Tony Blair – Sierra Leone – Charles Taylor. Where’s the Guardian’s Alex Renton’s follow-up?


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30th April 2012

Pre -addendum (if there’s such a thing: Hat tip to my tweeting friend Citizen Sane, even if the Guardian editorial url he sent me was the day after the one I used ;0).  His link was an index pointing to Thursday’s editorial. Mine was direct. As the good citizen says – “They always put opinion pieces & leaders online the night before. But this was printed in Friday’s physical edition.” Pedants united.


This is a follow-on to my previous post “As Charles Taylor is convicted, Tony Blair says he is proud of Britain’s role in Sierra Leone”

There I called out our broadcasters BBC & SkyNews  for their great forgetfulness.  It’s arguable that this was not the time in their reports of the Taylor conviction to refer to the month-long Operation Palliser (May/June 2001).  Or to its precursor the September 2010 rescue mission Operation Barras. Clearly, given the omission to even hint at these they were not about to praise Tony Blair or even General David Richards for actually ending Sierra Leone’s 11 year civil war.

Rule Number 1 for our media: Never praise any action which hints at interventionism if Tony Blair’s name is attached.

It’s on a different scale but this approach is like the British press discussing the Nuremberg trials without mentioning Winston Churchill’s WW2 victory. (Btw, you might be interested in what Churchill thought should be done with Nazis, post-war. (Jump here, just so you know)

Today it’s the Guardian’s turn for a touch of my what’s-it-all-aboutery.

This was Alex Renton at The Guardian/Observer, April 2010

“Sierra Leone: one place where Tony Blair remains an unquestioned hero” Sub-heading: “A decade after its civil war, Sierra Leone is still desperately poor but is grateful for Britain’s intervention and the foreign investment gradually rebuilding the nation.”


Compare that with the Guardian “Editorial” of  last Thursday, 26th April 2012 as the former Liberian President Charles Taylor was convicted:

“Charles Taylor: long march of international justice – Sub-heading “There is still a long way to go before the goal of ending impunity for crimes against humanity has been reached”

Hardly the sub-heading one might expect if one was mainly writing about the verdict on Taylor and/or the reasons for that verdict.  Both heading and sub-heading clearly insufficient if one hardly mentions the crimes of Taylor and/or who or what put a stop to them. Or am I being …


Forgive me if I don my suspicious, alternative-agenda querying hat. Someone at twitter suggested I was being paranoid the other day. Well, as they say ‘just because you’re paranoid it doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you’.

True, the editorial at The Guardian did mention other African leaders and it did not hint at western leaders to be tried per se (only their generals!) Excerpt:

“Like Liberia or Sierra Leone, the justice system is dysfunctional (in cases of this importance) in Russia too, but it is a safe bet that no Russian leader will ever appear before an international court of justice for war crimes committed in Chechnya. The same is true of China and Tibet, or US or British generals for war crimes committed in Iraq and Afghanistan. Might, or a seat on the UN security council, still appears to be right. If the arm of international law is long, it is also selective. So the charge that the international courts are largely confined to Africa, sticks. If impunity is to end, jurisdiction has to be universal.”


Peddling the same old same old moral equivalence the Guardian managed in its recent editorial to feed the germ of anti-west action particularly when it is “interventionism”. To the average Guardianisto intervention is never for any other reason than west-serving power, cosying up to big global business, subjugation of the masses, neo-colonialism; it is clearly never altruistic and most definitely NOT EVER to spread liberal democracy.

Putting aside paranoia for a moment, you may observe, if you are observant, that in this whole Guardian “editorial” there was no mention of our former Prime Minister or of Britain’s actions in Sierra Leone in 2000/1 .  That omission despite the fact that it is generally accepted and understood that only after the Blair government & its armed forces managed to stop the limb-chopping rebels did the war come to an end. Few doubt that without Blair agreeing to General David Richards belief that he could extend his ‘rescue Brits mission’ to defeating the rebels and saving Sierra Leoneans, those Charles Taylor-funded rebels would have gone on to kill and maim many thousands more. Compare our press telling of this tale to that of the USA where they make movies such as “Blood Diamonds” and even claim credit when it isn’t truly theirs.

I have to assume that Alex Renton wasn’t around when they needed this “editorial”.


As we know the Guardian has form on vilifying Tony Blair, even when he gets intervention unquestionably right. For instance in November 2001 “Blair’s good guys in Sierra Leone”,  subtitled – “British intervention has yet to transform a failed war on terror”

The reason for that article? In the aftermath of 9/11 and with the Afghanistan war barely a month old, the Guardian needed to provide any reason it could to show why the Afghanistan operation was a bad idea and of course to try to stop further interventions. So it shamefully poured cold water on the renowned success of Blair’s Sierra Leone intervention.

In this 2001 article David Keen says –

“But hailing the British intervention [Sierra Leone] as a success is extremely premature. Even before September 11, the commitment of British troops was being scaled down amid growing commitments in Macedonia. Britain’s portrayal of the conflict as a struggle between good and evil has served as an excuse for continuing corruption and the neglect of rural grievances. Most worrying, many of those who perpetrated some of the worst abuses against civilians, including junta leaders such as Johnny Paul Koroma, have now been absorbed into the army, which has been re-equipped by the British. Such moral ambiguities put one in mind of the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan.

September 11, we are told, demands a new kind of war against a highly elusive enemy. But terror and elusive enemies were not invented on that day. Around the world, proliferating weapons and deep-seated anger are fuelling conflicts that cannot be adequately understood, or combated, as the struggle between two teams, let alone between good and evil. Ultimately, whether in Africa’s neglected conflicts or in the higher-profile attacks of September 11, the only defence will be to defuse the underlying anger.”


Why will Charles Taylor likely be jailed in Britain some are asking. Answer: because we’re British, don’t you know! And we do the right thing, as we jolly well ought since clearly Johnny Foreigner can’t be expected to. This last sentence is in fact my intentional snipe at our submission on the ongoing Abu Qatada case. Even normal human beings, like Blairites for instance, seem to have little doubt that we Brits must always and invariably do as the EHCR overrules ur – sorry – directs us,  regardless of how stupid & gullible we look.

My good friend John Rentoul said here“We’re British, which means Abu Qatada should stay” Why? Because, it seems – “We have more respect here for ‘innocent until proved guilty’… British law is more respectful of the principle of innocent until proved guilty – with guilt not proven until appeals are exhausted. There is something to be said for that.”

Well maybe. But as John Rentoul and I know ‘innocent until proven guilty’ only applies to anyone whose name is not Tony Blair. THAT pre-judgement by so-called  ‘public opinion’ is the very reason I have my doubts about the “because we’re British” argument.

But just as I want Abu Qatada out,  I’m all for keeping Charles Taylor locked up here in Britain. That way he is not likely to find himself missing a limb like the innocent Sierra Leonean child below. And it may remind us why he was convicted in the first place. Not to mention why we should thank Tony Blair. All three reasons – because we’re British.


During the Moscow Conference in November 1943, representatives vowed that there would be punishment of the major war criminals. At the Yalta Conference (also known as the Crimea Conference), in February 1945, representatives of Great Britain, the United States, and the Soviet Union maintained that it was their purpose to destroy German militarism and Nazism and to insure that Germany would never again be able to disturb the peace of the world. Yet there was no definitive action taken as to how this would be implemented.

How Should those Responsible be Punished?
There were varying responses from world leaders:

  • Sir Winston Churchill, Prime Minister of Great Britain during the war, felt strongly that the top Nazis should be immediately executed with no trials. He feared that a long drawn out judicial process might only bring attention and possible sympathy for the Nazi leadership.
  • Joseph Stalin preferred show trials such as those conducted during the Great Purge of the 1930s.
  • President Franklin Roosevelt Initially, Roosevelt was inclined to follow Churchill’s ideas of summary justice but he eventually agreed with key advisers in his administration that emphasized the need for a judicial process and outlined how such a proceeding could be organized in an International Military Tribunal. Roosevelt and his successor, Harry S. Truman, insisted that the rule of law be observed with trials that provided for counsel for the defense as well as ample opportunity for the prosecution to present the evidence. [source]

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  • Independent – William Hague welcomes Taylor ruling
  • Day of reckoning – Judges at the Special Court for Sierra Leone said Taylor played a crucial role in allowing the rebels to continue a bloody rampage during that west African nation’s 11-year civil war, which ended in 2002 with more than 50,000 dead
  • In Dec 2010 The Guardian published Tony Blair’s article on why poverty matters, with reference to Sierra Leone
  • Following the Charles Taylor verdict Tony Blair reflects on how far Sierra Leone has come


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