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.
Dipesh Pandya speaks to documentary film-maker Sanjay Kak, who for 30 years has been working outside the mainstream to tell a story rooted in the struggles of those excluded by India’s militarism and its narrative of neoliberal growth
Jeremy Gilbert on how radical Labour politics can be inspired by the utopianism of the counterculture
Disasters have unequal impacts – it's the poor and marginalised who suffer most. David Harvey writes on Hurricane Harvey
Survivors of the fire are still relying on thousands of community volunteers, writes Dan Renwick - but the failed council is plotting a comeback
What if it's not us who are sick, asks Rod Tweedy, but a system at odds with who we are as social beings?
The people could reach a democratic and non-violent solution if they were freed from US meddling, argues Boaventura de Sousa Santos
A decade after the start of the crash, economic power is in our hands – we must take it, writes Ann Pettifor
Nick Dowson looks at the new wave of co-ops and community groups where people are building their own truly affordable homes
Working class theatre: Save Our Steel takes the stage
A new play inspired by Port Talbot’s ‘Save Our Steel’ campaign asks questions about the working class leaders of today. Adam Johannes talks to co-director Rhiannon White about the project, the people and the politics behind it
The dawn of commons politics
As supporters of the new 'commons politics' win office in a variety of European cities, Stacco Troncoso and Ann Marie Utratel chart where this movement came from – and where it may be going
A very social economist
Hilary Wainwright says the ideas of Robin Murray, who died in June, offer a practical alternative to neoliberalism
Art the Arms Fair: making art not war
Amy Corcoran on organising artistic resistance to the weapons dealers’ London showcase
Beware the automated landlord
Tenants of the automated landlord are effectively paying two rents: one in money, the other in information for data harvesting, writes Desiree Fields
Black Journalism Fund – Open Editorial Meeting
3-5pm Saturday 23rd September at The World Transformed in Brighton
Immigration detention: How the government is breaking its own rules
Detention is being used to punish ex-prisoners all over again, writes Annahita Moradi
A better way to regenerate a community
Gilbert Jassey describes a pioneering project that is bringing migrants and local people together to repopulate a village in rural Spain
Fast food workers stand up for themselves and #McStrike – we’re loving it!
McDonald's workers are striking for the first time ever in Britain, reports Michael Calderbank
Two years of broken promises: how the UK has failed refugees
Stefan Schmid investigates the ways Syrian refugees have been treated since the media spotlight faded
West Papua’s silent genocide
The brutal occupation of West Papua is under-reported - but UK and US corporations are profiting from the violence, write Eliza Egret and Tom Anderson
Activate, the new ‘Tory Momentum’, is 100% astroturf
The Conservatives’ effort at a grassroots youth movement is embarrassingly inept, writes Samantha Stevens
Peer-to-peer production and the partner state
Michel Bauwens and Vasilis Kostakis argue that we need to move to a commons-centric society – with a state fit for the digital age
Imagining a future free of oppression
Writer, artist and organiser Ama Josephine Budge says holding on to our imagination of tomorrow helps create a different understanding today
The ‘alt-right’ is an unstable coalition – with one thing holding it together
Mike Isaacson argues that efforts to define the alt-right are in danger of missing its central component: eugenics
Fighting for Peace: the battles that inspired generations of anti-war campaigners
Now the threat of nuclear war looms nearer again, we share the experience of eighty-year-old activist Ernest Rodker, whose work is displayed at The Imperial War Museum. With Jane Shallice and Jenny Nelson he discussed a recent history of the anti-war movement.
Put public purpose at the heart of government
Victoria Chick stresses the need to restore the public good to economic decision-making
Don’t let the world’s biggest arms fair turn 20
Eliza Egret talks to activists involved in almost two decades of protest against London’s DSEI arms show
The new municipalism is part of a proud radical history
Molly Conisbee reflects on the history of citizens taking collective control of local services
With the rise of Corbyn, is there still a place for the Green Party?
Former Green principal speaker Derek Wall says the party may struggle in the battle for votes, but can still be important in the battle of ideas
Fearless Cities: the new urban movements
A wave of new municipalist movements has been experimenting with how to take – and transform – power in cities large and small. Bertie Russell and Oscar Reyes report on the growing success of radical urban politics around the world
A musical fightback against school arts cuts
Elliot Clay on why his new musical turns the spotlight on the damage austerity has done to arts education, through the story of one school band's battle
Neoliberalism: the break-up tour
Sarah Woods and Andrew Simms ask why, given the trail of destruction it has left, we are still dancing to the neoliberal tune
Cat Smith MP: ‘Jeremy Corbyn has authenticity. You can’t fake that’
Cat Smith, shadow minister for voter engagement and youth affairs and one of the original parliamentary backers of Corbyn’s leadership, speaks to Ashish Ghadiali
To stop the BBC interviewing climate deniers, we need to make climate change less boring
To stop cranks like Lord Lawson getting airtime, we need to provoke more interesting debates around climate change than whether it's real or not, writes Leo Barasi
Tory Glastonbury? Money can’t buy you cultural relevance
Adam Peggs on why the left has more fun
Essay: After neoliberalism, what next?
There are economically-viable, socially-desirable alternatives to the failed neoliberal economic model, writes Jayati Ghosh
With the new nuclear ban treaty, it’s time to scrap Trident – and spend the money on our NHS
As a doctor, I want to see money spent on healthcare not warfare, writes David McCoy - Britain should join the growing international movement for disarmament
Inglorious Empire: What the British Did to India
Inglorious Empire: What the British Did to India, by Shashi Tharoor, reviewed by Ian Sinclair
A Death Retold in Truth and Rumour
A Death Retold in Truth and Rumour: Kenya, Britain and the Julie Ward Murder, by Grace A Musila, reviewed by Allen Oarbrook