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If there was a prize for the most unctuous politician, Tony Blair would be in strong contention.
In his just released memoir, Blair continues being disingenuous on Iraq, claiming—Clintonesquely—that even though he recognizes the pain and suffering caused by the invasion, he still stands by it.
“I can’t regret the decision to go to war,” he says, and then sobbingly adds, “Do they really suppose I don’t care, don’t feel, don’t regret with every fiber of my being the loss of those who died? Tears, though there have been many, do not encompass it.”
Whatever you say, Tony. Well, at least his guilty conscience is forcing him to donate the proceeds from his book to a British veterans’ organization. Nice gesture, though it doesn’t completely make up for all the dissembling he engaged in to facilitate Britain’s entry into the war.
The case that Blair made before the public in the fall of 2002 was based on a dossier that greatly exaggerated British intelligence’s findings. One of the chief claims of Blair’s government, that Iraq could launch a WMD in just forty-five minutes, was a fabrication. So was the assertion, famously repeated by George W. Bush, that the Iraqi government had actively sought to obtain uranium from Niger. (The website www.iraqdossier.com is a detailed look at all facets of the dossier.)
Why did Blair do it? Speculation has ranged from the view that Blair regarded the British-U.S. relationship as sacrosanct (with Britain ensconced in the role of a loyal junior partner) to the notion that he hoped to steer Bush toward a more internationalist approach. But religious fervor played a part too. In a 2006 television appearance, Blair suggested that God ordained the Iraq War. “I think if you have faith about these things then you realize that judgment is made by other people,” Blair said. “By other people, by, if you believe in God, it’s made by God as well.”
It is perhaps this certainty that has prevented him from having second thoughts about the enterprise, at least publicly. During testimony at a British official enquiry earlier this year, not only did he express no remorse over Iraq, he seemed to be selling a war with Iran, mentioning that country fifty-eight times.
His memoir is in the same vein. He glibly asserts that “the full array of experts were consulted” before he made his decision, blithely omitting how his government distorted the input. But then, the honesty and/or judgment of a man is seriously in doubt when he lists George W. Bush “near the top” of any list of political leaders with the “most integrity.”
Speaking of whom, it will be interesting to see how the less eloquent of the pair handles the Iraq fiasco in his memoir, coming to a bookstore near you in November. Unwilling to wait that long, Republican leaders are already engaged in a rewriting of history. John McCain, John Boehner and Mitch McConnell all criticized President Obama for allegedly not giving Bush credit enough in his recent Iraq speech for the supposed success of the surge.
No amount of memoir writing or bloviating will nullify the central truth about the Iraq War: It was a folly based on deceit and lies that brought about unconscionable suffering. Blair, Bush and their supporters can spin all they want.
If you liked this article by Amitabh Pal, the managing editor of The Progressive magazine, please check out his article entitled "Iraq a Complete Failure for the United States."
Follow Amitabh Pal @amitpal on Twitter