The family of British hostage Ken Bigley holds Tony Blair responsible for his suffering, says Ken’s brother Paul.
He was speaking to Socialist Worker from his home in Holland on Monday of this week with hopes for Ken’s safe return.
“It is the actions of the family and those who have rallied to our support that give rise to that hope,” said Paul.
“The Foreign Office and Blair did nothing useful.
“While our efforts secured a call from Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat for Ken’s release, all Blair did was phone my brother in Liverpool and my mum.
“He has sent no communique to the hostage takers, nor has he made a direct intervention. Instead we have a total silence. Silence is a death warrant for Ken.”
Paul Bigley’s demands for action from Blair at the start of this week were as logical and urgent as they were easy to fulfil.
“The Al Jazeera TV channel is the PO box of the Middle East—everyone watches it,” said Paul.
“All I asked is for Blair to send a bloody fax to Al Jazeera to establish a dialogue with the captors.
“But the government has boycotted Al Jazeera.”
The channel has been banned in Iraq by the puppet government imposed by the US and Britain.
“So, perhaps Blair wanted to save face by not contacting the channel,” Paul added.
“But what’s saving face compared with saving a life?
“The second thing Blair could have done from the start is pick up the phone to George Bush and tell him to lift the ban on releasing the women prisoners held in Iraq. After all, isn’t there supposed to be a special relationship?
“And lastly, I have called for the government to set a firm date for the withdrawal of British troops from Iraq.
“The government says it will not negotiate with terrorists. But I’m not talking about negotiation. I’m talking about communication.”
The dignity and courage of Paul Bigley and his family shame Blair and his government. While New
Labour “fixers” scrabbled around this week desperately trying to avoid being held to account for the disaster of Iraq. Paul was spending every hour trying to secure his brother’s release.
He said, “It was utterly disgraceful that Peter Hain, a Labour minister, referred to Iraq as a ‘fringe issue’ as he tried to stop discussion on it.”
Paul was able to speak by phone to an anti-war fringe meeting at the Labour Party conference and a Stop the War Coalition meeting in Manchester.
“The only people who have any credibility with the people of the Middle East are the anti-war movement,” he said.
When asked whether people should join protests such as the next anti-war march on 17 October, and make their support for his three demands public, Paul says:
“Absolutely. For Ken’s sake and for the sake of everyone in Iraq I ask you to make your feelings known to our government, to protest and to join the demonstration on 17 October.”
And Michael Berg, whose son Nick was executed in Iraq, told Socialist Worker that Blair can immediately withdraw all British troops from Iraq and join other nations in rejecting George Bush’s war on terror.
“Bush and Blair say the hostage taking means foreign troops should stay in Iraq. But it is that kind of thinking that has led to the loss of over 21,000 lives.
“The people of the Middle East want what we all want—sovereignty, self determination, freedom from abuse.”