The former UK prime minister said leaders making big decisions must follow their ‘instinct’
Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair has again defended his decision to invade Afghanistan and Iraq post-9/11, by saying he thought it was the “right thing” to do at the time.
Speaking to the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, on the BBC on Sunday, Blair said geopolitics is “very complex,” more complicated than people want to believe as they “search for simplicity.”
“People often say over Iraq or Afghanistan that I took the wrong decision,” Blair said, adding that he had to do what he “thought was the right thing” at the time.
On the “really big decisions,” Blair said leaders have to follow their “own instinct” but that they must also “be prepared to acknowledge when you’ve got things wrong.”
He explained that after the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington he decided that the UK had “to be with America in this moment” and to respond to any issues related to chemical, biological or nuclear weapons with “a strong, strong stand.”
Blair is unlikely to find understanding among many of his compatriots. A recent petition, which called for the former PM to be held accountable for “war crimes” and to strip him of his knighthood, has been signed by more than a million people. The petition reads that Blair was “personally responsible for causing the death of countless innocent civilian lives and servicemen in various conflicts.”
This Chilcot inquiry, published in 2016, found there was no intelligence to back up Blair’s pretext for launching the war in Iraq; that the late Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. It also concluded that Blair had knowingly exaggerated the threat posed by Saddam Hussein when making the case to MPs and the public for military action.
Blair did, however, admit that he “may have been wrong” about Iraq and Afghanistan, saying leaders don’t always know “how things are going to unfold” when they make a big decision.
Commenting on the war in Ukraine, Blair said it was “massively contrary” to UK interests, “to have a country, an independent sovereign country on the doorstep of Europe, essentially invaded and taken over.”
Moscow has claimed its recent invasion of Ukraine was needed to “demilitarize” and “denazify” the country, to protect the Donbass region and to defend Russia’s own security amid NATO’s expansion eastward.