The Blair Affair (2003-2015): Growing out of Neoconservatism

by on 27 October, 2015

Chris Dowson

Christopher Dowson explains the left-wing origins of a political ideology and foreign policy attitude commonly thought of as right-wing.

This is a difficult piece for me to write today, partially because it caused a healthy dose of self-reflection on my own political attitudes over the last decade and a bit. I was 14 years old when the Coalition of the Willing put boots, and carpet bombs, on the ground in Iraq circa 2003 and I was very confused – but excited. I remember tuning in to news broadcasts from Fox and CNN watching the ‘brutal and corrupt’ Saddam Hussein and his deviant sons being given a fresh blast of ‘freedom’ from the American F-15Es above. I was glad that such a horrible human like Hussein was being brought to justice.

Plus the ‘fact’ that he was close friends with Al Qaeda and was storing ‘Weapons of Mass Destruction’ to unleash upon us all. Who was I to question? If Colin Powell and Dick Cheney said so then it must have been true, right? Well, no. It all turned out to be wrong. And now I’m watching Fox and CNN looking at men in balaclavas bearing black flags and shouting ‘Praise Allah!’ in the very same locations where USA and Co. detonated so much freedom all those years ago.

As a 26-year old now, with a far more stoic view of foreign affairs, I find myself forgiving, but still disappointed in, my 14-year old neoconservative self, but thankfully – like measles – you tend to grow out of it the older and wiser you get.

Enter Tony Blair: The illegitimate son of two actors who wanted to be a rock band promoter before resigning himself to study law at Oxford. According to sources, he tried to act like Mick Jagger at school, earning the ire of his teachers who were ‘glad to see the back of him’. He dated feminist film director Mary Harron at Oxford (famous for her American Psycho (2000) movie, but more on Americans and psychos later).

Blair was a man who wanted to be famous, no matter what. Whether it was singing in a punk band called Ugly Rumours or pretending to care about workers during Hackney and Shoreditch by-elections. Blair admitted he was on the ‘soft Left’ of the Labour Party after joining in the mid-70s where he ‘came to socialism through Marxism’. Sounds like having a double coronary bypass, very unpleasant stuff.

But speaking of coronary bypasses, a man not too dissimilar from Blair had risen to the ranks of the Republican Party over in the US, a man named Dick Cheney (who had an angioplasty in 2001 coincidentally). Although a decade older than Blair, Cheney came into politics around the same time (the 70s) and was elected to the US House of Reps in 1978 to represent Wyoming (yee ha!) Cheney would soon be re-elected five times and end up as Secretary of Defense, despite having dodged the Vietnam Draft not once but five times. Shooting a gun can be scary I guess, although in 2006 Cheney accidentally shot a friend of his while quail hunting. Probably for the best that he was never drafted, friendly fire isn’t looked upon too kindly by US soldiers.

When questioned about his draft dodging by the press, Cheney allegedly replied: ‘I had other priorities in the ’60s than military service’. So in 1989, Cheney was a natural choice for Secretary of Defense and over the next four years, ordered the Invasion of Panama, and the Invasion of Kuwait and Iraq under Operation Desert Storm, while also being awarded the Presidential Medal of ‘Freedom’.

So it was that after 9/11, after the Invasion of Afghanistan and the Cave Search for Bin Laden, the White House under George W. Bush came across the idea to invade Iraq, again. The light-bulb moment ostensibly came from the procurement of evidence indicating that Saddam was close mates with Bin Laden and was trafficking chemical and biological weapons to his terrorists pals. Colin Powell even showed a viral of anthrax to the UN Security Council in February 2003 – I guess to prove that if Powell could access anthrax so easily then surely Saddam could too!? At any rate, the causus belli was to ‘disarm Saddam’ and ‘free the Iraqi people’ (can I have another ‘yee ha’ people?)

Poor Dubya wasn’t left with many options though. All his top advisors, including our mate Dick, had convinced him that Saddam was a bad guy working with terrorists – even if there was no concrete evidence to indicate anything of the sort.

The Blairites over the Atlantic saw it as their time to shine. Tony was an ambitious guy and wanted to get on the freedom bandwagon as soon as possible. He was so enthusiastic that he met with Bush multiple times (including once at Bush’s ranch in Texas) the year before the invasion. Somehow, in between Blair’s hectic travel schedule, meeting Bush and Cheney, and scheduling secluded island visits with Rupert Murdoch in Australia, he decided upon a course of action for Iraq.

Mr Blair’s spin doctor, Alistair Campbell, even plagiarised bits and pieces of a doctoral thesis by one Ibrahim Al Marashi a student at Oxford University. The thesis discussed the secretive world of Saddam Hussein’s rule (but had no account of WMDs, nor terrorists) and Blair used it as ‘evidence’ of Saddam’s shady dealings. The plagiarised passages formed part of the magic ‘Dossier’ which was claimed to be the smoking gun when it came to Saddam’s possession of chemical and biological weapons. If you’ve ever seen the satirical comedy In the Loop (2009), the plot quite lucidly, if not farcically, summarises the inner-workings of the Blair administration during this time.

Of course, just this month it was revealed that Tony, Dick and some other of Bush’s ne’er-do-wells, had been planning the invasion up to a year before they even crafted – er, found – the evidence. US documents obtained by the Daily Mail were published as part of a batch of emails from the private server of Hillary Clinton, which the US courts have recently coerced her into disclosing. Among the leaked papers is one from March 2002 by Colin Powell to Bush, where he said: ‘On Iraq, Blair will be with us should military operations be necessary…He is convinced on two points: the threat is real; and success against Saddam will yield more regional success.’ The leaked documents also reveal that Blair, and his spin doctor Campbell, agreed to act as the de facto PR people for the Bush administration in order to convince lawmakers and the public at large that Iraq posed a ‘real and imminent threat’.

Yet without getting bogged down in the dodgy doctoring of evidence and the sham which was perpetrated on the public by the UK and US governments (and, complicit in all of this, Western media), the crux of the matter comes down to one word: neoconservatism.

Did anyone ever once ask why political ideologues like Dick Cheney, Colin Powell, and Donald Rumsfeld were so close with the Blair administration? The 2010 movie The Special Relationship clumsily documented the close bond between Bill Clinton and Tony Blair (two left-wing ideologues), and media coverage frequently reported that Blair and Bush possessed a good working relationship. But how can we explain why Bush’s political advisors and Blair’s Boys got on like a madrasa on fire? One word: neoconservatism.

Neocons are not on the ‘right wing’ of the political spectrum, in fact they sit rather comfortably in the heart of progressivism and leftist foreign policy. It is because they both descend from a common ideological patriarch: Leon Trotsky. Trotsky’s ‘Permanent Revolution’ theory had first and foremost as its aim: to spread Communism across the globe through interventionism.

Trotsky stated that the Revolution must quickly spread to capitalist countries, bringing about a socialist revolution which ‘must spread worldwide’. Yet Trostsky and his supporters were also strident promoters of a centralised global democracy, which made Stalin supporters hate Trotskyites more than Capitalists. In a statement in 1936, Trotsky proclaimed: ‘A nationalised planned economy needs democracy, as the human body needs oxygen’.

The seeds of the neconservative movement were planted by thinkers such as Irving Kristol, Albert Wohlstetter, Nathan Glazer, and Sidney Hook, who all belonged to the so–called ‘anti-Stalinist far left’ (1930s-40s) with Trotskyite ties. As early as 1963, historian Richard Hofstadter commented on the progression of many ex-Communists from the paranoid left to the paranoid right. Four decades later the dominant strain of neoconservatism was declared to be a mixture of ‘geopolitical militarism’ and ‘inverted socialist internationalism’. By the the late 90s, there was also a formal recognition of think-tanks and lobby groups promoting neoconservative causes, usually through foreign policy, such as the Project for the New American Century (founded by William Kristol and Robert Kagan).

Such groups often recruited Jewish-Americans, as was the case in the 30s and 40s where Jewish political thinkers had successfully made the transition from hard left Trotsky followers to the centre-right of the political spectrum. Now however, the main focus was not sociological or industrial but mainly on the role of Israel as the yardstick against which much of the USA’s foreign policy endeavours would be measured. The yardstick would also include ‘democracy’, which was equated with ‘freedom’. Freedom/democracy, the necons demanded, must be delivered to every corner of the globe, just as a centralised democracy needed to be spread and promote Communism under Trotsky’s Permanent Revolution theory.

Modern necons such as Jonah Goldberg today seek to disassociate from the Trotskyite past and revise their ideological lineage. In a recent article for the neoconservative publication The National Review, Goldberg protests:

‘While it might be fun to wade deep into the weeds to demonstrate the ludicrousness of this assertion, let me just say that of the scores of famous neocons I’ve met, none of them have ever expressed any fondness for Trotsky. He’s never quoted as an authority in neocon op-eds or journals, and he’s never invoked — save in jokes — in neocon debates or conferences’.

That argument isn’t persuasive. Goldberg’s gripe was specifically with paleoconservatives like traditionalist conservative Pat Buchanan, who labelled the current Republican neocon establishment as the ‘War Party allied with Israel’.

So from this genealogical survey of the neocon and Communist families, it was no coincidence that the perfect storm of international socialism (made manifest in Iraq in 2003) would in fact culminate with a Republican President goaded by his neocon advisors and a self-absorbed Marxist PM from the Labour Party, banging the war-drum for the spread of centralised (i.e. Washington-centric) ‘democracy’ and ‘liberating the Iraqis’ with extra special freedom.

Trotsky would no doubt have been proud, ‘down with the bourgeois Saddam!’ And like her Republican predecessors, necon and leftist par excellence, Hillary Clinton, would refuse to learn from the 2003 mistakes and sought to ‘liberate’ the people of Libya from the ‘horrible’ Muammar Gadaffi. By focusing on his ‘horrendous’ human rights record, Hillary and Obama replaced a dictator with terrorists.

All of this just demonstrates how intimately close Leftism and Neoconservatism is, how misguided both ideologies are, and why we must say no to them at all costs.

As the Chilcot Inquiry into the Iraq Invasion ponderously delays the release of its Final Report (due in 2016), the revelations from Hillary’s email scandal in the meantime have forced Blair to apologise for his role in the Iraq Invasion 12 years post facto (possibly pre-empting a scathing review). Whatever the reason, Blair has obviously put himself back under scrutiny and many more horror stories will likely come out of the woodwork. The world seems to have outgrown neoconservatism and has become more realistic and circumspect about foreign interventionism, hence the rising popularity of pundits like Donald Trump or Jeremy Corbyn.

Those who cheered on the Iraq Invasion, like I did as a 14-year old, have hopefully sobered up and realised that it was not, is not, and never will be the West’s duty to ‘spread democracy’ across the world, to topple dictators or to ‘liberate’ their subjects. Such naivety, as we all know, is the perpetual affliction of the Left.

Don’t listen to what Hillary Clinton, Dick Cheney, Tony Blair, David Cameron or many of the current Republican candidates are telling you about Iran, Iraq, or the Middle East in general. If you want to know what they all think about foreign affairs, go back and read some Trotsky, it’s all there. And as a completely unrelated stock tip: Keep a keen eye on the crude oil price.

Christopher Dowson works in government policy and legal areas and also holds an LLB/BA(Hons) and MA. He was co-founder of the WA current-affairs show The Oak Point on WestTV.

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