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National Secular Society

Challenging Religious Privilege

A holy mission: Is this the real reason Blair went to war in Iraq?

In 2003, nearly a million people demonstrated in the streets of London in protest against Tony Blair’s intention to involve Britain in George W. Bush’s “War on Terror” – and specifically to launch an invasion of Iraq. It has remained a mystery as to why, in the face of this unprecedented display of public anger, Blair went ahead with the war anyway.

Tony Blair

One suspicion was that Blair, the Christian, shared George W. Bush’s belief that this was a “holy mission”, a fulfilment of Biblical prophecy.

More evidence for that explanation is beginning to emerge. First a new book by John Burton, who was Tony Blair’s political agent for 24 years and some say his mentor. The book is entitled We Don’t Do God: Blair’s religious beliefs and its consequences. “It was Alastair Campbell who said ‘We don’t do God’ – but we did. Tony did God all the time,” Mr Burton told the Northern Echo newspaper.

This much we already knew, But Mr Burton reveals for the first time the full extent of Blair’s obsession with religion. He says that religion gave Blair a “total belief in what’s right and what’s wrong”, leading him to see the so-called War on Terror as “a moral cause”.

Put this together with the alliance Blair made with George W. Bush and the evidence mounts, because now we have further confirmation that George W. Bush regarded his invasion of Iraq as a biblical necessity.

According to a book by the former French president Jacques Chirac, Bush approached him in 2003 while lobbying leaders to put together the “Coalition of the Willing”.

Bush told Chirac that the Biblical creatures Gog and Magog were at work in the Middle East and how they must be defeated. (In Genesis and Ezekiel, Gog and Magog are forces of the Apocalypse who are prophesied to come out of the north and destroy Israel unless stopped. The Book of Revelation took up the Old Testament prophesy: “And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison, And shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle and fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them.”)

Bush believed the time had now come for that battle, telling Chirac: “This confrontation is willed by God, who wants to use this conflict to erase his people’s enemies before a New Age begins”. 

George Bush

According to a report on Alternet: “The story of the conversation emerged only because the Elysée Palace, baffled by Bush’s words, sought advice from Thomas Romer, a professor of theology at the University of Lausanne. Four years later, Romer gave an account in the September 2007 issue of the university's review, Allez Savoir. The article apparently went mostly unnoticed, although it was referred to in a French newspaper.

“The story has now been confirmed by Chirac himself in a new book, published in France in March, by journalist Jean Claude Maurice. Chirac is said to have been stupefied and disturbed by Bush's invocation of Biblical prophesy to justify the war in Iraq and “wondered how someone could be so superficial and fanatical in their beliefs”.

“In the same year he spoke to Chirac, Bush had reportedly said to the Palestinian foreign minister that he was on “a mission from God” in launching the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan and was receiving commands from the Lord.”

There can be little doubt now that President Bush’s reason for launching the war in Iraq was, for him, fundamentally religious. He was driven by his belief that the attack on Saddam’s Iraq was the fulfilment of a biblical prophesy in which he had been chosen to serve as the instrument of the Lord.

The French turned Bush down, but Blair threw himself into Bush’s fantasy, justifying it with the “weapons of mass destruction” deceit. There were prayer breakfasts and long telephone calls. How much of Bush’s religious mania did Blair buy into?

I don’t suppose we’ll ever have a definitive answer, but Tony Blair now has a “Faith Foundation” that has ambitions to solve the problems of the Middle East. Let’s hope he isn’t asking advice from George Bush how to bring it about.

See also:

How Obama should address the Muslim world 

Published Fri, 29 May 2009