Ex-Prime Minister Tony Blair was in a for a rude shock on his recent foray in South East Asia.
….Not this time the applause from admiring Republican US audiences. Rather pointed questions from Malaysiaís distinguished academics and lawyers.
Professor Dzulkifli Abdul Razak, vice-chancellor of Universiti Sains Malaysia was surgical in dismantling the Blair mystique. Writing about Blair’s lecture on the ‘Rule of Law and Good Governance’in Kuala Lumpur (the 22nd Sultan Azlan Shah Law Lecture, 1st August 2008, University of Malaysia) the Professor observed:
“It is quite obvious from casual observation that someone who has been known to have misled others, including the country’s Parliament, has lost the moral authority to preach about the rule of law and good governance. In his lecture, Blair was quoted as saying that the rule of law also meant laws that were clear, could be understood and applicable. One wonders then what ‘basic principles’ Blair had in mind when he gave an almost unconditional support for the unilateral decision to invade Iraq against the wishes of the international community and without the approval of the UN. This war had resulted in hundreds of thousands killed senselessly, including women and children. What about those detained ‘illegally’ against the very basic principles he now advocates?…
Indeed, as late as April 2006, when an eminent British former law lord attacked Guantanamo Bay as ‘a stain on American justice’, Blair reportedly refused to follow suit. According to Lord Steyn, who just retired from Britain’s highest court: ‘While our government condones Guantanamo Bay, the world is perplexed about our approach to the rule of law. You may ask: how will it help in regard to the continuing outrage at Guantanamo Bay for our government now to condemn it. The answer is that it would at last be a powerful signal to the world that Britain supports the international rule of law’.”
With this dubious track record, what can we expect from Blair, who is also currently the Middle East representative for the Quartet, namely the United Nations, United States of America, Russia and European Union?
Another fusilade cutting Blair down to size came from Barrister Roger Tan of the Malaysian Bar Council:
“However, by supporting and participating in the 2003 United States-led invasion and occupation of Iraq, I wonder whether Britain, being the world’s oldest democracy, still possesses moral authority in a comity of nations to lecture on the principle of rule of law…. It is unfortunate that as a permanent member of the Security Council, Britain, then headed by Blair, did not stand up to this flagrant disregard of international law by the Bush administration. Instead, Blair led Britain to join the US in this illegal war. This went against the very foundation in which the UN Charter came into being after World War 2, that is, as stated in its preamble,’to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind’ . Unless one has been bereft of loved ones before, one may not appreciate why parents, widows and orphans shriek and thump their chests crying to high heaven and pleading for justice in agony, misery and sorrow when their innocent children, spouses and parents perish in a war.”
These critical assessments overseas are noteworthy for three reasons. Firstly, they add weight to John Pilger’s recent crie du couer: ‘Catching war criminals is fashionable again. Radovan Karadzic stands in the dock, but Sharon and Olmert, Bush and Blair do not. Why not?’; secondly, propagandist projects such as the FCO’s Engaging with the Islamic World need to realise that Blair’s forays are counterproductive; finally, naive Muslims (or to use Soumaya Ghannoushi’s delicious phrase, ‘the engineered intermediaries’) – whether in the UK or elsewhere – tempted to join the pretentious Blair Interfaith Foundation – think again!
Professor Dzulkfili Abdul Razak, New Strait Times, 9th August 2008
Roger Tan, New Sunday Times, 10th August 2008