Blair on Bush: A true idealist

By Ian Dunt

Tony Blair has included gushing praise for George Bush in his memoirs, describing him as “a true idealist”.

Critics of American foreign policy and the war in Iraq will be disappointed to find the former prime minister refusing to disown a US president he remained extremely close to during his time in power.

“I had come to like and admire George,” he wrote.

“I was asked recently which of the political leaders I had met had the most integrity. I listed George near the top. Some people were aghast… thinking I was joking. He had genuine integrity and as much political courage as any leader I ever met. He was, in a bizarre sense… a true idealist.

Mr Blair refuses to apologise for the war in Iraq, or even to admit it was a mistake.

“I am unable to satisfy the desire even of some of my supporters, who would like me to say: it was a mistake but one made in good faith,” he wrote.

“Friends opposed to the war think I’m being obstinate; others, less friendly, think I’m delusional. To both I may say: keep an open mind.”

But the former prime minister does insist that he feels real regret for those who died in war, an emotion he mentions several times in the memoir.

Speaking about anti-war protestors, he wrote: “Do they really suppose I don’t care, don’t feel, don’t regret with every fibre of my being the loss of those who died?

“To be indifferent to that would be inhuman, emotionally warped.”

He remains supportive of President Bush’s decision to open Guantanamo Bay, a prison in Cuba which prompted many observers to questions the US’ commitment to human rights and the rule of law. But Mr Blair did raise objections about the way the camp was sold to the public.

“Many of them would undoubtedly be a threat if released,” he wrote of the inmates.

“But the whole way it was handled was done in almost in the most provocative way possible, as if we deliberately sought to alienate liberal opinion rather than to face up to the reality of the dilemma for our security.”

The memoir, A Journey, was released today. A one hour TV interview – the first since Mr Blair left office – will be shown at 19:00 BST tonight on BBC 2.