Running On Empty: New Information on Post-Iraq Invasion Blair

Empty Gas Tank 2

Tony Blair was going to resign as UK Prime Minister back in 2004. After inciting the biggest culture clash in modern UK history by supporting Bush’s invasion of Iraq, Blair was a very depressed man. The End of the Party, a new book to be published March 1, 2010 by the The Observer‘s Andrew Rawnsley says (according to The Guardian), “Tony Blair descended into such a deep depression after the Iraq war that he told Gordon Brown and John Prescott (both key figures in his administration) that he would quit No. 10 [the PM’s office] the following summer.”

The End of the Party describes how Blair’s special envoy in Iraq briefed Blair at the end of his time in Iraq that the conditions were “unbelievably bad” and would deteriorate further. ” ‘What can we do?’ pleaded Blair. ‘We have told them [the Americans] again and again what we think is necessary. If it doesn’t happen, what can we do?’ Greenstock was left with the image of the prime minister ‘tearing his hair’ over Iraq and ‘throwing his hands in the air’.” (The Guardian)

In supporting what was seen by the British public as an oil-greedy mistake by a blood-thirsty dimwit with Daddy’s agenda, Blair committed the unpardonable sin.  The British public was much more skeptical about the war than the American public. While American reactions to Bush’s actions were often divided along party lines, British disdain for Blair was overwhelming.  Blair was openly referred to as Bush’s poodle, a sell-out willing to compromise his integrity to preserve Britain’s then-coveted “special relationship” with the US.

“He was very low, he was very lonely and he was very tired,” Rawnsley quotes Blair’s friend and colleague, Tessa Jowell, as saying about Blair at the depth of his misery.  Blair’s stress level was so high that he says he “spaced out” several times during the time-honored British tradition of Prime Minister’s Questions and would frequently wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat.

As if the extreme disapproval with his decision was not enough, Gordon Brown (favored as Blair’s successor), was furious when Blair regained some self-confidence and reneged on his decision to resign. An eyewitness of one conversation (quoted in The End of the Party) says, “Gordon was just losing it. He was behaving like a belligerent teenager. Just standing in the office shouting: ‘When are you going to f*****g go?’ ”

It took Blair’s wife and several close allies to get him through the worst of his anguish.  “Come on. Buck up. Buck up. Think of what you’ve got to achieve. You’re the best politician in this country by a mile,” said his friend Peter Mandelson, who himself had survived many a political storm.

Eventually, the embattled Blair did pick himself up but the damage had been done.  One of the most popular politicians in recent UK history had been forever sullied by allying himself with the trigger-happy Texan who permanently marred not just Middle East relations but the foreseeable future of Anglo-American partnerships.

Bjorn Karlman

20 thoughts on “Running On Empty: New Information on Post-Iraq Invasion Blair”

  1. if you do not stand for principle, you will be brought to your knees… or in Blair’s case, on his knees with his nose wedged up Bush’s anus.

  2. Hearing from you brings a smile to my face, my friend. And unfortunately, yours is a factually (and graphically) accurate assessment:)

  3. I remember 2004 in England well. I was working on a Master’s at SOAS at the time and rage against both Bush and Blair and America in general over the war in Iraq was palpable. I think this had something to do with my getting deported when I tried to reenter the country after Christmas break back in God’s country. The home officer said it was because I had failed to get a student visa in my new passport. But we all know Americans don’t need visas to go any where they please. Lies, I say. Damn lies.

  4. Sorry about your deportation. But it almost feels like justice after the amount of time I have had to spend in US consulates begging for papers to stick around:)

    And yes, England was a very harsh place for the Yanks in 2004… at least the new President has helped people the world over distinguish between Americans and the unpopular Iraq decision…

  5. In 50 years, we will think all these arguments are very silly. The long term benefit to Iraq will be immeasurable. I do think the basis for the hate of the war for many was the idea that the Bush admin lied to get us into war. I personally think that is about as silly an argument a person could make. I think that the worst lie regarding the war is the idea that the president could even do something like that. It is impossible. The president doesn’t create intelligence, and he isn’t the only person who can see it. Therefore, he couldn’t lie his way into a war…at least…not the way it supposedly happened with Iraq.

  6. David, does the American interference in Vietnam or Western colonization/interference in Africa sound silly now that we have put some distance behind the devastation? And no, Bush did not lie to us, he manipulated bad intelligence to fit his daddy-inspired agenda. Not much of a comfort…

  7. Your assessment of Bush’s motives for leading the country into Iraq is based on a lot of conjecture on your part, Bjorn. There were a lot of reasons why the Iraq war seemed necessary at the times; reasons which have still not entirely been disproved. These same reasons lead many Democrats in congress to vote to authorize the use of force, only to flip flop on their decision the minute it appeared that the war was not going well.

    The President did not lead the country alone, it was congress as well, which made the decision based on the same intelligence Bush and Blair saw. So how is it that Bush’s opponents have been allowed to paint the whole war as entirely Bush’s fault and make him out to be a liar. If the Iraq war is such a catastrophe how is it that the Democrats who authorized it are allowed to criticisize with such immunity?

    I reject that notion that Iraq is a catastrophe; that remains to be seen. At the moment things actually seem to be going pretty well for them, and the people have freedom and no longer live in fear of a mass-murdering insane dictator.

    If we really want to be honest about the Iraq war we should consider all points of view and the fact that there are still a lot of unanswered questions, rather than filtering every even through preconceived ideas about how wicked Bush was.

    Most of the people who led the movement against the Iraq war never supported Bush in the first place and were looking for something to smear him on, and a lot of other good natured, peace loving people got caught up in it when the war didn’t seem to be going well.

    I’m no cheerleader for Bush, I’m really not a huge fan of his administration and a lot of things he did, but I think a lot of people judge his motives (and outcomes) extremely unfairly.

  8. Thanks for the debate Micah, that’s half of the reason for CultureMutt. I protested the war before it began and after. The legislators that supported the Iraq invasion both before and after are forever tarnished in my estimation.. I don’t think Blair or Bush were liars. But I do feel they made some very bad decisions based on half-baked intelligence like the infamous “sexed-up dossier” that claimed the presence of WMD. I don’t at all agree with Democrats that voted for the war and then criticized the invasion… the subsequent handling of the war is fair game for critique though.

    I think it’s a bit rich to say things are going “pretty well” for Iraq… perhaps in comparison to the carnage a couple of years ago but suicide bombs and mass slayings hardly add up to the fruit of smart policy.

    Hopefully Iraq does recover and become the beacon of freedom Bush intended. Bush was many things but “wicked” is not a fair description. I WOULD say that he was simple-minded, gunslinging and unilateral in his approach. The invasion and the subsequent occupation were handled poorly, regardless of Bush’s original motives. I don’t believe in blind Bush hating but there were some devastating mistakes made that violated the rules of international diplomacy and established Bush and his administration as arrogant oafs hell-bent on proving to the world that America could and would do whatever it pleased, whatever the consequences. The anger at the US and the loss of respect will take a long time to address. This is Bush’s fault, without question.

  9. Vietnam has nothing to do with Iraq. We lost Vietnam so its a crappy country. We have won in Iraq, and the end result will be that Iraq will one day be like South Korea, Germany, and/or Japan.

    America wasn’t involved in Africa. That was a different time by true European imperialists. The fact is that America is pretty damn good at nation building even though I am generally against it.

    Clinton/Gore were more in favor of regime change that Bush’s dad. Bush could have changed the Iraqi regime, but he did not. Clinton/Gore’s stated policy was regime change for Iraq.

    It was their devastating trade embargo that led to the deaths of millions of Iraqi’s (more than Bush’s invasion). Which really set up the need to invade. The sanctions were not sustainable. The toll it took on the Iraqi people was too great and its effect on the actual regime was negligible.

  10. If Vietnam is ‘crappy’ it’s because we bombed it back into the stone age and killed off a significant percentage of the male population, then abandoned it to exist in a perpetual state of political and economic obscurity. We strangled it, failed, then picked up and left. It was a mistake to go in in the first place. The same goes for Iraq.

    Keep in mind that history–time–does not heal all wounds, nor does it erase the fact that America overstepped her bounds, yet again, to ensure she got the largest piece of the pie. The whole ‘ends justifies the means’ argument is a shallow one, and should be reserved for historians well removed in time. Try to explain the ‘ends justify the means’ to the Iraqis, I’m sure they’ll recognize that the whole mess is for their own good. I’m sure they’ll appreciate our 20/20 foresightedness and preemptive kindness.

  11. We destroyed Germany, Japan, Korea, Iraq, and Vietnam. The only difference is we never rebuilt Vietnam. Iraq is in the same group as the others and will be fine in the long run.

    I have read quite a few Iraqi blogs and there is certainly a mixed reception to the American invasion and ongoing rebuilding efforts. However, many understand the long term goals by the Americans and the reality that Iraq had as many people dying under economic sanctions/Saddam then it had dying in the war.

    That is all a different argument from whether or not we should have invaded. Some still argue we should have not fought in Korea. I think they are probably right. However, you can’t argue with the results. Had we not fought the Korean War, all of Korea would be run by Kim Jong Ill. That is one of the fundamental problems with the anti-war argument. They address the lives lost from war, but what about the lives lost from not fighting a war? How many more people would have died under Saddam’s regime? How many would have died under the rule of his psychotic sons when they took over? All of that is just conjecture and a waste of time, but certainly it is worth thinking about.

  12. David, I see where you are coming from and I think the world is happy that Germany, Japan and South Korea have been success stories. A few points:
    Nation building is not imposed from outside a country and picking success stories while ignoring attempts at regime change by American interference that have had less than spectacular results (Cuba 1959, Congo 1960, IRAQ numerous times before the first Gulf War, Afghanistan 70s-80s.. the list is long and embarrassing) is irresponsible.
    Also, America and its reputation in the world is not the same as it was in WWII and the Korean War. We have a lot less credibility/good will on our side.
    Also, Iraq presents the added challenge of being an integral and hotly debated part of the Islamic world and the perceived affront from a Christian West is going to cause much more than the last decade of terror and bloodshed as the two sides clash.
    I understand your “ends justify the means” logic and I am not a pacifist but the lines were far more blurry in Iraq than they were after Pearl Harbor.

  13. Saddam’s psychotic sons? Is that really why we went in? For the sake of democracy? I think not. Democracy–nation building–was a convenient cover for a host of self-serving interests that are not, in any way, negated or changed by the ends. What’s psychotic is ignoring the global community–not to mention a sizable portion of the domestic community–to invade Iraq. What’s psychotic is going off on our own–rogue, as it were–with our nuclear arsenal and behind-closed-doors economic bullying as the only incentives for the rest of the world to follow. That’s not leading from the front, and as Americans we should be ashamed. They were helpless, the world, as we wielded our might, vetoed all dialogue, then went right in.

    As for the comparisons with Germany, South Korea and Japan: Germany and Japan were a global threat, necessitating military intervention (the atomic bomb excluded). And if what the books tell us now is true, then the intervention in South Korea, similarly, was to curb Soviet and Chinese attempts at hegemony in East Asia. To add to that thought, though, many Koreans believe America made a hash of the war, so there’s a local opinion for you. Should we consider this alternate opinion or do we just know better?

    What separates Iraq from the above scenarios is that there was never a reason for Iraq. This has been proven. Saddam was never a threat, nor is it enough to simply say “the Iraqis are better off now.” This perspective lends to the notion that morality is, to a degree, flexible in history and that what we do now, though corrupt, can and will be absolved over the course of time. This train of thought opens up the door for a whole lot of ‘explaining away’–in the end, no more than excuses–of all the foolish and evil things we humans have done.

  14. Its not letting me reply for some reason, so I am replying here. US intervention, invasion, regime change, and national building are all different things. We never tried to nation building with Cuba or any of the other countries you mentioned. We have spent much more in Iraq than we will ever get back. The Democrats have made this argument as part of their over all reasons to be against the war. They are undoubtedly right. We are spending all this money on Iraq, and we will never get a fraction of it back. The idea of America invading Iraq for some sort of financial gain or for oil are just absurdly misguided in my opinion. The problem is that certain types of people need an evil reason behind the war in Iraq so they can feel good about themselves and their hatred for Bush and/or America.

    Iraq is not an issue of the ‘ends justifying the means’ in my opinion. A lot of people have selective memory about the reason for war with Iraq. The detractors of the war constantly harp on WMD, but that was just one of many arguments for the war. If you ever get the spare time, you should go to the library and read some of the 2002/2003 editorials on the war. WMD was a pretty small part of the argument.

    Whether or not you were against the war from the beginning, it is a matter of history now. I guess we can talk about it because its good to remember history so that we can avoid making the same mistakes…blablabla. However, outside of academic circles (and maybe very specific anti-war circles), I really doubt anyone will talk about the invasion of Iraq being a mistake 50 years from now.

    It can’t be. The facts just are not there. If a dictator kills 1 person every day for 20 years then someone intervenes at the cost of 3000 lives. That sucks, don’t get me wrong, but I mean, is it better to do nothing because it makes someone who is bad at math feel better?

    “Saddam was never a threat”

    If you don’t think a head of state that sponsors terrorism is a potential global threat, then we have a fundamental disagreement about what a ‘threat’ is.

  15. Sorry, it’s late, I am tired, and I don’t know if I was as clear as I could have been.

    When I say I am not trying to have the ‘ends justify the means’ what I mean is that I am really not trying to justify the means. I wouldn’t want another Iraq type war. What I am saying is that i don’t think the argument for the war was made maliciously and that the positive outcome that will come out of Iraq will eventually make people forget the WMD/lies issue.

  16. David, I see your point. And, if anything, the success of the Iraqi elections supports what you are saying. At least to a point. Hopefully Iraq will be a model of democracy 50 years from now. I was against the war from the start but that does not make me want to see Iraq fail now. I think what upset me most about the invasion was the fact that the international community and the UN was largely ignored. Also, I didn’t think there was a strong enough link to 9/11. If evil dictators are to be taken out then surely North Korea should have been just as pressing of a priority.
    But I hope Iraq turns out to be a success story. I will simply never see this potential success as validation of the Bush Doctrine..

  17. As Iraq goes to the polls to vote for the direction of its own country, one must be optimistic that in the coming generations there can be positives to be taken out of the way Saddam was ousted. Whatever the prevailing wisdom was that took us into war – and I believe history will look unfavourably at the dubious arguments that were placed to the British electorate – an Iraq free of Saddam is a good thing. It is difficult I believe to understand Blair’s decision outside of the post 9/11 paradigm, and also outside of his successes in foreign forays in Sierra Leone and Kosovo for he saw intervention as a moral imperative. In the post 9/11 days under the cloak of ‘us’ and ‘them’ and the War on Terror, this decision must be seen in context.

    With still high levels of corruption, high trepidation amongst businesses to set up there (except wealthy western Oil firms, of course), roughly 300 civilians being killed each month and the potential for a factionalised political spectrum which has an unclear future and direction – this military intervention is far from a success. Post-war Iraq is still though, just an infant.

  18. Good to get a UK perspective on this one. And I agree, the election success was an encouraging sign. Not all that resulted from Saddam’s being ousted is negative and much of the positive doubtless lies in the future. I agree that the nuanced context of the time has to be considered as well. My quarrel is less with the idea of a Saddam-free Iraq and more with the reasons that were used to justify the war as well as the UN-be-damned approach.

  19. Agreed with the ‘justifications’ debate, as well as the circumvention of the UN – although I would argue that having received the first resolution and Saddam unwilling to meet obligations from previous resolutions that that may have justified intervention (although of course there are a few notable international law lawyers, academics and diplomats who would disagree with me!). But having failed to get the 2nd resolution it didn’t look good for Tony (I would say ‘and George’, but I don’t think George cared much)

    Unfortunately, we here in Britain are pretty stuck on that electorally – the Conservatives also wanted to go to war. Anyhow, Iraq is rightly or wrongly no longer a significant electoral factor.

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