Generous comments about Tony Blair on his retirement are a useful insight into the character of Blair but fail to address the reality of his record in office.
I met Blair in 1983 when we had just completed a successful Labor victory in WA and then federally. He was keen to share our experience and get ideas and support to turn the British Labour party into what became New Labour. He was, like all of us in those meetings, idealistic, fresh and enthused. What a shame those ideals that he espoused then have not carried through to a point where the British public maintain their support for him.
The British people, unlike Australians, seem much less willing to forgive a leader who took their country into two disastrous wars — Afghanistan and Iraq, and on totally false premises on each of them — and is thus one of the leaders sharing responsibility for perhaps a million deaths and the displacement and misery of more than a million people. Both groups thus described include a large proportion of innocents — men, women and children.
Blair was right and can be proud to have stopped the violence in Northern Ireland, and to intervene to do the same in Kosovo, but those decisions are the antithesis of what he did and allowed Bush to do in the other two conflicts.
Of all the leaders in the West, Blair may have been able to influence the US to adopt a less lawless approach to international law and to make the UN work as an instrument of peace. Instead he cuddled up to Bush and supported him in the Iraq fiasco which seems to have been a combination of American hysteria over the 11 Sept 2001 events combined with a thirst to control the Middle East oil.
Allowing Bush “off the leash” has led to other conflicts in which thousands have been killed or displaced — the Israeli attack on Lebanon and the US sponsored invasion by Ethiopia of Somalia.
Former Premier Geoff Gallop wrote that Blair even allowed spooks to join a trade union. That has a certain irony when, last week, two spooks were jailed in a secret trial in Britain for revealing that Blair and Bush discussed Bush’s plan to commit a war crime (to bomb the headquarters of the independent Arab TV network Al-Jazeera in Qatar, a friendly country) because they published truthful news about British and American conduct of the Iraq invasion and the immense distress and loss of life by civilians as a result.
Perhaps Blair opposed the plan, but if so why would he now refuse to release the full transcript?
So others will judge whether the UK is a better or worse place for its citizens. Blair’s support for Bush has left the world a dangerous and in many regions a much more miserable place. How odd, if you think about it, that two professed Christians could cause such immense death, destruction, and immeasurable harm to so many over such a relatively short period.