Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Tony Blair and the Fortunes of War

AS Britain's inquiry into the Iraq war has brought out damning evidence on the Bush and Blair government's responsibility and its causes, reports from Iraq continue to show the awful consequences.

On November 14 the Guardian front-paged the report on children being born with deformities in Falluja, where US forces used white phosphorus, and some say, depleted uranium munitions, 'freeing' the city from insurgents. See:

(previously reported in this blog on October 19

At the weekend, while Iraqis might have been expecting to celebrate the festival of Aid el-Adha, in however difficult circumstances, there were fears the post-invasion Iraqi government intended to execute nine women, the first of 126 who have been sentenced to death. Their 'crime' appears to be that they were educated professionals who served in various positions under the previous regime. One was a head of the nuclear energy centre, another Minister of Work and Social Affairs.

Now that Iraq has a government on good terms with the neighbouring regime in Iran, they seem to be becoming rivals in one respect - who can kill more of their own citizens. Amnesty said this year that "Iraq now has one of the highest rates of execution in the world. At least 1,000 people are believed to be under sentence of death, 150 of whom have exhausted all legal remedies available to them and are therefore at serious risk of being hanged. In this document, which includes case studies, Amnesty International calls on the Iraqi authorities to halt all executions, to commute all pending death sentences and to ensure that trials meet with international standards".

Women's Solidarity for an Independent and Unified Iraq (WSIUI) have accused Prime Minister Nour el Maliki of using lynch mob methods. WSIU called for a halt to executions, and abolition of the death penalty. The women's movement also condemns the use of torture to obtain confessions, and "the persisting practice of arbitrary arrests by the Iraqi security forces. We condemn their arrests of women in lieu of their men folk. These are practices, they inherited from the occupiers".

"Soft language and bombastic slogans regarding the’ new democratic Iraq’, fail to disguise the miserable existence of the majority of Iraqis under the occupation. Iraqis are living on the poverty line, without the most essential of services, without stability and security and at the mercy of organised criminals and corrupt security forces, corrupt or apathetic government officials. Now, the sovereignty lacking Iraqi government intends to commit judicial murder".

When we add the activity of religious militias, gangs and death squads to those of the state, we can see a pattern. It suits both imperialist predators and domestic reactionaries to drag Iraq down from modernity to backwardness and dependency.

Besides women, sexual minorities have been a favourite target for violence. It is reckoned that 720 people have been murdered. Homosexuality is not illegal, but far from stopping the homophobic violence the police seem more concerned with waging their own harassment by monitoring gay cafes and internet chat rooms.

I dare say those liberals and democrats who supported the war, and accused us of wanting to leave Iraqis under the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein, did not have this kind of 'freedom' in mind. (Only marginally better have been those in the Stop the War Coalition who insisted that supporting secular and progressive Iraqis wasn't part of our remit as peace campaigners.) Don't bother apologising. Tony Blair hasn't. He still insists he did nothing wrong.

General Sir Michael Rose, not exactly a peace campaigner, disagrees: "Britain was taken unprepared into war on false grounds, and the inevitable result was the destruction of Iraq, enormous loss of life and continuing political turmoil in the Middle East. Worse, the war has radicalised Muslim opinion against the West throughout the world, even spawning terrorism on ...the streets of London....Why I believe Blair should stand trial - and even face charges for war crimes Mail Online
Gen. Sir Michael Rose, one of Britain's most distinguished generals, denounces the former Prime Minister and says there is no point holding the Iraq inquiry without apportioning blame.'

Unlike the women on death row in Baghdad, our former prime minister is not facing any consequences for his crimes. True, he did not achieve his ambition of becoming European president. But what with his banking sinecures, speaking engagements, book deals, charities and other little earners, he must be among the richest retirees in Britain.

To be fair, Blair has done his bit for Labour's promises of "affordable housing". He managed to afford £4.45 million for a home in Connaught Square, in London's Belgravia, not far from the little pad Wafic Said provided for the Thatchers. Then in May 2008 he found the means to afford £5.75 million for Sir John Gielgud's old place, described as "a small stately home" in Buckinghamshire. On top of his bills for these places, there's the £560,000 a year lease for Blair's Mayfair consultancy office, in Grosvenor Square near the US embassy. But as the Guardian's David Leigh and Ian Griffiths tell us, that is paid for through a company called Windrush Ventures.

"So mystifying are the former prime minister's financial structures – which involve highly specialised limited partnerships and parallel companies – that the Guardian today launches an open invitation to tax specialists and accountants to attempt to explain the motivation behind such structures. We have published the Companies House documents and other legal papers regarding the structure of the partnerships at guardian.co.uk and invite expert comment via our site at guardian.co.uk/politics/series/blair-mystery

'There is no suggestion Blair is doing anything illegal. But he refuses to explain the purpose of the secretive partnerships. Tax specialists say Blair could use these unusual arrangements at some point in the future to seek to transfer millions tax-free to his four children. Blair denies, however, that the structures are such an inheritance tax avoidance scheme, known as a "family limited partnership"'.

These partnerships can also be used to protect partners from liability. But Blair's partnerships seem to be with nobody but himself. "Millions of pounds have been funnelled through one arrangement called Windrush Ventures and a second parallel structure called Firerush Ventures. They may handle some of the large amounts coming in from Blair's book deal, his six-figure speaking fees, his banking and insurance consultancies, and his pay from Middle Eastern regimes. Blair's profit-making commercial schemes involve 12 different Windrush and Firerush legal entities centring on a pair of "limited partnerships".

"His spokesman, former No 10 staff member Matthew Doyle, refuses to say who Blair's partner is. Windrush Ventures No 3 LP, for example, consists on paper of a partnership between an entity owned by Blair himself and an anonymous off-the-shelf company. .. This company in turn conceals its true ownership. Its shares are listed as held by the lawyers, acting as nominees".

"This partner company does not appear to have made any significant investments on its own behalf. The register shows that its sole contribution to the partnership when it was set up in December 2007 was the sum of £19. The Guardian asked Doyle who owned Blair's partner company. We also asked for the terms of the partnership agreement which divides up the rights to Blair's money. We asked the purpose of the schemes, and what funds had been paid into them. Doyle refused to answer. He even refused to say why the name 'Windrush' was chosen".


I'm not a lawyer, accountant or a tax expert, but I might be able to offer a suggestion about that name. Or know a woman who can. A while ago, heading north from Liverpool Street, I regretted not being able to buy any film for my camera, as there outside the offices of a company called Windrush were a band of young people dressed as pirates, waving cardboard cutlasses and going "Argh, Jim Lad!" and so forth. It was all good fun, but aimed at making a point, and here is an item from Corporate Watch by a woman who has trained her spy glass on Windrush:

'Windrush Communications is the British company which organises the Iraq Procurement Conferences, where corporations discuss the privatisation of Iraq's assets (see Corporate Watch Newsletter December 2004). Ewa Jasiewicz takes a closer look. Windrush began as an independent global publishing house, producing corporate journals and websites for trade and financial instiutions. Its glossy mouthpieces and e-digests promote the culture of commodification and privatisation.. The conquering of new markets and the wars which smash them open are sanitised and normalised. In these journals the corporate elite theorise and advocate their socially and environmentally destructive agendas. Windrush Communications Ltd was founded in December 2002 as an independent private company. Formerly known as Wishwell Ltd, it was renamed Windrush in February 2003. It’s Docklands-dwelling Director is 48-year-old John Lumb while Raminder Singh-Barmi holds the post of Managing Director of Iraq Procurement. From publishing it graduated two years late to the esteemed position of being the organiser of the glittering and gargantuan Iraq Procurement Conferences. So far there have been three: London April 2004; Jordan November 2004 and Iraq Oil and Gas, Amman, August 2004.

'These events bring together politicians, ministers, and business people from the world over (Iraq’s Electricity, Health, and Oil ministers plus British governmental representatives and Jordanian ministers have all attended the events) to broker deals, talk shop, and re-configure the economy, markets and future of an entire nation - in the image and interests of the rich and powerful, corporate and governmental. The legality of these events has been called into question by anti-war activists arguing that the sell-off of Iraq’s assets under an Occupation-created law on Foreign Investment --Order 39 -- violates the Geneva Convention and Hague Regulations and amounts to pillage.

'Curiously there is more than one business venture involved in Windrush Communications’ work. A company named Omega Marketing Worldwide which appears to be new shares the address and telephone line of Windrush at Clergy House, Mark Street, EC2, and Windrush’s former Production Manager, Ben Pilley, has been transferred and promoted to Managing Director of Omega Marketing Worldwide.

'The relationship between the two companies is unclear, as is the relationship between Windrush and the 'Iraq Development Program' - again, undefined, except that all procurement conference registration fees must be paid to ‘The Iraq Development Program’. The IDP also enjoys exclusive hotel rates, a perk usually afforded to companies close to government. Windrush’s move into the field of international corporate politics came when it became the official Media Partner (read ‘publicist/PR agent’) for the British-Arab Chamber of Commerce. A large company with over 25 years service to the business, government and academic sectors, the BACC provides these sectors with information and analysis of how, where, when and what to privatise, control and justify next. The BACC has a board of over 80 Directors. Its Vice-Chairman is Sir Alan Munro, former British Ambassador to Algeria and Saudi Arabia, who has admitted having a salaried position advising companies on how to break into the Saudi Arabian market -- however his position at the BACC is 'voluntary'.

'Windrush began their project of contract brokering and pillage promoting with three initial websites designed to identify markets for businesses - 'Rebuilding Iraq News', 'Iraqi Business Project' and 'Iraq’s Key Industries', before picking up the gauntlet from where The Iraq Program Management Office (PMO) left off.

'The PMO itself was set up by the US puppet Coalition Provisional Authority to oversee all contracts funded by the new US government's appropriation of over $18.6 billion for Iraq's reconstruction. Windrush joins an industry of post-conflict reconstruction corporate guides, such as 3C New York, which ‘establishes contacts between procurement agencies in the U.S government and potential contractors in the U.S. and abroad’ with its Iraq Project. privatisation, old and new, with fresh spaces, platforms and alliances to carry out the next phase of free market capitalism deeper into the Middle East. This is in sync with George Bush’s declaration of a Middle East Free Trade Zone within the next 10 years -- a zone dependent on war, occupation and death for its survival. Windrush were unavailable to comment, stating that the company is not giving any media interviews at the moment. see:



I don't know whether this Windrush and the one that helps Tony Blair manage his financial affairs are one and the same company or related, or if someone involved in thinking up names just had a sense of humour. Perhaps the Guardian reporters will find out.

It would have been too much in bad taste to have called Blair's wealth a "windfall".

As Sir Michael Rose says:

"Over 100,000 Iraqi civilians and more than 4,500 soldiers from coalition forces have been killed during almost seven years of the occupation - and probably ten times that number have been injured. Two million Iraqis have fled their country and another two million have been internally displaced.

Up to $3 trillion has been spent on the war by America - a staggering sum that is likely to have played a significant part in the collapse of the American banking system and helped create the present difficulties facing the world economy".

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-1231540/Why-I-believe-Blair-stand-trial--face-charges-war-crimes.html#ixzz0YSsIIoJy



At 8:45 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Shared outrage doesn't make Michael Rose a reliable source.

At 9:31 AM, Blogger Charlie Pottins said...

I'm no admirer of Rose, whose role and account on Bosnia I've not forgotten. Nor do I respect the newspaper from which this was taken.
But in this case, the general is not being cited as a "source" for anything we don't know, but for his comments and his call for Blair to be prosecuted as a criminal. That is surely something to note?

At 4:54 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'd rather hear your voice than Rose's, I have the impression I can trust your honesty and judgment!


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