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8 July 2013
Anthony Charles Lynton Blair, British Prime Minister from 1997 to 2007, is famous for being a devoutly religious man, who recently converted from Protestantism to Catholicism.
Preferring, for electoral expedience, to be known by the more demotic monicker of “Tony” Blair, he is so religious – and narcissistic – that he has even set up his very own Tony Blair Faith Foundation to promote dialogue between religions and counter religious “extremism”.
Blair, who was born in Scotland in 1953, is also famous for accepting the invitation of George W. Bush, US President from 2001 to 2009, to join him in launching the Iraq War without the approval of the United Nations Security Council.
The war, which lasted from 2003 to 2011, resulted in an estimated 600, 000 deaths, an untold number of people wounded, millions of displaced persons, and the devastation of Iraq’s economy and infrastructure.
Even though the western army of occupation formally withdrew from Iraq in 2011 – “mission accomplished” – the sectarian enmity between Shia and Sunni Muslims that was stoked by the war continues to result in hundreds of violent deaths every year in that country.
The pretext for the war was trumped-up “intelligence” to the effect that the Iraqi President Saddam Hussein – hanged in 2006 after a show trial – possessed weapons of mass destruction which could be unleashed on the west in fifteen minutes. Investigations after the start of the war proved that Hussein had no such weapons.
Fresh from his triumphs in Iraq, which made him so unpopular in Britain that he was forced to resign as Prime Minister, Blair fossicked around furiously – having taken a shine to his war-time prominence on the international stage – to find another role which would keep his name in the global limelight.
The international community – for which, read “western oil interests” – was only too happy to oblige and chose him for a post for which his involvement in the carnage in Iraq made him eminently suitable. To the astonishment of the rest of the world, he was appointed Middle East representative of the self-styled Quartet – the US, Russia, the EU and the UN.
[Why the UN, which is supposed to represent all the countries of the world, chose to demean itself by becoming a member of this coterie on a par with the other three parties is beyond us, but that is another story.]
Blair’s job description was simple: sort out all the problems that have dogged the Middle East – not least the conflict between Palestine and Israel – since its geography was redesigned in the chancelleries of Europe and America after the First World War ended in 1918.
Blair’s achievements in this job can be counted on the fingers of a man with no hands.
However, that has not stopped him putting his oar in whenever he thinks that this might thrust his name into the headlines.
Thus, yesterday 7 July 2013, he waded into the current Egyptian quagmire with the help of the front-page lead article in Britain’s Observer newspaper.
His pontifications involve nothing less than a redefinition of democracy.
We refer below to parts of the article, which was written by Toby Helm and Martin Chulov. We have put direct quotes by Blair in bold. The rest of the article is in italics.
Tony Blair says the Egyptian army had no alternative but to oust President Morsi from power, given the strength of opposition on the streets. The military were confronted…with the simple choice of intervening or allowing chaos.
…Blair…now accepts that, in some of the world’s more fraught regions, democracy will not necessarily deliver the kind of governments that can be defended in the face of overwhelming popular protest.
Blair states that given the current situation in Egypt: “We should engage with the new de facto power and help make the new government make the changes necessary, especially on the economy, so they can deliver for the people.”
He adds: “The events that led to the Egyptian army’s removal of President Mohamed Morsi confronted the military with a simple choice: intervention or chaos. Seventeen million people on the streets are not the same as an election. But it as an awesome manifestation of power.”
Blair makes clear that, overall, he believes it was the right move. “I am a strong supporter of democracy. But democratic government doesn’t on its own mean effective government. Today efficacy is the challenge.”
Having taken this country to war in Iraq in 2003 despite huge public opposition, including a march by more than a million people through London, Blair now argues that shows of public unrest such as that in Egypt – fuelled and organised through social media – cannot be ignored.
“This is a sort of free democratic spirit that operates outside the convention of democracy that elections decide the government. It is enormously fuelled by social media, itself a revolutionary phenomenon.
“And it moves very fast in precipitating crisis. It is not always consistent or rational. A protest is not a policy, or a placard a programme for government. But if governments don’t have a clear argument with which to rebut the protest, they’re in trouble.”
Blair says events in Egypt are just “the latest example of the interplay, visible the world over, between democracy, protest and government efficacy. Democracy is a way of deciding the decision-makers but it is not a substitute for making a decision.”
‘He launches a stinging attack on the Muslim Brotherhood’s record in government, saying it was “unable to shift from being an opposition movement to being a government. The economy is tanking. Ordinary law and order has virtually disappeared.”
Blair also argues that the west needs to remain fully engaged in the region, including in Syria, Iran and Palestine.
Blair’s recalibration of democracy recalls remarks made by Britain’s current Foreign Secretary, William Hague, who has been quoted as referring to the putsch by the Egyptian army on 3 July 2013 as a “popular” move involving “military intervention” rather than a coup d’ état.
According to the London Guardian on 5 July, he said: “We have to recognise the enormous dissatisfaction in Egypt with what the president had done and the conduct of the government over the past year.”
In our post on 5 July, “The pachyderm in the pyramid”, Antigone1984 commented:
Are we to take it then that unpopular governments warrant military intervention to topple them?
We can think of quite a few governments that could be described as “unpopular”, not least the current British government of which Mr Hague is the foreign affairs mouthpiece.
Does Mr Hague agree then that military intervention to topple the British government would be justified?’
The same question could be put to Blair.
As we write, the estimated total of people murdered in violence following the coup d’état is approaching 100, including over 50 people shot dead near a barracks today in Cairo. So much for what apologists for the military regime have referred to as a “soft” (ie bloodless) coup.
We conclude our eulogy of Britain’s greatest statesman since Sir Robert Walpole (Britain’s first Prime Minister, who held office from 1721 to 1742) by drawing attention to another role currently being played by our hero in yet another troubled part of the globe.
Yes, you’ve guessed it!
Where would Kazakhstan be today without a helping hand from pious Tony?
You see, sorting out the Middle East is not a big enough job for a political titan of his calibre.
So he has decided to sort out Central Asia at the same time.
According to an article in the London Guardian on 1 July 2013, Blair has a multi-million pound contract with Kazakhstan to advise on governance.
But wait a minute.
Isn’t Kazakhstan ruled by Nursultan Nazarbayev, an autocrat who, according to the Guardian, “has been in power for more than 20 years and who likes to win elections with 95% of the vote or more”?
Amnesty International is reported to have said that this former Soviet Republic has a “disgraceful” record on human rights.
In an earlier Guardian article on Kazakhstan, David Mepham, director of Human Rights Watch, is quoted as saying: “We are very concerned about the serious and deteriorating human rights situation there in recent years, including credible allegations of torture, the imprisonment of government critics, tight controls over the media and freedom of expression and association, limits in religious freedom, and continuing violation of workers’ rights.”
The Guardian points out that, while Kazakhstan’s human rights record may look woeful, Nazarbayev has good spin doctors. “Chief among them is Tony Blair,” says the paper.
The line reportedly being spun by Blair is that he is advising a country that is in a transition to full democracy.
This lesson seems to have been well learned by the Nazarbayev regime.
According to the Guardian, Erlan Idrissov, the Kazakh Foreign Minister, has gone so far as to claim that his country is in transition to becoming a “Jeffersonian democracy” – Thomas Jefferson served as third President of the United States from 1801 to 1809 – but added that this would take some time to complete.
According to the Guardian, Blair’s deal with the Kazakh government “is rumoured to be worth $ 13 million a year”. [Antigone1984 has no means of confirming this figure].
However, Blair is said to have told the Financial Times last year: “The purpose of this is not to make money, it’s to make a difference”.
So that’s all right then.
And if you believe that, you’d believe anything.
You might perhaps care to view some of our earlier posts. For instance:
1. Why? or How? That is the question (3 Jan 2012)
2. Partitocracy v. Democracy (20 July 2012)
3. The shoddiest possible goods at the highest possible prices (2 Feb 2012)
4. Capitalism in practice (4 July 2012)
5.Ladder (21 June 2012)
6. A tale of two cities (1) (6 June 2012)
7. A tale of two cities (2) (7 June 2012)
8. Where’s the beef? Ontology and tinned meat (31 Jan 2012)
Every so often we shall change this sample of previously published posts.