Saturday, October 08, 2005

Three months on...

Image hosted by flickr.com

Yesterday was the three month anniversary of the terrorist attacks in London... made all the more poignant by the news that New York authorities had received specified threats against their city's subway system. It now seems clear that regardless of our continued military efforts to thwart Al Quaeda and its decentralized network of indoctrinated militants, this threat will remain in our lives for years if not decades to come. Extreme Islamic terror in our largest cities around the world is unquestionably here to stay.

It still feels like only yesterday that the chaos of that morning ensued in London... the explosion of images, muddled reports, and a desperate concern for relatives and loved ones. The immediate aftermath where it was swiftly explained that the apparent seven explosions were in actual fact only four. And then, in the days that followed we saw the faces of those responsible. Human beings all. One, a loving father and teacher, others too young to legally drink alcohol in the United States. A story emerged that the parents of one of the suicide bombers had tipped off the police by inquiring about whether their son had been a victim in the attacks. I can only begin to imagine their shock.

What occurred on July 7th made me immensely proud of my home city, and our inviolate spirit forged by the Blitz of World War 2 and the IRA bombing campaign in the 1980's. If the object of terrorism is to terrorize, then those ultimately responsible for these attacks utterly failed. There has been no outbreak of anti-muslim violence here, no dramatic political upheaval like that witnessed as a consequence of the Madrid bombings. They did not damage our economy, nor our willingness to continue on in pursuit of what they fear most of all - a free society, comprising people of all religions and creeds, fostering self determination, individualism, equality of the races, sexes, and different sexualities... and, of course, most fundamentally, the liberty to dissent without fear of retribution. It's our way of life that ultimately poses the greatest threat to Islamic Extremists who, by contrast, require the violent enforcement of scripture to retain the perpetuation and longevity of their power and control.

I don't know whether or not the nature of the potential threat posed to NYC two days ago demanded full public disclosure. None of us are in a position to make an informed judgment about that because we do not know all of the facts. All I know is that we need to prize even more highly our way of life. Every possible precaution sometimes doesn't serve our larger battle against terrorism in my opinion, and, I couldn't understand why some people responded to the NYC tip off with an almost vitriolic, eager excitement to remind us all that it is good to always be afraid... to always be fearful, as if it was a bad thing that New York had began to move on from the trauma of September 11th.

It is good to not be afraid. To be undaunted. To be unmoved. Ask yourself this: When those responsible for the London bombings saw the city's commuters flood back onto underground trains the very next day, how powerless must they have felt? When those planning to attack see public figures promoting mass hysteria, by contrast, how powerful must they feel?

To qualify this post I am a foreign policy hawk. I believe in preemptive action where appropriate. I'm not singing kumbaya around the campfire, while preaching appeasement, and ignorance. It's just sometimes I think people need to be reminded exactly what it is we are fighting for... our way of life. It's our way of life that threatens terrorists' grandiloquent fascistic designs... it's our way of life that they want to destroy... and its our way of life, consequently, that we should prize most highly of all.

Related Posts:
When the unthinkable happens...
Why did the terrorists attack?

24 comments:

Nancyrowina said...

Hi there, just wanted to ask if you are listed on the Britblog directory yet? We always need new politics blogs.

It's here

www.britblog.com

Sustenance Scout said...

Well done. Insightful and helpful in these trying times. I'm glad I stumbled across your site and will be checking back.

Graham said...

Thanks sustenance scout. I appreciate the comment :).

Anonymous said...

FFFLLL. If you want to know what that code means in blogger slang, you'll can find out here.

Alice: In Wonderland or Not said...

How about this one.
YSNLUCITB
YOU SHOULD NOT LEAVE UNWANTED COMMENTS IN THIS BLOG.

Graham,
You are the head of reason as always.

Graham said...

LOL! Alice. Man, these little f'ers just keep coming. I deleted like about ten already. I guess I should put the letter verification system on but I keep thinking that it will disincentivize comments... not that I get that many as it is, lol.

Thanks Alice :).

Orikinla Osinachi. said...

I just read that the Al Qaida is recruiting more terrorists and they even posted their advert for vacancy on web sites.

The war on terror is the battle for the survival of humanity.

These terrorists are the enemies of humanity.

Graham said...

For the very time with your final statement, Orikinla, I agree with you :).

I also should say that you have the best tag line to your profile that I've ever read.

Thanks for your comment :).

Chris said...

I think this is my favorite post of yours that I have read. I am totally inspired by the British response to the terrorists attacks on 7/11.

If the same happened in America, the subways, heck an entire city, would be shut down for weeks. Of course, in America we have experienced the worst terrorism in human history, so I do think our fears in some ways are warranted. But you are so correct to add that living in fear will accomplish nothing.

This fear mentality in America comes from the Cold War. And because the neocons still operate like the Cold War exists, they also govern with the very same tactics as in the Cold War. To me, the last thing America needs to do is treat Islamic terrorism as a Cold War relic. It's as if the Cold War ended too soon for the cold warriors and the neocons that thrive from a public immensed in fear.

I suppose the biggest difference in American politics between the far right and the moderates is the way they view the threat of terrorism. Moderates see it as a challenge for 21st century measures, the right wing, led by the neocons, see it as a Cold War battle that will be won with the same plan created in 1948. I consider myself in the former of the two camps.

I wrote a post within hours after hearing about the London bombings. When you get some time, I would love some feedback from a Londoner. You can find a link to the article on my sidebar.

Good post Graham.

Chris said...

ooops, I think I meant 7/7. I think you get my point though.

Graham said...

9/11. 9/7. 7/11. I want a slurpie, lol. That might become a significant journalistic pitfall if we are subjected to anymore terrorist attacks me thinks.

Yes, I totally get your point. 3000 innocent dead is a massive, massive attack by any level, and I think that has a very large part to do with it. The fear, rationally and justifiably is much worse for the US as a result.

But, I absolutely agree with the subsequent point you make about the respective approaches from the right and progressives. I think the punditry, and aggressive antagonism from the right has contributed to the wide spread presence of fear because they are devoted to that type of cold war mentality. A tangible evil threat augments their notion of themselves and the country, + it also serves, rhetorically, their political ambitions.

Ironically, the greatest criticism that can be made in the war on terror is that the Administration waited so long to attack Afghanistatn that it gave the terrorist infrastructure based there time to re-locate, and move on. It also let Osama get away but I don't really think that's a big deal. God help us if we ever caught him the problems we'd then face from all of those that look up to him.

Okay, going to check out your 7/7 post now :). Thanks for the comment MJ.

Trisha said...

Very well stated! Unfortunately, when they struck America, they did most certainly dent our economy - but they really ticked off an already trigger-happy President.

Oops.

Even though I feel the reason for the war is right, the war itself is not justified. There has to be a better solution - especially because of the 'just like you' complex: all the people willing to replace the suicide bombers, tyrants, and terrorists.

Some day, some day, everything will even out... hopefully.

- Trisha
Mayo Brains - Spreading Thought

Gert said...

Almost 70% of Britons now believe that the invasion of Iraq was mistake. Most favour withdrawal, immediate or timed. These numbers exist in spite of HMG's relentless PR effort to convince people otherwise, see also Jack Straw on last night's Newsnight. Most also believe GW II is a factor in increasing the threat of attacks on British soil or on British targets abroad.

Resistance to HMG's new anti-terrorist laws is widespread and cross-partisan. But HMG continues to push ahead, thereby changing our valued "way of life" and effectively giving in to the terrorists.

Internally, many question our "way of life and values" as decadent, morally corrupt and wasteful. And really not all that democratic to begin with...

The West's irresponsible actions in Afhanistan and Iraq, started under false pretenses (no one now disputes that seriously anymore, unless you're a hardline New Labour supporter or a myopic Bushite), have achieved nothing but the opposite of its stated objectives: no WMD, no Iraq-9/11 connection, no 45 minute threat, no capture of OBL, no destruction of al-Qaeda, no end to the threat of terror...

Instead of listening to the people of Britain, these now face the spectre of more actions, in "dealing" with Iran and Syria. The prospect of defending "Iraqi democracy" with "Allied" military presence for 5-10 years (dixit Straw, not me), thereby effectively creating another almost permanently occupied zone in the Middle East and the fact the new regime will be seen by many as a Western puppet, changing one agent for another, as it were. How could such a Government be free if it relies on foreign powers to protect it?

Graham, do you really want more blood on your hands to defend yourself against the phantom threat of the "Caliphate"? Have you ever actually sat down and read one of OBL's statement transcripts? Do you actually understand the terrorists' demands or is all this a little game to you, in which you and your chums can feel patriotic in fighting for the wrong cause? For the wrong reasons? In the wrong part of the world?

Frankly, I don't think you're being honest with yourself. Certainly, judging by many of your hard-right blogger friends, who would favour unconditional Western supremacy and subjugation of the Mid East region, I have to draw my own conclusions about your true motives for support of this lunacy.

Some demoprat you are...

Graham said...

Hey Gert, long time no see :),

This post was about the contrasts between how London coped with terrorism and how NYC recently coped with terrorist threats... but hey, what the hell, onto Iraq:

I don't for one moment discount the current situation in Iraq, the problems that are being confronted, and the way in which the British public has responded. The truth remains that before the war began the majority of the British people supported it, as did the majority of the members of parliament... so your continued ascriptions of this somehow being an undemocratic action, from a UK perspective is unfounded. Equally there was nothing unprecedented about subverting the UN security council will, after the military action taken in Eastern Europe in the late 90's which has clearly re-introduced Democracy to the region and halted the rampant ethnic cleansing there... which of course Russia refused to consent to.

The only thing irresponsible about the action in Afghanistan was that the Bush Administration took so long to act, and allowed the terrorist infrastructure based there an opportunity to flee and regroup. As the terrorist letter from leaders of Al Quaeda to leaders of insurgency in Iraq recently proved, the consequences of war in Afghanistan, regardless of whether more could have been done, HAS served to dramatically disrupt their activities. This is now indisputable. And, if you are seriously suggesting that Afghanistan isn't better off today than it was under the rule of the Taliban then I would really have to question how sincere your appraisal of the situation is. There are innumerable resources online to chart the ways in which Afghanistan has grown as a society, democratically, and in terms of its infrastructure, from the foreign, theocratic, brutal rule of the Taliban, or even anything else that was there in place before.

As for HMG's public relations onslaught, as if that bares so heavily on public opinion in this country, our journalistic landscape is heavily biased in the UK. Anyone who saw the recent Panorama program on the new terror laws, which was completely one sided and biased, understands that the UK TV media is inherently left leaning. There is no broad sweeping consensus against these new laws, and I find your characterization to that end hysterical. To keep up with British public opinion on the anti terror laws I would check these websites:

www.mori.com
www.icmresearch.co.uk
www.yougov.com

…and not tabloid newspapers or the BBC (which I support strongly regardless).

Iran and Syria have to be dealt with. Your suggested policy of inaction to the mounting threats we face, then blaming the manifestation of those threats 100% on our action in Iraq is not one I can subscribe to.

The situation in Iraq, now, needs to be addressed. Even those who ardently disagreed with taking action in the first place acknowledge that immediate withdrawal would have catastrophic effects on the nation and the region. Terrible mistakes have been made in the reconstruction effort, in underestimating the insurgency, in economic decisions that were taken, in not making basic societal provisions a priority… and IMO the implications for unilateral action in the modern world are clear. Politically, the consequences of an action which has no international credibility are indisputable… and the lead up to war, quite rightly, is open to much criticism.

But, one of the worst dictators the world has ever seen is gone… IMO you cannot under any circumstances have a regime with a propensity for mass genocide desperately trying to acquire, and actually acquiring WMDs… especially after the agreements made in the aftermath of the first Gulf War. You cannot have a regime completely flouting the integrity of the international community. A regime that was a clear and present danger to every other nation in that region consequently, most obviously Israel… Whether you like it or not there is hope for Democracy in Iraq, there is hope for defeating this insurgency, there is hope for greater international involvement, there is hope for training Iraqi security forces to step up and manage the society (the mistake of disbanding the Republican National Guard has made this necessary), and as the constitution, diplomacy between sects and regions recently showed, Iraq is moving forward in terms of democracy… although there remains the clear risk it will be derailed into a theocracy.

In one of your last paragraphs you reference OBL’s transcripts as if you have some deep understanding of his intentions around the world. You don’t Gert, and your critique of US and UK foreign policy in the 20 & 21st century isn’t any basis upon which the threat of terrorism can be dealt with. I supported military intervention in Iraq, and I have been shocked and disappointed in the incompetence that has been brought to winning the subsequent peace there. That does not make military intervention wrong IMO. I supported military intervention in Kosovo, and also Afghanistan. I believe in leaders who are willing to take responsibility for meeting the threats gathering in this world of ours, and that’s why I continue to believe Tony Blair is a great Prime Minister, in addition to the fact that I broadly support his agenda and accomplishments domestically. As for my right wing friends??? I'm not sure I have any, lol. + Anyone who reads this blog, whether they think I’m stupid, mistaken, foolish, uninformed, or whatever… can see that my opinions are my own, and are informed by my own reasoning. I’m not sure the same could be said of you.

There are many Democratic mechanisms via which those you think have committed terrible deeds can be held accountable. And yet, whether you like it or not, Tony Blair will step down as one of the most electorally successful Prime Ministers in the history of our country.

Graham said...

Just to follow up:
Real success in Afghanistan

Gert said...

I'd love to refute most of your arguments, which really boil down to "the party line", nothing more, nothing less, but for technical reasons that's going to be difficult. Let me explain.

On some blogger blogs, like yours, the comments section opens in a new, completely stand-alone window, which means that elementary browser functions like Print and more importantly "Cut and Paste" are disabled.

That means I can't even read what I'm supposed to reply to, never mind blockquote from your comment.

I can't even import the comment into Notepad or Word or simply print it off, I think you can understand my difficulty.

I'm not sure why your blog and other blogger blogs do this, I believe you should be able to sort something out in your "Settings" section.

It would almost certainly improve the quality of the comments you receive: right now all your commenters are facing the same difficulty as me: they're flying blind.

If you have a way to forward the comment to gmeyers at gmeyers.plus.com, I'd appreciate it, there's much in there that needs addressing, in particular your propensity for giving in to function creep which threads right through your reasoning on the reasons for war, reconstruction, democratising, justifying further interventions, the success of Afghanistan etc etc, and runs right parallel to the Govenment line (no surprise there then).

It's not a bad text and it merits a thorough response. Your comments e.g. on the media, from a centre-left perspective, are positively bizarre. The Beeb are a bunch of lefies?? Dear me, that makes you positively rightist... Well, just right to the Govenment's centre-right at least.

Graham said...

I didn't say the beeb are a bunch of lefties, lol. But, I definately think on some of the larger issues their journalism can be one sided. I think the Panorama program is evidence of this, and I think their general treatment of US politics over the past five years has been too. And, you can just imagine how I felt about their coverage of the Iraq war :P.

I'm really sorry about the comments. I've never really had that before. I can copy and paste fine, which is what I usually like to do into word or text edit. I don't like separate comments pages because it takes the reader out of the environment of the blog, and there are no design features on those blogger pages.

What you can do is just hit on the page individually, on the date, and all the comments are listed in the main text. I will email you the response as well.

Gert said...

OK, thanks, look forward to it.

RE Afghanistan, get it from the horse's mouth at AfghanWarrior.

Graham said...

Quote from Afghan Warrior:

"We thank international community and anti-terrorism coalition for their great help and generosity in order to provide financial and security support for the parliamentary election. After almost three decades of war, intervention, occupation and misery, today Afghanistan is moving a step closer to real democracy and stability and it is on a journey towards a peaceful, stable and prosperous society. We hope this election will help us develop our country."

Gert said...

You said:

I don't for one moment discount the current situation in Iraq, the problems that are being confronted, and the way in which the British public has responded. The truth remains that before the war began the majority of the British people supported it, as did the majority of the members of parliament... so your continued ascriptions of this somehow being an undemocratic action, from a UK perspective is unfounded. Equally there was nothing unprecedented about subverting the UN security council will, after the military action taken in Eastern Europe in the late 90's which has clearly re-introduced Democracy to the region and halted the rampant ethnic cleansing there... which of course Russia refused to consent to.

My reply:

The truth is also that the majority of people no longer support the British military presence, which many can see is an unmitigated disaster and a situation that is getting worse by the day. To assert that the decision was taken democratically, at the time at least, doesn't change that at all or make it any less true.

And what about US public opinion? I don't know how the figures lie but clearly there's no shortage of anti-war clamour either.

Your ex-Yugoslavia example has nothing to do with this whatsoever and at best it's a poor analogy.

You said:

The only thing irresponsible about the action in Afghanistan was that the Bush Administration took so long to act, and allowed the terrorist infrastructure based there an opportunity to flee and regroup. As the terrorist letter from leaders of Al Quaeda to leaders of insurgency in Iraq recently proved, the consequences of war in Afghanistan, regardless of whether more could have been done, HAS served to dramatically disrupt their activities. This is now indisputable. And, if you are seriously suggesting that Afghanistan isn't better off today than it was under the rule of the Taliban then I would really have to question how sincere your appraisal of the situation is. There are innumerable resources online to chart the ways in which Afghanistan has grown as a society, democratically, and in terms of its infrastructure, from the foreign, theocratic, brutal rule of the Taliban, or even anything else that was there in place before.

My reply:

Where are the arrested leaders and militants? Why have they not been charged yet? Are they all in that other can of worms, Guantanamo Bay? Or Abu Ghraib? Where's the proof of what you (one of the few) are asserting, that the war on terror is succeeding? How come 7/7 happened? How come Bali happened? How come the Allies are, by their own declaration, increasingly under fire from al-Qaeda and affiliates?

That Afghanistan is on the way to stability, whilst still having a rather large way to go (over 60% of the world's heroin supply still originates from there) is a benign side-effect. Democratising Afghanistan wasn't the objective of Enduring Freedom, catching al-Qaeda was. Nothing we were promised was found: no Aladdin's cave of al-Qaeda's Command and Control structure, no world-wide communications network, no bin Laden. Net result: one more crime against humanity; Camp Delta. If 9/11 hadn't happened, the US would never have bothered with Afghanistan, Taliban or not. The US wanted the Soviets out of Afghanistan and bankrolled al-Qaeda as a resistance movement to fight the Russian occupation, which they did successfully, but the country was then entirely left to its own devices, no longer of interest to the US. To cry "victory for democracy" now, is transparently self-serving and politically convenient.

You said:

As for HMG's public relations onslaught, as if that bares so heavily on public opinion in this country, our journalistic landscape is heavily biased in the UK. Anyone who saw the recent Panorama program on the new terror laws, which was completely one sided and biased, understands that the UK TV media is inherently left leaning. There is no broad sweeping consensus against these new laws, and I find your characterization to that end hysterical. To keep up with British public opinion on the anti terror laws I would check these websites:

www.mori.com
www.icmresearch.co.uk
www.yougov.com

…and not tabloid newspapers or the BBC (which I support strongly regardless).

My reply:

Graham, everyone is biased, so are you, so am I. Impartiality and objectivity don't exist, they aren't human traits, at best they're something to strive for. The journalistic landscape is always biased, journalists report from their own perspective and why shouldn't they?

The BBC, if anything, is biased because it has to thread a very fine line and with such a narrow field of vision, the truth invariably suffers. We don't get to see what happens on the ground in Iraq. If the war was shown in all its "g(l)ory", at best our citizens would choke on their TV dinners, at worst they would see something which for most people is very far from our own beds and they wouldn't like it for one iota. There would be far, far more disquiet about what's being done in our names.

When Al Jahzeera shows images that are quite shocking, the US/UK cries: "Propaganda!" But NOT showing real images is nothing but the other side of the same coin: it serves only as a form of disinformation.

As regards, HMG's media onslaught, all Governments use propaganda, especially in times of war, usually quite successfully. The Masters of Spin are no exception. Apparently His Prime Ministerial Highness took also offence to how the Beeb reported on Katrina: not enough pretty pictures of Mr Bush hugging black teenagers perhaps? Or maybe they shouldn't have shown Bush's hilarious PR gaffe of flying Airforce One over the stricken area? Don't worry kids, Daddy Bush is coming to have a peep. God bless America: but He doesn't appear to be listening too closely...

As regards the "Blair v Blair" Panorama broadcast, it was a critical analysis of the proposed legislation and in that respect "one-sided": does everything shown on state TV have to somehow (and how to achieve that?) fairly represent public opinion?

I'm not going to put my case against this legislation; I haven't got time for that. My opinion is largely in line with what was said in the programme, although I didn't agree one hundred percent with it either. This legislation cannot achieve anything current legislation can't already. If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

And it will lead to erosion of civil liberties, freedom of speech being the first one, from which all the other freedoms (political and religious) derive. It's hard to believe that Tony Blair, a lawyer himself, can't understand that for these freedoms to work, they have to be absolute. Simple logic shows that suppression of one type of opinion automatically leads to the collapse of the entire principle. It is therefore not a case of "sacrificing liberties just a teensie weensie for the sake of the Public Good", as HMG claims.

Allowing people to express themselves freely also has another tremendous advantage: transparency. At least we know what the other guy is saying (and can defend ourselves), but suppress his opinion and you'll drive him underground, WITH a chip on his shoulder. That's practically a recipe for violent dissent as history has shown over and over and over and over. Again, why is that so hard to see for some?

Similarly it's inconceivable that the House of Lords has to discuss the admissibility of evidence obtained under torture (abroad): it shouldn't even be worth considering. Torture is inhumane and the evidence obtained from it not at all trustworthy, often complete rubbish. The rules have changed? Only because HMG is hell-bent on changing them...

You seem to imply I read tabloids: you ought to know better than that, unless you're referring to the new-format broadsheets of course.

You said:

Iran and Syria have to be dealt with. Your suggested policy of inaction to the mounting threats we face, then blaming the manifestation of those threats 100% on our action in Iraq is not one I can subscribe to.

The situation in Iraq, now, needs to be addressed. Even those who ardently disagreed with taking action in the first place acknowledge that immediate withdrawal would have catastrophic effects on the nation and the region. Terrible mistakes have been made in the reconstruction effort, in underestimating the insurgency, in economic decisions that were taken, in not making basic societal provisions a priority… and IMO the implications for unilateral action in the modern world are clear. Politically, the consequences of an action which has no international credibility are indisputable… and the lead up to war, quite rightly, is open to much criticism.

My reply:

You assert that Iran and Syria have to be "dealt with".

As regards Iran, what aspect are we talking about here? The nuclear crisis or the situation in South Iraq?

As regards the former, again the American/European position is extremely duplicitous: the fact that Israel has an undeclared and large nuclear arsenal (estimated No 6 in the world) with extensive delivery capability to match it and that it hasn't signed a single scrap of paper, not to mention the NPT, is conveniently and constantly brushed under the carpet.

The Iranians must be laughing their heads off. Here's the high and mighty West once again preaching what it simply doesn't practice.

The NPT days are over: nuclear fission has become technologically far less challenging than ever and availability of low cost uranium has never been so widespread. It's like trying to put the genie back into the bottle. Iran will sooner or later gain nuclear weapons capability, that's a fact. Can you blame them? I can't. They've been a target of Anglo-American aggression and interference since 1953 (the Shah coup). As regards Israel's security in that context, that's entirely a matter of perspective: what side of the loaded gun are you looking at, the viewfinder or the end of the barrel?

As regards the emergence of low-level Iranians in the British sector, whilst unsubstantiated for the moment, it's quite logical that this will become an increasing problem if the occupation continues indefinitely. As will the influx of other foreign fighters. I guess that wasn't foreseen by the "planners" either...

How this will be dealt with depends on whether the Allies are prepared to set the whole region alight for possibly decades and suffer the consequences domestically, as it will undoubtedly set the example and provide the inspiration for many home-grown bombers. No amount of respectful psycho-babble and soul-searching between the communities will prevent that: our Muslim community really will become the enemy from within, if the conflict spreads to multiple nations. I'm all for dialogue between the communities but dialogue becomes difficult when one partner is a de facto suspect.

Some that I know are already making contingency plans: i.e. move away from Britain, if the worst comes to the worst: all out war in the region. Can you blame them?

I'm seriously hoping that all this talk of dealing with Iran and Syria right now is just grandstanding and won't lead to actual actions. If, for arguments sake, we assume the democratising process of Iraq does indeed proceed steadily in the right direction, then any credits gained in that part of the world will almost be certainly be lost again, immediately. It's hard to see how in these conditions (a stabilising Iraq), Muslims in neighbouring countries could NOT see attacks on Syria and Iran as the manifestation of imperial designs. We'd have to accept that our actions would be perceived and perhaps also deliberately portrayed as those of conquering forces, not as liberators or democratisers.

You said:

But, one of the worst dictators the world has ever seen is gone… IMO you cannot under any circumstances have a regime with a propensity for mass genocide desperately trying to acquire, and actually acquiring WMDs… especially after the agreements made in the aftermath of the first Gulf War. You cannot have a regime completely flouting the integrity of the international community. A regime that was a clear and present danger to every other nation in that region consequently, most obviously Israel… Whether you like it or not there is hope for Democracy in Iraq, there is hope for defeating this insurgency, there is hope for greater international involvement, there is hope for training Iraqi security forces to step up and manage the society (the mistake of disbanding the Republican National Guard has made this necessary), and as the constitution, diplomacy between sects and regions recently showed, Iraq is moving forward in terms of democracy… although there remains the clear risk it will be derailed into a theocracy.

My reply:

Aaahh, my beloved "the dictator has gone" argument. No arguing with that of course: he's definitely gone, good riddance!

So, my learned friend, what do you plan to do about the many other despots around the globe, or even those regimes whose form of rule don't coincide EXACTLY with your narrow-minded view of democracy?

Perhaps we should invade France as well, after all that kind of Presidency riles many over here too, better install another Betty, much more democratic, and so much more... erm, well, English! And the bastards never signed the second resolution either, so there...

Besides, after Kuwait, Iraq wasn't a threat to anyone, least of all to Israel who bombed the Osirak nuclear reactor to smithereens long before completion. The Israelis are old and ugly enough to fend for themselves, they've practically occupied most of their neighbours at one stage or another.

Iraq also presented no danger whatsoever to the US or the UK, but it does now. Our servicemen and women are now sitting ducks for the insurgents, elements of al-Qaeda and possibly foreign fighters, as you suggested yourself.

Of course there is hope for democracy in Iraq but the idea it can be accomplished in a short time is merely a control-freak's wet dream: it will take much, much more than a few years. So they had a successful election? Hell, that almost qualifies them as democrats, doesn't it? Not quite... although I sincerely hope that they will be one day.

But it's important to note that there is no universally applicable benchmark that defines when a Government is democratic or not, like everything else it is open to interpretation, there's no blank template that can be filled in.

Kurdistan is quoted as one of the successes of the campaign. But those saying so are either cynical or need a hearing aid. The Kurds are clearly indicating this is merely a step towards Kurdistan as a nation state. They're saying all this loudly and quite merrily, in a "try and stop us" tongue-in-cheek manner. They at least, Mr Blair and Bush, are very, very grateful indeed. They will almost certainly want a Kurdish slice of Turkey too: now THAT's trouble ahead...

As regards your obsession with theocracies, let us remind ourselves what democracy actually means: the rule of the people. Well, if the people choose religious principles such as Islam and Sharia law as a basis for self-rule then that's the people's business, not yours, not mine, not anyone else's, no matter how much that may be thorn in your side. Unless you want to impose some kind of ... well, I don't know... Jacobin imposed democracy by proxy, perhaps? In plain English: Western puppet regime.

You seem to forget that people look at things from their own perspective. To a devout Muslim (or a devout Christian for that matter) what they see here in our societies isn't a pretty sight either. And our democracies, at least in the US and the UK, are currently firmly on their backside anyway. What we're seeing here and across the pond are the limitations of the two party system.

You said:

In one of your last paragraphs you reference OBL’s transcripts as if you have some deep understanding of his intentions around the world. You don’t Gert, and your critique of US and UK foreign policy in the 20 & 21st century isn’t any basis upon which the threat of terrorism can be dealt with. I supported military intervention in Iraq, and I have been shocked and disappointed in the incompetence that has been brought to winning the subsequent peace there. That does not make military intervention wrong IMO. I supported military intervention in Kosovo, and also Afghanistan. I believe in leaders who are willing to take responsibility for meeting the threats gathering in this world of ours, and that’s why I continue to believe Tony Blair is a great Prime Minister, in addition to the fact that I broadly support his agenda and accomplishments domestically. As for my right wing friends??? I'm not sure I have any, lol. + Anyone who reads this blog, whether they think I’m stupid, mistaken, foolish, uninformed, or whatever… can see that my opinions are my own, and are informed by my own reasoning. I’m not sure the same could be said of you.

My reply:

Here we come the most contentious part of your comment and one that merits a little extra scrutiny from my side.

Firstly, I don't pretend to understand all of al-Qaeda and bin Laden's motives, that was very clearly NOT the point I was trying to make. Besides, my crystal ball is broken (again)!

The point I WAS trying to make is that you with so many others believe the man and his followers are simply motiveless "evildoers", whilst it's equally clear you've never listened to what they have to say for themselves. You are wholly convinced that their actions are inspired by some blind hatred. Again, you're merely parroting Blair's "there are underlying reasons" without actually even trying to fathom what these underlying reasons might actually be.

Your reasoning at this point doesn't go beyond "they hate us". Granted, they do. But why do they? Isn't that worth asking? Isn't that worth understanding? Let me assure you that I use the word understanding here in the sense of e.g. "I understand English", not in the sense of "I condone suicide bombings".

In a previous post, you used words like "theocratic fascistic regimes", "theocratic supremacists" and more, in a pot-pourri of terms that serves only to make the enemy look like a faceless, motiveless, less-than-human, Islamic International Bogeyman.

But all hatred in the world finds its source in a real or perceived grievance held by the hater. bin Laden is no exception, his grievances are clear and not so easy to argue with either.

For thirty years or so we kept saying the same thing about the IRA: "they're just evil bastards out bomb, maim and kill us". For thirty years we refused to acknowledge that they had a real cause, whether we liked that cause or not. Thousands died in futile IRA on BA violence, BA on IRA retaliation, IRA bombings and sectarian violence.

Ultimately HMG did what it said it would never do: negotiate with terrorists. And successfully too, without appeasement, giving in or selling out. Today, the Good Friday Agreement is something of a real achievement for Mr Blair and Co, I don't think anyone will dispute that.

Like the Troubles, the "global war on terror" is one that cannot be won by either parties and that makes it a useless and futile source of human misery and preventable loss of life.

But without acknowledging that the enemy does indeed have real motives, and rather clear ones too, you can continue to justify a war on terror which will prove to be a long, fruitless and protracted affair which will lead to much more bloodshed and an avalanche of mutual hatred and which could indeed lead to that "clash of civilisations". Well, on your heads be it... It sounds like a self-fulfilling prophecy, this cackling on about the "clash of civilisations". It's also something that many in the underbelly of the US, some of which believe Israel is an extension of the Holy Land of America, dream about: the Final Battle, Armageddon, The Big One that will sort the wheat from the chaff, for once and for all... Onwards, Christian Soldiers...

Your failing to acknowledge that the terror isn't merely a manifestation of blind, motiveless hatred of all things Western, is also reflected in the reasons that have been called in to get us to war, presto! The cited reasons varied from day to day, according to political expediency. 9/11, WMD, war on global terror, Saddam's removal. Later the military presence was being justified for reasons of reconstruction, then democratisation, then stability in the region and now we're almost ready to start the next phase of the war: dealing with Iran and Syria... It's known as function creep and it can lead anywhere, but right now anywhere seems like a place I'd rather not be.

And then there's the chest-beating when a secondary target like the democratisation of Afghanistan is more or less going right, to obfuscate the true nature of the whole affair so far: disastrous.

As regards my critiques of 20th and 21st Western foreign policies in the Middle East, they were never intended as a basis for dealing with terrorism. But part of the terrorists' motives lay embedded in that murky and often recent past, a past which you and your New Labour apparatchiks so blatantly wish to ignore. Even the efforts at trying to create a stable, unified Iraq is something we have past, fairly recent and very bad experience with. Ignoring the past can be costly, which is again being proven here.

As regards your assertion that your opinions are your own, that's only true if you live in outer space or in a sensory deprivation tank. We're all (I mean ALL) of us influenced by what we see, read and experience, so am I of course, thankfully (I don't fancy outer space that much). Your own account of things to me seems not to diverge one single nanometre from HMG's party line. Rarely have I seen someone mimicking the Government's official policy lines so patently and uncritically. Which is what got me on my soapbox in the first place.

Your pieces on American political affairs are in that respect much more informative and original, actually.

And from your post:

To qualify this post I am a foreign policy hawk. I believe in preemptive action where appropriate. I'm not singing kumbaya around the campfire, while preaching appeasement, and ignorance. It's just sometimes I think people need to be reminded exactly what it is we are fighting for... our way of life. It's our way of life that threatens terrorists' grandiloquent fascistic designs... it's our way of life that they want to destroy... and its our way of life, consequently, that we should prize most highly of all.

Are you so small that you have to big yourself up to a "foreign policy hawk"? Graham, pre-emptive action is new-speak for "shoot first, ask questions later". You sound like that other armchair General, Nile Gardiner who in 2003 said (quoting):

"The full extent of the ties between Iraq and al-Qaeda will only be revealed," promised Dr. Nile Gardiner, "once Iraq has been liberated by Allied forces." The same goes for weapons of mass destruction and the extent of human rights violations by the Baghdad regime.

That's right, invade now and all will be revealed later: a self-defeating argument in the case of the 9/11 connection and WMD.

And how does our way of life "threaten[s] [the] terrorists' grandiloquent fascistic designs"? Really, this baffles me completely.

Apart from the fact that there are no such "grandiloquent fascistic designs", I don't see how our way of life could threaten these even if they did exist.

With this kind of statements you're simply joining the endless chorus of politicians and completely ignorant and intellectually lazy members of the general public whose only "strategy" is to demonise the enemy in order to simplify things so more argued opinions can be paved over.

Just like the Dear Leader, you don't present a shred of evidence of this planned "Islamic worldwide coup" or whatever you want to call it. Like Him, you're merely playing to the popular gallery, to those who as long as the shops are well stocked and the pubs serve plenty cold beer, will swallow anything. You've denied this in the past but you really are simply reducing the whole argument to "Good v Evil", the umpteenth sequel...

You said:

There are many Democratic mechanisms via which those you think have committed terrible deeds can be held accountable. And yet, whether you like it or not, Tony Blair will step down as one of the most electorally successful Prime Ministers in the history of our country.

My reply:

You're confounding democracy, elections and popularity contests. Sure, elections are an important part of democracy and may the best man win. But I doubt if this episode in Mr Blair's legacy will, in the medium-long run, make him fondly remembered or even revered as you seem to think he deserves to be.

And when, when, when is he finally going to step down, or are we going to have to drag him out of No 10, fingernails scraping the floor? You, with your New Labour connections, you couldn't give him a tinkle, could you? Please, for friendship's sake...

Finally...

At the time of writing, although unconfirmed, it would appear that the referendum on Iraq's constitution has been a success in terms of turn-out and first indications are that the new constitution has passed. That would indeed be good news and possibly a step closer to ending the war. I certainly hope so but right now I reserve judgement. Forgive me for not being overly optimistic, in view of what's gone before...

Graham said...

1) I wouldn't say that people's expectations of the situation in Iraq are progressively getting worse. The manner in which elections were held, Saddam's trial is being held… are all reasons to be hopeful and I think this will make a difference in terms of public opinion, even if it's marginal. It’s hard to say what the legacy of the Iraq war will be. The continued incompetence of the rebuilding effort exacerbates the threat of the insurgency and undermines the progress of that society. My reference to Eastern Europe was to highlight that we breached the Security Council before because of Russia's unwillingness to give consent to that action... which is highly relevant under the circumstances you were previously discussing.

2) You like to refer to the public consensus as a means to assert your positions so I'm going to do it too :P. It's a pretty widely held view that we waited too long to act in Afghanistan and consequently gave time and notice for terrorists to flee. I don't understand the basis upon which you say Afghanistan wasn't a successful operation...

-It did dramatically disrupt terrorist activities. But, not sufficiently according to you? Therefore Democratization and the remarkable progress of that society doesn't mean anything because it was not the original intention of the action?

It's interesting how where this is the flipside, where the vile, threatening regime of Saddam Hussein was successfully removed, and yet our subsequent responsibilities to the people of Iraq have been failed... you response remains the same. It's just interesting to me how your positions are consistent: anti-US, anti-Blair, but your arguments metamorphose in each particular instance to suit your predetermined end.

3) Wait a second… I don't have a problem with Bias. I'm not attacking Bias in the media, like you I recognize that good journalism often must stem from a particular proclivity in one direction or the other... what I'm saying is that the fact that HMG's PR machine doesn't have greater resonance on issues like Iraq, the new terror laws, etc, has a lot to do with the way these issues are explored in the press.

Panorama can resort to critical analysis, for sure, but then it should explicitly state its intentions to do so, instead of masquerading as an honest, fair appraisal, which it was not.

4) Unfortunately, the role both Iran and Syria are playing facilitating and funding terrorism, and assisting militants who threaten the progress of a Democratic society on their doorstep, + the lives of Iraqi civilians… much more than the US military presence, or US soldiers... has to be confronted. I didn't suggest military intervention. It's hardly practical, although bombing campaigns in Syria against terrorist bases might be productive, and I wouldn’t rule out supporting.

My point is that we differ in terms of our philosophies, Gert… I believe in initiating action in the world to deal with and confront growing threats... and I believe the result of your positions would be to allow those threats to build. I also believe there is a great deal of hope for diplomatic pressure to succeed in both Iran and Syria and would refer you to General Wesley Clark's recent comments on the issue, which could hardly be considered war mongering.

5) I don't believe that US foreign policy is 100% responsible for Islamic extremism. I believe the cultural influences: liberalization of markets and societies, improving technologies and communication... the way the world is turning does not assist in the violent hold theocracies have over their own societies. That world view, which violently upholds the rule of scripture, which is fascistic, is facing a threat like no other... the march of freedom. I know you may find a phrase like that offensive, because it’s very American, but, it's also substantially accurate.

The manner of our intervention in Iraq and Afghanistan, troops in Saudi Arabia, Israel Palestine... they are all political influences… they all create political motivations… but they do not underscore the threat we face. If my reasoning is consistent with Tony Blair's it doesn't mean that it’s unoriginal, or uncritical. There is more critical analysis in my posts on US politics because I broadly disagree with the current Administration's policies.

6) Being half Irish I know a thing or two about the IRA. The IRA were a politically motivated threat, with clear goals, rooted in a tangible, contained violent history between Ireland and England. Unfortunately the amazing strides taken in N. Ireland don't equate to this current struggle. They do however equate to Israel and Palestine. N. Ireland is one area where I hope even you agree Tony Blair has accomplished great things.

7) I qualified my thoughts on the psychological ways we can combat terror by stating I also recognize the importance of military action. I didn't want to portray a sense that defiantly continuing on with our way of life can alone defeat Terrorism.

Thanks for your thoughts Gert… provocative, challenging, and intelligent as always. I too hope that the recent elections in Iraq are cause to be hopeful.

VOw said...

hi,
i just wanted to post to say i found reading your opinions interesting. Last year i did a questionnaire survey at my university on terrorism and was surprised to find how few people seemed to realise that living in fear is a victory for the terrorist.
graham, your views seem very thoroughly argued. i wish i knew enough about politics/current affairs to be able to argue so clearly! i'm ashamed that i know so little.

Graham said...

That's so sweet Vicki, thank you :).

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