Tony Blair has moved beyond parody
Published by The Independent (16th June, 2014)
Please forgive me. I know we should ignore his latest attention-seeking outburst, like a kind parent might turn their back on a child prone to temper tantrums. But it is hard when he pops up to pollute the airwaves and defile acres of newsprint with silly statements. So, once again, we must focus on our former prime minister Tony Blair, who has moved far beyond the point of parody with his latest attempt to absolve himself of guilt over the terrifying events in Iraq.
As a group that even al-Qa’ida thinks too violent runs rampage through Iraq, exploiting the region’s chaos in its drive to recreate a repressive medieval caliphate, Blair pens a 2,848-word essay claiming it is ‘bizarre’ to blame the crisis on his 2003 invasion. Incredibly, he still argues that Saddam Hussein might have used weapons of mass destruction, despite the crushing evidence he had given up such devices. As Blair blames everyone but himself for the current carnage and bloodshed, he even claims to speak ‘with humility’.
These are the delusional and self-serving ravings of a man who just a year ago bragged that Iraq was a better place for the removal of Saddam. As he flits around the world giving speeches on democracy while receiving huge cheques from despots, the former Labour leader seems to have lost touch with reality. No doubt, he sees himself as some kind of Churchillian figure whom history will prove right, yet experts and former diplomats were not short of evidence yesterday as they tore apart his arguments.
Even if you put aside the most obvious flaw in his argument, that the invasion of Iraq and its appallingly bungled aftermath clearly upset the stability of the region, there are many layers of hypocrisy in his approach to the Middle East.
Consider for a start who funds Isis, the group threatening Baghdad and accused of all those hideous atrocities, along with some of the other Islamic militants in Syria. There is evidence that significant finance flowed from and through Kuwait, an initially supportive regime turning a blind eye to donations in its desire to see President Bashar Assad overthrown. Curiously, millions also flowed from this same oil-rich state into Blair’s companies.
Then there is Saudi Arabia, whose malign presence lurks behind so many of the problems that Blair raises in his proclamations on freedom and modernity. This nation is, of course, run by a theocratic absolute monarchy that represses women, is ruthlessly intolerant of other religions and sects, and spends vast sums promoting a corrosive hard-line brand of Islam that gave birth to al-Qa’ida. The Saudis have also been accused by Iraq’s government of funding their fellow Sunnis in Isis.
Yet Blair never seems to criticise them. Indeed, it was noticeable in his last significant intervention that he seemed to be merely promulgating the Saudi vision. Perhaps this is not surprising: even during his time in office, he was so in thrall he halted a landmark bribery case, demeaning the most basic principles of British justice to appease these ultra-rich autocrats.
Or look at Egypt, where Blair once borrowed a holiday home from his despotic friend Hosni Mubarak, before hailing him as “a force for good” as the blood of protesters demanding democracy started spilling in Tahrir Square. Now he backs a general who led an army coup against an elected government, praising him for rescuing the nation, despite the deaths of 1,600 dissidents and jailing of 10 times that number. These include not just Islamists but many liberal and left-wing activists. Human rights groups are saying that the current regime is the most brutal in Egypt’s post-colonial history.
When I visited Cairo for the stage-managed election last month, even coup supporters told me Blair’s support for their cause could backfire. “Everyone knows he was a friend of Mubarak, and then there was the Iraq war on top of that,” said one prominent politician. “If Blair says something is black, most Egyptians think it is white.” He laughed when I told him voters felt much the same in Britain.
Blair backs democracy until it delivers results of which he disapproves – and then he jumps back into bed with despots while pontificating about oppression. Even yesterday, this shameless man talked about the problems of leaving dictators in office, yet he lends fig-leaf respectability to tyrants he advises, such as Paul Kagame in Rwanda and Nursultan Nazarbayev in Kazakhstan. And still he writes about Afghanistan, where 453 British troops have lost their lives; they were once told their mission might leave without firing a shot.
Never an apology. Never any sign of awareness, trapped on his self-harming journey to wealth and global vilification. Never any reflection on the blood spilled, nor the struggle of those really fighting for human rights. Blair is a messiah in his own mind, reviled by most others. Perhaps it would be kinder if the media did ignore his strange desire to shred the little that is left of his reputation.