LONDON — It's a political memoir with celebrity trappings — secrecy, security, a multimillion-dollar deal and, crucially, controversy.
Tony Blair's A Journey was stirring political passions even before it hits bookstores today, with excerpts revealing that the former British prime minister has cried for soldiers and civilians killed in Iraq but still thinks it was right to invade and topple Saddam Hussein.
The decision to go to war remains Blair's most divisive legacy. In excerpts from the book released by the publisher late Tuesday, Blair says "I … regret with every fiber of my being the loss of those who died."
But, he says, "on the basis of what we do know now, I still believe that leaving Saddam in power was a bigger risk to our security than removing him and that, terrible though the aftermath was, the reality of Saddam and his sons in charge of Iraq would at least arguably be much worse."
Billed by publisher Random House as a "frank, open" account of life at the top, A Journey is being published in a dozen countries, alongside an e-book and an audio version read by Blair himself. It's in the top 10 on Amazon's British bestseller list — though it's only 4,000 on the retailer's U.S. site. He was paid an estimated $7.5 million for the book and is donating the proceeds to a charity for injured troops.
In A Journey, Blair — who is scheduled to be in Washington on publication day, attending Israeli-Palestinian peace talks in his role as an international Mideast envoy — promises to give readers behind-the-curtain insights into major events from the death of Princess Diana to the Sept. 11 attacks and the invasion of Iraq.
For many Americans, Blair remains a well-regarded ally. He's scheduled to receive the 2010 Liberty Medal from former President Bill Clinton in Philadelphia on Sept. 13.
At home, he is a more polarizing figure. Swept to power in 1997, Blair left office in June 2007 reviled by many for taking Britain into the U.S.-led Iraq war and viewed as a liability by much of his own Labour Party.