NBC’s David Gregory pressed Tony Blair over the resurgence of Islamic fundamentalism worldwide, arguing that perhaps the former British prime minister’s support for the Iraq War bolstered Islamic terrorism — a charge Blair vehemently denied.
Blair appeared on NBC’s “Meet the Press” Sunday to advocate for a stronger Western response to the burgeoning threat of Islamic fundamentalism in places like Syria, Yemen, Iraq and North Africa.
But Gregory pushed back. “Isn’t the legacy of your leadership, and that of President Bush, in part responsible for the reality today?” he asked, noting that many in both the United States and Britain believe interventions in places like Iraq emboldened and inspired Islamic radicals and took resources away from the fight against al-Qaida in Afghanistan.
“So we’ve got to liberate ourselves from this,” Blair responded forcefully, “because we’re making a huge error when we end up thinking somehow it’s our actions that have caused this.”
The former prime minister noted that due to the invasions, “brutal dictators” were removed from Iraq and Afghanistan, election took place and fundamentalist fighters were forced into hiding. By contrast, in places like Syria without Western involvement, they’re “still going and fighting jihad there.”
“So you can carry on explaining all this by saying, ‘It’s us, we provoked them, it’s really — they’re just trying to react against Western imperialism — it’s nonsense!” Blair fumed.
If it were the case, for example, that the reason why they were engaged in this terrorism in Iraq was because of the presence of American troops or British troops, you would expect when we get out, the terrorism would stop,” Blair noted.
“It doesn’t,” he explained. “And it doesn’t because it’s not coming from us. It’s coming from this ideology, and we aren’t going to defeat it until we liberate ourselves from the attitude that somehow we’re the cause of it.”
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