Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair has popped back up on everyone’s radar on both sides of the Atlantic. Rather than be cowed by the current Iraq war inquiry in Great Britain, he seems to be relishing the thought of defending himself and his time at 10 Downing Street. Not only has he done a press blitz showing his side of the argument in the UK, but he recently taped an interview for Mike Huckabee’s television program on Fox News. From a Reuters report:
Blair appeared somber as he began his scheduled six hours of testimony. He grew feistier as the day went on, gesturing, smiling and, at times, correcting what he saw as the flawed questions of panel members. The audience in the hearing room included family members of soldiers and civilians killed or missing in Iraq — all of whom sat quietly as he testified.
Like our own Bill Clinton, Tony Blair has a Teflon quality to him. Whether its bailing on his prime ministership with perfect timing so as not to get blamed for Britain’s economic turn for the worse, or keeping his rival Gordon Brown in the chancellor job while PM to spread responsibility, Blair has a Clintonesque sense of timing. (He also shares another distinction with Clinton: his wife is widely loathed in many circles. Unlike Hillary Clinton, Cherie Blair does not seem to have any political ambitions, preferring to use the law to change things.)
Despite what his rivals to the left in the Labour Party and his Conservative foes might wish, he is still very well regarded.
Unlike in the U.S., where President Bush clearly made the case for regime change, Blair focused on finding and destroying Saddam’s WMD capability.
The Guardian quotes Blair as failing to see a distinction between the two approaches:
He suggested that there was no real difference between wanting regime change and wanting Iraq to disarm: regime change was US policy because Iraq was in breach of its UN obligations. “It’s more a different way of expressing the same proposition.”
Not that Blair cares one way or the other. He has strongly defended his actions on Iraq, even in the face of scrutiny in an official government inquiry on the reasons for going to war. He made this very clear during his heated appearance:
The decision I took — and frankly would take again — was if there was any possibility that he could develop weapons of mass destruction (WMD) we should stop him.
That was my view then and that is my view now.
This isn’t about a lie or a conspiracy or a deceit or a deception.
It’s a decision. And the decision I had to take was, given Saddam’s history, given his use of chemical weapons, given the over one million people whose deaths he had caused, given 10 years of breaking UN resolutions, could we take the risk of this man reconstituting his weapons programs or is that a risk that it would be irresponsible to take?
No repentance or remorse over the issue. Tony Blair clearly believes he did the right thing and is completely unwilling to succumb to self-doubt or criticism of his handling of the war.
Blair was also willing to take on some of the other rumors surrounding the run-up to the war and deny point blank that there was any “secret deal” with Bush. This is a claim the anti-war left has been making for many years.
Those interested in the details of the “Chilcot” inquiry can read a detailed breakdown over at the Guardian site with comments from some of his most ardent critics.
It is probable that this media push by Blair over Iraq is to set up future projects, including something that might surprise some Labour colleagues: a close working relationship with a London-based hedge fund. His choice of companies might have a few wondering. As Sky News puts it:
What’s intriguing about the link between Mr Blair and Lansdowne is that Paul Ruddock, a co-founder of Lansdowne and one of the city’s wealthiest men, is also a major donor to the Conservative Party.
Unlike President Bush, who still seems to be unable to emerge from the shadow of his presidency despite the fact his successor is doing so poorly (as is the case in the UK), Blair seems to be going on unscathed.
Whether or not he is able, after recent revelations, to put his premiership behind him and move on to other things remains to be seen. If his post-PM days are anything to go by, Tony Blair will be just fine.