The cameras recorded Tony Blair’s obituary yesterday. Blair didn’t die physically (he looks perfectly healthy), but his reputation took a final, precipitous plunge into nothingness. Ten years ago, Blair was one of the world’s foremost political leaders – a British Prime Minister on the verge on winning a second straight term; a man who, on the day he led his Labour Party to victory in June of 2001, prompted his Tory opponent to say, “As a person, I respect him enormously. Quite rightly, a lot of people respect him.”
The respect was there because Blair had brought integrity to 10 Downing Street – had used his Oxford-educated intellect to stabilize the U.K.’s economy; had overseen a major peace transition in Northern Ireland; and, in his mid-40s, had restored confidence in a country that had tired of aging Conservative Party bureaucrats John Major and Margaret Thatcher. As the Daily Telegraph noted upon Blair’s 2001 re-election, he was “Labour’s star performer.”
That was then. Blair left office three years ago in turmoil, his reputation changed forever after cheerleading the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Blair was derided as “Bush’s poodle” for rubber-stamping the U.S. president’s gung-ho approach to war in Baghdad. Yesterday – as he has done consistently since 2003 – Blair defended his decision to involve Britain, saying he still has “no regret” – despite the fact that the supposed main reason for war (Iraq’s ability to detonate “weapons of mass destruction”) was proven to be dubious. “Bliar” is how protesters refer now to Blair, who has blood on his hands.
Blair doesn’t have to worry about legal recriminations. The London commission he spoke to yesterday is simply reviewing the British government’s responsibility for the Iraq War, not prosecuting it. Outside the halls of official Britain, however, Blair has to watch out. A fellow Oxford graduate, writer and activist George Monbiot, has spearheaded a reward to anyone who makes a citizen’s arrest of Blair. Thousands of dollars have been donated to Monbiot’s campaign at www.arrestblair.org. The money is another “nail in the coffin” to Blair’s once-pristine reputation.