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13 Sep, 2010 23:09

Critics dog Blair for peace awards

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair has been awarded America’s prestigious Liberty medal for his global human rights work.

Despite this honor, however, the former PM’s policies in Iraq and Afghanistan earned him accusations of having blood on his hands.

In his ten years as leader, Blair went from huge popularity – to being labeled a US poodle, therefore this latest award is causing outrage among some of Blair’s critics.

However, today Tony Blair must be breathing a sigh of relief to be back State side. The first signing of his new autobiography was cut short by protests in Dublin, leading him to cancel similar events in London when anti-war protestors, intent on prosecuting him for starting the war in Iraq, threatened disruption.

But back in the States, he’s being awarded a medal – for his “steadfast commitment to conflict resolution".

“This is the man who introduced arbitrary detention into Britain and supported all kinds of measures which led to people being locked up and mistreated by authorities, the opposite of liberty,” Peter Hitchens, columnist and author pointed out. “It’s one of those great cosmic jokes, isn’t it, like Henry Kissinger getting a Nobel Peace Prize. I think there are some moments in life where one just has to laugh.”

Far from getting a prize, some in the UK think Tony Blair should be prosecuted for war crimes, believing his government broke international law in sending British troops to Iraq. Among those wanting Mr Blair to be sent to The Hague is Chris Knight. He used to be a university lecturer, but was fired after taking part in last April’s G20 protests in London. He went on to set up the anti-war group Democracy Village, which took over Parliament Square ahead of May’s general election, and stayed there for three months.

Knight and his followers have tried to arrest members of Tony Blair’s government, and think Blair, himself should, face charges.

“We are really living in an upside down world where the people who are the most subversive to democracy and freedom get awarded these medals and those who generally fight for freedom, like ourselves, are been chased from one place to another,” Chris Knight says.

Anti-war critics say the concept of peace in the world has been turned upside down by the western political elite in a kind of Orwellian conjuring-trick, where military intervention or aggression is recast as humanitarian action.

Presenting Blair with the Liberty Medal, which recognizes leadership in the pursuit of freedom, is Bill Clinton, the 2006 winner. He also went to war during his presidency in the US.

“Clinton is far less prominent as a war criminal because during his mandate he was, of course, head of state when actions were taken by NATO against Yugoslavia, but nonetheless I would suggest that both leaders [Blair and Clinton], they have blood on their hands,” said the director of the Centre for Research on Globalization, Michael Chossudovsky.

Some estimates put the civilian death-toll in Iraq at one million people, since the invasion by the US-led coalition with British forces in 2003. After stepping down as UK Prime Minister, Tony Blair went on to become Middle East Peace Envoy, and has toured the world as a public speaker, reportedly charging up to $US 400,000 for a 90 minute speech.

Since leaving 10 Downing Street, it is believed Blair has made between $US 30 and $US 45 million. He received a $US 7 million advance for his new book, which he’s donated to a charity that helps military veterans. But even that didn’t go down very well at home, with critics calling it “blood money”.

With the Liberty Medal comes another $US 100,000, which he’ll feed into his own charities. But in the eyes of many, no amount of humanitarian work will atone for Blair’s actions as Prime Minister, and they will keep calling for his prosecution.