Is Blair mad – or just defending himself ahead of Chilcot report?

Former PM insists Iraq nightmare 'was always going to happen': you need help, says Boris Johnson

Column LAST UPDATED AT 09:59 ON Mon 16 Jun 2014

Boris Johnson, the Tory Mayor of London, has this morning accused Tony Blair of being “mad” and in need of "professional psychiatric help" because of his refusal to face the fact that the 2003 invasion of Iraq has led inexorably to the Isis attacks on cities across Iraq.

But is the former Labour prime minister "mad" - or is he carefully getting his defence ready for the imminent publication of the Chilcot report into the Iraq war? Is it, in short, a pre-emptive strike?

The speculation has been fuelled by the Foreign Secretary, William Hague, who said this morning on Radio 4's Today programme that he believed the Chilcot report would be “coming shortly”.

Sir John Chilcot's inquiry, which began taking evidence in 2009 and has cost £7.4 million, is widely expected to criticise Blair for supporting US President George W Bush in invading Iraq without a proper plan to deal with what would happen next.

The report has been held up by the refusal of the Cabinet Secretary, Sir Jeremy Heywood, to allow publication of secret memos between Blair and Bush. Last month Chilcot conceded defeat, agreeing to publish merely the "gist" of the exchanges, clearing the way for his report to be published.

The big question is when? 

Many expect it will come out before the Parliamentary summer recess begins on 22 July. There are no clues as to the precise timing on the Chilcot website but because it is known that Blair is to be given advance warning of its findings and the timing of its release, his apparent attempt to defend himself suggests it could appear any day now.

Hague, who is due to make a statement in the Commons today on the threat of a Middle East conflagration posed by the Isis advance in Iraq, said he hoped Chilcot would “report fairly soon – we have to reserve our judgment for that inquiry”.

Meanwhile, Boris Johnson's assertion that Blair must be mad comes in a Daily Telegraph column today.

The mayor is reacting to assertions made by Blair in an essay posted on his website, and reiterated on yesterday's Andrew Marr Show, that  the 2003 invasion was not to blame for what is happening in Iraq today.

This is "jaw-droppingly and breathtakingly at variance with reality", says Johnson.

"He [Blair] said that the allied invasion of 2003 was in no way responsible for the present nightmare – in which al-Qaeda has taken control of a huge chunk of the country and is beheading and torturing Shias, women, Christians and anyone else who falls foul of its ghastly medieval agenda. Tony Blair now believes that all this was 'always, repeat always' going to happen."

The reality, says Johnson, is that "before the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, there was no al‑Qaeda presence in that country, none at all. Saddam was a ruthless Ba’athist tyrant who treated his population with appalling brutality. But he did not have anything to do with the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Centre, and he did not possess Weapons of Mass Destruction."

Johnson does not rule out Western intervention this time. "

It would be wrong and self-defeating to conclude that because we were wrong over Iraq, we must always be wrong to try to make the world a better place. But we cannot make this case – for an active 

Britain that is engaged with the world – unless we are at least honest about our failures.

"Somebody needs to get on to Tony Blair and tell him to put a sock in it – or at least to accept the reality of the disaster he helped to engender. Then he might be worth hearing. The truth shall set you free, Tony."

In his essay, Blair blamed the situation in Iraq on the West's failure to take military action to topple the Assad regime in Syria. "To argue otherwise is wilful," he wrote.

Speaking on the Marr Show, Blair added: "Even if you'd left Saddam in place in 2003, then when 2011 happened, and you had the Arab revolutions going through Tunisia and Libya and Yemen and Bahrain and Egypt and Syria, you would have still had a major problem in Iraq.

"Indeed, you can see what happens when you leave the dictator in place, as has happened with Assad now. The problems don't go away."

Johnson isn't the only one to react with incredulity.

Lord Prescott, former Labour deputy prime minister, ridiculed his old boss: “Put on a white sheet and a red cross and we are back to the Crusades,” he said.

Sir Christopher Meyer, Britain’s ambassador to the US from 1997 to 2003, said the handling of the campaign against Saddam was “perhaps the most significant reason” for the sectarian violence now ripping through Iraq.

“We are reaping what we sowed in 2003. This is not hindsight. We knew in the run-up to war that the overthrow of Saddam Hussein would seriously destabilise Iraq after 24 years of his iron rule,” he said. · 

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Hi,
“Is Blair mad – or just defending himself ahead of Chilcot report? Mr. Blair basically helped to hang Saddam Hussein with the blood of British solders using fabricated evidence. In eradicating to dominance of government in the region he set the stage for what is now happening. Himself considered by many as a war criminal and of arrogant nature Mr. Blair may fit in to once used words.
“Make mad the guilty, and appall the free,
Confound the ignorant, and amaze indeed
The very faculties of eyes and ears.”
Hamlet Act 2, scene 2, 550–566

I can't stop this little thought running around inside my head that the people controlling Cameron are the same ones who are preventing the release of the Chilcot inquiry. To protect Blair of course. Something rotten in the State of .....

Blair may well be bonkers, but those criticising him with comments about the crusades, playing into the hands of militant Islamism as such thoughtless comments do, should be roundly condemned for doing so.

Blair still thinks that by bombing and then invading Iraq he helped that poor contry. Therefore in his twisted mind it makes perfect sense to send in hte bombers and the army again..... Perhaps one day the media will stop publishing nonsense from this failed politician and wait for the courts to decide if he is a criminal.

Much as I would like to see the entire 'coalition of the willing' brought to justice, I don't see the point in paying attention to a local politician who was never involved, who has no grasp of the matter at hand, and who only brings white noise to the table.

If you mean by "local politician" Mr Johnson being the Mayor of London, you should also bear in mind that at the time of the invasion of Iraq, he was an MP sitting in the House of Commons and as such had a vote on the decision to invade or not.

Iraq had a majority Shia population, but was ruled by a Sunni minority; the USA had a blind faith that "everyone in every country worldwide simply wants to be like the USA, and live in a democracy."

THEY WERE WRONG. Tribal societies are usually incompatible with the democratic process: each tribe puts up its own (tribal) candidate, each tribe votes for its own candidate, the biggest tribe wins - and then wins again and again EVERY TIME. When in power, they grant the members of their tribe extra priveleges, leading to a pressure cooker of resentment by the defeated tribes, and - inevitable - armed uprising against a "democratic" system that's clearly loaded against them. Last time I looked, Iraq had 127 tribes - which were largely ignored by the USA - and a population that was predominantly Shia. How can anyone claim that kicking out the "old" system, and insisting that iraq HAD to become a "democracy" would NOT lead to the majority Shia tribes voting exclusively for their own tribal candidates, winning the "election" and grabbing whatever power there was available for distribution between its OWN tribal members? Because, in a nutshell, (A) that's exactly what happened. (B) It's been obvious since day one that it WAS what would happen and (C) The process was begun by Blair/Bush's "Regime Change". Q.E.D.

"playing into..." Perhaps instead 'Militant Islamism' could learn to grow up and renounce its fetish for the ideology of the Dark Ages?

...this man seems to exist in his own little bubble of self-delusion and arrogance. Blair is troubled by a very guilty conscience - no regrets for the tragic consequences of his mendacity and pig-headedness - rather, he is more worried that (for him) the unimaginable might come to pass - arraignment at the Hague as a war criminal, or, at the very least, defending himself in the face of a very big class action in a civil court, where the burden of proof for the prosecution might be less onerous.

Of course, he knows that he is skating on very thin ice, ahead of the Chilcot report - he is transparently trying to justify his own misguided (to be kind!) actions in retrospect.

To try to justify the destruction of a country, its physical infrastructure, its political system and then the judicial murder of the legitimate head of that state (as Saddam Hussein actually was, like him or loath him) would be to try to justify what is happening in Iraq now (as Blair is actually trying to do!).

True! Saddam Hussein was unsavoury to Western sensibilities BUT - democracy is NOT for all men at all times. The evangelical and Christian fundamentalist zeal of Bush jnr and Blair was blind to reality at the time (2003) and totally and criminally heedless of warnings to the contrary from the very wise counsel of many men and women who had vastly more experience and prescience than either Bush or Blair.

Yet Blair STILL tries to insult our intelligence - if he wants war in Iraq, then he should send his own sons over there in uniform!!!

I agree with your sentiment, but part of making that happen is to refuse to 'validate', in their eyes, their warped view of the world.