Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair has published the memoirs of his decade in office, in which he writes that he could have not have imagined the "nightmare" that unfolded in Iraq in the years which followed the U.S.-led invasion.
At the same time, however, Blair says he still stands by his decision to join the invasion, which overthrew the dictator Saddam Hussein.
The book, called "A Journey," has already shot to second place on the best-seller list in Britain. It spans the years 1997 to 2007, but much of the public's interest centers on what it reveals about Blair's decision to join the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, and the subsequent difficult years.
Blair says he does not regret the decision to go to war against Iraq, and he still believes Hussein's overthrow made it worthwhile. But he says he never anticipated the "nightmare" that subsequently unfolded in Iraq, with sectarian violence, terror, and high civilian and military casualties. Nor did he anticipate "the role" of Iran and Al-Qaeda in the country.
He says he is "desperately sorry" about the casualties and that he has "often reflected as to whether he was wrong," but he asks his readers to reflect on whether he "may have been right."
The decision to go into Iraq was the most controversial decision of Blair's time in office, marked by huge public protests, divisions within the ruling Labour Party, and accusations that he deceived Britons over his reasons for war when weapons of mass destruction were not found in Iraq.
Turning to other matters, Blair passes a severe judgment on his successor, Gordon Brown. He describes Brown's time in office as a "disaster," saying the former finance minister lacked political instincts at the human level.
Blair has announced that he is donating all the proceeds of the autobiography to a British charity that helps severely injured war veterans. According to reports, he received a $7 million advance for the book. Sales are expected to generate much more.
written by Breffni O'Rourke, with agency reports