Special Report

30 July 2011

To The Front: A media date with a warmonger

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Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair ... along with former US President George Bush, he launched an illegal invasion of Iraq in 2003 with massive loss of civilian life. Photo: Fotoglif.com
30 July 2011

John Minto: OPINION: Tony Blair's fleeting visit to Auckland yesterday via private jet was a pathetic affair which exposed the venality of our corporate elites and their media hangers on.

John Minto

OPINION: Tony Blair’s fleeting visit to Auckland yesterday via private jet was a pathetic affair which exposed the venality of our corporate elites and their media hangers on.

For Blair this was a fundraiser. By all accounts he’s made some $60 million in guest speaker appearances around the world in recent years. The glib, deceitful showman replacing the glib, deceitful politician. Blair was a tabloid creation and his message remains as shallow and enduring as page three of Rupert Murdoch’s News of the World.

It would have been disappointing for Blair and the event organisers however because the 900 seat venue had only 260 takers and that was after some ticket prices had been halved. Seats were still anything from $495 to $1500 – the latter for the particularly star struck who wanted their photos taken with the warmonger.

I was part of a protest outside pointing out the role of Blair, who along with former US President George Bush, launched an illegal invasion of Iraq in 2003 with massive loss of civilian life. Credible estimates put the death of innocents at up to a million and this was predictable when the military forces under Blair dropped hundreds of cluster bombs on heavily populated areas. The result was indiscriminate carnage.

Blair used lies, deception and Rupert Murdoch’s media machine to wage this war. He should stand trial for war crimes at the International Criminal Court at the Hague. It’s important to remember this war was waged for control of Iraq’s massive oil reserves and yesterday’s Auckland event was a chance for the elites to thank their man who did the job.

Before the protest Global Peace and Justice Auckland had sought legal advice on the issuing of an arrest warrant for Tony Blair to face trial on charges of war crimes. In the short time available legal experts pointed not only to the illegality of the war and the certainty of war crimes from Blair’s actions but also the international obligations of New Zealand to act against those responsible. Here is what senior law lecturer and international law expert from Auckland University Treasa Dunworth had to say:

Click here to sight legal opinion

Lost on NZ media
But this was all lost on most of the media and local elites. The only media interview with Blair so far to emerge was with Mark Sainsbury of TVNZ''s Close Up whose sole shallow question on war crimes was to ask Blair how he put up with the protesters who plague his speaking engagements.

Among the other media to attend and hope their photos appear on the society pages in the next few days were Newstalk ZB’s Kerre Woodham, the New Zealand Herald’s Fran O’Sullivan, and Bill Ralston.

Not surprising was the sponsorship of the event by media companies Newstalk ZB, National Business Review and Rupert Murdoch’s Sky News. Much media gave up the pretence of objective reporting a long time back. For the record the other sponsors of Blair’s visit were VISY, Volkswagon, Markson Sparks, dbg, Design Communication and Spicers Paper.

Most attending would not have paid from their own pockets. This was a perk paid for, at the end of the line, by New Zealand wage and salary earners.

However,  in the case of the chairperson of Auckland Waterfron,t Bob Harvey, and his chief executive John Dalzell, was it Auckland ratepayers who footed the bill? Just what Harvey, as the immediate past president of the New Zealand Peace Foundation, was doing there is anyone’s guess.

And just to show how sad and hopeless we really are our Foreign Minister Murray McCully – never one to miss a chance to display his obsequiousness – made a special arrangement to meet Blair.

It took more than 30 years for General Pinochet to be arrested for war crimes in Chile from the 1970s. With international laws and responsibilities tightening up it won’t take so long for his crimes to catch up with Blair.

To The Front! is a column by political commentator and activist John Minto and is published on Auckland Scoop.

A series of articles about the Rupert Murdoch media machine, phone hacking and the manipulation of politicians.
The PMC archive
Professor Wendy Bacon in New Matilda

John Minto

Activist, columnist

John Minto is a New Zealand political activist and columnist and former editor of the Workers' Charter newspaper, which widely covered Pacific issues.