I had in mind to write about Tony Blair’s remarkable regurgitation of bloodlust and bile last week. The former British PM managed to tear himself away from his consulting work for dictatorships and other lucrative sidelines long enough to make a “major speech” calling for — guess what? — even more military intervention in the endless, global “War on Terror.” The fact that this war on terror — which he did so much to exacerbate during his time in power, not least in his mass-murder partnership with George W. Bush in Iraq — has actually spawned more terror, and left the primary ‘enemy,’ al Qaeda and its related groups, more powerful than ever, has obviously escaped the great global visionary. No doubt his mad, messianic glare — coupled with the dazzling glow of self-love — makes it hard for the poor wretch to see reality.
Anyway, I was going to take up Blair’s genuinely lunatic barrage at some point, but I find that Patrick Cockburn, as you might expect, has covered it well in a new piece, quoted below. The idiocy and irrationality of Blair’s speech are obvious, but they bear scrutiny because, unfortunately, they represent the dominant strain of thinking among Western leaders. We are led by people whose vision of reality is every bit as insane as those who think a suicide belt will send them to paradise: leaders who believe that all human activity, across the entire globe, must be bent to their will, and to their advantage — and that they have the right, the duty, to kill or ruin anyone who stands in the way of this pathological obsession.
I’m not speaking metaphorically. The behavior exhibited by Western leaders, especially since the launching of the Terror War — and especially in the Anglo-American alliance — would be regarded as criminally insane by any dispassionate diagnosis. This is seen in large matters — such as the hundreds of thousands of innocent people slaughtered in their criminal aggression in Iraq — and in small matters. For example, a story in the Guardian this week related how the courageous statesfolk in the U.S. Senate once again kowtowed to their masters in the National Security apparat, and removed a very mild requirement that the United States government issue an annual report telling us how many civilians it killed with its drone-assassination programs the previous year. No dice, said the security archons — and the Senate said, OK, boss!
But in the course of the story, the Guardian recalled how top Democrat Sen. Dianne Feinstein has been a staunch supporter of the remote-control assassination program, noting that “during a February 2013 confirmation hearing for CIA Director John Brennan, Feinstein stated that the CIA’s targeting procedures kills only “single digits” of civilians annually.” Try to imagine an ordinary human being standing up in court to defend a serial killer by saying that he only kills single digits of people annually.” Is that so wrong? Or hell, imagine your co-worker turning to you in the office and saying, “I ain’t such a bad person, you know; I probably don’t kill more than six or seven innocent people a year.” Try to imagine what kind of mindset believes that as long you hold your murder rate of innocent people to “single digits,” then that’s OK. What would you say if someone talked to you in that way? You would say, quite rightly, that they were insane. Criminally insane, and very dangerous.
Yet this is precisely the kind of madness that our leaders, across the political spectrum, exhibit day in, day out, year after year. And today, that mindset — a monomaniacal need for dominance coupled with a pathological lack of empathy and a delusional view of reality — is on the cusp of blundering us into some unimaginable conflagration with Russia, after bankrolling the armed overthrow of a democratically elected government in Ukraine. (More on this in an upcoming post.)
But perhaps no one exemplifies this madness better than Tony Blair. It seems to leap out from his unhinged face, you can see it in his frantic gestures and bulging eyes. Not for him the affectless cool of Barack Obama or the phlegmatic doddering of Dubya Bush; Blair foams with the fury of a desert zealot — albeit a zealot in a thousand-dollar suit, not a hairshirt or sackcloth and ashes. Cockburn takes his mad measure and dices up his idiocies well. It bears reading in full, but here are some excerpts:
Ayman al-Zawahiri, the leader of the core group of al-Qa’ida, may well chortle in disbelief if he reads a translation of Tony Blair’s latest speech on the Middle East delivered last week. If Blair’s thoughts are used as a guide to action, then the main beneficiaries will be al-Qa’ida-type jihadist movements. Overall, his speech is so bizarre in its assertions that it should forever rule him out as a serious commentator on the Middle East. Reading it, I was reminded of a diplomat in Joseph Conrad’s Secret Agent called Mr Vladimir who fancies himself an expert on revolutionaries: “He confounded causes with effects; the most distinguished propagandists with impulsive bomb throwers; assumed organisation where in the nature of things it could not exist.”
The speech, entitled “Why the Middle East matters”, is about the threat from radical Islam, what it consists of and how it should be countered. Mr Blair says that “there is a titanic struggle going on within the region between those who want the region to embrace the modern world and those who, instead, want to create a politics of religious difference and exclusivity.” On one side stand those who want “pluralistic societies and open economies”, on the other those who want to impose an exclusive Islamic ideology.
Here the reader might suppose that Blair is building up towards some sharp criticism of Saudi Arabia and its fundamentalist Wahhabi creed. What could be more opposed to pluralism in politics and religion than a theocratic absolute monarchy such as Saudi Arabia which is so notoriously intolerant of other versions of Islam, such as Shi’ism, as well as Christianity and Judaism, and is, moreover, the only place in the world where women are not allowed to drive? Here is the home country of 15 out of 19 of the 9/11 hijackers and of the then leader of al-Qa’ida, Osama bin Laden, whose religious views are rooted in mainstream Wahhabism.
Blair denounces those who espouse an Islamist ideology in which the ultimate goal “is not a society which someone else can change after winning an election”. Surely he should be thinking here about King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, his namesake in Jordan and the Gulf royals who inherited their thrones. But Blair goes on to make the astonishing claim that the guilty party in fostering extreme jihadist Islam is none other than the Muslim Brotherhood which stood for and won an election in Egypt before it was overthrown by the military.
It is worth quoting Blair again to get the flavour of his thoughts about what happened in Egypt last year. “The Muslim Brotherhood was not simply a bad government,” he says. “It was systematically taking over the traditions and institutions of the country. The revolt of 30 June was not an ordinary protest. It was the absolutely necessary rescue of a nation.”
This is demented stuff. If the Muslim Brotherhood had indeed been taking over Egyptian institutions such as the army, police and judiciary, they would not have been so easily overthrown by the army on 3 July. And what great Egyptian traditions were being eliminated by the Brotherhood other than that of rule by unelected military governments? … In reality, events in Egypt can only encourage recruitment by jihadi al-Qa’ida-type movements which will argue that the fate of the Brotherhood, which tried to take power democratically, shows that elections are a charade and the only way forward is through violence.
On Syria, Blair is a little more ambivalent about the future though he has no doubts what we should have done. He says that “in Syria, we call for the regime to change, we encourage the opposition to rise up, but when Iran activates Hezbollah on the side of Assad, we refrain even from air intervention to give the opposition a chance.” Presumably, by “air intervention” he means a Libya-style change of regime to put the opposition in power. But in Syria the armed opposition is dominated by the very jihadists – Jabhat al-Nusra, the official al-Qa’ida affiliate and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, formerly al-Qa’ida in Iraq – against whom Blair is warning the world. They now control an area the size of Britain in north and east Syria and north and west Iraq and can operate anywhere between Basra and the Mediterranean coast of Syria.
… As I read Blair’s speech I could not quite believe he was going to conclude by proposing the absolute monarchies of the Gulf, some of the most authoritarian and corrupt countries on earth, as suitable models for the rest of the Islamic world. But that is exactly what he does do, advising the West to stick by our allies “whether in Jordan or the Gulf where they’re promoting the values of religious tolerance and open, rule-based economies, or taking on the forces of reaction in the shape of Iran and the Muslim Brotherhood, we should be assisting them”.
It is a curious fate for the man who claims to have tried as prime minister to modernise Britain and the Labour Party that he should end up lauding these ultra-reactionary states. In the past few months Saudi Arabia has criminalised almost all forms of dissent, the Sunni monarchy of Bahrain is crushing democratic protests by the Shia majority and Qatar last year sentenced a man to 15 years in jail for writing a poem critical of the emir.
As for combating jihadi Islam: nothing is more likely to encourage its spread than the policy supported by Blair of persecuting moderate Islamists, who did stand for election, while giving full backing to autocratic kings and generals.