"And thus I clothe my naked villany,
With odd old ends stol'n forth of holy writ
And seem saint, when most I play the devil."
Richard 111, William Shakespeare.
There were two of those "this cannot be real" moments, during March. One was that a man who enjoined a "crusade", has barely had a passing acquaintanceship with the truth in years, has joint responsibility for over a million Iraqi deaths in five years and those of an average of six thousand Iraqi children a month from his tenure beginning 1997 through March 2003, is to teach subjects including "Faith" at Yale University. (The aforementioned deaths added to the silent slaughter of a nation, starting in August 1990.) The second surreality is that he is to address the congregation on "Faith" from the pulpit at London's (Roman Catholic) Westminster Cathedral, on the 3rd of April, at the invitation of no less than a Cardinal: Cardinal Cormac Murphy O'Connor.
For those who have been vacationing on another planet for approaching eighteen years, meet Anthony Charles Lynton Blair, QC., who embraced Catholicism in time for Christmas, was welcomed in to the arms of the Church by the Pope himself and the Cardinal. "If he wants a public platform, it should be from the Dock at the War Crimes Tribunal at the International Criminal Court at The Hague", remarked a friend, pithily. At least the Catholic church cannot be accused of being elitist, embracing a man accused of involvement in an illegal war, responsible for carnage equal to many of history's most shameful bloodbaths and facilitator-in-charge of the lies which have led to the destruction of the cradle where his "faith" was nurtured.
Can the Cardinal be unaware that his speaker shares responsibility for the damage – thought irreparable – to Ur, where Abraham, Father, for believers, of his religion and of Islam and Judaism was born? Has the destruction of Qurna, thought to be site of the Garden of Eden, also passed him by?
Perhaps Blair might reflect publicly from the pulpit on the enormity of his wickedness and read from Revelations: "Babylon is fallen, is fallen, that great city..." and since it was all about oil, reflect from the same Book: "Behold, I come as a thief" and also on: "Those men who have not the seal of God on their foreheads". Catholics are big on confessions and they are not needed more than by the man who helped destroy the region of wonders, where his "faith" was born and beliefs flourished. Gut wrenching ironies in evil do not come greater
This man who has, arguably, "not the seal ..." could perhaps explain his statement of March 16th 2003, four days before the illegal invasion of Iraq, where he said from the Azores – having met with his ("we pray together") partner in crime George W. Bush and Spain's then Prime Minister Aznar: "... Saddam (remains) armed with weapons of mass destruction ... disarmament never happens." Two days later, he lied to the House of Commons saying that the Iraqi regime's behaviour had resulted in the departure of the weapons inspectors. The weapons inspectors of course fled before the (illegal) four day bombing of Christmas 1998, warned by their then Head, Australia's Richard Butler, another man who, it was subsequently established, sometimes found truth a confusing concept. That Saddam Hussein had no weapons of mass destruction, Blair assured Parliament, was "palpably absurd".
Catholic sources stated that Mr Blair would have had to attend confession in the days leading up to his reception in to the Church, in order to seek pardon for his sins. They must have been long days, with quite a list. Surprising he had time for anything else. The Book of Proverbs is fairly explicit about the most deadly of sins, all of which, an impartial observer would surely perceive, Britain's former barrister Prime Minister to have broken on a massive scale:
- A proud look
- A lying tongue
- Hands that shed innocent blood
- A heart that deviseth wicked imaginations
- Feet that be swift in running to make mischief
- A false witness that speaketh lies
- He that soweth discord
Blair has, arguably, hit the sinners' jackpot. The "mother of all sinners", some might conclude. Whereas Collins describes faith as: "A specific system of religious beliefs", "faithless" seems more apt in the case of this former figurehead of the "Mother of Parliaments": "Treacherous or disloyal" (Collins) certainly describes the ignominy to which he has reduced and to where he led Britain, in the eyes of much of the world, during his tenure as Prime Minister.
Ironically, his conversion took place within forty eight hours of the ninth anniversary of another illegal assault on Mesopotamia, the four day (illegal) Christmas blitz of 1998, "Operation Desert Fox", which also coincided with the great Islamic and Jewish festivals. A few mea culpas for that would not go amiss.
Blair's beliefs even fly in the face of one of Catholicism's sanctities, the right to life of the unborn child. He voted for abortion and as John Smeaton, National Director of the Society for the Unborn Child commented: "During his premiership Tony Blair became one of the world's most significant architects of the culture of death, promoting abortion, experimentation on unborn embryos, including cloned embryos, and euthanasia by neglect."
He will also be speaking exactly two weeks after the body of the Chaldean Archbishop of Mosul, Paulos Faraj Rahho, was found in a shallow grave, possibly murdered, as so many of the real believers of Blair's new faith, since the invasion, whose kind lived and worshipped in the region for nearly two thousand years.
Will he reflect on his responsibility in the deaths of so many and the flight of an estimated half of Iraq's Christians? Will he reflect that his enjoined "crusade" indeed mirrors the slaughter, flight and terror of those against whom Salahadin's forces fought against those earlier, never to be forgotten, marauding, invading blood lettings? Will he reflect on another Christian, Tareq Aziz, Iraq's former – or for many, still – Foreign Minister and Deputy Prime Minister, held with other Ministers and legal representatives of the Republic of Iraq, illegally and without charge?
As this man of a "faith", so flimsy that he has said he could not talk about it during his premiership in case he was regarded as "a nutter", speaks from the pulpit, will he reflect on those of real belief, who stayed in Iraq through unimaginable hardships and ongoing bombings for which he bears much responsibility, the priests, the Bishops and Cardinal Emmanuel Delli, who, with their Muslim and other Faith counterparts, stayed throughout, to help and comfort?
The Church, however, is not all as welcoming to potential war criminals as Cardinal O'Connor. The Catholic organisation Pax Christi is holding a silent vigil for Blair's arrival and a protest to drown him out, with musical instruments of every kind, drums, cymbals, sirens, whistles, horns, rattles, cowbells, drummers, percussionists and students from the Royal Academy of Music, have vowed to make Blair's pulpit debut unforgettable. Brian Eno, musician and Producer of U2, Coldplay, David Bowie and other internationally renowned performers, will be there; diversity includes a Catholic nun with a burglar alarm. (See: http://www.stopwar.org.uk )
The burglar alarm may have resonance for some who have read the United States "Camp Victory" website recently. Under "Freedom Facts" is:
"The (US Army) Gulf Region Division has met its oil projects goals by increasing crude oil infrastructure capacity to 3 million barrels per day; increasing the natural gas infrastructure capacity to 800 million standard cubic feet per day....... The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers budget invested $1.7 billion in Iraq's oil infrastructure."
Blair is to link his address on "Faith" with "globalisation". Stop the War's Media Officer, David Wilson comments: "or 'Why I think it's good to invade other people's countries'".
The former Prime Minister's alleged adherence to Mammon before God is a separate article. Another anomaly which deserves a place here, however, is the Messianic certainty of the "rightness" of the decisions he has shared with George W. Bush. Both, it would appear, seem to believe to have been directly guided by God.
The address at Westminster Cathedral as the fifth anniversary of their "crusade" is commemorated, is a week (depending on where you are on the planet) of the bringing down of the statue of Saddam Hussein on 9th April 2003.
The beliefs of fundamentalists in some "Judeo-Christian" traditions is that this is the date of Christ's rising from the dead. The date of Easter changes from year to year, so that it coincides with the astronomical setting at the time of Christ's resurrection. April 9th, 30 A.D. has been shown to be the day the resurrection occurred, they believe.
Further: "... the Bible gives a very specific date and hour for the birth of the Church. Though the Bible does not speak to us in terms of the Roman calendar date for the birth of the Church, yet very obviously it speaks in the language of the Hebrew liturgical calendar as given by Moses. The birth of the Church took place about 'the third hour of the day', on the 'Day of Pentecost', as recorded in Acts 2. This was '50 days' after the resurrection of Christ. The resurrection of Christ was on the 'day after' the Jewish 'Sabbath' that occurred during 'the Feast of Unleavened Bread'. Now all that is very specific language. Translated into Roman calendar dates, Christ was resurrected from the dead on Sunday morning of April 9th, 30 A.D. Exactly 50 days later the Church was born on Sunday morning, about 9:00 A.M., May 28th, 30 A.D., the day of Pentecost.(http://www.2think.org ) This has been described as 'the time of rapture of the Prophets'.*
This all gives rise to serious questions as to whether there really are those in high places prepared to not alone ram raid for oil, but who believe in fundamentalist dominance from: "The Nile to the Euphrates".
Back to Mammon. Catholicism's new son commands huge sums for his spoken offerings. This publication has failed to confirm whether his Cathedral address is free. London's Evening Standard newspaper "believed" this was the case.
Oh yes – and Westminster Cathedral was built on the site of a jail. Some may feel the irony of Blair's choice for the place of his newest self reinvention.
See also: London Review of Books, 20th March 2008 : Frank Kermode: 'Did it Happen on 9th April?' Review of "The Resurrection", by Geza Vermez., http://www.lrb.co.uk
Felicity Arbuthnot is a journalist and activist who has visited the Arab and Muslim world on numerous occasions. She has written and broadcast on Iraq, her coverage of which was nominated for several awards. She was also senior researcher for John Pilger's award-winning documentary,
"Paying the Price: Killing the Children of Iraq".
and author, with Nikki van der Gaag, of "Baghdad" in the "Great Cities" series, for World Almanac Books (2006.)
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