Tony Blair – Sierra Leone – Charles Taylor. Where’s the Guardian’s Alex Renton’s follow-up?

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30th April 2012

Pre -addendum (if there’s such a thing: Hat tip to my tweeting friend Citizen Sane, even if the Guardian editorial url he sent me was the day after the one I used ;0).  His link was an index pointing to Thursday’s editorial. Mine was direct. As the good citizen says – “They always put opinion pieces & leaders online the night before. But this was printed in Friday’s physical edition.” Pedants united.

WE WON THE WAR

This is a follow-on to my previous post “As Charles Taylor is convicted, Tony Blair says he is proud of Britain’s role in Sierra Leone”

There I called out our broadcasters BBC & SkyNews  for their great forgetfulness.  It’s arguable that this was not the time in their reports of the Taylor conviction to refer to the month-long Operation Palliser (May/June 2001).  Or to its precursor the September 2010 rescue mission Operation Barras. Clearly, given the omission to even hint at these they were not about to praise Tony Blair or even General David Richards for actually ending Sierra Leone’s 11 year civil war.

Rule Number 1 for our media: Never praise any action which hints at interventionism if Tony Blair’s name is attached.

It’s on a different scale but this approach is like the British press discussing the Nuremberg trials without mentioning Winston Churchill’s WW2 victory. (Btw, you might be interested in what Churchill thought should be done with Nazis, post-war. (Jump here, just so you know)

Today it’s the Guardian’s turn for a touch of my what’s-it-all-aboutery.

This was Alex Renton at The Guardian/Observer, April 2010

“Sierra Leone: one place where Tony Blair remains an unquestioned hero” Sub-heading: “A decade after its civil war, Sierra Leone is still desperately poor but is grateful for Britain’s intervention and the foreign investment gradually rebuilding the nation.”

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Compare that with the Guardian “Editorial” of  last Thursday, 26th April 2012 as the former Liberian President Charles Taylor was convicted:

“Charles Taylor: long march of international justice – Sub-heading “There is still a long way to go before the goal of ending impunity for crimes against humanity has been reached”

Hardly the sub-heading one might expect if one was mainly writing about the verdict on Taylor and/or the reasons for that verdict.  Both heading and sub-heading clearly insufficient if one hardly mentions the crimes of Taylor and/or who or what put a stop to them. Or am I being …

PARANOID?

Forgive me if I don my suspicious, alternative-agenda querying hat. Someone at twitter suggested I was being paranoid the other day. Well, as they say ‘just because you’re paranoid it doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you’.

True, the editorial at The Guardian did mention other African leaders and it did not hint at western leaders to be tried per se (only their generals!) Excerpt:

“Like Liberia or Sierra Leone, the justice system is dysfunctional (in cases of this importance) in Russia too, but it is a safe bet that no Russian leader will ever appear before an international court of justice for war crimes committed in Chechnya. The same is true of China and Tibet, or US or British generals for war crimes committed in Iraq and Afghanistan. Might, or a seat on the UN security council, still appears to be right. If the arm of international law is long, it is also selective. So the charge that the international courts are largely confined to Africa, sticks. If impunity is to end, jurisdiction has to be universal.”

INTERVENTIONISM BY ANY OTHER NAME

Peddling the same old same old moral equivalence the Guardian managed in its recent editorial to feed the germ of anti-west action particularly when it is “interventionism”. To the average Guardianisto intervention is never for any other reason than west-serving power, cosying up to big global business, subjugation of the masses, neo-colonialism; it is clearly never altruistic and most definitely NOT EVER to spread liberal democracy.

Putting aside paranoia for a moment, you may observe, if you are observant, that in this whole Guardian “editorial” there was no mention of our former Prime Minister or of Britain’s actions in Sierra Leone in 2000/1 .  That omission despite the fact that it is generally accepted and understood that only after the Blair government & its armed forces managed to stop the limb-chopping rebels did the war come to an end. Few doubt that without Blair agreeing to General David Richards belief that he could extend his ‘rescue Brits mission’ to defeating the rebels and saving Sierra Leoneans, those Charles Taylor-funded rebels would have gone on to kill and maim many thousands more. Compare our press telling of this tale to that of the USA where they make movies such as “Blood Diamonds” and even claim credit when it isn’t truly theirs.

I have to assume that Alex Renton wasn’t around when they needed this “editorial”.

HISTORICAL GUARDIAN BIAS AGAINST INTERVENTIONISM & TONY BLAIR

As we know the Guardian has form on vilifying Tony Blair, even when he gets intervention unquestionably right. For instance in November 2001 “Blair’s good guys in Sierra Leone”,  subtitled – “British intervention has yet to transform a failed war on terror”

The reason for that article? In the aftermath of 9/11 and with the Afghanistan war barely a month old, the Guardian needed to provide any reason it could to show why the Afghanistan operation was a bad idea and of course to try to stop further interventions. So it shamefully poured cold water on the renowned success of Blair’s Sierra Leone intervention.

In this 2001 article David Keen says –

“But hailing the British intervention [Sierra Leone] as a success is extremely premature. Even before September 11, the commitment of British troops was being scaled down amid growing commitments in Macedonia. Britain’s portrayal of the conflict as a struggle between good and evil has served as an excuse for continuing corruption and the neglect of rural grievances. Most worrying, many of those who perpetrated some of the worst abuses against civilians, including junta leaders such as Johnny Paul Koroma, have now been absorbed into the army, which has been re-equipped by the British. Such moral ambiguities put one in mind of the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan.

September 11, we are told, demands a new kind of war against a highly elusive enemy. But terror and elusive enemies were not invented on that day. Around the world, proliferating weapons and deep-seated anger are fuelling conflicts that cannot be adequately understood, or combated, as the struggle between two teams, let alone between good and evil. Ultimately, whether in Africa’s neglected conflicts or in the higher-profile attacks of September 11, the only defence will be to defuse the underlying anger.”

BECAUSE WE’RE BRITISH, CHAPS

Why will Charles Taylor likely be jailed in Britain some are asking. Answer: because we’re British, don’t you know! And we do the right thing, as we jolly well ought since clearly Johnny Foreigner can’t be expected to. This last sentence is in fact my intentional snipe at our submission on the ongoing Abu Qatada case. Even normal human beings, like Blairites for instance, seem to have little doubt that we Brits must always and invariably do as the EHCR overrules ur – sorry – directs us,  regardless of how stupid & gullible we look.

My good friend John Rentoul said here“We’re British, which means Abu Qatada should stay” Why? Because, it seems – “We have more respect here for ‘innocent until proved guilty’… British law is more respectful of the principle of innocent until proved guilty – with guilt not proven until appeals are exhausted. There is something to be said for that.”

Well maybe. But as John Rentoul and I know ‘innocent until proven guilty’ only applies to anyone whose name is not Tony Blair. THAT pre-judgement by so-called  ‘public opinion’ is the very reason I have my doubts about the “because we’re British” argument.

But just as I want Abu Qatada out,  I’m all for keeping Charles Taylor locked up here in Britain. That way he is not likely to find himself missing a limb like the innocent Sierra Leonean child below. And it may remind us why he was convicted in the first place. Not to mention why we should thank Tony Blair. All three reasons – because we’re British.

CHURCHILL’S WISH FOR RE NAZIS “RESPONSIBLE” (source)

During the Moscow Conference in November 1943, representatives vowed that there would be punishment of the major war criminals. At the Yalta Conference (also known as the Crimea Conference), in February 1945, representatives of Great Britain, the United States, and the Soviet Union maintained that it was their purpose to destroy German militarism and Nazism and to insure that Germany would never again be able to disturb the peace of the world. Yet there was no definitive action taken as to how this would be implemented.

How Should those Responsible be Punished?
There were varying responses from world leaders:

  • Sir Winston Churchill, Prime Minister of Great Britain during the war, felt strongly that the top Nazis should be immediately executed with no trials. He feared that a long drawn out judicial process might only bring attention and possible sympathy for the Nazi leadership.
  • Joseph Stalin preferred show trials such as those conducted during the Great Purge of the 1930s.
  • President Franklin Roosevelt Initially, Roosevelt was inclined to follow Churchill’s ideas of summary justice but he eventually agreed with key advisers in his administration that emphasized the need for a judicial process and outlined how such a proceeding could be organized in an International Military Tribunal. Roosevelt and his successor, Harry S. Truman, insisted that the rule of law be observed with trials that provided for counsel for the defense as well as ample opportunity for the prosecution to present the evidence. [source]

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RELATED

  • Independent – William Hague welcomes Taylor ruling
  • Day of reckoning – Judges at the Special Court for Sierra Leone said Taylor played a crucial role in allowing the rebels to continue a bloody rampage during that west African nation’s 11-year civil war, which ended in 2002 with more than 50,000 dead
  • In Dec 2010 The Guardian published Tony Blair’s article on why poverty matters, with reference to Sierra Leone
  • Following the Charles Taylor verdict Tony Blair reflects on how far Sierra Leone has come

EARLIER POSTS ON SIERRA LEONE

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As Charles Taylor is convicted, Tony Blair says he is proud of Britain’s role in Sierra Leone

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27th April 2012

Tony Blair ‘proud’ of UK role in Sierra Leone

I was away much of the day yesterday but I caught some of the BBC24 news and SkyNews on the verdict on former Liberian President Charles Taylor. I was dismayed that – unless I missed it – there was no mention of Tony Blair’s much-lauded and even more appreciated intervention in Sierra Leone. The almost accidental intervention which, more than anything else, led to the ending of that rebel-led war.

I have to say that BBCNews & SkyNews seldom fails to disappoint. They never let public expectations of fair, balanced, comprehensive reporting get out of synch with their own agendas.

However, thank you to Mark Austin at ITVNews.  He interviewed Mr Blair. Entire report follows, including transcript of his interview.

Tony Blair has told ITV News that he is proud of Britain’s intervention in Sierra Leone and that he sees it as one factor in helping the country to get back on its feet.

Speaking ahead of today’s momentous verdict on Charles Taylor, he said that the trial process will help the people of Sierra Leone to “draw a line under their past”.

He told ITV News’ Mark Austin that he has vivid memories of seeing child amputees on his visits to Sierra Leone, and he said there was a “very powerful humanitarian reason” for British aid going to the country.

Commando Marines board a Seaking aircraft to be airlifted into Freetown, Sierra Leone, May 2000 Credit: REUTERS/Stringer .

He also said he still believes that the decision to send British forces to intervene in the civil war was the right decisions, because Sierra Leone’s fledgling democracy was at risk from “a group of murderous thugs and gangsters”.

Initially, 1,000 British soldiers were sent in May 2000 to help with the evacuation of foreign nationals, but their role evolved into providing logistical support for the UN forces and training to the Government forces.

UK troops also assisted in capturing the rebel leader, Foday Sankoh, and helped to form a military strategy which eventually forced the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) to retreat from Freetown.

It was done brilliantly by the British armed forces and really within a pretty short space of time, a relatively small force was able to subdue the rebels and produce some order and everything that has flown for Sierra Leone since then has come from that intervention.

[Click to go to ITV report to see short interview clip]

Read the full transcript of the interview below:

  • How important do you think the trial process has been for Sierra Leone?

It is really important for Sierra Leone to have had the trial process because what people have got to understand is they engaged in this attempt to damage democracy and kill and harm people. In the course of that then, there is going to be a comeback, there’s going to be a moment of accountability. So I think it is very important for people in Sierra Leone, even though primarily they are focused on their future and all the challenges they have, to draw a line under their past.

  • Originally the plan was to get British citizens and foreigners out – an evacuation. At what stage did it become a more robust intervention?

We could see a country for whom in days gone by we’d been responsible which was a democracy that was just starting to get on its feet. Basically going to be taken over by a group of gangsters who were going to exploit its resources, kill a large number of its people. So my military belief that they at the time they could do the operation and I was willing for them to do it, that if they felt we could do it that we should do it. And it was done brilliantly by the British armed forces and really within a pretty short space of time, a relatively small force was able to subdue the rebels and produce some order and everything that has flown for Sierra Leone since then has come from that intervention.

A chinook takes off as British soldiers wait on a van near the UN headquarters on the outskirts of Freetown, Sierra Leone, May 2000 Credit: REUTERS/Dylan Martinez
  • What sort of progress has Sierra Leone made in the 10 years or so since peace broke out?

Sierra Leone has made enormous progress, I mean look, if you are there you are still looking at poverty, the need for jobs, the development issues which are colossal. All of those challenges are there but remember this was a country that as in a way expressed by the film Blood Diamond was a by-word for civil war, anarchy and misery. It is now on its feet, able to hold and have proper democratic elections. It actually now has gone up the league in terms of big reductions in child mortality and maternal mortality. You’ve got the basis for the infrastructure now happening in the country and the future of Sierra Leone is potentially very bright today. So the challenges are manifest but I would be optimistic not pessimistic about the future.

  • Thousands of people were killed during the civil war, many children were mutilated. Do you regret not getting involved earlier?

I think we got involved realistically as soon as we could because it had to be apparent that everything else had failed otherwise it would be very hard to justify it. I will never forget going to Sierra Leone shortly after the intervention took place and seeing many of the children and the citizens with their right arms cut off where the rebels, the gangster group had essentially in order to deter them from voting because people used to raise their right arm to say they want the right to vote and they would cut it off in order to say you’re not having it. And when you see something as gruesome and graphic as that you realise how important it is in these circumstance that somebody somewhere was prepared to go and stand-by them.

A British soldier on guard at Lungi Airport in Sierra Leone Credit: MoD
  • Britain has spent probably hundreds of millions of pounds on Sierra Leone in terms of aid. Do you think it is right that a country like Sierra Leone gets that kind of aid?

These are things that we should do because there is humanitarian justification and for example the fact that the UK along with other development partners and with the government now functioning there has cut child mortality roughly in half. I mean that is thousands of lives every year saved. I think that is a very powerful humanitarian reason for it. I also happen to think that the 21st century is going to see an Africa on the move and this is a great investment for us, for our future. These are all countries in this part of Africa who will be great partners for us, will provide us and help us with jobs for our economy and the future.

  • Sierra Leone is still a country of 70% poverty. One in four children don’t even reach the age of five. It is still real a mess.

It is one of the poorest countries in the world. Actually the figure is no longer one in 4, it is more like 1 in 7 or 1 in 8. That is massively too high but shows what can be done and that was partly done with help from British aid. Also, their economy has moved, infrastructure has been built. The lights are on in Freetown for first time in many years. Things are happening. They are always going to happen too slowly. Sierra Leone today is a country with a future. Whereas if you go back 10 or 15 years or so the future looked bleak or non existent.

  • Are you proud of the intervention?

I think Britain as a whole can be immensely proud of what it has done for Sierra Leone and what it is doing. It is not often you get a situation in which the clarity is so obvious. Either you intervened or this country’s democracy was given over to a murderous group of thugs and gangsters. The intervention was successful, The country has been struggling, it is still struggling but it is on its feet and is able to move forward which is a great thing.

  • You are very popular there, probably more so than here. Do you enjoy that popularity?

It is always nice to be popular somewhere. Frankly, I think this was something I remember at the time was in one sense a very difficult decision to make in another was was other was an instantaneous decision. We could help, we did help we should regret helping people in these circumstances. I think it is not so much me being popular. Britain who used to me known on the continent as a colonial ruler, it is a mixed legacy in many ways for obvious reasons. Now I think people do see us as a partner. By the way that in the end will be a very good thing for us too.

  • Do you think what happened in Kosovo and Sierra Leone emboldened you to move over to Iraq and Afghanistan or were they different things?

They were very different. Except in this sense, Iraq and Afghanistan were very different interventions in very different circumstances but one thing is the same in all of them which is that you had people living under the most brutal oppression and circumstances of deprivation really and I don’t think we should ever feel bad about liberating people from that situation. The circumstances in Iraq and Afghanistan are just so much bigger and there are so many other factors but in Kosovo and Sierra Leone I think we did demonstrate how if you do intervene you can give people a much better future. And if you don’t by the way as we learned in the early 90s in the Balkans when we didn’t then that is also a decision with consequences in which many people die.

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From AGI –  Following the Charles Taylor verdict Tony Blair reflects on how far Sierra Leone has come

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Reminder. Hayman Island, 1995: ‘Blair’s New Left warning to Murdoch’

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25th April 2012

Guardian excerpt: ‘TONY BLAIR warned the high command of Rupert Murdoch’s media empire last night that the Thatcherite free-market policies they espoused in the 1980s had failed to provide the social and economic stability needed to manage the technological revolution they unleashed […] he made no discernible concessions to the Murdoch world view…’

Raised at Rupert Murdoch’s evidence session this morning at the Leveson Inquiry (which ended early today), it might be worth a reminder of Tony Blair’s Hayman Island speech in 1995 when he was in his first year as Labour party leader and two years away from his party’s first (1997) election win.

Copied below is the Guardian’s report from 1995. You may find it an interesting read. I have emboldened sections which stood out for me.

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BLAIR’S NEW LEFT WARNING TO MURDOCH

BYLINE: Michael White And Christopher Zinn

SECTION: THE GUARDIAN HOME PAGE; Pg. 3

TONY BLAIR warned the high command of Rupert Murdoch’s media empire last night that the Thatcherite free-market policies they espoused in the 1980s had failed to provide the social and economic stability needed to manage the technological revolution they unleashed.

In a bold pitch for the new Labour Party he is shaping, Mr Blair used the controversial platform provided by Mr Murdoch’s invitation to Australia to admit the failures of “the Old Left” – “rigid economic planning and state controls” – and to denounce the divisive legacy of the New Right.

Addressing News International’s senior executives at the exclusive Queensland resort of Hayman Island, he made no discernible concessions to the Murdoch world view other than to suggest that, in her assaults on vested interests, “Lady Thatcher was a radical, not a Tory”.

It is a view the avowedly anti-establishment tycoon purports to share. But Mr Blair, whose aides were presenting the speech as one of his most ambitious yet, insisted “the claim that New Left is just a fancy way of saying Tory is false. The left-of-centre will act to organise and prepare a country for change.

“The choice is not between resisting change and letting it happen; nor between the state trying to run industry and some crude version of laissez faire liberalism.”

Faced with “revolutionary change” – alongside the collapse of many traditional certainties about family, community and religion – the central question of modern democratic politics was how best to provide economic security and social stability within rules “accepted by society as a whole – and enforced”. He also defended Labour’s wary pro-Europeanism against the “insular nationalism” which papers like the Sun have promoted.

In a telling paraphrase of Bill Clinton’s campaign team slogan, he added: “It’s not just the economy, stupid. The task is to combine the preparation of a nation for economic change with the re -establishment of social order” – an immense task where the moral challenge would be as great as the economic one.

Many people who voted Tory in the 1980s were anti-Establishment and “saw part of the left as well as the right running that Establishment”. With a swipe at Oxbridge, the law, outdated parliamentary practice and a divided education system – of all of which he is a product – he complained that many Thatcherites had not wanted to bust, but to “buy out” the old regime.

He added: “The era of the grand ideologies, all encompassing, all pervasive, total in their solutions – and often dangerous – is over. In particular, the battle between market and public sector is over.”

Mr Blair who has been criticised for accepting Mr Murdoch’s invitation and offer of a free return flight, told reporters in Sydney: “We’re not here to flirt with anyone, we’re simply putting our case.

“It’s an important opportunity to address a very large news organisation and put the Labour Party’s case and the case of the left-of-centre the world over.” Before 200 Murdoch staff at the tropical hideaway he also conceded that Labour’s relations with News International’s papers have been poor in the past. “There have been changes on both sides. The past is behind us.”

Unhappiness about the direction of New Labour surfaced again yesterday in reports that key shadow ministers, like Robin Cook and David Blunkett, have attended meetings at the Commons of a group called What’s Left. All they were doing, they said last night, was explaining party policy to sceptics.

A Guardian report that Peter Mandelson MP is chairing a new policy revision group was explained. He was merely there to help “write sections of speeches and background papers for the party leader”. But, given the pace of change in Mr Blair’s first year, tensions are hardly surprising. He told the Murdoch conference that by “by the next election over half our members will have joined since the last election. It is literally a new party.”

His visit has received extensive publicity. Mr Blair said the government of Australia’s Labour Prime Minister, Paul Keating, had managed to ally economic sense and progress with strong social values.

“That combination of a fair society and a prosperous economy is one that’s devoutly to be wished by any, sensible, modern left-of-centre party.”

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Addendum: I notice that John Rentoul, my good friend, ally & member of WHF (‘we few, we happy few’) has also blogged on this under the headline – “Which Labour leader stood up to Murdoch?”

Ever keen to educate the biased & ignorant (my words, not his) John Rentoul has provided access to anyone to his extensive database. That means there is NO excuse whatsover for the information-hungry world and the rest of the press (!) to fail to refer to this in their attempts to “report” on what Mr Blair’s standing ovation (Rupert Murdoch’s words today) in Hayman Islands, were all about. 

JR:

“Partly, this is because Blair’s speech was given on the cusp of the new internet world, and no text of the speech or report of it is Googlable. Fortunately, as an archivist of Blair studies, I have a copy of the speech (which I have put on Google Docs as 14 single-page pdfs, because I don’t know how to do anything more user-friendly*) and, as a journalist, I have a subscription to a news database from which I have retrieved this Guardian report of the speech

[…]

*The last four pages (scans 0012-0015) are the most interesting.”

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Independent: Leveson Inquiry: Tony Blair impressed me, says Rupert Murdochl

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Tony Blair in the Land of The Free

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25th April 2012

I’ve been meaning to get this mainly pictorial post up for the last day or two. But I got a little tied up on Tuesday with the rest of the gang down at Twitterland.

What with James Murdoch at the Leveson Inquiry doing a job that surely made his Dad proud, while throwing the press (off the scent with) a nice piece of fresh meat for them to get their teeth into. But enough about Jeremy Hunt, the Culture Secretary to whom, as serendipity would have it, Leveson will eventually report its findings.

I think we’re in need of a political super-starry kind of smile, don’t you? Just to strengthen our resolve before 10:00am when Chief Big Daddy Mogul Rupert Murdoch gets sworn in and selects another delicacy or several to chuck at the slavering feral beasties.  So, a propos nothing in particular …

Back To The Land of The Free, Home Of The Brave

No, dear ones, not here in Britain. Our former PM has been in the USA.

While here at home the Labour party, Liberal Democrats and the strategically challenged Conservatives struggle to work out what exactly they’re for and what leadership is supposed to look and behave like, Tony Blair commands full houses on the other side of the pond.

A few pictures follow from his various events last week –

Florida - Tony Blair talks to a full house on world affairs

Picture above with thanks to @AlexSanz on Twitter And See source article here – C5 exclusive

Mr Blair’s speech on Philanthropy raised an eyebrow or two.  As though Mr No Strategy Cameron hadn’t already boobed with his plans to tax charities, here was his political hero reminding him.

Tony Blair wrote here on one of the main planks of last week’s talks, Philanthropy. Speaking at the Global Philanthropy Forum in Washington, DC he made the case for the value of innovative philanthropy.

“Former PM and current philanthropist Tony Blair #gpf2012 ” – Source & larger Instagram with thanks to Salexish

Tony Blair at World Leaders Conference, Palm Beach Atlantic University

Michael Nutter says it was a "great honor to welcome former British Prime Minister Tony Blair back to Philly"

Source – Michael A Nutter picture (above)

Pics above & below, source – Palm Beach Post

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Tony Blair on Philanthropy

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20th April 2012

Catch-up time on a busy week for Tony Blair on the other side of the pond, including this –

If the Mail, Guardian, Independent, BBC & the rest haven't told you of this award for our great former PM, well... what do you expect? The truth?

Keynote speech: Tony Blair outlines his philanthropic vision

Monday, Apr 16, 2012 in Office of Tony Blair, Africa Governance Initiative

Tony Blair speaking at the Global Philanthropy Forum in Washington, DC made the case for the value of innovative philanthropy. You can read the full transcript of his speech below.

Video of speech & questions, & transcript of speech

A consequential risk of the continuing travails of the global economy, is that in concentrating on our own challenges, we lose the appetite to help others. What we may call the global social contract – a sense of responsibility on the part of the better off to help the worst off – comes under strain. For my 10 years as UK Prime Minister, this social contract was growing. But that was in different economic times. Now the pre-occupation is bound to be internal. So a debate about how we re-shape and re-invigorate this global social contract now – and the role of philanthropy in doing so – is timely. This is absolutely the right moment for government to do all it can to promote philanthropy; and certainly nothing to harm it.

The laziest sentiment in politics – by which I mean not politics in its partisan sense but the broader polity of society – is cynicism. The party political debate may, at times, give us much to be cynical about, though it is an essential part of vibrant democracy. But in larger terms, the history of the past half century should give us cause for celebration as well as concern. Many more people live in freedom, many fewer live in poverty.

Change for the better does happen. Progress is alive. Change happens through committed people. It happens best when motivated by a desire to improve the lives of others; when that desire is accompanied by a strategy for change not just a vision of it; when it is creative; and when it challenges rather than accommodates the status quo.

Change can happen through committed people in Government and some change can only happen through Government. When I think, in my own 10 years in office, of reforms in health, education, law and order; advances in civil rights; peace in Northern Ireland – these changes required the power of Government.

However, 10 years taught me something else; the limitations of Government. This is where desire and strategy get blocked by the politics of vested interests; by bureaucracy; by the innate tendency to inertia of a system designed to manage the world not change it.

Government in this guise, loves process. It rewards caution. It disdains risk and distrusts creativity. It thinks in a linear way and challenges that don’t fit neat Government definitions or which stretch across boundaries, disappear into the machinery never to re-emerge and certainly not as solutions.

When acute crisis threatens, Government can act with speed. But otherwise it ponders endlessly and then proceeds at a glacial pace.

It is into this space – not as a substitute but as a complement to conventional Government and politics – that the philanthropic sector has marched. Today its contribution is vast. In the USA it dwarfs, say, Government spending on overseas aid. It is why imaginative leaders like Raj Shah, new head of USAID, want to work with it not apart from it.

It is why when I left office, shorn of power, I decided to exercise influence instead, by joining it.

As well as my responsibility as Quartet Representative for the MEPP, centred in Jerusalem, I created three new philanthropic organisations. I have a Sports Foundation in the North East of England which encourages grass roots sport and reflects my belief that sport is an essential not optional element of modern education. The two global Foundations are the Africa Governance Initiative; and the Tony Blair Faith Foundation. Both reflect lessons I learned in Government but in respect of which I found traditional ways of Government inadequate. Both relate directly to the new social contract that is the theme of this year’s Forum. Both have taught me a lot about global philanthropy and its opportunities.

The Africa Governance Initiative is based on this idea: that the problems of Africa cannot be solved by aid alone. The fundamental challenge today is not simply external flows of money; but internal systems of Governance. What’s more, this is not just about honesty in Government, vital thought that is, it is also about efficacy. The biggest challenge for many Governments – by the way, elsewhere as well as in Africa – is getting things done; delivery; deciding priorities, creating mechanisms for achieving them and tracking the performance until the objective is actually achieved. This is true even for sophisticated systems of Government like our own. It is true in abundance for those of emerging countries. I see too often leaders take power. They have the will and vision. They may be completely honest and abhor corruption. But once in power, they find the levers of effective implementation are missing; they get overwhelmed by the pressures of the job, events for which they are unprepared; and a bureaucracy that can often be a major part of the problem not the solution. They usually have a stack of well-written reports from international institutions telling them what they should do; but no-one helping them with how they do it. And it is the ‘how’ not the ‘what’ that is the issue.

So my Africa Governance Initiative –now in 6 African nations – puts teams of people; all of whom have hands-on experience of ‘doing it’, whether in Government of the private sector; into the country to work alongside the country’s leaders to build the necessary capacity and transfer skills: to decide priorities; develop plans of action; build the infrastructure of implementation; and track performance. The results in areas as diverse as healthcare, encouragement of private sector investment and even in seemingly small but in truth crucial areas like the organisation of the President’s time and private office, are transformative.

But the concept at the heart of it, is very different from the traditional donor-recipient relationship of Government aid. It is live-in technical help, not fly-in fly out consultancy. It helps deliver the country’s priorities not ours. It includes, through my interaction with the leaders, the politics as well as the technical theory. It works to bring in quality private sector investment, not regard it as an enemy. If focuses as much on the rule of law as on small scale community projects. Above all, it is based on partnership not dependence. In this sense, it absolutely fits the notion of a new social contract. It implies a maturing of the relationship between wealthy and emerging nations; and the role of philanthropy and the private sector in helping those nations to help themselves. So the value lies not just in the work AGI does, but in the approach it symbolises.

Likewise with my Faith Foundation. Again this idea was formed during my time in Government. Even before 9/11 and certainly since then, I could see that the use of hard power and even the use of traditional systems of soft power were inadequate to deal with a strain of fundamentalist ideology that was religious in nature. I started to understand that however much we flinched from acknowledging it, the extremism was not based simply on a set of political aims; it was based on a profound distortion of Faith. I began to analyse conflict in the world and found the majority had a religious or cultural element. I became convinced that we could not confront the extremism unless we were prepared to engage with religion as religion, not as a derivative of politics.

I could also see that driven by the unstoppable force of globalisation – in person through migration, online through the internet – it is in the nature of today’s world that people of different cultures and faiths will mix together, live together and work together as never before. Therefore understanding the faith of the other, learning about it and learning to live with it in peace becomes a central objective of a policy to secure peace. In this way, a new part of a new social contract, is respect for difference, for diversity, for the minority’s rights as well as the majority’s power.

In the years since 9/11 and again following the Arab Revolutions around the Middle East and North Africa, my conviction as to the importance of this has grown. What’s more, though those peddling a poisonous and exclusivist view of religion, which sees those who have a different faith as the enemy, are immensely well organised and funded, with a multiplicity of websites dedicated to their cause; by contrast virtually nothing organised or funded comes the other way. So a wholly malign view of the West is often fostered in Muslim nations; and in the West there is widespread misunderstanding of what Islam really stands for. This is not confined to Muslim/Christian relations; there are strains of extremism also in Christianity itself, in Judaism, Hinduism and even Buddhism. The intolerance to minorities also encompasses persecution of Bahais and sects within a Faith i.e. intra-religious as well as inter-religious extremism.

So the Tony Blair Faith Foundation has designed programmes of education and action, now in 20 different countries, all with the aim of fostering knowledge, understanding and therefore respect between those of different faiths. We know we cannot by ourselves change the balance of argument and debate; but we believe we can show that through inter-faith collaboration, we can encourage the acceptance of “the other” and that this should become part of mainstream Government and international policy, every bit as important as conventional soft power diplomacy. So in both cases, I have entered a new sector for me – philanthropy – to try to point the way on issues which I dealt with deeply in Government but in respect of which I always felt traditional Government fell short.

It has been my luck to have entered this field at a time when it is more exciting and dynamic than ever. The work being done by those represented here today is extraordinary and inspiring in its breadth, reach and impact. My reflections on the sector having now experience of it both as a partner to me in Government and now as a player in the sector itself, are these:

First, the best philanthropy is not just about giving money but giving leadership. The best philanthropists bring the gifts that made them successful – the drive, the determination, the refusal to accept something can’t be done if it needs to be – into their philanthropy. It is creative not passive; it seeks to disrupt not follow conventional thinking. It steps into areas Government is too fearful or too risk adverse[sic] to go. It uses technology and its power to change the world in innovative ways. It is visionary, seeing the connections, the trends, the patterns that others don’t.

It is change-making, no matter at which level –community, nation or globe – it is operating.

In this way, it can also help Government institutions, again global or national, to change. Here is where partnership between public and private and philanthropic sectors is today of the essence. The real challenge for Government especially following the financial crisis of the past 3 or 4 years is to change itself. Government has to become more strategic, more about empowering than controlling. In this endeavour, creative partnership with those in the business or philanthropic sector can be a huge part of that reform. This can happen within countries; but also globally for example through the World Bank or UN. The ability to leverage Government or IFI power through working with the philanthropic sector is enormous and only just being fully comprehended.

Philanthropic foundations could also do more to work with each other – one reason why this Forum is so important. There are synergies, shared experiences, and contributions that can happen if we talk to each other as friends not rivals. One small example: in Sierra Leone, AGI and TBFF now co-operate in delivering the Government’s anti-malaria programme through using the unparalleled reach of the faith infrastructure – churches and mosques – to disseminate important public health messages about malaria prevention.

My conclusion is about the new social contract itself. There is a political debate about globalisation – good or bad? In my view, this is an entirely pointless discussion. Globalisation is a fact and it is propelled forward by people through technology and travel. The real debate is therefore how do we make globalisation work and for the many not the few? The answer lies, in part, in understanding that the key dividing line in politics today is less traditional ideas of left vs right, than the struggle between the open-minded and the closed, between those who see in globalisation an opportunity to open up the world so that it is not riven with conflicts of race, nation and faith; and those who find such an open world too frightening and close down in the face of it. Central to this goal is the fight against poverty and injustice, whether social, economic, or political. The open-mind seeks to imbue globalisation with common bonds and a shared sense of justice. The closed-mind seeks to retreat behind the walls of identity of race, nation and faith.

At the core of this new social contract is the open-mind: optimistic, not cynical; celebrating difference not scared of it; and believing that to be committed to the service of others, is a life purpose worth striving for. It is what you represent here: and I am honoured to be part of it, a refugee from conventional politics, who has found a new lease of life in philanthropy!

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In case you are of the opinion that Tony Blair’s speech on philanthropy was timed by design to chime into the current debate in Britain on charity taxing,  it wasn’t.

Davos, 2009 on – guess what – philanthropy.

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Bountiful Lord Nazir Ahmed suspended by Labour party for offering 10m $/£ bounty on Bush, Blair, Obama

All blog posts 2012 + Original posts list: from 2006 to 2012

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Comment at end

16th April 2012

UPDATE 20th April – MEMRI has plenty of links showing what Ahmed said and who reported it. I suppose much of it was, er … lost in translation of this…  er… Pakistan-born “Lord” while in, er… Pakistan.

Lord Ahmed: “If the Labour Party want to suspend me I will deal with the Labour Party. They will have to give me some evidence.”

The “bounty” threats, spoken allegedly by Lord Nazir Ahmed, came in two online reports.

Episode 1 In his first mouthing-off, on Tuesday 10th April, it was reported that Ahmed would sell his house and beg in the streets to raise a US$10M bounty on George Bush (and Tony Blair.)

Somehow this evaded the attention of the Bush- &  Blair-hating press. At a seminar at the Punjab University he was reported as saying,  “I announce 10 million dollars reward against Mr George W Bush.” He also said, reportedly, then too that he would collect the money whether he had to beg in the streets  – but “Bush and Tony Blair should be charged with war crimes.”

(Source –http://pu.edu.pk/home/section/seminars/1445)

Episode 2, Upping the Anti,  Herald Tribune – ‘Sterling’ (GBP£10M) bounty offered for Obama, Bush

Ahmed’s second entry into public ranting on this issue, which seems to have culminated in his “suspension”, was reported by the Herald Tribune on Saturday 14th April. Here he mentions Obama as well as Bush. So perhaps someone in Obama’s administration took exception to this.

In both reports, unless BOTH misreported him, he called for a “bounty”

Now I’m not sure what YOU think when someone used the word “bounty”. Personally I imagine a wild west type poster with “dead or alive” in bold lettering.

Ahmed now claims to be shocked and horrified at these claims. I bet he is!

THE “10,000/10,000,000” INCITER

Ahmed seems to be obsessed by the number “10”. Can’t imagine why.

I noted how he managed to get an earlier threat removed from online publications. It was the threat to mobilise 10,000 Muslims on Parliament if Geert Wilders dared to turn up there to speak to other peers as arranged. I am therefore surprised that his original “bounty” story is still up there for all to see: ‘Lord Nazir announces $10m bounty for Bush, Blair‘ Excerpt:

Lord Nazir Ahmad said he is ready to give $10m as bounty for war criminals, Bush and Blair.

While addressing a seminar on World Panorama and Our Responsibilities at University of the Punjab, he said that courts have accepted innocence of Hafiz Saeed but ex-US president Bush and UK prime minister Tony Blair committed tremendously dangerous crimes in the in the name of war on terror; so special award should be announced for them.

He said that the US may hit Iran in order to have victory in general polls.

He said that if the US can have a dialogue with Taliban, government should also commence phase of dialogue with angry Balochs and Pakhtun warlords.Reply With Quote

Allowing for a misleading headline, and putting aside the notion that Ahmed supports a suspected terrorist and would be happy to work with Pakistan’s warlords, the call for a bounty on George Bush and at the very least by implication on Tony Blair can be seen here.

TWEETING GALORE

I picked this up last Tuesday, 10th April, at about 9:30pm, and tweeted on it repeatedly. There were a few Labour party members and supporters RTing but not, frankly, as many as there should have been.

I took the precaution to save his reported comments at the site as originally shown; just in case this evidence does a disappearing trick, as before. (A few of my tweets with dates, from 10th April, appear below).

AGENDAS AND (EDITED?) TAPES

I now understand via a tweet by Patrick Wintour that “Channel 4 has a tape of Ahmed speech – vows to raise cash to bring Bush and Blair to “justice” at ICC, but no mention of Obama or bounty.”

Channel4 is in the same Blair-baiting boat as the BBC. On Radio4’s News at 6 this evening they mentioned the suspension, finishing lightly with “Lord Ahmed expects the suspension to be lifted shortly”.

As if.

He should be stripped of the Labour whip AND his peerage. If he doesn’t know what to do with his old peerage papers he could always send them back to whence they came: Tony Blair.

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RELATED

Lord Nazir Ahmed has pledged a 10 million bounty on Bush and Blair?!

There is an interesting comment & smiley at the top of this post: Default USD 10m Bounty on Bush!

For arrest and conviction of course

http://www.thenews.com.pk/Todays-News-5-102361-Nazir-puts-$10m-bounty-on-Bush

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Earlier posts at this site on Lord Ahmed

TWEETS, starting on 10th April:

Pakistani-born British politician Lord Nazir Ahmed announces 10 million bounty on George W Bush, Tony Blair. Idiot.

Blair Supporter

If true, this is criminal. Home Secretary – ARREST Lord Nazir Ahmed. #incitement to kill <$10m bounty on GW Bush & Tony Blair>

 Blair Supporter Blair Supporter@blairsupporter  So this is Tony Blair’s thanks for making Nazir Ahmed a peer. A bounty for $10M. FGS. DOCTOR!!!

I would have had Lord Ahmed locked up for this in 2009 – http://keeptonyblairforpm.wordpress.com/2009/01/29/lord-ahmed-threatens-to-mobilise-10000-so-wilders-visit-off/ – Who the hell does he think he is? Good Lord!

Thanks, JR. Just found that. Though I do NOT normally judge people B4 real proof it’s time to let people know abt Ignoble Lord. @JohnRentoul

9:42 PM – 10 Apr 12
 Blair Supporter Blair Supporter@blairsupporter Lord Nazir Ahmed is an interesting “lordship”. He threatened jihad on the House of Lords if their lordships allowed Geert Wilders to visit.
9:38 PM – 10 Apr 12 via web

I had one or two telling me that I would be accused of racism or was stopping Ahmed’s “free speech”. (Sigh) Like –

Kameel Premhid ‏ you’re missing the nuance of what I’m saying. People will deride you for making what could be perceived as a racist attack

6:31 AM – 11 Apr 12

I didn’t miss that point, Kameel. I discount it as the usual & to be expected LIES that it is. ANTIS’ flawed “perception” @kameelpremhid

11:25 AM – 11 Apr 12 via web
And this interchange with James Dobson –
James Dobson James Dobson ‏ You DO suppress. You’re so fearful of extremist views you think they should be illegal. Don’t hide your own views.
2:35 AM – 11 Apr 12
Blair Supporter Blair Supporter@blairsupporter Btw, James, #extremist views, when they are used to #incite online & offline, ARE illegal. Do learn a little about the law.

2:42 AM – 11 Apr 12 via web

   James Dobson James Dobson You DO suppress. You’re so fearful of extremist views you think they should be illegal. Don’t hide your own views.
Blair Supporter Blair Supporter Btw, I have never been accused of hiding my own views ;0) Some say they wish I would. I won’t. Ever. #Iknowmyenemy
2:40 AM – 11 Apr 12 via web
11 Apr James Dobson James Dobson You DO suppress. You’re so fearful of extremist views you think they should be illegal. Don’t hide your own views.
Blair Supporter Blair Supporter If you’ve no concerns over extremists’ views u are naive, ignorant or very young. EVERY day people die at extremists’ hands.
2:39 AM – 11 Apr 12
James Dobson James Dobson You DO suppress. You’re so fearful of extremist views you think they should be illegal. Don’t hide your own views.
2:35 AM – 11 Apr 12
Blair Supporter Blair Supporter I DON’T suppress. I AIR their views frequently. Little liberrtarians want to execute Tony Blair. I want to charge INCITERS.
Blair Supporter Blair SupporterAnd yet he and his type of fundamentalists call for “respect” from rest of us. Why? A convicted criminal who threatens us? 
2:34 AM – 11 Apr 12   Blair Supporter Blair Supporter It matters HUGELY. He does not respect the parliamentary system or the PM that gave him a voice. He’s a scumbag. Imho.
11 Apr James Dobson James Dobson ‏ Suppressing freedom of speech is no way to achieve freedom. It’s sad that you’re so fearful of extremist views.
Blair Supporter Blair Supporter So AGAIN I say I do NOT suppress. I air the truth. He is calling for a “bounty” & is ignored as though that doesn’t matter.
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Tony Blair on Syria. ITV interview by Mark Austin

All blog posts 2012 + Original posts list: from 2006 to 2012

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Comment at end

6th April 2012

ON SYRIA TONY BLAIR SAYS – well… not that much.

Tony Blair said "all options should remain open" in regard to Syria Photo: ITV News

If you’re a Tweep or a Facebook socialite concerned over Middle East issues you will have seen the regurgitated, all-knowing –  “Well? So what is the Middle East peace envoy doing about THIS?” 

The question is usually spat out with putrid venom, which is only to be expected given that it emanates from the depths of malodorous ignorance.  (See – Tony Blair is not the ‘envoy’ )

The mention of Mr Blair’s name raises such hackles in some quarters that he now falls into the category – damnedifhedoesdamnedifhedoesn’t.

Ever wary of being accused of “intervention” it is unusual for the former prime minister to say much overtly about domestic politics or even international politics. For that reason alone his video interview yesterday with ITV News’ Mark Austin is worthy of note.

TO INTERVENE OR NOT TO INTERVENE?

Harking back to his 1999 Chicago “Doctrine of The International Community” Mark Austin says – “So although Mr Blair is no longer in power, the question is whether as an enthusiastic interventionist, he would now support military action in Syria.”

Austin: “In an interview I put that question to him. He said that Assad cannot be allowed to continue killing people but fell short of calling for military intervention. Though he did say “all options should remain open”.

In my own humble opinion Tony Blair is actually saying nothing new here. Faced with such international threats he always says and always did say – “all options should remain open.”

But I do notice that he doesn’t mention the UN at all, at least in this section of the interview. Perhaps there is a reason for that.  (Kofi Annan:  “Syria violence must end by April 12th”)

And what of the positions on Syria of the present government and Her Majesty’s loyal opposition?

Well, we can look at HALF of the present government/coalition. The Liberal Democrats are insular and think nothing much about foreign policy except with hands-off or when it can be handled without cost. In other words, hardly EVER.

Last thing I recall on Syria from Nick Clegg was on 6th February, when he said he was “bitterly disappointed” over Russia’s & China’s UN veto.  Bless.

On 5th April the Foreign Secretary William Hague said –

“The Syrian authorities must prove to the international community and more importantly the Syrian people that they are sincere about ending the killing. If they do not, the Security Council must act to increase the pressure on the regime.”

A month earlier, on 6th March, Ed Miliband at PMQ –

Miliband: “.. that he will be making clear to [Putin] that action is necessary and that the Russian position is frankly unacceptable”.

“Action is necessary”? What kind of action, Mr Miliband?

Since then…  silence.

I am left wondering how the present leader of the Labour party would be reacting if he were in the prime minister’s seat right now.

The left, especially the New/Old I’m not Tony Blair left,  must find itself in a tricky situation. After all, not for them the interventionism which STOPS dynastic, tyrannical leaders killing their own.  Perish the thought. To be fair my assumption is that all of the parties would be supporting the stance of the present government: do nothing, make the right condemnatory noises  and hope that – THIS time – Kofi Annan & the UN can be effective.

NO “SECOND GUESSING”

The other notable words uttered by Mr Blair were, “I am not going to second-guess the guy who is taking them [these decisions] now”

Quite. But I am sure Mr Cameron and his cabinet will be pleased to know that if he were still in Number 10 Mr Blair would be doing as they are doing right now.

Leaving all options on the table.

__________

Mark Austin – Interview with Tony Blair on Syria

Full transcript of the interview

Mark Austin: If you were Prime Minister now, would you be looking to get involved in Syria? To intervene militarily in Syria?

Tony Blair: We have got to treat each case on its merits and with its own circumstances. So, I think Syria is again a different case but having said that we should always understand that if we are not active in this situation and we just allow it to develop in this case as Assad wants it to develop in Syria, we know what will happen.

Already thousands of people have died and many thousands more will die. So these are decisions, when you intervene, it’s always important to recognise if you intervene there will be consequences some of which are unpredictable and adverse and if you don’t the consequences actually are more predictable and probably very adverse also.

Mark Austin: You sound as if you think we should be looking to do more?

Tony Blair: I think the government is doing all it can do at this point in time but I think we should keep all the options open. In particular, what is very important is that we carry on sending a very strong message to Assad and the Syrian regime that this is not something where they can just roll over the people and then we are going to say ok lets just forget about it.

No, we will be there and be active in support of the Syrian people who want freedom and want the chance elect their government.

Mark Austin: Would you be finding it hard as a Prime Minister now not to intervene in Syria?

Tony Blair: All these situations are different and they are all tough so having been in this position, trying to take these decisions, I’m not going to second guess the guy who is taking them now.

__________

RELATED

Dr Matthew Partridge’s excellent review of  Peter Lee’s “Blair’s Just War: Iraq and the Illusion of Morality”. Excerpt:

‘Last year NATO intervened in Libya. There is also talk about doing so again in Syria. Many of the same people who marched against the Iraq war nine years ago are now tweeting demands that Obama, who also opposed it, send more advisors to Uganda. Does Tony Blair therefore deserve an apology?’

Dr Matthew Partridge has recently completed a PhD in Economic History at the London School of Economics. He is a freelance journalist who has written for The Guardian, Times Higher Education and the websites of Prospect and New Statesman.

Independent – “Assad metes out a day of brutal violence”

Guardian – “Syria Crisis: Live Updates”

Tony Blair, said “when you intervene, it’s always important to recognise if you intervene there will be consequences”.

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