Alastair Campbell: I wish Iraq had never happened
Tony Blair's former press secretary came close to expressing regret
Speaking to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Iraq invasion, Alastair Campbell has indicated that he wished the whole sequence of events had never happened. The former press secretary to Tony Blair said on the Rest is Politics podcast that the invasion was one of those things that “you wish it never happened”.
“It’s one of those things that you just put into the category that you just wish it had never happened,” he said. “You wish that you knew that Tony Blair and the government had never been put in that position.”
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The comments struck a different note from Campbell’s previously defiant statements. Seven years after the invasion, he said that he stood by “every word” of the Iraq War dossier, insisting that Britain ought to be “proud” of the country’s role in the war. Bedevilled by claims that the war was illegal, he then gave an Oxford Union speech explaining why the government had chosen to invade.
Throughout the 20-year period, Campbell has maintained unwavering support for then Prime Minister Tony Blair’s decision. Saying that Blair did “all that he could” to avoid the war, Campbell reiterated this view in the first episode of the two podcasts. But in the second episode, he appeared to distance himself from his leader, claiming that he had to defend him because it was his job (41:16):
Tony was genuinely driven by a sense of conviction on this [the invasion]. I don’t think there’s any doubt about that…and you have to remember: my job was to go out and represent Tony Blair, and the cabinet’s view to the world. That was my job. That’s what I had to do.
Despite Campbell’s more introspective tone on the topic, he says that Blair would be less conciliatory than him to this day (52:53):
For all those soldiers who were killed, who died, for all the other people who were killed and injured for all the trouble there has been, I can make the case that a lot of the aftermath problems were created by forces who would be doing other terrible things elsewhere were not there, and might even have been doing it there. But at the same time, I recognise that…it’s one of those things that you just put into the category you just wish it had never happened. You wish it never happened. You wish that you knew that Tony Blair and the government had never been put in that position. But they were. I’m still talking to Tony about this. I talked to him a lot. He thinks about it a lot and thinks about it deeply. If you were to talk to him and have the same conversation with him, I think he’d push back a lot harder.
Listen to the full episode here.
This is how it happens. Twenty years from now, ex-politicians, bureaucrats, press secretaries will make faux admissions, in ambiguous language, that they wish the pandemic hadn’t happened, that leaders didn’t have to make those awful choices. But the pressures were too great and, anyway, they were working for someone else whose decision they had to support.
No one was responsible, or perhaps everyone was responsible. But not me.
I wish New Labour had never happened.
Blair is the man who single handed Ethnoscaped UK into what it is today. Remember he had his creature Mandleson, scouring the globe for the most unsuitable migrants he could find, and bring them in by millions – and set the mechanisms by which this could not be halted.
One Brazilian in particular
I wish New Labour had never happened but it did. The New Labour name and branding were dumped by Ed Miliband in 2012. However, recently some New Labour people have been becoming more involved in public life (mostly outside the House of Commons because getting elected, serving the public and being in opposition are a pain in the arse and are not as lucrative as whoring yourself out as a former politician) and New Labour ideas and policies have been gaining traction since Corbynism was rejected. These things have happened because New Labour were defeated electorally but not destroyed politically.
New Labour was the product of the takeover of the Labour Party by the self-serving self-obsessed self-righteous middle class left. They have been around for a long time and when they create or take over an organisation (such as The Guardian or university education) or a movement (such as feminism or the environmental movement) they make it unbearable. They took over the internal bureaucracy of the Labour Party during the Kinnock era (who did the dirty work of driving out the Militant Tendency for them) but could only take over its Parliamentary party after John Smith died.
Whilst New Labour got into government and proved to be popular for over a decade what New Labour did whilst in office only became apparent in its final years or after it lost power. The Stafford Hospital scandal was uncovered during Gordon Brown’s premiership but it was the coalition government which ordered a full public inquiry in 2010. The grooming gang scandal only became public knowledge in August 2014 (and the whole story hasn’t been told about that yet). Public institutions are still being stuffed with members of the middle class left who hold the public and rules in contempt.
New Labour could come back, even if the name cannot. The way to stop it is to destroy it politically which means exposing the modern middle class for what they are: self-centred, money-grabbing, back-stabbing liars. Whether they are in the Labour Party, the Conservative Party or the Women’s Equality Party (which only wants equality for middle-class university-educated women living in London), in quangos or campaign groups or in The Guardian they need to be driven out of public life so their places can be taken by people who want to serve the public, not themselves.
Agree generally – but I think it’s wrong talk about the ‘middle class’ as a whole in this way. You’re really talking about a new class of rent-seekers that has arisen as a result of the expansion and centralisation of the bureaucratic state.
You’re right but I was trying to find a way of describing this group of people without resorting to cliches so I used “modern middle class”. I’m thinking of people who pretend to care about downtrodden people but really only care about themselves and their own careers. The sort of people who will turn a blind eye to underage girls being gang raped above takeaways, patients dying unnecessarily in hospital or people with disabilities being humiliated in care homes and tell the public that things are fine but ask for more public money.
Really I was thinking of Guardian readers.
In the end, it’s not about Campbell. It was never about Campbell. He was just His Master’s Voice. If he succeeded in intimidating journalists so they did not do their jobs properly, we need better journalists.
In the end, it’s about power, and the accountability of power. In the crucial Commons vote (https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2003/mar/18/iraq.iraq6). Blair spoke, and 412 MPs chose to believe him. Did Blair lie to, or mislead, the Commons? Were those MPs determined to vote for war, whatever the arguments?
More than that, 9.6m people chose to vote Labour in 2005, when it was already clear that the Iraq war had been sold on a false prospectus. I recall my shock at the result. I thought that I would have to get used to living in a country where the majority cared more about the NHS than they did about Iraqi lives. But there: casting your vote in a democracy is a serious business.
Totally naive to say it was just about believing Blair (or indeed Campbell), did those MP’s not form their own opinions? It wasn’t a vote ‘for war’ either, it was a vote to stop an evil regime.
Alas, it was about believing Blair. He had access to the intelligence reports, the House of Commons did not. MPs had to decide, on the basis of what Blair told them, if the intelligence was accurate, and that Saddam’s regime really was a clear and present danger.
His regime was clearly a danger to his neighbours.
So how many wars could we have started around the world on the basis of evil regimes who were a threat to their neighbours?
A convenient ruse for invading a country with billions of gallons of oil beneath it more like!
Don’t you recall WMD that could strike the West in 40 minutes or was that just in some dodgy dossier
What naive nonsense !
Pure hypocrisy in fact.
You must be a New Labour stooge, one of the last I imagine.
I already observed it was naive, duh. How is it hypocrisy? You simply can’t take anyone disagreeing with your extremist views that you are used to in your echo chamber.
Says the man in the echo chamber
More name calling. Can’t you think of anything better than to call people, deniers, extremists, boomers, sceptics. Come up with an original thought.
… and replace it with something worse?
Sadly millions of people believed Tony Blair in 1997. And every one of them bears responsibility for what subsequently happened.
A pox on both Blair and Major.
I voted for Jimmy Goldsmith.
“…or all those soldiers who were killed, who died, for all the other people who were killed and injured for all the trouble there has been, I can make the case that a lot of the aftermath problems were created by forces who would be doing other terrible things elsewhere were not there,”
They are dead because of Campbell and Blair. Disgusting people.
Iraq wasn’t an unstoppable force of nature or natural phenomenon. It was a disaster driven by the stupidity of individuals and their disgusting moral failings. A system is comprised of people, and Campbell was at the centre of the nexus of power and is thus responsible for the deaths of millions of people.
He should be grateful he lives in the west where he is unlikely to get strung up by his enemies or dragged in front of an international tribunal. Only those in the third world suffer such fates. In our wonderful so-called democratic system unelected war criminals get to slink off into a retirement of podcasts and opinion pieces. Campbell’s victims get no such reprieve.
And of course, it provides despots like Putin the “whataboutery” excuse to invade Ukraine
Well it is a bit more than an excuse
Can one NOT mention the name of the late Reich Propaganda Minister without the Censor becoming excited?
From very early on in Blair’s regime, I noted the emergence of the “Minister for Information”. That quite literally was Campbell’s “job”. One which we were obliged to pay for. As well as suffer the consequences.
Please also note that Campbell’s defence “I don’t think there’s any doubt about that…and you have to remember: my job was to go out and represent Tony Blair, and the cabinet’s view to the world. That was my job. That’s what I had to do.” is the exact same one so many offered – without success – at Nuremberg.
His latest outpouring’s hear read more like an application for victim status. “I wish we hadn’t been caught up in this mess … we didn’t deserve that …”.
At a personal level, there are some things that Campbell has done which are positive – like campaigning on mental health and being open about his own struggles. And he was more direct and honest about what he was doing politically than Blair.
But he had no business exercising that power as he was never elected.
Margaret Thatcher had Bernard Ingham performing the same role, to be fair.
OK, but I can’t remember any instances of Ingham claiming afterwards that he was “chust obeying orderz”.
Unherd takes Godwin’s Law seriously I see. Noted.
Yes indeed. I shall have to refer to ‘him’ as the man who had “no b***s at all”.
However UnHerd was rather generous the other day in allowing me to quote from Philip Larkin.
Reductio ad Hitlerum sounds more intellectual
A contemptible individual, one reason why political discourse is in such a rotten state.
A big boy did it and ran away.
I was only following orders.
Excuses for the modern man that despite dressing up in flowery language still fail to convince.
In a greater sense, don’t we all wish Iraq had never happened?
The old Iraq.. One will never forget the enchanted Masgouf on the river banks……Baghdad, and the Ziggurat of Ur, and the story of Babble – and poignantly – how in the West it is now with us, haha
Or the ruined splendour of HATRA.
Campbell merely played the role of Dr Goebbels, and one must admit played it well, to his eternal damnation.
‘I vos only following ze orders’
“Wish it never happened”
Definition 1; Regret the decisions that were made, and with hindsight would have done things differently.
Definition 2: Regret having to make a difficult decision, but still confident decision was correct.
I suspect his regret is the latter rather then the former. Weasely words.
Yea, well they milled a Million Iraqis, so there is that too…
But this criminal says he ‘Wishes it Never Happened”???
OMG – but the Ukraine War is deja-vu all over again, BUT EVEN WORSE! Because Iraq was some backwater (which oddly I have old ties to) and so was merely a million dead, the place blown up a bit, the creation of ISIS and the terrorists in the Prison camps, and about $1 Trillion, and a bunch of GIs with PTSD and some dead and crippled, and did not mean much to the globe.
Whatever – but I love a synchronicity – and so the amazing Scott Ritter is a Must in this thing. Ritter was the Iraq, UN, WMD inspector – an ex-US Marine and Expert on so much, including the Eurasian and Russian and Baltics and Caucuses and Middle East history and peoples and politics…WOW, this guy knows stuff….And he is ranting endlessly on the Horror the Biden-Boris War in Ukraine is.
So he had to resign as the Iraq weapons inspector because there were none – but they told him to come back when he had word they did exist – as Blair and Bush Were going to war…..
Anyway you must listen to Ritter on the Iraq days. But as it is now – he is THE person to hear of the Ukraine slaughter and created WWIII by Biden-Boris. If you hold any opinions on the Ukraine war – you Must listen to Scott Ritter – because this is Iraq on Steroids. Really, check this guy out – also Col MacGreggor. He is great to listen to, not dull.
check him out – he was there, and is also here, for Both Wars!
The Unherd censors are going insane in this comments section. If this stupidity continues I am cancelling my subscription.
Don’t be too hasty!
‘They’ have improved, hence my two Larkin doggerels got through.
The Enquiry into the Iraq War shows that it was illegal – there were no weapons of mass destruction and Blair was advised that that was so before war was declared. Nevertheless that was the reason given for the war – we were within range and thus at risk.
Will the ICC issue an arrest warrant for those leaders? I very much doubt it and yet if President Putin must answer for the crimes that took place in Ukraine, the same should apply to them. If it is not, then the impartiality of the International Criminal Court is .brought into question…
Having discussed this with my MP at the time, a Labour backbencher who frequented the local pub and who opposed the invasion unequivocally from the start, not twenty years later in a self-serving memoir – he said that Blair’s logic was along the lines of him being a moderating influence on Bush & co by being on the inside.
My MP was unconvinced and soon after that ceased to be an MP.
Alister Campbell has finally admitted.
The liars are all over the place, being reverently asked for their reflections two decades on. None of them has ever suffered professionally. Quite the reverse, in fact. 90 per cent of the British population saw through the Iraq War from the start, but none of the 60 million of us has ever been deemed capable of assuming any of those wholly discredited individuals’ positions in public life.Today is also the twelfth anniversary of the beginning of the even more catastrophic NATO intervention in Libya, so be here in eight years’ time to see another example of how the British Establishment can forgive many things, but never the sin of having been right all along.
None of them has ever suffered professionally. Quite the reverse, in fact. 90 per cent of the British population saw through the Iraq War from the start, but none of the 60 million of us has ever been deemed capable of assuming any of those wholly discredited individuals’ positions in public life. Today is also the twelfth anniversary of the beginning of the even more catastrophic NATO intervention in Libya, so be here in eight years’ time to see another example of how the British Establishment can forgive many things, but never the sin of having been right all along.
Any news on whether Fred West, Harold Shipman or the Yorkshire Ripper feel regret for their crimes? Not that they’re on anything like Campbell’s scale, obviously.
I wish Alastair Campbell had never happened.
I’m wondering if, after 9/11, we had little choice; the American people wanted some form of retribution after the World-Trade-Centre explosions. America was out for blood and it was looking around for something that would make the middle-east pay for the trauma caused in New York. It was felt, I remember, that George Bush senior hadn’t gone far enough during the coalition-ran bombing and invasion of 1998, headed up by American troops. His son, George Bush, junior was President when 9/11 occurred and so he then had the opportunity to complete what his father failed to do. I think, if Iraq hadn’t been front and centre, after 9/11, at the time, that Iran would have been next in line.
I’m wondering if the Blair government was blackmailed into supporting the Iraq War. In the late 1990s various law enforcement authorities in the US investigated a website based in Texas selling child pornography. Operation Avalanche found the details of subscribers to the site, including thousands based in the UK. The information was passed to the authorities in the UK who launched Operation Ore. The UK investigation was badly handled and one problem was that names of suspects were leaked to the media (which identified professions but not individuals). At least one newspaper report claimed that the suspects included two Labour ministers.
Given that George W. Bush was Governor of Texas from 1995 to 2000 and some of the US investigations were conducted by federal authorities the Bush administration could have got hold of the names of suspects and spotted that they included UK government ministers. If those ministers had been publicly named in the US it could have seriously damaged the New Labour government which had only just got into power and there would have been little those ministers could do given the US constitution’s greater protections for free speech. Those ministers’ secrets are something the government would want to stay secret.
The price of the US government’s silence could have been the UK’s government support for two US wars.
How very interesting!
Plenty of work there for some upcoming PhD student.
Do you remember the MP who watched porn on his mobile phone in the House of Commons? Neil Parish was his name. Almost no-one knew who he was for his ten years as an MEP and his first eleven years and eleven months as an MP. However, when someone said that an MP had been watching porn on his mobile phone in the House of Commons lots of people wanted to know who it was and when he was named lots of people wanted him to resign (and some sent him death threats). It was a big news story.
So if you know about the story of an MP watching porn on his mobile phone in the House of Commons if someone was caught downloading hardcore child pornography in the Houses of Parliament you think you would have heard about that. That would be a very big news story. It should have been a very big news story, especially given that in his defence at his trial he said that other people had access to his computer and anyone could walk into his office. He was convicted and jailed for a year. So what is his name? Can’t remember?
It was twenty years ago and we were at war.
No. This person wasn’t an MP. They were a member of staff in Westminster (and not a famous one). You won’t have heard of them but the public should have heard a lot more about them because of what they did and where they worked but there are very few newspaper reports about what happened in this particular crown court trial.
I recommend a tumble down this rabbit hole Home (ae911truth.org)
Very hard to accept the official narrative.
Therefore they ‘took’ the wrong piece, a Rook or Bishop rather than the Queen?
Labour could do with a Campbell now. Reason the Right vilifies him is/was because he was v good at his role – a role all parties employ. It grated on the Right because Labour had usually been poor in this area and all of a sudden they’d the best.
I’ve already commented on another Article about Blair’s decision and whether any UK PM would have stood aside from the US in the aftermath of 9/11? We often forget the atmosphere that generated. We’ll never know what might have happened either had we got in and out, as ironically Rumsfeld wanted, and not had Bremer turn the Allies rapidly into hated Occupiers.
Back to Campbell – recently re-read his Irish diaries. They got Iraq wrong but did they ever put in a shift to get peace in Ireland. A v complex and tough complicated process but they drove and stuck at it when many wouldn’t or couldn’t. And AC played a lead role often forgotten dealing directly with all sides so they could hold their constituents together whilst compromises were made. Sometimes we convince ourselves, whilst sitting on the side-lines, that politics is easy. It’s not.
It’s easier for liars …
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