Tony Blair and his oh-so-clean conscience

Analysis

There was – to use a truly vile expression of Lord Blair of Kut al-Amara yesterday – a "binary distinction".

There was the blood that flowed over my shoes in the emergency room of a Baghdad hospital in March of 2003, the humans shrieking with phosphorous burns, the old man with the blood trickling down a handkerchief from his empty eye socket, the piles of decomposing corpses in the Baghdad mortuary, the screams – oh yes, the shrieks and the pleadings and the animal squeals of the wounded and the dying. And then there was Lord Blair yesterday, sitting in the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre in his oh-so-clean business suit and his oh-so-clean red tie and his oh-so-clean white shirt and his oh-so-clean conscience. My God, that was a "binary distinction" all right. The difference between the hell of pain and the hell of blissful mendacity.

You needed to be in the Middle East to feel that strongly about it. Lord Blair was physically only 2,000 miles away from me. Psychologically, he was in another galaxy, still composing and recomposing the historical record.

Take al-Qa'ida. We all knew about this particular institution. It had, as Lord Blair kept reminding us yesterday, "changed everything" with 9/11. It was one of the reasons why the British and Americans invaded Iraq. Because Saddam had links with al-Qa'ida, so said the Americans,and might give them weapons of mass destruction, so said Lord Blair. But when it turned out that the links were as non-existent as the weapons, Lord Blair was surprised to find al-Qa'ida turning up in post-invasion Iraq. "People did not think that al-Qa'ida and Iran would play the role that they did."

Lord Blair went to war because of al-Qa'ida but thought al-Qa'ida would let him win in Iraq. So it was all al-Qa'ida's fault. WE didn't kill 100,000 Iraqis (I noticed he used the lowest available figure). It was THEM, the terrorists, al-Qa'ida, insurgents, Iranians, "sectarians", the bad guys.

He played the same dishonest little trick over the Israel-Palestinian war. "It's a constant problem for Israel," he informed us. "They use great force in retaliation. Before you've gone two weeks, they're the people that started it all."

But no, they're not, Lord Blair. No one disputed that Hamas rockets preceded Israel's Gaza war a year ago. What Israel was accused of was causing grotesquely disproportionate Palestinian casualties. But of course, that's not what Blair said. Because he works in Jerusalem – where he cannot offend either side – and as Middle East envoy, it was his job to prevent this mass slaughter. Which he failed to do as signally as he failed to stop the slaughter in Iraq.

It's a cold winter in the Middle East now, but yesterday I had to loosen my shirt collar from time to time. It seemed Blair was as successful in Iraq as he was in Gaza a year ago. Everything is getting better. Life in Iraq is better – better than it was in 2007, 2003, 2002 and for that matter, 2001. I got it. Before his invasion, it was all Saddam's fault. After his invasion it was all al-Qa'ida's and Iran's fault. And presumably we are now going to invade Iran?

At one point, the wretched man boasted of Britain's historical legacy in setting up an Iraqi government in the 1920s, deleting any mention of the massive insurgency against the British in Baghdad and Fallujah and Najaf in 1922 which might – just might – have forewarned him of the post-2003 anarchy.

From time to time, there was a slip; or at least, something the inquiry – it is in fact, an inquest – missed. Trying to tell us that no decisions were taken at the infamous meeting with George Bush at Crawford, Lord Blair suddenly blurted out (indeed, appeared to want to blurt out) that he thought there had been "conversations with Israelis". What? Israelis? At the critical Crawford meeting? Israel was the only nation – apart from the US and Britain – that totally supported ther war, indeed encouraged it.

A Jerusalem friend looked up his archives for me and there's an Israeli foreign ministry "source" at the time saying that an Iraq invasion "will certainly take people away from the Israel-Palestine file". The inquiry never picked up this intriguing clue.

But by the end, as Lawrence Freedman read through the casualty lists for each year, and I remember I saw some of them with my own eyes – the tragedy of Iraq seeped into the room.

Adam Price MP got it right. "We'll never get an apology from this man," he said. We can't, of course. Because Lord Blair was talking about judgement, about being "frank", "absolutely and completely" honest and "absolutely clear". We had "to stick in there and see it out". So that's what all the dead and the wounded and the bombs and the shredded bodies and the rape and Abu Ghraib torture was all about.

Yet such a tiny room to hear it all in. No wonder they couldn't cram in all the mourning Brits. Almost 200 dead British soldiers couldn't be catered for. And how, I wondered, would they have crammed the souls of 100,000 dead Iraqis into the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre?

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Marketing Executive / Marketing Research Executive

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Company is the UK's leading...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager / Section Manager - Airport Security

£40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a critical role within the secur...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £45-55k

£20000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The company is an established, ...

Recruitment Genius: E-Commerce Manager - Fashion Accessories

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity for...

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn