It’s two years since Tony Blair left 10 Downing Street for good, but he hasn’t been able to win the praise and credit he yearns for after a decade of accomplishments as the Labor Party’s longest-serving prime minister, from British economic growth to peace in Northern Ireland.
Blair and his friends have been arguing that the former prime minister should be better treated. One thing gets in the way: His friendship with George W. Bush and his decision to join the United States in the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
The latest: The London Telegraph reports that Blair’s decision-making in office — including the decision to invade Iraq — was based on his religious beliefs. It’s reminiscent of Bush’s description of the war on terrorism as a “crusade.”
The Telegraph quotes a book, “We Don’t Do God,” by John Burton, Blair’s political associate and sometimes mentor. The book says Blair played down his religious fervor while in office, but it was always at the forefront:
Tony’s Christian faith is part of him, down to his cotton socks. He believed strongly at the time, that intervention in Kosovo, Sierra Leone — Iraq too — was all part of the Christian battle; good should triumph over evil, making lives better.
He applied that same principle in everything he did — from establishing the Social Exclusion Unit to ethnic cleansing in Kosovo, and ridding Iraq of the evils of Saddam Hussein’s rule.
Bush’s religion-dominated worldview has also been in the news recently. GQ reported this month that former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld mixed memos to Bush on Iraq with quotations from the Scriptures.
This week, Clive Hamilton, a visiting professor at Yale University, reports on a new book about former French President Jacques Chirac, written by journalist Jean Claude Maurice. The book says Bush spoke of Satan and the need to cleanse the world to prepare for Armageddon.
Chirac is said to have been stupefied and disturbed by Bush’s invocation of Biblical prophesy to justify the war in Iraq and “wondered how someone could be so superficial and fanatical in their beliefs.”
Prediction, not prophesy — Blair and Bush will long be the focus of armchair psychoanalysis: Bush for why he did what he did, Blair for why he didn’t know better.
– Peter Eisner