Blair to give autobiography proceeds to veterans' charity
Tony Blair, the prime minister who led Britain into the Iraq and Afghan conflicts, will give the multi-million dollar proceeds of his autobiography to a war veterans' charity, his spokesman said on Monday.
While the move was warmly welcomed by the charity itself, peace campaigners said the money would not "wash the blood" from the hands of Blair who has defended Britain's role in the invasions since he stood down three years ago.
The book, entitled "A Journey", will be published on September 1 and, as Blair's first personal account of his decade in power, is expected to become a bestseller.
According to reports, Blair has already received a 4.6-million-pound (5.6-million-euro, 7.2-million-dollar) advance for the book which should generate an even bigger sum.
All the proceeds will be donated to a project funded by veterans' charity the Royal British Legion that provides rehabilitation services for seriously injured members of the armed forces, a spokesman for Blair said.
"Tony Blair decided on leaving office that he would donate the proceeds of his memoirs to a charity for the armed forces as a way of marking the enormous sacrifice they make for the security of our people and the world," the spokesman said.
"The Royal British Legion is just such a cause.
"In making this decision, Tony Blair recognises the courage and sacrifice the armed forces demonstrate day in, day out.
"As prime minister he witnessed that for himself in Iraq, Afghanistan, Northern Ireland, Sierra Leone and Kosovo. This is his way of honouring their courage and sacrifice."
The charity has set a target of raising 12 million pounds for a project to help injured soldiers back to health by using sport and outdoor activities.
Royal British Legion director general Chris Simpkins said Blair's donation was "very generous" and it was "much appreciated and will help us to make a real and lasting difference to the lives of hundreds of injured personnel".
Anti-war campaigners said the money was welcome if it helped injured soldiers, but warned it did not absolve Blair of responsibility for the conflicts he led Britain into.
"The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have resulted in the pointless death of hundreds of British soldiers and hundreds and thousands of innocent civilians," said a spokesman for Stop The War Coalition.
"No amount of money will wash their blood from his hands."
Despite, Blair's success in winning three elections, his decision to join the US-led invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq have been hugely controversial.
Appearing before a long-running inquiry in London into the Iraq war, Blair said he accepted "responsibility but not a regret" for removing Saddam Hussein, insisting the toppled Iraqi leader was a "monster" who had "threatened not just the region but the world."
Britain ended combat operations in Iraq in April 2009, when all but a handful of troops started returning home. A total of 179 British service personnel were killed in the conflict.
Britain also provides the second largest contingent of foreign troops battling the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan. More than 330 British soldiers have died in operations in Afghanistan since the US-led invasion in 2001.
© 2010 AFP