Blair's mis­lead­ing per­sona

The Pak Banker - - OPINION - Neil Berry

THIS WEEK came fresh al­le­ga­tions that that former UK prime min­is­ter, Tony Blair, know­ingly over­sold the dan­ger posed by Sad­dam Hus­sein's Iraq in or­der to se­cure par­lia­men­tary back­ing for a pre-emp­tive US-led war. Few now doubt that both Blair and former US pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush were dis­hon­ourable lead­ers who bear re­spon­si­bil­ity for the night­mare of sec­tar­ian vi­o­lence that en­gulfed Iraq fol­low­ing the in­va­sion of 20 March 2003 and could en­gulf the coun­try afresh. It might be ex­pected that so tar­nished a politi­cian would no longer be lis­tened to about any­thing. Yet the 10th an­niver­sary of the war has af­forded Blair fresh op­por­tu­ni­ties, in tele­vi­sion and ra­dio in­ter­views, to claim that de­spite ev­ery­thing Iraq is now a bet­ter place while pro­claim­ing his undimmed faith in what has been var­i­ously de­scribed as 'lib­eral in­ter­ven­tion­ism' and ' mil­i­tary hu­man­ism'. Asked if he favours mil­i­tary ac­tion against Iran if Tehran fails to prove that it is not pur­su­ing a nu­clear weapons pro­gramme, he replies with a cat­e­gor­i­cal 'yes'.

Blair con­fesses that he has ' given up try­ing to per­suade peo­ple' of the va­lid­ity of his ar­gu­ments on Iraq, im­ply­ing that if the pub­lic does not find him cred­i­ble on the sub­ject it is not be­cause it has made a ra­tio­nal es­ti­mate of his record but be­cause it is de­fec­tive in un­der­stand­ing. Look­ing like a man wrestling with ' anger man­age­ment' is­sues, the former Bri­tish leader in­creas­ingly calls to mind Guardian car­toon­ist Steve Bell's de­pic­tion of him as a psy­chotic freak with a grotesquely swollen left eye. It is a Cy­clo­pean im­age that cap­tures Blair's ma­ni­a­cal sub­jec­tiv­ity, his crazed in­sen­si­tiv­ity to alternative points of view. Crit­ics might well say to him: 'We have given up try­ing to per­suade you'. How cu­ri­ous that Blair por­trays him­self as both a Chris­tian and a demo­crat. Af­ter all, a Chris­tian is sup­posed to be a per­son with a highly devel­oped con­science who be­lieves in turn­ing the other cheek, a demo­crat some­one who heeds the opin­ions of oth­ers. Blair is more ac­cu­rately de­fined by his egre­gious ob­ses­sion with celebrity, his bla­tant crav­ing for pub­lic ex­po­sure. And per­haps, on the 10th an­niver­sary of the war, it is worth pon­der­ing the ex­tent to which the war was, not caused, but fa­cil­i­tated by An­glo- Amer­i­can 'celebrity cul­ture', with its in­or­di­nate in­vest­ment in per­son­al­ity and vis­ceral drama. Many will re­call how, in the run-up to the war, Blair flew to the United States to con­fer with Ge­orge W. Bush and his pres­i­den­tial clique. Ex­chang­ing ban­ter and wear­ing broad grins, the two men swag­gered up to their mi­cro­phones like co-pre­sen­ters of some tele­vi­sion spec­tac­u­lar. And in a sense that was pre­cisely what, at its in­cep­tion, the Iraq war was: the Bush and Blair Show, a hyped- up me­dia event that promised en­ter­tain­ment in the form of 'shock and awe' and 'full spec­trum dom­i­nance'.

Not that Blair - in con­trast to the US pres­i­dent - pre­sented him­self as an un­abashed war­mon­ger. On the con­trary, he was seek­ing to be hailed as a mes­siah. Blair ev­i­dently cal­cu­lated that he would be greeted with grat­i­tude by the peo­ple of Iraq. A politi­cian less ad­dicted to pub­lic­ity, less ea­ger to strut the world stage, might have been more mind­ful of the per­ils im­plicit in at­tempt­ing to re­fash­ion a highly devel­oped Arab state by brute mil­i­tary force. Pos­sess­ing an ag­ile brain and glib tongue, Blair is a suave per­former in tele­vi­sion stu­dios but is no reader, no stu­dent of his­tory, no thinker. In­deed, all the indi­ca­tions are that he is fun­da­men­tally de­void of the in­tel­lec­tual depth that might have placed a check on his - and Ge­orge W. Bush's - im­petu­os­ity. Tony Blair de­spised and dis­cred­ited is ac­tu­ally a more saleable com­mod­ity than a Blair who could boast of tremen­dous achieve­ments as a lib­er­a­tor and hu­man­i­tar­ian.

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