The Age of Irony is Dead!

 banner.gif Published on the Islamic Times website

By Andrusha Wickremeratne (Hebden Bridge)– In 1973 Henry Kissinger was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. As Tom Lehrer, one of America’s leading satirists remarked at the time: “political satire became obsolete when Henry Kissinger was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace”, since amongst Kissinger’s contribution to peace that year was the continuation of the bombing campaign of neutral Cambodia, started in 1970 and instigated by that esteemed diplomat and peacemaker, resulting in an estimated loss of 600,000 lives.

Sadly present day Tom Lehrers are thin on the ground. Tony Blair’s newly appointed position as Middle East Envoy with a special remit to, amongst other things, bring about peace between Israel and the Palestinians, has not been greeted with howls of disbelief, disdain or ridicule, but treated with all due gravitas and seriousness within the parameters of liberal journalism and commentary.

First, lets set a few things straight. There was no popular clamour for Blair to be seconded to this role. Indeed ordinary people around the world would probably agree with Lehrer’s appraisal of Kissinger as applied to Blair. For those Iraqis and Afghanis, the recipients of Western beneficence and bombs, the reaction would probably be somewhat stronger. No, Tony Blair was appointed to his new role by the “Quartet”; that is, representatives from the US, UN, EU and Russia. And who are these representatives? Highly educated diplomats, consumers of free lunches, people who appreciate a fine vintage wine, and who, like Kissinger does today, charge exorbitant sums of money for a speaking engagement on Peace.

What then, apart from being friends with George Bush and his neo – conservative cabal, are Blair’s qualifications for his new role? The latest Oxfam report on the situation for ordinary people in Iraq finds the number of children who are born underweight, or suffer from malnutrition has increased sharply since the US – led invasion. The report describes a nationwide catastrophe, with around 8 million Iraqis (almost a third of the population), in need of emergency aid. Many families have dropped out of the food rationing system because they have been displaced by fighting and sectarian conflict. Others suffer from the collapse of basic services caused by the exodus of doctors and hospital staff.

This is a situation in which poll after poll shows ordinary Iraqis stating that life was better for them under Saddam Hussain. This is a situation in which Blair played a major role in bringing about. This is why, after his original claim that Saddam had stockpiled WMDs, and was a threat to world peace, which was disputed by his own intelligence agencies, and which would not have taxed the intellect of a reasonably aware child, Blair went to war against Iraq. To make Iraq a better place. This is without even going into the Lancet report’s estimation that almost 100,000 more Iraqi civilians had died than would have been expected had the invasion not taken place. We haven’t even talked about the bombed, impoverished people of Afghanistan. But you get the picture.

So Blair has been lecturing the Palestinians on their responsibilities towards making peace with Israel. In the process, he has had dinner with Ehud Olmert. A man whose invasion of Lebanon last year received crucial diplomatic support from Blair, without which it would have been hard to sustain. The new Middle East Envoy’s contribution to peace that year? The deaths of 3000 Lebanese civilians. No, its time to put an “educated”, or “knowledgeable”, or “realist” analysis of Blair’s role to the back burner.

Twenty four years ago I was amongst a large gathering of people in London. We were part of a protest against the Apartheid policies of the South African government, and the continued imprisonment of Nelson Mandela. We were listening to the keynote speech of the day delivered by the veteran civil rights activist and campaigner Jesse Jackson. In the shadows of South Africa House he told us passionately that, if you wanted to heap derision, or express disgust at any group of people you see around you, don’t do it to the prostitute, or the destitute, do it to the man in the three piece suit. For it is he who has contributed most to keeping Apartheid alive.

Tony Blair Middle East Envoy? You’ve got to be joking! Like Kissinger before him, this is a criminal in a three piece suit whose actions have contributed to the destruction of people and places, and paved the way for others in three piece suits to loot their natural resources. As Galal Nasser of Egypt’s Al – Ahram Weekly commented: “appointing Tony Blair as special envoy for Arab – Israeli peace is something like appointing the Emperor Nero to be the chief fireman of Rome”.

The age of irony might be struggling to find a voice in educated circles, but those who have suffered at the hands of the Peacemaker see things differently.

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