The Blair Bitch Project: But Behind the Savaging of Gordon Brown, Praise for George W. Bush, Defence of Iraq War and Guantánamo

3.9.10

OK, I admit that the heading is more accurate in relation to Tony Blair’s sniping at Gordon Brown in his recently released memoir than it is to the issues that really concern us here — Iraq, Guantánamo, and the “War on Terror” — but I couldn’t resist using it.

So what are Blair’s revelations about his decision to take Britain into an illegal war, one which, as various American friends have told me, was more crucial to swaying public opinion in America than most Brits realize?

“I can’t regret the decision to go to war,” he writes, although he adds, “I can say that never did I guess the nightmare that unfolded, and that too is part of the responsibility. The truth is we did not anticipate the role of al-Qaeda or Iran. Whether we should have is another matter; and if we had anticipated, what we would have done about it is another matter again.”

This is pretty pathetic, to be honest, as anyone remotely aware of history — rather than in an uninformed notion of the importance of “humanitarian intervention” (the so-called “Blair Doctrine,” first formulated during the Kosovo war in 1999) — would have told Blair that, in post-Saddam Iraq, Iran would obviously benefit, and would also have been able to perceive that a “holy war” in Iraq’s post-Saddam vacuum was exactly what al-Qaeda wanted too. In his denials of these basic facts, Blair resembles the media pundits berated by Glenn Greenwald on Tuesday for claiming that “there was no way they ‘could have known’ what was to happen.” Substitute “Tony Blair” for “American elites” in Greenwald’s passage below:

The predominant attribute of American elites is a refusal to take responsibility for any failures. The favored tactic for accomplishing this evasion is the “nobody-could-have-known” excuse. Each time something awful occurs … one is subjected to an endless stream of excuse-making from those responsible, insisting that there was no way they “could have known” what was to happen.

Like US pundits, and many supposedly intelligent warmongers in the UK, Tony Blair — if he were to be honest — would have to concede that, actually, he didn’t give a damn what critics said, or he, like Greenwald, might have taken note of commentaries providing detailed reasons why the war was an incredibly stupid idea, such as those written by Jim Webb of the Washington Post in September 2002, and delivered by Howard Dean in a speech at Duke University in February 2003.

Paying tribute to fallen soldiers, and to Iraqis who lost their lives, Blair asks, “Do they really suppose I don’t care, don’t feel, don’t regret with every fibre of my being the loss of those who died?” He continues, “The anguish arises from a sense of sadness that goes beyond conventional description or the stab of compassion you feel on hearing tragic news. Tears, though there have been many, do not encompass it. I feel desperately sorry for them, sorry for the lives cut short, sorry for the families whose bereavement is made worse by the controversy over why their loved ones died, sorry for the utterly unfair selection that the loss should be theirs.”

These are fine words, but they are ultimately dismissive of the 100,000, 650,000 or one million-plus Iraqis who have paid with their lives for his war of choice, and his words are, therefore, more indicative of his colossal ego and his passive-aggressive tendencies than they are of any genuine remorse. In addition, after admitting that the intelligence regarding Saddam Hussein’s supposed WMD programme “turned out to be incorrect,” Blair still insists that the Iraqi leader only made a “tactical decision” to put the programme “into abeyance, not a strategic decision to abandon it,” leaving readers to wonder how he can square the tears he aleegedly cried with the fact that so many died for a seven-year bloodbath whose rationale was “sexed-up,” but which was apparently worth it because the removal of one man justified so many deaths.

For George W. Bush, Blair retains nothing but praise. He has “genuine integrity and as much political courage as any leader I ever met,” he writes effusively, only reinforcing long-held ideas that the men were far too close on a personal level — and through their shared notions of what “genuine integrity” and “political courage” meant — to allow anyone less exalted to burst their bubble. Alarmingly, he even seems to admire the bellicose madness of Dick Cheney, which he apparently encountered first-hand. Cheney, he writes, “would have worked through the whole lot, Iraq, Syria, Iran, dealing with all their surrogates … He thought the world had to be made anew … by force and with urgency.”

On Guantánamo, too, Blair remains supportive of the Bush administration’s decision to hold prisoners outside of established norms, describing “a policy that was both understandable and, done in a different way, justifiable,” although adding that it was handled “almost in the most provocative way possible.” He explains that prisoners seized in Afghanistan “had to be treated unconventionally because they could not be proved guilty in a ‘proper’ court of law but ‘would be a threat if released,’” as the Australian described it.

Not only does this echo the disdain for the Geneva Conventions that was at the heart of the Bush administration’s “War on Terror,” but it also explains why it took until 2006 for Blair to offer even the mildest criticism of Guantánamo, when he described it as an “anomaly.” It should also be of interest to the inquiry into the role of Britain’s intelligence services in the torture of prisoners abroad since 9/11, announced by the new coalition government in July, especially because, just a week after that announcement, documents released in a UK court as part of a civil claim for damages against the government submitted by six former Guantánamo prisoners revealed Blair’s interference in plans by the Foreign office to provide consular access to one of these men, Martin Mubanga, seized in Zambia, who was then rendered to Guantánamo.

There is more. He “compares the fight against Islamist extremism to the Cold War and says the struggle in Afghanistan and elsewhere must go on for ‘as long as is necessary’ — possibly decades,” as the Christian Science Monitor described it, and there is also the sabre-rattling about Iran that so shamefully dominated his appearance at the Chilcot Inquiry in January, which jars — as absurdly as it should — with his unfounded pride about his role as a supposed mediator in the Middle East. As the Guardian explained, “His appetite for international affairs, he admits, has been sharpened by his role,” and, in a postscript to A Journey, he claims, “Personally I have never felt a greater sense of frustration or indeed a greater urge to leadership.”

There is not a word about other matters, of course — how “regime change” in Iraq was actually agreed between Blair and George W. Bush at the President’s Texas ranch in April 2002, as Sir Christopher Meyer, Britain’s ambassador to the US, told the Chilcot Inquiry last November — but there is enough about Blair’s defence of the Iraq war, his admiration for George W. Bush, and his defence of the rationale behind Guantánamo, to conclude that, whatever his domestic policies, we are all much better off having him far from office, and unable to drag us into disaster again with his deranged view of foreign policy and his tendency to polarized — and, I think, dangerously deluded — beliefs about good and evil.

Andy Worthington is the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed (and I can also be found on Facebook and Twitter). Also see my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, updated in July 2010, details about the new documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (co-directed by Polly Nash and Andy Worthington, currently on tour in the UK, and available on DVD here), and my definitive Guantánamo habeas list, and, if you appreciate my work, feel free to make a donation.

11 Responses

  1. Andy Worthington says...

    Here are some comments from Facebook:

    Terrina Aguilar wrote:

    OK … “Blair Bitch Project” … I’m gonna need a moment … LOL!!!!!!

  2. Andy Worthington says...

    Kat Tehranchi wrote:

    Oh ya!

  3. Andy Worthington says...

    Anne Marie Cherigny Aboutayab wrote:

    he is a bloody war criminal and Bush as well

  4. Andy Worthington says...

    Mona ‘Floetry’ Liza wrote:

    I don’t understand why ppl are so shocked. what did u expect?

  5. Andy Worthington says...

    Kat Tehranchi replied:

    Not ‘expect’ Mona, ‘hope.’ We all hope that one day someone like Blair will tell the whole truth and blow the lid off! Through thick and thin, Blair has sung the praises of bush. Funny … am I not reading the right things? Does bush get as carried away with Blair praises?

  6. Andy Worthington says...

    Susan Hall wrote:

    The horror of Iraq, with more than probably 2 million people and half of them children being killed through withheld resources (the blockaid on Democracy Now), Direct Violence and continual poisoning and destruction of their environment and devastated with violence is not even the end of the US’s atrocities, as I and many others believe that this is the means by which a country continually gains wealth, power and is sustained as an ever growing corrupt and vile Empire.

  7. Andy Worthington says...

    Willy Bach wrote:

    Andy, good article, re-posting. I think that reading Tony Blair’s book would make me feel ill. We should boycott it, not make it a best seller.

    I take note of his belief in Guantanamo and not in the Geneva Conventions — not exactly a good example to set for the British troops who were supposed to uphold the Geneva Conventions.

    On Blair’s obscene mentions of a deity, if he believes in one, I remember what he said when he visited Australia. I have put links to these stories, but you might throw up if you read them:

    Blair: ‘God will be my judge on Iraq’
    By Andy McSmith, 4 March 2006
    http://news.independent.co.uk/uk/politics/article349125.ece

    Blair ‘prayed to God’ over Iraq
    BBC, 3 March 2006
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/4772142.stm

    A religious fanatic is a dangerous hypocrite whose empathy bypass is terminal. How could we praise Blair any higher than that?

  8. Andy Worthington says...

    Anne Marie Cherigny Aboutayab wrote:

    yes to boyocott it should be good

  9. Andy Worthington says...

    This was my reply:

    Thanks for the comments, everyone.
    Willly, I agree wholeheartedly with your comment, “A religious fanatic is a dangerous hypocrite whose empathy bypass is terminal.” Reading this stuff took me back to those dark days where it became clear that we, the British people, had elected a PM who was on a dangerous religious odyssey, in which God was being added to a perilous mixture of an unfettered ego and a self-aggrandizing belief in “humanitarian intervention.” Evangelism — unless it can be demonstrated to be pacifist in intent — ought to disqualify anyone from high office; instead, we essentially ended up with two born-again Christians in 10 Downing Street and the White House.

  10. Andy Worthington says...

    I also wrote:

    And Willy, I also noted that, on your page, you asked, “Would the people of Britain have ever elected Tony Blair in the first place if he had publicly declared his intention to be a mass murderer?” and stated, “Perhaps this should be one of the test questions for future Prime Ministers.”
    I certain hope that the baleful effects of Blair’s solitary decision to join George W. in his Iraq invasion — in which he dragged along the Cabinet and the House of Commons — means that such a thing can never happen again, but the problem with your question is that, although Blair created millions of implacable opponents as a result of his actions, he also impressed others, who like nothing more than a “can-do” leader.
    I also recall how disturbing it was, in the months after the invasion, when no WMDs had been found, to hear some Tory MPs talking openly about how they were happy with regime change anyway, and must reflect sadly that other MPs (and members of the public) also thought this way.
    It will, I hope, be extremely difficult for any British PM to start an illegal war in the future, but I fear that Blair succeeded in selling his notion of the imperatives of “humanitarian intervention” to a great many people.

  11. Carlyle Moulton says...

    Andy.

    A lot of us were fooled by Blair. He appeared to be sane and not an obvious psychopath and we really did not know that he is a religious crazy.

    I hope you didn’t pay anything for Blair’s book, I will wait until I can buy a copy which has been resold after the publishers have counted it as being destroyed so no money will go to Blair.

    Anyone who thinks that Blair has any credibility left is crazy and we should take anything he says with a mountain of salt. Maybe he is one of those stupid people who manage to feign intelligence, maybe he is a psychopath and a religious loon.

    If he does not know that everything he says is manure, then his ego might make a useful core for a weapon of mass destruction.

    Our former Prime Minister John Winston Howard who also joined the coalition of the willing probably did so to maintain Australian policy of sending soldiers to die in US wars.

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo, co-director, We Stand With Shaker. Also, singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers) and photographer.
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