by Robert Fisk, The Independent
It was, of course, utterly inevitable that Tony Blair would back Egypt’s new authoritarian leaders.
After all, can you imagine Blair – our very own Lord Blair of Kut al-Amara – stepping forth to offer his courageous, unstinting support to a democratically elected President overthrown in a military coup d’état? Can you imagine him condemning a General – no, I forget, General Abdel Fatah al-Sisi has just been made a Field Marshal – whose men have gunned down 1,000 protesters since last summer and who has now put the elected President on trial for his life as a “terrorist”? Ye Gods, if such bravery burned within the heart of Lord Blair, we would all suffer immediate cardiac arrest.
So it was that the man who brought us victory in Afghanistan and glory in Iraq – and who has always fearlessly condemned the Israeli colonisation of the West Bank – yesterday threw his entire reputation and honour behind Field Marshal Sisi, Commander-in-Chief of the Egyptian Armed Forces, Deputy Prime Minister of the Egyptian Arab Republic and Minister of Defence. The Egyptian army had “ intervened” and had done so “at the will of the people”. Thus quoth Lord Blair. And Field Marshal Sisi saw that it was good, and smiled upon him. But I have to admit – let’s be fair – that Field Marshal Sisi really doesn’t deserve this frivolous “peace envoy”. Unlike some of the dictators with whom Blair frolics, al-Sisi is a personally uncorrupt man. He comes from a conservative, decent family. His uncle was himself a Muslim Brother. Field Marshal Sisi spent months serving poor old Mohamed Morsi as a loyal minister before chucking him out. He even warned Morsi, faithful servant of state that he was, that a coup was on the cards. Sure, Sisi’s comrades killed hundreds of Egyptian protesters – but the Field Marshal doesn’t have the blood of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis on his hands. Besides, the Egyptian people love Sisi. Why else should Cairo be awash with Sisi chocolates and Sisi T-shirts and Sisi pyjamas? Do the British people love Blair? Do they eat Blair chocolates and wear Blair pyjamas?
Of course, for a man who said of Saddam that “he has used gas against his own people”, it must have been difficult for Lord Blair to resist the phrase – on arrival in Cairo to meet another military autocrat – that “he has used live bullets against his own people”. Neither did he mention the lads of Al Jazeera banged up in the Tora jail for “terrorism” (ho hum) – why, isn’t that just what Blair should have done with his own country’s treacherous journos when they failed to back his and George W’s crusade against World Evil?
Blair, a prosaic man, thus concentrated on the banal. Egypt had “ an ancient civilisation”, he said. Egyptians were “a great people” with “great energy and determination” – this was positively colonial in approach – and we should support these people who wanted an “open-minded society”. And that, announced Lord Blair, “ means we support the government here in Egypt”.
If he could have grasped a mere semblance of the truth, Blair would have understood the irony of the words he used of the Muslim Brotherhood. The Brotherhood, he said, “tried to take the country away from its basic values of hope and progress”. But isn’t that exactly what Blair did to his own country? Didn’t Blair – with his mendacious wars – take Britain from its basic values of hope and progress? It almost makes you wish that Sisi could have brought his chaps over to London in early 2003 to do a spot of “intervention” with the support of millions of Britons.
But Blair waffled away, apparently unaware that armies have been “intervening” rather a lot in modern history. Let’s forget for a moment that the Soviets also said that their army had “intervened” in Central Asia in 1979. But I was thinking of someone else. Austria? Czechoslovakia? Small man. Moustache. Used to be a corporal. No matter. Just comfort yourself with the thought of Lord Blair taking off his Sisi T-shirt tonight, pulling on his Sisi pyjamas and sucking away at his Sisi chocolates.