Blair to give memoir proceeds to veterans' charity

16th August 2010, Comments 0 comments

Tony Blair, the prime minister who led Britain into the Iraq and Afghan wars, will give the multi-million dollar proceeds of his autobiography to a veterans' charity, his spokesman said on Monday.

The move was warmly welcomed by the charity itself, but peace campaigners said the money would not "wash the blood" from the hands of the leader who has defended Britain's role in the invasions since standing 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 at the head of a Labour government, is expected to become a bestseller.

According to reports, the former premier 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.

A spokesman for Blair said Monday that 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.

"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," he 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."

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."

Rose Gentle, whose son Gordon was killed in Iraq in 2004, was similarly ambivalent, saying the donation was a boost for veterans' services but was "too little, too late" for the soldiers who died.

"Why couldn't he have put money into the forces when they needed it in Iraq when they had a lack of equipment and everything else?" she said.

Gentle added: "He's never come out and actually apologised to the families and kids who have lost loved ones. I think he is doing this just now to make people think he has changed his opinion on the forces."

Despite Blair's success in winning three elections, his decision to join the US-led invasion of Iraq in particular has been hugely controversial.

Appearing before an inquiry in London into the conflict earlier this year, Blair said he accepted "responsibility but not a regret" for removing Saddam Hussein, insisting the Iraqi leader was a "monster" who threatened the world.

Britain ended combat operations in Iraq last year, after 179 troops died.

It also provides the second largest contingent of foreign troops battling the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan, with about 10,000 soldiers deployed. It has lost 331 lives there since the US-led invasion in 2001.

Blair -- who is now a Middle East envoy -- will sign copies of his book on September 8 at a London bookshop, where customers have been warned they cannot take photographs with him, nor should they expect personal dedications.

© 2010 AFP

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