Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Lecturer Has No Clothes

Blair’s recent appearance on the Daily Show showed that he still has his facts wrong and his theories are still delusional. He learned nothing in his decade as Prime Minister, yet Yale University is now letting him teach undergraduates who are being groomed to run Washington’s foreign policy.

After seeing Tony Blair interviewed on the Daily Show it’s clear that not only was he ignorant on foreign policy on coming into government – but that he’s managed to maintain either total ignorance even after a decade’s experience as Prime Minister – either that or he’s very dishonest.

On one visit to Iran in 2006 Blair was asked by an Iranian student who Mohammed Mossadeq was. He replied that he had no idea. Mossadeq was the first (and only) democratically elected Prime Minister of Iran after World War Two. He was overthrown in 1953 by the military dictatorship of the Shah with aid from the CIA and MI6 after Mossadeq’s government put forward a bill to nationalise Anglo-Iranian oil (now BP) when that company refused to give a fair share of profits to Iran in taxes or to increase wages for its Iranian employees – who lived in wooden shacks on slave wages.
the UK's Channel 4 News anchor John Snow has also said Blair had no idea who Mossadeq was in conversations (1).

On the Daily Show on Friday (19th September) Blair told John Stewart that Hamas, Al Qaeda and Iranian backed Shia militias are “all part of the same movement” which we’re fighting “in Iraq and in Afghanistan.” (2). No-one can have told Hamas, who were involved in a fight against the Al Qaeda inspired ‘Army of Islam’ in Gaza on 16th September (the day before the interview). Several people died (3).

Blair is relying on the (highly unreliable) claims of the Israeli government and Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah, the latter being involved in a civil war with Hamas. Previously Israel have said Fatah are linked to terrorism and not to be trusted – but after Hamas’ election victory the propaganda line changed and Fatah became ‘the forces of peace’ as Israel allowed Egypt to arm Fatah forces with AK47s by the thousand (4).

Blair did concede that many members of Hamas merely wanted a Palestinian state – but rather than thinking we should negotiate with them to isolate any who might want to ally with Al Qaeda he seemed to think a strategy treating them all as part of Al Qaeda was the best one – a strategy calculated to try to create a self-fulfilling prophecy of the worst possible outcome.

Blair was certainly right that there are Iranian backed militias in Afghanistan and Iraq, but the ones in Afghanistan are our allies. They’re members of the ‘Northern Alliance’ (or United Front), our allies against the Taliban. The Shia militias in Iraq are fighting both our forces and Al Qaeda. Neither they nor the Iranian government are allied to Al Qaeda, who follow an extreme version of Sunni Islam. Some in Al Qaeda see all Shia (like the Iranian regime) as heretics to be slaughtered. So there’s no love between Al Qaeda and the Iranian government (5), (6), (7).

So once again Blair’s conspiracy theory about all Islamic fundamentalist groups and governments being one undifferentiated enemy that we have to fight as if they were all part of Al Qa’ida looks not only totally wrong but also the worst possible advice to follow.

Bush, Blair and Cheney have always been out of touch with reality though. They backed Musharraf as military dictator of Pakistan and heaped him and Pakistan’s ISI military intelligence with vast amounts of money in military aid while both double-crossed them by continuing to train, fund and share intelligence with the Taliban as their counter to the Indian backed Northern Alliance in Afghanistan (8), (9), (10).

At the same time Musharraf and the ISI followed past western-backed military dictators of Pakistan by backing Islamic extremist parties and armed fundamentalist terrorist groups in Pakistan itself to try to keep civilian politicians getting power back from the military government. They did the same in Kashmir and India as part of their crazy attempt to defeat the much stronger Indian military by the indirect approach of backing terrorist groups (11), (12), (13).

If you feel charitable towards Tony Blair or Bush or Cheney you could say they’re all ignorant or mistaken on all these points. If not they’re outright liars who are deliberately dumbing down the world. Either way it’s a big mistake to treat their wildly inaccurate claims and theories as a guide to policy. They are no wise elder statesmen but the joint architects of one bloody disaster and loss of human life after another.

Despite this Blair has not only been appointed Middle East Peace Envoy for the G8 but Yale University have also given him a position as a lecturer, but that’s obviously not because he has much to teach anyone – except how to obey orders from the right wing of the Republican party and the big multinational oil and arms firms, no matter the cost in other peoples’ lives. That can’t do anything but make people wonder whether experts who graduate from Yale University in the future are knowledgeable about anything except doing what they’re told.

Blair was dangerously unqualified to be Prime Minister not only because he didn’t know any, even recent, history of the Middle East but also because he had no interest in learning about it and based his actions on whatever conspiracy theory he could cobble together to justify doing what whoever happened to be President of the US at the time wanted to do. He’s dangerously unqualified to be a Middle East Peace Envoy for the same reasons. He has nothing to teach potential future politicians except as an example of what terrible mistakes and delusions to avoid.

(1) = Independent 7 Aug 2006, ‘Johann Hari : Tony Blair's tragedy is to be right about Islam, and wrong about the United States’, link

(2) Daily Show 18 Sep 2008, (see especially 6 mins 30 seconds to 7 mins 45 seconds)

(3) = International Herald Tribune 17 Sep 2008, ‘Hamas strikes at Gaza clan known for criminal activity’,

(4) = Haaretz (Israel) 28 Dec 2006 , ‘Israeli defense official: Fatah arms transfer bolsters forces of peace’,

(5) = Rashid , Ahmed(2001) 'Taliban' Tauris,London ,2001

(6) = Rashid, Ahmed (2008) 'Descent into Chaos'

(7) = Gerges, Fawaz A. (2005) ‘The Far Enemy: Why Jihad went Global’, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge & New York 2005

(8) = Haqqani, Husain (2005) , ‘Pakistan : Between Mosque and Military’ , Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Washington D.C. , 2005

(9) = Rashid , Ahmed(2001) 'Taliban' Tauris,London ,2001

(10)= Rashid, Ahmed (2008) 'Descent into Chaos'

(11) = see (8) above

(12) = see (9) above

(13) = see (10) above

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