No, don’t bring back Blair

Tony Blair’s appearance at the Iraq inquiry was a blast from the past that ought to stay there. It prompted no wistful thoughts of the maestro staging a comeback to rescue the Assembly again. Not that I sympathise for a second with any revisionist thinking that he made a terrible mistake in drawing Sinn Fein into a new political system. I rate his “acts of completion speech” his best ever.

Whatever guarantees we need to give that we will implement the Agreement, we will. Whatever commitment to the end we all want to see, of a normalised Northern Ireland, I will make. But we cannot carry on with the IRA half in, half out of this process. Not just because it isn’t right any more. It won’t work anymore.

On form Blair wasn’t merely theatrical. He once had an uncanny knack of capturing an idea whose time has come. Some people will draw a contrast between his waging war on Saddam and appeasement of the IRA. Was it that Blair had changed or that the circumstances were entirely different? Before the Chilcot inquiry he was clear about the distinction.

For those of us who dealt with the IRA – and I don’t want to minimise it, each act was wicked and wrong and to be deplored – the terrorism the IRA was engaged in was directed towards a political purpose – maybe unjustified – but it was in a certain framework you could understand. The point about (9/11) was that if they could have killed 30,000 (instead of 3,000) they would have…. This changed the calculus of risk.”

Is he right to credit our paramilitaries with natural restraint rather than limited capacity? Blair was well established in office when the Twin Towers were attacked. He and the rest of us were perhaps lucky that he came to power at a time when the IRA were amenable to renewing the ceasefire although still prepared to strike. This was a natural negotiation moment. I wonder how Blair would have handled the collapse of 1969, the emergence of the armed insurgency and the communal violence that accompanied it? Would he have incanted: “you mustn’t give in to to terrorism, it’s the right thing to do” and acted accordingly?

At the inquiry Blair repeated the old warrior’s error of fighting the last war instead of the next one. The most worrying part of his “2010 vision ” was not his hypothetical belief that a Saddam left alone might be in a position today to impose a nuclear blackmail. It was that Blair would be prepared to do it all again to Iran. He’s a great one for reading across lessons that don’t directly apply, from al Qaida to Iraq and now to Iran. What a relief he wasn’t around to give into the temptation of treating Northern Ireland as the first of Blair’s just wars.

  • Strewth! That analogy was a bit forced!

    Saddam, let it be recalled had gone to war with four neighbouring nations. He used “irrigation projects” to do down the Marsh Arabs. Elsewhere poison gas was the weapon of choice. Right up to the second Gulf War he was vaunting his military capabilities. He had a track record of seeking high-tech means (conventional, nuclear and chemical) to impose his presence on the region: am I alone in remembering the Arms-to-Iraq and supergun affairs?

    Yeah: sympathy is somewhat strained there. And before anyone comes back, I’m happy to remain on record as arguing for regime change.

    Now convince me, please, that the IRA, for all sins, real, attributed or imagined, could be on a par.

    As I was saying elsewhere: the really remarkable thing (before those sneaky Hatfield House connivings) was that Westminster’s bipartisan policy survived over seven administrations: the last few days of the Thatcher Imperium, Major I, Major II, Blair I, Blair II, Blair III and now Brown I — arguably the longest period of consistency since the First Home Rule Bill.

  • Brian Walker

    Malcolm,
    Yes of course it’s pure speculation but not unfair to ask if Blair would have taken a hard line against the resurgent IRA in 1969-70 etc. After all what would they have negotiated about at that stage? This is more about instinct than analysis. It’s hardly an original thought to make a direct comparison between the two, even if facile. After all Blair did it himself, as quoted.

  • tacapall

    Unionists seem to blink and have a fit of amnesia when it comes to looking back at the past. Their holier than thou attitude betrays their inert mindset. There are plenty of history books around that go into detail about the origins of the unrest here. Cause and Effect, if I could use the term. Tony Blair understood this, but then, maybe it was because he was married to a catholic.

  • Jimmy_Sands

    “what would they have negotiated about at that stage?”

    Quite. Let’s not forget the provos did not claim to be a civil rights organisation until much much later.

  • Watching Tony Blair give evidence to Chilcott, I saw an unscrupulous, egotistical Psychopath.

    More here

    http://bit.ly/cYZamK

  • Marcionite

    SF talk about a DeKlerk figure arising from Unionism but for every DeKlerk there is a Mandela. Where’s the Irish Mandela? Adams? That’s a laugh.

  • Jimmy_Sands

    “Where’s the Irish Mandela? Adams? That’s a laugh. ”

    Not necessarily. Depends which Mandela you mean.

  • Marcionite

    Interesting question Jimmy. Can you describe those Mandelas as u put it?

  • Jimmy_Sands

    His concern for child welfare struck me as more reminiscent of Winnie.

  • lamhdearg

    blair was a war criminal before iraq (IN MY VIEW)for what was done in the balkans,he will never go to trial for it,to the victor the spoils,

  • tacapall

    “Where’s the Irish Mandela? Adams? That’s a laugh. “

    Not necessarily. Depends which Mandela you mean.
    Posted by Jimmy_Sands on Jan 30, 2010 @ 10:50 PM

    Go on Jimmy go into a bit of detail instead of your usuall one liners what exactly do you mean by
    ” Depends which Mandela you mean”

  • lamhdearg

    winnie mandela was accused involved in the abuse of children

  • daisy

    For the record, I believe Peter Tatchell should have performed a citizen’s arrest on Blair.

    However, if he had held his hands up and admitted that he (a) lied and (b) is an egomaniacal maniac then those who have lost members of their families to the ’cause’, to say nothing of the thousands of innocent civilians killed by his actions, would never be consoled. To honour their children/brothers/sisters/fathers/mothers etc they need to believe that they did so for a good reason and for that reason alone I think any admission to the contrary from the war criminal Blair would have been a bridge too far for the families. He could not back down yesterday and I’m actually glad he didn’t.

    I still want to see him at the Hague on a war criminal charge tho, not in front of yet another whitewash and I’m delighted that he converted to Catholicism so that he will constantly have the catholic guilt thing going on.

  • lamhdearg

    daisy i think you will find catholics can wash away guilt through confession