Former PM Tony Blair’s autobiography A Journey has already hit the bookshops – but minus a key section, leaked to The Poke, designed to “toughen-up” his image for the US market.

In this thrilling extract, edited out at the last minute for legal reasons, Blair describes his first encounter with the future American President Bill Clinton: then a hard-edged, cigar-chomping US Marine blazing his way through the merciless jungles of Northern Vietnam.

 

Chapter Four: Arkansas Bill

 Me and the other newbies was nothing but wide-eyed shake’n’bakes fresh out of basic when they dumped us in that sweaty pit of deep-serious the gooks named la Dang Valley, a few clicks north-west of Plei Me.

As the bird turned back for base we saw four OV-lA Mohawks push on ahead, each one packing .50 caliber joints to smoke Charlie out of the jungle before we got there to carve him to bloody screaming dogshit with old-fashioned AKs and fragballs.

We found a death-hole to snug down and lay chilly till dark. Chowed on cold ham’n’motherfuckers from a can, and some la vay hooch we’d sneaked from provisions. My hands were cut to red ribbons from hacking nipa palms, my boots flooded with jungle piss.

I figured from here on in, it was as good as it was going to get. I closed my eyes and thought of sweet Cherie back home with the little ones…

After sundown I felt Prescott tugging my flakjacket. Must have nodded out. I started up all full of the pucker factor, damn near firing off my AK in a panic. I looked where Prescott was pointing a shaky finger through the moonlight. We’d been made. The tell-tale glint of a barrel deep in the vines across the clearing. Maybe a Viet-Cong scout. Two hours into our first gig and this shit was already FUBAR.

The barrel twitched and a voice called out. It wasn’t the manic gabble of some gook guerilla. It was as American as apple-pie and blowjobs: “Good evening ladies,” came the southern drawl, “looks like I caught y’all with your panties down…”

A tall, mean-looking leatherneck with a custom M-16 strode our way, silver-hair, a fat, lit stogie in his teeth, and half-a-dozen Charlie ears dangling from his ammo belt. I’d seen him on the service news.

The meanest, bastardest US Marine of them all. Fifteen tours of duty. Five Purple Hearts. Over four thousand personal kills notched up. They called him Arkansas Bill. The Poon Priest of Danang – and he single-handedly had just saved Prescott, me and the boys from the certain death of a gomer ambush only one click from our position. He took those poor gooks to pieces.

What’s your name, son?”

I stood, doing my best to seem fearless, but I was quaking in my smalls. I looked Arkansas Bill right in the eye: “My name’s Blair, sir,” I said, “Tony Blair. And one day I’m going to be the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.”

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