Monday, September 13, 2010

Nelson Mandela 'felt betrayed by Tony Blair over decision to join Iraq invasion'.

Tony Blair famously wouldn't listen to the Pope when he asked him to reconsider his decision to join George Bush in the invasion of Iraq, and now Peter Hain is revealing that Nelson Mandela was also amongst those begging Blair to desist from his disastrous course.

Nelson Mandela felt so betrayed by Tony Blair's decision to join the US-led invasion of Iraq that he launched a fiery tirade against him in a phone call to a cabinet minister, it emerged today.

Peter Hain, a lifelong anti-apartheid campaigner who knows the ex-South African president well, said Mandela was "breathing fire" down the line in protest at the 2003 military action.

The trenchant criticisms were made in a formal call to the minister's office, not in a private capacity, and Blair was informed of what had been said, Hain added. The details are revealed in Hain's new biography of Mandela.

"He rang me up when I was a Cabinet minister in 2003, after the invasion," he told the Press Association. "He said: 'A big mistake, Peter, a very big mistake. It is wrong. Why is Tony doing this after all his support for Africa? This will cause huge damage internationally.'

"I had never heard Nelson Mandela so angry and frustrated. He clearly felt very, very strongly that the decision that the prime minister had taken – and that I as a member of the cabinet had been party to – was fundamentally wrong, and he told me it would destroy all the good things that Tony Blair and we, as a government, had done in progressive policy terms across the world."

Of course, Mandela was right. Blair is now unable to even hold a party to celebrate his book launch, such is the anger that his personal appearances now generate. And, as Mandela predicted, everything else Blair achieved has been forgotten, overshadowed by the illegality of his war of choice.

The peace he negotiated in Northern Ireland might eventually earn him some kudos, but, for the moment, his negatives are so extreme that even an achievement such as that is put on the back burner.

As Mandela warned him, the Iraq war was so fundamentally wrong that it destroyed all the good which Blair had done before it. It came to define his entire time in office.

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