The PM's frank admission -- or slip of the tongue -- came during an interview with Sir David Frost on Al Jazeera English television.
Al Jazeera provides a transcript of the interview, the following snippet of which has caused all the controversy:
Frost: In terms of Iraq, prime minister, in the light of the latest figures from the Iraqi health ministry, that the number of Iraqis who have died is between 100,000 and 150,000 and so on, with those scale of figures, if you had known that that was the scale of bloodshed, would you have still gone to war?The current controversy swirls around the question of what Blair meant when he said "It has".
Blair: Well the alternative was leaving Saddam in charge of Iraq, where hundreds of thousands of people died, there were a million casualties in the Iran/Iraq war, Kuwait was invaded and four million people went into exile.
So the idea that Iraqis should be faced with the situation where they either have a brutal dictator in Saddam or alternatively a sectarian religious conflict, why can't they have in Iraq what their people want? Which is a non-sectarian government, a government that is elected by the people and the same opportunities and the same rights that we enjoy in countries such as this.
Frost: But, but so far its been ... you know, pretty much of a disaster ...
Blair: It has, but you see what I say to people is "why is it difficult in Iraq?" It's not difficult because of some accident in planning, it's difficult because there is a deliberate strategy, al-Qaeda with Sunni insurgents on the one hand, Iranian-backed elements with Shia militia on the other to create a situation in which the will of the majority of Iraqis, which is for peace, is displaced by the will of the minority for war.
According to the BBC,
Liberal Democrats said Mr Blair had finally accepted the enormity of his decision to go to war in Iraq.The BBC article goes on to explain the opposing positions:
But Downing Street insisted his views had been misrepresented and that he had not made "some kind of admission".
Commenting on the al-Jazeera broadcast, Liberal Democrat leader Sir Menzies Campbell said: "At long last the enormity of the decision to take military action against Iraq is being accepted by the prime minister.However,
"It could hardly be otherwise, as the failure of strategy becomes so clear."
Downing Street insisted it was not Mr Blair's view that the violence in Iraq had been a disaster.I find delicious irony in the fact that Blair's spokeswoman actually said it was disingenuous to believe that what he actually said was what he actually meant. Of course it is! It is completely disingenuous and dangerously irresponsible to think that anything he says has any connection with or bearing on any aspect of reality.
A spokeswoman said: "He was simply acknowledging the question in a polite way before going on to explain his view.
"To portray it as some kind of admission is completely disingenuous."
But that's beside the point.
For me, the main point in this whole sorry saga is being overlooked -- perhaps deliberately -- by all the media accounts, whether they praise this glib and cocky warmongering liar, or whether they condemn him.
The sad but inevitable, and amply documented, fact is that Iraq is a disaster on an unimaginable scale. Whether Blair confirms or denies this fact is of little consequence.
What I find most disingenuous is the way Blair attempts to blame the victims for the disaster which he played such a huge part in bringing about.
The alternative, as Blair correctly stated, was leaving Saddam Hussein in power. Would this have been a disaster on a comparable scale? Hardly.
The casualties of the Iran/Iraq war were irrelevant, as that war had ended many years before. Similarly, the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait was already a matter of ancient history. Furthermore, the infamous "gassing of the Kurds", for which Saddam Hussein has been roundly blamed, was almost certainly done by the Iranians. And all the other reasons -- such as the alleged people-shredder -- which were used to justify the invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq have similarly turned out to have been false.
Saddam's regime was indeed brutal, and it may well have killed hundreds of thousands of people. It took him decades to do it. How many have been killed in the past three and a half years? Hundreds of thousands? Ahhh... Now I see the difference!!
Blair attributes the current situation to
a deliberate strategy ... to create a situation in which the will of the majority of Iraqis, which is for peace, is displaced by the will of the minority for war.But he neglects to mention that this "deliberate strategy" was conceived and implemented by his friends in the Pentagon, who created, trained, funded and motivated the death squads which now roam freely in Iraq.
Yes, it's a disaster. Yes, he bears a large share of the responsibility. Yes, he was amply warned. And no, he will never admit any of this.