By Amitabh Pal on September 03, 2010

If there was a prize for the most unctuous politician, Tony Blair would be in strong contention.

In his just released memoir, Blair continues being disingenuous on Iraq, claiming—Clintonesquely—that even though he recognizes the pain and suffering caused by the invasion, he still stands by it.

“I can’t regret the decision to go to war,” he says, and then sobbingly adds, “Do they really suppose I don’t care, don’t feel, don’t regret with every fiber of my being the loss of those who died? Tears, though there have been many, do not encompass it.”

Whatever you say, Tony. Well, at least his guilty conscience is forcing him to donate the proceeds from his book to a British veterans’ organization. Nice gesture, though it doesn’t completely make up for all the dissembling he engaged in to facilitate Britain’s entry into the war.

The case that Blair made before the public in the fall of 2002 was based on a dossier that greatly exaggerated British intelligence’s findings. One of the chief claims of Blair’s government, that Iraq could launch a WMD in just forty-five minutes, was a fabrication. So was the assertion, famously repeated by George W. Bush, that the Iraqi government had actively sought to obtain uranium from Niger. (The website www.iraqdossier.com is a detailed look at all facets of the dossier.)

Why did Blair do it? Speculation has ranged from the view that Blair regarded the British-U.S. relationship as sacrosanct (with Britain ensconced in the role of a loyal junior partner) to the notion that he hoped to steer Bush toward a more internationalist approach. But religious fervor played a part too. In a 2006 television appearance, Blair suggested that God ordained the Iraq War. “I think if you have faith about these things then you realize that judgment is made by other people,” Blair said. “By other people, by, if you believe in God, it’s made by God as well.”

It is perhaps this certainty that has prevented him from having second thoughts about the enterprise, at least publicly. During testimony at a British official enquiry earlier this year, not only did he express no remorse over Iraq, he seemed to be selling a war with Iran, mentioning that country fifty-eight times.

His memoir is in the same vein. He glibly asserts that “the full array of experts were consulted” before he made his decision, blithely omitting how his government distorted the input. But then, the honesty and/or judgment of a man is seriously in doubt when he lists George W. Bush “near the top” of any list of political leaders with the “most integrity.”

Speaking of whom, it will be interesting to see how the less eloquent of the pair handles the Iraq fiasco in his memoir, coming to a bookstore near you in November. Unwilling to wait that long, Republican leaders are already engaged in a rewriting of history. John McCain, John Boehner and Mitch McConnell all criticized President Obama for allegedly not giving Bush credit enough in his recent Iraq speech for the supposed success of the surge.

No amount of memoir writing or bloviating will nullify the central truth about the Iraq War: It was a folly based on deceit and lies that brought about unconscionable suffering. Blair, Bush and their supporters can spin all they want.

If you liked this article by Amitabh Pal, the managing editor of The Progressive magazine, please check out his article entitled "Iraq a Complete Failure for the United States."

Follow Amitabh Pal @amitpal on Twitter

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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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