Maureen Dowd : The Memoirs Of Phony Tony a.k.a The Peripheral Poodle

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Even in the thick of a historical tragedy, Tony Blair never seemed like a Shakespearean character.  He’s too rabbity brisk, too doggedly modern. The most proficient spinner since Rumpelstiltskin lacks introspection.  The self-described “manipulator” is still in denial about being manipulated.  The Economist’s review of “A Journey,” the new autobiography of the former British prime minister, says it sounds less like Disraeli and Churchill and more like “the memoirs of a transatlantic business tycoon.” Yet in the section on Iraq, Blair loses his C.E.O. fluency and engages in tortured arguments, including one on how many people really died in the war, and does a Shylock lament. He says he does not regret serving as the voice for W.’s gut when the inexperienced American princeling galloped into war with Iraq.  As for “the nightmare that unfolded” — giving the lie to all their faux rationales and glib promises — Tony wants everyone to know he has feelings. “Do they really suppose I don’t care, don’t feel, don’t regret with every fibre of my being the loss of those who died?” he asks of his critics.  In Iraq, marking the transition to the “post-combat mission” for American troops, Defense Secretary Robert Gates was eloquent with an economy of words.  Asked by a reporter if Iraq would have to be a democratic state for the war to benefit U.S. national security, Gates cut to core: “The problem with this war for, I think, many Americans is that the premise on which we justified going to war proved not to be valid — that is, Saddam having weapons of mass destruction.” He added, candidly: “It will always be clouded by how it began.” Iraq will be “a work in progress for a long time,” Gates said, and, “how it all weighs in the balance over time, I think remains to be seen.”…..

Blair did not want to be W.’s peripheral poodle.  He wanted to “stand tall internationally” with Britain’s main ally and not “wet our knickers,” to use a Blair phrase, when the going got tough (or delusional)…..It is criminally naïve, given the billions spent on intelligence, that Blair and W. muffed the postwar planning because they never perceived what Blair now acknowledges as “the true threat”: outside interference by Al Qaeda and Iran.  So the reasoning of the man known in England as Phony Tony or Bliar amounts to this: They had to invade Iraq because Saddam could hypothetically hook up with Al Qaeda.  But they didn’t properly prepare for the insurgency because they knew that Saddam had no link to Al Qaeda. He knew Dick Cheney had a grandiose plan to remake the world and no patience for “namby-pamby peacenikery.” “He would have worked through the whole lot, Iraq, Syria, Iran,” as well as “Hezbollah, Hamas, etc.,” Blair writes of Cheney, adding: “He was for hard, hard power.  No ifs, no buts, no maybes.  We’re coming after you, so change or be changed.”…..If he had challenged W. and Cheney instead of enabling them, Blair might have stopped the farcical rush to war.  Instead, he became the midwife for a weaker Iraq that is no longer a counterweight to Iran — which actually is a nuclear threat — and that seems doomed to be run one day by another brutal strongman. Maybe Blair should have realized the destructive Oedipal path W. was on.  At their first meeting at Camp David, W. screened “Meet the Parents.”

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