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Wednesday, 18 June 2014

THE ISIS CRISIS, AND BLAIR FLARE

The UK media is tending this past week to see the current Iraq-Syria-ISIS crisis, whereby a group of extremist militants is threatening to carve up a Caliphate in the middle of the Middle East, at the expense of Western (and apparently Iranian interests), through the rather myopic lens of the Blair-Bush axis of 2003.  I was a coordinator of the American poets against the war web site, and also edited Salt's major anthology, 100 Poets Against The War - so it is clear I was not precisely a Blair fan back then.  Nor do I find his wild-eyed interventions these days much more welcome; I chuckled when Boris Johnson suggested he put a sock in it.  There is perhaps some anti-Catholicism in this, but if Blair had been a good Catholic he would have known the 2003 war was unjust. His lapses are legion.

Anyway, the current crisis is not entirely Blair's doing.  While it seems true that the sadistic tyranny of the Saddam years kept a lid on the sectarian divisions, if not desires, the main fault, as Fisk pointed out in a good article in the Independent on Saturday, is the meddling of France and Britain, starting many decades before, when Iraq as artificially carved out on the back of an envelope.  The history of the West in the Levant is shameful, and long - and it involves a will to control and dominion that is colonial.  Lip-service may be paid, from time to time, about human rights and freedoms, but it's been about the geography and geology for over a century.

That's half the problem - the other is that the majority religion in the region, much like Christianity several centuries before, and more recently in Ireland, is riven by sectarian debates and conflicts, exacerbated by regional power politics.  Even without the West, ISIS would be seeking to overthrow Assad, and would be seeking a Caliphate.  It may be that the Iraq war destabilised the region, but so did the Iranian revolution, and the Egyptian one.  The region is tumultuous, and to credit Blair-Bush with the catastrophe is historically limiting.

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