Maverick politician George Galloway’s The Killing$ of Tony Blair is everything you would expect of an opinionated character assassination of a highly criticised former head of state.
Pants on fireby Alexa Dalby
CAUTION: Here be spoilers
Politician George Galloway is notorious for his outspoken views particularly relating to the Middle East. Starting in 2013, he instigated this feature-length documentary about the former British prime minister Tony Blair, which was crowdfunded through Kickstarter and co-directed by film-makers Greg Ward and Sanne van den Bergh.
The Chilcot Report into the Iraq War published in July, the same month as the film is released, found that Blair had overstated the threat posed by Saddam Hussein, sent ill-prepared troops into battle and had “wholly inadequate” plans for the aftermath of the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Galloway, therefore is essentially kicking a man who is already (possibly though not conclusively) down. However, this accessible and well-made film makes excellent use of archive footage, high-profile, thought-provoking interviewees and it is wide ranging enough to cleverly flesh out the recent history even if it has no startlingly new information to add.
It starts arrestingly with news footage of the bombing of Baghdad intercut with Tony Blair’s speech on an Arabic television channel, where his fine words are effectively undercut by the reality of what is happening on the ground. Galloway campaigned against the Iraq War and he appears sombrely dressed and wearing his trademark fedora to present the film and open our eyes to “the bleeding obvious”. He makes an attempted doorstepping of Tony Blair’s office in Michael Moore mode but other than that diversion, his commentary is sharp, well written and delivered and always to the point. In his words, Blair masterminded three ‘killings’: he killed thousands in Iraq; he killed the Labour Party; and he continues to make a killing in his post-Prime Ministerial life as a globetrotting speaker and political consultant.
Insightful interviewees include Tory Cabinet member David Davis, author Will Self, former Labour minister Clare Short, lawyer Michael Mansfield and even Cherie Blair’s half-sister Lauren Booth, now a Muslim convert and possibly Blair’s harshest and most personal critic.
The film covers a lot of ground. Starting with Blair’s seemingly irresistible charm – his “fake sincerity” in Galloway’s analysis – in his role as newly elected prime minister, it goes on to accuse him of being complicit in the overthrow of governments in Kazakhstan, Egypt and Afghanistan. His role was most overt in Iraq in conjunction with US President George Bush, and involved the now officially discredited assertions about Saddam Hussein’s possession of weapons of mass destruction – or “weapons of mass deception” as Galloway calls them. Blair’s involvement in regime change by starting an illegal war of aggression is a crime in international law that qualifies him as a war criminal, Galloway alleges, thus making him vulnerable to citizen’s arrest should he be so foolhardy as to walk down a street without his bodyguards. Along the way, the film looks at his relationship with media tycoon Rupert Murdoch (and his then wife).
It goes on to examine Blair’s business interests post-premiership in Kuwait, Libya and their connection with his bank JP Morgan, the absurdity of his appointment as Middle East peace envoy and what Galloway calls his “damning legacy” in the Middle East, which he says spawned Isis and planted the seeds of terrorism. Amongst other things, Galloway characterises Blair as being “enchanted by money”, fuelled by greed and piggy-backing on conflict for personal again.
It’s an immensely watchable, if totally one-sided, documentary. Presumably it’s all been thoroughly vetted by lawyers before it saw the light of day and so George Galloway’s accusatory brio will be unstoppable.
The Killing$ of Tony Blair is released on 22 July 2016 in the UK, with a live satellite Q&A on 27 July, and on DVD and Digital HD on 15 August.