Tony Blair: Britain's Don Quixote
In the early 17th century Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra published a critique of Spanish society as it had emerged from the inquisition. Don Quixote de la Mancha is a brilliant and hilarious parody on a stupidity that poses as virtue accompanied with delusions of grandeur. Enthused by endless stories he read about brave knights the elderly main character of the book sets out on his own adventures seeking fame but repeatedly courting disaster. His overexcited imagination blinds him to reality. He mistakes windmills for giants, perceives flocks of sheep as enemy armies and tries to defend the honour of the fair maiden Dulcinea his own imagination has conjured up. His old horse and his loyal servant both have to suffer unduly to facilitate the extravagant skirmishes of this fantasist.
Catholic Spain has no exclusivity on duplicity and a self-righteous belief in a pious cause that turns out to be all folly. To judge from Tony Blair's farewell speech at the Labour party conference in Manchester, "Great" Britain is also headed by a Don Quixote character. This comical figure is going to fight terrorism wherever it might be found, warning it will take at least a generation, and he is dedicating the rest of his life in office to bring peace to the Middle East. Noble aims of a dreamer.
Don Quixote's windmills and flocks of sheep were more real than Tony's perceived enemy. "Terrorism" is neither a people nor an ideology. It is a method employed by different people at different times. To declare war on terrorism is about as stupid as to declare that we are not fighting this or that nation, this or that belief, this or that ideology, but we are fighting war itself. We are declaring eternal war on war. Naturally, it will take time, since the defined objective makes it impossible to win.
Nor is peace being brought about by invoking its name. Peace requires justice. And justice is what our government is denying those who seek peace in the Middle East. When Tony Blair backed Israel in their incursions into Gaza and refused to call for an immediate ceasefire in Lebanon he aided and abetted Israeli aggression and chose to be one of those politicians John Dugard, UN special rapporteur on Palestinian human rights, called "those accustomed to turning a blind eye and a deaf ear to the suffering of the Palestinian people". Dugard blames Israel for having turned Gaza into a prison and states: "What Israel chooses to describe as collateral damage to the civilian population is in fact indiscriminate killing prohibited by international law …Israel violates international law as expounded by the Security Council and the International Court of Justice and goes unpunished. But the Palestinian people are punished for having democratically elected a regime unacceptable to Israel, the US and the EU… In effect, the Palestinian people have been subjected to economic sanctions - the first time an occupied people has been so treated."
Addressing the Labour faithful, Blair talked to them about his perceived victories: "Over these eight years we have won the battle of values. The age we live in is democratic not deferential. We believe in solidarity. We believe in social justice, in opportunity not for a privileged few but for all, whatever their start in life. We believe in tolerance and respect, in strong communities standing by and standing up for the weak, the sick, the helpless", he claimed, forgetting conveniently that no other government in British history has ever contributed as much as his to the destruction of those very values. Instead, he has offered up his people to the Mammon of the globalising market economy. "Some day, some party will make this country at ease with globalisation", he said, "Let it be this one." And worse, he promises "a radical extension of summary powers to police and local authorities", the very antithesis of democracy. In Manchester, police were busy preventing anti-war protesters from exercising their democratic right outside the conference hall.
This may not be 17th century Spain. But de Cervantes would have found plenty of inspiration in Labour's hero, the valiant knight Tony.