An Act Of Generosity Or Blairite Spin?
Mark Seddon is the former United Nations Correspondent and New York Bureau Chief for Al-Jazeera English TV. He reported from eighteen countries during that time, including North Korea, China, Haiti, Syria, Libya, Yemen, Ethiopia and the Democratic Republic of Congo. He has interviewed, amongst others, Ban Ki-Moon, Lech Walesa, Tony Blair, Hans Blix, Michael Foot, Mia Farrow, and George Clooney. In a journalistic career spanning over twenty years, he has been Editor of Tribune and an elected member of the UK Labour Party's National Executive Committee. He has written for most British newspapers and many magazines, including The Guardian, The Independent, The Daily Mail, The Times, The Spectator, New Statesman, Private Eye, British Journalism Review and Country Life Magazine. For a number of years he was a Diarist at the London Evening Standard, and has also reported for, amongst others, the BBC and Sky TV. He lives in Buckingham, England.
There is much excitement and controversy too over the decision by former Prime Minister, Tony Blair, to hand over the proceeding from his soon to be published memoirs. The Royal British Legion, and in particular a hospital for limbless ex Servicemen will be the main beneficiary – of an estimated £5 million from likely book sales. Or will it?
On one level this is an extraordinary act of generosity from the Prime Minister who took Britain into a number of Wars, including Iraq and the still continuing conflict in Afghanistan. Some say that this is Blair’s way of saying that he acknowledges the extraordinary sacrifice of British service personnel and that this is his way of putting something back. The Royal British Legion is extremely grateful for the proposed donation. A spokesman said that they had never received such a large gift before. It was not his job, he said, to ponder the motives for the gift. Quite so. That is for us.
I can’t pretend to be able to penetrate the mind of Tony Blair, so I can only speculate on his motives, which I suspect are driven by both guilt and an overriding anxiety to restore his diminished reputation. I was asked today by the BBC what I thought – having run up against Blair on three separate occasion in the run up to war in Iraq – and my view is that is that Blair is haunted by guilt, but an even more powerful a force is that deeply unsettling feeling that will be with him all of the time: namely that too many people both here and in the Middle East will never forgive him for taking Britain into war under false pretences in Iraq, and for further goading President Bush to do the same.
Tony Blair to my knowledge has never actually visited wounded servicemen. Nor has he shown any contrition. He has apologised for the potato famine in Ireland, which is sufficiently buried in history to allow it. But he has never apologised for Iraq.
I don’t expect that he will. His donation will go some way to lessening his feelings of guilt, but will not take away the hurt of families both here in Britain and in Iraq. For the truth is that Tony Blair did not make an honest ‘mistake’. He was not led by the military or the security services, he led them – and did so with distorted evidence that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.
In fact the closer one looks at the ‘generosity’ of Tony Blair there are more questions than answers. His office won’t say how much money will be handed over and when, or if it will be offset against tax from the complex web of companies over which this much diminished figure presides.
My best guess is that the charity will not benefit as much that it has been led to think it will, and once again a goodly section of the British media will have been taken in by Blairite spin.
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