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tv   Charlie Rose  PBS  September 8, 2010 11:00am-12:00pm PST

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>> rose: welcome to our program. tonight from london a conversation with tony blair about his new memoir just published. what have you learned about the way the world works since you left office that you might wish you had known when you were running the government? >> that's a very good question. i think there are two things. the first is that power is shifting east and fast trvment's just no doubt about that at all. this is not a cliche or if it is a cliche it's a cliche because it's true. >> rose: it's a reality. >> it's a reality and it's transformative and it has huge implications for our countries in the west. the second is that i think this... i've got a clearer understanding of this extremism now, i think, and a clearer understanding of how this... what is effectively a global movement with an ideology operates. so i think those two... those are the two things i've learned
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most. >> rose: if sanctions fail, we have to make a military strike. it's inevitable where you are. >> you can't take that option off the table. >> rose: but that's easy talk. you're saying that if sanctions fail and i think they're going to have to get the weapon, we have to bomb them. >> well... well... >> rose: well what? i mean, isn't ate leader's responsibility to face up to the hard questions and tell you what he would do? >> it is, it is. and i don't know the pitch that over the military action you take but i agree. if the end sanctions fail, diplomacy fails, i don't think think it's acceptable for iran to have a nuclear weapon and i think you can't rule out military action and indeed it would come to that if they continue and sanctions and diplomacy simply can't work. >> rose: from london, a conversation with tony blair next.
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captioning sponsored by rose communications >> rose: tony blair was elected prime minister of britain three times. in 1997 at the age of 93 he led the labour party to a stunning landslide victory. he created new labour, which
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made the labour party a formidable force. blair was a centrist with a vision of a third way that focused on social justice and free market capitalism. he forged close relationships first with president clinton and then with president bush. his most significant decision by far was supporting the u.s.-led invasion of iraq. he has come to understand the controversy of that decision and reaffirmed the convictions that led to it. since leaving office in 2007, he has led a full and engaged life. he converted to catholicism, he established the tony blair faith foundation to promote interreligious dialogue, he teaches at yale university, he is a consultant to a number of private enterprises around the world. he's continued in public service as the middle east envoy of quartet, that keeps him involved in the peace process. many have come to this program and talked about tony blair's decisions. here are two that showed the dramatic difference of opinion. one from the dramatist and late nobel laureate harold pinter and
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the other recently from writer christopher hitchens. >> i'm not anti-american. >> rose: that's the way it's perceived. they don't say anti-bush, they say anti-american. >> well, tell them they've got it wrong. >> rose: because i... that's part... >> an anti-bush, cheney, rumsfeld and all that lot. >> rose: and blair. >> and certainly blair. my god. you can say that again. >> rose: and you think they should be brought up, the four, the international court of justice. >> yes, i do. >> rose: and charged with? >> mass murder. clearly. the invasion of iraq was not brought about the death of as many people as nazi germany did or stalin or maw. >> rose: or even the dmer rouge. >> but how many people do we have to kill before you can be described as a mass murderer? i believe we... the united states and the united kingdom, we're responsible for the deaths of at least 100,000 people in iraq before the insurgency
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actually began. now that whole thing has spiraled and there's still... they're still responsible for the deaths of further hundreds of thousands. >> at the risk of embarrassment, i would say that i'm very aware of a lot of his flaws, i'm quite a strong admirer of tony blair's. i think he was a man prepared to take risks for points of principle. i think he did two or three very important things on that basis, one was to save sierra leone for from the lie byrne invasion. the blood diamond merchants invading sierra leone decided it was going to be another rwanda. no one was doing anything about it, the u.n. was doing nothing about it. the people from sierra leone appealed to britain and blair said "all right, we'll send the boyce." wind we smashed this gang and got rid of charles taylor. very good. president clinton didn't hang tough over kosovo. made an early speech saying that
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the next confrontation would have to be with saddam hussein, that was in 1999. repeatedly said "we can't coexist with totalitarian ideologies or regimes." and lost his career and his reputation on it, largely. >> rose: tony blair has just published his much-anticipated memoir, it is called a journey: my political life." we talked about that, the book, and the controversy that surrounds him in a conversation earlier today at his office here in london. first of all, congratulations on the book. >> thank you. >> rose: what did you hope to accomplish? >> i think to open people's minds to a world view i have that that may be a little unfashionable in certain respects but it's still something i believe in. i wanted to make it accessible. i wanted to make it a good read. i wanted it to move at a certain pace but i also wanted it if not to persuade at least to open
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minds. >> rose: what was the challenge for you? >> apart from the ordinary challenges which is fitting all this... deciding what you put in, what you don't put in, trying to truncate ten years of premiership even into 650 pages is quite hard work. i think the biggest challenge was trying to explain a human point of view what it's like to be a decision maker at the center of events. you're like an ordinary human being in extraordinary times with extraordinary events. i think one of the interesting things about politics today is that people expect to know and do know a lot more about their political leaders, about their private lives, about the inti asies of their characters, the psychoanalysis of their character than before. but they don't get it from the politician's point of view. this is how it looks from my side of the fence. so in a way i wanted the book to be a study in how you heed in
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those circumstances as well. so up so what is it we don't understand in general about what it's like to be at the center of the action for a decision maker. >> how difficult it is and how many doubts there are that crowd in upon what you're left with which is the certainty of the decision taken. and also how much... some of it's obvious how much prefer your a leader is under but how much particularly in today's world you... with 4 hour a day seven da a week media it's a really pressured environment in which political decision makers operate and it's difficult, these decisions are difficult and becoming more so. >> rose: some argue that in doing this, this is a first step for you in a sense of coming home. >> i mean i don't in one sense feel i need to. the problem when you leave office... and this will happen more and more often. it's going to has been with president obama, for example,
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now. when you get politicians coming into power in their 40s, they're going to leave power in their '50s. that i ear going to leave power... >> rose: if they get reelected. >> if they get reelected. right. so in a sense even if they get reelected there they're still going to be leaving relatively young when they've got a lot of energy, drive, a lot of things they're interested in. so what do you do? you can't hang around your own country's politics very easily. so the work i do now is very much the same. so that's the way it is and you will find, therefore, there is a sense in which you appear almost to have departed your own politics in a way. i know that seems that way by some people in britain. >> rose: you spent three weeks out of every month away from britain. >> pretty much, yeah. >> rose: here's what they say as you know. a pariah in his own home, toxic. can't even go out to sell books
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because of protests for one reason or the other. they use all of the sense of animus, it seems. what is it about? >> it's difficult to say, really. i mean, first of all, you know, as i always point out to people, i did win three elections rather than lose them. >> rose: (laughs) yes, you did. yes, and some say you should have quit then. >> some say i should never have started. but you can't listen to all those voices. and also, frankly, there's a huge difference between the people who will come and protest, the people no who throw things at you are not, in my book, normal people. most normal people, even though they disagree with you, have a disagreement with you, they don't feel the need to either shout at you or throw something at you, they just say "well, i disagree." there was a poll just a few days ago that showed on balance a positive appreciation of my time as prime minister. is so i think this thing is... parts of, frankly, you live as a progress progressive politician as well with parts of the right of the media can be pretty
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aggressive when taking you on. when i was in america recently president obama, i was looking at some of the treatments he get. some parts of the american media think gee, this is tough stuff. >> rose: a short time ago he was hailed as the second coming. >> so i think there's an element of all that now. it's also partly what i will say is... i think i describe in the book the tierney of the protest. you get a meeting of a thousand people, five people shout, 995 stay reasonable... >> rose: but it's more than that, as you know. i'm not talking about the protest. i'm talking about there's something in the fabric of britain because of the difficulty of perhaps iraq. they feel betrayed somehow. >> it doesn't explain it, really. because the fact is i fought my third election right in the middle of the most difficult time in iraq i think there is an element of politics in it and i
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also think... i don't know how to put it quite but there's a sense in which parts of the country think i'm just flounced off you know? >> rose: making a lot of money... >> i keep reminding people i would have been very happy to become a prime minister or i would have taken the european job. i'm actually basically interested in public service but if i can't do that i'm necessarily out in the world. >> rose: why did your own party push you out? what happened? what went wrong for a man who... >> rose: ... >> okay, well, let's sort of break it down. i mean, there is the iraq issue, of course, and for some people that's it and enough my position in politics is in a position with a constituency in the public-- because i would haven't gotten elected otherwise-- but i don't have a con stitch when any the media which operates under
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left/right lines and for the left media-- in britain i'm talking about-- i'm not left wing enough. for the right left enough. and before i became p.m. labour had never been in power for two successive terms. >> rose: and when you were elected there was a labour prime minister 18 years erldier. >> correct. so i don't make too much of it and i'm not... that's just the way it is because i think the media environment i operate in is difficult because it is very left versus right in the 20th century way and my politics has always been about getting us beyond that and very much new labor, new democrat, a different type of progressive politics. the constituency for that i think the country is still there, incidentally. and strong but the constituency within the party activists and the media less strong. so i think that's got something to do with it as well because i don't think you can put all of
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this down to iraq and i don't know. i mean, to be honest i'm not sure i'm the best person to analyze it. >> rose: but you are, in fact, because i suspect you have thought about it more than anyone else. if you read this book, you read the book of a man who wants you to understand you are constantly thinking about where you are and where you want to go. you clearly are. tell me what you think you have to do for whatever the reason for this image to repair it. >> and i'm not sure you can. that something i do will perform that. i think... >> rose: in other words, history will have to change? >> i think... >> rose: or be recordd? >> people will evolve their attitude, i think, over time as well. i mean, one of the things that will happen is that you will have this new government here will be doing some difficult things and people will be reminded of the fact that decision makers have to... >> rose: but you're in favor of them doing difficult things, i understand. >> i'm in favor of them doing difficult things but i think it will also attar in a sense the way people look at the domestic
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policy. i think people will look back actually. one of the oddest things is if you look back in my time as prime minister, we had ten years of uninterrupted prosperity, falling unemployment, falling crime, major improvements in health and education, minimum wage, equality for gay people, bet hear ternty rights. not a bad... >> rose: freedom of information. >> yeah, that i was less keen on. (laughs). >> rose: you believe that the new labour agenda was fulfilled or are you at some sense disappointed by a large element that you didn't do as much as you thought new labour was capable of in part because of gordon brown and competition and other things? >> i think you never achieve everything you want to achieve and if you're an impatient policymaker-- and i was-- you never achieve as much as you want to. on the other hand, what we did achieve... i mean, for us health care was the issue dominated every election. i was starting off with all the
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elections before i became labour party leader. the two elections after i became labour party leader, less so at the third. last election, a few months ago, not an issue. really. now why is because we made those changes. we did major reforms, we put investment in and the waiting list problem, which was the huge problem that british health care system had, it wasn't there. >> rose: what have you learned about the way the world works since you left office that you might wish you had known when you were running the government. >> a very good question. i think there were two things. the first is the power is shifting east and fast. there's no doubt about that at all. this is not a cliche or if it is a cliche, it's cliche because it's true. >> rose: it's a reality? >> it's a reality and it's transformative and it has huge implications for our countries in the west. the second is i'm got a clearer understanding of this extremism now, i think, and a clearer understanding of how this... what is effectively a global
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movement with an ideology operates. so i think those two... those are the two things i've learned most. intheup have you learned about radical violent fundamentalism. >> i have a sort of half understanding of it, but i think i've got a more complete understanding now which is that it... the problem is not simply the extremism and i think one of the mistakes is in thinking that if you deal with the extremists you deal with the problem. and my view that the problem is actually a narrative and in particular a narrative about islam that is a narrative shared by a far broader spectrum than we think. and that narrative that s basically that islam is under oppression from the west, that the west is hostile and that by the leadership of muslim countries being in alliance with the west they are somehow complicit in a betrayal of the
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fundamentals of their religion and i think that is a narrative that has a broader reach than we think and i think it's a narrative that has to be challenged inside and outside islam. >> rose: and how do you challenge it? >> you challenge it by primarily empowering and supporting those within islam who will stand up and say-- and there are many of them-- that is nonsense, actually islam will sort out its own problems. in any event it is a religion, it does not describe the politics of every nation, there are many different nations with many different problems, we can solve our own problems and actually world we want today is a world oaf peaceful coexistence where islam embraces the 21st century. >> rose: but how far you away of from what you think today of samuel huntington's clash of civilizations? >> i'm... i don't think there is a clash of civilizations but i think his basic... the issue he raised is essentially the correct issue. i don't think the 21st
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century will be a century of political ideology. i think it will be a century of religious or cultural ideology with the potential to divide and in that division cause conflict. >> rose: and how much of this is infuse bid your own faith? >> not really. i mean, i am a person of faith but actually i'm very open in my faith and i... one of the great joys of my new life in doing this foundation i have about religious interfaith is i have my own faith enriched enormously by knowing islam better, judaism, hinduism, buddism, so on. >> rose: you said i'm more interested in religion than politics so you have more of an interest in religion than most people. >> and certainly my interest in religion gives me a natural starting point. but i actually think even if i was an atheist and had no interest in religion at all you look at the world today, it's cultural and religious ideology that's got the potential to pull the world apart... >> rose: so the two biggest ideas out there, one is the rise of asia, the template has
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shifted and the second big idea is that there has to be a challenge by the west of... well, there has to be a challenge by all of us who believe in peaceful compo existence which is why i don't quite share the huntington thesis against those who would use religious difference as a means of division. >> rose: but you believe it is broader than, say, al qaeda? >> yes. >> rose: you believe... and how broad do you believe it is? >> i think it's quite broad, actually. i mean... which is not to say that many of the people who share the narrative don't abhor the terrorism or extremism, don't misunderstand me. but, you know, you would get a worrying proportion of people who would... who would subscribe to the view, i think, that the west is, in fact, hostile to islam. >> rose: you have said that... the great debate that has to be had is in a sense of what has caused the conflict. >> well, i would express in the this way is to say what is producing this conflict is not
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something the west is doing, right? it's... it is being produced by a religious view that is based, incidentally, on a perversion of islam, that is for sure. >> rose: but a widespread acceptance of the perversion, you're saying? >> i'm saying that a narrative associated with that perversion which sees islam as a victim of the west, that's got too big a reach. and we've got to counter that and we've got to counter it by many different means. now one of the reasons i work on the israel/palestine thing is because even though i think that is not the cause of this extremism at all, i think resolving it would be a huge thing in favor of dealing with this extremism. i think religious interfaith is... i'm a soft power as well as a hard power person on this. >> rose: i see. >> but i think you've got to confront it as it is and not pretend it's a political extremism of a traditional sort. >> rose: and part of that is where you come down agreeing with dick cheney.
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>> i don't... >> rose: no, but you've said it. you have said yourself in this book cheney would have gone... marchd from country to country to country and part of you understood that. >> yeah. i understood that the... what he was trying to say. >> rose: and agreed with his analysis of the issue. >> well, i agree with this: that his view that was, i think, the world had to be remade as a result of september 11 and i agree that it does have to be. although i think i would do in the a different way where there's a far greater... as i say in the book, a far greater combination of hard and soft power. that's why for me, for example, the middle east peace process is a central part. >> rose: i'm going to come to that. >> that's probably where i would differ but i do say and i think it's important debate to have that for many progressives simply to dismiss the view of
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people like president bush's "oh, that's neoconciergive the" well, we need to be careful woof that means and what it represents. because... >> rose: there's a... chord that they say needs to be listened to? >> you need to listen to it. because the idea that following september 11 the world really did shift or our analysis of it should shift is not a stupid view. and it's still with us today because the iranian question raises the same issues again in the same form. >> rose: 9/11 seems to be... even though 9/11 had nothing to do with the invasion of iraq, saddam hussein had nothing to do with 9/11, for you it was inevitable after 9/11 that the support for iraq and the united states... you had no choice. >> yeah, because the reason for that is this. though it is true that, you know, saddam hussein wasn't responsible for 9/11, 9/11 in a
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sense was responsible for the decisions we took on iraq. because the difference to me-- and this is the absolutely critical thing, you can't understand anything about the decisions i took after 9/11 without understanding this-- is not just the 3,000 people that died that day but the fact that if it could have been 30,000 they would have killed 30,000 or 300,000. what that means is you're dealing with a completely different type of terrorist threat and that immediately raised the issues to do with nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons proliferation. and the place to start was iraq and that's why iraq was then on the agenda. so... because sad dam was in breach of the u.n. resolutions and used chemical weapons in the iran war, used them against his own people, thousands died as a result of it. so that was why it was on the agenda from then on and my attitude to it, this is what led to the actions we took with respect to libya, a.q. khan, what we were trying to do then and trying to do still in
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relation to iran, north korea, and so on. from then on my view was the calculus of risk changes, you can not afford to let this proliferation occur. >> rose: here is what intrigues me about you, too. you seem to say about iran the fear to do nothing if you are a leader gnawed at you. gnawed at you. and therefore the iraqi invasion and therefore the potential of iran having nuclear weapons. the fear of that. >> yeah. i mean... >> rose: you lived more by fear than hope. >> (laughs) no, no, i think i'm basically hopeful. but... and i think the fear of doing the prime minister's questions is a little different. >> rose: i was fearful that i'd become prime minister and now i had to govern. that's how you openly spoke. >> that's for sure and true. i think the fear... however, i think respect of the security issues is a little different and it's this and it's really hard, this. because, you know, one of the things i wanted to do in the
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book is just explain how difficult this decision is because it's impossible to know, really, whether you've got the right answer or not. the question is... >> rose: if you knew the right answer it would be easy. >> exactly so. so just to take iran. i completely understand the view that says-- and there are friends of mine, friends of mine that i see in the u.s. who say to me-- look, of course iran should haven't a nuclear weapon but are you crazy? are we really going... after everything we've been through to take this on as well? why not just manage the situation. we wring it about with sanctions. why should the regime be so stupid as ever to use nuclear weapons? look, it's a situation that's bad, we know, but it's manageable and it's better to manage it than the alternative. that's a perfectly sensible argument. i'm not going to sit here and say that's a stupid argument. i can understand the leader taking that view. >> rose: the argument is we can contain an iran with
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weapons. >> yeah. >> rose: as we did russia with weapons. >> in the end, my view is no, this regime is qualitatively different in their makeup. i see them now exporting terrorism, instability around the middle east. i think the risk of not them so much using a nuclear weapon, because i agree that's a remote contingency although, you know, you can't ignore the fact the president of the country says israel should be wiped off the map. if you were an israeli you'd worry about it. but there's the risk of the leak of the technology. would they give that technology to one of these terrorist groups? i don't know. so i can't be sure. now... okay, so you've got a situation you can manage it. you confront it. who's right? it's really difficult. >> rose: but your fear is that it's unacceptable for them because they may lose it to some... or give it to somebody. >> yes, yes.
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>> rose: and therefore we can not let them have it. and therefore if sanctions fail, we have to make a military strike. >> it's inevitable where you are. >> you can't take that option off the table. >> rose: but that's easy talk. you're saying that if sanctions fail i and i think they're going to get the weapon, we have to bomb them. >> well... >> rose: well? well what? i mean, isn't it a leader's responsibility to face up to the hard questions and tell you what he would do? >> it is, it is. and i don't know the pitch that over the military action you would take, but i agree. if in the end sanctions fail, diplomacy fails, i don't think think it's acceptable for iran to have a nuclear weapon and i think you can not rule out military action and, indeed, it would come to that if they continue and sanctions and diplomacy simply can't work. so, yes, it's a very difficult balance. >> rose: so what do you think the chances of sanctions and diplomacy working here based on what you know so far? >> i think it depends, actually, on how serious they think we are >> rose: ah. that was the problem with the
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saddam. he didn't think we were serious about coming after him. >> but i think the iranians... i think if they actually understand the seriousness of intent then i think off greater likelihood, i don't say you'll stop them but off greater likelihood of stopping them. that's why it's so important to send a clear, strong and unequivocal message. >> rose: what would you do about the diplomacy not being done? >> gear it up and make it work. but it's hard. it always is hard because countries have their interests and some countries take the first view which is, look, there are other things in the world to worry about, manage it. there's a line of political argument that runs like that and that's why i say it's such a difficult issue, this. because you can't a that's that's a stupid thing. now, on balance, my view is it's a risk not worth running. that's where i come to the point that you... >> rose: part of the problem here is you can't convince the chinese and the russians to get
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on board. >> at the moment, it's very hard, yeah. but... >> rose: to accept the possibility that if're has nuclear weapons these are the possible consequences. and that's an act of leadership. >> well, it's... we've got to persuade hard. i mean, personally i think that both russia and china have got very, very good reasons for not wanting iran to have a nuclear weapon. >> rose: well, they say that, they just don't believe that... or something. they have other interests and it's the responsibility of the leadership to convince them otherwise, is it not? >> well, and i think president obama's trying to do precisely that. and incidentally, i think that in the way he's approached this, which is offer iran partnership if that's what they want, reach out in the middle east push forward the israel/palestine process. he's doing all the moves he possibly can but the trouble is at the moment they're not reaching back. >> rose: how long do you think
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we have before... >> i don't know. i honestly don't know, charlie. but i mean i think... the essential thing is in our minds you've got to resolve the question because when people say... >> rose: resolve the question? >> resolve the question of how far are you prefired go? in other words, do you actually rule out military options or keep them on the table? i'm saying keep them on the table. >> rose: everybody says that, keep them on the table. >> well, no. >> rose: they do, every leader, obama says that. >> i think he means that. which is where i think the iranians would be foolish. >> rose: i would assume david cameron says that. >> yes, i think he does. yes. >> rose: there you go. >> they're not the only two leaders in the world, but nonetheless. >> rose: let me go back to iraq. beyond 9/11 being something that's so rivetted your own sense of where the future conflict might be with the people who... and then later on iraq became a reality.
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you have said clearly no regrets, understand and want people to understand how i approach that. what i have not heard you clearly say, "if i knew there were no weapons of mass destruction, i would not have supported an invasion of iraq." >> no. my answer to that would be if we knew then what we know now, what is the true picture on weapons of mass destruction? and my answer to that is that you have to go then to the iraq survey group report and that tells you in a sense it explains the conundrum because why on earth should saddam cooperate with the inspectors? and he wasn't. he wasn't all the way up to march, 2003, if, in fact, he had nothing to hide. and in that iraq survey group
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report it shows the true situation which i think, you know, people forget now. which is he had them, he used them in order to get rid of sanctions, he wanted to put them into abeyance but he would have started up again with probably then the know-how and the intent and the money. >> rose: okay, but still you're not saying that if i knew he did not have weapons of mass destruction i would not have supported the invasion. if i knew... >> sorry. because the point is that in the end the issue for me was the breach of the u.n. resolutions. that was the basis. now, it's correct and we've accepted that the intelligence, that there was an active w.m.d. program that was wrong. what there was, however, was a plain breach of the u.n. resolutions and also as the iraq survey group finds, something that if we hadn't acted then we would have had to have acted at a later time. >> rose: what information, what argument would have kept you from supporting an invasion of iraq to overthrow saddam
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hussein? >> well, that's really simple to answer. a genuine change of heart. >> rose: by him? >> yeah, to do what qaddafi did, actually. cad think at the time of iraq... qaddafi at the time of iraq-- i'm not saying as a consequence but it certainly had its force-- he then let the inspectors in, gave up his nuclear and chemical weapons ambitions and that was that. that was the end of it. snreup so the only thing that would have stopped you was saddam hussein saying "look, i understand what's coming down here, i've changed my mind..." >> change of heart and change of mind, yeah, absolutely. >> rose: that's the only thing? >> yeah, because otherwise the danger-- and this is the danger and why it's a debate the historians will go over many, many times-- is that you could have drawn the conclusion because he didn't have an active program that he had no intent when actually we know that he
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kept the scientists together, he kept the know how, he kept the laboratories going and son so on and his desire was to restart that once he got rid of the sanctions and he would have... since the oil price in the next few years rose significantly he would have had the money, the intent and the know how. now for me that is why... i've never accepted this idea that had we simply left him there he would have retired into comfortable old age and obscurity. i don't think he would have. now, you can't tell that, incidentally. it may be that he would have. >> rose: but maybe if somehow he would have been overthrown by somebody or the army might have decided. >> frankly it was unlikely and just in 2002 2-his son was effectively designated as his successorment i think it's far more likely that would have happened. but who knows? you can't... and in any event, speculating what we might have known... >> rose: are you convinced that history will be on your side? >> i don't think you can ever be convinced about these things. >> rose: do you believe so?
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>> i believe that, yes, in the end... i think in two respects, actually. i think on the w.m.d. issue, there will be a debate about that. i think far more important question in this strange way is this. because as i always say to people, there are two issues with iraq. one is the whole question of w.m.d., you said there were... there was an active program, there wasn't, therefore there's no... the second thing, though, that i think is in a sense... looms even bigger for people is the difficulties we then got into in iraq. you know, saddam was removed in two months. by the middle of 2003 we were there with full u.n. authority-- u.s. and u.k. troops-- operating with the u.n. had it been, you know, like kosovo, for example, probably it wouldn't even be an issue today. there's an issue... >> rose: and you would not have suffered the kind of decline in popular support that you had. >> absolutely. >> rose: if, in fact, the war had been successful and quick.
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>> if... i mean, the war was successful in quick if it had then stopped. >> rose: but doesn't that say something about leadership? >> well, the interesting question then is if you had foreseen that cold would come in, that iran would operate in the way it did, would you then have backed off? >> rose: and? and. >> and the answer is no. >> rose: but should you have known the war was going to be much more difficult. this was not going to be quick and easy and especially after you disband it had army... >> yeah, i think the disbanding of the army, there's going to be a big debate about that. >> rose: what do you think the debate is about? >> because i think if you talk to people at the time they will say look you can hugely exaggerate the importance of de ba'athfycation and the expanding of the army. are... was it right to do it or not? >> rose: you di think there was a debate. you think disbanding the army which is viewed by a significant number of people that that was a huge mistake. >> if you go and talk to the people there at the time
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handling those decisions, this is really on the american side... >> rose: you're not talking about paul bremer are you? >> i'm talking about paul bremer in relation to deba'athification and the disbanding of the army. they say look, just be careful of that because in many ways the army simply melted away. the fact is when... it melted away intending to come back because they were saddam adherents? >> i think the actual question is is there something you could have done that would have have prevent this security problem arising with called and iran. >> rose: but should you have known? is this a question of... the responsibility of leadership to know that this is a real possibility because donald rumsfeld, if you go to his office, would show you a memorandum he'd written saying one of the things is the outbreak of sectarian warfare. >> yes. but you see, this is the important thing. we were, of course, warned about sunni/shi'a divide and all the
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rest. >> rose: by every arab leader you knew. >> right. but that wasn't the problem we encountered in iran. >> rose: really? >> the problem we encountered was al qaeda and then the iranian-backed militia actually stimulating sectarianism. and the reason why they bombed the samarra mosque in 2006 was precisely because the country hadn't ended up in sectarian conflict. this, in other words, was not an indigenous or a natural process. this was visited from the outside. and my point is visited by the very forces today we are facing around the world, actually. i mean, it's... you know, you look at the middle east region and it's the same issues to do with the same movement, the same ideology, the same practice of mindless terrorism, suicide bombing and so on. and the fact is, supposing you had known that, do you then say, okay, well that's... because these people are going to come in and disrupt this democratic process led by the u.n., actually killed the u.n., people as they did in august, 2003,
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because they're prepared to do that, we simply say okay, well we better leave saddam in place then. that's not a very appealing argument. >> rose: okay. talk to me, then, about what mistakes you made. >> the mistake... i mean, in execution you can go over all the planning issues and so on. >> rose: how many soldiers you had on the ground, etc. >> and you can go back over all those issues. i think the one mistake of analysis-- and i say this in the book-- was not understanding how deep-rooted this phenomenon was. >> rose: this system? >> al qaeda, the iranian issue, the whole business to do... >> rose: are you saying to me that if al qaeda had not come in there that you would not have had a big problem in the aftermath of the overthrow of saddam? you believe that? >> rose: no, if you took al qaeda in iran out of this e quition... >> rose: in iran. >> you would have a manageable situation. >> rose: why are you so sure for that? >> because what caused the difficulty was the suicide bomb
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ing, the deliberate attempt to stimulate sectarianism, the iranian militia. i mean, british troops that were being killed down in the south were killed, many of them, by improvised explosive devices probably made in iran. i mean... >> rose: no question about that. general petraeus has cited that chapter and verse. >> yeah. and if you actually look at the american view now of what was happening in 2007 and actually iran linking up with al qaeda, something totally unforeseen, incidentally, you take that out of the equation, you've got a manageable situation. you reach out to the sunnis who obviously they're losing their position of power, you've got to make sure they're brought into the process. when in august, 2003, you form the first iraqi governing council which had shi'a, sunni, and, indeed, i think others i think it was actually one christian member of the council,
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when that happened in the process blessed by the u.n., the country was behind that. you know, the country wasn't... you know, yes you would have had a problem with former saddam elements and some insurgency. it was the relentless killing of innocent civilians, the destabilizing through suicide bombing the iranian tentacles reaching into iraq in order to destabilizing it that caused the issue. so that's why i say if that analysis is half right and i think it's pretty well documented now to have conceded to that would have been unacceptable. it's the same problem we have in afghanistan now. why is afghanistan so difficult? not because the afghan people want to make it difficult. they don't. they don't want... i cannot believe they want rule by the taliban. of course they don't. it's an appalling reactionary regress i have regime that kept the country in the most abject poverty. >> rose: stones people and disrespects women. >> absolutely. it's not... this is... in the end this is why this thing is
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difficult because you're fight ing and ideology that is prepared to use this terrorism. look what they're doing in pakistan. they go and kill 50 people at a religious service. this is muslim on muslim violence. >> rose: central to your decision making here, you believe that saddam, even though he did not have weapons of mass destruction, intended to get them as soon as he got passed the sanctions and he had the scientists and he had the know how and he was going to once again notwithstanding what anybody else said about the fact... >> central to it was the belief that he was a threat on this eschew and that you couldn't afford to let him continue in power unless he was prepared, actually, to give up those intentions all together and rejoin the international community. >> rose: you're not the only person to believe that, in fact, there are certain times a preemptive action is necessary. it was articulated by bush. it also was articulated by the former secretary general of the united nations, kofi annan. that sometimes sovereignty has to take a second place. when is it okay?
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>> obviously in the most exceptional circumstances only. but where you believe that your security demands that you deal with this threat. >> rose: it's also okay when you think you can do it. i mean, after afghanistan there was a great sense of arrogance, was there not, that we can pretty much take on whatever we need to. >> i think that... as i say in the book, there is a risk that... not a risk. there was definitely an underestimating of how deep this was and therefore there was the thought as i say if you knock the taliban out, you you knock saddam out, you've got a u.n. process, the people are in favor of it. you have a large amount of money to support development. why shouldn't it work? the answer is i'm afraid it would work but for the people whose actual desire is precisely to engage in action that stops you doing that. because they don't want to see the country on its feed. they don't want to see that type
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of system of government. whey these people are still trying to kill people in iraq today when the american troops are getting out into. soup the american troops had to come to the rescue again. they had to get involvedgain in combat because there was an attack. >> absolutely. so why are are they doing it then? this is the nature of... >> rose: the answer is? >> the answer is because it's not anything do with the west or america or any of the rest of it. they don't want these countries to be governed in a modern democratic civilized way. that's what ma what they don't want. >> rose: okay but i still don't understand... after the chicago speech in which you say it's not just something that threatens our national security, there are some cases in which human rights alone demand you overthrow. what's the standard? what's the test? what's the lesson here? >> well, the test-- and i think i set out five basic tests that had to be passed in those circumstances-- of which... you know, have you exhausted all options, is it doable is
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obviously two of the critical tests. but there will be circumstances, kosovo was one. i mean, that's the reason i gave the speech. i gave in the the middle of the kosovo conflict. you could argue that there was ethnic cleansing going on on the doorstep of europe, but as we had in the balkans a few years earlier, stay out of it. we did. hundreds of thousands of people died. we stayed out of rwanda. >> rose: to the regret of now kofi annan and bill clinton. >> yeah. which is why... you know, the important thing is to realize these aren't easy decisions. if you don't intervene... look, how can we know what would have happened if you'd left saddam there or left the taliban there. you don't know. >> rose: well, you have a very different point on this. some people believe he would have been an antidote to iran as he had been and you believe somehow he would have been a co-terrorist! right? >> yes. i think in the way this develops i think the policy of using saddam as a break on iran was the policy. that's what we used to have as
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the policy in the '80s. we had the iran/iraq war and a million casualties. a million. we never saw them on our t.v. screen but they're still real people and real people who died. and then he invaded kuwait and then he developed w.m.d., we know that because he used them. so how smart a policy was arming saddam to be a break on iran in the end? the answer, not very smart. how smart was it to say in respect of the mujahadeen in afghanistan let's support them as a break on the russians? not very smart. you know? so my point is simple. and that's why i say i don't ask someone to agree with me but just accept the other point of view is not without its merit. in other words, if you just leave these regimes in place or you try and arm one despot to take on another, it's still got its problems. >> rose: in your own home country, do you think that they are prepared to listen to the arguments you're making snowed. >> of course, yes. >> rose: so this debate has started now this book and the
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cho cot commission? >> i think the debate was there anyway. i think as i say, this is the a debate i had at the time of the 2005 election which we won. this is why you've got to be... one has to be careful of taking what is a pretty raw sort of media attack as the whole of public opinion. >> tell me about the loneliness of decision making. i mean, you had to believe "i'm right about this. i know consequences." what fed that sort of strength? you've said about george bush he viewed the world as right versus wrong. he had a clear sense and so therefore he had more integrity than many people i knew. because he was prepared to go down the line at whatever cost for what he saw as right versus wrong. correct? >> uh-huh. >> rose: that's your analysis of him? >> definitely, yes. >> rose: so what would be your analysis of tony blair? >> probably more beset by doubt and uncertainty. i always thought these decisions
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were incredibly difficult. i never disrespected people who disagreed with me, but in the end you've got to... it's a buy their choice. >> rose: and you understand the consequences for you and you understood when you realized we're in for the long haul here and we could lose. >> even my worst enemies wouldn't say i was a stupid politician. >> rose: right. >> so i knew, obviously, this was going to be extremely difficult. and i'd taken a very clear decision after september 11, shoulder to should we are america. and lots of people in the country said "why on earth should we be like that?" >> rose: but you would much rather be in public service than doing whatever else is an option today? >> i'd prefer to be popular than not. (laughs). >> rose: exactly right. do so do you think in the end when the life of tony blair is written that what happened with respect to iraq has preempted a return to public service? do you think that? >> i honestly don't know. >> rose: well, the european union was one test, was it not?
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without iraq, you would have been... >> i'm not sure about that, actually. >> rose: what do you think it was? jealousy of country versus country? >> i think you've got to take a decision about europe. >> rose: so it was all about europe. not about the war, do you think? >> for some people it was but, no, i think it was as much because in the end europe had a decision to make about that. did you want high-profile or lower profile. >> rose: to so it had to do with personality. >> not personality so much as just what type of figure do you want. and some people thought you want a chairman of the council and some people thought you want a president. so i think there was that as much as... >> rose: during the worst of this did some sense of churchill inform you? you're scared to a that... say that because you don't want people to think i'm comparing myself to winston churchill. >> rose: >> (laughs) , you interviewed too many politicians in your time, charlie. >> rose: (laughs). >> i don't know. because you have to be careful of the churchill analogy which
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is you're always thinking the voice in the wilderness turns out to be right, sometimes the voice in the wilderness turns out to be the voice in the wilderness. >> rose: but do you feel in the sense that you were a voice in the wilderness in the way you perceive this issue? >> i certainly have a pretty keep sense of my isolation at points. but... >> rose: beyond isolation. i mean, you know, isolation within your own cabinet. >> yeah, but not... well, you can't exaggerate that, you know? i mean, the cabinet stayed together. >> rose: i'm now in the aflee of legacy, okay? >> (laughs) all right. >> rose: obama said about reagan and clinton reagan, even though he didn't necessarily agree with his policies was more transformative than bill clinton will in the end margaret thatcher be more transformative that tony blair? >> it's different. >> rose: different? >> different. because i actually think the thing with... if i can say something about bill clinton first. my view is that in a curious way
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with president clinton the challenges... he almost lived in two calm a time. >> rose: exactly. well, he has thought he didn't have the kind of opportunity for greatness that others did. >> rose: he didn't have 9/11, he didn't have the financial crisis. my view is we would have seen an extraordinary presidency at that point because i think he has just every quality. >> rose: every quality? of leadership and political instinct and... >> yeah, because i found this over kosovo. he never needed to intervene over kosovo and the american people weren't desperately keen to get involved in some european... >> rose: you convinced him? >> i didn't convince him. in the end he convinced himself but the fact is he did in the circumstances where it would have been very tough to have carried that through but he was prepared to. and that's another issue. with me and mrs. thatcher it's just a different time. she transformed the industry and trade union context of the country and that was, i think, you look back on it and say,
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well, that was a necessary change to make. for me it was a different thing and i was really wanting to keep the modernization she did but add to it a whole social public service welfare modernization of my own. >> rose: do you believe you will ever be prime minister again? >> no, i doubt that very much. >> rose: but is there a little part of you... >> (laughs) . >> rose: one moment of candor. no, come on. one moment says "maybe i can come back." >> i honestly don't see that happening. i really don't. >> rose: would you like it? >> i doubt it. >> rose: you doubt it? do you really. >> i do doubt it, yeah. >> rose: do you think bill clinton if i asked him about being president again, what do you hi he'd say? >> (laughs) i don't know. >> rose: finally there have just been negotiations taking place that you've been part of on the middle east. where are we right now? >> where we are right now in the middle east peace process is we have got a real will and determination to succeed from
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america, from the parties, from the international community. we've got a short-term issue which is to to deal with the moratorium on settlements. if we get through it, i think we've got a real chance, the best chance we've had for a long time of making a deal and what's more there is no alternative but to a deal based on a secure state of israel and an independent state of palestine. and there is within the region of the whole-- and this is the big change that's happened over the last few years-- an overwhelming desire to have this issue settled once and for all. >> rose: so you're optimistic? >> i'm optimistic, funnily enough, if we can get past the next few weeks then we can get past the next few months. >> rose: thank you very much. the book is called "a journey: my political life" by tony blair thank you for this conversation. we have talked many times at the table and i'm pleased to see you this time as well. >> thank you, charlie. >> rose: congratulationses on the success of the book.
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>> thank you. captioning sponsored by rose communications captioned by media access group at wgbh
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