Originally published at Common Dreams
Citing his role in the Iraq War and other devastating conflicts, hundreds of thousands of people in the United Kingdom and beyond are calling for former British Prime Minister Tony Blair to be stripped of his newly bestowed knighthood.
As of Thursday afternoon, over 900,000 people had signed the Change.org petition seeking to have Blair’s “Knight Companion of the Most Noble Order of the Garter”—one of the highest honors a British monarch can bestow upon a subject—rescinded. Queen Elizabeth II announced Blair’s knighthood on New Year’s Eve.
“Tony Blair caused irreparable damage to both the Constitution of the United Kingdom and to the very fabric of the nation’s society,” the petition states. “He was personally responsible for causing the death of countless innocent civilian lives and servicemen in various conflicts. For this alone he should be held accountable for war crimes.”
“Tony Blair is the least deserving person of any public honor, particularly anything awarded by Her Majesty the Queen,” the petition asserts.
Blair was then-U.S. President George W. Bush’s staunchest ally during the Iraq War, which was waged on a foundation of nearly a thousand lies, including many about erstwhile ally Saddam Hussein’s nonexistent weapons of mass destruction and involvement in the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
The war destroyed Iraq. The Costs of War Project at Brown University’s Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs says that possibly over 200,000 Iraqi civilians died “from direct war-related violence caused by the U.S., its allies, the Iraqi military and police, and opposition forces from the time of the invasion through October 2019,” with the vast majority of those deaths occurring during the invasion and eight-year occupation of the country, according to Iraq Body Count. One survey placed the number of Iraqi deaths at over one million. The Costs of War Project estimates that over 9.2 million Iraqis were displaced by the war.
The U.K. Ministry of Defense (MOD) reported that 179 British troops and MOD personnel died during Operation TELIC, which lasted from March 2003 through May 2011. That’s the second-highest total of coalition service member deaths after the U.S., which lost over 4,400 troops and Department of Defense employees in what the Bush administration initially called Operation Iraqi Liberation (OIL).
One of the petition’s signatories, Elsie Manning, lost her daughter, Royal Army Staff Sgt. Sharron Elliott, when the patrol boat she and three other British service members were traveling in was hit by a bomb near Basra on Remembrance Day in 2006.
Manning told The East Anglian Daily Times she was “absolutely disgusted” to learn of Blair’s knighthood.
“It’s just a real insult to all those kids that have died and were injured and who are struggling with life,” she said. “We as families are absolutely gutted. It’s just heartbreaking really to think he’s being rewarded for all the deaths that have happened.”
“If he had any morals at all,” Manning added, “he would decline and refuse it.”
Blair also sent thousands of troops to fight in the U.S.-led coalition war against the Taliban and al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, a conflict in which over 200,000 people were killed and millions more were displaced. Last August, as U.S. troops withdrew from Afghanistan after 20 years of war and occupation, Blair blasted what he called the “tragic, dangerous, unnecessary” American “abandonment” of the country.
In addition to facing intense criticism for Britain’s involvement in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and for backing brutal dictatorships around the world, Blair was also condemned for joining the devastating 1999 NATO air war against Yugoslavia. Echoing then-U.S. President Bill Clinton, Blair listed one of the main reasons for the bombing campaign—which targeted civilian infrastructure, killing hundreds of men, women, and children—as protecting NATO’s “credibility.”
According to a January YouGov poll, only 14% of Britons approve of Blair’s knighthood, with 79% of Conservatives and 56% of supporters of the former prime minister’s own Labour Party opposing the move.
“The contempt in which Britain’s elite holds the public has never been more eloquently expressed than in the decision to award Tony Blair the highest order of knighthood,” Australian journalist John Pilger tweeted earlier this week, sardonically adding, “Rise, Sir Tony!”