Wednesday, 30 June 2010

The TonyBlairFaithFoundation

Private Eye once had a skit on Blair as the Vicar of St Albion. With Blair now still pontificating from the pulpit some people think that Blair is trying to atone for his sins in supporting Bush's invasion of Iraq in 2003.

It is ultimately impossible to mind read Blair. Looking at his website though certain things stand out.

His Tony Blair Faith Foundation ostensibly has laudable goals such as eradicating malaria and getting faith communities involved in distributing health resources to do so.

Blair's missionary impetus and calls to promote inter-faith dialogue and get them to co-operate in ridding the world of preventable deaths does seem like 'displacement therapy' on his part.

If over a million people have died as a result of the invasion of Iraq, because of the collapse of that state into inter-ethnic and sectarian conflict, then the aims of his Faith Foundation are to work against such a level of death elsewhere.

It is difficult not to think Blair's motives are still about self justification and that he has some form of messiah complex where through his agency he can show the power of the will to believe in 'getting things done'.

Unfortunately, it was that belief that led him to commit Britain to Iraq and his Faith Foundation contains propaganda about what he sees as the wholly reconciliable nature of world faiths such as Islam and US global hegemony.

Including this lecture which was organised by Clive Tuggle, Vice Chairman of Coca Cola.

The Mighty and the Almighty: American Foreign Policy and God, talk given by Madeline Albright at Yale Divinity School where Blair has been appointed.....

As the blurb goes,
Madeline Albright, the first woman Secretary of State and highest ranking woman in the history of the US government, draws upon her personal experiences to talk about how the borderless nature of religious faith often makes it easier for leaders to talk to one another, easier for nations to agree on common values, and easier for people from vastly different backgrounds to reach a consensus about moral standards.
There is a contradiction between Blair's belief that all faiths can work together for the greater good and the fact that this can be promoted through the kind of international politics where the US 'plays God'.

For it was Albright, previously US Secretary of state under Bill Clinton. Albright who imposed misery on Iraq through sanctions in pursuit of the goal of controlling it's oil resources.

There was not much evidence of Christian principles in 1996 when she was asked on the TV show 60 Minutes if she could justify the deaths of half of a million Iraqi children caused, according to Unicef, by an economic embargo that denied the country basic medicines.

"I think this is a very hard choice but the price – we think the price is worth it"

Naturally, such a morality of necessary sacrifice was not mentioned with regards the sanctions on Iraq

'In many developing countries religion is one of the most powerful sources of personal identity – for good and ill. Understanding these identities is critical to tackling conflict and understanding politics. Equally, the role of religion in forming attitudes and behaviour can be profoundly important in addressing the causes and effects of poverty.

The great London multi-faith march by religious leaders this year to promote the Millennium Development Goals was further evidence of the power wielded by faith communities when they work together.

We know they are effective advocates – that's not the key question in development.

The answer is providing help to enable faith communities to develop their capabilities. It doesn't make sense for them to do this separately. This is a core part of the vision of my Faith Foundation.When faith communities collaborate for justice and human development there is a double payoff: things get done and respect and understanding between them grows.

Faith communities given training, some funding and mobile phones, could provide governments with missing data about incidence of disease and the effectiveness of healthcare delivery in parts of their populations where government has negligible access.

Faith communities are not NGOs in the normal sense. They were not consciously created for service delivery, health care, advocacy, or education. They are a gathered people brought together by often ancient religious traditions carried through the generations by a community of faith. They are centred on worship, usually rooted in sacred texts and have a particular spirituality and set of symbols'
Tony Blair Engage with the Faith, The Guardian 7 September 2009

As with anything Tony Blair writes on religion it is the political objectives that have to be considered: in particular the utility of 'faith' in bringing together people from diverse backgrounds to support the creation of a universal civilisation.

The subtleties of traditional theology are less important to Blair than the miraculous power of 'faith' to bring about progressive change if only there is the will to do it, something better considered as 'belief' which is quite the contrary of faith.

The philosopher Alan Watts had it right when he argued that belief is a form of clinging to myths and dogmas that provide people with the bedrock of security in an insecure world, that screen out all that cannot be accepted.

The word faith derives from the Latin word fidere, which means to have trust whilst belief comes from an Old English word that refers to what a person values because it helps them to live and ought not to be questioned through fear.

In Blair's case those beliefs are Progress and US led Globalisation.

The belief that progress and globalisation harnessed to the project of advancing US power is a good thing. That the US and Britain as multicultural and multifaith societies are some microcosm for how the entire world could live and sing in perfect harmony.

Though Blair is ostensibly a Catholic, his creed derives more from the Positivism of Auguste Comte, the nineteenth century inventor of sociology and a great influence on Anthony Giddens, the man who created 'the Third Way'.

As John Gray writes in Al Qaida and What it Means to be Modern,
The Positivists did not aim merely to revolutionise society. Their aim was to found a new religion. [Count Henri de] Saint-Simon believed the ‘positive doctrine’ would become the basis for a new ‘church’ when all scientists united to form a permanent ‘clergy’.
The clergy of this new faith are the persuaders, the corporate sponsors and advertisers, the PR gurus and those who wish to channel the energies of the world's population into a placid and benign consumerism enlivened with a bit of faith in being nice.

Blair believes that all races and creeds will come together because the West can propagate and put into practice the new 'religion of humanity' where all nations are interdependent and work together for the good of all.

When the globe is united upon a shared common vision the metaphysical era in which progress represents the cumulative knowledge of the entire species and the "One Way" to truth and salvation which is, in Comte's scheme of things, the positivist era.

To hasten the coming advent of the positivist era it is sometimes necessary to 'set aside God in the name of religion' if that means the dead hand of dogma, as when Blair tried to convince the Pope why a War on Iraq was necessary.

Men themselves can become as Gods once despots, terrorists and nationalists are destroyed and removed from holding back Progress and dividing humanity from the recognition of its real true interests in co-operating in accordance with their comparative advantages.

Though these beliefs are a core part of the Tony Blair Faith Foundation, the search for global order through stressing common humanity of all people everywhere is partly a balm for those who have a disturbed conscience or who are worried about resource scarcity.
We live in a global community. The contest for scarce resources, water and oil, will be intense by mid-century. Our interdependence is manifest whether at the level of climate change or global financial markets.

We need the inter-religious and inter-cultural dialogue that turns neighbours into friends able to work together to confront the threats to our common security.
The Iraq War was fought because Blair believed that by ridding Iraq of Saddam Hussein the oil of Iraq could work for the benefit of the West and Iraqi's through Western investment and the tapping of new oil fields in the south.

This war was Utopian in that it tried to reconcile objectives that could not be, such as promoting Western democracy whilst at the same time expecting that this would not polarise ethnic and 'faith based communities' previously only separated from conflict by fear of Saddam.

Moreover, how Iraqi democracy could ever be reconciled with the need to control Iraqi oil primarily for the benefit of the West and our energy security was overlooked. With North Sea oil running out and Iraq's oilfield malfunctioning die to sanctions, Blair felt the UK had to invade.

With Iraq's population due to double within twenty years in spite of the war, oil prices would need to rise if Iraq's population were to benefit. the West needs falling oil prices to maintain it's lifestyle and the consumerism to which people are accustomed.

The belief in force as a midwife of a new global order presided over by the USA held by New Labour progressives was partly the legacy of Marxist ideas. Yet it also derived from standard liberal notions of a universal social order which would end conflicts-as in Europe after Kosovo.

Albert Camus remarked on the Soviet Communist's attempt to create a universal order through power, myth and force and how it drew on the legacy of Positivism that,
Utopia replaces God with the future. Then it proceeds to identify the future with ethics: the only values are those which serve this particular future. For that reason Utopias have almost always been coercive and authoritarian......

The demand for justice ends in injustice if it is not primarily based on an ethical justification of justice: without this, crime itself one day becomes a duty. When good and evil are reintegrated in time and confused with events, nothing any longer is either good or bad, but only premature or out of date.

Who will decide on the opportunity if not the opportunist? Later, say the disciples, you will judge. but the victims will not be there to judge. Messianism in order to exist must construct a defence against the victims...
Albert Camus The Rebel. State Terrorism and Rational Terror pages 163 & 177

J G Ballard and Millennium People

Protests in London come and go as designer fashion shows these days.

Last year some of the G20 protesters in 2009 were very silly but some are more akin to the bored characters in JG Ballard's recent novels e.g Millennium People who want to trash and subvert the over-mediated consumer landscape and find meaning in a meaningless word.

The decline of the left, socialism, conservatism and, increasingly, of political liberalism means that we have left as an ideology is consumerism. History has reached a dead end of banality and narcissistic consumption where values are redundant.

As Ballard writes,
"People resent the fact that the most moral decision in their lives is choosing what colour the next car will be," he says witheringly. "All we've got left is our own psychopathology. It's the only freedom we have – that's a dangerous state of affairs.
The sheer meaninglessness of a society based on the hallucinatory substitute for reality that the vast masses of consumers have bought into has defined the New Labour period.

Now that the illusions have crashed with the finance system, the result is going to be a rejection of the boredom and conformity that comes from reducing nearly every aspect of everyday life to nothing more than a series of money transactions.

Ballard believes that this can 'only be relieved by some sort of violent act; by taking your mail-order Kalashnikov into the nearest supermarket and letting rip.".

Just as the Vietnam War was to the 1968 media conscious rebels, so too the Iraq War and the frustration that the cloistered 'Metropolitan elites', all on first name terms and who play at politics to give the illusion of brand distinction, is going to mobilise people to reject the system.

Unfortunately, it will not be peaceful: there is the potential for massive and gratuitous acts of psychopathological violence, just anything that will force the masses to question the 'inauthentic' nature of their existence.

'Consumers Suck' read some of the banners: if they fail to respond, it is quite possible that extreme radicals might take to selecting less obviously 'political' targets such as shopping malls, multiplex cinemas, airports and theme parks.

The victims of terror were aiding global capitalism by consuming: their deaths will be a small price to pay if it helps to destroy the fake consumer confidence that keeps the system going and directly causes Third World immiseration and global warming.

The novel starts off with a bomb explosion at Heathrow that turns out to be the work of a demented paediatrician, Dr Richard Gould who later tell the main character David Markham that the sheer meaninglessness of such an outrage forced people to ask 'why'.

Ballard's Millennium People tended to just laugh at the middle class protesters 'the Kropotkins with Pink Gin' and that the "the middle-classes are the new proletariat", and that's the main weakness of the book. Ballard does not know the radicals: just the Guardian reading middle classes.

For Millennium People could have included the deracinated Islamists and Class War nihilists, as well as the anti-road protesters and the increasingly psychopathological journalist hacks who rationalise in metaphysical terms every terror threat or terrorist action to push a revolutionary agenda.

A lot of the street carnival protesters at G 20 were like those, as in Ballard's Chelsea Marina who desire to escape the "self-imposed burdens" of civic responsibility and consumer culture.

By only focusing on the trashing of the RSB, people are missing the point about much of the 'global justice movement'.

It is not merely the 'Good' anger of wanting to right wrongs and injustice: a look at the G20 Meltdown groups shows the usual 'hard left' sects whose leaders are motivated by 'Bad' anger, a craving for destruction more than any real policy of a constructive alternative.

Just as the 1968 insurrections fomented a climate of opinion in which the Angry Brigades and the Baader Meinhof were created, so too will 2009 lead to radical psychopathological terror groups.

In 2009 , however,there are the added ethnic and sectarian tensions bred by wars in 'the Muslim World' and the growth of Islamism and religious faith based apocalyptic politics.

As Ballard writes,
"There are shifts in the unseen tectonic plates that make up our national consciousness. I've tried to nail down a certain kind of nihilism that people may embrace, and which politicians may embrace, which is much more terrifying; all tapping into this vast, untouched resource as big as the Arabian oilfields called psychopathology."
That hunger for apocalyptic violence is innate in human beings and the more people's lives are confined to a mind numbing routine of frenetic work and regulated consumer fun, the more people will turn to violence and nastiness

Not least when the cosmetic 'niceness' of the system conceals iniquities and inequalities that are screened from perception by the mainstream media and by happening in poorer countries.
The result could be something like the Baader-Meinhof-in Islamism that already evident.

Christopher Hitchens is Not Great. Nor is George Galloway.

Christopher Hitchens seems to be one of the most loathed figures on the left for his support for the US invasion of Iraq in 2003 and for the 'war on terror' .

Yet like most radical journalists with a desire to develop a reputation for themselves as fearless tribunes of freedom and justice he projected his own ideological fantasies on to the 'liberation' of Iraq in 2003.

This seems to be a mental vice amongst many who want to overcome their sense of impotence and lack of control over world events, whether it is Hitchens or Tariq Ali and John Pilger extolling some mythical 'the Iraqi resistance'. Hitchens writes in his latest column for The New York Times,
"If we had left Iraq according to the timetable of the anti-war movement the Iraqi people would now be tyrannised by the gloating sadists of Al Qaeda".
Well, that's impossible to verify as a second conditional sentence because the anti-war movement has no 'timetable' apart from 'troops out' or to try and ratchet up the threat of terror within Britain if this is not done.

But in any case without the invasion there would have been no Hobbesian style chaos and anarchy from which insurgent militias could have developed.

It's unfortunate that the anti-war movement is dominated by the remnants of the hard left such as Andrew Murray of the British Communist Party and Lindsey German of the SWP, those who see Iraq and the war in Leninist terms as a historical inevitability

It was actually rather than just a bungled attempt to gain energy security whilst introducing a secular market state democracy and somehow expecting that this would be simple should there be the will to do it.

Anyway, the idiocy and fanaticism of the StWC and RESPECT does not mean that the neocons and fellow travellers of a radical US Imperialism should be let off the hook. Hitchens saw the war as a way of discrediting polemical enemies. Rather than looking at hard empirical facts.

Those like Hitchens tend to see everything as a polemical battle where reality and the facts are bent to justify conclusions they have already arrived at, in particular how fundamentally evil the opposition to one's own politics is.

Yet even if the anti-war movement was dominated in Britain by those like Galloway who fawned on the notion of Arab nationalist dictatorships, that was hardly a reason in itself to see the 'liberation' of Iraq as a defeat for the global threat of neo-totalitarianism everywhere.

Hitchens tends to think of himself romantically in the tradition of Orwell who saw the similarities between the power worship amongst those on the left who supported Stalin's dictatorship and Fascists.

Whilst that might help explain the politics of a crude dolt such as George Galloway ( yet another self promoting media whore who works for Iranian funded Press TV ), it hardly had much relevance to the politics concerning Iraq at the time of the invasion in 2003.

Hitchens just rolled together the Baathist regime in Baghdad with 'Islamofascists' because he sees them all in a manichaean fashion as part of a seamless web of evil. Just as others in the Henry Jackson Society did like Micheal Gove or Denis MacShane.

That conflation explains why Hitchens sees all those fighting the US in Iraq as just essentially evil 'jihadists' and why in his God is Not Great he has to assert that 'religion poisons everything' and religion is germane to totalitarian thinking.

By 2005, however, it became clear that Sunni militias themselves were attacking Al Qaida. Hitchens himself wrote about that in a Slate article ( January 16 ,2005 ) but denied they were insurgents because he does not like the idea they might be revolutionaries or rebelling against the liberating force.

So , obviously, trying to append the term 'jihadist' or 'Bin Ladenis't, as Hitchens has consistently done, to all those opposed to the US occupation is just an attempt eradicate this important distinction between Al Qaida and groups like the 1920 Revolutionary Brigades and other Sunni militia groups.

The conflations allow Hitchens to see the Iraq war as part of some crusade for enlightenment against the dark forces of evil and to portray Saddam as a metaphysical evil. Yet Saddam was just brutal, banal and evil.

Even if he did not possess WMD he can be mentioned 'in the same breath' because he had a latent intent to acquire them, had used them in the past and would use them again. That's one of the the lame ex post facto rationalisations anyway. Hichens opines,
"Most people appear now to believe that it is quite wrong to mention Saddam Hussein even in the same breath as (a)WMD, or (b) state-sponsored terrorism. I happen to disagree".
If there is not one exact reason why it was absolutely necessary to invade Iraq, then it is easy to shift the justification from one to another such as 'state sponsored terrorism'. The Baathist regime was a brutal Stalinist police state and a terror state.

Yet it's connection with terrorist groups was no greater than Iran' or Syria's nor is it anywhere been as near as important in having fostered terrorism as Saudi Arabia. The regional terrorism of the groups Saddam did support were not a threat to the security of the USA or Britain.

Yet it is important to remember that Saddam did not sponsor 'jihadists' apart from paying some suicide bombers in Hamas who would do what they would do anyway without Saddam's rewards. That was just for domestic consumption to please Islamists.

Bin Laden actually hated Saddam. One of the reasons Bin Laden turned his fury against the USA in 1991 was that the House of Saud allowed US troops into the Holy Land of Islam without allowing him to join the fight to push Iraq out of Kuwait.

Hitchens can't accept such facts because they don't fit in with his creed. In God is Not Great he even denies that Saddam's regime was a secular one just because he made demagogic statements including Allah and Islamist tropes.

That made Saddam a demagogue not a fully fledged Islamist. That is a very simple point. But he does what his supposed hero George Orwell never did: fit the facts to suit the prescriptions of va propaganda creed.

As John Gray has rightly insisted in a review of God Is Not Great,
'Writing of the Trotskyite-Luxemburgist sect to which he once belonged, Hitchens confesses sadly: "There are days when I miss my old convictions as if they were an amputated limb." He need not worry. His record on Iraq shows he has not lost the will to believe.

The effect of the American-led invasion has been to deliver most of the country outside the Kurdish zone into the hands of an Islamist elective theocracy, in which women, gays and religious minorities are more oppressed than at any time in Iraq's history.
The idea that Iraq could become a secular democracy - which Hitchens ardently promoted - was possible only as an act of faith.'
Hitchens is a busted flush and his inability to admit he got it wrong, as Michael Ignatieff and Johann Hari have done is becoming ever more embarrassing. It seems certain atheists really are as dogmatic and faith based as fundamentalists.

This has not stopped shrill and preachy atheists such as A.C Grayling whiffling on in the Guardian like some pernickety old maid about General Dennett's public proclaimation of his religious faith whilst serving in Iraq whilst praising Hitchen' s worldview in God Is Not Great and ignoring the scale of the destruction and bloodshed in Iraq.

It seems there is one standard for the religious when they propagandise for faith based politics but not for atheists when they do the same.

Yet the history of twentieth century ideological mass murder and terror in the cause of secular goals shows that the idea that 'religion poisons everything' is a myth.

It is just a convenient way of rationalising the failure of such politics in the lands of Islam and the rise of Islamism which is, it should be remembered, a creed with its origins in politics and bolstered by an apocalyptic mythology hardly absent from creeds such as global Communism.

It is also interesting that Hitchens wrote back in 1976,
"The Baghdad regime is the first oil-producing government to opt for 100-per-cent nationalisation, a process completed with the acquisition of foreign assets in Basrah last December. It was the first to call for the use of oil as a political weapon against Israel and her backers.

It gives strong economic and political support to the ‘Rejection Front’ Palestinians who oppose Arafat’s conciliation and are currently trying to outface the Syrians in Beirut. And it has a leader — Saddam Hussain — who has sprung from being an underground revolutionary gunman to perhaps the first visionary Arab statesman since Nasser'.
The irony here is that is precisely what the 1920 Revolutionary Brigades lauded by Seumas Milne as the nucleus of some united 'the Iraqi resistance' movement are aiming for.

With most tedious polemicists who want to believe they are riding the wave of the future, politics is a substitute form of religion and this appiles not only to Hitchens and the pro-war liberal interventionists but as much to those who want to hitch their otherwise redundant secular atheist leftist politics to radical and revolutionary Islamism in order to get a new lease of life.

Nothing could be more comic and pathetic than Hitchens< style="font-style: italic;">Inside the Whale ( 1940 )-to believe one can ride the wave of Progress or be on the Right Side of History for purely egotistic purposes

New Atheist Funk in the UK.

New Atheism' as expounded by Richard Dawkins et al is a belief that if people dropped God their lives would be filled with more potential to live life to the full before death extinguishes them for ever.

This fantastical creed has no evidence to back it up: it is a faith position that has many different consequences. For Christopher Hitchens and Nick Cohen it is the necessity of using military force to destroy 'Islamofascism'.

For Dawkins it is is a call to try and remove the influence of organised religion from interfering in politics in a way that is mean minded and nasty or protecting its privileges. But he really does want to deconvert the world.

Now the disestablishment of the Church of England is also worked for by Tony Benn with whom Dawkins sat on Breakfast with David Frost show recently when he admitted cheerfully to being a 'cultural Christian'.

The intricacies of theology and the role of science in explaining the creation and evolution of the world are less important that the progressive myths that underpin Dawkin's creed. As John Gray points out Dawkind claims only humans can defy the imperatives of their own genes.

Gray asks pertinently, that if this is so, then where could that freedom of the will come from ? Answer, it derives from Christianity and is not found in Atheist religions of the Orient like Taoism.

If religion poisons everything as Hitchens claims it does, Gray poses the devastating but simple counter argument that where could this poison come from? The Devil ? The simple fact is that religion is an enduring human need for a frail and often insecure species of animal.

John Gray is right to state that these are myths that the New Atheists never interrogate because their militant faith is based on a Protestant culture of Christianity minus God. It gets rid of God but retains the "thought patterns" of Christianity.

Nothing could be more in the proselytising tradition of Protestant Christianity than holding that deconvertion will cause one to cast off the 'mind forg'd manacles' of religion and make themselves more loving, more sane and more reasonable.

Dawkins emphasis upon 'consciousness raising' is what Protestants have emphasised throughout history-it's a low key form of the direct encounter between Man and God for the soul.

Dawkins line is similar to that of Bertrand Russell: the scientific evidence down here on earth is conclusive enough not to believe in God and if 'He' asked 'Why ?' it would be on that basis. "Not enough evidence, God"

That has little to do though with the idea that by getting rid of 'Him' that the world would necessarily be made a nicer place. The theology of protest is still there only without God who does not matter anyway.

If so, there is no need to bang on about it. Most people hold some kind of belief that is irrational; that if they meet the right person they will be happy for ever or that one day all diseases will be cured or they will be remembered.

Much of the passivity of Britain in the post-war epoch was due to the rise of consumerism, TV and pop music, as well as football. When this prosperity and complacency collapses people look for rationalisations for a more stressful existence.

And the woolly old Church of England is better for people to join than people adopting US style fundamentalism, so that Dawkins ought to distinguish between harmful religion and harmless creeds that really do not do that much damage

At least far less than messianic tub thumpering Protestant Atheists like Hitchens ( yes, he terms himself that ) did in supporting the Iraq War and strongly insinuating "extraordinary interrogation " methods were one way of getting barbarian Islamofascists to confess to secrets.

Now proving the non-existence of God or the absurdity of believing in God as a set of logical propositions is very different from making vast assumptions about how his accepted non-existence would affect life on earth.

People have an innate drive to believe in something beyond death to make sense of life: with the progressive myth of Dawkins, Grayling etc something akin to heaven is something we can more readily create on earth through material abundance and living like Men as Gods.

After all, for people living in seventeenth century England, the twenty first century would be some kind of heaven compared to the suffering and poverty and early death people lived with on an everyday basis.

Yet then as now the myth is that the truth is considered something that can set people free forever once accepted by all thinking people. There is a continuity deep within English protestant culture here.

For Protestant Christianity has the idea that doing things, striving to change the world and by going direct to the people free from the sterile worship in ornate Churches and discussion about dogmas.

That's why Joyce Cary once wrote in the 1950's 'The less the British go to Church, the more preoccupied they become they become with religious problems and moral conflicts'. Think of CND, Bruce Kent or the Quakers ( what harm do they really do ! )

The decline of Church worship is a logical consequence of the belief in England that right belief leads to righteous actions and not merely sitting about saying things and not doing anything. That's progressive activism.

Protestantism has been watered down to a vague religiosity that life just must have a purpose and that the main thing about being a Christian is behaving decently to others.Now that just means the bland but decent desire to be "nice". Like a certain Mr Tony Blair seemed.

This is little different from what the boring and monomaniacal AC Grayling puts forward; though an atheist, his general outlook is pure Church of England minus God who is to be rejected for being too mean and nasty to people.

Yet it has nothing to offer those who see the world being pushed towards destruction by global heating, nuclear proliferation, and so on with its smug little milk and water humanist certainties.

Grayling and Dawkins get squeamish about religious inspired wars without seeing that the invasion of Iraq was a resource war for the oil that underpins the consumer comfort of Western nations like Britain.

The only criticism Grayling made of the Iraq War was that Britain's General Dennett proclaimed himself a Christian soldier: that and not 1 million dead Iraqis got this sententious waffling man into a strident polemical mood.

When most people are satiated materially they need not think too hard about religious problems and moral conflicts. Yet the decline of organised religion has not got rid of the 'need to believe'.

That can be seen with the shallow cult of progress, the career of Blair, the projection of messianic fantasies on to Iraq as a war of liberation, New Atheism, Islamist political theology and other consequences of evading facts and agonistic choices that present themselves.

That is outside the privileged ivory tower that Dawkins and Grayling inhabit: if Dawkins was against the Iraq War because Bush was a Christian fundamentalists, he might have at least looked at the resource war angle.

Religious struggles have always been motivated by political manipulation, greed for resources and "up the ante" as Malise Ruthven puts it in his A Fury for God, a highly sophisticated analysis of Islamism as a political phenemenon.

Noam Chomsky offers No Alternative to Global Capitalism.

As the feeble rationalisations for going back to the future with the USSR, or posing a Bolshevik style revolution as showing the possibility of 'Another World' or 'Systemic Alternative' are still being touted by some as a way out of the global economic crisis of since 2008, there are also those who think Noam Chomsky is a guru who can offer salvation.

Chomsky is popular in the UK as much as the USA for having never have been tarred with the same brush as the Communists.

For Chomsky lauds the libertarian myth of the Russian Revolution as a workers revolution betrayed by commissars like Lenin and Trotsky who use myths of a perfect future and of global harmony and Utopia to rationalise repression and privation in the present until the ultimate goal had been reached

Perhaps those who think so could look at the history of the Russian Revolution and of the actual global communist movement as it really was instead of projecting ideological fantasies on to it and making excuses for its failure. In the conditions of the chaos caused, power was bound to fill the power vacuum.

The libertarian left myth of revolution is certainly a better one and at least accepts that Lenin and Trotsky were not interested in spontaneous freedom but in 'totalitarianism'. That's then taken to mean that the USA is no better in this regard and also based on spreading universal hegemony as the barrel of the gun.

What Chomsky and Pilger share with Leninists is the idea is that a catastrophic crisis can bring 'freedom'. Just not if it allows ideological cliques to seize power in the name of the people and to accelerate progress through apocalyptic change and telescoping social and economic development into a short period.

That was the Bolshevik plan in 1917. It has little relevance to the global crisis today. For a start it was environmentally ruinous and depended on a dogmatic idea similar to that of neoliberal capitalism: that Man can Dominate Nature and make it his exclusive servant. Yet Chomsky shares this Enlightenment myth. Overpopulation never figures in his writing.

Much of what is wrong with radical left anti-capitalism of the kind advocated by Chomsky is that it shares many of the myths of progress that have been taken from liberal democracy and capitalism. That there can be a humanistic world of superabundance and the problem is that capitalism cannot share it equitably.

Most notably there is a distinct problem with the idea that 'we' can remake the world and its only 'false consciousness' and the illusions of the media and money power of 'the system' that decide otherwise. Since the civil rights movement and anti-Vietnam protests of the 60s when Chomsky came to prominence, 'the system' has absorbed counter-culture successfully.

The only line left of Noam Chomsky, who still makes some brilliant points about US double standards in foreign policy is the ideal of anarcho-syndicalism that depend on the myth of revolution and of 'revolution betrayed' and 'deferred' by the increased sophistication of US corporate capitalism, admass society and the media machine.

New thinking about the world is necessary but real benefits can come only by ridding ourselves of illusory and burdensome hopes of a world that would be perfect if it were not for the dominance of one global system of capitalism-in Chomsky's view of the US's Imperial Elite having far more domination and control than it does.

In reality that does not exist: Chomsky like all Radical Enlightenment figures is Eurocentric and parochial in thinking that US Imperialism is the root cause of most of the globe's problems from inequality, to profligate consumerism, the arms race, racism and poverty. It depends upon three myths,

1) That the USA is and will continue to be dominant for the foreseeable future and that successful resistance against Empire will necessarily lead to freedom.

2) The reassuring thought that because the USA is an Empire and a formal democracy, global change could come from change within the USA.

3) Third World revolutionary movements , even of the Islamist type, offer the prospect of liberation for the poor and oppressed of the Middle East.

Chomsky is just another Cold War fossil who hasn't had much more of great interest to say since the Vietnam War, though his analysis of the role of a supposedly 'free media' in a liberal democratic capitalist state is still a necessary corrective to the idea that propaganda and media manipulation only occur under totalitarian regimes.

-AC Grayling and Islamism.

AC Grayling wrote in the Guardian over a year ago that,

Facts speak for themselves. Omid Reza Mir Sayafi, 29, a journalist and blogger,has taken his own life in Evin prison in Iran, where he was serving a two-year sentence for "insulting Ayatollahs Khomeini and Khamenei", and awaiting further trial for "insulting sacred values", which would have meant more years in prison.

He was a sensitive man, who blogged mainly about music and the arts, and imprisonment was a hellish experience for him; he was reported to be profoundly depressed and anxious.

Safayi is yet another victim of religion.

Safayi's fate was atrocious and all humane people should deplore it.

Yet Grayling's view of 'religion' killing Safayi comes from the same propaganda mould deployed by Nick Cohen and other missionary atheists who belive that there is some monolithic 'Islamic fundamentalist' threat to 'the West' and the spread of its supposedly always superior values across the globe.

Not least with regards its universalist ideas of freedom of expression and speech, human rights and tolerance of ethnic minorities and that this sinister global Islamofascist threat is co-ordinated by a rogue regimes, terror cells, and radical Imams and 'appeased' by spineless woolly minded thinkers

That is those who have forgotten a history of inquisitions and exterminations and so on.
No doubt the OIC is trying to push the 'defamation of religion' issue but there is hardly any real chance that this is going to lead to
'....a universal gag on free speech, blocking the right of anyone to criticise the too frequently negative effects of religion on individuals and society'
Grayling comes close to Cohen, who wrote during the furore over the Danish cartoon of Mohammad, that the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's spokesman was 'appeasing' Islamism when he commented that 'freedom of expression should be exercised responsibly and in a way that respects all religious beliefs'.

The UN Assembly has only moved towards formulating declarations respecting religious beliefs and then Grayling fulminating about the potential for a 'universal gag order' whilst Cohen uses somewhat hysterical phrases like 'universal blasphemy law' or even 'super-blasphemy law'.

Missionary atheists of this ilk thus reveal themselves as grotesque invertions of those who want to convert the world to one universal religion and with others subsumed within its framework of dominion. For there is for Grayling only 'the Enlightenment' on the one side and 'religion' on the other.

This belief system derives from very Protestant ideas of Progress and Providence which have over time become secularised in Britain and the USA but hold that the world will converge towards the destiny mapped out over the past 400 years by the Anglo-Saxon democracies. It's a pure Whig version of History.

Grayling opines,
The OIC has yet to appreciate that if it succeeds in its effort to protect Islam from legitimate challenges to its less attractive doctrines and practices – to say nothing of Islamism with its murderous extreme –the relentless antisemitism from its own side of the street will have to stop too.
Yet the OIC is not 'Islam'. Again Grayling writes as though Islam were as monolithic as one singular totalitarian creed with Islamism as merely the far extreme end of a spectrum of belief defined by some organised body of scholars or protectors who could just reign in the fanatics if they chose.

Islam does not act in a way where less attractiveand repugnant interpretations can not be condemned by any corporate body such as 'the Church'' ( which is not to say that prominent clerics should not condemn terror in the name of Islam ). There is no 'it' that can do so.

But Grayling shows he is incapable of distinguishing Islam from Islamism where it matters: Islamism is a politicised interpretation of certain parts of the Qu'ran adapted to modernistic Western revolutionary ideologies. Islamism is a product of the West and of increased contact with it.

Nothing the UN has done has appeased some barbaric global 'Islamist' threat. The position of the UN General Secretary and many of those attempting to frame its declarations on toleration is that 'freedom of expression should be exercised responsibly' and not that it 'must'. In short no law or gag order has been passed.

There is no sense in which a legitimate criticism of a a political interpretation of religion that is illiberal or tyrannical could not be made but merely that there should be no demonisation of people who hold different religious beliefs because the condition for toleration and co-existence would be destroyed if it were.

Sensible and sophisticated political philosophers in the Western liberal tradition such as Thomas Hobbes knew that when he wrote Leviathan in the seventeenth century, at a time when intractable political conflicts were exacerbated by religious fervour, the feelings of collective persecution and self righteousness.

That kind of mutual atavistic hatred we see today with Hamas and the Israeli Likud over the issue of Palestine.

That principle of universiality is presumably one that is meant to be at the heart of the UN's view of the world and defence of the notion that one should be free to have one's religious beliefs and not, as Cohen does, to conflate them with an enforced political affiliation or some brainwashing which clearly does not refer to all forms of religious belief.

Islam like all world religions is 'multi-vocal' and contain very many contrasting traditions and strands within them, no less than Christianity did in seventeenth century Britain when the modern idea of human rights and liberal democracy began to be developed in its nascent form from the Bible.

Different interpretations of religious scripture and authority can produce very different political doctrines and ideas about political order, the basis for sovereign power and legitimacy. Islam is no exception, though Grayling never bothers to look into it because the Progress of the West has made all religion a redundant relic of modern mankind's prehistory.

Grayling should stick to Logical Positivism and Wittgenstein because his grasp of political philosophy is weak and his view of religion a vulgarised one that can only see Muslims as benighted people capable of civilisation but as yet incapable of throwing off their mental shackles.

A Rejoinder to A C Grayling.

The public debate about the role of religion in British society has not been so heated for a long time. For some, such as the philosopher A C Grayling, the battle against primitive superstition is never won and the prominent space given to Islam in the media since the Salman Rushdie Affair of 1989 has re-ignited passions about religion.

One thing that secular atheists seem to hate more than anything else is the claim that their outlook is, actually, somewhat similar to a belief system, as opposed to a simple statement of rational facts against which those who disagree have had their minds perverted and shackled by religion.

The following exchange is typical of the tedious and somehow parochial nature of these spats by people who can't see clearly the connections between religion and politics or who conflate terms like 'atheist' and 'secular' to defend a particular worldview from having its underlying assumptions challenged.

For example in the Guardian, Andrew Brown wrote about,'

I was listening on Friday morning to a confused debate in the Conway Hall among atheists and secularists about what to do about Islam. Although it was billed as organised by the Council for Ex-Muslims, the crowd of about 300 was overwhelmingly white and middle-aged and looked to me more like long-standing members of the British Humanist Association'

Brown then went on sarcastically,

On the platform were a couple of Iranian refugees who really have been threatened by a fascist theocracy; there was a Dutch defender of Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who thought she had done entirely the right thing in moving to an American rightwing thinktank; there was A C Grayling of this parish, who called her a friend but doubted her wisdom in going to America. From the sporadic clapping and counter-clapping, it was obvious that sentiment in the hall was deeply divided over whether home-grown fascism was a greater danger than religion.

Grayling retorted tartly like a C of E vicar with his knickers in a twist,,

What a travesty of a report, Andrew; perhaps meditating what tendentiousness you could muster in response to the extraordinary courage of some dozens of people there who had chosen to think for themselves and free themselves from the superstitions that oppress so many of their ex-coreligionists - and at considerable personal risk to themselves.

You are a perfect example of a person whose zeal to defend fairy stories makes you dishonest and mean-minded. Once upon a time your sort did to those who think for themselves what the mullahs would like to do to the brave men and women at that conference: confined now to snideries, your essential poverty of outlook is on magnificent display here.

The florid hyperbole of this is so wonderfully fruity and over the top that I had to respond, though I usually stay clear of atheism debates which are dominated by splenetic middle aged men how are still stuck in some mindset from the high point of secularism and liberal social democracy from the 1970s.

Rather like Francis Wheen they seem to think the world as they knew it somehow ended from around 1979-1980 and that reason has been on retreat, instead of on a steady advance, since the Thatcher and Reagan came to power and Islamic fundamentalism was kick started by the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the Islamic Revolution in Iran.

My response to this nonsense this morning was,

Secularism should not be conflated with atheism. Yet secularism itself is part of a Christian cultural inheritance and started off with the need to seperate political and religious authority that began in Britain in the seventeenth century.

The flaw in AC Grayling's thinking is turning secularism into some progressive crusade of militant Enlightenment that can become very puritanical, squeamish and intolerant.

The fact that Grayling takes secularism as the starting point with which atheism is must be the historical end point and that this must be accelerated at all costs is bound to create conflict because it conflicts with deeply held needs.

Religion is more than simply a set of superstitions but reflects the human need for myth and to make sense of human experience. No less than Grayling's faith in secular progress which acts in the same way to an extent.

Now it is absurd to push this too far and suggest Grayling is some secular equivalent of a religious fundamentalist because he does argue from the standpoint of reason and evidence.

That's why Brown's piece comes across as silly because, as Grayling points out correctly, people are being tortured and killed in the name of religion in places like Saudi Arabia and Iran.

However, the crusade for militant Enlightenment can also dovetail with a belief in liberating people from the tyranny of theocratic totalitarian regimes, where politics is religion, by invading nations such as Iraq.

Grayling will, no doubt groan at this and wave it aside as of marginal relevance when compared with the intentional and brutal killing that goes on in the name of religion.

Yet it cannot be because it was opposition to some seamless totalitarian religion that led Christopher Hitchens to support the invasion of Iraq and to believe that all conflicts in the Middle East are caused primarily by religion.

God is not Great How Religion Poisons Everything is a statement of such a belief that if the toxin of religion were cleansed away then somehow conflict stricken zones would be far less likely to exist.

Yet most conflicts are political in origin to which end fundamentalist strains of religion simply 'up the ante'. Sophisticated writers on politics and religion like Malise Ruthven in his A Fury for God can take that on board.

To suggest all religion is just inherently prone to corruption ignores the fact that humans themselves are inherently corrupt. Any belief system can be used to rationalise killing if taken too far.

Secular atheist progressivism is merely yet another example where those who are so barbaric and deny human rights are so demented that we need not stick exactly to the UN conventions on torture.

This is essentially the position of Christopher Hitchens whose book Grayling regards as the 'definitive' and most 'comprehensive' treatment of the 'anti-religion' case.

The inhumanity done in the name of religion by fundamentalists makes the case for the seperation of religious from political authority. That case needs to be pressed against Islamists and their 'political religion'

What it does not do is make the case for trying to cleanse public life of religion entirely and to do so on the false premise that this will remove conflict rather than inflame it further.

The Atheism Debate in Britain-The Bigger Picture.

There are so many misconceptions and conflations of different things whenever atheism and the role of religion in society or politics is discussed.

Atheism is not a religion but it is imprinted indelibly by the Christian monotheistic God that it denies. Pushed too far it can lead to atheism underpinning 'secular religions' like Communism.

The very notion of Progress is a view of history not as a cyclical process but of a linear ascendancy in which humanity will become more perfect and less degraded by primitive superstitions.

The current trend of secular fundamentalism is based firmly on such beliefs and have a religious aspect because the idea is that by getting rid of all religion people will become wiser and saner.

This is why secular fundamentalists from Grayling and Hitchens are always ready to deny the atheist credentials of Soviet Communism and to blame it only on traditions of Russian despotism.

It should be remembered that often the staunchest atheists in the past such as Thomas Hobbes, at a time when religion was all dominant, still understood the natural desire of man for religion as a rationalisation of human experience and a quest for order.

The religious impulse is dangerous but it is, in reality, ineradicable and to pretend otherwise is a Utopian illusion worthy of the most shallow considerations of religion harboured by fundamentalists.

This is why Dawkins and Grayling are useful when it comes to deflating the messianic nonsense of Christian fundamentalists, though they generally don't give that much time to the Islamic kind which is just another fanaticism.

However, the thing to bear in mind is not to see Islamic fundamentalism or Islamism just as a religious phenomenon but as a political one with complex causes.

The failure to deal with the political causes of Islamism, as well as the conditions of social atomisation and anomie that currently incubate it here in the West too, only intensify the perception that 'Islam' is being 'demonised'.

In turn, that simply confirms to those who see Western hypocrisy over Iraq and the propping up of dictatorships to procure the oil that underpins Western prosperity that secular atheism is part of that 'decadence'.

Religious impulses exist because people want to rationalise their experience of the chaos of life caused by the perennial problems of human greed, selfishness, hypocrisy, and meaninglesness.

One of the main reasons this urgency went away in post-war Britain was the consumer boom and the temporary success of liberal social democracy and secularism which reached its high point in the 1960s and 1970s.

With the return of economic crisis, scarcity, looming resource wars and global insecurity, the placid virtues of that period will soon yield to the threat of political religions as they did in the 1930s.

The secular atheist humanism offers no solution to these problems, no even the beginnings of a solution, simply because secularism and the decline in the belief in God was due to it becoming irrelevant where pleasure became the pursuit of humans.

This please and the divertions it has allowed through consumption have, however, placed severe limits on the environment and the belief of secular humanists, that just by getting rid of religion there could be less poverty and more security for all, runs up against the reality.

Not least, where Islamic fundamentalism is strong because since the post-war period Western nations have supported nasty regimes so as to get the cheap oil that has underpinned Western prosperity.

A C Grayling's Missionary Atheism.

A C Grayling has written yet another misconceived polemic about the necessity of regarding religious belief as some kind of disease of the mind that brave people are prepared to overcome by renouncing their Islamic religion despite the charge of apostasy and death threats.

I responded to his Guardian piece Free to Think for Themselves ( Guardian October 16 2008 ) with the following response.

Yet again Grayling is conflating the political and the religious in the same way as fundamentalists do because he regards Islam as essentially fundamentalist when the Qu'ran does not demand the death penalty for apostasy.

This does not mean that Grayling is wrong to speak out against this and he makes it clear that being against the 'crime' of apostasy is also part of a broader struggle against the death penalty.

What Grayling is terminally incapable of realising or recognising is that all the world's religions are multi-vocal and not one rigid monolithic force representing the continued existence of dark barbarism versus the sweetness of enlightenment and reason.

Indeed Grayling himself belongs firmly in the militant Christian and Enlightenment tradition of believing that 'the truth will set you free' no less than Dawkins who also shares this form of humanism.

The earnest proselytising tone when lauding the unshackling of Muslim minds from superstitions and the healing process, presided over by the tender and wise guardians is very characteristic of C19th missionary Christianity .

The problem with propaganda for the Council of ex-Muslims and the worthies of the National Secular Society and British Humanist Association is that it condemns Islam whilst remaining in ignorance of the political conditions that have been crucial in the rise of Islamism.

Within Britain there is a problem with the cultural pressure to remain within Islam and the law of the land must be enforced against those who issue death threats for apostasy.

Yet the contradiction is that liberal democracy, in Grayling's view, depends on the free choices of the autonomous individual. So for Grayling if Muslims choose to support 'Islamism' then it just can't be a 'real' choice but depends wholly on social conditioning.

The problem is that increasingly it is and this has nothing to do with the widespread hold of sinister clerics over the minds of the young but more to do with the 'information age' where the sight of Muslims being oppressed and killed in their own lands leads to a burning hatred of 'Western' hypocrisy.

The problem is primarily political with forms of politicised religion upping the stakes. Given that Grayling's brand of militant Enlightenment can be used as a justification for invading Muslim majority nations, to spread civilisation to the benighted natives, then missionary liberal beliefs are another example.

One need only look at the propaganda of a Christopher Hitchens for that. True, not 'every' missionary liberal agreed with Iraq but not 'every' Islamist believes in in the death penalty for apostasy, even though like Tariq Ramadan they are mealy mouthed and craven when trying to rationalise their creeds.

Denying that choosing to be an Islamist can ever be truly rational as Grayling does is bound to irk those for whom it is the apex of personal subjective committment to 'the cause' of liberating the Middle East from secular tyrannies that the West has backed in order to procure stability and cheap oil.

Many Islamists are militant progressives who want to get rid of false forms of statist Islam that uphold tyranny and injustice. Islamism is a political ideology that can incorporate many trends from within Islam and Western revolutionary ideology.

Progressive Islamists like Ramadan or Ghannoushi remain dismissive of atrocities committed in the name of Islam because they will just see it , rather like Marxists did with any 'really existing socialist regime', as not real Islam that is being propagated.

The reason is that actions chosen consciously and in full realisation of their significance, from wearing the hijab to joining militant political groups, is seen as a revolutionary action.

The personal is political and Western identity politics has been embraced by those who value the potential for global solidarity against the US power regarded for long as the Great Satan by very secular Westerners who saw is Enlightenment fundamentalism as a way of imposing Empire.

Grayling needs to think outside the parochial mindset of nineteenth British liberalism and not just rehash Bertrand Russell's arguments without the lucidity or even the humour. At least, Russell back in 1920 understood the connection between 'Mohammedanism' and Bolshevism.

Most of the problems looming ever more ominous in the relationship between 'the West' and the lands of Islam are geopolitical in origin and concern the struggle to appropriate resources like oil and gas which are essential to underpin consumerism, the great car economy and tourist travel.

For Muslims and non-Muslims alienated by the hypocrisy and greed of 'the West' the potential for them to embrace psychopathological ideologies is becoming greater and this is mirrored on the mssionary liberal left with Hitchens conflating all Islamists necessarily as 'Islamofascists' and Bin Ladenists.

The consequences could be truly tragic and catastrophic.

The Illusions of Evangelical and Militant Atheism

The words militant atheist refer to those who regard religion as some kind of toxin that poisons society by the very fact it can become a dominant part of somebody's psychological make up. That's quite clear from Hitchens' book God is Not Great.

Militant atheists are those who want to push society in one direction and destroy religion's power by destroying the religion meme by exposing people to the real truth where all become enlightened after having cast off their 'celestial comfort blankets'

This revelation of truth is fervently believed to be necessary to create a happier society. Many of these militant atheists are middle aged adolescents brought up on Monty Python and who still cherish the high point of secularism and liberal social democracy reached in the 1970s.

As such it is a legacy of the monotheistic Christianity that the atheists rail against with the smug certitude of evangelisers for the one true faith. Many pedestrian atheists simply parrot bits of the texts and scriptures they like, such as The God Delusion to 'prove' their point.

Naturally, Dawkins and Grayling are somewhat like C of E vicars, but certainly far more earnest about the importance of 'religion' which they generally take as being Christianity and God, with some occasional references to Islam and 'Islamofascism'.

If militant atheism made people better or cured them, it would then still be necessary to explain why Hitchens sees the conflict between secular civilisation and 'Islamofascist' barbarism in manichaean terms as a conflict between lightness and dark, between night and day.

Most informed people do not see the world's problems in this stark apocalyptic way. Religion does not cause wars and terrorism but certain interpretations of it 'up the ante' and exacerbate political conflicts over scarce resources such as oil and water.

Militant atheist believers take a moment in Western civilisation in the post war period and see it as the apex of progress and the approximation to an ideal society from which we are now retreating at our peril. Darker forces from the benighted past are dragging us back.

So there are those 68ers like Hitchens who believe exporting secular civilisation by force might be the solution. By defeating 'Islamofascism', the last kick of a dying Islam, the world can be driven towards a just order of rationality, sweetness and light.

Where people do not read to take succour from moth-eaten texts and absurd religions but from books written by intelligent and lucid people who enlighten and entertain.

Where quoting bits of knowledge and a 'leisurely walk across the library' will take its place as well as exchanging knowledge over the coffee and cheese and wine evenings that will replace all that religion, draughty churches, and compulsory RE lessons.

Now there are atheists, of course, who do not have a fetish for getting the sure frisson of pleasure out of telling people that their often harmless illusions are redundant or that death is final. They just know it.

Life is largely meaningless and painful and death a release e.g as in Schopenhauer who was an atheist but, as John Gray suggested, had no desire to deconvert the world

Yet the neurotic repetition of the same propaganda by atheists like Christopher Hitchens is a pose a bit like that of the Marquis de Sade. If a person knows death is final, then he must want a reason why everybody should accept that and not delude themselves.

In fact, for everyone to accept death as final so we can get on with life is meant to give some kind of cold comfort no less than the Spaghetti Monster that one can laugh at. Laughter brings us into the company of others who can 'get over themselves' and the supposed 'seriousness' about God.

Yet its no less a form of lying to yourself. Not only is death final nor does the ideal of the good society change anything or hold out the prospect of a better life for all. Not least for those who are not Dawkins, for example his fans, who will be forgotten when stone dead.

In Michel Houellebecq's Atomised, the scientist Walcott makes the following observation on the English which could serve at the epitaph to these delusions of importance and divertion through work and humour,

People often say that the English are very cold fish, very reserved-that they have a way of looking at things-even tragedy-with a sense of irony. There's some truth in it; it's pretty stupid, though.

Irony won't save you from anything: humour doesn't do anything. You can look at life ironically for years; there are some people who seem to go through most of their lives seeing the funny side, but in the end life always breaks your heart....

......That's when you stop laughing. After that, there's just the cold, the silence and the loneliness. You might say, after that, there's only death'

Paradoxically, the very mental vice of 'belief in belief' that militant atheists rail against is central to the progressive myth behind the creed of Dawkins, Grayling Hitchens et al. They need it it in order to furnish mental strength against all evidence to the contrary.

If God is dead, then certainly so too is Progress.

New Atheism Missionaries for Evangelical Secularism

Nothing is more likely to annoy militant atheists than the view that Progress no less than the God that Freud wrote about in his The Future of an Illusion is a myth. As can be seen from the response here from one frantic disbeliever,

The evidence is clear that the world evolves and changes, societies evolve and change, we seem to be roughly optimising with some good changes and come bad. You can call it 'progress' if you like, but things are indisputably better for more people now than just about any other era in history.

That's conflating evolution necessarily with progress. Yet the view that history ascends on a linear trajectory is a myth that comes from Christianity. There is progress to be sure as humans ingeniously develop ways of making themselves more comfortable, healing the sick and curing diseases etc.

Yet the increase in knowledge has never made people sane or reasonable nor outside the developed world has the suffering of ever more vast masses of people been eased. Africa has got worse in recent decades and the very wealth and consumerism of the West is powered by diminishing supplies of oil.

The knowledge that is used to cure can also be used to kill on a massive scale. The research that led to the X Ray and spitting the atom etc also led to the Atom Bomb. Harbingers of progress like H G Wells were wrong about the twentieth century whilst writers like Dostoevsky predicted it better.

And God isn't dead, he's always been purely imaginary

When Freud called religion an illusion in the 1920s he meant that whereas in the past it might have seemed reasonable to presuppose the existence of God, there was certainly no grounds for it now. The prediction was that religion would lose its hold over minds as it did until the 1970s in the West.

The problem is that the consumer society destroyed religion more than anything else but with the return of privation, economic volatility, the conflict over resources and the psychopathology of nations and power blocks competing over them, religion is returning in disguised forms.

The idea of God and Heaven is only slightly more irrational than the idea that a consumer Utopia will arise across the entire globe and that it will happen alongside the eradication of all religion. The hope is no less absurd than life after death. Though it might constitute a form of death-in-life.

Then the militant atheist replies,

I won't know or care if I'm forgotten after I am dead or not. I got through 14 billion years of being unknown before I was alive so I suspect that the time after I am dead will be similarly painless for me.

Well, there was no 'you' to 'get through' anything. So if you find yourself alive after so many millennia of non-existence and know in advance that you will travel to sure extinction, the best thing to do is to understand why the world is in the current condition it is. On that score, many militant atheists refuse to look at the reality

Indeed simply repeating that God is a delusion and that most of the world's suffering happens because of a God Delusion sets up the equally futile delusion that just by getting rid of religion people will necessarily become saner, wiser and happier, as if greed, hypocrisy, and stupidity did not exist before Christianity.

That's an invertion of religious hope but a religious expectation of deliverance none the less. Those who believe neither in God nor in the idea of Progress are more realistic. As the poet Philip Larkin had it in Aubade when he wrote of 'The sure extinction that we travel to/And shall be lost in always',

This is a special way of being afraid
No trick dispels. Religion used to try,
That vast, moth-eaten musical brocade
Created to pretend we never die,
And specious stuff that says No rational being
Can fear a thing it will not feel, not seeing
That this is what we fear - no sight, no sound,
No touch or taste or smell, nothing to think with,
Nothing to love or link with,
The anasthetic from which none come round.

For a start much religion has in the West become a private belief system to help cope with experience. Death is still frightening to many, or at least the prospect of premature death. Outside the West this is still the situation for most, whilst within the USA, religion as fundamentalism is still a force.

That's what really annoys Dawkins, Dennett, Harris, Grayling et al. The experience of US Christian fundamentalism is most disturbing because it was never meant to happen. Yet not even the neocons, as represented by Bush and hated by Dawkins, really believe anything but power.

If the USA is going to be the world power, to send so many of its people to fight and protect its interests, then obviously the utility of religion is provide a sense of missionary purpose. If Iraq was about oil, then no person with a stake in US pride and power will admit that openly any more than they will say marrying their wife was really about sex.

Now those like Dawkins admire the USA, its science, money invested in research and much of its secular foundations as a civilisation but if that depends on Empire, then obviously large numbers of people who defend it will tend to believe that God protects it or that the deaths in Iraq are 'worth it'.

The idea that the USA went into Iraq because of Christian fundamentalism is absurd: it was just the necessary credo to draw on in order to mobilise people and rationalise what was obviously a resource war. A war misconceived but part of a general trend towards maintaining Western hegemony.

So if one prefers the alternative with the barbarians knocking at the gates, as Sam Harris refers to Muslims, then it is logical to assume that the irrationality of Christian fundamentalism and a missionary credo to free the world is essential to procure the oil upon which consumerism and atheism depends.

Atheism or lack of belief can retain ground in Britain and Western Europe because it knows that the USA is always there to protect it, even when know they can mock Bush or being a 'religious nut'. Much Anti-Americanism in Europe is based on that cheap sentiment and the hatred of fundamentalism and the US believing its 'simply the best'.

So many who mock religion are those who can afford to because they have and perhaps never will be in a terrifying life or death situation. It's part of the repudiation of the bleak Britain of WW2, austerity and the privation of those years along with the protection afforded under the nuclear umbrella in the Cold War years and a placid social democracy.

The real test of whether atheism is a serious belief system for many which is not contingent on consumer plenty and long term employment and the future being infinitely better will be tested in the coming decades. Certainly, there has already been a rise in support for 'political religions' like Islamism within the West as well as fellow travellers from Trotskyist groups.

Written first on Sunday, 16 November 2008

The Myth that ONLY Blair was Responsible for the Iraq Resource War.

Nothing is more stupefying than the illusion of commenters and "anti-war" protesters continue to spout forth a silly view of Blair as some smiley faced psychopath who dragged Britain into a war that was at once criminal and against its interests.

That Iraq turned out to be a catastrophe and has not actually succeeded in getting more oil out of Iraq has led some to then try and spin it that Blair's vanity was to blame and the needlessness of the conflict means he has 'blood on his hands'.

Whilst he does and a strong case can be made for putting him on trial for breaking international law and 'lying' to the people of Britain, I do not share the view of those like New Labour MP Diane Abbot who writes,
Blair's support for Bush has made him fabulously popular in America, particularly corporate America, and he is now making millions out of that popularity.

It would be unfair to ascribe his support for the war to an anticipation of this lucrative outcome. But what does seem true is that, for Blair, standing on a podium shoulder to shoulder with the swaggering George Bush was dizzying stuff. So dizzying that everything else was subordinated.

The disastrous humanitarian results for the people of Iraq were also something that did not apparently concern Blair overmuch. In the end, it was all about Blair.

I knew at the time that it was an illegal and misconceived war and was proud to vote against it.

Well, its good Abbott voted against it but it's not true that the war was all about Blair it reflects the collective failure of Parliament and the entire British political class and media to hold the executive power to scrutiny and account.

The reason is that the UK needs the oil in Iraq. This drove Blair into war in Iraq as David Strahan makes clear,

....there is still only a remarkably vague understanding of the real reason behind the invasion. True, evidence of the intense interest of the international oil companies continues to build.

Both BP and Shell have assessed the condition of oilfields for the Iraqi government in the hope of securing major deals when conditions improve, Chevron has a team waiting over the border in Kuwait, and only last week ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson said in London "We look forward to the day when we can partner with Iraq to develop that resource potential."

But despite the oil major's undoubted interest and influence, the decision to attack was not taken in the boardroom. Iraq was indeed all about oil, but in a sense that transcends the interests of individual corporations, however large.

Blair too had reason to be anxious about oil: British North Sea output had peaked in 1999 and has been falling ever since,while the petrol protests of 2000 had made the importance of maintaining the fuel supply excruciatingly obvious.

The British government has never conducted its own assessment of when global oil production will peak, at least not one it has made public, and despite being urged to as part of its 2006 Energy Review. But it is significant that two of Blair's closest advisors believe the event will happen by around 2015.

Britain and America's shared energy fears were secretly formalised during the planning for Iraq. It is widely accepted that Blair's commitment to support the attack dates back to his summit with Bush at Crawford in April 2002. The Times headline was typical that weekend: Iraq Action Is Delayed But Certain.

What is less well known is that at the same summit Blair proposed and Bush agreed to set up the US-UK Energy Dialogue, a permanent diplomatic liason dedicated to ?energy security and diversity?. No announcement was made, and the Dialogue's existence was only later exposed through a US Freedom of Information enquiry.

Iraq was evidently not just about corporate greed but strategic desperation.

Abbot evades the big picture because as Freud said "people cannot bear too much reality". The exclusive focus on Blair is comforting: it means that without devious leaders and a dissembling Establishment we can continue our addiction to EasyJet, wasteful consumerism and 'the great car economy'.

Over 1 million people are dead in Iraq because Western consumers do not want to change their lifestyles.

That includes probably most of the anti-war types who enjoy stimulating their adrenals at Ballardian style anti-war marches that acheive nothing but the illusion that change and to feel some kind of emotion and oceanic feeling, what Milan Kundera called the kitsch of the Grand March

As Tolstoy once said,

Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.

Now people do not like being told that they share responsibility for the fact that their lifestyles might have something to do with the reason both the US and UK governments invaded Iraq.

The issue of criminality is seperate from the fact that both Bush and Blair must have known there was a risk. They did not take action because they just crave war. For some that's just too complicated to take on board,

The hypocrisy that fakes the idea that somehow what Blair and the entire matrix of corporate oil interests and geostrategy that underpins Western development is somehow completely disconnected to 'what the people really want' needs to be challenged.

People want to maintain the living standards they are accustomed to. To be told in the future they will have to use public transport or to ration oil is not something politicians in a democracy want to do.

As the text from Strahan I cited and other experts who have researched the problem know, the invasion of Iraq is precisely about stable or falling oil prices in the long term and staving off the spectre off a systemic shock through Peak Oil.

Not only that, Saddam could sell his oil to China as well. To control the oil was important and the invasion was not directly concerned with big oil corporations making a profit ( another evasion-its only the greedy oil barons execs etc etc ).

Face facts: if you drive an SUV, fly EasyJet or use far too much oil then get used to the dead and dying in places where the pathological competition for oil is set to make the C21st an epoch of Resource Wars, authoritarian governments and terrorism.

Finding alternatives and changing the way we think about our energy intensive lifestyles is as imoprtant as opposing what Blair did. Note that Britains North Sea oil began to run out and note the effect the high price of fuel had on opposition to New Labour in 2000

The West needs and is overdependent upon oil in highly dangerous places and some of the nations who have assisted the USA, the "coalition of the willing"

This included at various stages, Spain, Bulgaria, Poland, Italy, Romania, Moldova, Georgia, The Czech Republic, Ukraine, Slovakia, Singapore, Azerbaijan, Japan, Tonga, Macedonia, Albania, El Salvador, Portugal, The Netherlands, Hungary, New Zealand, Thailand etc .

But the occupation of Iraq was all about Blair. Right ? Then why did they assist ? Because they liked Blair, because his Tone was just so convincing ? Or perhaps they has a stake in Iraqi oil and wanted to join in, if European, in advancing NATO's 'credibility' as an organisation enforcing energy security.

Oil supplies are declining inexorably in most nations. Any person with a rudimentary knowledge would grasp that fact. And Western and 'developed nations' know that which is why they were so willing to help once the USA went in.

There is a need to challenge the infantile lynch mob mentality. Blair should be tried for breaking international law but nobody should pretend that state actors are not willing to bend the rules all the time where pipeline interests or oil is concerned.

Or that continued oil and gas underpins the very fabric of consumer existence in the developed world and that in most contemporary struggles whether between Russia and the West, the "Colour Revolutions" ( In Iraq was the Purple Revolution in 2005 ) and China for control of Eurasia are not about control of oil supplies.

Holding Blair to account is one thing. It isn't an either-or question . But also holding that the lifestyle that the vast majority of people in the West take for granted and which consumes far more oil than most other nations combined isn't driving the USA in particular is very foolish.

Its time to look at the big picture.

Many in the "coalition of the willing" were NATO states and did so as independent states but also because they believe that 'the West' ought to stay together and defend Western energy interests which is fast becoming the view of NATO ever more despite the Iraq War.

Thats the reason why 'New European' and those committed to expanding NATO figured so highly in the coalition of the willing'. People often don not get that. They think the USA and UK somehow operated 'without Europe' by which they mean Germany & France.

Yet a considerable number of states aspiring to NATO joined in the occupation of Iraq. Think of Poland, a most willing model pupil. There is barely a murmur in the streets of Warsaw about it. Nobody calling Kwasniewski a war criminal.

But all these states joined in to strengthen their profile as clients of the USA no less than Blair did when committing the UK, Why did all these states do so ? Because they just love war and slaughter so some can profit ? Or could there be energy security behind it ?

There is nothing different from my position than when e.g Orwell criticised those who criticised the Empire but at bottom would not have much interest in it being reduced to an insignificant island where we all ate herrings and potatoes.

The problem is that radicals comp too much on the words of Chomsky, who only briefly deals with oil interests in so far as they relate to the corporate greed of Halliburton though in What We Says Goes ( 2007 ) he seems to think the crashing effects of Peak Oil might be good.

That is of course if the mutual competitions for resources has not triggered off a destabilised the globe, as the doctrine of pre-emption is all about that, though Chomsky denies Iraq is about this and only ever about the USA's Imperial elites.

This critique is threadbare now as his formative experiences were in an age of abundance when the West was pre-eminent.

Focused primarily on US actions only, Chomsky as a radical critic of Vietnam understand geopolitics but refuses to accept the truth of Bertrand Russell's observation that most people can happily ignore imperial policies abroad if it brings wealth to the majority of people.

Certainly, the military industrial complex no doubt has something to do with the War in Iraq in accordance with the idea of "creative destruction", destroying the old and providing construction contracts and private security companies with new opportunities.

But the main geostrategic reason was the need for stable or falling oil prices, the growing instability of Saudi Arabia, the need to control oil in the face of China's ascendency as well as looming Peak Oil and the fact that the sanctions had destroyed Iraq's oil producing capacity.

Historians will still be debating this in years to come but it seems to me that the idea that oil is not central and that Blair is just serving the interests of a certain class of greedy corporations is way oversimplified and a way of rationalising complex events.

Yes, greed plays its part but more disturbing questions need to be asked. As Micheal T Klare does in Blood and Oil when he sees the USA's push for oil as inherent in the way the US consumer society has developed around excessive use of oil and the car especially the SUV.

Chomsky doesn't address these kinds of issue because like most progressives he believes that it isn't the depletion of a finite resource that causes wars but the nature of corporate power, the arms industry and so on, things that might be changed by democratic activism.

But I'm more pessimistic. It seems that democracy can also require that the happiness of the people requires consumerism and wastefulness to divert them from having to challenge what the men in control do because they know what's best.

And that means promoting a world of tourist travel, the liberation provided by the car etc all of which demands large and even increasing extraction of oil and which will generate pathological struggles and proxy wars between the Great Powers.

If you think Iraq is bad, then this is just a harbinger of things to come if alternatives to oil and conserving and curtailing excessive consumerism is not done. But that means telling people what they don't want to hear, that cheap flights are finished,that luxuries we have cannot continue.

There are no votes in it.

Western oil interests swarmed into Iraq after the US invasion. They supplied troops because they also wanted a slice of the pie as regards reconstruction and to get Iraqi oil pumping again to supply the insatiable needs of Western consumerism. They were not 'forced' nor 'bullied'.

Spanish oil interests were represented by Repsol and Italy by groups like Eni who competed to develop Iraqi oil fields.

And those states that objected to the invasion of Iraq like France did for realpolitik reasons not through principle and because prior to the invasion they already had interests there served well enough by Saddam. Once Saddam had been gone, it was business as usual.

Now France did so because it had oil interests and arms contracts suitably served by Saddam. One report in 2007 revealed,

Oil giants Total SA (TOT) and Chevron Corp. (CVX) have signed a services agreement that would lead to the two jointly exploring and developing hydrocarbons from one of Iraq's biggest oil fields once the country gets an oil law in place and security on the ground improves, people familiar with the deal say.

The two companies signed an agreement last year and are currently assessing above-ground conditions around Majnoon, Iraq's fourth biggest oil field, which sits near the border with Iran, and at least one other field in the south of Iraq, to see what development work is required

Total Oil is French. France sent no troops but its interests have been pursued vigorously since 2003.

"Oil supplywise" there is a difference. China is pursuing its oil interests across the globe without the hypocritical need to consider human rights a factor, like it does in Sudan for example.

As mentioned before, Chinese inroads on oil were another major factor driving the USA to war in Iraq and for Blair to follow, not least as North Sea Oil Peaked in 1999 and unlike Norway, Britain had not stored any for future use.

As for Germany, its history precluded involvement in the invasion but look at this report from February 2009,

"Iraq needs construction. Iraq needs investment. Iraq needs infrastructure," said Maliki's close adviser, Sadiq al Rikabi, who added that another high-ranking European official would arrive in the coming days. "We need to deal with industrialized nations to rebuild Iraq."

The latest in a growing list of countries Iraq has welcomed is Germany. On Tuesday, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier made an unannounced visit to Baghdad, expressing an interest in bolstering ties between the nations as sectarian violence has diminished in the oil-producing country.

According to Maliki's office, Germany opened a "commercial services" office in Baghdad on Tuesday for entrepreneurs who are seeking to expand their businesses in Iraq. During his trip, Steinmeier plans to visit Kurdistan, a semiautonomous region in Iraq's north where Germany plans to open a consulate in its capital of Irbil.

Iraq's oil reserves in the north and the south, the third largest in the world, are certain to lure additional European investors.

Now Latin American states had no need to join in the Iraq War as Argentina has oil from Venezuela, one reason why pipelines have been built recently and negotiated between Chavez and Kirschner.

The Latin American nations have enough oil as do India and Pakistan from 'the stans' , from reserves they have but only until 2016 when they will not suffice. Again India has had no qualms in effectively collaborating with the new regime

India, together with Algeria, is for the second time seeking to develop a major oil field in Iraq.

Algeria's state-owned monopoly and Indian energy majors have been discussing the prospect of joint development of a field in Iraq. Executives said India's Oil and Natural Gas Corp. and Reliance Industries have sought to develop the Tuba oil field in southern Iraq.

The non-willing are most willing now that the USA and the UK have done the dirty work for them. They are all too willing to let previous misunderstandings be forgotten and to 'move on' and focus on the practical problems posed by the 'reconstruction effort' in Iraq.

Blair went in to Iraq not because of his own psychopathology but because he had created a delusional pseudo-reality in which lying served the higher purposes of history and of the Good and because he was pushed by geostrategic desperatio.

Abbot can makes noises about US corporations because it makes gullible voters feel good: it means that there was no overriding necessity from the point of view of oil that pushed Blair into Iraq.

And , of course, that does not mean the action was not illegal or just criminal but actors like Blair can rationalise their actions according to a number of factors and the one that both he and his haters can't accept is oil as a strategic necessity not just because of corporate greed.

When oil is conceded as a motive it is just rationalised as the greed of 'Them' , the oil barons and Cheney etc . Never that the energy that fuels the lifestyles of most anti-war protestors comes from procuring oil from far off ravaged lands.

Blair isn't some cackling matinee villain. He pursued a policy which was designed to secure the energy security of Britain and the West the subsequent collusion of states that initially opposed the invasion just proves that this need is not exclusive to the UK

So whilst Blair is ultimately responsible for the committing the UK to an illegal invasion, let's not pretend it was against the interests of most people in Britain. It was in our name and in our interests as defined by the fetish for the Great Car Economy.

The fact that our interests might require great crimes to be committed is too unpalatable for the majority of simple minded people to accept: perhaps they need to ease their consciences by blaming Blair alone.

Criminal invasion, rigged elections force, fraud and collusion with dictatorships are all necessitated if we want SUV's, the dream of ever infinitely growing economies and a world of ever more consumer comfort.

Accept it, internalise it, and then think not only of how to reform the political system and bring Blair to accountability but also about how to campaign for alternatives to oil and about switching to a low oil intensive lifestyle.

Radicals often mention 'oil' with venom like hatred as if they didn't drive cars, fly EasyJet, or depend on an energy intensive lifestyle. Some might not but the comfortable majority of Britons do.

The bile towards Blair is justified but it does partly have much to do with people not like being lied to and because he epitomised what seems wrong with a Britain dominated by slimy and oily corporate spin.

But the if the spin is there to cover over the divide between democratic ideals and the grubby reality of the way the global economy and neoliberal turbo-capitalism has made democracy a folk ritual lets be honest why.

It is because there is something in humans that can contrive to ignore the suffering which makes our comfort possible. In global terms 'we' are the aristocracy and they in Iraq or in other oil colonies are the wretched.

A lot of protesters who cite one million do not really give a fig about dead Iraqis. They just like the statistic in order to hammer home polemics against a slimy Blair they hate.

The wise philosopher Alan Watts on witnessing the hysterical self righteousness of some anti-Vietnam protestors was moved to write that they,'hate the hatred of hating-three instead of one'.

Outrage is easy and comes as cheap as many would wish the the oil to be. Doing the legal footwork in bringing Blair to book is more difficult as is any major reconsideration that the existence we live in the West is fraudulent and based on illusions bred by excessive consumerism.

Many anti-war types sense the emptiness of it and need creeds to fight for and people to hate because they have no constructive alternatives to the present order with regards energy.Even Green humanists put it down to global inequality not overpopulation.

As militant progressives they fail to see conflicts like Iraq arising from clashing needs over resources that are caused by the sheer strain consumer existence puts on the world or the egotism of the idea of 'the individual'.

In fact, even opponents of the war share a militant apocalyptic creed that if only the existing system were overthrown, if only these criminals and capitalists were vanquished then there would be no need to invade Iraq.

Perhaps. But the need then would still be to tell consumers that the lifestyle they enjoy is not compatible with peace on earth and that war and terror in the West has only been displaced elsewhere by insatiable materialism.

Creeds like Marxism are materialistic: they tell people that people everywhere can have it all if only these set of exploiters and evil politicians and liars like Blair are cast down from power.It will not

This is Utopian. There are too many people on the earth for Western style comforts to be pursued by every nation and somehow nations have to agree in some way about how to develop sensibly.

The earth will be wracked with war and killing until the crack of doom because people are chasing this illusory goal of progress which is being undermined by the competition for diminishing resources.

Anti-war types have little chance of affecting politicians or public opinion.They might if "anti-war" leaders were really anti-war or anti-conflict as opposed to being in the tradition of Marxist-Leninists who espouse 'revolutionary defeatism', people like George Galloway, Kate Hudson, and Andrew Murray.

The StWC simply espouses slogans, gets people outraged to no effect than to then try and indoctrinate people to accept militant political views and apocalyptic creeds like Islamism which will merely up the ante over the clash over resources and create more bloodshed.

Any successful anti-war movement must first expel these people, reveal their agenda and reject them as demagogues who sway only by replacing one form of callous hypocrisy with psychotic nihilism.

The leaders of the established anti-war movement put people off sustained support for constructive alternatives because they are nihilistic fanatics with an appetite for revolutionary destruction and violence.

What is needed is something more alone the lines of the old Polish Solidarity, conscientious journalism, the use of law to bring people to account and persuasive intelligent leaders who don't spout stale platform rhetoric and hate fuelled rhetoric.

Moral persuasion, to infuse people with collective responsibility and protest that involves a certain measure of civil disobedience must take place. Anybody can spout anti-war slogans and then go home to their comforts.

Galloway is raking in money from his image as anti-war. He's a fake. As with people like Tariq Ali, they don't really care about dying Iraqis-they care about themselves, the kitsch of the Grand March, their role as heroic vanguards. They are self serving nincompoops.

This does not mean that those who oppose this war or who want a new foreign policy and energy alternatives are wrong. But there is going to be no mass movement for change if 'anti-war' movements are just trendy and led by idiots who use it to aggrandise their own careers.

But the wheat needs to be sifted fron the chaff. A principled anti-war movement must be based on clear alternatives to the present system with a clear sign that it knows what is at stake. The StWC just exploit outrage, A lot of sound and thunder signifying nothing.

Now certainly many people who opposed Iraq from the outset were fooled and the simplistic line is that Blair lied because he's just a liar or "Bliar" as opposed to lying in the cause of the 'ultimate truth' and which depends on deception.

Some people always knew Blair was being deceitful. In Britain what is considered lying over such an important decision itself is bound to be loathed or that in Britain where principles of fairness and honesty and supposedly cherished.

Those who supported the war tended to overlook the official pretexts because the war was deemed just by History and to remove an Evil Dictator, so in the service of a Higher Cause a certain amount of being economical with the truth did not matter.

But people can convince themselves sincerely that untruths are not lies but part of an essential truth and like Blair see what they want to see and disregard evidence to the contrary and I think that's what Blair did because of his messianic belief in Good vs Evil.

It is possible to regard the dissimulation and spin as part of a rationalisation and that this was done because it was believed that by getting rid of Saddam and his 'threat', that oil would flow, reconstruction would happen and those killed would be quickly forgotten by the survivors.

In some ways this crude utilitarian logic is similar to the one outlined by Dostoevsky in Crime and Punishment-get rid of the old parasites and accept a number of dead in a premeditated act of calculated aggression and quick terror and the victims will be offset by the benefits brought to humanity.

The political classes believed that because of the 'success' in Yugoslavia and Afghanistan ( by 2003 the failure was not obvious ) that if there was only enough will, then the world could be transformed by consequential acts of state violence backed by good intentions.

Stating what 'is' doesn't mean that it 'ought' to be the case. But pinning down facts first is crucial for understanding and expediency has always tended to triumph over ethics and that does not necessarily reflect mere greed, as the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia proved.

One opponent objected to my case that,

But that is a matter of simple greed, not strategic necessity. The latter is merely a rationalisation or a propaganda lie to cover for the former. But systematic falsehood in politics, in order to justify violence for greedy ends, has always been with us, and long predates oil as a geopolitical concern. How do you think the Romans came to rule such an extensive empire?

Well, strategic necessity can include greed and in which case the vast majority of people in Britain are then greedy. People acquiesce in Empires because they can give enough people a stake in maintaining them and the Roman Empire is quite different from the US led world order of now.

For a start the economic order depends on oil. It is woven into the very way most people have decided is their idea of a good life of consumerism. Marxists can't accept this so they have to pretend that it's only Them, only the guilty elites who are complicit.

The radical opponent them claimed,

Our lifestyle does not depend upon controlling ME oil, and nor does our security, merely upon being able to buy it. And in almost any foreseeable circumstances we would be able to buy it, because those who control it want to gain money by selling it.

This delusionary drivel.

Current geopolitics is about control of diminishing supplies of oil and not about free market conditions for oil which do not apply to finite resources that are non-renewable. Marxists and neoliberals concur that normal market conditions apply. They do not.

Power depends on using control over the oil as a bargaining lever and to advance state interests against other states. That's what the invasion of Iraq was about. With the rise of China and the instability of Saudi Arabia, diversification and control are necessities.

Unable to grasp these elementary points, the radical ranter went on,

But had we not invaded Iraq, our lifestyles would be no worse now or in the foreseeable future (slightly better, in fact, without the trillions burnt up in Iraq).

Not really. Statesmen do not wait for the future to happen they try to determine it and that is the real meaning behind the concept of pre-emptive strikes. The fact that Iraq has hastened the problem of Peak Oil and reduced supply does not mean the authors of war intended that.

Which again is not a 'moral judgement' but just a statement that consequences can be different to the intended plans of those who make them. It has no relevance to the decision of Blair and Bush to go to war in 2003 which was still pushed by fears of Peak Oil & Chinese ascendency.