How Power Turns Virtue into Vice

By Alibhai-Brown, Yasmin | The Independent (London, England), August 3, 2010 | Go to article overview
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How Power Turns Virtue into Vice

Alibhai-Brown, Yasmin, The Independent (London, England)

Tony Blair's memoirs

Will I read Tony Blair's memoir? Maybe skim through it and throw it on a big bonfire of the vanities. Millions would approve of this book-burning, I reckon. Then again, why put oneself through the agony of reading it at all? Do we really think we will discover the real, human, flawed Blair on the pages, prepared to confess all, the Good Catholic he now is?

At the Chilcot Inquiry, he was, as ever, phlegmatic and a trickster, flaunting his iron will and unassailable arrogance, and intimidating the panel. He denied emphasising the 45-minute WMD threat - having totally emphasised it during the Hutton inquiry. He mixed fact and fiction as dexterously as a cocktail-maker in a swish bar. In media interviews around the time he grandiloquently pronounced he would have backed the war whatever the evidence of weapons of mass destruction and claimed strong leadership is undeterred by public opinion or legal niceties.

The book is called A Journey. Not an honestly introspective one for sure. In his years out of office Blair does not appear to have spent much time on quiet reflection or a reassessment of his key decisions, some of which irreversibly tarnished the name of Britain, divided the nation - economically and politically - and degraded the very idea of ethical governance. Instead he keeps himself busy, busy, frenetically busy, getting rich, striding the earth as though he is a Roman God, imagining he is still making war here, ordering peace there, at will. Undiminished is his "absolute" certainty about how right he always was and is.

In the days and weeks to come, not only is his much anticipated (by others, not me) book launched, but he will also play at being a Middle East peace envoy at the talks in Washington between Israel and Palestine, then with his broad- smiling, multi-propertied family he is off to Philadelphia to receive a Liberty medal. Then there are big media interviews and book events.

Here, he has let it be known that all his earnings from the memoirs will go to the Royal British Legion, a move both cynical and provocative - as if money wipes this dark episode clean and redeems him. Call it chequebook expiation, kill and pay: it clearly works. Many now heap praise on the leader whose popularity and credibility had plummeted. Benedicte Page of The Bookseller says, for example, that this gesture (for that is what it is) will mollify his critics and many more will buy the book.

More good news is on the way. The Pontiff who admitted the co- conspirator of the Iraqi invasion into his church in 2007 comes on a state visit in October, and will apparently hand the erstwhile PM one of the highest Vatican honours for "services to peace", mainly in Northern Ireland. No one can dispute that great achievement, and there were others - the war in Kosovo and intervention in Sierra Leone, for example - that did save many lives. But Iraq undid all that.

It was, as Anthony Seldon, Blair's biographer, says: "the most controversial intervention abroad since Suez in 1956". To reward Blair now is to endorse the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, the displacement of over a million of them, and ignore the children born with deformities as a result of chemicals used by the allies.

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