Armed with a “bounty fund” of over £9000, George Monbiot has been urging Guardian readers to effect a citizen’s arrest of Tony Blair, ostensibly for committing “an illegal act of mass murder” and “crimes against peace.” (Mercifully, this bounty doesn’t extend to parliament or a sizeable part of the British electorate.) Monbiot’s campaign website includes the former prime minister’s public schedule and a charmingly ambiguous assurance:
The fund will remain open for as long as Mr Blair lives, or until he is officially prosecuted.
The proposal met with much whooping and hooting among Guardian readers, with more than a few enthusiastic endorsements:
I would actually like Blair’s blood on my hands.
Elsewhere, saner voices have noted some procedural concerns.
Blair hasn’t been found guilty of anything by any court, tribunal or other competent forum unless you count the High Court of Islington (Chattering Class Division).
Amusingly, if someone did act in this way as a result of Monbiot’s urgings, Monbiot would also be liable, as he would have procured the wrong and the wrongdoer’s actions would also be attributed to him. I would suggest, as well, that his employer, the Guardian, would be vicariously liable for Monbiot’s wrongdoing.
Readers may recall George’s earlier attempt to arrest former US ambassador John Bolton, which didn’t go terribly well. I perhaps don’t need to add that some of us were hoping to see Mr Bolton decking Monbiot personally, quite firmly, and maybe more than once.
And, as Norman Geras noted dryly at the time,
I'm assuming that a citizen’s arrest requires not only reasonable grounds for thinking that the person to be arrested has committed the offence for which the arrest is being made, but also that it was in fact an offence under law... I would doubt that it is legal to arrest someone for what you merely hope might be judged to be a crime.
However, Monbiot is undeterred and still swollen with righteous umbrage.
You can mock our feeble attempts to hold Tony Blair to account, but only if you propose an alternative.
So engorged is George, he’s happy to beg the question.
Encouraging citizen’s arrests of Tony Blair for the crime of aggression is perhaps the only remaining option we have.
Despite his repeated invoking of “justice” and “reckoning,” Monbiot concedes that an attempted arrest of Mr Blair would be largely symbolic. It’s therefore worth pondering what would be symbolised by any such attempt. One might, for instance, wonder if Monbiot’s urging is mere moral exhibitionism - an ostentatious display of virtue, or supposed virtue, done chiefly or entirely at someone else’s expense. In this case, the expense of his more adamant devotees. And one might wonder why inciting others to break the law and play at vigilante is a matter of conscience and unassailable righteousness, while those who would depose genocidal tyrants whose tools included rape dungeons should be thwarted by law as defined by George Monbiot.
Readers may also be interested in Mr Monbiot’s views on advertising, which he equates with hardcore pornography and is, we’re told, “a pox on the planet… driving us toward destruction.”