December 13, 2009
Anthony Seldon: Blair saw Iraqis suffering and believed that he had to help them
I think Tony Blair is feeling very frustrated that he is not able to get any voice for himself. He is trying to get his own view out there, his own convictions about the war in Iraq. Everyone tends to rewrite history and he is not having the opportunity to say what the real version of events was.
He was dealing with someone who was an evil dictator and that was the right thing to do, in his mind, because what was at stake was world peace. In another sense he has been remarkably consistent and I think is tremendously frustrated at not having the opportunity to say that.
He thinks people are being very selective about what they say and what they remember about the build-up to the war.
More than 200 people stayed, people at the top of the military, in the Foreign Office and the Cabinet; they gave their backing to it and saw it through. Blair feels that the war was right, that it was a brave thing to do and he has seen people now distancing themselves from it and raising objections to it that they didn’t at the time.
The whole field of what has been said to justify the conflict, the weapons of mass destruction threat, regime change, democracy, Saddam Hussein, is enormous and people are jumping on things which are irrelevant.
I have a very clear idea of what is in his mind and what he is thinking about and the overriding feeling is one of frustration. He also has a sense of moral conviction in what he is doing: he is a 19th-century kind of figure like William Gladstone. For them, moral conviction in foreign policy was core.
His spirituality in this context is centred on the parable of the Good Samaritan, which he has quoted in speeches. That says that we cannot cross the road if we see suffering on the other side of the street.
He saw Iraqi suffering at the hands of Saddam Hussein and believed that it was his duty to not cross the road.
Anthony Seldon is Tony Blair’s biographer