Blair’s great mistake was his desire to believe the best of America. It must know what it’s doing in invading Iraq, he thought. And in 2002, for once, this mighty superpower was hurt, needy – he felt needed by the leader of the free world. Which must be an intoxicating experience.
Many of the rest of us shared in this basic mistake, this assumption that this generally benign superpower should be trusted. It’s an assumption bolstered by hundreds of films in which American power saves the day. And it’s an assumption largely backed up by history: Western Europe has been made safe by American power, for many decades.
Yes, he was at fault, for presenting flawed, biased intelligence to parliament, for failing to demand assurances about the post-invasion plan. But there was a wider culture that enabled him to take the country to war: parliament backed him, so did most of the press. It’s simplistic to say that he had misled them: they too wanted to believe in the trustworthy goodness of America.
As the leader and figurehead of the will to support Bush’s invasion, he deserves much blame. But to single him out, and to forget that he was voicing a widespread desire to trust in the goodness of American power, is unfair. It’s a classic case of scapegoating: demonising someone in order to deny a more general culpability.