Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Tony Blair's donation to British Legion receives mixed response.

Anyone who reads here regularly will know of my opinion of Tony Blair and his disgraceful dalliance into Iraq. I am not his biggest fan.

However, it takes a special kind of cynicism to greet the news that he is to donate the sales from his new book to the Royal British Legion as no more than an attempt to assuage a guilty conscience.

Now, I understand that the man has become terribly wealthy since leaving office, and some think that this lessens the generosity of what he is proposing, but I disagree.

He is handing over an advance of $4.6 million along with the sale from every book which the public buy. I agree that he is rich enough to be able to do this, but I wonder how many other rich people would manage to resist such a serious amount of money.

It's certainly not that I think this act of generosity should change any one's opinion of him; what he did is what he did and he will have to live with the consequences of that, but we shouldn't find ourselves so bitter that we can dismiss such a generous act so easily.

Rose Gentle, an anti-Iraq war campaigner whose 19-year-old son, Fusilier Gordon Campbell Gentle, was killed in Basra in 2004, said she was pleased injured troops would benefit but said it would not change the way she felt about Blair.

"I have spoken to other parents and everyone is agreed that this doesn't make any difference. It is OK doing this now, but it was decisions Blair made when he was prime minister that got us into this situation. I still hold him responsible for the death of my son."

Lindsey German, from Stop The War Coalition, said: "It would have been much better for everyone if he hadn't taken us into these wars in the first place. Blair lied about the Iraq war, he refused to express any regret at the Chilcot inquiry and his attempt to save his conscience will be little comfort to those injured or who have lost their loved ones."
Of course, it would have been better had he not made the decision to invade Iraq in the first place. And, of course, parents like Rose Gentle are right to still consider him responsible for the death of loved ones.

But that's a sort of separate issue from whether or not the Royal British Legion could use a gift of over £4.6 million.

It doesn't change my opinion of him at all. And I agree that it is only because of the wealth that he has made since leaving office that he is able to be so generous, but I still can't bring myself to slag someone off for giving away such a vast sum.

There are many others, far wealthier than he, who would still have pocketed the money.

I don't expect George W. Bush to donate the sales from his autobiography to American servicemen. And, if he did, much as a loathe him, I might say that it's the least he could do, but I couldn't bring myself to be cynical enough to attack his generosity.

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