Sunday, 4 August 2013

Tony Blair: Prophet of Peace

'9/11, Afghanistan, Iraq, the Arab revolutions, Iran, Syria, Egypt, the spread of terror based on religious extremism – surely we can begin to see common threads in all of this..'
Writing in The Observer,  Tony Blair is interested, as he always was, in 'framing' the issues in order to look as though he were a skilled diplomat or 'expert' on Middle Eastern affairs. He was not as Prime Minister of Britain and he is clearly is not now. He is only updating his 'analysis' so as to better stay in the global media spotlight.

As such, when Blair writes on the Middle East, he has always one eye on maintaining his 'credibility' as regards the 'difficult decisions' he took when he was in office. After all, if Blair had not been Prime Minister of Britain he would not be Special Envoy for the Middle East Quartet

In many ways Blair is still trying to redraft History and his part in it. The paragraph below shows how he tries to seamlessly integrate his decision to join the US invasion of Iraq as a measure that only facilitated a change that was historically inevitable anyhow in the decade between 2003 to the present.
'It is now clear that the status quo in the region will not hold. The idea of the "strong man" government that keeps order, and that the rest of the world likes to deal with because it is predictable, has gone. It doesn't matter whether the "strong man" is of the psychopathic variety, such as Saddam, or the moderate variety, such as Hosni Mubarak, who kept peace in the region. This is the 21st century and the people want to shape their nation's politics. The choice is between evolution and revolution. It is equally clear: evolution is definitely preferable if it is attainable. Frankly, it would have been better in Syria.'
Blair is able to smooth over his role in backing Mubarak and praising him fulsomely before he was deposed as part of his 'realism' in dealing with dictators on the basis of whether they could preserve 'stability'. The contrast being set up here is with Saddam who was a pyschopath and who did not promote peace and stability.

Blair is attempting here to suggest that subsequent world leaders who see hope in the transition from dictatorship to democracy ( though there shall be, no doubt, a rocky "road map" ahead ) are essentially in continuity with Blair's earlier attempt to push that inexorable historical process forwards.

Blair's line over Iraq a decade on is that he knew there was a will amongst the Iraqi people to progress towards democracy. Even if people did not agree with Blair's decision on Iraq, his position, as set out in Tony Blair : A Journey, is that he could only act as he believed was right in the circumstances.

Indeed, his autobiography is interesting in that he requests that people consider that the jury is out with regards whether the invasion was right or wrong according to its consequences. That is why Blair, when faced with fresh evidence of rising sectarian violence, grasps at any evidence that there are 'hopes' for peace
'...even here, there was recently a seminal statement from Najaf by the Grand Ayatollah Ali al–Sistani, the most influential Shia cleric in Iraq, proclaiming the need for a civil, not religious state, in which all people had equal freedom to participate and disagreeing with those close to Iran who want Shia to go to Syria to fight for Assad alongside Hezbollah'.
Bizarrely, Blair seems to be rather like those true believers in communism in the 1930s who could not accept that the revolutionary project they had given their lives to had failed and caused massive bloodshed. Indeed, Blair is on the record as admiring Isaac Deutscher's 'Prophet' biographies of Leon Trotsky.

But this is less strange than it seems. Blair's 'liberal interventionism' was closely connected to the ideas buzzing around in the late 1990s and early 2000s about 'left wing cases' for using military force to rid the world of evil totalitarian dictatorships left over after the end of the Cold War.

That moment has now passed into history. Blair is desperately trying to prove his relevance to a 'peace process' in the Middle East and that the invasion of Iraq did not seriously retard that. He knows full well that the crisis in Syria is all the worse because the Iraq War let the sectarian genie out of the bottle.

The Iraq War also allowed Al Qaida to gain a foothold in the heart of the Middle East. It led to the creation of thousands of battle hardened jihadists, many of whom are now in Libya and many who have migrated to Syria. It made a bad situation worse and, ultimately, could now destabilise the entire Arab world.

No matter how Blair tries to even spin his role in history, his malign place in it both in Britain and the Middle East was assured by the invasion of Iraq in 2003. All Blair's attempts to fit the history of Iraq into a narrative of continuity in line with the subsequent history of the Arab Spring after 2011 is futile retrospin.

Ten years ago, it was the renowned historian of World War II, Richard Overy, who recognised Blair's illegal war for what it was at the time and who provided a real first draft of history against Blair's deranged vision that he and the Bush administration in Washington could remake it to order. This is the history that will stand.

History will damn them The Guardian, Saturday 20 March 2004
'War was planned long in advance against a soft Arab target that nobody much liked. The intelligence services knew that they were being asked to endorse fairy tales. The attorney general has come clean on how he was forced to turn an illegal war into a lawful war of defence against the Iraqi threat. The duplicity was systematic, and remains so. Blair has no regrets. He bays defiant nonsense about the terrible menace that has been removed, and the greater terrorist menace still at large. Not once has he expressed regret for what a dozen years of sanctions and war inflicted on the Iraqi people. Enough that his cause is just.
The view that oil is some kind of Marxist red herring is widespread. But in this case there can be no other conclusion. Oil installations and oil lines were captured and guarded first; the oil ministry was protected while priceless art treasures were being ransacked. The second largest oil reserves are now safe once again for the wider world market and the global oil companies. Popular ignorance about the nature of oil politics has played into coalition hands, just as popular indifference to the use of major US companies in rebuilding what the US armed forces knocked down has deflected debate from issues that should shock international opinion.
The most familiar argument in favour of the war, repeated mantra-like in all circles, is that a much-hated dictator has been overthrown. This week's opinion poll purports to show how grateful the Iraqis now are for their liberation. No one would wish Saddam Hussein back. The problem is that the reason for going to war was quite different. If unseating tyrants was the priority, Saddam should have been unseated long ago. War in 2003 was about protecting British and American interests, not liberating Iraq, a posture of self-interest rather than magnanimity. This was the same motive for declaring war on Hitler in 1939. It was not dictators that the west could not stomach, but the threat to their interests and way of life (again). 
In this sense, the analogy drawn last year that Saddam had to be confronted like Hitler was truer than might have been supposed. Parliament was bamboozled into accepting that Saddam posed an immediate threat to Britain. There were honourable motives for declaring war on Hitler, as there are for unseating Saddam, but that is not what, a year ago, we were offered. Liberation was the means to dress war up as legitimate. So much so that there must be a large number in Britain and the US who think that unseating Saddam really was the reason that war began.
One more battery turns on the anti-war lobby: look at Madrid, look at the daily attacks in Iraq or Israel. Blair was right. Terrorism is the chief threat we face, and the war against terror must unite us all. This has little to do with Iraq. Attacks against the occupiers were provoked by war. Attacks in Israel are part of a different struggle for Palestinian liberation. The assault in Madrid is part of a longer confrontation between militant Islam and western cultural and economic imperialism. Lumping them all together as evidence that a war against terror is the primary object of our foreign policy is nonsense'
This comprehensively destroys anything that Blair has subsequently offered as an attempt to justify his 'role' in history as ultimately benign. The only pity is that Blair will, very likely, never go to an international court to stand trial for his crimes. History, though, will damn him.

Blair is already feeling and fearing the judgement of posterity. He is a haunted man. No amount of self exculpation or rationalisation for the premeditated and illegal invasion of a sovereign nation, no amount of trying to play a 'positive role' now as Special Envoy, is going to make up for the barbarity he unleashed.

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