It's a cruel and unusual punishment for any Monday morning, having to listen to Tony Blair on BBC Radio 4's Today programme. Why the programme's editors chose to interview the former prime minister on the controversy over the anti-Islamic film that has triggered demonstrations throughout much of the world is beyond me. The man who has done more than most to contribute to anti-western feeling among Muslims in the Middle East and Asia is called upon to tell us why Muslims shouldn't be angry about anything.
So while Blair dismissed the film as "laughable", he claimed that those who reacted against it by demonstrating were "very dangerous and wrong". He seems to think that the film can be judged by the standards of the Cannes film festival and, once found wanting, can be dismissed by all right-minded people. Yet the objection to the film is not about its quality, but its intent of slandering and insulting Muslims across the world.
Why are Muslims so sensitive on this question? Maybe the answer comes not just from one crude and racist film, but from long years of hurt caused by wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, imprisonment without trial by western-backed dictators, extraordinary rendition and torture, the burning of the Qur'an by US troops in Afghanistan, and the air strikes, barely acknowledged in the west, which this weekend alone killed eight women and girls.
Eleven years of war and occupation have done, and are still doing, immense damage in the countries worst affected. A recent survey showed high levels of distrust of the US throughout the Arab world.
Blair's claim that the struggle in the region is between the forces of modernisation "and these very powerful forces of reaction based on a perverted view of religion" is a gross and self-serving distortion of the facts. Anyone would think that people in the Middle East did not use computers, fly in planes or communicate through Twitter.
Many of those opposing US and British policies in the Middle East are young and well educated. They are not religious fanatics but object to the being treated as inferior, and object to the richest countries in the world exploiting their resources and occupying their countries.
They see unmanned US drone aircraft killing people in Pakistan and Yemen and wonder what kind of civilisation they are being offered.
Blair opined that "the great debate in the world at the moment is between the open-minded and the closed-minded". As usual, here Blair casts himself in the role of decent liberal. But some of his closest allies in these wars have been the US neocons, known for their narrow conservatism. And Blair himself has refused to ever acknowledge that he has done anything wrong over the invasion of Iraq. His "open-mindedness" never extended to taking on board public opinion, which from that time has been consistently anti-war.
Blair also claimed that most of those killed in Afghanistan and Iraq were the victims not of western intervention but of sectarian killings. This is simply not true. Hundreds of thousands have been killed in those wars, large numbers by air strikes, many in sieges such as Fallujah, and millions have been displaced. Where there are sectarian killings, as in Iraq today, they date from the war and occupation and the policies that helped divide and rule.
Millions in the Middle East and south Asia have suffered as a result of these wars. Hardly surprising therefore that they have reasons to dislike, distrust and oppose what Blair and his cronies have done – and what they are still doing. Blair is a great enthusiast for future wars, especially against Iran. He should be treated as the persistent offender that he actually is, not given primetime slots for yet more delusional self-justification.
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