Alternatives to Political SystemsSociety

Arresting Blair

His bid for the EU presidency gives us the best chance we’ll ever have.

by George Monbiot: journalist, author, academic and environmental and political activist, United Kingdom

Tony Blair’s bid to become president of the European Union has united the left in revulsion. His enemies argue that he divided Europe by launching an illegal war; he kept the UK out of the eurozone and the Schengen agreement; he is contemptuous of democracy (surely a qualification?); greases up to wealth and power and lets the poor go to hell. He is ruthless, mendacious, slippery and shameless. But never mind all that. I’m backing Blair.

It’s not his undoubted powers of persuasion that have swayed me, nor the motorcade factor which clinched it for David Miliband, who claims that no one else could stop the traffic in Beijing or Washington or Moscow(1)). I have a different interest. You could argue that I’m placing other considerations above the good of the EU. You’d be right, but this hardly distinguishes me from the rest of Blair’s supporters. I contend that his presidency could do more for world peace than any appointment since the Second World War.

Blair has the distinction, which is a source of national pride in some quarters, of being one of the two greatest living mass murderers. That he commissioned a crime of aggression (waging an unprovoked war, described by the Nuremberg Tribunal as “the supreme international crime”(2)) looks incontestable. I will explain the case in a moment. This crime has caused the deaths, depending on whose estimate you believe, of between 100,000 and one million people(3,4). As there was no legal justification, these people were murdered. But no one has been brought to justice.

Within the UK, there is no means of prosecuting Mr Blair. In 2006 the law lords decided that the international crime of aggression has not been incorporated into domestic law(5). But elsewhere in the world it has been. In 2006 the professor of international law Philippe Sands warned that “Margaret Thatcher avoids certain countries as a result of the sinking of the Belgrano, and Blair would be advised to do likewise.”(6)

Has he? I don’t know. Blair’s diary and most of his meetings are private. He has no need to travel to countries where he might encounter a little legal difficulty. So he goes about his business untroubled. He seldom faces protests, let alone investigating magistrates. His only punishment for the crime of aggression so far is a multimillion-pound book deal, massive speaking fees, posh directorships and an appointment as Middle East peace envoy, which must rank with Henry Kissinger’s receipt of the Nobel Peace Prize as the supreme crime against satire.

I have spent the past three days trying to discover, from legal experts all over Europe, where the crime of aggression can be prosecuted. The only certain answer is that the situation is unclear. Everyone agrees that within the EU two states, Estonia and Latvia, have incorporated it into domestic law. In most of the others the law remains to be tested. In 2005 the German federal administrative court ruled in favour of an army major who had refused to obey an order in case it implicated him in the Iraq war. The court’s justification was that the war was a crime of aggression(7). A study of the constitutions of western European nations in 1988 found that if there’s a conflict most of them would place customary international law above domestic law, suggesting that a prosecution is possible(8). President Blair would also be obliged to travel to countries outside the EU, including the other states of the former Soviet Union, many of which have now incorporated the crime of aggression. He would have little control over his appointments, and everyone would know when he was coming.

It’s just possible that an investigating magistrate, like Baltasar Garzon, the Spanish judge who issued a warrant for the arrest of General Pinochet, would set the police on him. But our best chance of putting pressure on reluctant authorities lies in a citizen’s arrest. To stimulate this process, I will put up the first £100 of a bounty (to which, if he gets the job, I will ask readers to subscribe) payable to the first person to attempt a non-violent arrest of President Blair. It shouldn’t be hard to raise several thousand pounds. I will help set up a network of national arrest committees, exchanging information and preparing for the great man’s visits. President Blair would have no hiding place: we will be with him wherever he goes.

Here is the case against him. The Downing Street memo, a record of a meeting in July 2002, reveals that Sir Richard Dearlove, director of the UK’s foreign intelligence service MI6, told Blair that in Washington “Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy.”(9) The foreign secretary (Jack Straw) then told Mr Blair that “the case was thin. Saddam was not threatening his neighbours, and his WMD capability was less than that of Libya, North Korea or Iran.” He suggested that “we should work up a plan” to produce “legal justification for the use of force.” The Attorney-General told the prime minister that there were only “three possible legal bases” for launching a war: “self-defence, humanitarian intervention, or UNSC [Security Council] authorisation. The first and second could not be the base in this case.” Bush and Blair failed to obtain Security Council authorisation.

This short memo, which should be learnt by heart by every citizen of the United Kingdom, reveals that Blair knew that the decision to attack Iraq had already been made; that it preceded the justification, which was being retrofitted to an act of aggression; that the only legal reasons for an attack didn’t apply, and that the war couldn’t be launched without UN authorisation.

The legal status of Bush’s decision had already been explained to Mr Blair. In March 2002, as another leaked memo shows, Jack Straw had reminded him of the conditions required to launch a legal war: “i) There must be an armed attack upon a State or such an attack must be imminent; ii) The use of force must be necessary and other means to reverse/avert the attack must be unavailable; iii) The acts in self-defence must be proportionate and strictly confined to the object of stopping the attack.”(10) Straw explained that the development or possession of weapons of mass destruction “does not in itself amount to an armed attack; what would be needed would be clear evidence of an imminent attack.” A third memo, from the Cabinet Office, explained that “there is no greater threat now than in recent years that Saddam will use WMD … A legal justification for invasion would be needed. Subject to Law Officers’ advice, none currently exists.”(11)

It’s just a matter of getting him in front of a judge. The crazy plan to make this mass murderer president could be the chance that many of us have been waiting for.


  2. Marjorie Cohn, professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law, 9th November 2004. Aggressive War: Supreme International Crime.
  3. Iraq Body Count – estimates around 100,000.
  4. Opinion Research Business estimates around one million. (January 2008. Update on Iraqi Casualty Data).
  5. House of Lords, 29th March 2006. R v. Jones and Milling. [2006] UKHL 16.
  7. Justus Leicht, 27th September 2005. German court declares Iraq war violated international law.
  8. Wildhaber and Breitenmoser, 1988. The Relationship Between Customary International Law and Municipal Law in Western European Countries 48 ZaoRV. I have not been able to obtain this study, so this reference is secondhand.
  9. Matthew Rycroft, 23rd July 2002. Published in the Sunday Times as: The secret Downing Street memo. 1st May 2005.
  10. Jack Straw’s office, 8th March 2005. Memo to Tony Blair.
  11. Overseas and Defence Secretariat Cabinet Office, 8th March 2002. Iraq: Options Paper.


  1. Blair has to be prosecuted along with Bush for the Bigest Crimes they have made on Earth.

    The Writer, Thank you for initiateing of this case

  2. Hi Ed. Well, in my mind a Permanent Culture would necessarily have, at its core, a deep respect for life and the laws that protect it. A Permanent Culture would also not be centralised, so powerful individuals would not be able to abruptly make decisions on behalf of millions of people – particularly when those millions of people vehemently oppose said decision.

    A permanent culture would be truly democratic – not this quasi-democracy that has merely a farcical semblance.

    A permanent culture would be intrinsically ethical.

    A permanent culture would not feature manipulative resource grabs.

    What doesn’t this have to do with permaculture?

    If I ‘accidentally’ caused the death of hundreds of thousands of innocents, I’d be in big trouble. If I caused the death of hundreds of thousands of innocents, and my action was intentional, and illegal, I’d be crucified. Why should men in suits be treated any differently? Does a permanent culture ignore a significant need for justice, and restraint over the powers of corporate-bought politicians?

  3. While articles on how Permaculture principles apply to politics would be enlightening and beneficial, this has nothing to do with Permaculture. It is a distraction.

  4. This is a very useful look at how we have to carefully design the way that Permaculture principles can be carefully applied to politics and is very enlightening.

  5. Pete, and Ed, I am very interested to know what your understanding of ‘Permaculture’ is. Where, in your mind, do the ‘invisible structures’ fit into the grand scheme of things if you think the article above is irrelevant and a ‘distraction’ from ‘Permaculture’?

    I would beg you read this and this, for starters. Please give some thought/consideration to the concepts therein.

    Our present industrial society, from bottom to top, is not only unsustainable, but unceasing environmental and social destruction is the only route to meet its own targets – increasing economic growth and a mirage-like state of nirvana that is based on purchases of unecessary goods and services – and we are roping the entire ‘developing’ world into this mindset, into subscribing to a philosophy based on a perversion of what human needs really are.

    If you ignore the invisible structures upon which our industrial, consumer society is based, all your attempts at, well, whatever it is that you’re doing, will be to no avail. You may manage to make yourself, say, 50% self-sufficient from your own back yard (if you work very hard) – but it does no good if the system inevitably rolls right over all your hard work. As it stands, sustainability is effectively illegal in many places and respects, and who amongst us is not forced to contribute to this destruction through our own 9-5 or 8-6 employment?

    Permaculture was always meant to be more than companion planting and raised beds. It’s about the intelligent design of everything that makes up our world. We must start building an economy that is no longer built on the need for perpetual growth. We need a no growth economy. We need to build a world based on cooperation, and not competition and continual extraction. How will we build this if we ignore the corporate feudal world (and their puppet governments) we find ourselves in? How will we replace current political systems with a fully participatory democratic revolution, if we leave politics only to politicians?

    It doesn’t matter how efficient your home garden is, if you fail to make your voice heard, and fail to help enact systemic societal change, your efforts will ultimately be consigned under the category of ‘irrelevance’.

    It is true that many in ‘Permaculture’ have tended to ignore these realities – but I shall continue to remind you all of the need to thoughtfully consider how to build the invisible structures that will not only give place for your garden, but will incentivise its biodiverse development as well as incentivise the development of the community you need around you to meet the other 50% of your personal needs.

    The end result of the ‘system’ we currently have, is the kind of activities George writes about above – where hundreds of thousands of innocents can be killed so the ‘needs’ of our economy-must-grow system can be met, so the beast we call modernity can be fed with the black gold it depends on, whilst the perpetrator gets lucrative speaking engagements and the prospect of even more powerful positions.

    If the system as we know it continues as it is, we will see significantly more conflict, significantly more injustice, significantly more callous disregard for human life in the name of ‘progress’.

    Will we just stand aside and call these events a distraction?

    If so, if this is ‘Permaculture’, it truly has no place in what must transpire over the next few years, if we are to exchange our present crumbling system with one that works, and that will work in perpetuity.

    Stand up, take a broad view. Look around you. Be sure that the system has not lulled you into apathy and hasn’t distracted you from the important role you must play in these tumultuous times.

    We don’t live on an inflatable earth – but our political and economic framework is based on the assumption that it does. When military-backed resource grabs come to your back yard, should we call it a distraction to be concerned about your plight?

    Man’s inhumanity to man is truly our greatest failing.

  6. Craig, good point! If we wish to make real change in the world we need to become active citizens and understand what policy making is about. Growing our own food is important, but it is simply not enough. We need to fix democracy, so that people will be able make decisions themselves. We need participatory budgeting in the cities and easily organized national referendums. We need a recall law to hold our governments accountable.

    Last week there was a meeting of the city council in Sopot where I live. I have learned that despite deep budget cuts (no new bicycle roads) we will contribute 1.7 million USD to the expansion of the airport. We will also spend millions on a new yacht haven that will be operated by a private company despite the invested money will never be returned. What can I do about it? Nothing. Nothing, if I’m alone. However, if enough citizens in our cities come together we can make a real change – we can use this money to invest in renewable energy, car-free areas, community gardens or public transport. If there are more of us on the national level, than we can change the law so that the corporations will no longer be able to loot our planet.

    I would like to ecourage you all to participate in the city council meetings where you live, even as observers. I know, it can be frustrating and possibly boring, but at least we will to know who the members of the council are. And, if you would like to start fixing the system, you can organize a campaign for participatory budgeting in your city.

  7. Anyone that cannot see how this article relates to Permaculture is a blind rabbit waiting for the owls to descend. Good writing everyone.

  8. Craig,

    I don’t disagree with you. But this struck me as a political peace and I gained no new understanding of permaculture or its application to politics or life from it.

    Delving into the minutiae of British politics is a distraction unless is is bracketed in some way by a permaculture perspective to frame it as an example to people in other states so that they can apply its lessons to themselves. There are Blaires in countries all over this plannet, but talking about them all would make this a political blog of sorts and not a permaculture one.

    A further problem is political minutiae such as this tend to be a dangerous distraction that draw you into the system and seduce you into believing our problems can be fixed by and through the system. The power of permaculture is it is a positive creation of a new reality. So maybe more enlightening wouldn’t be the latest political commentary on Blair, but commentary on how Britain can structure a new political reality that would prevent future Blairs.

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