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Blair Memoirs Reignite Debate Over Iraq

Blair Memoirs Reignite Debate Over Iraq
Blair Memoirs Reignite Debate Over Iraq

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Jennifer Glasse

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair says he does not regret his decision to take Britain to war in Iraq, but did not foresee the nightmare that had unfolded there. The revelations come in Mr. Blair's newly published memoirs.

In the 718-page book, entitled A Journey: My Political Life, the former British prime minister says he wanted the book to be different from the traditional political memoir.

"I set out to write a book that would give the reader an insight into the human, as well as the political dimensions of life as a prime minister," said Blair.

Tony Blair took three years to write the book that charts his decade in power.

"So it is a frank account of my life in politics which illuminates what it is like to be a leader, both for the U.K. and also of course on the international stage," he explained. "It charts the difficult decisions, the highs and the lows."

The highs include the landslide victory that brought him to power in 1997, and presiding over the 1998 Good Friday Agreement that brought peace to Northern Ireland. Mr. Blair also wrote of the outrage that led him to send troops to Kosovo, and the regret that British lives had been lost in Iraq. But he did not apologize for taking the country to war. Major General Tim Cross was Britain's top representative to Iraq during the 2003 invasion.

"I think he is pretty heartfelt in his comments that he does not regret what he went through," said Cross. "He clearly has been affected by it, I do not think there is any doubt about that, but I think ultimately he believes what he did was right."

Mr. Blair is donating all the proceeds of the book, including the reported multi-million-dollar advance, to a British charity that supports wounded soldiers. Cross believes the former prime minister is conflicted about the Iraq War.

"I think he is genuinely struggling with the outcome of Iraq, but genuinely, ultimately believes it was the right thing to do, but recognizes an awful lot of people have been hurt in the process and this is part of a way of repaying some of that," he added.

His memoirs are expected to be a worldwide bestseller, but the former prime minister's decade in power remains controversial in Britain, and his book tour is not going as planned.  In Dublin, protesters hurled eggs and shoes, angry that Blair took his country to war in Iraq and that seven years later he remains unapologetic.  

The former British prime minister recently talked with Andrew Marr of BBC World News about the war and his involvement.  "How can you not feel sorry about people who have died?  You would be inhuman if you didn't think that.  But when I'm asked whether I regret the decision, you know I have to say I take responsibility for it, but I can't regret the decision," said Blair.

Anti-war campaigners picketed one of the London stores selling the book and threats of more protests prompted Mr. Blair to cancel a recent London book signing and launch party.  On the day they were scheduled, lone protester John Howsam said the former prime minister has few fans here in Britain.

How history will view him will depend on whether Iraq stabilizes.  As that country struggles, seven years after the invasion, some analysts here are concerned that Mr. Blair is now speaking aggressively about Iran.

"Do you allow those people to get hold of a nuclear weapon or not?  Now, my answer to that is 'no'. If you were sitting in that seat, you'd have to take that decision, too," said Blair.

To some he is a war criminal, to others a great British leader.  Tony Blair's memoirs have done little to resolve his complex legacy.

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