'This Week' Transcript: Tony Blair

Transcript: Tony Blair

ByABC News
August 15, 2010, 5:00 AM

September 5, 2010 — -- AMANPOUR: Do you have regrets about Iraq?

BLAIR: You can't not have regrets about the lives lost. I mean, you would be inhuman if you didn't regret the death of so many extraordinary, brave and committed soldiers, of civilians that have died in Iraq, or die still now in Afghanistan. And of course you feel an enormous responsibility for that, not just regret.And I say in the book the concept responsibility for me has its present and future tense, not just its past tense.

AMANPOUR: I guess no surprises. There's zero apologizing for what happened in Iraq. You stick to your contention about the weapons of mass destruction, and if it wasn't weapons of mass destruction, then you say at least the byproduct would be getting rid of Saddam Hussein, and wouldn't the world be a better place without him?But you also talk about not comprehending the complexities that were going to be unleashed in Iraq. What precisely?

BLAIR: What I think we understand more clearly now is -- and this is something I didn't understand fully at the time of 9/11 -- in a sense, at that point you think there were 3,000 people killed in the streets of New York in a single day. And I still think it's important just to hold that thought in our mind, because I always say about this, the important thing is, if these people could have killed 30,000 or 300,000, they would have.

And that really changed the calculus of risk all together. But what I understand less clearly at that time was how deep this ideological movement is. -- this is actually more like the phenomenon of revolutionary communism. It's the religious or cultural equivalent of it, and its roots are deep, its tentacles are long, and its narrative about Islam stretches far further than we think into even parts of mainstream opinion who abhor the extremism, but sort of buy some of the rhetoric that goes with it.

AMANPOUR: In your book your wrote that this is not something to be combated on an electoral cycle, this will take a generation.

Do you think everybody gets it? I mean, you see President Obama now faced with drawing down in Iraq, faced with ramping up in Afghanistan, but still putting a deadline on. What sort of message does that send as to the commitment to fight this?

BLAIR: I think it's perfectly sensible to set the deadline, provided it's clear that, as it were, that is to get everyone focused on getting the job done.

But in general terms, I think the answer to your question is no, I think a lot of people don't understand that this is a generational-long struggle. and I think one of the things we've got to have and one of the debates we've got to have in the west is you know are we prepared for that, and are we prepared for the consequences of it?

AMANPOUR: on Afghanistan in your book, you say, "What's happening is really simple. Our enemies think they can outlast us. Our enemies aren't alone in thinking that. Our friends do, too. Therefore, the ordinary folk think, I should make my peace with those who are staying, not with those who are going." I mean, I was there and I saw colonels and generals and soldiers and resources being deployed from Afghanistan to Iraq, and it had an impact.

BLAIR: I mean, I think there is an issue that is perfectly legitimate to talk about there.

AMANPOUR: Do you think the Americans took their eye off the ball there?

BLAIR: Well, I think people thought the thing was on a more benign trajectory than it turned out to be. I mean, that is the truth.

AMANPOUR: people were wrong

And I think, as I say, the best way to look at this is, if you analyze it by analogy or reference to revolutionary communism, the fact is you wouldn't have said at any point in time when we were facing that threat, well, you're not telling us we're going to have to spend a few more years on this, are you? People would have said, well, we'll spend as long as we need to spend, I'm afraid, and that's just it.

AMANPOUR: Given the focus on Afghanistan today wouldn't it have been better// to not have diverted billions of dollars, the amount of resources, the amount of attention to Iraq. You could have waited.

BLAIR: I think what I would say to that is, it's a difficult question to answer but supposing we'd left Saddam --

AMANPOUR: But you could have contained him that was my point

BLAIR: Yes, I know but this is the issue and I think it's a really important issue. I don't think we would have contained him.

AMANPOUR: Why not?

BLAIR: Because the sanctions were crumbling --