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Monday, November 27, 2006

Sorry seems to be the easiest word

Teflon Tone is, apparently 'sorry' about Britain's role in the slave trade. I wasn't actually aware that the UK was still trading in slaves. They're not? So why apologise now, two centuries after the evil practice was abandoned?

This stunt is reminiscent of his apology to Ireland for Britain's fault during the Irish potato famine, which was delivered on the 150th anniversary of the Great Hunger back in 1997.

On the one hand, it's sort of nice that Tony at least recognises that these were great wrongs. On the other, his predeliction for looking up anniversaries of horrors to apologise for smacks of PR nonsense.

By apologising for things that happened generations before his birth, he can give the impression of being a compassionate leader, a Christian soul moved by the sins of his forefathers.

But if he really feels the degree of remorse about evil actions committed by the British state, why the reticence in assuming responsibility for those he actually caused himself, such as the current state of Iraq?

And if Blair was genuinely animated about the evil of slavery today, would British troops not be in West Africa, preventing child labour today, or in Darfur protecting the Black southern Sudanese from their northern kidnappers, or in Eastern Europe, where women are being trafficked into the sex industry?

Britain benefited economically from both the slave trade and the Irish famine, and while mealy mouthed apologies are possibly preferable to no apology at all, no reparations appear to be forthcoming.

Both Africa and Ireland remain torn by divisions caused by British overlordship to this day, and the continuum of British influence in the Middle East has been an ongoing reason for the many internecine troubles afflicting that region.

Will Blair's successor one day be apologising to the Iraqi people some time in the 23rd century? And if so, what good will it do them anyway?

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