Blair Steps Aside as 'We Are Many' Gains Momentum

Blair Steps Aside as 'We Are Many' Gains Momentum

It was Percy Bysshe Shelley who penned the line "Ye are many -- they are few."

On February 15, 2003, armed with this notion, the world marched against the proposed American-led invasion of Iraq.

We Are Many, charts the journey from these global protests to the bloodshed which ensued. Championed by critics, this powerful and revealing feature-length film, not only documents the recent past; its relevance resonates with the situation currently unfolding across Iraq and Syria.

Last month, Tony Blair wrote to Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general, stating that he would resign from his role as special representative of the Quartet. By the end of the month, he will vacate the role, the purpose of which lies in seeking a peace agreement for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In 2007, he was appointed within the informal diplomatic group consisting of the United Nations, European Union, United States and Russia, only hours after leaving Downing Street.

Although he has reportedly said he was frustrated by the limitations of the role, this swift exit leads me to speculate: has the troubled Middle Eastern region become too great a burden for the former UK prime minister? After his legacy in Iraq, many demand he be tried for war crimes. As Blair steps down, many speculate what exactly he has achieved over the last eight years.

Both George W. Bush and Blair advocated unsubstantiated claims about Weapons of Mass Destruction in order to oust Saddam Hussein's Ba'athist regime. In the years following the invasion of Iraq, which led to the deaths of over 500,000 Iraqi civilians, many have questioned the motives of the two governments. The publication of Britain's official investigation of the Iraq war, the Chilcot Inquiry, has been repeatedly delayed as British officials block access to official records of the conversations between the two leaders in the run-up to the invasion.

This remarkable day of protests took Iranian-born British director Amir Amirani eight years to bring to the screen. What began as separate and dispersed anti-war efforts resulted in the largest mobilisation of people in history: close to 800 cities witnessed marches organised by grass roots organisations such as the British Stop the War Coalition (StWC) in an attempt to halt Bush and Blair.

We Are Many further delegitimises Blair's bizarre appointment as official envoy of the Quartet. The film, produced by comedian Omid Djalili and funded through Kickstarter, is composed of archive clips and contemporary interviews. Well known people including Mark Rylance and Richard Branson reflect on the era as well as the influential academic Noam Chomsky. Other engrossing evaluations include those by four of Blair's former cabinet. Some of the most poignant interviews, however, are with those who lost family members to 9/11 and felt the tragedy was exploited to declare a "War on Terror".

In his role, previously occupied by a former World Bank president, Blair's financial interests have frequently been criticised. By June 2012, The Financial Times estimated Blair's annual income at £20 million from close ties with investment bank JP Morgan. Moreover, senior Palestinian figures say the achievements of Blair and the Quartet have been exaggerated. Not only has Blair lacked credibility as Middle East peace envoy, but his leadership has been largely ineffective; the occupied territories of Palestine are still under siege.

The world-wide campaign demonstrated not only the extraordinary sense of unity between the public but, rather despairingly, the gulf between the political elite and the masses. This historic denial of the public will has led many to say they will never vote labour again. Nonetheless, Amirani explores the influence of these mass demonstrations on the Arab Spring and Labour's subsequent refusal to countenance the attack on Syria.

Officials close to the Quartet said Blair will continue to play an informal role in trying to forge a two-state solution between the Palestinians and Israel. Regardless, the enlightening film We Are Many, undermines the validity of such claims.

We Are Many is a window on a profound cultural moment as the repercussions of the 2003 invasion continue to haunt us.

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