Before the US-led invasion in 2003, there were no al-Qaeda terrorists in Iraq. Saddam Hussein had briefly flirted with the idea of using Bin Laden’s killers against his enemies, but thought better of it and threw the group’s people out the country.
It was George W. Bush and his ever-plausible friend, the then Prime Minister Tony Blair that changed everything. In their crass campaign to make Iraq safe for democracy, they actually made the country safe for terrorism. In completing his daddy’s unfinished business with Saddam, who had positively flourished after Bush senior led an international coalition in 1991 to eject Iraqi forces from Kuwait, Bush actually stoked the fires of terrorism even while declaring that his motive was to end it.
The man who handed Bush the phony evidence about Saddam’s Weapons of Mass destruction was Tony Blair. From the outset, a cheer-leader for Saddam’s ouster, Blair also found the set of weasel words that used UN Resolution 1441 as grounds for the invasion - in the face of widespread international opposition, not least from the UN itself.
A decade later, and the gun-slinging Bush has ridden off into the post-presidential sunset where it seems he occupies part of his time painting indifferent portraits of world leaders he had met, including one of Blair himself, which one critical has described as “reverential”.
By contrast, the former British premier has turned himself into an international consultant, reportedly earning millions in return for his sage advice as a world statesman. His “Day Job” is as special envoy to the Middle East Quartet, where his function has been to trot out earnest platitudes about the need for agreement, while clearly favoring an intransigent Israel.
Blair is a master of presentation - Barack Obama copied his pause-peppered public speaking style. He understands the need to ration his pronouncements. After all, if he shares his personal wisdom freely with the rest of the world, how could he charge fat private consultancy fees? But a flavor of just what Blair is whispering in the ears of those prepared to pay for it came this week in a rare speech that has attracted widespread attention, to say nothing of criticism.
He has declared that America, Russia and China should put aside their differences over Ukraine and South East Asia and focus on the “real” danger of Muslim fundamentalism. The world needed to intervene to crush fundamentalism and promote a tolerant Islam, said Blair. Turning to Syria, he reflected Arab opinion by bemoaning the failure of the international community to intervene decisively in the early days of the uprising. Yet he then went on to suggest that the best way to resolve the violence was to permit Bashar Assad to remain in power, on a temporary basis at least. His thinking is clear. The Syrian rebellion has been high-jacked by terrorist groups Al-Nusra and ISIS. Destroying Assad’s military power would be likely to open the way for these bigots.
Now where, one wonders, did the British politician get this penetrating political insight? Surely not from Iraq and the ouster of Saddam Hussein? After all is not Tony Blair still busy defending the 2003 invasion that he and Bush mounted? Is he not also still defending the WMD lies he used to justify to attack? And is he continuing to deny that the invasion opened fertile new killing fields for the international terrorism that it was allegedly aimed at destroying?