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16 June 2014

Tony Blair May Be Mad, But He's Got A Point

By Benedict Brogan

What is David Cameron's response to the ISIS surge in Iraq? In fact, what is his response to the wider spread of Islam-inspired medievalism that challenges the West and its values, from Brunei's adoption of Sharia, to feudal Pakistani culture, to Boko Haram in Nigeria, to the pockets of such thinking in the UK, from Birmingham schools to Tower Hamlets? Magna Carta? A week ago I wrote about the shortfalls of British foreign policy and our failure to keep an eye on the horizon, and popped off to Iran for a look around. Talk about coincidence: I get back last night and find Washington is panicked into talking about allying with Tehran against the Sunni crazies, while we are having an argument about the last war.

Tony Blair's weekend intervention has provoked a predictable response of outrage, with the Mail in the forefront:  "Fury at 'Blair the Warmonger'" is its splash, with a leader raging at the obscenity of his claim that all this has nothing to do with the Iraq war.  Boris will be seen to have put his finger on it when he writes in the Telegraph "I have come to the conclusion that Tony Blair has finally gone mad".  But if you want to start with what is in fact happening, look no further than Richard Spencer's chilling despatch from Erbil and his account of doomed men in Man U shirts apparently lined up and executed by Isis, many – irony of ironies – at Saddam Hussein's old palace.  Then to get the full horror of what we are facing, the Guardian's Martin Chulov has a remarkable account of an intelligence find revealing the extent of ISIS' financial power and organisational reach. Any idea that this is a ragtag bunch of bloodthirsty loonies should be reviewed: this is a highly organised, very rich, and remarkably powerful ragtag bunch of bloodthirsty loonies. 

All this suggests that however much we might enjoy a drawn out discussion about what happened in 2003, Tony Blair's credibility, and what the origins of this mess might be, we might more usefully consider what we might do to prevent the West looking even less powerful than it already does. Barack Obama has said no ground troops. We have said…not a hell of a lot.  It certainly doesn't seem to preoccupy our politicians  overmuch, to judge by last week's PMQs. "There are things that we have got wrong that we have to learn from," William Hague said on the Today programme this morning, but there's little sign of learning from what we are getting wrong right now and not a decade ago.

"Someone else's problem" is the message of the day. It's the Iraqi government's job to fix it all, says Mr Hague. Small wonder, when the Syria vote showed that we have no appetite for any of this. Meanwhile, Iran's General Suleimani is in Baghdad with his Quds force and the power balance in the area is shifting fast. We can hope it might all go away or be someone else's problem. But when David Cameron talks about British values, does he know he's talking about ISIS and what's happening several thousand miles away? Loathe Tony Blair as much as you like, he is right to connect the dots and to say loudly that we face a direct challenge to our values not just here but across the world. If we can trouble to pause in our endless recriminations about events 12 years ago, we should start by acknowledging that at least.


I read Mr Brogan as arguing not that we again put boots on the ground in Iraq, but, rather, that we all must simply acknowledge that the establishment of an ISIS-created state, which would quite obviously provide a safe haven to other terrorist organisations, would be catastrophic and pose a severe risk to the West.  And, it seems that too few are willing to acknowledge the reality of this truth.

I could care less about Iraqis, but I do care about the establishment of a Caliphate, which is the stated goal of ISIS and other groups. If they were going to establish Fortress Caliphate where they stayed there and left the rest of us the fuck alone, I would tell Obama & Co to par-tay on. Unfortunately, their reason for forming a Caliphate is NOT to create some Islamic Garden of Eden. A significant reason is its stated desire to establish a staging ground for attacks on the rest of us. That’s not my opinion, per se. That’s not conspiracy shit. That’s what they have said.

As the New York Daily News' Editorial Board wrote, ' ISIS chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and his fighters marched into Obama’s vacuum, seized territory in southern Syria and proclaimed in January that he planned to create his own domain by taking ground in Iraq, including the capital Baghdad.  He also made clear that he had a larger target, saying on an audio recording: 

'Our last message is to the Americans. Soon we will be in direct confrontation, and the sons of Islam have prepared for such a day. So watch, for we are with you, watching.'

You can’t say that we haven't been warned.

As I frequently tell others, when someone tells you that they want to kill you, BELIEVE THEM.

How much different would the world have been if people had not only read Mein Kampf, but took Hitler at. his. word?

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