Sunday, 26 January 2014

Tony Blair on 'Religious Extremism'

'The fact is that, though of course there are individual grievances or reasons for the violence in each country, there is one thing self-evidently in common: the acts of terrorism are perpetrated by people motivated by an abuse of religion. It is a perversion of faith-

'Tony Blair on 'religious extremism' as the force for global conflict in The Observer, January 27 2014)

'Well, I think if you have faith about these things, then you realise that judgment is made by other people...If you believe in God, [the judgment] is made by God as well.".

Tony Blair to Michael Parkinson in 2006 on the decision to invade Iraq in 2003.

Likewise, the decision to invade Iraq could be considered to be at least partly motivated by a perversion of faith, a belief that both all dictatorships and all terrorism were alike motivated by a seamless global geopolitical Evil that could be comprehensively defeated by the USA and Britain.

Of course, the invasion of Iraq was based on geopolitical calculations,namely the idea of controlling the second largest oil supplies on earth and spreading democratic revolution across the Middle East through a 'domino effect' that would be stages in rolling back Assad's Syria and the Ayatollah's Iran.

Blair's evangelical zeal was probably far more sincere than Bush's born again Christianity but in both cases the war was about calculated strategies leavened by a militant and missionary foreign policy that appealed to scores of atheists, most noticeably the Anglo-American writer Christopher Hitchens.

There were some prominent atheists who disagreed with the Iraq War and chose to do it on the basis alone that the US was dominated by Christian Fundamentalists, such as President GW Bush pretended to be, and the fact that Blair was prepared to invoke God and religion in his decision for war.

Dawkins, however, remains largely ignorant of global geopolitics and peddles the banal idea that wars are all 'the fault of religion' or that only societies in which religion is predominant could wars be aided and abetted enthusiastically, the parochial conceit of those reaching maturity in a more secular Britain in the 1960s and 70s.

Most of the violence perpetuated by terrorists globally is largely due to politics and politicised versions of religion-or 'political religions'- that gain ground in lands beset with conflicts over territory, scarce resources from oil to diamonds and even water, and great power conflicts. This is the case in the Middle East.

Syria's crisis is a consequence of global climate change, increased scarcity of cheap food, an incompetent dictatorship that represented certain minorities which could no longer ensure sufficient living standards for all and the geopolitical contest between regional and global powers over pipeline routes and access to oil and gas.

Syria's civil war is in reality a series of civil wars between minorities created by the fracturing of the artificial state into warring factions that want to break away ( such as the Kurds into a new oil rich state ) and the Sunni Muslims who have less of a stake in gaining from new gas pipeline projects from Shia Iran and Iraq.

The way Blair draws attention to the Syrian Crisis at present is always, however, with a view to portraying it as a consequence of sectarian divisions and 'perverted faith' that has ramped up casualties without US and British intervention to levels surpassing his mendaciously low figure of 100,000 deaths in the Iraq War.
'At present, our screens are dominated by the hideous slaughter in Syria. We have to hope that the peace negotiations succeed. But with more than 130,000 dead – and, on some accounts, the total is nearer 200,000 – millions displaced and the country in a state of disintegration...'
When Blair gives his opinion on any matter of global significance, it is invariably connected to his attempt to consolidate his image as a 'visionary' statesman and guarantee his 'legacy' in world politics. And that, in turn, means attempting to rationalise the catastrophic impact the invasion of Iraq in 2003 has had.

Contrary to the claims that Blair is a 'psychopath' and a mere 'warmonger', Blair does have a conscience which is why he seems to be obsessive in trying to prove that his decision to back the US invasion was justified in the light of some broader providential plan for the world.

By claiming contemporary terrorist atrocities are part of a 'clear common theme' and that other world leaders must 'start to produce a genuine global strategy to deal with it', Blair is trying to argue that the hitherto underestimated potency and power of religious based terrorism derailed his plans for Iraq.

The line Blair takes is that had it not been for 'the acts of terrorism...perpetrated by people motivated by an abuse of religion', then democracy would have come to Iraq relatively quickly and it is they and not him who bears responsibility for the vast majority of the bloodshed.
'All over the region, and including in Iraq, where exactly the same sectarianism threatens the right of the people to a democratic future, such a campaign has to be actively waged. It is one reason why the Middle East matters so much and why any attempt to disengage is so wrong and short-sighted'.
Moreover, by maintaining that the sort of sectarian based religious violence is a 'growing' global threat, Blair can relativise the significance of the bloodshed in Iraq as one that is part of a wider trend that was just emerging at the time of his decision to invade Iraq to free it from a secular dictator.

The purpose of this propaganda is that Blair can absolve himself from the responsibility for the carnage in Iraq by trying to have it that this sort of sectarian violence was bound to break out anyway sooner or later. Just as governments have had to be 'engaged' over Syria, so too did he earlier with Iraq.

This way of 'framing' events in the Middle East over the past decade is meant to salvage Blair's reputation and it is motivated by vanity and egotism. All his efforts since being officially out of office are geared towards ensuring that he is retrospectively vindicated by History.

Even so, if that were the only aim Blair has, he could easily keep writing post ex facto justifications for the Iraq War and collecting vast amounts of money from his global lectures and speeches. But-and this is why Blair does have a conscience-he seems intent on promoting 'global harmony'.

Blair is obsessing with his 'place in history' because he does not want to be remembered only as the man whose decision brought widespread death and destruction to Iraq. So his 'TonyBlairFaithFoundation' is there 'to promote greater knowledge and understanding between people of different faiths'.

As a fairly recent convert to Catholicism, Blair can shift away from the Protestant idea of 'justification by faith alone' to one of atoning through a devotion to doing good work in the world by funding educational and exchange programmes and university courses to students across the world of faith.

Blair's message is that what happened in Iraq did not have to be that way. In fact, he was warned by numerous experts on the Middle East that an invasion to remove the secular dictator was going to lead to an outbreak of sectarian and ethnic tensions. Blair 'believed' it did would not happen that way.

So Blair is bound to blame violence on an 'abuse of faith' because his own decision to invade Iraq was based on a messianic faith based crusade to liberate the Middle East, one given impetus by the fact he had liberated the Muslim Kosovans in 1999 and the Afghans from the Taliban after 2001.

Blair is not going to cease trying to make up for-in his own way-the bad done in Iraq and that he blames on the evildoing of sectarian terrorists and not on himself because he believes he had the best of intentions. Blair knows all about faith based violence because his decision to go to war was based on it.