In the few high profile interviews he has given since publishing his memoirs, Tony Blair, the British former prime minister, has maintained a pretty consistent narrative when it comes to the tough questions.
On Iraq: “I’d do it again.”
On Saddam Hussein: “He had to go.”
On the war on terror: “It’s still on and it’s still vital.”
No surprise, then, that his Al Jazeera interview with David Frost contained the same staunch self-belief, and an apparent inability (refusal?) to yield any ground at all to conflicting opinions.
Here’s an example. On one occasion Frost floated the theory that perhaps Western policies might have played a part in fuelling extremist action. Blair responded:
the change in foreign policy happened after 9/11. 9/11 was not something provoked by the West. It was an unprovoked attack which killed 3000 people in New York in one day
Now obviously Blair is acutely aware that the world was not living in a state of benign grace before 9/11, nor was the West forced into adopting radically belligerent foreign policy measures thereafter. So the first part of the comment is probably just a lapse into auto-pilot, peddling the old trope “9/11″ changed everything”.
But what of the second part? It’s hard to believe that the Quartet’s Middle East envoy truly thinks that there is absolutely nothing in history, during centuries of Western involvement, that some in the Middle East might have found provocative.
Let’s hope that he and his sponsors are listening to the Middle East now, though, because Jordanian commentator Tahir al-Udwan, writing in the newspaper Al-Arab al-Yawm, is surely not the only one to express opinions like these:
The hatred toward the Americans in and outside Iraq, from Afghanistan and Pakistan to the border of the Atlantic Ocean, is deeper than the hatred that the terrorist 11 September attacks on New York generated among the Americans.”
If this hatred results in bloodshed, who will Blair blame then?
(Juan Cole’s blog “Informed Comment” contains the full transcript of Tahir al-Udwan’s editorial, and some more opinions from the Jordanian media, specifically in reaction to President Obama’s speech last week.)