STEPHEN GLOVER: Forgive me if this is in poor taste but I really DO question Tony Blair's sanity
More than a year before the invasion of Iraq, I suggested in these pages that there were good reasons to be worried about Tony Blair’s mental health.
Those were the days when most people revered him, and mine was not a popular view.
The argument was that the then PM had a fatal tendency to melodramatise events and to exaggerate dangers.
He loved to talk in apocalyptic terms about world problems, and was at that time — I am talking of January 2002 — going around the world trying to work up people’s fears.
'Delusional': Tony Blair is pictured walking past an armed guard as he left out of the back door of his home on Thursday morning. The former PM was on his way to the BBC to defend his actions after the Chilcot report
More than a year before the invasion of Iraq, I suggested in these pages that there were good reasons to be worried about Tony Blair’s mental health
Sir John Chilcot is far too much the measured mandarin to suggest that our former Prime Minister has some kind of Messianic complex, but the accumulation of evidence in this mammoth report validates exactly this conclusion.
The event that seems to have flicked some sort of catastrophic switch in Blair’s mind was the attack on the World Trade Centre in New York on September 11, 2001.
‘We shall support America in anything they do,’ he told a meeting of ministers and the military with what turned out to be eerie prescience.
Less than a month later, he expressed himself in near lunatic terms at the Labour Party conference. Having assured his audience that the problems of the Congo and Rwanda could be easily sorted out, he took leave of his senses.
‘This is the moment to seize. The kaleidoscope has been shaken. The pieces are in flux. Soon they will settle again.’
He loved to talk in apocalyptic terms about world problems, and was at that time — I am talking of January 2002 — going around the world trying to work up people’s fears
At least Blair is consistent. During his absurdly self-justifying Press conference after publication of the report yesterday — absurd because no amount of proof will ever shake his conviction that he was right — he stated that ‘we were in a new world after 9/11 and at that time did not know where the next attack or danger would come from’.
By the autumn of 2001, Blair had already tasted blood, as it were, in the now almost forgotten conflict in Kosovo, where U.S. and British forces removed Slobodan Milosevic’s troops from the Serbian-ruled enclave without bothering to consider that many of Milosevic’s enemies were just as nasty as he was.
Kosovo is not quite the basket case that is modern Iraq, but it is an impoverished, hopeless mini-state, and almost entirely forsaken by the British and American governments, and doubtless Tony Blair.
After 9/11, Blair yearned to take on someone new, and when George W. Bush identified Saddam Hussein’s Iraq as Public Enemy Number One — a risible exaggeration — the British Prime Minister was eager to get involved. Never mind that there was no solid evidence that Saddam possessed any weapons of mass destruction, or that he didn’t have Al Qaeda — the villains of 9/11 — under tight control.
Perhaps the most spine-chilling of many damning details in the Chilcot Report is Blair’s memo to Bush in July 2002 in which he informed the U.S. president, nearly a year before the invasion of Iraq: ‘I will be with you, whatever.’ To give such an unconditional commitment, neither sanctioned by Parliament nor approved by public opinion, was reckless.And evidence which makes me question his sanity.
Once Blair had excitedly determined on war, there was literally nothing, so the report shows, that would stand in his way — not the opinions of his Cabinet colleagues (which he barely sought), not the weight of the law, not the scarcity of intelligence, and certainly not the total absence of any evidence that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction (WMD).
The report notes that Blair and his cohorts referred to WMD without ever going to the trouble of ‘addressing their nature’ (presumably because the intention was primarily to frighten us as much as possible). It also makes clear that when Blair unveiled his ‘proof’ about WMD to the Commons in September 2002, he went considerably further than the intelligence allowed.
At least Blair is consistent. During his absurdly self-justifying Press conference after publication of the report yesterday — absurd because no amount of proof will ever shake his conviction that he was right — he stated that ‘we were in a new world after 9/11 and at that time did not know where the next attack or danger would come from’
According to Chilcot, Blair was even warned by our intelligence services before the invasion of Iraq that military intervention would probably increase Al Qaeda terrorist activity — the very danger Bush and Blair had claimed they wanted to address.
Sir John is a lifelong civil servant with an inbuilt aversion to calling a spade a spade. But although he doesn’t use the word ‘lie’, it is plain from the assembled evidence that Blair bent, suspended or ignored the truth because he had already made up his mind — while privately assuring President Bush — that Britain would invade Iraq.
The report’s irrefutable contention that our troops were sometimes poorly equipped, and its demonstration that there was no detailed post-conflict planning, are particularly painful. The man who had been so gung-ho for war took scant interest in the welfare of our soldiers, and did little or nothing to safeguard the future of the country which he had helped to lay waste.
What is so perplexing, looking back, is that this manipulative and devious person was not found out sooner. In his early days, before he transferred his hunger for conflict to Saddam Hussein, he was celebrated by most of the Press (though not the Mail) and adored by much of his party (though not, to be fair to him, Jeremy Corbyn).
Even when his fantasies coalesced around saving the Free World with the equally wrong-headed U.S. president at his side, the majority of his party, many Tories, most newspapers and senior civil servants were still disposed to trust him and accept his arguments as those of an honest statesman. The greater part of the country was taken in. Some mandarins allowed themselves to be corrupted.
The explanation for this misplaced indulgence must be that to many he seemed charming and persuasive and, as a self-proclaimed devout Christian, apparently decent. Only a hard core of widely disbelieved critics saw him as an untrustworthy fraud.
Perhaps the most spine-chilling of many damning details in the Chilcot Report is Blair’s memo to Bush in July 2002 in which he informed the U.S. president, nearly a year before the invasion of Iraq: ‘I will be with you, whatever.’ To give such an unconditional commitment, neither sanctioned by Parliament nor approved by public opinion, was reckless.And evidence which makes me question his sanity
One, by the way, was the Labour MP Leo Abse, who suggested that Blair’s traumatic childhood had produced in him an obsessive desire to be loved and admired, and to avoid personal confrontation — hence his propensity not to consult colleagues and to surround himself with ‘Yes’ men.
It seems to me beyond dispute that he is an extreme narcissist — a man who craved power and adulation, especially in America, and in this self-serving cause was in some measure prepared to sacrifice the interests of his country and the lives of British troops.
Even when trying to give an account of himself yesterday in respect of the most serious charges that could be made against a former leader, he was anxious to emphasise the agonies which he had endured. Again and again, the shameless egotist dwelt on his difficulties.
Almost no one takes him seriously now, thank God, apart from a few discredited former henchmen such as Alastair Campbell. Even erstwhile admirers will have turned away in shame and disgust as they witness his pathological urge to accumulate mountains of money despite this process often entailing doing business with brutal dictators.
Without doubt, though, he has left a rancid legacy. His lies and evasions did not merely plunge this country into a tragedy over Iraq. They have also led to a more widely traded currency of mendacity among our political class, and an Establishment culture lacking adequate checks and balances in our system of governance. For example, during the EU referendum campaign, we witnessed the unforgivable manipulation of the government machine to further the cause of Remain.
Blair will prosper materially, of course. He’ll buy more houses and make more millions, and deliver highly lucrative speeches to credulous and admiring Right-wing audiences in America who share his mad delusion that he saved the world.
But most of us know differently. As a result of Sir John Chilcot’s report, we can see with even greater clarity than ever that Britain waged a war which it should not, and need not, have done. We know that, thanks to Tony Blair’s vanity and egomania, the lives of 179 British servicemen and women and countless innocent Iraqis have been sacrificed for nothing.
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