Despite the fact that Tony Blair has lost credibility amongst the masses, his Tony Blair Faith Foundation has operations in 30 Middle Eastern and African countries where it exports his thinking and has recently discussed domestic policies which strike a disturbing semblance with existing strategies in place. As such I felt it necessary to write a series of pieces on Tony Blair, the neoconservative “persuasion” embedded in his rhetoric, and his proclamations which are reflected in his recent essay which seeks to implement more broadly the contemporary neocon Western foreign policy.
Part 3: “Spectrums” – Declaring War on Islām
It is evident that for Tony Blair, though other factors exist for violence, they are trivial compared to the threat of “Islamism”. Be it extremism of other faiths now, or Christian barbarity of the past, “we are dealing with the present” we are told. And in the present, we have the Boko Haram and ISIS. Blair writes that they are fanatic, and “thus it is hard to envisage compromise with such people. They have no reasonable demands upon which we can negotiate.” Therefore there is no alternative except to fight such people:
At a certain point, once they know superior and determined force is being used against them, some of them at least may be prepared to change.
In other words, take a leaf out of Israel’s book and bomb the people, civilians included, into compliance. Ironically, a month after Blair writing his neocon manual for World War III, ISIS have begun negotiations and are releasing prisoners whilst the Boko Haram have negotiated a truce and have agreed to release the imprisoned girls.
The feed for these groups are the “spectrum” and herein lies Blair’s blatant imperialistic design. He defines “Islamism” as a “politicisation of religion to an intense and all-encompassing degree”; an ideology and a theology derived from Salafist thinking. It is not. An analysis of contemporary Islamic political movements (most of which are reactions formed in the colonialist/Nation State paradigm) is beyond the scope of this piece however. Suffice to say, an outright rejection of an Islamic political and military ascendancy denies 1400 years of Islamic history in which Islām ruled through the Caliphate. The existence and the preference for a khilāfa within the Islamic paradigm is a position adopted by all four mainstream schools of Islamic jurisprudence.
The spectrum is elaborated as those people who have an “exclusive, reactionary world view” which is promulgated through the various Islamic seats of learning. Blair elaborates,
a belief in religious exclusivity not merely in spiritual but in temporal terms; a desire to re-shape society according to a set of social and political norms, based on religious belief about Islām, wholly at odds with the way the rest of the world has developed, for example in relation to attitudes to women; a view of the West, particularly the USA, that is innately hostile and regards it essentially as the enemy, not only in policy but in culture and way of living.
Thus, the problem is the notion of returning to status quo ante; a social, political and economic system established on mainstream Islamic principles, at odds with the imposed exploitable development of the “rest of the world” (an arrogant and inaccurate reference to secular liberalism, capitalism and Nation states). The above coupled with his reference to Shaykh Mohamed al-Arefe also highlights his problem with traditional Islamic positions. The upshot is that his “spectrum” is doublespeak for mainstream Islām itself.
Having understood the “spectrum” of Islamism to be Islām, what should happen to the faith? Being at pains to state that it is not a war on peaceful Islām, he declares
“you cannot uproot this extremism unless you go to where it originates and fight it.”
The traditional Islamic faith which designates roles for men and women, guides meticulously each and every aspect of life, presents a paradigmatically unique world view which frees man from the subservience of the self to the subservience of God, which recognises Jihād as a means to remove injustice and tyranny, which mandates charity to uplift society and which encourages the establishment of a khilāfa, is to be “fought”; the same Islām which, as Blair recognised in the beginning of his essay, “shamed” the Western world. He McCarthyistically continues,
“World-wide, we should be on the look-out for where there is evidence that Islamist organisations are on the march. Those that fund and support them should know that we’re watching, should know that what they want hidden, will instead be exposed to the light.”
Liberals are to be supported and the “Islamists” challenged. The enemy is shown to be an extremity (in the guise of various brutalities). The war however, is declared against Islām and its adherents.
Focusing on education Blair writes,
“Each and every day the world over, millions, even tens of millions of young children are taught formally in school or in informal settings, a view of the world that is hostile to those of different beliefs. That world view has been promulgated, proselytised and preached as a result of vast networks of funding and organisation, some coming out of the Middle East, others now locally fostered. These are the incubators of the radicalism. In particular the export of the doctrines of Salafi Wahhabism has had a huge impact on the teaching of Islām round the world.”
The irony in the above assessment is that word for word it applies to the secular liberal understanding and the neocon foreign policy. The Trojan Hoax affair is an example of, in essence, forcing an understanding of secularism upon children. This secular liberalism is “exported” around the globe through the discourse of “regime change”, human rights and democracy which is, as evident in Blair’s own essay, hostile to mainstream Islām. Of course that is not to say all liberals have this mind-set. But the neocons in Western offices in Europe and the US are doing everything to achieve this (I will address the neoconservative policy of exporting liberalism in my Concluding Remarks). This policy is at the very core of British government.
His Foundation has “educational programmes” in various countries. The question is, what sort of education do neocons promote? They claim “mutual respect”, but what type of respect? An interesting book authored by neocon Carnes Lord and inspired by Machiavelli’s The Prince explores the future of leadership and “statecraft” (a popular term in neoconservative discourse which seeks to create a state in the form of a Platonic dualist society, where the “vulgar many” are ruled by the elite “statesmen” few, with the elite being the only ones capable of guiding society). Approving of a requirement of American and “British history” in curricula, or in the present discourse, “British values” which is linked to a form of “patriotism” (the meaning of which we will soon see), he criticises the decentralisation of education and the lack of direct political involvement in education. Lord looks at universities in England, namely the Oxbridge universities, and Japan’s Tokyo University and recognises that they are “virtually integral components of the regime by the fact that they create or validate a national elite”, but it is “hard to hold them accountable”. In referring to the role of governments establishing schools of “professional education”, the real goal desired by neocons from education institutions is brought forth to monitor and manage schools from the beginning “to serve the interests of the state as a whole”. The impact of such education is conformity with state policies decided by an elite, turning patriotism into government compliance.
In understanding this, we come to realise that the neocon “education programmes” will achieve the same: a creation of pseudo-elitists versed in the “American way”, who serve, through the smokescreen of patriotism, the interests of a state subservient or amenable to Western “interests” and foreign economic and military policies.
Notorious neocon think-tanks like RAND have been targeting youth in the Middle East for their research for years. In the UK, in a Select Committee meeting on “roots of violent extremism”, in highlighting a slight tactical change from neoconservatism, Maajid Nawaz says that a “demand for democratic culture” should be created at the grass roots in Muslim countries whilst organisations like Quilliam “tweaks the policy” of the government to supply that demand. In other words, they both instigate and subvert Muslim countries making them more tractable to Western intervention.
Blair calls for a charter to teach “religious respect”. This however, already exists in various international legal instruments such as the UN Human Rights Security Council Resolution 16/18 which calls on member states to “speak out against intolerance and religious hatred”, an aspect the UK government actively violates with its continuous blusters on “Islamism”, fuelling anti-Muslim sentiment and resulting in attacks on Muslim women by a right-wing thugs.
Once again, through the rubric of “religious respect” and “human rights”, we have an ideological attack on the faith of Islām. Blair’s assertions are to be taken in the context of his essay which seek to reform Islām or crush it if the first aim is unachievable. What is more disturbing is that with Blair’s distorted mentality which targets mainstream Islām, his Foundation is operating its brainwashing programs in 30 countries.
“Peace increases our peril”
There was a time when the “Islamists” were admired by the British. Be it the “brave” Afghan Taliban who fought against Communism, or the Ottomans through their tolerant “calm, absorbed Islamism” who staved off Russian Christian extremism. They were admired because there was an interest to be served.
Pealing through Tony Blair’s staple neocon doublespeak and uncovering Blair’s definition of Islamism, it emerges that the war against Islām is ever-fervent, disguised under the words of human rights, democracy and convoluted epithets.
The reality is that this is the current Western policy and has been for some time. Today the voices and calls for a reformation in Islām are increasing and in parallel, everything is being done to undermine Islamic religious expression through increased securitisation, where an increase in religiosity has become an indicator for “extremism” and an expression against policy or holding the government to account is construed as a stepping stone for terrorism. The latest assault focused on Islām in the education sphere. The categorisation of speakers who propound mainstream Islamic positions as extremism is further evidence. Inherent within these actualities is the castigation of dissent against the Zionist entity and British/Western foreign policy.
Leading neocon and architect of the Iraq war of 2003, the then US defence secretary Paul Wolfowitz stated on the eve of the Iraq war,
“We need an Islamic reformation and I think there is a real hope for one”.
The neocons of that time who were busying themselves in creating the mess we have today, attacked the foundations of Islamic learning then, as Tony Blair is doing now. In a speech at Georgetown University on the 30th of October 2003, Wolfowitz described madrassahs as “schools that teach hatred, schools that teach terrorism” while providing free “theologically extremist teaching to ‘millions’” of Muslim children. Other neocons went further. Norman Podhoretz – an extreme neocon writer who advocated the Iraq war – in an article calling for war on Iran, explicitly called the war on terror “World War IV” with the enemy being “Islamofascism”.
Thus then, as now, during a major war in a Muslim land, to protect “interests” we have the same rhetoric becoming louder from the neocons. Blair has simply refined the old formula to increase upon Western hegemony with minimal resistance where, as per the neocon “mode of thinking”, emotion and prejudice is given weight over rationality. Thus, his arguments to whitewash other factors for radicalisation do not hold academically or in reality and is reminiscent of David Cameron’s similar, recent attempt to downplay “grievances” in order to pin blame of radicalisation upon “Islamist” ideology.
The irony is, perhaps more so for the Catholic Blair, that Irving Kristol the godfather of neoconservatism, decrying the modernisation attempts of the Catholic Church, advised Catholic leaders to counsel its youngest members to “wear sackcloth and ashes and to walk on nails to Rome”.
Islām however, is an open ticket for reformation for the neocons simply because it sits paradoxically with exploitative “interests” of the West which enforces “Hard Wilsonianism” – the foreign policy which pursues “benevolent hegemony” through “intervention”, to champion “American ideals” and fight long-term threats to American “interests”. This “interest”, according to an essay by neocons William Kristol (son of Irving Kristol) and Robert Kagan, “should be the cause of war even when we cannot prove that a narrowly construed ‘vital interest’ of the United States is at stake”. American historian, Professor Greg Grandin elaborating on this policy writes,
“Hard Wilsonianism – that odd mix of unapologetic violence and blinding idealism that motivates neocons – finds it expression in frontline repression, in Abu Graib’s and Gitmo’s interrogation rooms, in the levelling of Fallujah, and in the scores of unexplained deaths of prisoners in United States custody. It is manifested in the actions of members of the Eighty-second Airborne Division, who for seventeen months, even after the abuses at Abu Ghraib were exposed, beat their Iraqi prisoners with metal baseball bats, perhaps believing that broken bones would make Muslims more receptive to Western values.”
Blair then, through his essay has dog-whistled his fellow neocons to sharpen the neocon strategy of perpetual warfare by deception, domestic and abroad. It is a dangerous attack on the faith of over a billion Muslims with a threat of physical coercion.
It is for the Muslim minorities to take stock of the strengthening strategies of old, deceptively garbed in the oratory of human rights in order to fight more than just “hate”, but the very foundations of the Islamic faith.
And it is for the upright British citizens to recognise the threat neoconservatism is fostering in Britain. It is hurting Britain. The neocons genuinely believe that perpetual war and fear of an external threat will allow them to mould the state in their vision. As the Straussian neocon Carnes Lord, writes,
Like strategy in war, statecraft is an art of coping with an adversarial environment […] Like strategy, too, statecraft is also an art of relating means to ends. If […]strategy is the art of using wars to achieve the objectives of the war, statecraft is the art of using wars and other instruments available to political leaders to attain national goals.
Their vision has thus far materialised in the continued assault on individual liberty achieved through alarmist statements about security threats. Neoconservatism is destroying the values it claims to believe in and yet it is using them as a vehicle to maintain power for a small elite through demagoguery to shape society as they see fit. It remains to be seen whether Britain continues its trajectory towards a tyrannous future shaped by neocons, or the people of Britain stand up and fight the retroviral “persuasion” known as neoconservatism.
Notes: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/politics/isis-hostage-threat-which-countries-pay-ransoms-to-release-their-citizens-9710129.html  Carnes, L. The Modern Prince: What Leaders Need to Know Now, R.R. Donnelley & Sons, Virginia US, 2003, pp.139-140.  Home Affairs Committee – Nineteenth Report Roots of violent radicalisation (published 2012), Examination of Witnesses (Questions 45-93), – http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201012/cmselect/cmhaff/1446/11091303.htm  Combating intolerance, negative stereotyping and stigmatization of, and discrimination, incitement to violence and violence against, persons based on religion or belief, UN Doc A/HRC/RES/16/18, 12 April 2011, Adopted without voted 24 April 2012  See this report for instances which claims “Muslim hate crime rises 65% in London”. – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-29424165  Neocon Michael Ledeen in his book, Machiavelli on Modern Leadership, New York: St Martin’s Press, 1999 p.70  Riaz, A, Faithful Education: Madrassahs in South Asia, Rutgers University Press, 2004, Cht. 6 Fn.1 p.252  Ibid. p.21  Norman Podhoretz, “The Case for Bombing Iran, I hope and Pray Bush Will Do it”, May 30, 2007, http://web.archive.org/web/20090625195336/http://www.opinionjournal.com/federation/feature/?id=110010139  Kristol, I, Neoconservatism: The Autobiagrpahy of an Idea, New York: The Free Press, 1995, p.441  Robert Kagan and William Kristol, Present Dangers: Crisis and Opportunity in American Foreign and Defense Policy, Encounter Books: California, 2000, p.13  Grandin G., Empire’s Workshop: Latin America, the United States, and the Rise of the New Imperialism, New York: Holt Paperbacks, 2010, p.234  Carnes, L. The Modern Prince: What Leaders Need to Know Now, R.R. Donnelley & Sons, Virginia US, 2003,* p.24