Tony Blair should go to Afghanistan

The former British PM should follow up by personal example on his calls not to abandon Afghanistan.

Former British PM Tony Blair leaves BBC Headquarters after appearing on the Andrew Marr Show, June 6 [Henry Nicholls/Reuters]
Former British PM Tony Blair leaves BBC Headquarters after appearing on the Andrew Marr Show, June 6 [Henry Nicholls/Reuters]

Robert Fisk would not be amused.

Rather, I suspect, the late and unparalleled marquee columnist for the online British newspaper, The Independent, would, at the least, be bemused by the cyber-pamphlet’s bewildering decision to republish a 2,700-word piece of exculpatory blather penned by Tony Blair – a preening, historically illiterate dilettante Fisk detested.

Providing Blair with prime editorial real estate represents a curious and surprising volte-face, given that, not too long ago, a senior editor scolded the former prime minister in a pointed “Letter from the Deputy Editor” for having “crawl[ed] out of the woodwork to deny any responsibility for the worsening security situation in Iraq.”

The derisive note ended with this sharp indictment: “But whatever you think of his recent outburst…Mr Blair is right about one thing: the whole of the Middle East is under threat. He just needs to accept the part he played in its downfall.”

I take it that all is forgiven as The Independent has seen fit to permit Blair to crawl out of the woodwork again and share his latest windy “outburst” with readers.

I doubt Fisk would have welcomed or endorsed The Independent’s sorry, click-driven bout of amnesia.

Over many years and in many columns, Fisk excoriated Blair using deliciously blunt language. I revisited Fisk’s prolific catalogue to gather his thoughts about the unrepentant warmonger and his catastrophic obstinance to reshape Iraq and Afghanistan, since it appears The Independent’s editors have forgotten.

Fisk’s overarching assessment of Blair’s essential character cannot be dismissed as an ad hominin attack. Informed by his singular intelligence and experience, it is, instead, an accurate reflection of the foul measure of a comfortably rich, dictator-hobnobbing hypocrite (see Blair’s military coup d’état pal in Egypt, General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi) who continues to be described, insanely, as a “socialist”.

Fisk not only called Blair “repulsive”, but also a “worthless” and “mendacious” political figure “who – in an obscenity of history – we…refer to as a ‘peace envoy’” and given his “prosaic” nature, has had a disastrous preoccupation with the “banal” at the expense of the profound, indelible human suffering he is responsible for.

I challenge you to find a more precise precis of Blair.

Proof of every word Fisk employed to define Blair is evident in his recent spleen burst which, at times, reads like the grasping apologia of an aggrieved man seeking desperately to convince others of his innocence when the historical record of his guilt is fixed permanently.

In a futile and, indeed, repulsive attempt to absolve himself of liability for the lethal quagmires he engineered with a Catholic missionary’s zeal to neuter “Islamist terror”, Blair brandishes a rhetorical rod to bash the “abandonment” of Afghanistan as a short-sighted strategic folly that has delivered the country to the malignant Taliban.

Reading Blair’s revisionist, self-serving missive, I wondered, seriously, whether he does not remember that he is, in fact, Tony Blair – the cocksure prime minister who fused himself to George W Bush like a conjoined twin to unleash two unrelenting wars while dismissing the prescient, persistent cautions of millions of wise Brits who, along with Fisk, warned of the humanitarian calamity to come.

Tony Blair and George W Bush are, by now, widely accepted synonyms for “strategic folly”. That Blair remains incapable of acknowledging, let alone atoning for, his egregious geopolitical sins by, in part, just shutting up, is evidence of his abiding hubris and mendacious constitution.

Predictably, Blair trots out the familiar pallet of excuses to try to paint a more agreeable and forgiving portrait of who and what he is – today and tomorrow.

After 9/11 the world was “spinning on its axis” – which Blair apparently needs reminding it does normally – and the fear of another “slaughter” required a response. In his recounting, Blair did not help launch wars that maimed and slaughtered countless innocents in Fallujah, Samarra, Amarah, Tel Afar, or Anbar province, but plotted pleasant-sounding “interventions”. He made mistakes – “some serious” – along the calamitous way. But his intentions were noble. He fails, however, to elaborate on the number and scope of those no doubt irritating errors.

How convenient.

Fisk knew how Blair’s “interventions” in Iraq and Afghanistan would end years before they ended – in inevitable defeat and ruination – because he did not pause to consider some necessary questions.

“Where, oh where are we going?” Fisk wrote. “How much longer must we willfully misread what we are doing and what is being done to us?”

Still, perhaps the most telling and worthless aspect of Blair’s rambling essay is this cliched passage recalling the lonely weight that only prime ministers and presidents understand: “I know better than most how difficult are the decisions of leadership, and how easy it is to be critical, and how hard to be constructive.”

So, in the spirit of constructiveness, let me make this earnest proposal to Blair: Go to Afghanistan to show, by your estimable example and presence, that, unlike the quislings who have retreated in humiliation, you stand steadfast, “shoulder to shoulder” not with the dauphin Bush this time, but with besieged Afghans.

Put down your pen, Mr Blair, and pack a bag – and a bible if need be for comfort and reassurance of the righteousness of this honourable endeavour.

Surely you can leverage your lucrative, rarified contacts in Riyadh, Cairo or Tel Aviv to arrange for safe passage to turbulent Kabul. They could enlist a band of “special” forces to accompany you on your perilous pilgrimage; a tangible testament that, unlike the unnamed quislings, Tony Blair is a man of his word who will not abandon Afghans and Afghanistan.

But we and you know that you will never go, Mr Blair. Afghanistan is a dangerous, unpredictable place and you might be hurt or killed like the thousands of British soldiers who were disfigured and perished in that dangerous, unpredictable place because you decided to impose, through force and on your command, your vain, evangelical designs.

You and your faithful apologists will insist that my entreaty is absurd. It is much less absurd and certainly much less costly – both in the trillions spent to wage your disfiguring wars of choice and the deep damage done in mind, body and spirit to Afghans, the casualties of your vain, evangelical designs.

Despite your calculated effort to rid yourself of the stain of disgrace you have so earned, it will always follow you like a long shadow under the late-day sun.

And, Mr Blair, you cannot escape that your epitaph has already been written by the incomparable Robert Fisk: “Again, the same old story. It’s not the extent of an Afghan’s loss that will measure his recompense but the degree of culpability of those who brought about that loss. And we are never – ever – going to blame ourselves.”

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.



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