Sunday, September 12, 2010


Tony Blair: a review review

Tony Blair is out with his memoirs, presumably filed in the shops until "Fiction." No way I'll be reading the book, so I'll have to content myself with a review of the review from the Los Angeles Times. It's appearance in my local paper is particularly timely since last night I watched "The Ghost Writer" (more about that later).

After telling us that he [Blair, not the reviewer] has "often reflected as to whether I was wrong," a claim I regard as pure fiction, he asks us (readers) "to reflect as to whether I may have been right." OK, Tony, I considered. You weren't. In support of this claim, he repeats the two fictions behind the invasion of Iraq: one, that Iraq was a "government sharing any part of the terrorists' views or goals," and two, that it was "about to" obtain WMD, and that "there was no way to know that at the time." By the way, at least judging from the review, no mention of that minor impediment called "international law," which, even if both of those falsities were in fact true, still wouldn't justify an invasion.

And then he repeats one of the strangest yet persistent lies of all:

As Blair puts it, paraphrasing a U.N. weapons inspector, Hussein "thought the U.S. and its allies were bluffing when we threatened force and actually we were sincere; and we thought he genuinely had weapons of mass destruction when actually he was bluffing."
How many times do we have to repeat this? Iraq was saying, loudly, publicly, and in print, that it had no weapons of mass destruction. Here's the poker game between Saddam and Tony Blair. "I'm not going to bet," Saddam would say, "because I've got nothing in my hand." "Oh no," Tony would think, I'd better fold these three Aces, because he's obviously holding a full house! Or, better yet, I'll just pull out my gun and shoot him, because I can't stand the chance I might lose to him."

Blair also pontificates about George Bush's "integrity" (guess he never heard the phrase "compassionate conservative" that was so much a part of Bush's election campaign) and "political courage" (as if it takes political courage to whip up the fear of the masses with images of "mushroom clouds"), and then makes this true but strange claim about Dick Cheney:

"[I]t's virtually impossible to have a rational discussion about him," Blair writes. "To those on the left, he is, of course, an uncomplicated figure of loathing. Even for the middle ground, they tend to reach for the garlic and crucifixes. You have to go pretty far to the right to find Dick's natural constituency."
So how far right do you have to go? Apparently about as far right as Tony Blair, because here's what comes next:
After 9/11, according to Blair, the vice president felt that the United States needed to prosecute the war "with terrorists and rogue states that supported them" in a total fashion. "He would have worked through the whole lot, Iraq, Syria, Iran, dealing with all their surrogates in the course of it — Hezbollah, Hamas, etc. In other words, he thought the world had to be made anew.... Of course, the attitude terrified and repelled people. But it will be obvious from what I have written that I did not think it was as fantastical as conventional wisdom opined."
So Blair not only subscribed to Cheney's claim that the U.S. needed to go to war against states allegedly supporting terrorists (Iraq), but to continue through the lot of such alleged "enemies."

And throughout, we read about his special admiration for and desire to be tied to the United States. Which is interesting, because, as I said, I just finished watching "The Ghost Writer" last night, one of whose themes is precisely that (of course the movie is vaguely based on real life, so that isn't surprising). The movie was fun to watch, and gripping, with particularly good acting from Pierce Brosnan and Ewan McGregor, but was seriously marred by a number of minor flaws of preposterousness (one example: the ex-British Prime Minister's compound on Martha's Vineyard is super high-security, yet the ghost writer who will be working with him from morning until night on his memoirs is asked to live in a hotel, and commute to and fro every day) and two rather major ones: one, the idea that an ex-British Prime Minister is likely to be investigated by the ICC for war crimes (if only!), and two, the idea that it takes something out of the ordinary to tie Britain to the U.S., as if the two were on opposite sides of every issue until Tony Blair (excuse me, Adam Lang, the character in the move) showed up. It's a movie, and I suppose I could excuse the first plot device as just that, however sadly fanciful in the real world, but the second is just plain silly. I do recommend it, though. Way more than reading the fiction in the memoirs of the real ex-Prime Minister, Tony Blair.

Why stop here? There's more...

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