Tony Blair’s big speech on the Middle East yesterday shows he has learned nothing from his catastrophic foreign policy failures as British prime minister. Blair’s arrogance and stupidity will be analyzed at length in the days to come, but here is a preliminary look.
Blair revives the thoroughly discredited “clash of civilizations” theory to argue that Islamic extremism “is spreading across the world,” and that it “represents the biggest threat to global security of the 21st century.”
He barely mentions Israel, and then only to portray it as an innocent, which he praises because it “has successfully stayed aloof from the storm around it.”
But the worst part of the speech — which borders on the criminal — is when he dishonestly insinuates that the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt was violent, and he justifies the anti-democratic coup that overthrew it last year. “The revolt of 30 June 2013 was not an ordinary protest,” Blair said. “It was the absolutely necessary rescue of a nation.”
Let us pause for a moment to consider the sinister implications of Blair’s statement. The Financial Times just yesterday ran a long article under the headline “Egypt’s black holes,” which said, “Thousands of government opponents have disappeared into secret jails, which critics warn are radicalising a new generation of jihadis.”
This mass imprisonment follows the crackdown last year in which government forces killed hundreds of people, most of them nonviolent Brotherhood supporters. Human rights organizations have thoroughly documented these crimes — but the former prime minister of Britain just goes right ahead and tells the Egyptian military state to keep killing and jailing.
To list all of Blair’s stupidities would require more space than his actual speech. Here is just one quick example: Part of Blair’s indictment of Islamic extremism includes his assertion,
“For the last 40/50 years, there has been a steady stream of funding, proselytising, organising and promulgating coming out of the Middle East, pushing views of religion that are narrow minded and dangerous.”
Does Blair think we are as stupid as he is? This ‘steady stream of proselytising’ has emanated from Saudi Arabia, the West’s biggest ally in the region; what’s more, Saudi Arabia hates the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, enthusiastically endorsed its overthrow, and is spending billions to prop up the military regime that replaced it. So much for the “clash of civilizations,” which posits a unified extremist, Islamic juggernaut.
Why did Blair make this speech? One paragraph contains a clue. He mentions “the enormous commitment of Iraq and Afghanistan” — his euphemism for the full-scale invasions that he helped carry out — and he adds:
“It may well be that in time people come to view the impact of those engagements differently.”
Blair’s wooden language is a sly, roundabout effort to justify the Iraq disaster, and his responsibility for it. If Islamic extremism is clearly “the biggest threat to global security” today, then maybe he and his friend George W. Bush were right to confront it back in 2003, (although he must hope we forget that “Islamic extremism” in Iraq actually grew after Saddam Hussein fell). If he needs to endorse killing and mass imprisonment in Egypt today so he can rehabilitate his reputation, he has no more qualms than he did back when he lied so he could order British soldiers to invade Iraq.