At last, Tony Blair has ended months of speculation and quit as Middle East Peace Envoy. His role as the representative of the “Quartet” (the UN, EU, US and Russia) had lost whatever credibility it may have had in the first place, which wasn’t a lot.
Even American politicians who’ve cashed in shamelessly on the War on Terror are said to be aghast at the proliferation of Blair’s lucrative business interests worth tens of millions – stretching as far away as Peru, Colombia and Kuwait to the United Arab Emirates, Vietnam and Kazakhstan – during his eight years in the job.
It’s quite possible, though, that he’s made the role redundant as the Palestinians and the Israelis have never been further apart since Blair became the Quartet’s envoy. The fact that Gaza was bombed by the Israelis on the day of his departure could be viewed by some as a ghastly tribute to his efforts.
So what has he done as a peace envoy? Well, in the past 12 months he has developed his business links with Saudi oil companies, corporate banks and an Abu Dhabi wealth fund. All of this is well-documented, while others have noted with alarm his apparent lack of concern about dealing with dictators and political leaders who abuse human rights as a matter of routine.
It is, though, his shameless attempt to shirk any kind of responsibility for the war in Iraq and its continuing murderous legacy to this day for which Blair will be remembered by most people. His chutzpah is nothing short of breath-taking. While his US co-conspirator George W Bush blames faulty intelligence for invading Iraq, Blair still maintains that it was the right thing to do and has failed to utter a single word of apology to any of the one million Iraqi widows who lost their loved ones in a war which never should have happened.
Millions displaced, unfulfilled young lives snuffed out; Blair has touched many people across the Middle East, but not in any positive way. As despicable as Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein was, he would never have allowed Al-Qaida or ISIS to set foot in his country. Indeed, the death toll in Iraq today is far, far worse than it ever was under his brutal rule. Furthermore, sectarianism has exploded out of control – all too often literally – in a country where Shia and Sunni once lived, married and worked side by side.
Since Blair took on his role in the Middle East his presence has been like an aggressive cancer. Now the entire region is on fire. Back home in Britain, some say that his toxic legacy has also destroyed the Labour Party; as its leader he won three general elections and held the reins of power as prime minister. Today, the party is in its death throes because Iraq is still an issue and some of his closest acolytes are still in power; “Blairites” have lots of influence and, more tellingly, are still in denial over Iraq.
While the British people are wrestling with a widening gap between rich and poor and ever more austerity measures, you can sense the anger over the lies about Iraq spewed out from Blair’s office 12 years on from that fateful invasion in 2003. Those lies held together the “intelligence” that enabled Blair to take Britain into a war with the US that millions never wanted and many cowardly politicians voted for rather than make a career-threatening but principled stand against it.
Blair may have gone from the Quartet envoy’s role, but we almost certainly have not heard the last of him. He is, to be frank, an odious creature, and we have to question the integrity of those who would sit and do business at the same table as him. Birds of a feather and all that; let’s see who he pops up with next.