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Tony Blair: Petition to remove knighthood passes one million signatures

Iraqi and British campaigners have expressed their anger at the decision to hand the Iraq war architect the honour
Demonstrators wearing masks depicting former British prime minister Tony Blair (L) and former US president George W Bush protest outside the QEII Centre in London on 6 July 2016, as they wait to hear the outcome of the UK's Iraq Inquiry (AFP)

A petition calling for former British prime minister Tony Blair to be stripped of his knighthood has reached more than one million signatures as anger continues to grow over the Iraq war architect being handed the honour over the new year.

By Saturday morning the petition, started by voice-over artist and actor Angus Scott on Change.org, had reached just under 1,035,000 signatures and was continuing to grow.

Blair's inclusion in the New Year Honours list anoints him Sir Tony and makes him a Knight Companion of the Most Noble Order of the Garter, the oldest and most senior British Order of Chivalry. 

"Tony Blair caused irreparable damage to both the constitution of the United Kingdom and to the very fabric of the nation's society," wrote Scott on the petition's page.

"He was personally responsible for causing the death of countless innocent civilian lives and servicemen in various conflicts. For this alone, he should be held accountable for war crimes. Tony Blair is the least deserving person of any public honour, particularly anything awarded by Her Majesty the Queen." 

Blair has been accused of war crimes over his role in the invasion of Iraq, which toppled longtime ruler Saddam Hussein and led to hundreds of thousands of deaths, widespread internecine violence and ongoing instability in Iraq and beyond.

There was further anger on Wednesday after it was claimed by Blair's former defence secretary, Geoff Hoon, that he had been told to "burn" a memo from the British attorney general that cast doubt on the legality of the Iraq war.

Blair's successor as leader of the Labour Party, Keir Starmer, has defended the honour, describing him as a "very successful prime minister of this country and [who] made a huge difference to the lives of millions of people in this country".

However, left-wing Labour MP Richard Burgon on Friday tweeted criticism of the knighthood, contrasting it with the treatment of imprisoned campaigner Julian Assange.

"It says a lot about what is wrong with our system when, after being one of the leading architects of the Iraq war, Tony Blair is honoured with a knighthood while Julian Assange, who exposed war crimes in Iraq, faces extradition to the USA and a lifetime in prison," wrote Burgon.

Iraqi anger at knighthood

A number of Iraqi politicians and activists have expressed their "disgust" at the decision to hand Blair the honour, saying it appeared to validate his involvement in the war.

Rami al-Sakini, an Iraqi for the southern city of Basra, which fell under British administration following the invasion, told Middle East Eye that the knighthood should be withdrawn.

Tony Blair: Iraqis 'disgusted' at knighthood being offered to war architect
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"Of course this is neither appropriate nor correct," said Sakini, who is also a member of the Foreign Relations Committee in the Iraqi parliament.

"Especially for Tony Blair, who participated in the occupation of Iraq and was a major reason for wasting the resources of this country."

Sakini, whose Sairoun party won the largest number of seats in Iraq's parliamentary elections last October, said giving Blair the title was effectively "honouring the violation" that was the Iraq war.

Kamal Jabir, a politician with the Civil Democratic Alliance and a former freedom fighter against Saddam in the 80s and 90s, said virtually the entire political establishment in the UK and US now accepted that the war had been wrong and that the damage caused in "wasted" lives had been incalculable.

"The 2003 war against Iraq was a crime against humanity, therefore Blair should be tried instead of getting rewarded," he said.

"Looks like the moral compass among the leaders in the UK is fading away like every other country in the world."

'Horrendous news'

A poll released by the British polling agency YouGov on Tuesday suggested the UK public was overwhelmingly opposed to the former premier being knighted.

According to the poll, 62 percent of the public either "tend to" or "strongly" disapprove of Blair receiving the honour, with only 14 percent in favour.

Meanwhile, 56 percent of Labour Party voters also disapproved.

The actions of British forces in Basra have repeatedly come in for criticism, with claims of wilful killings, detainee abuse, and what the International Criminal Court has deemed "credible allegations of torture and rape".

Apart from the initial violence, many have argued that the subsequent chaos provoked by the invasion led to the rise of the Islamic State group, which captured vast areas of Iraq and Syria in 2014 and has launched terror attacks around the world that have led to thousands of deaths.

Ali al-Baroodi, a teacher and campaigner in the former IS stronghold of Mosul, which was obliterated in 2017 in a foreign-backed campaign to defeat the militant group, told MEE that honouring Blair was "disgusting," referring to him as "B-Liar" as many anti-war campaigners have done.

"It's horrendous news to be honest," he said.