Arcs of extremism.
For the Mail, it's time to bring out the black banner of bleakness to express just how distraught the paper is at so many pointless deaths, but alongside the downbeat headlines is the usual attack on Blair. What it doesn't tell you is that the Mail was behind the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan all the way. As for the situation in Beirut, it's been so horrific that since the conflict began 3 weeks ago the Mail has only felt it news worthy enough to give it space on the front page twice, once when British citizens stuck in Lebanon were fleeing, and for the second time on Monday in the aftermath of the Qana massacre. Other stories featured on the Mail's front page while the other papers worried about the Middle East were how it was hot enough to melt the roads, and that people were being advised not to rub in suncream.
The Sun goes for the other angle completely. While still using the photograph of Corporal Matthew Cornish with his children, it salutes Blair's speech given at the Los Angeles World Affairs Council, where he said "These are people of whom we should be very proud." Seeing as how those men in Iraq are losing their lives as a result of the lies told by Blair and his cronies that led directly to a unjustifiable and illegal war, he ought to know better.
His speech last night though proves otherwise. While both BSSC and the Nether-World have already fisked it and have probably done a better job than I would, there are certain parts that are such absolute rot that they need to be challenged.
There is an arc of extremism now stretching across the Middle East and touching, with increasing definition, countries far outside that region. To defeat it will need an alliance of moderation, that paints a different future in which Muslim, Jew and Christian; Arab and Western; wealthy and developing nations can make progress in peace and harmony with each other. My argument to you today is this: we will not win the battle against this global extremism unless we win it at the level of values as much as force, unless we show we are even-handed, fair and just in our application of those values to the world.
How far is this "arc of extremism" from the more notorious "axis of evil"? Answer: not very far. Mr Blair makes the exact same mistake which countless others before him have made. He conflates the legitimate grievances of the likes of Hamas with the suicidal jihadis of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in Iraq. This arc of extremism seems to contain Hizbullah, Hamas, Syria, Iran and the various insurgent groupings in Iraq. This is the kind of "clash of civilisations" type nonsense that leads to people seeing every single Muslim as a threat. Hamas, for all its threats and charter that calls for the destruction of Israel, wants a peace settlement and a viable Palestinian state. It was originally funded by Israel as a counter-weight to the secular fighters of the PLO, a coincidence similar to how the US and Britain funded the muhjadein in Afghanistan which became al-Qaida. Blair also ignores the sectarian differences between the various groupings. Hamas is a Sunni Muslim organisation; Hizbullah is Shia; al-Qaida is mainly Sunni, but also takes in Salafist beliefs which it shares with the rulers of Saudi Arabia. Hamas may want to set-up Sharia type law at some point in the future, but for now is quite happy to let the pseudo-liberalism which developed under Fatah to continue. Hizbullah similarly is not interested in the caliphate which al-Qaida wants to see established. The joining together of their separate and unique aims and ideologies helps no one, except those that are more than happy for Islam to be seen as incompatible with Western values.
As for the inclusion of Syria and Iran, is it really less than 4 years since Bashar al-Assad was given the red carpet treatment at Downing Street, as well as meeting the Queen? Have we forgotten so quickly Jack Straw's numerous visits to Teheran? It seems that Blair would like us to. Blair later returns to the two countries:
Fourth, we need to make clear to Syria and Iran that there is a choice: come in to the international community and play by the same rules as the rest of us; or be confronted.
Yet they are not being given this choice by the United States and America. They preach that Syria and Iran need to join the international community, but the two biggest and most influential nations on the world scene refuse to reach out to them in any way. Instead it's being left to Germany to talk to Syria, while France claims that Iran is a stablising influence on the Middle East. Blair cannot have it both ways; either you make the effort to let them play by the "same rules", or you tone down the threatening rhetoric which helps no one.
Blair claims to be supporting "moderate Islam" and democracy. Would anyone call the type of Islam practiced and dictated by the rulers of Saudi Arabia moderate? Despite this, they escape all criticism, purely because of the pro-western stance of the Saudi royal family. This ignores how 11 of the September the 11th hijackers came from the country, how British citizens there were tortured and forced to confess to bomb attacks likely carried out by al-Qaida and how the propping up of the House of Saud may one day lead to a much more radical grouping emerging from the repression in the country to challenge for power. As for Iran, which at least has a semblance of democracy, Blair instead misquotes the Iranian President with the infamous "wiping Israel off the map" line, which was wrongly translated. There's no doubt that Amhadinejad is a hot-head anti-Semite, but to smear him is entirely wrong. He was elected mainly (and possibly fraudulently) on the back of his promise to redistribute oil wealth, something which he is yet to put in place. The democratically elected government of Hamas, which Blair claims is battling with moderates and extremists was boycotted and marginalised from day one for refusing to alter its charter and recognise Israel. The west is left being the same old hypocrite it always has been in the Middle East: only supporting democracy when the results suit its larger aims and goals.
There's still worse to come though. Once again Blair attempts to rewrite history with this whopping great lie over the war in Iraq.
The point about these interventions, however, military and otherwise, is that they were not just about changing regimes but changing the values systems governing the nations concerned. The banner was not actually "regime change" it was "values change".
How can anyone let Blair get away with such blatant untruths? The war in Iraq was justified on the basis that the country was a direct threat to the UK and UK interests with its weapons of mass destruction. They didn't exist. It was only in the last few days of the long campaign for public support for the war that Blair changed to emphasising the suffering of the Iraqi people. In reality Blair had long before signed himself up to the regime change banner which he now disowns.
The speech goes on in much the same vein for a long time. The only thing of any real worth in it is that Blair recognises that the Israel-Palestine conflict desperately needs to be resolved. It's only now, with the whole of the Middle East in such an unholy mess that he realises how badly that affects every other problem the region has. Despite all the spouting of values throughout the speech, the UK yesterday was still dedicated to watering down an EU statement from demanding an immediate ceasefire in Israel and Lebanon to instead saying that a cessation of violence was urgently needed. Israel today has gone on killing, with 19 civilians reported dead in air strikes around the eastern city of Baalbek. Hizbullah has responded by firing 190 missiles into Israel, showing just how its infrastructure has not been destroyed, despite Ehud Olmert's continuing claims to have done so. For every day that goes by, more die needlessly. It's a indictment of our values, which Blair wants to see spread throughout the Middle East that we are allowing this to continue.