Following the London bombings, the British “left” pro-war sites are busy drawing “battle lines”. The line they are concerned to draw is between themselves and the likes of Seumas Milne of the Guardian. David T at Harry’s Place goes so far as to call Milne a Quisling. (Given who Quisling was, I think this would make David T a Holocaust denier if the argument of this Eve Garrard post at normblog were correct. But since it isn’t, it doesn’t.)
“Dickhead” and “idiot” are two of the politer epithets I’m inclined to apply to the hapless and unpleasant Milne and those like him such as our regular commenter abb1, but since there are lines to be drawn, and it is important that we do so, I’d prefer not to draw them there. We now know, that there are Muslim extremists in the UK who are willing to kill us in large numbers. If we are to stop them we need a politics that isolates them from their co-religionists rather than providing them with an environment to swim in. That means talking to, and trying to include on “our” side, all kinds of figures from within that community. That means doing what the Metropolitan Police have done in inviting Tariq Ramadan to speak. That means engaging with a whole bunch of people who have repellent views on topics from Israel to homosexuality. We should say what we think of those views, but we should talk, we should include. Because an isolated and frightened Muslim community, unwilling to talk to the police, unwilling to engage with wider British society would provide a place for the real nutters to hide and recruit, whereas a Muslim community with whom bonds of trust exist provides our best means of fighting the crazies. Ken Livingstone has come in for a lot of flak for his meetings with Sheikh al-Qaradawi. Maybe some of it was justified. But Ken, with a political sureness of touch that eludes the bloggers I mentioned at least know both that we need to draw some lines and draws them in the right place: between those who are disposed to plant bombs on the tube and those who can help us to stop them.
Norman Geras and Eve Garrard, in the course of treating us to a lecture on drawing battle lines against Milne et al , also attempt a lesson on blame and moral responsibility. Since I agree with them that the terrorists who planted the bombs are responsible for those bombs and that Blair is not, I am reluctant to quibble overmuch. But as a general rule it seems to me wrong to rule out a priori that those who create the conditions under which bad things are done share responsibility for those bad things. One of their examples concerns rape. Of course rapists are responsible for what they do, but suppose a university campus with bad lighting has a history of attacks on women and the university authorities can, at minimal cost, greatly improve the night-time illumination but choose not to do so for penny-pinching reasons. Suppose the pattern of assaults continues in the darkened area: do Geras and Garrard really want to say that the university penny-pinchers should not be blamed for what happens subsquently? At all? I think not.