A statesman returns to the UN

By John J. Metzler ,Special to The China Post

UNITED NATIONS — In a world where politicians and potentates clog the media with pre-packaged sound bites, yammer on with a staccato of political chatter, or drone on with endless explanations of subjects even they forgot, it’s heartening to see a former British prime minister act the role of statesman and sage. Thus, after the sonorous drone of the recent U.N. General debate, it’s a pleasure hearing Tony Blair address key global issues with passion, verve, and dedication. Tony Blair addressed the Security Council as part of a wider debate on counter terrorism. The former prime minister recalled that the last occasion in which he spoke to the Council was in 2000, the world was still in the aftermath of the meltdown of the Cold War but just before the September 2001 terrorist attacks on America. As Blair recalled, “The mood was optimistic, the atmosphere light.”

Yet it was the global atmosphere of the post Sept. 11 world, which Blair addressed with a keen and poignant urgency. “There is little disagreement now about the nature of the scourge. It is extremism based on a perversion of religious belief, a fanaticism that abuses faith to justify violence against innocent civilians.” He cited the scourge of terrorism in the Middle East, Central Asia and in many parts of Africa, “most recently the terrible events in Kenya.” Blair stated bluntly, “Of course politics plays its part in fueling this extremism, and the extremists are adept at jumping on the back of political grievances; they use them and exploit them.” Let this writer add that radical politicalized Islam has been the foundation of the Islamic Republic of Iran in the post-Shah era. He added, “The soil in which they plant the seeds of hate, is the soil of ignorance, of warped thinking producing warped minds and in particular of a distorted and false view of religion. We will not deal with the root causes of terrorism unless we confront this fact.” He stressed, “That is why in the 21st century education is a security issue.” The former prime minister added sagely, “It is an ideology, even a cult.” He added, “We most frequently link this to extreme views found in those who claim to follow Islam, but in truth there are also extremist acts perpetrated against Muslims.”