Get Red Pepper's email newsletter. Enter your email address to receive our latest articles, updates and news.
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.
Nick Dowson looks at the new wave of co-ops and community groups where people are building their own truly affordable homes
Hsiao-Hung Pai meets people affected by the fire, and finds sadness and suffering mixed with a continuing wariness of the official investigations
Chris Williamson MP, winner of the election's tightest marginal, Derby North, and recently reappointed shadow minister for fire services, talks to Ashish Ghadiali about Jeremy Corbyn, the housing crisis and winning from the left
The Corbyn-supporting group is preparing for another election at any moment, writes Adam Peggs – and now has the potential to create powerful training initiatives, union links and party reform efforts
’We believe in you. We are with you. We will never forget.’ Grenfell solidarity sweeps East London in mass banner drops from housing estates
Michael Calderbank profiles Jeremy Corbyn's new supporters in parliament
The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) continues to witness devastating political violence, but the world refuses to act. Ishiaba Kasonga and Serge Egola Angbakodolo ask why?
When fire safety has become a privilege for the rich, it’s time to stop austerity and fund emergency mass works to raise standards immediately, writes Jane Shallice
Interview: Queer British Art
James O'Nions talks to author Alex Pilcher about the Tate’s Queer British Art exhibition and her book A Queer Little History of Art
Cable the enabler: new Lib Dem leader shows a party in crisis
Vince Cable's stale politics and collusion with the Conservatives belong in the dustbin of history, writes Adam Peggs
Anti-Corbyn groupthink and the media: how pundits called the election so wrong
Reporting based on the current consensus will always vastly underestimate the possibility of change, argues James Fox
Michael Cashman: Commander of the Blairite Empire
Lord Cashman, a candidate in Labour’s internal elections, claims to stand for Labour’s grassroots members. He is a phony, writes Cathy Cole
Contribute to Conter – the new cross-party platform linking Scottish socialists
Jonathan Rimmer, editor of Conter, says it’s time for a new non-sectarian space for Scottish anti-capitalists and invites you to take part
Editorial: Empire will eat itself
Ashish Ghadiali introduces the June/July issue of Red Pepper
Eddie Chambers: Black artists and the DIY aesthetic
Eddie Chambers, artist and art historian, speaks to Ashish Ghadiali about the cultural strategies that he, as founder of the Black Art Group, helped to define in the 1980s
Despite Erdogan, Turkey is still alive
With this year's referendum consolidating President Erdogan’s autocracy in Turkey, Nazim A argues that the way forward for democrats lies in a more radical approach
Red Pepper Race Section: open editorial meeting – 11 August in Leeds
The next open editorial meeting of the Red Pepper Race Section will take place between 3.30-5.30pm, Friday 11th August in Leeds.
Mogg-mentum? Thatcherite die-hard Jacob Rees-Mogg is no man of the people
Adam Peggs says Rees-Mogg is no joke – he is a living embodiment of Britain's repulsive ruling elite
Power to the renters: Turning the tide on our broken housing system
Heather Kennedy, from the Renters Power Project, argues it’s time to reject Thatcher’s dream of a 'property-owning democracy' and build renters' power instead
Your vote can help Corbyn supporters win these vital Labour Party positions
Left candidate Seema Chandwani speaks to Red Pepper ahead of ballot papers going out to all members for a crucial Labour committee
Join the Rolling Resistance to the frackers
Al Wilson invites you to take part in a month of anti-fracking action in Lancashire with Reclaim the Power
The Grenfell public inquiry must listen to the residents who have been ignored for so long
Councils handed housing over to obscure, unaccountable organisations, writes Anna Minton – now we must hear the voices they silenced
India: Modi’s ‘development model’ is built on violence and theft from the poorest
Development in India is at the expense of minorities and the poor, writes Gargi Battacharya
North Korea is just the start of potentially deadly tensions between the US and China
US-China relations have taken on a disturbing new dimension under Donald Trump, writes Dorothy Guerrero
The feminist army leading the fight against ISIS
Dilar Dirik salutes militant women-organised democracy in action in Rojava
France: The colonial republic
The roots of France’s ascendant racism lie as deep as the origins of the French republic itself, argues Yasser Louati
This is why it’s an important time to support Caroline Lucas
A vital voice of dissent in Parliament: Caroline Lucas explains why she is asking for your help
PLP committee elections: it seems like most Labour backbenchers still haven’t learned their lesson
Corbyn is riding high in the polls - so he can face down the secret malcontents among Labour MPs, writes Michael Calderbank
Going from a top BBC job to Tory spin chief should be banned – it’s that simple
This revolving door between the 'impartial' broadcaster and the Conservatives stinks, writes Louis Mendee – we need a different media
I read Gavin Barwell’s ‘marginal seat’ book and it was incredibly awkward
Gavin Barwell was mocked for writing a book called How to Win a Marginal Seat, then losing his. But what does the book itself reveal about Theresa May’s new top adviser? Matt Thompson reads it so you don’t have to
We can defeat this weak Tory government on the pay cap
With the government in chaos, this is our chance to lift the pay cap for everyone, writes Mark Serwotka, general secretary of public service workers’ union PCS
Corbyn supporters surge in Labour’s internal elections
A big rise in left nominations from constituency Labour parties suggests Corbynites are getting better organised, reports Michael Calderbank
Undercover policing – the need for a public inquiry for Scotland
Tilly Gifford, who exposed police efforts to recruit her as a paid informer, calls for the inquiry into undercover policing to extend to Scotland
Becoming a better ally: how to understand intersectionality
Intersectionality can provide the basis of our solidarity in this new age of empire, writes Peninah Wangari-Jones
The myth of the ‘white working class’ stops us seeing the working class as it really is
The right imagines a socially conservative working class while the left pines for the days of mass workplaces. Neither represent today's reality, argues Gargi Bhattacharyya
The government played the public for fools, and lost
The High Court has ruled that the government cannot veto local council investment decisions. This is a victory for local democracy and the BDS movement, and shows what can happen when we stand together, writes War on Want’s Ross Hemingway.
An ‘obscure’ party? I’m amazed at how little people in Britain know about the DUP
After the Tories' deal with the Democratic Unionists, Denis Burke asks why people in Britain weren't a bit more curious about Northern Ireland before now
The Tories’ deal with the DUP is outright bribery – but this government won’t last
Theresa May’s £1.5 billion bung to the DUP is the last nail in the coffin of the austerity myth, writes Louis Mendee