His announcement in 2004 that he would not fight a fourth election as Labour leader was forced on him by MPs fearful of losing their seats. But having won the 2005 election Blair showed no sign of being ready to retire.This led to the revolt of erstwhile Blairites last September forcing him to announce that he would be gone within a year.
When a recent poll asked what Blair would be remembered for, offering a range of alternatives, including ‘improving public services’ and ‘the minimum wage’, 69 per cent chose Iraq, and 9 per cent his relationship with George Bush. Three per cent opted for the minimum wage.
The public perception is correct. Modest improvements at home have been completely overshadowed by the disaster and disgrace of the Iraq war, coupled with Blair’s grovelling relationship with George W Bush, acknowledged almost universally as a leading contender for the title of Worst US President Ever.
Now that the troops are being forced to withdraw, it has become commonplace to admit that the project was ‘flawed’, ‘mistaken’ or ‘poorly planned’. But such limited admissions do not begin to encompass the scale of what has gone wrong, the disaster we have brought upon Iraq and its lasting global effects.
One sober estimate put the number of Iraqis who have lost their lives as a result of the invasion and occupation at 655,000. Some two million people have fled the country, placing huge burdens on neighbouring Syria and Jordan. Another 1.5 million are estimated to be refugees in their own land. Iraq’s different communities are at war with each other, and it may prove impossible to hold the country together. A whole country, a whole society, has been wrecked.
To portray this as just a ‘mistake’, or as unforeseeable consequences of a wellintentioned act, or to blame it all on ‘the terrorists’, as Blair does, is not just ludicrous; it is completely dishonest. There were no ‘terrorists’ in Iraq under Saddam’s ruthless rule. And it was entirely predictable – and was predicted – that there would be bloody resistance to the occupation. The consequences of the invasion will be with the Iraqis and the whole Middle East for decades to come.
Worst of all has been the dishonesty with which virtually every aspect of the war has been handled – above all by Blair himself. It is doubtful whether we have ever had a less honest prime minister. Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say that he hardly knows the difference between fantasy and reality. What he wants to believe is true, is true as far as he is concerned. Perhaps he ‘sincerely’ believed in those non-existent weapons of mass destruction, but only because he wanted to. To claim that he was misled by the intelligence, as he does, is nonsense.
The truth is that he and Bush had agreed on the plan to attack Iraq in April 2002, and they then had to find or invent the reasons that would apparently justify such an attack. WMDs were the key invention in that respect. But not the only one. Even more blatantly dishonest was the linking of Saddam Hussein with 9/11. There never was any evidence for this, but Blair, like Bush, managed to suggest there was a connection, so that the attack on Iraq could be sold as the next stage in the so-called ‘war on terror’.
Before the attack took place, Blair’s line was that Saddam could remain in power if only he gave up those terrifying WMDs. After the failure to discover any such weapons, he took the opposite line.The war was justified because it had removed the tyrant.The dishonesty is so blatant as to be almost breathtaking.
It suits Labour loyalists to shrug off Iraq as an unfortunate sideshow. But, quite apart from the sheer callousness of such a verdict, it completely misses the scandal of Blair’s conduct throughout the crisis. Dishonesty was inherent in the war project from beginning to end. Yet Blair has never offered a word of apology or an admission of error. No one responsible has been punished; no one has resigned. It is the most disgraceful episode in British politics in the past 60 years at least.
Astonishingly, this is the man who has constantly paraded himself before us as a leader whose decisions are guided by morality, who always, in his own eyes, does ‘the right thing’.The only possible conclusion must be that he is a man of impregnable self-righteousness, endowed with an unrivalled capacity for self-deception.
We are well rid of him. But, as with Thatcher and the Tories, Labour has been so weakened and corrupted by Blair’s devious dictatorship that it is doubtful whether it has the will or the ability to shake off the habits of evasion, dishonesty and subservience to Washington that are his real legacy to British politics.
Yasmin Gunaratnam reflects on John Berger’s gut solidarity with the stranger
Charlie Clarke and Heather Mendick discuss how to work through the tensions within Momentum
As man-made global warming gets closer to the tipping point, Andrew Simms finds reasons to be positive about averting catastrophic climate change
In this extract from his new book The Candidate, Alex Nunns tells the inside story of how Jeremy Corbyn scraped onto the Labour leadership ballot in 2015
Graham Jones proposes a framework for a diverse movement to flourish
Bryony Moore profiles Stitched Up, a non-profit group reimagining the future of fashion
Musician Eliane Correa reflects on the fading revolution
Trump's victory is another sign of the failure of the centre-left's narrative on climate change. A new message is needed, and new politicians to deliver it, writes Alex Randall
Siobhán McGuirk says the question we are too afraid to ask is simple - what kind of society leads to Donald Trump as President?
The battle lines are clear. Democracy is in peril and the left must take itself seriously electorally and politically. Ruth Potts speaks to Gary Younge, who was based in Muncie, Indiana, for the US election, about the implications of Donald Trump’s victory
Utopia: Work less play more
A shorter working week would benefit everyone, writes Madeleine Ellis-Petersen
Short story: Syrenka
A short story by Kirsten Irving
Mum’s Colombian mine protest comes to London
Anne Harris reports on one woman’s fight against a multinational coal giant
Bike courier Maggie Dewhurst takes on the gig economy… and wins
We spoke to Mags about why she’s ‘biting the hand that feeds her’
Utopia: Daring to dream
Imagining a better world is the first step towards creating one. Ruth Potts introduces our special utopian issue
Utopia: Room for all
Nadhira Halim and Andy Edwards report on the range of creative responses to the housing crisis that are providing secure, affordable housing across the UK
A better Brexit
The left should not tail-end the establishment Bremoaners, argues Michael Calderbank
News from movements around the world
Compiled by James O’Nions
Podemos: In the Name of the People
'The emergence as a potential party of government is testament both to the richness of Spanish radical culture and the inventiveness of activists such as Errejón' - Jacob Mukherjee reviews Errejón and Mouffe's latest release
Survival Shake! – creative ways to resist the system
Social justice campaigner Sakina Sheikh describes a project to embolden young people through the arts
‘We don’t want to be an afterthought’: inside Momentum Kids
If Momentum is going to meet the challenge of being fully inclusive, a space must be provided for parents, mothers, carers, grandparents and children, write Jessie Hoskin and Natasha Josette
The Kurdish revolution – a report from Rojava
Peter Loo is supporting revolutionary social change in Northern Syria.
How to make your own media
Lorna Stephenson and Adam Cantwell-Corn on running a local media co-op
Book Review: The EU: an Obituary
Tim Holmes takes a look at John Gillingham's polemical history of the EU
Book Review: The End of Jewish Modernity
Author Daniel Lazar reviews Enzo Traverso's The End of Jewish Modernity
Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants
Ida-Sofie Picard introduces Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants – as told to Jenny Nelson
Book review: Angry White People: Coming Face to Face With the British Far-Right
Hilary Aked gets close up with the British far right in Hsiao-Hung Pai's latest release
University should not be a debt factory
Sheldon Ridley spoke to students taking part in their first national demonstration.
Book Review: The Day the Music Died – a Memoir
Sheila Rowbotham reviews the memoirs of BBC director and producer, Tony Garnett.
Power Games: A Political History
Malcolm Maclean reviews Jules Boykoff's Power Games: A Political History
Book Review: Sex, Needs and Queer Culture: from liberation to the post-gay
Aiming to re-evaluate the radicalism and efficacy of queer counterculture and rebellion - April Park takes us through David Alderson's new work.
A book review every day until Christmas at Red Pepper
Red Pepper will be publishing a new book review each day until Christmas
Book Review: Corbyn: The Strange Rebirth of Radical Politics
'In spite of the odds Corbyn is still standing' - Alex Doherty reviews Seymour's analysis of the rise of Corbyn
From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation
'A small manifesto for black liberation through socialist revolution' - Graham Campbell reviews Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor's 'From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation'
The abolition of Art History A-Level will exacerbate social inequality
This is a massive blow to the rights of ordinary kids to have the same opportunities as their more privileged peers. Danielle Child reports.
Mass civil disobedience in Sudan
A three-day general strike has brought Sudan to a stand still as people mobilise against the government and inequality. Jenny Nelson writes.
Mustang film review: Three fingers to Erdogan
Laura Nicholson reviews Mustang, Deniz Gamze Erguven’s unashamedly feminist film critique of Turkey’s creeping conservatism
What if the workers were in control?
Hilary Wainwright reflects on an attempt by British workers to produce a democratically determined alternative plan for their industry
Airport expansion is a racist policy
Climate change is a colonial crisis, writes Jo Ram
Momentum Kids: the parental is political
Momentum Kids is not about indoctrinating children, but rather the more radical idea that children have an important role to play in shaping the future, writes Kristen Hope