1st September 2010
Martin Kettle’s World Exclusive Interview: ‘… he felt “sick, a mixture of anger and anguish” when he was asked by the Iraq inquiry chair, Sir John Chilcot, in January if had regrets over Iraq. “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?”‘
BLAIR MEMOIRS – HE FEELS, CRIES AND DRINKS
WOW! You don’t expect us to believe he’s HUMAN?
The Guardian’s Andrew Sparrow seems to be doing some index-aided fast reading of his early press copy of ‘A Journey’ and is topping up live through the day. Quotes, not g&t, as far as I now.
“Finally, the book is something of a letter (extended!) to the country I love. I won three general elections. Up to then, Labour had never even won two successive full terms. The longest Labour government had lasted six years. This lasted thirteen. It could have, as I say in the final chapter, gone on longer, had it not abandoned New Labour.” […] “It is true that my head can sometimes think conservatively especially on economics and security; but my heart always beats progressive, and my soul is and always will be that of a rebel.”
“As I thought on how to answer the question put to me at the end of my evidence to the Chilcot Inquiry
into the Iraq War in January 2010, I felt sick, a mixture of anger and anguish. ‘Do you have any regrets?’
This wasn’t a question being asked or answered in the quiet reflections of the soul; not something that could
be weighed, considered and explained with profundity and penetrating clarity or even an easy honesty.
It was a headline question. It had to have a headline answer. Answer ‘yes’ and I knew the outcome: ‘BLAIR
APOLOGISES FOR WAR ’, ‘AT LAST HE SAYS SORRY’. Choose a variant. The impact would be the
same. Those who had opposed the war would rejoice; those who had supported it would be dismayed,
imagining their support and in some cases their sacrifice had been in vain. Answer ‘no’ and you seem like
some callous brute, indifferent to the suffering or perhaps worse, stubbornly resistant, not because of
strength but because you know nothing else to do.
So I said I took responsibility, accepting the decision had been mine and avoiding the headline that would
have betrayed. However, it was an answer that was incomplete.
The anger was at being put in a position in an inquiry that was supposed to be about lessons learned, but
had inevitably turned into a trial of judgement, and even good faith; and in front of some of the families of
the fallen, to whom I wanted to reach out, but knew if I did so, the embrace would be immediately misused
and misconstrued. But the anger was selfish, trivial – comparatively at any rate – and transient.
The anguish remains. The principal part of that is not selfish. Some of it is, to be sure. 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? And
not just British soldiers but those of other nations, most of all of course the Americans, but also the
Japanese and Dutch and Danes and Estonians and Spanish and Italians and all the others of our coalition.
And the Iraqis themselves, and not just those who were the casualties of our forces in war, but those who
died at the hands of others, whose deaths we failed to prevent. The diplomats, like the wonderful Sergio
Vieira de Mello, who gave their lives in a cause they never advocated. The random casualties of the
vagaries of war, like Ken Bigley, and the private security guards taken hostage with Peter Moore.
To be indifferent to that would be inhuman, emotionally warped. But it is not that accusation that causes the
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. Why did it have to be their child, their husband, their family, at that time, in that place,
on that journey or mission or appointment?
The reason fate could make that choice derived from my decision. But then there were the myriad chance
factors that conspired to bring about the circumstance of each life lost.
The anguish arises from an urgency to act, to commit, not to feel, but to do.
I am now beyond the mere expression of compassion. I feel words of condolence and sympathy to be
entirely inadequate. They have died and I, the decision-maker in the circumstances that led to their deaths,
I used the word ‘responsibility’, incomplete though it is, with deliberation.
I can’t regret the decision to go to war for the reason I will give. I can say that never did I guess the
nightmare that unfolded, and that too is part of the responsibility. But the notion of ‘responsibility’ indicates
not a burden discharged but a burden that continues. Regret can seem bound to the past. Responsibility has
its present and future tense.”
On Gordon Brown there is only one page, and focuses on why Blair never sacked him. Nothing too horrifying, nor about “blackmail”. The Telegraph clearly has read the book, or is fibbing.
On Northern Ireland (11 pages)
On Reform (7 pages)
THE PRESS’S TAKE
Brown – blackmail over “cash for honours”
Tony Blair came to the view that Gordon Brown would be a disaster as prime minister and that Labour could not win the 2010 general election. “It was never going to work,” Blair writes of Brown’s three years in No 10, arguing that the former chancellor had “zero emotional intelligence” and fatally abandoned the New Labour formula.”
‘In his book he writes that he wanted to reach out to the families of those who had been killed in Iraq. “I am now beyond the mere expression of compassion,” he writes. “I feel words of condolence and sympathy to be entirely inadequate. They have died, and I, the decision-maker in the circumstances that led to their deaths, still live,” the book continues.
“How could you possibly not feel sadness at the lives that had been lost?” Blair said this week. “How could you possibly not? But … when I use the word responsibility, I mean it in a profound way. I say in the book the term responsibility has its future as well as past tense. And that’s what I feel. It’s not a coincidence I am devoting a large part of my time now to the Middle East or to religious interfaith.”
Blair may or may not have ever gone away. But he is certainly back.’
The Guardian also has this on Diana, Alastair Campbell, Afghanistan, sex and politics and his own drinking – the last of these will surprise many. Perhaps it shouldn’t.
But in response to his critics, he writes: “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?”‘
The rat-faced Daily Mail mocks his “gut-churning passage that will surely deeply offend the relatives of the dead, in which in florid phrases, he reveals he has cried ‘many tears’ over their loss.”
The Telegraph – Blair admits he did not understand Islam at the time of 9/11
Tonight, Wednesday, at 7:00pm on BBC2, Andrew Marr will interview the former prime minister. If you’ve already ordered your copy of the book it should be with you on Friday. If not –
You can order Tony Blair’s ‘A Journey’ here , at 40% reduction.
- “Tony Blair book: Raging against the former PM may say more about you than him”, Michael White (Guardian). Mr White is concerned about Blair’s concern over Iran. More, presumably, than he is concerned over Iran itself?
- “Where does Blair Rage come from?” asks John Rentoul. (Independent). His commenters try to explain in their KNOW-ALL fashion. Still not convinced by their judgement? Me neither.
- Guido Fawkes, always on the point, has this – Blair bashes Balls for Miliband. 40/love, but not game, set and match yet.
- Tony Blair: A Journey set to become biggest political memoir of all-time (telegraph.co.uk)
- Marr to grill Blair ahead of book (mirror.co.uk)
- Tony Blair: Gordon Brown tried to blackmail me (telegraph.co.uk)
- Blair: I knew Brown would be a disaster (guardian.co.uk)
- Tony Blair’s memoirs: Playing the victim card in this pathetic way will do nothing for his reputation (blogs.telegraph.co.uk)
- Tony Blair book: Raging against the former PM may say more about you than him | Michael White (guardian.co.uk)
EARLIER POSTS AT THIS BLOG ON BLAIR AT THE CHILCOT INQUIRY
- Rentoul to BBC on Iraq Inquiry – “No, it’s NOT a trial.” (I was witness to this too!)
- BBC World ‘Have Your Say’ on Blair & Iraq Inquiry, including Blair Supporter colleagues
- Further update on the Ban Blair-Baiting petition
- Tony Blair asks at the Iraq Inquiry: “Who is killing them?”
- I was a witness (more or less) to the TRIAL of Tony Blair, aka the Iraq Inquiry
- Tony Blair at Iraq Inquiry – ONE report with NO opining
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