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Tony Blair was a conman even back in those heady peace process days

(Suzanne Breen, Sunday Life)

Tony Blair is a great friend of the peace process. I've lost count of how often I heard that phrase uttered by the great and the good over the years.

Somehow, I don't think that too many of them will be lining up beside the ex-Prime Minister any time soon. Blair's reputation is tarnished beyond repair, and those local lackeys who fawned over him are hoping that the rest of us have forgotten their brown nosing.

History will be rapidly rewritten. The photographs of them with Blair, which have had pride of place in offices and studies across Northern Ireland, will be shoved in bottom drawers. Who wants to be seen with the 'world's worst terrorist'?

For me, Sarah O'Connor – whose soldier brother Bob was killed in Baghdad – was wholly justified when she so described Blair. Terrorists aren't confined to those who wear balaclavas and flex their muscles in Ardoyne alleyways or Carrickfergus housing estates.

Terrorists can wear suits and ties and hold high political office. When we're talking fatalities, Tony Blair relegates our paramilitaries to a different division. He is the league leader in death and destruction. He has the blood of half a million people on his hands.

His actions resulted in four million refugees in Iraq. He bombed an entire country back into the stone age. The majestic River Tigris in Baghdad became a graveyard of bodies. Every morning, the corpses would be dragged out.

War waste and toxins poisoned the water, but people had no choice but to keep drinking it. Imagine how we would feel if a foreign power inflicted that upon us, if instead of the Tigris it was the Lagan?

Yet disturbingly, Iraqi voices are absent in media coverage of the Chilcot report. Yes, 179 British servicemen died and every one of their deaths is an utter tragedy. But Iraqi civilians were slaughtered on a far grander scale.

Not combatants who volunteered to join an army – be it in Birmingham or Basra – knowing the risks. But hundreds of thousands of innocent men, women and children who never dropped a bomb, or held a gun, but whose precious lives were snuffed out in the blink of an eye.

Much as I loathe Tony Blair, it's too easy to scapegoat him and his closest cronies as being solely responsible for this carnage. A total of 414 MPs voted for war, 139 of whom are still in parliament. They seem to have lost their tongues. I have heard no mea culpas.

Of course, some may have been fooled, but plenty more were willing to be fooled. And what of the tabloids which were cheerleaders for war, demonising those like Charles Kennedy who opposed it?

Most broadcasters were no better. With their talk of 'surgical strikes', 'precision bombing' and 'shock and awe' they anesthetised war and turned it into a spectator sport for viewers to watch from the comfort of their armchairs.

At least George Bush had the sense to retire to his ranch and paint puppies since leaving office. But Blair continued to strut the world stage. The war criminal as peace envoy being the supreme irony.

Sitting in the Dock of the Hague is where I'd like him. That's not to be, but at least we will see Blair haunted by regret. Not for the blood on his hands, because that's morally beyond him. But for finally being exposed as the political conman that he is, and always was – even back in the glory days of the peace process.

July 11, 2016
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This article appeared in the July 10, 2016 edition of the Sunday Life.

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