Blairs recent comments on the Parkinson show have caused great anger and sparked a religious debate. But what did he actually say?
"I think if you have faith, you realise that judgment is made by other people. If you believe in God, it´s made by God as well."
Blair did not say that God told him to start the war; rather he seemed to finally accept that he has handled the Iraq situation badly and is feeling confused and threatened - what better time to turn to a forgiving deity? However, as he himself noted it is not just God who will judge him, and he has created quite a backlash with his unwise comments.
This confusion should perhaps be expected from a man who has claimed that his interest in politics sprang from his Christianity and its "values and philosophy", but also claimed that he entered politics after being inspired by a book on Leon Trotsky, the atheist socialist martyr! Presumably he picks his inspirations to fit his audience and is presently cosying up to his half-wit born-again buddy George. Alex Salmond (Scottish National Party) commented that Blair "did not look divinely inspired but troubled, confused and with a great deal on his conscience....God was not the co-author of the war in Iraq - George W. Bush was...."
Whether Blair really believes his actions or comments have been justified, the real problem is he has now made it much easier to portray the conflict as a religious war. As an atheist I do find it rather scary that the PM is discussing God in the same breath as a conflict which many feel is simply the west (Christianity) attacking the middle east (Islam) in order to control economic resources (much as in the crusades). I also find the thought of Bush and Blair praying together before they launched the illegal invasion of Iraq very unnerving given the admission by Bush (to Nabil Saath, ex-Palestinian Foreign Minister) that he was
"driven with a mission from God. God would tell me, "George go and fight these terrorists in Afghanistan". And I did. And then God would tell me 'George, go and end the tyranny in Iraq". And I did....And now, again, I feel God´s words coming to me, "Go get the Palestinians their state and get the Israelis their security, and get peace in the Middle East". And, by God, I´m gonna do it."
Of course, both Bush and Blair are hypocrites. If they believe so strongly in the Christian God, then why do they consistently go against his laws. Christ (allegedly) had some nice things to say about turning the other cheek, not casting the first stone and protecting the innocent and the meek. Somehow, this becomes "shock and awe" bombings of cities, holding people without trial for years, the use of torture and the concoction of lies to feed to their electorates.
Benjamin Whichcote (1609-1683) noted "Among politicians the esteem of religion is profitable; the principles of it are troublesome".