Did Iraq Ruin Blair's Legacy?

It's now eight years since Tony Blair decided that Britain would stand alongside the America in the invasion of Iraq , and on each and every day of those eight years, his critics in this country have picked away at that decision -- at the absence of weapons of mass destruction when we finally arrived in Baghdad, at the misleading intelligence on which the decision to invade was made, and at the deal made with President Bush to bypass the United Nations.

We have had Inquiries and Parliamentary Investigations and innumerable statements and interviews, yet still the questions continue.

And in a few hours time Tony Blair will once again be answering those questions -- appearing before the latest official government-sponsored Inquiry into the conflict. He has already spent a day testifying to the Inquiry team, and yielded not an inch -- but they have now summoned him back because they believe there were gaps in his evidence, so back he will come.

I cannot imagine that this further round of questions will produce any startling new revelations. We have just discovered that our civil service is blocking the release of the transcripts of conversations between Mr. Blair and President Bush, because apparently it's in the public interest that such conversations should remain secret. So that area of investigation is blocked off, and Mr. Blair is in any event a past master at handling even the most skilled and persistent interrogators. He will only say what he chooses to say.

But this never ending debate and analysis of the war and its causes is having a corrosive effect on our former Prime Minister's reputation. He has moved on -- not just to become special envoy to the Middle East, but also to establish himself almost like Bill Clinton as a superstar of the international political scene.

But at home the man who transformed his political party from no hopers into winners for a decade, the man who would have us remember the peace he helped bring to Northern Ireland, the man who proudly introduced so many improvements to our system of socialised healthcare -- may, in the end, be remembered only for Iraq.
by Peter Allen
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