The title card for Galloway's proposed documentary, from his Kickstarter page.
An old journalist – the kind people refer to as a "veteran" – once told me about a conversation he’d had with Tony Blair at a party. It was towards the end of Blair’s reign and the journalist had asked him about Iraq. “Well, you don’t understand,” Blair said. “The thing about Saddam was that he was evil.” “What do you mean?” the journalist asked. “He was evil,” Blair repeated, his face frozen into the ice sculpture of empty earnestness you'll recognise from any post-invasion press conference.
Blair was – and still is – a man who believes in good and evil. Who believes that there are people – people like him – who should be allowed to decide what is right in the world, and that there are people unlike him – usually non-Western people – who should not be allowed to have a say in those matters.
For all those now lined up to attack Blair's simplistic way of thinking, there is another man out there who has a similar belief in a black and white world without shades of grey – a world of "good and evil". Namely self-styled people’s hero, MP and dog-hating talk radio host George Galloway. Now, Galloway is raising money through the crowd-funding site Kickstarter to make what he says will be "the definitive documentary of the Blair years". Unfortunately for Tony, what he sees as good, Galloway tends to see as evil. What he sees as white, Galloway tends to see as black. Blair seems to thirst for liberal military intervention, while Galloway despises it. Galloway's film is not going to be a eulogy.
Its title might be a little misleading; don't donate hoping that The Killing of Tony Blair will climax in Galloway bludgeoning the Cheshire cat of British politics to death with a cudgel. The film's name refers to the various “killings” its director believes Blair to be guilty of: the killing of the Labour Party, the killing of “a million people” in Iraq and elsewhere, and the “killing” he’s making as a gun-for-hire in the corporate world now that he’s vacated Number 10. Ultimately, Galloway intends to use the film to build up a groundswell of Blair-hate that will see the ex-PM wash up in the dock at The Hague and put on trial as a war criminal.
What Galloway continually fails to notice, though, is that he and Blair are much more similar than he'd like to think. Their belief in themselves as "white saviours" for the Muslim world, their refusal to see the other side of the argument and their love of power make them two peas in a very shitty pod.
Photo by Henry Langston.
The people of the internet have already thrown more than the initial target of £50,000 into Galloway's jar. The buzz isn't surprising, given the fact that Iraq is back on everyone's minds following David Cameron’s failure to get Parliament excited about British military intervention in Syria. It seems impossible to consider the Syrian situation without referring back to what happened in 2003. Would Syria be another Iraq, we wonder? Are we reluctant to go into Syria because of what happened in Iraq? Will Tony Blair ever stop telling the world that self-righteous liberal intervention is the only way forward?
There’s no doubt where Galloway sits on this. To him, Blair is a war criminal and should be marched off to the International Criminal Court (ICC). For over a thousand backers of his film, Galloway seems to remain a bastion of the anti-war movement – this in spite of, to name just a few things, his belittling of the rape charges brought against Julian Assange, his party’s dismissal of gay rights, his appearance on Big Brother and his support, until very recently, of Bashar al-Assad. These things don’t necessarily invalidate his anti-war stance, but they do make it harder to take him seriously as the leader of a crusade against Blair, however grotesque Blair might be.
If the worst that can be said about Galloway is that he’s an opportunist and a hypocritical dickhead, that’s nothing compared to Blair. "War criminal" is an odd term, the assignation of which seems to depend on the result of military interference rather than the act of interfering itself. In much of the former Yugoslavia, Blair remains a hero for pushing for intervention. He is still, for the most part, fondly remembered in Sierra Leone, where the arrival of British troops in the year 2000 helped bring about the end of a long civil war. In Iraq, he must surely be hated, yet here he is – unbelievably – acting as a Middle East peace envoy when he was one of the key players in bringing a whole load of very destructive war to the region.
George Galloway. (Photo via)
Blair still occupies these planet-striding positions of power because he's utterly possessed by two things: God and money. He has the religious zeal of a missionary going into foreign territory to “make things better” and the corporate lust of the prospector set on plundering foreign oil reserves. He is a 19th century missionary and diamond miner rolled into one, his activity since leaving office – crawling across the globe, picking up cheques from whoever will hand them out – bearing an almost unbelievable testament to his love of power and cash.
Galloway, like Blair, is a zealot, but his religion is that of global conspiracies. He is not so much anti-war as he is anti-Blair and anti-Blair affiliates, which often places him on the side of even more unpleasant figures like Putin and Assad. Both Blair and Galloway see the Muslim world as something exotic, as either a terrifying land of chaos that needs to be kept in check (Blair) or just a really cool place with merits that need to be unthinkingly promoted (Galloway). Neither sees ambiguity and both view themselves as the shining, obvious answer to a question that is infinitely more complex than they'll admit.
Galloway’s belief in the ICC and The Hague is interesting, too. It's a court that imposes a rather Blair-friendly view of justice on the world. Blair probably should be sitting in a dock somewhere, but Galloway’s dream of that dock being at the ICC is laughable because it shows him yearning for approval from the kind of organisation that will never put a Western leader on trial. Galloway, though, wants to seem impressive; he wants a Blair-level crusade, the international justice equivalent of an Iraq or a Kosovo.
So, obviously, he can’t just make a film forensically detailing Blair’s many crimes – a film that probably does need to be made. That's not enough for Galloway – he has to try to get Blair sent to The Fucking Hague. It’s the kind of ambition Blair would approve of, just as I’m sure he’d not condemn Galloway for his attempts to make money from the film.
Galloway talking about the plans for his documentary.
The problem is that Blair will never be tried in The Hague because if you try Blair, you try Bush and then you try Obama for drone attacks. You can’t stop there, either; you then have to go after Assad and Putin (Chechnya, Georgia) and all those peasant-shooting landgrabbers in Israel. Oh, and Somalia, because there’s bound to be some war criminals there. And you’ve got to have a pop at the last old Falangists in Spain – those who have had streets named after them, who executed thousands of people and put thousands more in forced labour camps. Perhaps Galloway will make a film about them? There’s a lot of crusade potential out there in the world. There's an awful lot of evil.
The difficult truth for Galloway is that both he and Blair have played the game of the “white saviour” throughout their careers. Blair won, so he ended up pulling in millions a year and introducing big Western companies to shady foreign regimes with a bunch of natural resources in their back yard. Galloway lost, so he ended up trying to make money by going after Blair.
I’d love to see the former prime minister answer properly for what he did and continues to do, but a man with as little moral and intellectual authority as George Galloway is never going to make that happen. Plus, he can’t speak for the people of Iraq in the same way that David Cameron can’t speak for the people of Syria and Tony Blair can’t speak for the whole of the goddamn world. In the end, Galloway is just a less successful Blair, telling the world that he’s right and that he will bring justice to all. He’s just another middle-aged white man who got a taste of power and couldn’t give it up. The difference is, Blair’s pulling down millions a year and Galloway’s scrabbling around for cash on the internet like a C-list indie band who last had an NME cover in 2007.
Follow Oscar on Twitter: @oscarrickettnow
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