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Blair memoir excites booksellers, riles critics

Former British leader Tony Blair, now a Middle East envoy, meets Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Tuesday.

Associated Press

Former British leader Tony Blair, now a Middle East envoy, meets Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Tuesday.

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.

A McCain talks of '08, Palins

John McCain's daughter says in a new book that Sarah Palin brought drama, stress and uncertainty to her father's failed 2008 bid for the presidency. But Meghan McCain doesn't blame the vice presidential nominee. Dirty Sexy Politics was released Tuesday. In the book, McCain portrays conflicted feelings about her father's surprise choice for a running mate. She reveals she called Palin "the Time Bomb" who could explode at any moment. But she also describes the Palins as "nice and down-to-earth" and says she was impressed with Palin's ability to captivate and inspire women. McCain writes that her father lost because "Obama was unbeatable" and urges the Republican Party to be more inclusive.

Blair memoir excites booksellers, riles critics 08/31/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, August 31, 2010 10:48pm]
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