Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair is facing criticism back home for his decision to lead his nation into war in Iraq -- a decision Blair says he does not regret, even though weapons of mass destruction never were found after the 2003 invasion.
He sat down with "Good Morning America's" Ron Claiborne this week to talk about Iraq, as well as his second act as a Yale professor teaching a class on faith and globalization as part of his Tony Blair Faith Foundation.
Ron Claiborne: The U.S. and the U.K. went to war on the basis of the belief that there were weapons of mass destruction, that Saddam had them and could deploy them quickly, which turned out apparently not to be the case. Does that therefore invalidate having gone to war?
Tony Blair: For me, the question you're still left with is: Was Saddam a threat and was it right to remove him? When I look back on the years of the interaction between the international community and Saddam, the two wars that he began, the United Nations resolutions that were flouted ... when you look at that and you look at the destruction -- I mean the use, for example, of chemical weapons, whole villages wiped out in one day as a result of the use of chemical weapons against his own people -- my views, spending a lot of time out there in the region now, I think you can at least argue the case that the region is safer without him than with him.
Claiborne: But we went to war on the basis [of weapons of mass destruction].
Blair: And we've got to accept that that intelligence turned out to be wrong, and, that is obviously, a point that's not merely legitimate to make, it goes right to the heart of it. On the other hand, I think it's important then not to go to the other extreme and say, "Well this was someone who was basically not a danger and a source of instability in the region," because I believe that he was. And personally, I think there would always have been a time when you'd have to deal with him.
Claiborne: Is Tony Blair, speaking for bringing together of faiths, is there an inconsistency with someone who supported the war which in many cases created divisions between the Islamic world and the western world?
Blair: Well, there are some people who look at it like that -- although, funnily enough, I find out, particularly in the Middle East, the people who were suppressed under Saddam were themselves Muslim and were not allowed, if you were a Shia, in fact, to worship properly. I think that there is an appreciation also of the fact that a lot of the terrorism that we've seen, for example in Iraq or Afghanistan, is actually visited by other Muslims on Muslims. The first decision I took about war and peace was in respect to Kosovo, where we went to help Kosovo Albanians who were Muslim against a Christian orthodox government. As I say to people: It wasn't done because of religion, it was done because of what we thought was right and wrong.
Claiborne: At the end of the day, when the story of Tony Blair's life is written, no matter what your foundation and your efforts in bringing together faiths do, probably the headline will be: Tony Blair, who led the U.K. into the Iraq war and subsequently left power when he lost his popularity because the war was very unpopular in the U.K. Is that your legacy?
Blair: I think when people ask me about what's my legacy, what do you leave behind, I think you, a judgment over a period of time.
Claiborne: One hopes.