So much has been written and spoken in the British press over the previous three years, with regard to Tony Blair’s departure from No 10, Downing Street, that it seems to have come as more of a surprise here in the U.S. than to Brits, who are sick to the back teeth with all the speculation and find today’s announcement something of a damp squib.
Contrary to NBC News and Brian William’s suggestion Blair has fallen victim to his policies over Iraq, the British prime minister announced almost three years ago – on October 1st, 2004 – he would be retiring from office well before the 2009 general election, allowing time for his successor to settle in before fighting a major political campaign. While Iraq considerably dented Blair’s popularity in the nation, it has nothing whatever to do with his decision to retire on June 27th.
Tony Blair was probably the most honest prime minister Britain has ever known. In no way is that statement meant to imply he was scrupulously ethical, simply that he was less dishonest than his predecessors. He always believed in his heart he was right, even when some of his decisions were so obviously wrong.
Unfortunately, like his transatlantic compatriot, George W Bush, Tony Blair relied too heavily on Christian ideals and moralistic codes when decision-making. This may be fine for Popes and Archbishops, but has no place in either the Houses of Parliament of the Halls of Congress. It was just such weaknesses that led Blair into (what history will almost certainly declare to be) his greatest blunder.
In the aftermath of 9/11, it was right for the British prime minister to cross the Atlantic and pledge support for the American people. Blair’s mistake was to blindly follow George Bush into Iraq. Had Blair backed off at the last minute, knowing the intelligence was doubtful, aware of the concerns expressed by U.N. weapons inspectors, he may well have raised doubts in the minds of U.S. congressmen and senators that could possibly have stayed the war in Iraq long enough for the truth about Saddam’s weapons program to have been established, once and for all. How different the world may have been today had that been the case.
Sadly, both for Blair and the world, that didn’t happen. The British prime minister acted as the press labeled him – George Bush’s poodle – and allowed the American president to lead him off to war by the hand.
That action will blur the one great triumph of Tony Blair’s premiership. It is sadly ironic that the man who sat down and talked with Irish terrorists – a controversial move that has led only this week to full power-sharing in Northern Ireland, and hopefully a final end to bitter wrangling and bloodshed – should adopt such an intransigent stance towards terrorists in other areas of the world. Indeed, his own wife was heavily criticized in political circles when she told reporters:
“As long as young [Palestinian] people feel they have got no hope but to blow themselves up you are never going to make progress.”
To this writer, that always seemed a remarkably courageous and sensible statement, one her husband should have applauded. Instead, it was left to others, like former British Foreign Office adviser David Clark, to defend her in the Guardian newspaper while Tony Blair chose to reinforce the Atlantic alliance at a terrible cost to Iraqis, British servicemen and women, and his own reputation.
A high price to pay for the dubious friendship of a failed alcoholic businessman from Texas and his bevy of disreputable associates.
Filed under: Fallen heroes