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Tony Blair’s last laugh: Memoir declares no regrets about breaking Iraq

September 1, 2010

Why, yes, I did eat the canary.

Tony Blair’s much anticipated memoir, which goes on sale today, apparently does nothing to dispel the creeping suspicion that he combines the most salient traits of Bill Clinton and George Bush. At least that’s the impression I get, going by early reports of what the book actually says.

Read the thing?! Are you kidding? I don’t care if Blair did write it himself, slogging through 720 pages of this alpha weasel beating his breast and roaring his justifications throughout the jungle: Not my idea of reading pleasure.

In Britain, at least, the book, titled A Journey: My Political Life, looks to be a smash — possibly “the biggest political memoir of all-time,” according to the London Telegraph. (Note: Why in the world would Brit style hyphenate “all-time?!?”).

Possibly because Merry Olde is in a rancorous watershed political season, the British seem keenly attuned to politics in general, having already made a bestseller of The Third Man, a memoir by Peter Mandelson, a cabinet secretary in Blair’s “New Labor” administration.

But preorders for Blair’s book bested Mandelson’s by 36 percent. This must be gratifying news to Blair, who tried to smarm up Rupert Murdoch into delaying publication of Mandelson’s book so The Journey would have a clear field, according to the Guardian. Murdoch rebuffed him.

Blair’s literary success will benefit the Royal British Legion, the country’s leading charity for soldiers, veterans and their families. The former PM has pledged all earnings from the book, including the £4.6m advance, to the Legion.

What a nobel gesture, coming from a politician known for his greed, duplicity, egotism and boundless capacity for self-justification.

I mean, let’s just start with that title: The Journey. What journey would that be? Oh, here’s this helpful analysis from Jill Lawless, of the Associated Press:

“Swept to power in 1997 on a wave of popular enthusiasm,” Lawless observes, “Blair left office a decade later reviled by many for taking Britain into the U.S.-led Iraq war, and viewed as a liability by much of his own Labour Party.”

Some of the quotes reported from the book, as in this Telegraph story, find the former PM attempting to eat his cake and have it, too.

For example, on the one hand, Blair insists invading Iraq was the right thing to do, “on the basis of what we do know now.” You mean things like Saddam had nothing to do with al-Qaida or 9-11 and had no weapons of mass destruction?

Yet, despite these inconvenient facts, Blair declares: “I can’ regret the decision to go to war.”

On the other, Blair claims he’s wept for the soldiers and civilians killed in Iraq: “I … regret with every fiber of my being the loss of those who died…Tears, though there have been many, do not encompass it.”

I’m not sure how this is going to play in the U.K. (badly, I suspect), but it’s eliciting an early dose of Yankee skepticism here in the good ol’ U.S. 0f A. The comments section on the Yahoo story is harsh:

“What a weak man…No one feels sorry for you.” “Crocodile tears!” “Mr Blair started the war with fake excuse and now cried for victims.” “What a joke, what a clown.” “What an idiot, he thinks people will buy this.”

Of course, Blair nowhere strains his credibility as when he calls George Bush intelligent, a true idealist, a man of integrity. I’ll buy the middle of those, but the other two? No sale, Tone.

So I am pretty sure I’m not going to be reading Blair’s apologia, but does anyone out there plan to pick it up? If so, please share  why you think you might enjoy it.

8 Comments leave one →
  1. rachel permalink
    September 1, 2010 12:43 pm

    I have no desire to read this monster of a book. None. But I still found your blog interesting and entertaining, as always. I do have to say that this is probably the most interesting thing to me: “(Note: Why in the world would Brit style hyphenate “all-time?!?”).” Why would they? It makes no kind of sense.

    • Chauncey Mabe permalink*
      September 2, 2010 11:14 am

      No idea. Must ask one of my U.K. friends first chance I get. Although this maybe like someone asking me about Chicago Manual of Style on the serial coma, which makes no sense to me. Of course, as a journo, I was weaned on AP style (although some of its decrees are nonsensical, too).

  2. September 1, 2010 1:00 pm

    No thank you. I’ll pass. He really, really needs to fade away into obscurity.

    • Chauncey Mabe permalink*
      September 2, 2010 11:14 am

      Yeah, take your money and go home. Not likely, I’m afraid.

  3. Tommy-Smart permalink
    September 1, 2010 2:04 pm

    My imagination/lie factory has just been inspired by your blog. Can Blair, Bush Jr., Turd Blossom and Powell team up to write a book.

    Another idea: These guys from Downing Street and Washington should try their hand at film writing. Hollywood needs creative thinkers like these guys. The viewing public who are drowning in diluted film remakes of watery books like “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo” would appreciate being tossed a line.

    • Chauncey Mabe permalink*
      September 2, 2010 11:15 am

      But isn’t that the production team behind that torture porn classic, 24?

  4. September 1, 2010 3:06 pm

    “Alpha weasel.” Love it.

    I know you don’t read commercial ficiton, Chauncey, but you’d get a kick out of the political thriller by Brit Robert Harris called “The Ghost.”

    Harris, a former Fleet Street political editor, dropped his other work to write the book when he heard Blair was resigning. Harris was a huge Blair supporter but fell out of love over Blair’s war stance. The book is a above-average airplane yarn about a shlub journalist who is hired by recently unseated PM Adam Lang after the first ghost writer was found dead from “suicide.” The Lang character is quite obviously Blair, and his harpy wife is a thinly disguised Cherie Blair. Adam Lang is charged with war crimes involving Gitmo torture but it is eventually revealed that his puppet-master wife is a CIA agent. It’s a pretty effective indictment of Blair’s weasel-ness.

    In reviewing the book — headline: “The Blair Snitch Project — the NY Observer said the ending “would certainly explain pretty much everything about the recent history of Great Britain.”

    Polanski made it into a fair movie with Pierce Brosnan as the weasel.

    • Chauncey Mabe permalink*
      September 2, 2010 11:17 am

      I’ve heard of the movie, though not seen it, but did not know about the book. Will keep an eye out for it. Thanks, PJ.

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