Blood money? Really? The synthetic rage of the Daily Mail over Tony Blair’s donation of the profits from his book is predictable, as is the responding chorus from his political opponents. But do they really think he is doing this to salve his conscience and atone for his sins?
When asked at the Iraq enquiry if he had any regrets, he replied that he accepted the responsibility for the decisions he made. Could this be part of that acceptance of responsibility, a duty towards those who had to bear the consequences of those decisions?
No political decision weighs more heavily than committing troops to combat. I don’t believe that any leader of a Western democracy goes to war lightly, or without being convinced in their own mind that this is the right, and probably the unavoidable course of action. George (H W) Bush choked up in front of an audience when explaining why he felt it right to go to war in the Gulf. As the youngest US Navy pilot in World War II, he knew full well what that decision would mean in terms of deaths and injuries (there is film of a bedraggled Bush’s being hauled back onto deck after he was shot down over the Pacific).
It’s too easy to say that a leader who’s never served in the armed forces doesn’t understand the implications of the decision. The briefing will inevitably include an estimate of the potential casualties, both military and civilian.
I am reluctant to accept the spin from Blair’s press office that he decided to donate the proceeds from his book shortly after he left office. It is also a fair point that he can afford this generosity, having made millions since leaving office, with the prospect of more to come.
But when all is said and done, the funds will enable the British Legion to build a state of the art rehabilitation facility for injured service personnel. As Diane Abbott (no friend of Blair or supporter of the war she) said, this should be seen as beyond politics.
It will not ease the pain and anger of those who have lost children, parents or partners in a war they think is unjustified. But it will make life that bit better than it might have been otherwise for those who put themselves in harm’s way at the request of their country.
As for the book, I find myself surprised by my own lack of desire to read it. Perhaps it’s because I suspect it will reveal little and lack insight; Blair always struck me as working more on instinct that intellect. It would be nice to be surprised. I’m more interested in George Bush’s forthcoming memoir Decision Points, where he explains the rationale behind the key moments in his life. Now there is a thought process I’m curious to understand.