Tony Blair today took a little time off from serving the world’s despots in order to exploit the 10th anniversary of the July 7 London train bombing. He did so by casting blame on “radical Islam” for the world’s violence while exempting himself, pronouncing:
This is a global problem … we’re not going to allow anyone to excuse themselves by saying that the slaughter of totally innocent people is somehow a response to any decision by any government.
The proposition Blair just decreed invalid — “the slaughter of totally innocent people is somehow a response to any decision by any government” — is exactly the rationale that he himself repeatedly invoked, and to this day still invokes, to justify the invasion and destruction of Iraq, as in this example from December 2009:
Tony Blair has said he would have invaded Iraq even without evidence of weapons of mass destruction and would have found a way to justify the war to parliament and the public. . . . “If you had known then that there were no WMDs, would you still have gone on?” Blair was asked. He replied: “I would still have thought it right to remove him [Saddam Hussein]”. . . . He explained it was “the notion of him as a threat to the region” because Saddam Hussein had used chemical weapons against his own people.
“Excusing the slaughter of totally innocent people” — whether in Fallujah or Gaza or Yemen — is a staple of Western elite discourse to justify the militarism of the U.S., the U.K. and their most special allies. It only suddenly becomes inexcusable when carried out by Muslims against the West. It is a stunning testament to Western self-delusion that one of the prime architects and salesmen of the most destructive political crime of this generation — the invasion of Iraq — can stand up with a straight face and to applause and declare: “we’re not going to allow anyone to excuse themselves by saying that the slaughter of totally innocent people is somehow a response to any decision by any government.”
There will undoubtedly be all sorts of self-loving jingoists in the West, along with those whose overriding political priority is the demonization of Islam, who will find this comparison invalid and even obscene. After all, their own governments’ violence, aggression and slaughter of innocents is kind-hearted, civilized and justified, whereas the violence, aggression and slaughter of innocents by Muslims is savage and barbaric. But that’s precisely the point.
While the leading lights of the West love to celebrate themselves as beacons of civilized, progressive rationality, their overriding mentality is just the crassest and most primitive form of tribalism: when Our Side does it, it is right, and when Their Side does it, it is wrong. No matter the esoteric finery in which it drapes itself, that is the primitive, banal formulation that lies at the heart of the vast, vast majority of foreign policy discourse in the West. So often, those who fancy themselves brave warriors for rationality and advancement by demonizing Islam are just rank tribalists whose own national, religious and cultural loyalties are served by doing so.
One last point while we’re on this topic: the notion that radical Muslims commit violence in response to violence by the West is often characterized as an attempt to deny that they possess agency or autonomy. That claim is just bizarre, the opposite of the truth. Those who deny that Muslims act with agency are, in fact, those who try to claim that they are manipulated by religious dogma into committing violence without any rationale or purpose. To point out that there’s an actual, rational causal relationship between their violence and the West’s — to acknowledge that they choose violence as a calculated course of action they believe to be justified just as the West does — is not a denial of their agency, but rather an affirmation of it.
This causal relationship is the point that Tony Blair and his like-minded comrades are, above all else, most desperate to deny. Blair thus expressly denies that the July 7 bombing in London was largely motivated by his war in Iraq even though his own government’s secret report reached exactly that conclusion; a Pentagon-commissioned report years ago acknowledged the same causal motive for “terrorism” generally. They’re desperate to deny this causation because to recognize it is necessarily to acknowledge that their professed moral superiority is the ultimate delusion, that they in fact are the embodiment of what they love to hear themselves condemning.
It’s always comforting to believe that one’s own tribe is morally superior yet perpetually victimized, so it’s an easy sell. But as Blair’s remarkably self-unaware comments today illustrate, this mentality centrally depends upon a steadfast commitment to blinding oneself to one’s own actions and failings. Nobody is more resolute in that commitment than Tony Blair.
Photo: Ron Edmonds/AP