Battle lines

by Chris Bertram on July 14, 2005

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.

Addendum:
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.

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{ 120 comments }

1

abb1 07.14.05 at 5:08 am

So, IOW, I am an idiot and a dickhead, but in your addendum you note that you don’t rule out a possibility that you migh be an idiot and a dickhead too. Fair enough, I guess.

2

abb1 07.14.05 at 5:27 am

BTW, link to Milne’s Guardian piece: It is an insult to the dead to deny the link with Iraq.

CNN/Gallup US opinion poll from 7/7/05 here

“Just your best guess: Do you think the terrorists attacked London today mostly because Great Britain supports the United States in the war in Iraq, or mostly for other reasons?”

Support For Iraq War : 56% (aka idiots and dickheads)
Other Reasons: 37% (reasonable folks)

3

dsquared 07.14.05 at 5:37 am

Abb: I promise you that Chris is unlikely to have formed his opinion of Seumas Milne as a dickhead based on one single piece of journalism.

More generally, as I’ve attempted to suggest to the Decent Left on a number of occasions, it is going to be very difficult to reach out to even the most moderatest of the moderatest of the Muslim community if you are also committed to the view that the Iraq War was a great idea, hasn’t been a disaster for Muslims and is the first step on the way to creating a secular democracy there (Oh dear). If any Muslims do start a dialogue with the pro-war Left, then whatever they think about Israel, homosexuality and women, they are going to end up being called quislings, fascists and worse on that ground alone.

4

abb1 07.14.05 at 5:51 am

Hmm, it is my impression that this post implies that one deserves to be called a dickhead for simply suggesting that Blair shares responsibility for the 7/7 atrocity. If it’s based on the collective works, I’d appreciate a clarification.

5

Jonty 07.14.05 at 5:56 am

It’s for nuanced views like this that I read CT over HP every day. You may live in ivory towers, but you have a better view of the land than Harry’s place.

6

Chris Bertram 07.14.05 at 5:59 am

I first met Milne when we were both students (about 1980) and before he ever got employed by the Guardian. My view of him and his (not-very-crypto)Stalinist politics has remained consistent throughout. Clarification over.

7

sien 07.14.05 at 6:06 am

Chris, you are absolutely right. Thank you for your clarification. The issue is very simple, you are either with Bush or with the Terrorists.

Guantanamo Bay, Abu Ghraib and the invasion of Iraq were all completely necessary. Indeed they were very merciful.

It is only an odd coincidence that the terrorists have attacked Spain and Britain, two countries that were involved in the glorious liberation of Iraq that has been such a resounding success.

It may also be necessary to for ethnic clensing of all the Palestinians from the West Bank as well. Unconditional support of all Israeli actions is undoubtedly required from all those who oppose terrorism.

Anyone who opposes any of these statements is undoubtedly supporting the terrorists in London. And it should be added that anyone who thinks that outing CIA agents who may have been Democrats is not vital to the cause also supports terrorism.

The issues are all so simple.

8

Peter J. 07.14.05 at 6:12 am

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,

It would also make then a sitting target for people who don’t like muslims, Pakistanis, immigrants etc.

I agree on the need for dialogue. It is the best way to avoid Europe finding itself once again in a situation where extremists are able to take power and muslims have to go around with yellow crescents stitched to their clothes, find themselves fenced into ghettos, and taken off to “transportation camps”. However I do not believe that Iraq, Middle East policy etc. are behind the terrorists – terrorism is human weakness and is carried out by people who have died inside and lost their soul.

If the global islamic community has one, or more cults within it that effectively kill the human spirits of their members, and drive them to commit acts of indiscriminate terrorism, then it should deal with the problem. Cults usually prey on the weak and it is the weak who seek strength in terrorism – they have already lost their jihad both externally and internally.

9

abb1 07.14.05 at 6:13 am

Stalinist, huh. Well, I’m sorry to say, this wasn’t much of a clarification, more like another case of name calling. The kind of ‘clarification’ you’d expect to hear from Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity. And it seems this is where you’ve been heading, man, step by step.

10

Chris Bertram 07.14.05 at 6:23 am

No, not “name calling”, but an accurate characterization of someone who used to go around brandishing a copy of Denver Walker’s “Quite Right Mr Trotsky: Some Trotskyist Myths Debunked; And How Troskyists Today Hamper the Fight for Peace and Socialism”:http://www.trashfiction.co.uk/trot_right_cover.html .

11

Chris Bertram 07.14.05 at 6:24 am

sien: I suggest you brush up on basic reading comprehension.

12

Russkie 07.14.05 at 6:40 am

…. it is going to be very difficult to reach out to even the most moderatest of the moderatest of the Muslim community if you are also committed to the view that the Iraq War was a great idea, hasn’t been a disaster for Muslims and is the first step on the way to creating a secular democracy there (Oh dear). If any Muslims do start a dialogue with the pro-war Left, then whatever they think about Israel, homosexuality and women, they are going to end up being called quislings, fascists and worse on that ground alone.

Fascinating observation.

So what are people supposed to do then? Change their viewpoints so as to facilitate this dialogue? Or merely say one thing and secretly believe another?

13

Kevin Donoghue 07.14.05 at 6:46 am

So what are people supposed to do then? Change their viewpoints so as to facilitate this dialogue?

Those who think anyone who has a contrary viewpoint is either an “Islamofascist” or a “useful idiot” would do well to leave dialogue to others and stick to ranting since it’s what they do best.

14

Russkie 07.14.05 at 6:48 am

Those who think anyone who has a contrary viewpoint is either an “Islamofascist” or a “useful idiot” would do well to leave dialogue to others and stick to ranting since it’s what they do best.

As Chris said, I’d suggest you brush up on your reading comprehension. Or perhaps you have me confused with someone else.

15

Jack 07.14.05 at 6:55 am

I am quite prepared to believe that we might not have been attacked if Tony Blair hadn’t taken us to war but that does not let the terrorists of the hook and of all the reasons not to go to war it would be one of the weakest.

I was against the war in Iraq but the bombs don’t change that much. I would be quite ashamed if we were willing to go to war as long as only soldiers and foreign civilians died and we could be diverted from a righteous course by the worst deeds of a couple of psychopaths and their dupes.

@Peter J — it is surely not quite so simple. I imagine the spirit of the many of the young terrorists as being quite similar to that of people joining up to fight in the Great War. An army of Lions lead by donkeys (or hyenas or jackals if you prefer). We still don’t really think that Dulce et Decorum Est is exatly the mantra of a death cult, at least not one that reflects dead spirits on the part of the most ardent followers.

Meeting the Pakistani tribesmen who are likely sheltering OBL on a face to face basis is also likely to be quite unlike meeting a zombie. The problem is that it is very easy to convince them that they are under attack from the US and if you are OBL you are then set.

More generally I’m suspicious of both the motivation and the wisdom of anyone who proposes that their problems be solved purely by someone else changing their ways.

The global Islamic community consists of more than a billion people, many of whom are living in very troubled places. It is not very helpful to blame them all for the conduct of four young blokes from Yorkshire.

It also runs against events to deny the role of the situation. Palestinian terrorism started uwith secular Marxists. Indeed Israel funded Hamas in its early years as a clever wheeze to counterbalance the nasty Marxists. Now the faces at the top have changed but not so much the tactics. Israel still kills more Palestinians than vice versa, albeit not for want of trying on the part of some of the Palestinians. See also Sri Lanka and South America.

16

sien 07.14.05 at 7:00 am

chris – I understood you and seeing as you were calling people names I thought I’d throw in some admittedly over handed attempted sarcasm and point out that you were perhaps on a slope toward joining people you probably abhor.

What you are suggesting is that if everyone sits down and has a nice chat and people who are stirring up trouble can be picked up and neutralised.

It didn’t work with the IRA and it won’t work with muslim extemists. The IRA shut down when their terrorism became such a problem that Britain began to negotiate, at first in secret and then in the open to end the problems. In other words a political solution to a problem that people engaged in violence to change was finally sought that did, in truth, give in to their violence.

The reality is that states that engaged in an act of war that many muslims regarded as barbaric has provoked a response that is also barbaric. It does not appear to be a coincidence that it is Britain and Spain that were attacked.

It should also be pointed out, that previous to the invasion of Iraq the extremist muslims which are now such a great threat had carried out no attacks against Britain.

And to call people ‘idiots’ and ‘dickheads’ who suggest what many people believe is just daft, even if they annoyed you in the past.

17

dsquared 07.14.05 at 7:00 am

Or merely say one thing and secretly believe another?

Yes, that’s the one.

18

Bob B 07.14.05 at 7:10 am

As someone who occasionally ventures into Harry’s blog, I had rather gained an impression that anyone with reservations about the Iraq war is a Dickhead and an Idiot and therefore eligible for political interdiction.

For all my continuing reservations over both the legitimacy and good sense of the war, I feel no particular affinity with George Galloway of the anti-war crusade but the regularity with which he is hauled out of the closet to be pilloried suggests that he has come to fulfil much the same functional role for Harry’s blog as Emmanuel Goldstein fulfilled for Big Brother in George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-four and Trotsky fulfilled for Stalin until his (inevitable?) assassination.

Somehow, the landscape always seems familiar but then I suppose moral certainties should be, rather like fairy tales.

19

Russell Arben Fox 07.14.05 at 7:16 am

Somewhat off-topic, but I’m curious: Chris, when you sugget in your addendum that a university which declines to improve night-time lighting on its campus, with the knowledge that rapes sometimes occur in those underilluminated corners of their campus, must be considered at least somewhat responsible for whatever rapes follow, doesn’t it also follow that a woman who dresses provocatively and attends a late-night private party where alcohol is present, with the knowlede that she is therefore potentially making herself available for drunken assaults, is at least somewhat responsible for that assaults that follow?

There are, of course, differences in order here: the university is acting (or not) in response to broad conditions, whereas the individual woman is acting (or not) in response to her own immediate perception of things. We rightly think levels of collective responsibility are more appropriate matters of public concern and judgment than every single possible individual choice. Still, the logic seems to hold: if someone besides the rapist shares a certain amount of blame for the occurence of rape, then it is reasonable to also assume that the person who made foolish choices and put themselves in a obviously rape-likely situation also shares a certain blame.

I’m sure there are ways to extricate yourself from this position; perhaps my reading of your position is flawed. But do you wish to extricate yourself, or instead do you embrace the politically incorrect alternative?

20

engels 07.14.05 at 7:19 am

Chris – For what reason, then, is abb1, “like” Milne, “a dickhead”? I don’t think he/she is a Stalinist. I thought you had a specific reason in mind but now, thanks to your addendum and “clarifications”, I can not work out what it is. A nuanced position indeed.

21

Russkie 07.14.05 at 7:24 am

>Or merely say one thing and secretly believe
>another?

Yes, that’s the one.

I appreciate your direct answer.

Obviously that’s unfair (or worse) for the victims of the gay bashers or Hamas bombers who you are choosing not to object to.

Moreover, you will soon find yourself under pressure to modify not just your private statements but your public policies in this direction.

And most significantly: how do you decide which “differently-perspectived” groups are the ones that get this kid gloves treatment and which ones are targeted for shrill condemnation, boycott, etc.??

22

Darren 07.14.05 at 7:25 am

We now know, that there are Muslim extremists in the UK who are willing to kill us in large numbers.

Do we? Many, many others suggest that is not true. For instance …

“How the Government Staged the London Bombings in Ten Easy Steps

Paul Joseph Watson/Prison Planet | July 13 2005

Ten Step Method To Staging a Terrorist Attack

1) Hire a Crisis Management firm to set up an exercise that parallels the terrorist attack you are going to carry out. Have them run the exercise at the precise locations and at the very same time as the attack. If at any stage of the attack your Arabs get caught, tell the police it was part of an exercise.

2) Hire four Arabs and tell them they’re taking part in an important exercise to help defend London from terrorist attacks. Strap them with rucksacks filled with deadly explosives. Tell the Arabs the rucksacks are dummy explosives and wouldn’t harm a fly.

3) Tell four Arabs to meet up at London Underground and disperse, each getting on a different train. Make sure Arabs meet in a location where you can get a good mug shot of them all on CCTV which you can later endlessly repeat to drooling masses on television.” For the other steps go to the link .

Now, the above analysis may be utter crap, neither you nor I know. But, where has all the critical thinking gone? Is it erased so simply? Why this homogeneity of thought?

If anyone is interested in replying -you can dismiss this of course; as ‘Razor’ is to ‘Occam’, ‘conspiracy-theorist’ is to ‘Procrustes’- I’m interested in the logical analysis rather than the politics.

23

Darren 07.14.05 at 7:29 am

comment 23 html didn’t render as intended … where it says ‘go to the link’ the link is here … http://www.prisonplanet.com/articles/july2005/130705teneasysteps.htm and the strike through wasn’t meant as rendered. It was supposed to be a pair of parenthetic hyphens.

24

soru 07.14.05 at 7:31 am

I would have thought that the following Milne quote:

_The security crackdowns and campaign to uproot an “evil ideology” the government announced yesterday will not extinguish the threat. Only a British commitment to end its role in the bloody occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan is likely to do that._

made a solid case for dickheadedness. Take Osama, and grant him two things he would undoubtedly claim as heroic victories, and that is ‘likely’ to ‘extinguish’ the threat?

soru

25

engels 07.14.05 at 7:33 am

Please take my #21 without the last sentence, which now strikes me as an unnecessary jibe.

26

Andrew Reeves 07.14.05 at 7:34 am

I want to chime in in agreement with Russkie. I understand the pragmatism of it, but there’s something disturbing about people who would react with vitriol and condemnation to certain views if they came from the mouth of a Christian cleric are willing to at least sit down and listen to said views when they come from the mouth of an imam. Again, I understand the reasoning that if you attack a people’s culture and religion then you drive them into the arms of the terrorists, but in practice, it winds up sounding like, “We should give Muslims a hearing on their views because Muslims have guns.” If there were a danger of, say, Calvinist terrorism, would there be a similar approach to giving air to these views?

Let me be clear, I do understand that the threat of violence makes it necessary to not condemn out of hand the position of some Islamic sects on gayness, the subordination of women, and the right of Israel to exist, but there is at the very least something disquieting to such a position.

27

Jimmy Doyle 07.14.05 at 7:36 am

“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.”

It would be more perspicuous to state matters thus: when Ken embraced al-Qaradawi he was drawing a line between those who are disposed to plant bombs on the tube, who must be defeated, and those who merely vociferously and frequently incite people to plant bombs on buses in Tel-Aviv, who can help us to stop the people who plant bombs on the tube.

One doesn’t have to think that it’s the “same struggle” against terrorists in Israel and terrorists in London to maintain that intentionally killing the innocent is equally bad wherever it occurs. As I said when D2 made a similar suggestion, trying to enlist the support of someone like al-Qaradawi in opposing terror in London does not present a morally coherent position. “Please don’t kill us. Focus on Jews and homosexuals instead, as the moderate al-Qaradawi recommends.”

28

Jake 07.14.05 at 7:41 am

Andrew–
if you live in the states as I do, you may already be experiencing Calvinist terrorism.

29

Peter J. 07.14.05 at 7:46 am

I imagine the spirit of the many of the young terrorists as being quite similar to that of people joining up to fight in the Great War.

I would have said it was similar to the spirit that carried out the Shoah, the Mai Lai massacre in Vietnam, or that which was exhibited at Srebrenica. I think the spirit which initially infused the soldiers of the Great War was different.

Here is a another take on the “spirit” which infuses the suicide bomber from todays London Times

30

Chris Bertram 07.14.05 at 7:47 am

Andrew Reeves and Jimmy Doyle: since I was explicit in stating that we should clearly say what we think of the repellent views of various Islamic leaders on topics such as Israel and homosexuality, one thing you can’t characterize me as saying is that it is “necessary to not condemn out of hand the position of some Islamic sects on gayness, the subordination of women, and the right of Israel to exist.” (Andrew). “Please don’t kill us. Focus on Jews and homosexuals instead, as the moderate al-Qaradawi recommends.” (Jimmy Doyle) is also just a caricature.

31

Peter J. 07.14.05 at 7:48 am

Here is the Times article

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,7-1692606,00.html

32

Nick 07.14.05 at 7:54 am

Anyone with experience of the Illuminati will be raising their eyebrows at the fact that the conspiracy theory appeared in comment #23… so what’s he really trying to tell us there?

33

Andrew Reeves 07.14.05 at 7:56 am

Chris,

Sorry for overstating. I went back and re-read what you said in the next sentence after “That means engaging with a whole bunch of people who have repellent views on topics from Israel to homosexuality.” that engaging with said people does not mean failing to take a stand, but it does mean dialogue.

So, I apologize for the misreading. I plead insufficiently metabolized coffee.

34

Jack 07.14.05 at 8:00 am

Peter, I don’t think they are completely different and not everyone who joined up to go to Vietnam did so because they wanted to commit a Mai Lai.

35

Jimmy Doyle 07.14.05 at 8:01 am

Chris, you say we should ‘isolate’ (ie not embrace) those who might plant bombs in London. But you also say that Ken was drawing an appropriate line by embracing (ie not isolating) al-Qaradawi. This cannot be true.

If we are trying to isolate domestic terrorism while (indeed, partly by means of) embracing (or at least not isolating) vociferous inciters of terrorism abroad, we are drawing a moral line between blowing up innocents in London and blowing up innocents in Tel-Aviv. This is morally indefensible. It is also contrary to our long-term self-interest, since we cannot ‘isolate’ terrorists by taking up a morally incoherent position.

36

Chris Bertram 07.14.05 at 8:02 am

More substantially, in reply to Jimmy Doyle, the issue is to keep on-side a whole swathe of Muslim opinion. Many of those people, regrettably, are inclined to endorse all kinds of repellent propositions if asked by opinion pollsters etc. Many of those propositions are also about possible worlds at some distance from this one (i.e. What should happen to gays in a world governed by Islamic law?). Those same people, happily for us, aren’t going around killing Jews, gays or anyone else, nor are they actually disposed to do so: lets keep it that way, and keep them inclined to tell us about nutters in their midst.

37

Iron Lungfish 07.14.05 at 8:03 am

Meanwhile, over in that there Iraq place, a lot more than fifty people have died. When do they get their moment of silence? When does Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo get theirs?

38

Brendan 07.14.05 at 8:05 am

If anybody cares, I think that pursuing the rape example is slightly dubious. The key point is, surely that it is perfectly legal and moral (unless you are a fundamentalist Christian or…ahem…an ‘Islamo-fascist’) to get drunk, to dress how you like, and to walk in areas with poor lighting. In fact where I live these are main activitiies of most males and females aged 16-25. Therefore, the question is, why should someone be ‘punished’ (i.e. raped) for doing something that wasn’t illegal or immoral and didn’t do any harm to anybody?

This is very different to the situation vis a vis Iraq, where the legality and morality of the initial action are precisely what is in question.To admit the acceptability of the ‘rape’ example is to accept that the Iraq war was both legal, moral and ‘didn’t do any harm to anybody’ (the last of which at least is manifestly false).

Incidentally, could we scotch one rumour, the idea that the 9/11 attacks were ‘un-motivated’? (They hate us for our freedoms etc). As Juan Cole has pointed out (and a quick check on the 9/11 report will confirm), Israeli policies vis a vis the Palestinians and American policies vis a vis Saudi (and we should never forget that Osama views Saudi as an American occupied puppet state) were primary motives for those attacks. In fact, Osama tried to alter the timing of the attacks to coincide with Sharon’s activities (once, he attemped to alter them to coincide with a Sharon visit to the White House for example) to make this point more explicit.

39

Darren 07.14.05 at 8:06 am

#33 Hi Nick – I was trying to say that analysis and evidence are dismissed by saying that the messenger is a conspiracy theorist. Hence the mention of Procrustes.

40

Chris Bertram 07.14.05 at 8:11 am

But you also say that Ken was drawing an appropriate line by embracing (ie not isolating) al-Qaradawi. This cannot be true.

No Jimmy, I said that Ken was pursuing a policy that draws the line in the right place and that his dealings with Al Qaradawi were aimed at promoting that policy.

2 separate questions:

(1) Do you agree with me about where to draw the line? and

(2) Was dealing with AQ an effective means in the pursuit of that end?

If you are right that AQ should be classed as an active inciter, rather than merely an apologist or someone who, when asked about X says “X is consistent with Islamic law”, then maybe I’ll agree with you that Ken went too far in relation to AQ. But I’d still hue to my line on (1) which seems to me at any rate to be a matter of greater moral and political moment than the obsession of the anti-Stopper bloggers with Ken and his works.

41

James 07.14.05 at 8:14 am

Just a few questions Chris:

1. You say in your addendum that you agree with Norman Geras that the terrorists are responsible for the bombs. However, what you then go on to say in your university lighting analogy suggests that you think that Blair (or the university administration in your analogy) *does* actually share some blame. Do you think this?

2. Your university analogy also suggests that you perhaps think Blair is responsible for ‘creating conditions’ which have motivated the bombers. Do you think this?

If you do think these things, then you are trying to shift some blame away from the perpetrators of this act and Russell’s question about whether a woman can ‘provoke’ her rapist is very much to the point – and I notice you haven’t yet answered it. As Norman Geras suggests in his post today, there’s a differece between causality and moral responsibility.

42

Chris Bertram 07.14.05 at 8:24 am

James: First, your language of “shifting blame away” suggests a model in which moral responsibility has to sum to 100%. But I don’t think that can be right. The fact that the university in my example is culpable doesn’t reduce the rapist’s culpability in the slightest.

The example I produced was drawn quite narrowly and tacitly includes features like the university’s duty of care. The point was to say that the Geras view, in which only those who actually carry out heinous acts can be held responsible, is very implausible. I think the example succeeds in making that point.

43

dsquared 07.14.05 at 8:26 am

Moreover, you will soon find yourself under pressure to modify not just your private statements but your public policies in this direction.

Which pressure I shall resist; there is no slippery slope from politeness to the gulag.

And most significantly: how do you decide which “differently-perspectived” groups are the ones that get this kid gloves treatment and which ones are targeted for shrill condemnation, boycott, etc.??

I’m as catholic as you like in who I’ll talk to; if you’re not involved in violence and you can help against those who are then let’s talk. Yes that includes hypothetical racists.

I’m not particularly interested in hijacking Chris’s thread to resurrect the Qaradawi wars, so just to clarify something (and russkie and Jimmy both seem to have misunderstood me in the same way here so it’s presumably my fault), the point I was trying to make is that even liberal Muslims who accept the rights of homosexuals and do not endorse terror in Israel, are still going to get a load of abuse from the “Decent Left” as it is currently constituted, because they opposed the Iraq War.

44

Jimmy Doyle 07.14.05 at 8:29 am

I agree that there’s no sense in isolating people whose repellent positions will have no bad consequence in the actual world. Al-Qaradawi manifestly does not fit into this category, and Livingstone knew this when he embraced him. Why are you trying to spin Livingstone’s embrace as ‘aiming to support a policy that draws the line in the right place,’ as opposed to ‘symptomatic of an abject failure to draw the line in the right place’? For that matter, why formulate your view by way of reaction to “the obsession of the anti-Stopper bloggers with Ken and his works”, as opposed to a moral appraisal of things as they are? Certain people at CT refused even to acknowledge the truth about al-Qaradawi until the imprimatur of Juan Cole showed that Nick Cohen and Scott Burgess hadn’t being lying all along after all. It is now common knowledge that Livingstone publicly embraced someone who (as he knew) frequently and vociferously incites exactly the sort of deliberate murder of innocents as was subsequently visited on the city of which he is the elected Mayor. I think that this is a pretty extraordinary state of affairs, and I don’t think that it’s evidence of “obsession” if someone wants to press some awkward questions about it.

45

Brian 07.14.05 at 8:30 am

The articles linked at Norm’s place don’t all seem on a par, especially the Clark piece which as far as I can tell makes a perfectly reasonable point, or at least a perfectly reasonable contribution to a fair debate.

The idea that because the bombers are wholly responsible for their evil acts therefore the government is not is nonsense. It is part of the job of the government to protect us from murderers. It’s a job they fail to carry out perfectly all the time, but it is still their job. To say so is not to apologise for crime. No one thinks we are apologising for Harold Shipman if we complain about the breakdowns in procedures that led to him avoiding apprehension for so long. (And I hope everyone agrees with Chris about the rape/lighting example.) Surely we can say (a) that the killers shouldn’t have done what they did and (b) the government should have stopped them.

Now we need to know many more facts before we know whether (b) is true in any sense that implies the government is blameworthy. But given the type of crime involved, the issue of whether the government is doing what it (properly) could to minimise the support such killers may have had in their communities, to minimise how much room they had to move, is a fair question. I think if it turned out that the only way to reduce this ‘room to move’ would have been to acquiese in something immoral, then that might be a fair answer. But it is far from obvious that is true. Even if we accept that it would have been immoral _not_ to invade Iraq, it is hard to argue that the way the invasion has been carried out has been morally necessary. I think we can fairly complain that the way the war has been carried out has undermined the (good and necessary) work of those (in the government and without) trying to prevent Islamic terrorism ‘from the inside’.

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Kevin Donoghue 07.14.05 at 8:36 am

As Chris said, I’d suggest you brush up on your reading comprehension. Or perhaps you have me confused with someone else.

Russkie,

Daniel’s comment (No. 4) refers to the pro-war Left and more specifically to those of them who brand their opponents as “quislings, fascists and worse.” Your response (No. 13) asks: “So what are people supposed to do then?” If you had asked “what am I supposed to do then?” you could fairly criticise my reading comprehension. You didn’t ask that. If you had I would not have responded, having no reason to suppose you are one of the people Daniel referred to.

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Kevin Donoghue 07.14.05 at 8:41 am

Certain people at CT refused even to acknowledge the truth about al-Qaradawi until the imprimatur of Juan Cole showed that Nick Cohen and Scott Burgess hadn’t being lying all along after all. It is now common knowledge that Livingstone publicly embraced someone who (as he knew) frequently and vociferously incites exactly the sort of deliberate murder of innocents as was subsequently visited on the city of which he is the elected Mayor.

This is debatable. Juan Cole, uncharacteristically, relied on a MEMRI translation.

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James 07.14.05 at 8:44 am

Chris

First, you still haven’t answered my question. Do you in fact think that Blair shares some of the moral responsibility for what happened last Thursday? You strongly hint that you do but you’re unwilling to come right out and say so. Why?

Second, I didn’t say moral responsibility had to add up to 100%. But if – the day after your imagined rape took place – the op-ed pages of the country’s leading liberal newspaper were full of condemnation of the university lighting department, in some cases (I’m thinking of Tariq Ali here) not even mentioning the actual perpetrator/s, you may think something had gone seriously wrong, no?

And here’s another thing to think about: if, let’s just say prior to 12 September 2001, the campus had always been fantastically well-lit, and yet on a single day, 3000 women on the campus were raped, that would call into question how far the lighting was responsible for the rapes. Wouldn’t it?

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Chris Bertram 07.14.05 at 8:55 am

James, I haven’t hinted at anything, I’ve just used an example to show that Geras’s view on moral responsibility is inadequate. As for Blair, I think the causal chain is too complex for me confidently to say blaming things. Others are less reticent, and I think that’s a mistake on their part.

Your second para is dead wrong, imho. Change my example slightly. There is a serial rapist about and the university is advised to improve the lighting, and then the rapist strikes again, perhaps at a particular spot the university had been advised to illuminate. The rapist is still at large, so we don’t know his identity. Would the papers be full of outrage against the university? You bet they would. And rightly so.

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engels 07.14.05 at 8:59 am

Chris – You think that it is possible that people in government can take some share of the blame for individual criminal acts. You also say that “the bombers are responsible for the bombs and that Blair is not”. Can I infer, therefore, that your position is that though the idea that the government might share some responsibility is not incoherent, it happens to be false in this instance? If this is your view, is it really fair to call those who share your conceptual assumptions but differ on the interpretation of the facts “dickheads”?

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Kevin Donoghue 07.14.05 at 9:00 am

My last contribution on Qaradawi (Marc Lynch doesn’t know so I’m staying on the fence):

http://abuaardvark.typepad.com/abuaardvark/2005/04/qaradawi_vs_al_.html

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engels 07.14.05 at 9:00 am

Ok, your last post kind of answers that.

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James 07.14.05 at 9:01 am

Yes, but your analogy sets it up so that there is no possible good reason (other than penny-pinching) why the university administration wouldn’t improve the lighting. Whereas a significant number of people do think that there were good reasons to go to war in Iraq – like the removal of a genocidal dictator. Not absolutely everyone of progressive opinion thinks that Iraq should just have been ignored in the hope (and it’s a vain hope anyway) that we would have been spared a suicide bombing in London.

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dsquared 07.14.05 at 9:04 am

Certain people at CT refused even to acknowledge the truth about al-Qaradawi until the imprimatur of Juan Cole showed that Nick Cohen and Scott Burgess hadn’t being lying all along after all.

Oh fuck it, let’s resurrect the al-Qaradawi wars then. In fact, Juan Cole got this one wrong. The precise point at which CT (in the shape of Chris and me) decided to drop al-Qaradawi was when Juan Cole passed on the news that he had endorsed the murder of civilians in Iraq. This report turned out to be fake, Qaradawi denies ever having said it and in fact does condemn the murder of civilians in Iraq.

Other than this merely factual correction, could we not just reread our last exchange on the subject rather than writing it out again longhand?

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Fergal 07.14.05 at 9:09 am

The IRA shut down when their terrorism became such a problem that Britain began to negotiate, at first in secret and then in the open to end the problems.

Yes, Sien, that’s the ticket. I suppose we could give up a few things if it guaranteed us immunity from terrorism. Say women’s rights, for a start. And maybe those of Jews and homosexuals. Perhaps if we accepted a bit of Sharia, says the stoning of adulterers. And Spain could chip in with Andalusia for the new Caliphate, eh? Of course Israel would have to go. And all those interloping Christians in Lebanon and Egypt… Yup, this negotiating thing might just work.

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Chris Bertram 07.14.05 at 9:11 am

engels, I probably shouldn’t have included abb1 in my Milne-directed invective. But I’m afraid that the close resemblance between abb1 and the Casting-Central “Stopper” at Harry’s Place and elsewhere gets on my nerves.

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Jimmy Doyle 07.14.05 at 9:14 am

Cole may have been wrong about Al-Qaradawi’s views on killing innocent civilians in Iraq, but it has long been a matter of public record (ie on his own site, not just MEMRI) that he thought suicide bombings in Israel “commendable.”

If he opposed suicide bombings in Israel but persistently incited people to carry them out in the UK, how would we feel about the Mayor of Tel-Aviv embracing him on stage as part of an attempt to keep in on-side in the campaign to isolate the *real* enemy — the people who advocate murdering innocents in Israel?

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Brendan 07.14.05 at 9:26 am

Hey fergal what a great idea. Better still let’s compromise. Why dont WE start pushing for women’s rights and gay rights etc. in Saudi Arabi and Egypt and Pakistan, our little client states in the Middle East, whose behaviour we are responsible for?

And don’t even start on the ‘culture’ thing. A quick websearch will reveal (for example) the US army instituting racist rules in their own army bases in Saudi WITHOUT EVEN BEING ASKED TO DO SO BY THE SAUDIS.

Still obviously that’s nothing to do with us, even though, er, it is.

Nothins has been more pernicious than the idea that in any sense Bush and Blair are againstIslamic fundamentalism. In fact, with their slavish support for Saudi, they are aiders and abetters of the creation oceans of anti-semitic/racist filth.

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Russell Arben Fox 07.14.05 at 9:27 am

James, I appreciate the way you’ve followed up on my question to Chris. I should note for the record, however, that I’m sympathetic to Chris’s response to Norm Geras and others–moral culpability does, I think, extend beyond the perpetrators of an act, though that does not mean that the perpetrators of said acts therefore can rightly “shift” some of the fault of their actions onto the choices of their victims, the circumstances of their environment, etc. (If I understand you correctly, Chris, you’re denying that culpability functions in accordance with some sort of utilitarian calculus, through which the 100% total blame for action X gets divided up among several candidates; if so, I agree with you completely.) Clearly, this moral reality can be abused (as James’s example of Tariq Ali demonstrates), but denying isn’t sensible either. Chris’s basic insistence that multiple causal claims are real, though complex, is the right one.

I just asked my question because I wanted to see, Chris, given the above, just how willing you were to skate close to the politically incorrect, “traditionalist” side of things on the rape question (the side that I, when I think about giving advice to my daughters, find myself on), and make moral assessments accordingly.

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dsquared 07.14.05 at 9:30 am

Jimmy – presumably roughly as they did in Northern Ireland when the UK government did more or less exactly that; pretty angry at the whole situation, but what else do you do?

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roger 07.14.05 at 9:45 am

The rape analogy is a terribly bad analogy. It doesn’t do any justice to why Blair should justly be blamed.

Here is the case for that.
1. Blair deceived to get the U.K. involved in a war in Iraq that, according to the series of Downing Street memos, his government knew was: a., based on fixing intelligence, and b., projected conditions for the occupation that were absurd. This is important. Criminal endangerment involves previous knowledge. When asbestos using companies are sued in the U.S., the lawyers for the plaintiffs regularly try to show that the companies knew of the danger of asbestos and did nothing.

As for the rape — besides being one of those crimes we will all condemn (unlike, say, razing the city of Fallujah), it has little or no similarity to the bombing of the buses and subway trains. The accusation is that the known provocation presented by the war (remember the fake closing of the London’s airport due to terrorist threat in 2003? — signalling, at the very least, that the government well knew its course was a provocation) was accompanied by astonishing inaction with regard to the real terrorist networks, which were not, of course, controlled by Saddam Hussein, but at least are nominally in the name of a man, Osama bin Laden, who has essentially been granted a haven in Pakistan. Essentially granted here refers to the opportunity cost of the Iraq war. That war, plotted in 2002, necessarily meant downgrading the priority of taking down Al Qaeda. At the same time, the government of the U.S. and the U.K. spread false assurances that there was no opportunity cost – that, in the words of Bush, 2/3rds of Al Qaeda operatives had been killed or put in prison. This is the second branch of the criminal endangerment charge — the security costs of the Iraq war were systematically lied about.

There is no need for a bizarre analogy to rape or to lighting problems: the criminal endangerment, here, was not the passive allowing of dangerous conditions, but a concommitant of the actions of Blair’s government. At the very least, this means that the government knowingly gambled that security for aims favored by a narrow policy elite. The stakes of the gamble were the lives of its citizens. To say that the bombers were to blame for the bombs is a no brainer. To say that Blair is to blame for the criminal endangerment of British civilians on British soil in pursuit of a war that is contrary to the interests of the British is also a no brainer. One merely has to read the newspapers over the last two years, or remember that cerebral state, in the blissful pre-Bush era, when argument had to follow, however vaguely, logic.
If Blair had said, in the buildup to Iraq, that the goal was important enough that he was willing to see it through even though it meant spending the lives of civilians in London by way of terrorist counterstrikes, that would have summed up the situation.

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Chris Bertram 07.14.05 at 10:09 am

The rape analogy is a terribly bad analogy. It doesn’t do any justice to why Blair should justly be blamed.

It isn’t supposed to. It is a _counterexample_ . Normal Geras put forward a general thesis about moral responsibility and blame, I invented a case that cast doubt on that general thesis.

Do pay attention.

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chris y 07.14.05 at 10:11 am

Roger,

As an opponent of the war in Iraq, I have to say that your hypothetical doesn’t sum up the situation at all. You seem to suggest that the government’s foreign policy should in principle be subject to veto by its most extreme opponents (and not just foreign policy – if we know that the conduct of medical research will lead to terrorist actions by nthe ALF, should we abandon medical research?).

However misguided the government may be in this instance, the possibility of terrorist violence in consequence is the worst possible reason to change it.

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Jimmy Doyle 07.14.05 at 10:34 am

D2: Quite so; I wasn’t asking about what one could do in such a situation, but whether one would have a legitimate grievance, which is a separate question, unless one holds to a particularly extreme form of ‘might makes right.’ The tenor of your comment suggests that you think that there is indeed a legitimate grievance; it follows (it seems to me) that Israeli civilians would have the same sort of grievance against British politicians who embrace vocal advocates of their murder in the interest of minimising the probability of similar murder over here. We innocent civilians should stick together, whatever view we take of what our leaders and our military are getting up to.

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Teddy 07.14.05 at 10:39 am

Chris, you argue that we should “include” Muslims with “repellent” political views because we could hope that they will then help us fight the Islamic terrorists. Two problems. First, many of those radical Muslims (our would-be allies) who are not willing to resort to violence will in all likelihood feel that they have more in common with their murderous co-religionists than with us, decadent Westerners and non-believers. Isn’t it a bit naive to expect that they would betray their “brothers” to us? Second, would you support the analogical way of fighting the right-wing extremism (say, Ku Klux Klan ot people like Timothy McVeigh) by reaching out to racists and “including” those white supremacists who verbally renounce violence and terrorism?

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fergal 07.14.05 at 10:40 am

In fact, with their slavish support for Saudi, they are aiders and abetters of the creation oceans of anti-semitic/racist filth.

Brendan, I was against the war in Iraq (in general because of the “gang that couldn’t should straight” argument) and I have no love lost for the Saudi regime (or the Bush administration, for that matter). But how any of this allows for Sinn Fein-style “negotiations” with Al Qaeda (pace Sien) escapes me. That way leads to “useful idiocy”.

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fergal 07.14.05 at 10:44 am

Oops, that should be “couldn’t shoot straight”, above…

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Anthony 07.14.05 at 10:54 am

Chris,

Given your support for the removal of the Taliban from Afghanistan, and the associated Al Qaeda training camps, are you in a position to use the “blow back” argument over Iraq?

In fact, are you re-considering your position on the invasion of Afghanistan as being a just war?

Do you now consider the invasion of Afghanistan a mistake, since it is equally arguable that it put Britain in the line of fire.

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Chris Bertram 07.14.05 at 10:59 am

Anthony, perhaps you’d like to quote the section of my post that endorses a “blow back” argument? Or any of my responses in comments for that matter?

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roger 07.14.05 at 11:10 am

Chris y, when you write “You seem to suggest that the government’s foreign policy should in principle be subject to veto by its most extreme opponents (and not just foreign policy)” — you are striking exactly the right note. Not that it should be vetoed, but it should be carefully considered. And if the actions of the government are such as to motivate terrorist counter-strike while at the same time exposing the civilian community to bombing (by, for instance, incomplete and negligent action against terrorists in conjunction with provocative acts, invading other countries without cause), then the consideration leads to blame.

As for your last sentence, it seems to be a non-sequitor. Why shouldn’t the government change its actions if they provoke terrorists? If there is some overwhelming material reason, you could be right. But if there isn’t, and the government has proven itself unable to protect its citizens against bombings, then your sentence makes no sense. If the Luxemborg government, as a matter of principle, decided to bomb the U.S., and the counterstrike destroyed half of Luxemborg, it would be a very poor argument to say, well, the cost shouldn’t count in considering whether to consider the operation. If costs don’t count, then state activity has no rationality whatsoever.

Chris, I recognize you were making a counter-example. But to make another example, the rape analogy is like the Tar Baby — however you touch it, you are in for a mess. It doesn’t model the argument about blame very clearly, and really can’t be made to. Instead, I think it should be crisply suppressed.

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Anthony 07.14.05 at 11:13 am

Sorry Chris, I didn’t have time to read all the comments, but this was the section:

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.

Note: I am specifically not suggesting that you are shifting blame from the bombers – so please don’t be diverted.

It seems to me that the second sentence “create the conditions” might mean an series of grievances that led the terrorists to take their action – including Iraq or Afghanistan (or even the loss of Andalucia if one wishes to take an older example).

Therefore, it would appear to me that you are in exactly the same position as the pro-war left are with Iraq, when it comes to Afghanistan given your support for its liberation.

Does this post mean you have abandoned a set of politics that believes in universal human rights, to replace it with one where these can be sacrificed, or put aside when talking to extremists, if it brings Western countries security from Islamist terrorism?

This would seem a very strange reaction for someone of the left.

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James 07.14.05 at 11:14 am

Chris – Anthony may find it difficult to do that because you’ve so carefully worded your post and comments that no-one can quite pin you down on anything.

However let’s go over what you do say. First you say you basically agree with Norman Geras, yet you say he is ‘treating us to a lecture’ – if you agree with what he is saying this is an odd phrase to choose.

Then you go on to say: ‘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’.

Do you really mean only to apply this ‘as a general rule’? Because in the context of the post it is in, it looks extremely close to employing the blow-back argument as Anthony suggests.

If you completely agree with Norman Geras *in this case* – about the loathsome behaviour of Milne, Ali etc – but are just querying his causation and responsibility argument theoretically, today is a very odd day to pick to have that argument.

Then you go on to give your university lighting analogy – an analogy in which you clearly think that the university IS to blame. The university being analagous here to Blair. I assume you’re not denying that?

Then when asked outright whether you do think Blair is partially to blame, you say ‘the causal chain is too complex’.

You can hardly blame Anthony for being somewhat confused about what exactly you are and aren’t saying.

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moni 07.14.05 at 11:22 am

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.

If I can pick on a tangent, I have a problem with this sort of reasoning, or rather, some of its implications. Is unwillingness to talk to the police that caused the attacks? Could it not be those terrorist were operating in secret like terrorist do? Would it be fair to assume that because the terrorists are Muslims, other Muslims, who are not terrorists or close to any networks where acts of terrorism are organised, supported, etc., must have known but not told the police? Do we assume that every Muslim has a duty as Muslim to be sort of a parallel police? If they’re citizens like anyone else, then they’re not expected to be spies or vigilantes. I think this idea can lead too easily to the usual notion that anyone could be a terrorist just for being Muslim.

Of course I do understand the argument in terms of favouring social integration and marginalising the most radical fundamentalist groups and preachers for the benefit of both that community and society at large, but that’s another thing; it’s not crime prevention. Even fundamentalists are not necessarily terrorists or involved in terrorist groups. I think there’s a big extra step in between ideas and criminal activity, and we should keep that in mind. Marginalising the latter is the work of police and intelligence. That’s what they’re paid for.

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Chris Bertram 07.14.05 at 11:24 am

Well I didn’t think it was so hard!

I included the point about blame and responsibility as an addendum because it was orthogonal to my main point.

I was not trying to make any analogy between Iraq (or Afghanistan) and the lighting/rape example. I was merely pointing out that Geras’s _general thesis_ about moral responsibility, on which he places a great deal of reliance in argument, does not look plausible in the light of that example. The day on which someone makes an argument that contains a manifestly false premise is not an odd day to point that out.

As for wording my post carefully so that “no-one can quite pin you down on anything”, I plead not guilty to all but wording my post carefully. That I did indeed try to do, I’m sorry if my so doing makes it difficult to assimate me to some people’s pre-processed stereotypes.

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dsquared 07.14.05 at 11:37 am

Anthony may find it difficult to do that because you’ve so carefully worded your post and comments that no-one can quite pin you down on anything.

I just love it when people say this. Chris thinks about something, decides what claims he can defend and what claims he regards as incorrect, thinks about what to write in order to only make claims he can stand behind, writes clearly and somehow this is playing dirty pool!

Is the idea here that the decent, moral thing to do would have been to allow enough ambiguity in the article so that anyone who wanted to could misinterpret Chris as making a claim that was easier to argue against? Crooked Timber will not bow to this “soft bigotry of low expectations” of its commenters!

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Jimmy Doyle 07.14.05 at 11:38 am

“I’m sorry if my so doing makes it difficult to assimilate me to some people’s pre-processed stereotypes.”

Looks like Peter Cuthbertson overcame any such difficulties, Chris. He’s taking you to task in a Harry’s Place thread:

http://hurryupharry.bloghouse.net/archives/2005/07/14/why_is_the_guardian_employing_an_extremist_islamist.php

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Brendan 07.14.05 at 11:49 am

‘Brendan, I was against the war in Iraq (in general because of the “gang that couldn’t should straight” argument) and I have no love lost for the Saudi regime (or the Bush administration, for that matter). But how any of this allows for Sinn Fein-style “negotiations” with Al Qaeda (pace Sien) escapes me. That way leads to “useful idiocy”.’ I am not advocating negotiation with Al-Qaeda (although it is interesting that in Iraq the United States ARE apparently ‘negotiating’ with various terrorist/insurgent groups linked to Al-Qaeda, although the right wing blogosphere have been mysteriously quiet about this).

What I am arguing is that in some respects we should ‘give in’ to Osama NOT because he wants us to but BECAUSE IT’S THE RIGHT THING TO DO. For example, I agree with Osama that we should stop bankrolling the Saudi regime (although our views about what should replace it would probably be rather different). I also think we should put more pressure on Israel to negotiate seriously with the democratically elected Palestinian government (not the terrorists).

Likewise I don’t think we should pull out of Iraq because of what Osama thinks: i think we should pull out of Iraq because it’s the right thing to do. Again, however, whereas Bin Laden would then try and turn it into an Islamic state, I think it should be handed over to a genuinely representative UN force, preferably with a high middle eastern/arabic contingent.

To put it bluntly: Hitler did have a point about Versailles, even though the point was made by, you know, Hitler.

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roger 07.14.05 at 11:56 am

Anthony, this is an odd view of recent history:

“Therefore, it would appear to me that you are in exactly the same position as the pro-war left are with Iraq, when it comes to Afghanistan given your support for its liberation.”

The liberation of Afghanistan was not motivated by the desire to ‘liberate’ Afghanistan — it was motivated by the desire to strike back at Al Qaeda. If A.Q. had operated from Sudan, the target of the invasion would have been Sudan. Because the Taliban mixed its interests with A.Q.’s the invasion was launched — after an ultimatum that the invasion wouldn’t be launched if the Taliban turned over the A.Q. leadership, which puts to rest the idea that the U.S. or Britain was primarily interested in liberating Afghanistan.

So the blowback argument is unaffected by support for that war. In fact, the argument begins by claiming that the goal of the Afghanistan war was botched. It was botched because the Bush and Blair people decided to use Afghanistan to bootstrap another and unrelated war that was in planning before 9/11. In the process of doing so, they neglected to pursue with the vigor becoming two militarily superior states the disruption of A.Q. They compounded the error by turning Iraq into a country unable to defend its borders against terrorists, even while making it attractive for terrorists to cross those borders. Thus, the war is serving as a terrorism generator. So the blowback argument is: the botching of the destruction of A.Q. left a threat on the flanks of the coalition; the time and conduct of the war on Iraq magnified that threat.

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abb1 07.14.05 at 11:59 am

…the causal chain is too complex…

Right, it’s too complex, can go either way with Blair.

But there’s one thing we now know for sure: those who want to bomb, invade, occupy, kill and torture… umg, no, actually, just to refuse to cooperate with two Israeli universities – they are to be demonized: boycott may offend sensibilities of the Jewish members and we don’t want that.

And the Muslims of whom many have repellent views we should talk to so that they just go ahead and cleanse their communities of extremists.

Two different groups, two different approaches – nuance. Got it. Thank you for this lesson.

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Anthony 07.14.05 at 12:23 pm

Roger,

that is a non sequitur. Whatever the reasons for the invasion of Afghanistan it is still seen as a grievence.

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fifi 07.14.05 at 1:00 pm

What a lot of barking dogs. The natural state of man, war, is sustained by intellectuals, who by the way are wrongly named.

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fergal 07.14.05 at 1:01 pm

We were talking about negotiating, Brendan. As repugnant as it might be, that is possible with the IRA. That’s even possible with (some) “insurgents” in Iraq. There is nothing to “negotiate” with Osama or his ilk.

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fergal 07.14.05 at 1:10 pm

Umm… things to do (urgently):

Stop suicide bombers on London Transport. Check.
Boycott Israeli academics. Check.

(Thanks Abb1, I might have missed that last one.)

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abb1 07.14.05 at 1:14 pm

What’s that supposed to mean, Fergal?

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Jack 07.14.05 at 1:21 pm

Actually there are things to negotiate with Osama at least in the sense that he has some specific demands, some of which we have even met. For example we have pulled troops out of Saudi Arabia. Israel we have not moved so fast on.

Iraq is actually a tricky one for him because he called Saddam an apostate but I think the war and occupation makes his position much more comfortable.

He probably wants a great deal more than his public demands but they are two things — a statement of what he wants and a means of establishing common cause with other less militant folk who desire similar things.

Probably he is unappeasable, at least until he gets real power and thus responsibility, but some of the issues and his willingness to take risks to pursue them are also a major source of his popularity.

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roger 07.14.05 at 1:24 pm

Anthony, no non-sequitor there. Wars aren’t supported unconditionally. In fact, that is how they stop. Nations negotiate, or surrender. People change their minds, or grow dissatisfied with their leaders. Far from being a non-sequitor, the difference between a justified war incompetently carried out (Afghanistan) and a non-justified war incompetently carried out (Iraq) focuses on the difference between unavoidable blowback (coming from taking down Al Qaeda) and avoidable blowback (coming from not doing so).

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fergal 07.14.05 at 1:27 pm

His public demands are enough, Jack. You can negotiate them, if you like. Just NOT IN MY NAME.

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abb1 07.14.05 at 1:39 pm

Osama bin Laden is just a guy sitting in a cave somewhere (assuming he is alive), there is no need to appease him. But then, there’s a whole mass-movement out there with all levels of intensity, from strong dissatisfaction to desperation to psychosis. If we can appease 95% of them and bring the temperature down a notch for the rest, then it’s all over for the remaining 5%, they’ll disappear like, say, black militants of the civil rights era. But if we keep on digging this hole, it’ll only be worse.

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Brendan 07.14.05 at 2:02 pm

Fergal
What is it about the sentence ‘I am not advocating negotiation with Al-Qaeda’ that you are having difficulty with?

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Brendan 07.14.05 at 2:06 pm

In any case I am not even sure that Osama Bin Laden does want ‘us’ to get out of Iraq. In many ways this is the best recruiting agent he has ever had. What the pro-war bloggers forget is that after september 11th such a wave of revulsion swept the world that most people turned their backs on the extremists. What Bush has done is dug up the corpse of ‘Islamo fascism’ and breathed life into it. If we pulled out of Iraq (and, within a relatively short period of time, Afghanistan) I have no doubt that in the medium term (say ten to twenty years) extremist Islam would simply die a death (although don’t get me wrong, there would probably be some hardliners who would never admit the battle was lost).

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abb1 07.14.05 at 2:14 pm

This is from Wikipedia’s profile of Mohamed Atta:

In Germany, Atta was registered as a citizen of the United Arab Emirates. His German friends describe him as an intelligent man with religious beliefs who grew angry over the Western policy toward the Middle East, including the Oslo Accords and the Gulf War. MSNBC in its special “The Making of the Death Pilots” interviewed German friend Ralph Bodenstein who traveled, worked and talked a lot with Mohamed Atta. Ralph said, “He was most imbued actually about Israeli politics in the region and about U.S. protection of these Israeli politics in the region. And he was to a degree personally suffering from that.”

This reminds me what Che Guevara said: “If you tremble indignation at every injustice then you are a comrade of mine.”

This is a particular type of obsessive
personality, and I don’t think it’s extremely rare. You can’t kill all of them, so just try to remove the freakin injustice or, at least, don’t perpetuate it.

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Jasminedad 07.14.05 at 2:24 pm

Those who believe that Blair has to take some of blame for London bombings because of the anger of some Muslims at UK participation in Iraq and Afghan wars please answer the following questions.

If Britain had not participated in Iraq, but had played exactly the same role in Afghanistan, 1. do they think London bombings would not have happened?; 2. do they think Blair should still take the blame, it the London bombings had happened?

For myself, putting Iraq and Afghan wars in the same class is a big moral and analytical mistake. I think OBL and his followers would still be gunning for Britain for its participation in Afghanistan. So go ahead and blame Blair, but recognize that you’re recommending surrender to OBL. BTW, this is from someone who thinks that the Iraq invasion was and continues a big mistake.

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Anthony 07.14.05 at 2:46 pm

Roger,

Can you not grasp the difference between support for a war and a grievence about the war? I give up.

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Harry 07.14.05 at 3:05 pm

Chris,

If just once you could do me the favour of at least reflecting accurately the arguments made on HP it would be appreciated.

But let me be clear – obviously the widest possible anti-terrorist coalition needs to be created inside the Muslim communities and beyond.

Clearly that involves people who opposed the war in Iraq. I have never suggested otherwise.

I would however disagree with your inclusion of an open supporter of terrorism, such as Al-Qaradawi, in an anti-terrorist coalition. The reasons should hardly need explaining should they?

But it really doesn’t matter who would fit inside your hypothetical alliance — sensible voices in the British Muslim community believe that Arab agitators from Islamist groups are a major part of the problem.

That is what counts.

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Slocum 07.14.05 at 3:31 pm

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.

Well, the UK Muslim community, without being frightened or isolated by a hypothetical post 7/7 overreaction, has already been a fertile ground (arguably the most fertile ground outside Muslim countries) for the recruitment of nutters–it’s just that, until last week, these nutters had not targeted the UK itself.

The policy of treating with deference, respect, and tolerance those leaders who at least flirt with incitement (e.g. Qaradawi and Tariq Ramadan) has not worked. The live-and-let live tolerance of the UK, in an unacceptably high number of instances, does not result in gratitude but its opposite.

Ordinary British Muslims should not be made fearful nor obligated to act as unoffical undercover agents of the government. However if the UK government develops a lower threshold for hatred-spewing Imams, if it engaged in detentions and deportations more along the French model, then ordinary British Muslims might feel less intimited when the firebrands in their mosques are no longer being given a free pass.

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jasmindad 07.14.05 at 3:35 pm

abb1 says:
—-
This reminds me what Che Guevara said: “If you tremble indignation at every injustice then you are a comrade of mine.”

This is a particular type of obsessive
personality, and I don’t think it’s extremely rare. You can’t kill all of them, so just try to remove the freakin injustice or, at least, don’t perpetuate it.
—–

What happens when what one of these persons thinks is an injustice is a result of botched world view, and removing the injustice causes injustice to someone else? What if getting rid of the Taliban is deemed an injustice to Muslims by some of these types, while the Taliban is busy doing horrible things to Afghan women? The idea that these people are just oversensitive idealists is absurd.

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David All 07.14.05 at 3:55 pm

Jake #29: “if you live in the states (USA?) as I do, you may already be experiencing Calvinist terrorism”.
Ah yes, those infamous videos put out by Jerry Falwell & Pat Robertson in which Jews and other non-Calvinist are decapitated and have their heads joyfully held up for display, the stoning of homosexuals and women accused of adultry, the sucide bombers, etec.!

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reuben 07.14.05 at 4:24 pm

doesn’t it also follow that a woman who dresses provocatively and attends a late-night private party where alcohol is present, with the knowlede that she is therefore potentially making herself available for drunken assaults, is at least somewhat responsible for that assaults that follow?

I’m not half so bright as Russell Arben Fox, so I’m sure he’ll see the holes in this, but here goes anyway…

On a gut instinct level, I’ve gotta shout no to this one – and no with all my heart – simply because there have to be some lines drawn somewhere, and some basic things we accept that no one should have to radically change their behaviour to avoid, and rape surely has to be counted as one of them. I’d also include in that list things like:

being black and not ashamed of it in 1955 Mississippi

using the tube or bus to commute to work in 2005 London.

No woman should have to think, ah well, guys can pretty much get as drunk as they want where and when they want, and wear what they want, without fear of being raped, but for us women, well, we should acknowledge that society isn’t yet ready for us to have these freedoms, because men do lose control, so we’ll just have to keep ourselves really in check.

Definitely there are precautions one should take and acknowledgments and compromises one should make, but at the risk of sounding like some sort of libertine, surely having several drinks and dressing how one wants should be a human right (yes, I know it’s not in many or all Muslim countries) and not fall into the category of “potentially making oneself available” for rape. We’ve moved past that as a society, or are doing are level best to do so. And it may well help us to do so by not being willing to give ground on an issue such as this. (NB: I’m not doing any analogising to the terrorist issue here. My personal belief is that basically you should do what you think will result in the greatest good. Sometimes you give a bit of ground and compromise, even if you have to hold your nose. Other times you hold your line, come hell or high water.)

By the same token as this rape question, you could take it a bit further and argue that any parent who allows his child to play outdoors is potentially making that child available for being molested in the park. Yeah, technically they are, just by letting the little ones outside, but… to harken to the title of this post somewhat, society has to agree that lines are drawn in certain places. Where those lines are drawn shift over time. Long ago, society agreed that under no circumstances should parents be blamed for putting their children at risk of molestation simply by allowing them to live normal lives. That’s what it’s about, I think: normal lives (yes, I know that’s a bit undefined). And for women in their early-20s or so, dressing sexily and drinking heavily is “normal life”, and they shouldn’t have to alter that. (Which isn’t to say that if suddenly it became the norm to inflict lots of damage on oneself or others – eg by consuming one’s bodyweight in crystal meth, as it apparently is in some communities in the rural US – that the “norm” shouldn’t be altered.)

Right now, society (America and Northern Europe, anyway) has just about (but not entirely) come to the agreement that women, like men, should be allowed to dress and drink as they please, and that if men can’t control themselves, it is the man’s fault, and not at all the woman’s. Otherwise, we get into way more relative moralism than decent people can bear, I think.

Anyway, as I say, Russell’s got at least three more brains than I do, so I don’t expect to “win” this discussion, if he desires to bat me around a bit – not, of course, that I would expect such treatment from one so clearly civil. Which reminds me…

I would like to say, if Harry’s reading, that one of the things that I particularly like about CT is that, even at its most heated, it’s not nearly so fierce and venomous as the comments at his site. I do think those comments reflect, to a degree, the overall tone of the site – ie the authors’ approach to how the present their arguments. I know I can simply choose not to visit, but there really are some things to be learned there. That’s meant as constructive criticism – completely unasked for, of course.

Cheers

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abb1 07.14.05 at 4:43 pm

Well, Jasmindad, that always is the case that removing the injustice causes injustice to someone else. Just need to keep injustices to the minimum as much as possible, or, better yet, don’t get involved into these things – what do you know about Taliban and all that? You don’t know shit. So, just bugger off and let them fight it out. Nobody likes an ugly American. And now Blair is one too.

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Jack 07.14.05 at 4:44 pm

slocum, presumably we would then be feeling as secure as the French (Schengen agreement rescinded today) and our Muslims would be as happy as theirs. And things would be better how?

Jasmindad, what if your world view is botched and you are one of the good people whose inaction allows the triumph of evil? I think abb1 is making a pragmatic point, not a moral judgement.

If Iraq was going better and the inital justifications had panned out, it would be both a lesser provocation and a better trade for any side effects. But if the invasion of Iraq is supposed to have made us safer the bombings are hardly a good advert for that.

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soru 07.14.05 at 4:46 pm

One phrase that cropped up in the Guardian’s coverage of the bombers was ‘radicalised by Bosnia’.

If the UK had been instrumental in leaving saddam in place, in the same way it was in delaying action over Bosnia, would a hypothetical suicide bombing of London by a Kurdish or Shi’ite group have been ‘understandable’?

soru

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james 07.14.05 at 5:05 pm

To my understanding no one knows what alleged grievances preceded the London bombing. Attributing it to the Iraq and Afghanistan wars is premature. Supposedly planning for the Madrid bombing began before the beginning of the Iraqi war. When did the planning for the London bombing begin?

In calling for dialog between the UK and various factions, you are making the assumption that there exists some middle ground. On numerous occasions, Muslim factions have called for a return to the caliphate which includes its entire original territory (Spain, Italy, India), and Sharia law to be the primary law of the world. What exactly where you willing to compromise?

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Kevin Donoghue 07.14.05 at 5:26 pm

…Muslim factions have called for a return to the caliphate which includes its entire original territory (Spain, Italy, India), and Sharia law to be the primary law of the world. What exactly where you willing to compromise?

Chris is quite cautious about defending Ken Livingstone’s decision to just meet with Qaradawi. The idea of returning Spain to some Caliph is hardly on anyone’s agenda. What’s proposed is “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.”

That sounds sensible to me.

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neil 07.14.05 at 5:30 pm

dsquared –

“the point I was trying to make is that even liberal Muslims who accept the rights of homosexuals and do not endorse terror in Israel, are still going to get a load of abuse from the “Decent Left” as it is currently constituted, because they opposed the Iraq War.”

This seems an unnecessary accusation. Have you evidence of this?

Ultimate responsibility arguments are problematic. If Bush aggravated extreme Right Christians by supporting Israeli withdrawal from all the occupied territories, would he be responsible for any terrorist attacks from them?

The answer would surely be yes. His actions did lead to such results. But it does not follow that he should have done any differently.

9/11 pre-dated Afghanistan and Iraq. What we would need to do to appease bin Laden is not possible if we believe in liberal values. Had the West not intervened in Iraq and Afghanistan then no doubt the terrorists would have found other reasons for their actions. After all, Australia was targeted for its role in the liberation of East Timor.

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jasmindad 07.14.05 at 5:40 pm

abb1:
—–
Well, Jasmindad, that always is the case that removing the injustice causes injustice to someone else. Just need to keep injustices to the minimum as much as possible, or, better yet, don’t get involved into these things – what do you know about Taliban and all that? You don’t know shit. So, just bugger off and let them fight it out. Nobody likes an ugly American. And now Blair is one too.
——

It is clear you know shit about taliban: being from that part of the neighborhood, I know a lot more than you do. “Just bugger off and let them fight it out.” Now comes the real agenda: it is not “keeping injustices to a minimum,” it is just the reflexive anti-Americanism. Nobody likes an ugly American, and nobody likes an ugly anti-American either. If this is the quality of moral distinctions you are capable of making, I now see What Chris meant when he classed you with that cretin, Milne.

Jack said:
Jasmindad, what if your world view is botched and you are one of the good people whose inaction allows the triumph of evil? I think abb1 is making a pragmatic point, not a moral judgement.

What if, what if, what if. It looks like you are happy to be one of the good people whose inaction allows the triumph of evil — by siding with abb1’s call for letting the Taliban be on the grounds that we don’t know shit! Just how do you go about reducing injustices to a minimum without making judgments, and relative judgments at that? However bad you think the US and Britain have been to Muslims, if you cannot make the judgment that OBL is vastly more dangerous and harmful to them, you will have no capablity to reduce injustice to a minimum. The contradition between “keep injustices to a minimum,” which calls for complicated moral judgments and “he’s making a pragmatic point, not a moral judgment” is mind-boggling.

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jasmindad 07.14.05 at 6:05 pm

Neil said:
———
Ultimate responsibility arguments are problematic. If Bush aggravated extreme Right Christians by supporting Israeli withdrawal from all the occupied territories, would he be responsible for any terrorist attacks from them?

The answer would surely be yes. His actions did lead to such results. But it does not follow that he should have done any differently.

——–

Exactly right. The idea that we should simply avoid doing something, not on the ground that it is wrong, but on the ground that it might provoke someone with a grievance, and *this is the right moral calculus to use* is silly. This is not to say that pragmatism is not a relevant consideration, but it cannot be confused with moral responsibility issues.

Neil went on:
9/11 pre-dated Afghanistan and Iraq. What we would need to do to appease bin Laden is not possible if we believe in liberal values. Had the West not intervened in Iraq and Afghanistan then no doubt the terrorists would have found other reasons for their actions. After all, Australia was targeted for its role in the liberation of East Timor.

Again, exactly right. If it had not been Iraq, it would be Afghanistan. If it is not Afghanistan, it would have been our defending Rushdie’s rights to write. If it is not Rushdie’s rights to write, it would be not allowing British Muslims the right to be ruled by Sharia. OBL has made his goals very clear — they will be far more harmful to the Muslims of the world than to the West.

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Brendan 07.14.05 at 6:07 pm

Soru
perhaps you aren’t aware of this (and if you’re not, you really should be) but part of the motivation for the 9/11 atrocity was precisely because Osama believes that the USA is ‘instrumental’ in putting in place and supporting a variety of ‘puppet governments’ in the middle east, not least that of Saudi Arabia.

The UK was and is instrumental in leaving these dictatorships in power (not least, to repeat, Saudi), whilst removing those that get uppity (the Taliban, Saddam), and replacing them with governments more to our liking. So the issue of the Kurds seems irrelevant. Just ask the Kurds in Turkey.

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Urinated State of America 07.14.05 at 6:13 pm

Chris:

“No, not “name calling”, but an accurate characterization of someone who used to go around brandishing a copy of Denver Walker’s Quite Right Mr Trotsky”

Err, that book was actually fairly popular in the 1980s with a big chunk of the non-Trot membership of NOLS (national organization of labour students) – some of whom are now (or, well, before the last general election, at least) in positions of considerable responsibility.

Walker was nutty as a fruitcake, but for the budding Trot-basher it was a useful primer for some choicer quotes of Mr. Bronstein.

Also useful for the Leftist Trainspotter types was “As soon as this pub closes”, which was a short but comprehensive geneology of the ultraleft in the UK.

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Slocum 07.14.05 at 6:22 pm

slocum, presumably we would then be feeling as secure as the French (Schengen agreement rescinded today)

Which agreement the UK does not need to rescind becuase it never implemented it. The UK never felt secure enough, apparently, to relax border controls.

and our Muslims would be as happy as theirs. And things would be better how?

I’m not suggesting that the UK emulate France in detail, but turning less of a deaf ear to fire-and-brimstone fundie Imams / terrorist recruiters would be positive step for both saftey and perhaps relations with the moderate mass of UK Muslims as well.

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Jasmindad 07.14.05 at 6:54 pm

Brendan: “…part of the motivation for the 9/11 atrocity was precisely because Osama believes that the USA is ‘instrumental’ in putting in place and supporting a variety of ‘puppet governments’ in the middle east, not least that of Saudi Arabia.”

I yield to no one in my loathing of the Saudi rulers, but OBL’s objection is a bit rich. So you think that somehow we would be more moral by removing support from a medieval, fanatical, tyrannical Wahhabi government and letting even more medieval, fanatical and tyrannical guys under OBL take over?

……

Brendan then segues into, “…So the issue of the Kurds seems irrelevant. Just ask the Kurds in Turkey.”

This is intended to be a reply to Soru saying, “If the UK had been instrumental in leaving saddam in place, in the same way it was in delaying action over Bosnia, would a hypothetical suicide bombing of London by a Kurdish or Shi’ite group have been ‘understandable’?”

I don’t see at all how you are being responsive to Soru. Lots of people here are ready to assign Blair a share of the moral responsibility for the London Bombings on account of UK’s acts of commission in Iraq. Soru is asking a reasonable question about the moral responsibility in acts of omission, enough to “understand” any Kurdish or Shiite terrorism in UK?

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abb1 07.15.05 at 1:57 am

Jasmindad, what I meant, actually, was a ‘Quiet American’ phenomenon, which is a combination of being arrogant and ignorant while exercising tremendous power over foreign peoples. Indeed this is, probably, THE cause of pervasiveness of the anti-Americanism in the world, but hey – why don’t you just try to entertain the possibility that it may be well-deserved?

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Chris Bertram 07.15.05 at 2:03 am

non-Trot membership of NOLS

Clause 4 you mean? I stood against them for SSIN for the NOLS Presidency in 1982 or 3 in York. “Tankies” we called them, for the obvious reasons. My characterization stands.

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Dave F 07.15.05 at 2:57 am

It is absolutely clear to me that we should not allow one decision about our political direction, moral stances, or any other aspect of our lives to be influenced in any way whatsoever by what deranged murderers might think of them. Except to keep a jolly good lookout for such types.

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abb1 07.15.05 at 3:59 am

It is absolutely clear to me that we should not allow one decision about our political direction, moral stances, or any other aspect of our lives to be influenced in any way whatsoever by what deranged murderers might think of them.

Well, that’s just exactly the attitude of deranged murderers on both sides.

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abb1 07.15.05 at 4:08 am

Gosh, what difference does it make what books this fella was reading 20 years ago? For chrissake. Even Joseph freakin McCarthy wouldn’t hold it against the guy. What is this?

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Brendan 07.15.05 at 4:59 am

David all
Are you serious? Have we all forgotten Timothy McVeigh so quickly? What about the Ku Klux Klan? They haven’t gone away you know. Or what about the bombing of abortion clinics and the murder of doctors who perform abortion? To insist that these acts are not ‘typical’ of Protestant type Christians is of course the point. The actions of Osama Bin Laden are not in fact typical of the actions of the average Muslim either.

Jasmindad

i wasn’t really arguing ‘against’ soru, more adding context. Most of us, for example, can get straight in our heads the idea that Marxists have a point when they talk about the various ills of Capitalist society, while also understanding that in most cases the Marxist ‘cure’ would be worse than the original disease. Equally, I can hold the following two thoughts in my head at the same time:

Osama Bin Laden has a point when he talks about the various US puppet states littering the Middle East

Osama Bin Laden’s solution to this problem would actually make things worse.

CF my point about Hitler and Versailles.

I also find the conditional tense in Soru’s argument strange. Of course the UK and the US were to a great extent responsible for keeping Saddam in place when it suited them, and most Iraqis (unlike most British people or Americans) are well aware of this, which is why they don’t trust us. And they are right. I don’t trust us either.

I also don’t accept that there are ‘sins of commission’ per se from individual countries. There may well be of the international community as a whole but that’s a different matter. I don’t see that the US and the UK have such sterling moral records that it is their (our) duty to ride in on our white horses and save the day whenever anything goes wrong in the world.

For example, the syntax over Bosnia in Soru’s statement is highly ambiguous and misleading. The Tories ‘appeased’ the Yugoslavian government over not because they were spineless and weak (omission) but because they were on the side of the Serbs (comission). The sin of the British in the 90s was not that we did ‘too little’ but that we did entirely too much (cf Douglas Hurd).

I doubt very much that (for example) Chinese or North Korean terrorists will attack us for not overthrowing their own governments (after all, they know the state of their countries is nothing to do with us). I find it quite easy to imagine Saudis or Turkenistanis or others attacking us for supporting and, in many cases, creating their dictatorships.

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DavidP 07.15.05 at 6:26 am

Chris, since noone else has commented much on this, I would just like to say I agree with your remark about Tariq Ramadan. See  here and here (comments).

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Slocum 07.15.05 at 7:51 am

Are you serious? Have we all forgotten Timothy McVeigh so quickly? What about the Ku Klux Klan? They haven’t gone away you know.

Actually, they mostly have gone away. The KKK is a very small shadow of what it once was. The ‘militia movement’ seems equally inert (I can’t remember the last story I read about it, and I live in a state that was home of one of the most prominent ‘militias’). The whole Ruby Ridge/Waco/Oklahoma City ‘cycle of violence’ now seems as finished as, say, the anarchist bombings of the early 20th century.

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soru 07.15.05 at 8:12 am


Of course the UK and the US were to a great extent responsible for keeping Saddam in place when it suited them

Have to be careful to not drift from valid arguments into generalised ‘everything-is-america’s-faultism’.

Saudi Arabia is a genuine US/UK client state – billions of dollars of arms deals, training of the security forces, and, until recently, deployed troops. And, in all probabilty, that is the primary reason Osama attacked the USA, in order to cut off that support.

Saddam wasn’t anything comparable – there were plenty of morally vile or just plain stupid decisions taken by the US (not sure of UK involvement), but he did not really owe his survival in power to the US to any significant extent.


For example, the syntax over Bosnia in Soru’s statement is highly ambiguous and misleading. The Tories ‘appeased’ the Yugoslavian government over not because they were spineless and weak (omission) but because they were on the side of the Serbs (comission).

To actually stop the US invasion, the UK would have had to take a similarly pro-active stance (and there’s no guarantee that would have dissuaded Bush).

Doing nothing would have just meant UK troops being involved in the occupation and not the war, which really changes nothing (other than perhaps making their lives more difficult, if they had to take over from US war-fighting troops who had already antagonised the locals).

soru

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roger 07.15.05 at 12:38 pm

One of the problems with debating pro-war advocates is that they so often substitute a fantasy object for the reality they are supposedly defending. Such a fantasy object is the secular, democratic Iraq that the Coalition is supposedly putting in place in Iraq. In reality, the Coalition first degraded the very notion of secularism by associating it with known frauds (Chalabi) or former terrorists (Allawi). Then, with the situation out of control, the Coalition acceded reluctantly to an election — an election that was due to Sistani’s pushing, not the Coalition’s wishes. The results of that election prefigured the election in Iran. The fundamentalists won. And they are systematically putting in place an Islamic republic on the modified Taliban line. The minor things — like Sistani’s new name for Iraq, “The Islamic Federal Republic of Iraq” go along with the major things — such as Sistani ruling by fatwa in the day to day affairs of Iraq, and the truly frightening things — the imposition of Sharia law, enforced by the British military, in Basra for one. This is a city that has now substituted Thursday and Friday for the weekend days, as Saturday is the holiday of the Jews. Ah, those anti-semitic lefty protestors can’t compete with the practical anti-semitic rightwing pro-war people on the anti-Jewish front! Actually, to be fair, most of the pro-war people aren’t anti-semitic. They simply have their purple inked thumbs up their private organs, and have turned from the real effects of the policies they support to the fantasy war on terrorism supposedly being fought by the brave neo-con intelligentsia.

In Edward Wong’s NYT piece about the mini-theocracy being created in Basra (which differed from the usual fantasy NYT pieces about the secular free marketers aching to declare Basra and southern Iraq independent. That group, which includes Chalabi, has already proven it has no electoral support whatsoever, but American newspapers like to see America in every foreign country they report from), there was this nice image of the results of the invasion, to contrast with the fruits and flowers that flowed to the Coalition forces coming in:

“The growing ties with Iran are evident. Posters of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the leader of the 1979 Iranian revolution, are plastered along streets and even at the provincial government center. The Iranian government opened a polling station downtown for Iranian expatriates during elections in their home country in June.”

So please, let’s end the joke about fighting Osama bin over the soul of democracy — on one side, you have sharia and anti-americanism, and on the other side, you have sharia and the use of americans to wipe out sunni. That’s this war.

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