Charismatic Leader or Psychopathic War Criminal?

Reports seriously questioning Tony Blair’s sanity have recently been appearing in the mainstream media. It is too early at this stage to say if there is any substance to these reports.

It has taken me a long time to realize that Tony Blair, Britain’s disgraced prime minister who took his country to war in Iraq on a raft of lies, could be what is described in psychiatric parlance as a “sub-criminal psychopath.” 

According to forensic psychologist Kerry Daynes, co-author of the recently published book Is There A Psycho In Your Life:

This sort of psychopath doesn’t walk around with a severed head in one hand and a bloody knife in the other. They are much, much more subtle than that. The psychopath’s behavior includes smoothness, charm, plausibility—at least at first. They’re clever and manipulative. A non-criminal psychopath can make life hell for those around them, with their mixture of charisma, inability to understand others’ feelings and the propagation of a climate of fear.” (See Book Review, here)

This could almost be a portrait of Tony Blair: smooth, charming, plausible, clever, manipulative, charismatic, totally unable to understand others people’s feelings.

I have no axe to grind in saying this, since I actually voted for Blair in 1997, helping to make him Prime Minister. He was once my hero. Being only 19 at the time, I looked up to the man as a kind of charismatic father figure. My adulation rapidly turned to bitter disillusionment as I went through the same emotions as a woman who had married the “perfect husband”, only to find out later that the man she had put on a pedestal was in fact a con man and a serial killer.

I will be quoting later from an article in the Daily Mail by Stephen Glover with the telling title: “Forgive me if this is in poor taste but I really DO question Blair’s sanity.”

—  §  —

So there I was in this restaurant pub called Wetherspoons, in a small market town in the south of England, when these shocking words drifted to my ear from an adjoining table: “This psychopath belongs behind bars! If I could get my hands on the bastard, I’d cut off his f***ing b***s!”

I decided to ignore this irate outburst. Not much else you can do when the angry brouhaha is on the boil all round you and the entire country is in an uproar, baying for the blood of “the psycho who got away”, to quote one of my more embittered friends.

On my table, beside my glass of Chablis, lay a stack of newspapers. I scanned the headlines with an agitated eye. The one that struck me most was the one on the front page of the Daily Mail. This  banner headline in enormous letters almost knocked me out of my chair

“For two hours, Blair dissembled and denied
in the face of Chilcot’s devastating verdict.
Then, with sickening egomania, he declared:
I can’t say sorry for Iraq … I’d do it again.”

Without pulling its punches, the paper continued:

Tony Blair made an astonishing defence of the invasion of Iraq yesterday despite being torn apart by the Chilcot inquiry.

After seven years of waiting, the report savaged the former prime minister for his conduct at every stage of the process that dragged Britain into the catastrophic war.

Sir John Chilcot lambasted Mr Blair for his handling of ‘flawed’ intelligence, for failing to plan for the aftermath and for secret promises given to George W Bush committing to the invasion eight months before MPs voted.

The inquiry chief even raised the prospect the war could be illegal – with relatives of some of the 179 dead British troops threatening to haul Mr Blair before the courts.

Sir John said the UK intervention in Iraq “went badly wrong, with consequences to this day”. But, in an extraordinary two-hour press conference, a defiant Mr Blair shrugged off the verdict of history and said he would “take the same decision” to invade again.

He said: “People want me to apologise for the decision – I cannot do that.

The unrepentant war criminal. In denial.

Back to forensic psychologist Kerry Daynes and her book Is There A Psycho In Your Life:

While around 15-20 per cent of the prison population are psychopaths, it’s thought that 2 to 3 per cent of the general population display some psychopathic tendencies. While they may not have the full complement of traits present in a Fred West or Dennis Nilsen-style serial killer, these characters can wreak havoc in the lives of others.

Bear in mind that these psychopaths are not [clinically] insane; they are aware and in reasonable control of their actions. Their acts are all the more chilling, as they are not explicable as the result of a sickness, but part of a cold indifference to others that lasts a lifetime.

The “sub-criminal psychopath” won’t necessarily ever break the law, but they will have no problem in behaving immorally and are quite happy to ride roughshod over others. They’re risk-takers, focussed on their ambitions but don’t learn from their failures.

Experiments in which people with psychopathic tendencies and those without the tendencies are playing at a game show that the non-psychos will stop if they are losing. The psychos will continue regardless.

Uncanny, the resemblance to Blair. Isn’t Blair the ultimate “risk taker”, playing dice with other people’s lives? Doesn’t he keep saying “I’d do it again! even after Sir John Chilcot, after seven long years of painstaking inquiry, has told us all that Blair was WRONG to do it in the first place. That he was wrong not to consult his Cabinet. That he was wrong to ignore the advice of his intelligence services. That he was wrong to act like an armchair dictator.

After all, Britain is not a dictatorship in which messianic monsters, suffering from delusions of grandeur, are free to ride roughshod over the wills of the people — including the many innocents killed and maimed as a result of his undiagnosed psychosis.

This man has blood on his hands.

Listen to Sarah O’Connor, whose brother died along with nine other Brits in Blair’s illegal war. The war criminal, surrounded by his bodyguards, is too cowardly to face her and his victims, but this is what Sarah says, her voice shaking with emotion: “There is one terrorist in this world and his name is Tony Blair! If he is so sure of his decision, why is he not here, looking at our eyes and actually seeing our faces?”

Why indeed is Blair not looking into the eyes of his victims, face to face?

Because Blair knows, like all evil cowards, that he would be torn apart — limb from limb — if he ever fell into the hands of the common people.

—  §  —

Talking of tears, Blair is a recognized master of histrionics. He can turn on the waterworks at will, giving the impression of grief-stricken desolation. A consummate actor, we are told, who in his early days was torn between two metiers: between politics and the acting profession. Unluckily for the world, he chose politics.

“Oh, the theatrics!” exclaims Quentin Letts in the Daily Mail. “Those eyes squinting at a distant destiny!”

So husky, so palpably rehearsed, Tony Blair presented himself as some sort of restless penitent, likely for the rest of his mortal days to be self-tormented about Iraq.

Our former prime minister called a press conference to give his reaction to the Chilcot Report. Dressed as though for mourning, he stepped towards a lectern in a drawing room of Admiralty House, Whitehall.

A check of the voice. A shuttering gaze as his brow furrowed. “I express more sorrow, regret and apology than you may ever know or can believe,” said Blair the victim.

Oh, the theatrics, the dry-mouthed pauses, those Derek Jacobi eyes with their squint at some distant destiny. Say what you like about Blair but he is a world-class tragedian, as silken an emoter as ever trod boards on Drury Lane.

His performance yesterday made for a remarkable but unredeeming spectacle, fascinating if only on a psychological level. Here was a once bellicose peacock stripped of its feathers. He still, even in this moment of political nakedness, managed to find notes of indignation, a persistent tenor tone of self-justification.

He pleaded to be believed, begged his countrymen to accept he had not lied. With a swipe at cynicism, he said “Neither history nor the fierce and raucous conduct of modern politics, with all its love of conspiracy theory and its addiction to believing the worst of everyone, should falsify my motive”. At this point his voice went warbly. But a few seconds later it flared as he declared that he had thought the war to be “right”.

His hands started whirling and he raised those two index fingers in his admonishing way.

Ah yes, the whirling hands and the wildly gesticulating fingers! Did you know, dear reader, that “overuse of hand gestures” is one of the physical traits closely associated with psychopaths?

Let’s hear again from forensic psychologist Kerry Daynes—an expert, by the way, who has worked since the age of 21 in a maximum security prison full of the country’s most notorious psychopathic criminals. What famous politician springs to mind when you read these words about “learning to recognize the destructive signs of sub-criminal psychopathic behaviour” :

‘These questions embrace certain kinds of body language: overuse of hand gestures, portraying themselves as victims in their own life story, bragging about risky behavior, a tendency to brush over lies, [and] a ruthless ambition that would lead them to trample over granny to gain a prize.”     

One of Blair’s critics, Rose Gentle, whose 19-year-old son died in Iraq as cannon fodder to feed the ego of the morally unscrupulous Blair, says that the British prime minister will never be forgiven:

“He will be remembered not as a prime minister but as a person who sent them on an illegal war. I would love to see him in court. I hope he goes to bed at night and thinks “what the hell have I done?” because he’ll never be forgiven.

I think I have made my point and it is time to desist. But before I do this, let me state categorically that I am not alone in thinking that Blair is mentally unstable. If he had been vetted in advance for signs of psychosis, we would have been saved a lot of trouble. He definitely deserves to be put on trial before an international court for his war crimes. But I am not sure that prison is the best place for him. The courts must decide his fate.

Let’s hear from Stephen Glover:

More than a year before the invasion of Iraq, I suggested in these pages that there were good reasons to be worried about Tony Blair’s mental health.

Those were the days when most people revered him, and mine was not a popular view. The argument was that the then PM had a fatal tendency to melodramatise events and to exaggerate dangers. He loved to talk in apocalyptic terms about world problems, and was at that time — I am talking of January 2002 — going around the world trying to work up people’s fears.

Perhaps the most spine-chilling of many damning details in the Chilcot Report is Blair’s memo to Bush in July 2002 in which he informed the US president, nearly a year before the invasion of Iraq: “I will be with you, whatever.”

To give such an unconditional commitment, neither sanctioned by Parliament nor approved by public opinion, was reckless. And evidence which makes me question his sanity.

It seems to me beyond dispute that he is an extreme narcissist — a man who craved power and adulation, especially in America, and in this self-serving cause was in some measure prepared to sacrifice the interests of his country and the lives of British troops.

Almost no one takes him seriously now, thank God, apart from a few discredited former henchmen. Even erstwhile admirers will have turned away in shame and disgust as they witness his pathological urge to accumulate mountains of money despite this process often entailing doing business with brutal dictators.

Without doubt, he has left a rancid legacy.

Blair will prosper materially, of course. He’ll buy more houses and make more millions, and deliver highly lucrative speeches to credulous and admiring Right-wing audiences in America who share his mad delusion that he saved the world.

But most of us know differently.

We know that, thanks to Tony Blair’s vanity and egomania, the lives of 179 British servicemen and women and countless innocent Iraqis have been sacrificed for nothing.

—  §  —

I was about to rest my case with that final quote, but at this point I heard the plop of today’s newspaper on the doormat. Too late! The plot thickens. I will have to continue, keeping it as brief as possible. There is now another report in the mainstream press discussing the vexed question of Blair’s sanity, bearing this large headline:

BLAIR ON THE COUCH : After Mail columnist Stephen Glover questioned the ex-PM’s sanity, an academic who’s studied the darker corners of the mind analyses the “deluded, messianic, needy, narcissistic” Blair psyche.

This time it is the acclaimed professor of criminology Professor David Wilson. He does not mince his words:

As a professor of criminology, I have spent my career studying the motivations of the human mind: what drives people to do bad things, and how do their brains then process what they have done afterwards. That’s why I find Blair such a fascinating case history.

According to the good professor, Blair is not clinically insane but there is no doubt at all that the man has a personality disorder and can be described as “mentally disturbed”:

“If Blair’s motives before the Iraq war were misguided, his behaviour since the Chilcot Report was published has been little short of extraordinary. Even now, in the wake of the devastating findings of the report, and the evidence of hundreds of thousands of deaths in Iraq and the wider region, Blair still professes that he would take the same decisions again.

Clearly this is a man who is deeply in denial.

In my work, I regularly come across offenders of the worst kind who fall back on denial as a means of neutralising or downplaying what they have done. The resort to denial provides an insight into the troubled psyche that drove Blair’s bellicosity in 2003.

He was not, as some claim, mentally ill at the time of war; nor is he today. But the decisions that led to this folly were driven by a personality that was deluded, narcissistic, manipulative, needy and messianic.

He remains, even now, like a permanent adolescent who craves attention and acceptance.

A scathing indictment, coming from a noted criminologist who also happens to be one of the world’s greatest experts on serial killers.

Apparently Blair’s personality defects had their origin in early childhood. He had a traumatic relationship with his parents, particularly his father, and was always anxious to prove himself and “feed his emotional desire for adulation and influence.”

Let Professor Wilson deliver the final verdict:

As his fixation with money demonstrates, Blair’s claim to be a Left-winger was an act of deceit. Pretending to be a socialist was just another of his poses.

To all his performances, he brought a titanic ego and a messianic sense of purpose. His rhetoric was peppered with phrases about ‘a country reborn’ and ‘a new world order’. Yet, like so many self-obsessed individuals, he possesses a dark streak of self-pity within him.

Arrogance and victimhood are two sides of the same trait of emotional neediness which lies at the root of Blair’s psychological make-up. Was it, then, a form of catharsis for him to channel his repressed anger into a war against the Arab bogeyman Saddam Hussein? I believe that was very possible.

In 2003, the then Labour Cabinet minister Clare Short asked simply: ‘Why did Tony Blair do it?’ The complex answers surely lie in his troubled psyche.

Arguably, Britain and the Middle East have paid a high price for those demons.

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