BlairLord North and America, Chamberlain and Munich, Eden and Suez, Blair and Iraq – some Prime Ministers will be forever remembered for their failures, and any achievements will languish in the shadows of the disasters that define their place in history. There is a rather pathetic irony to Tony Blair’s inclusion in this pantheon of doomed and discredited reputations, in that he more than any of his immediate predecessors was desperate to leave a legacy. However, this legacy won’t be the Good Friday Agreement or the minimum wage or civil partnerships or the Freedom of Information Act, but an unnecessary military adventure that claimed over a hundred British soldiers’ lives and was responsible for the deaths of thousands of innocent civilians, leaving a toxic aftermath that continues to spill blood on a virtual daily basis at the scene of the crime. Barbaric events in Baghdad this past week are directly descended from events that began thirteen years ago on Blair’s watch.

For a man so apparently obsessed with legacy, I can only assume Blair is either ignorant of history or simply stupid. There are so many examples of what becomes of a society when a totalitarian regime is removed and the people are left to their own devices that for Blair to pay no heed to them at all seems to highlight both ignorance and stupidity; and one doesn’t even need to go back that far to find them.

Blair only had to reverse barely a decade to recall the chaos in Eastern Europe following the fall of the Berlin Wall; irreparable tears in the Iron Curtain unleashed all the sectarian and nationalist forces that had been suppressed during the decades when Balkan countries had been Soviet satellite states; suddenly realising their newly independent nations were up for grabs led to the bloodiest conflict in Europe since the Second World War. It was still going on when Blair was elected Prime Minister in 1997, and the British Army’s own role in Kosovo was something he was happy to take credit for. How could he witness what had gone on there and not make the connection with Iraq should a dictator who had been in power for twenty-five years be abruptly toppled? Probably because his unquestioning compliance and infatuation with a US President blinded him to everything that was all-so sadly inevitable.

As Blair came to power, Bill Clinton was a year and-a-half into his second term; having emulated Clinton’s ‘third way’ policy, and to a large degree modelled his hip, swinging persona on Bill’s charismatic public image (opting for strumming a guitar where Clinton had blown a saxophone), Tony had an evident fixation with the tenant of the White House. And it wasn’t merely Clinton, but the office of the President itself. Blair’s idea of government was, as has been often pointed out, ‘presidential’ – minimising the role of the Cabinet and surrounding himself with aides and advisors rather than fellow MPs, with the odious Alistair Campbell particularly prominent.

When Clinton was superseded by George W Bush, any superficial political ‘differences’ anticipated between a Labour Prime Minister and a Republican President were rendered null and void. Blair was so in love with the concept of the Presidency that it didn’t matter which side of the American political divide the President came from. For Tony, it was as though the class nerd had been taken under the wing of the school bully, and he eagerly followed the Commander-in-Chief round with an excitable grin on his face, hardly able to believe the Leader of the Free World was his bezzy mate. Of course, this was all in Tony’s head. The rest of us cringed with embarrassment to see the humbling dynamic of The Special Relationship laid so bare.

The personal price paid by Blair for his love affair with the American Presidency is a permanent blot on his copybook that no amount of airbrushing will ever entirely remove. What’s perversely ironic is how Blair’s part in Iraq as recounted in the Chilcot edition of ‘War and Peace’ seems to have painted a portrait of a British Prime Minister at the head of the world leaders’ table for the first time since 1945. Had things turned out differently, what a legacy that would have been; talk about punching above your weight. But perhaps it was this obsession with legacy and determination to make a mark on the international stage that made Blair such a gift for an American administration more than happy for a gullible idiot to act as their patsy, as he continues to do.

Anthony Eden’s effort to arrest Britain’s slide into imperial oblivion with Suez was a desperate act by a man who had to step into the shoes of Churchill, a man who had waited years for his illustrious predecessor to retire and was determined to make his own mark by seeing Hitler reborn as Nasser; he needed a Hitler to prove himself. The humiliating withdrawal imposed by a furious Eisenhower highlighted the change in the world order that Eden was in denial of. With the exception of the Falklands, there would be no more military interventions by British Prime Ministers inspired by old colonial commitments.

Harold Wilson was forced to take the flak for not condemning US involvement in Vietnam, but that was the price he paid for spurning Lyndon Johnson’s entreaties for Britain to commit troops there; he could easily have gone along with LBJ because the war was America’s and America would ultimately carry the can for the disaster – quite a contrast with Blair’s approach, making Iraq as much of a British concern as it was an American one. And Blair’s ambition to be remembered as the great restorer of Britain’s international prestige, to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with a nation that has spent the majority of its independent existence at war with someone, overrode every other consideration – for the people of Iraq, for British servicemen and women (and their families), and for the country. I would add for himself, but going by his press conference yesterday, he still doesn’t think he did anything wrong.

© The Editor

4 thoughts on “YO, BLAIR!

  1. I have been wondering what Your Eminence would come up with on this. Here is my slightly odd take on it all. I think that at the time Blair’s argument went like this. We live in a world where there are dangerous nut jobs who would like to slaughter us by the million of they got the chance. Saddam is a brutal nut job who we know is in the business of getting hold of chemical or biological weapons, and he hates the West, which had kicked him out of Kuwait, and every reason to visit revenge on us via the intermediary of Al Quada, or whoever. That is too great a risk to take, and the US is going income what may – so in we go and we are on the winning side..

    OK, I can go with that. Then it turns out he didn’t have any. The response is this. “Look” (Blair always says “look”); he Saddam was an utter bastard. He is just waiting us out while we have an army camped on his borders, but as soon as that threat is gone, he will be back to his old ways, and we won’t be in a position to re mount a military campaign for years. So, it doesn’t matter whether he has any at the moment, he has a fixed intention to get them in the future if he can. Same point applies, it’s too dangerous.

    Now, in fact I can go with that too. It has a certain sense in security terms. But that is where me and Phoney Toney start tp part company. No, I haven’t read Chilcot yet, and I probably never will, but I have read some of the memos. The following points shout at me.

    1. War with Iraq had been decided upon by the US well before, probably in the wake of 9/11 partly as an exercise lashing out at somebody as a Grand response, and partly as part of a rather simple Neo Con agenda.

    2. Blair committed Britain to that war well in advance.

    3. Blair seems to have been motivated by some grand, delusional, ideal of establishing a New World Order, not security as such in pragmatic terms.

    4. Blair’s primary focus was, as ever, on spin and the political consequences for himself. A quick victory would be good for him and Dubya. If it went slowly of badly “questions might be asked”. Always the politician, in the forefront of his mind was the possible consequences for him, not the security of the nation or the safety of our troops or indeed Iraqi civilians.

    5. He was more concerned with spin than the welfare of troops. British troops were often not properly equipped to promote deniability, because it could not be accepted that war had already been decided upon.

    6 He appears to have regarded the decision to go to war as his own personal private one, and that the views of the remainder of the Cabinet or indeed other advisors were irrelevant.

    7. He and Bush had no plan for what was to come after.

    What those memos reveal to me is that Blair was an is, an utter lunatic with a messianic complex. He is also a sociopath. That is a topic close to my heart, sadly, and I have written on it elsewhere. Sociopaths cannot perceive or recognise that they have ever done anything wrong, and are willing to do anything to get what they want: they have no human function of conscience or moral compass. the function is absent from the cognitive process. That is why Blair would quite happily look the families of the bereaved in the eye and say (voice all a tremble with fake emotion) : it breaks my heart that little Tommy was incinerated in a Snatch land rover, but I acted in good faith.

    It’s probably why he was quite successful at getting elected.

    Blair, the Great Deceiver. He is basic just a total nut job with a Lady Macbeth type misses. His reputation is where it should be. In the garbage.

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    1. Whether Blair is a sociopath or an actor, or a combination of the two, he certainly knows how to deliver a line for optimum public effect. In our world of increasingly celebrity-based politics, the likes of Blair, Bill Clinton, Reagan, Trump, Boris etc. can strike through to the electorate in a way that the more conventional politicians cannot. To get you to mark your ‘X’, if they’ve got the ‘X Factor’, then considerations of their competence, integrity and even policies seem to stand no chance.

      I’m quite confident Blair was convinced that invading iraq was the right thing to do, in his own mindset – whether a different PM would have reached the same conclusion, in the same blend of circumstances, we will never know, but I prefer to think they may differ.

      But that does not excuse the complete absence of any post-conquer plan – if one had been in place, if they had left the Iraqi police, military and civil service in place, if the post-Saddam period had been marked by mature elections, stability, peace and prosperity, then Blair’s legacy would be very different. As it is, none of that was ever going to happen, so he gets the legacy he deserves.

      And all because of whether a nation held stocks of illicit weapons of mass destruction or not. Whilst almost next-door is another nation which holds unacknowledged weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear ones, and which repeatedly disregards UN resolutions, yet remains immune from direct action, or even criticism, by the very same nations which seemed so hell-bent on removing any imagined WMD and leadership from Iraq. Odd that.

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    2. Good summary. I wanted to digest all I’d heard about the report before commenting and also needed an angle. I figured Blair’s obsession with the US President was the angle to go for, as it seemed to be at the root of his undoing.


  2. Apparently the execuitve summary alone is 145 pages, so, let’s face it, the number of people on the face of the planet that are alive now that will ever read this weighty tome in its entirety, let alone the executive summary, is in the region of dozens, maybe hundreds at most.

    That said, the Chilcot Report is an important piece for the historical record – and it strikes me that Victoria Lucas is on the ball with the Suez comparison.

    As regards Saddam Hussein, he did, of course, have weapons of mass destruction – the USA, the British, the French, and no doubt, other countries sold them to him to use on the Iranians. After that, he went a bit rogue, Colonel Kurtz style, and he also used them on the Kurds and the Shia Iraqis. Blowback.

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