THE BLOG

The Campaign to Rehabilitate Tony Blair

28/11/2014 16:00 GMT | Updated 28/01/2015 10:59 GMT

So now we know - a campaign to rehabilitate the reputation and legacy of Tony Blair is well and truly under way.

How else are we to make sense of a three-month period in which the former prime minister has been presented with a GQ Men of the Year Award and now most recently and controversially Save the Children's annual Global Legacy Award?

Unsurprisingly both awards are linked to close allies and friends of the former prime minister. Alastair Campbell, his former spin doctor, and himself the subject of opprobrium over his role in the decision to take the country to war in Iraq, is a columnist with GQ, while Blair's former special advisor, Justin Forsyth, is the chief executive of Save the Children's UK arm. Meanwhile Blair's former chief of staff, Jonathan Powell, also has a seat on the board of the global charity.

In the face of the outpouring of criticism and anger over the Save the Children award, another Blair ally, John McTernan, rushed to his defence with an article in the Guardian. In the piece he lambasts the close to 200 Save the Children employees who signed an internal letter of complaint, joining in their condemnation the 100,000 and counting who've signed a petition demanding the charity rescind the award. However the defence McTernan mounts on behalf of Blair and his legacy is both transparent and utterly disingenuous.

In the article - titled 'Stop the knee-jerk Blair backlash. He deserves his anti-poverty award', the former Labour Party special advisor opines "this attack on the former prime minister is the most ludicrous yet. Whatever you choose to think about the man, this is the one thing he definitively did - he actually saved the children."

According to a report carried on the website Costs of War, "There are more than 133,000 individually recorded civilian deaths since the 2003 invasion of Iraq due to direct war related violence and tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians have been wounded." But even then there is an admission that this "number is low, perhaps very low, in part simply because not every direct war related death was recorded or reported."

Indeed other organisations have put the number of deaths in Iraq as a direct result of the war in 2003 far higher. The Lancet, for example, estimated in an October 2006 report that "as of July, 2006, there have been 654,965 excess Iraqi deaths as a consequence of the war, which corresponds to 2·5% of the population in the study area."

Meanwhile, returning to the Costs of War report, "the number of individuals killed indirectly, because of the health effects of the destruction of Iraqi infrastructure and population dislocation, may be twice the number of direct deaths."

But the clincher in the report as far as Save the Children and those minded to defend the former prime minister should be concerned is that, "On-going war-related violence, and the failure to fully reconstruct war-damaged Iraqi infrastructure, continues to harm Iraqi men, women and children."

The last word in the aforementioned sentence is 'children'. Perhaps for the likes of John McTernan other Blair supporters Iraqi children aren't important enough to warrant undue disdain over the carnage and chaos that was visited on them in 2003. Thankfully, however, in the world still inhabited by those of us who do not deem the lives of Iraqi children of lesser importance than others, the anger over Blair's award a decade on from a disaster that need not have happened - a decade which by the way has proved inordinately lucrative for the former prime minister - demonstrates the extent of the justifiable contempt that will forever be attached to his name.

The truth is that for any good Tony Blair did whilst in office it will never come close to eclipsing his decision to unleash a war on Iraq in 2003, a decision he took in defiance of the biggest mass movement the world has seen and on the basis not of faulty intelligence so much as a messianic and God-given sense of mission. The result over ten years on is a society broken beyond repair and a people left traumatised with no end in sight.

Save the Children's reputation is now in tatters. Overnight the years spent by its activists, members, and staff earning the goodwill, gratitude, and trust it did in the course of its fantastic work around the world, saving and alleviating the plight of children, has been ruined. And all because there are those who believe that the rehabilitation of Tony Blair is a cause worth pursuing.

John McTernan is one such individual. Towards the end of his Guardian piece he has the gall to declare, "In the end this is, one assumes, a protest against the Iraq war - a legitimate area of disagreement, but one that has no relevance to the Blair legacy in Africa."

What a rotten exercise in whataboutery. A 'legitimate area of disagreement', the man has the temerity to declare, as if the devastation of Iraq and its children can be described in terms normally reserved for a parlour game.

It's not so much that we mind people like John McTernan rushing to the defence of Tony Blair. It's just that we would rather they were doing so as witnesses in the former prime minister's trial at the International Criminal Court in The Hague.