Reading the small print

by John Quiggin on July 26, 2005

This morning’s email included one urging me to sign a statement headed “United Against Terror”. As the email said

The statement begins:

Terrorist attacks against Londoners on July 7th killed at least 54 people. The suicide bombers who struck in Netanya Israel on July 12 ended five lives including two 16 year old girls. And on July 13 in Iraq suicide bombers slaughtered 24 children. We stand in solidarity with all these strangers hand holding hand from London to Netanya to Baghdad: communities united against terror.

The statement ends:

We invite you to sign this statement as a small first step to building a global movement of citizens against terrorism.

Based on these extracts, I would have been happy to sign the statement, for what such gestures are worth. Having read the full statement, however, I decided not to, and concluded that the statement tended more towards disunity in the face of terrorism than unity. After reading some of the supporting statements on the website, I was very glad of this decision.

Briefly, the text omitted from the email summary included a lengthy argument to the effect that the attacks are the work of ‘terrorist groups inspired by a poisonous and perverted politics that disguises itself as a form of the religion of Islam’, and the gnomic, but easily decoded, statement that ‘these attacks did not begin in 2003’.

These claims are factually false or misleading. I don’t know the details of the Netanya and Baghdad attacks, but many terror attacks in Israel have been the work of secular Palestinian nationalist groups, and many terror attacks in Iraq have been organised by secular Baathists. And, while terror attacks did not begin in 2003, it is clear, at the very minimum, that recent terror attacks in Baghdad are a direct consequence of the invasion of Iraq in that year (whether or not you think good consequences outweighed the bad ones).

More importantly, the implied argument is either morally irrelevant or morally perverse. The emphasis on the specifically Islamist characteristics of the attacks we are asked to unite against suggests (if it is relevant at all) that other forms of terrorism, in support of other causes, might be morally justified. Would the organisers accept signatures from, say, Gerry Adams or Luis Posada? If not, why be so specific about the kind of terrorism that is being condemned here?

There’s no need to list the dozens of organisations (including governments) that currently engage in one form of terror or another. A simple statement that terrorism, whatever the purported cause and whoever the perpetrator, is a crime against humanity, would have been much more valuable than the tendentious analysis presented in this statement.

The implication of the statement, read as a whole, is that unity against terrorism requires unquestioning support for the Bush Administration, and denunciation of its opponents. When you read the supporting statements linked on the website, it quickly becomes apparent that this is the way the proponents themselves understand it. For examples, look here, here, here and here).

Moving as I did, from the email summary to the complete statement,and then to the supporting statements of the signatories, is a highly unpleasant experience. The email summary is one all decent people would endorse. The full statement, while tendentious, is within the bounds of civilised discourse. The supporting statements (at least most of those I sampled) drip with venomous hatred[1] that would not be out of place on a jihadist website.

fn1. The venom is not (as Alan Johnson suggests in comments below) directed at terrorists, but at leftwingers and others who disagree with the political position stated [or implied in coded phrases] in the petition.

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1

MFB 07.26.05 at 3:38 am

Yes.
I was surprised by the sheer stupidity of some of those comments. It was as if the contributors (Cohen, for example) were trying quite hard to discourage any reasonable person from supporting the statement. I suppose that, come to think of it, that is their agenda; they want only hardline rightist militarists, preferably deeply dishonest ones. How else can one be certain of unity?

2

Marko Attila Hoare 07.26.05 at 4:19 am

John Quiggin doesn’t give an explanation as to why he won’t sign the ‘Unite Against Terror’ website. I did sign, and gave my reasons for doing so as follows:

I sign this statement as a supporter of the legitimate struggle for freedom and independence of the Palestinians, Chechens and other enslaved Muslim peoples caught between the Scylla of colonial oppression and the Charybdis of Islamofascism.

To every genuine national-liberation movement, sectarian hatred and pogroms of civilians are as alien as the foreign occupier. In German-occupied Yugoslavia during World War II, the anti-Nazi Partisans preached brotherhood and unity between Muslims, Christians and Jews; they were known to execute their own officers and soldiers if they so much as stole chickens from local peasants, let alone massacred civilians. Al-Qaeda’s Islamofascist network – targeting Jews, Kurds, Shiites, women, homosexuals, moderate Sunnis and ordinary civilians everywhere – represents, by contrast, the very antithesis of a genuine liberation movement.

Everywhere, Islamic extremists have aided and abetted the oppressors of Muslims. In World War II, the Islamofascist Grand Mufti of Jerusalem Haj Amin al-Husseini helped incite an anti-British revolt in Iraq; he subsequently visited Nazi-occupied Yugoslavia to mobilise Bosnian Muslims to fight in the SS. Islamist terrorism in Daghestan in1999 provided Russia with the pretext for its genocidal reconquest of Chechnya. Elements in the Turkish and Israeli security services encouraged Islamic extremism as a means of dividing and weakening secular Kurdish and Palestinian nationalism respectively, helping to create a Frankenstein’s monster that is claiming the lives of Turks and Kurds, Jews and Arabs alike.

There can be no freedom for Muslim peoples without the defeat of the Islamofascists and everything they stand for; and there can be no defeat of the Islamofascists without liberty for all Muslim peoples.

Marko Attila Hoare
Faculty of History
University of Cambridge

3

sien 07.26.05 at 4:24 am

Marko : Are you serious?

Dr Quiggin gives a very clear reason as to why he won’t sign – namely that the petition conflates issues. It’s a legitimate reason.

Ultimately the petition appears to be a more sophisticated version of President Bush’s statement ‘That either you are with us or with the terrorists’ .

4

Marko Attila Hoare 07.26.05 at 4:26 am

Apologies to John Quiggin; I read his brief statement, but did not see his fuller explanation. However, I still don’t believe that he does justice to the wide range of viewpoints that the petition’s signatories represent.

5

nick 07.26.05 at 4:27 am

Nick Cohen:

The authentic Muslim has become the blood-crazed fanatic rather than the reformer. The authentic liberator has become the fascist rather than the democrat. This is a betrayal on an epic scale which casts doubt on whether it is now possible to have a decent left.

Still getting the retainer from Ahmad Chalabi, one presumes.

6

Marko Attila Hoare 07.26.05 at 4:47 am

Apologies to John Quiggin; I read his brief statement without seeing his fuller explanation. But I still feel he hasn’t done justice to the wide range of viewpoints represented by the signatories of the petition.

7

Marc Mulholland 07.26.05 at 4:49 am

“A simple statement that terrorism, whatever the purported cause and whoever the perpetrator, is a crime against humanity …”

Since when? Why is this meme creeping over the internet? (I suspect it’s a marxisant tendency to think in terms of state terrorism, though clearly enough the term has morphed since Lenin and Kautsky’s spat to mean something quite distinct).

As Charles Townshend notes, a good definition of Terrorism (coming from an anarchist supporter) is as follows:

“It was first distinctly outlined in Johannes Most’s ‘Philosophy of the Bomb’, an anarchist tract of the 1880s, and rests on a number of connected propositions:
1. outrageous violence will seize the public imagination;
2. its audience can thus be awakened to political issues;
3. violence is inherently empowering, and ‘a cleansing force’ (as the later anticolonial writer Frantz Fanon put it);
4. systematic violence can threaten the state and impel it into delegitimizing reactions;
5. violence can destabilize the social order and threaten social breakdown (the ‘spiral of terror’ and counterterror);
6. ultimately the people will reject the government and turn to the ‘terrorists’.

Crimes against humanity are neither neccessary nor sufficient to define the tactic.

8

Eamonn Fitzgerald 07.26.05 at 5:01 am

John, I’ve signed it, and I’m proud to have done so. According to the AP, “The Sharm hospital official, Abdel Fattah, said 43 foreigners were wounded, including 13 Italians, nine Britons, five Austrians, five Germans, four Spaniards, a Czech, an Israeli Arab, two Saudis, two Kuwaitis and a Qatari national.” So, come on, Timberites, sign up. Unite Against Terror!

9

John Quiggin 07.26.05 at 5:05 am

I started by reading the statements from signatories whose names I recognised, which were overwhelmingly of the kind I described (Ophelia Benson was an exception to this)

Reading the full list, about half are mainly endorsements of the email summary or of the overt text of the statement regarding opposition to jihadism. The other half are either denunciations of ‘the left’ or statements of support for the Iraq war.

Given that about half the population in most countries support ‘the left’ in some sense, and majorities in most countries opposed the Iraq war and still do, ‘supporting’ statements of this latter kind do not seem very conducive to unity, at least in the sense I understand the term.

If the organisers are sincerely concerned to promote unity against terrorism, I’d urge them to remove these statements from their website, and ask the authors to present something more positive.

10

Dave F 07.26.05 at 5:15 am

Funny how members of the “respectable” left managed to justify joining the anti-war march and rallies despite the contributions of the SWP, George Galloway and islamist extremists. Quite a different argument was offered there.

Pathetic, Quiggin.

11

Brendan 07.26.05 at 5:29 am

‘you will be on the side of best and the bravest.’

We live in a world in which Nick Cohen and (presumably) Oliver Kamm, and Peter Tatchell have (unilaterally) voted themselves the ‘best’ and ‘bravest’ people. Some clarification might be in order. Are they merely the best and bravest people in Britain, or are they actually the best and bravest people in the world? Or perhaps the Universe?

Now obviously, anyone in their right mind will agree with them. It is self-evident that as well as being brilliantly handsome, stunningly intelligent, and the greatest Sunday columnist for a mid-market broadsheet the world has ever seen, (for example) Nick Cohen is also fantastic in bed and can run faster than a train.

Nevertheless, unworthy as I am, I would still like to know more. Does he have any super-powers, like the Fantastic Four? Or is he, like Batman, underneath his brilliant disguise, merely a normal human who has raised himself to almost superhuman levels of ability via long study and training in the mysterious East?

It’s a shame that none of these people can use their ‘bravery’ to actually join the armed forces and take the fight to the enemy, but I’m sure they are all busy people, what with all the petitions they have to sign and so forth, and I’m sure the British and American (and Iraqi) soldiers currently coming home in boxes will understand.

12

John Quiggin 07.26.05 at 5:36 am

Dave F, you manage to miss my point and illustrate it at the same time.

As regards missing the point, it’s clear from the post I’d be perfectly happy to join Cohen, Kamm and Tatchell in signing a statement consisting solely of the part quoted above, regardless of differences about Iraq and other issues.

As regards illustrating it, you can’t help making this an occasion for anti-left abuse, even though you are purporting to defend a call for unity.

13

Kieran Healy 07.26.05 at 5:40 am

Stephen Pollard:

The Guardianista fellow-travellers of terror, who stress its supposed causes, are the useful idiots of the Islamofascists. … it is imperative that those of us who believe in democracy and liberty stand up and fight. Not just against the obvious enemy, but also against the enemy within – those who claim to be on the Left, but whose views have nothing in common with the decency for which the Left ought proudly to stand.

Oliver Kamm:

… Conor Cruise O’Brien identified an attitude he termed “unilateral liberalism”. This is a stance acutely sensitive to threats to liberty arising from actions by democratic states, but curiously phlegmatic about threats to liberty from the enemies of those states.

… many of us on the Left can recognise a similar tendency, and worse, in the response of progressives to the atrocities of 9/11 and other acts of suicide-terrorism against established and emerging democracies.

Nick Cohen:

The Michael Moroonification of the majority of leftish opinion might not seem to matter greatly. Obviously, anyone concerned with upholding basic principles is going to want to oppose the apologists for the extreme right, mock their perfidy and correct their errors.

Lovely.

14

Robin Grant 07.26.05 at 5:49 am

John – there’s more on this debate that’s worth reading here and here.

15

Otto 07.26.05 at 6:31 am

“The email summary is one all decent people would endorse. The full statement, while tendentious, is within the bounds of civilised discourse. The supporting statements (at least most of those I sampled) drip with venomous hatred that would not be out of place on a jihadist website.”

I am coming to the view that all of politics is organised groups mouthing boilerplate platitudes with vile small print.

16

nick 07.26.05 at 6:37 am

I think we should heed the words of a certain John Saul Montoya:

Many people will use this terrible tragedy as an excuse to put through a political agenda other than my own. This tawdry abuse of human suffering for political gain sickens me to the core of my being. Those people who have different political views from me ought to be ashamed of themselves for thinking of cheap partisan point-scoring at a time like this. In any case, what this tragedy really shows us is that, so far from putting into practice political views other than my own, it is precisely my political agenda which ought to be advanced.

17

Factory 07.26.05 at 7:24 am

http://www.adequacy.org/public/stories/2001.9.12.102423.271.html

Just keeps getting better with age. I do wonder though if it was actually written at the time it proports to be. On the one hand, adequacy.org would never let truth get in the way of a good troll, OTOH they would prolly think that the 9/11 attacks were manna from heaven (in a trolling sense).

18

Eric 07.26.05 at 7:34 am

What is the point of a false woolley unity that does not confront terror for what it is?

Time to wake up, or you’ll be remembered just like the 1930s intellectuals Orwell wrote about.

19

Jon Pike 07.26.05 at 7:42 am

John,
I signed the statement because, well, I read it and pretty much agreed with it. I didn’t read the explanations of those who also signed it, and I’m not bound by or committed to their reasons for signing it.

I marched against the war in Iraq because, well, I was pretty much against it. I didn’t agree with many others who marched against the war, and I’m not bound by or committed to their reasons for being against it.

I fought the Israel boycott in the AUT because, well, I was pretty much opposed to it. I didn’t agree with some others who opposed the boycott, and I’m not bound by or committed to their reasons for opposing it.

There’s a pattern here. Perhaps I should not have done any of these things, because of this general problem of guilt by association. But that’s a recipe for generalised abstention. So there must be criteria that specify when those considerations kick in, and when they get overridden. And you must have such criteria, because you think they kick in on this occasion.

I think you set the bar pretty high, and I think other readers should read the statement, and, if they pretty much agree, should sign it.

20

Brendan 07.26.05 at 7:48 am

‘Time to wake up, or you’ll be remembered just like the 1930s intellectuals Orwell wrote about.’

Sorry to return to this point, but when Orwell ‘woke up’ he didn’t put on his dressing gown, brew a pot of tea, and then write another op-ed piece for the New Statesman. When he saw fascism in Spain he picked up a gun, put on a uniform and went and fought.

If you really aspire to be like Orwell, and you have really managed to persuade yourselves that Iraq is Spain, George Bush is Andres Nin, and Iraq is threatened by ‘Islamo-fascists’, please, do us all a favour, follow Orwell’s example, and join the armed forces.

On the other hand, if you lack the courage or the ability to do so, please shut up.

21

Kevin Donoghue 07.26.05 at 8:13 am

Ah, Orwell. I wondered when he would show up. I was reminded of him by the nostalgic references to the IRA bombing campaign which have shown up in some recent commentary – how they used to phone the police with warnings and so forth. Orwell was struck by a similar nostalgia when the Germans replaced the V1 bomb:

V2 supplies another instance of the contrariness of human nature. People are complaining of the sudden unexpected wallop with which these things go off . ‘It wouldn’t be so bad if you got a bit of warning’ is the usual formula. There is even a tendency to talk nostalgically of the days of the V1. The good old doodlebug did at least give you time to get under the table, etc. etc. Whereas, in fact, when the doodlebugs were actually dropping, the usual subject of complaint was the uncomfortable waiting period before they went off. Some people are never satisfied.

Similarly, it seems that Islamist terrorists are somehow worse than secular terrorists.

22

Eric 07.26.05 at 8:17 am

Brendan,

Do you think disabled people should not be allowed a view on the war on terror?

23

Eric 07.26.05 at 8:18 am

Brendan,

Do you think disabled people should be allowed a view on the war on terror?

24

Keith 07.26.05 at 8:34 am

Good to know so many kooks are brave enough to sign an online petition. That’ll show those terrorists.

25

Steve Burton 07.26.05 at 8:36 am

Brendan:

Must one join the police force before one can legitimately support a crackdown on organized crime?

Must one be willing to live under the rule of Saddam Hussein before one can legitimately oppose his removal from power?

In general, if you insist that people bear all the costs of the policies they advocate, who shall ‘scape whipping?

26

Marc Mulholland 07.26.05 at 8:50 am

“Similarly it seems that Islamist terrorists are somehow worse than secular terrorists.”

Yes, and it seems that some people think that no warning bombs are even less desirable than bomb warnings. What a pansy attitude, as George might have put it!

27

Ray 07.26.05 at 8:53 am

“Must one join the police force before one can legitimately support a crackdown on organized crime?”

If you’re going to quote someone who did just that, and compare the people you disagree with to the people who disagreed with him…

28

Steve 07.26.05 at 8:59 am

Good Lord.
A debate only an academic could enjoy.
If you want to oppose terrorism, join the army.
If you want to give yourself a handjob, debate the merits of hitting the ‘send’ button for an electronic signature and whether one web address warrants the supreme sacrifice of hitting the ‘send’ button or not.
Debate all you want. But face facts; that 18 year old that is sweating in basic training right now (whether he ends up in Iraq, Korea, or a national guard armory in Peoria) has done more in the last ten seconds than any of you will in your entire careers.

To ‘send’ or not to ‘send’? OH, I can’t handle the stress of the decision! Waaahh!

29

Tripp Davenport 07.26.05 at 9:11 am

steve,

Why are you speaking of generalities? Is it because you don’t like the specifics?

The US Army is short of soldiers and it is not meeting its recruitment goals. That is how things are right here in the US and right now. Don’t give me a stupid hypothetical question.

Our army needs you right now. They need you. Right now. Why are you wasting time playing some stupid word game on the internet?

30

Steve Burton 07.26.05 at 9:17 am

ray: so in arguing in support of a cause it’s inappropriate to cite the views of someone who made supererogatory efforts on behalf of that cause unless one is also doing so oneself?

Really? Why?

31

Steve Burton 07.26.05 at 9:25 am

steve: had you not noticed that this is an academic website?

In what way does having an academic debate about some issue denigrate the efforts of those who are involved in that issue for real?

Who here is mistaking participation in such debate for a courageous act?

And what’s with the masturbation fixation?

32

Ray 07.26.05 at 9:36 am

If you compare yourself to Orwell (as ‘eric’ implicitly does by comparing his opponents to Orwell’s opponents) when the only thing you have in common with Orwell is that, er, you disagree with some people, and you know, um, Orwell disagreed with some people too…

Orwell is an important figure because he was a good writer, but also because he felt strongly enough about the things he wrote about to do more than write about them. Most people who compare themselves to Orwell don’t do too well from the comparison, on either measure.

33

Steve Burton 07.26.05 at 9:48 am

ray: are you really under the impression that the argument: “my opponents are like the opponents of X, so I am like X” is valid?

I hope not.

But if it’s not valid, why do you think that someone who compares his opponents to the opponents of Orwell is even implicitly comparing himself to Orwell?

So far as I can tell, “I am not as good as Orwell, but my opponents are just as bad as his were, and for the same reasons” is an entirely cogent statement.

34

Alan Johnson 07.26.05 at 10:05 am

Dear John Quiggin,

I think you should sign the Unite Against Terror statement (which I co-wrote). I think you agree with it. But to take up your points.

First, you imply there was something underhand about the way the Unite Against Terror email you were sent gave only the first and last paragraphs. Well, it also urged you to read the full statement at the site. Signers have to scroll right down, reading the full statement, in order to reach the signing box.

Second, you say, “Briefly, the text omitted from the email summary included a lengthy argument to the effect that the attacks are the work of ‘terrorist groups inspired by a poisonous and perverted politics that disguises itself as a form of the religion of Islam’, and the gnomic, but easily decoded, statement that ‘these attacks did not begin in 2003’. These claims are factually false or misleading”.

Well, no, both claims are true. The groups carrying out the suicide bombings we referred to are indeed inspired by “a poisonous and perverted politics that disguises itself as a form of the religion of Islam’. Of course if you don’t think that is true, if you don’t think that something has gone badly wrong within the Islamic world, that a Jihadi terror network, global in scope, fascistic in political character exists, and has emerged from that disorder, and is waging a war, then, yes, don’t sign.

It is also true that ‘these attacks did not begin in 2003’. Palpably so.

You assert that “The implication of the statement, read as a whole, is that unity against terrorism requires unquestioning support for the Bush Administration, and denunciation of its opponents”. No, it does not. That is just you being silly and, forgive me, a little hysterical. I think, by the way, that this silliness and hysteria is an example of what Nick Cohen meant by the Michael Mooronification of the left. (I noticed one of the comments at CT seemed to object to Nick’s happy phrase). As a matter of fact, with help, two people co-wrote the statement. I opposed the invasion. Harry of HP supported it. And Harry is a social democrat, as I am, not Bush supporters.

You then say “I don’t know the details of the Netanya and Baghdad attacks”. This, note cheek by jowl with your confident assertion that our sentences about those attacks were ‘tendentious’, but let that pass. Well, go and look them up on the net. Both Islamist suicide bombers, both targeting civilian non-combatants, including children. In the case of the attack in Iraq, 24 children. The terrorist watched them congregate and then killed them all.

You then say “many terror attacks in Iraq have been organised by secular Ba’athists”. In fact there is not one documented case of an Iraqi suicide bomber, let alone ‘many’. Not one. So, more confident assertions expressed in a confident, slightly weary (do I have to engage these idiots?) tone that turns out to be, well, ignorant. The perpetrators are Jihadi terrorists coming over the Syrian border. The fascistic Saddamists sometimes work with them and give them a target, such as this Shia mosque, this Shia marketplace, and so on. I am sure you do not intend to defend the murder of civilians in Iraq when carried out by ex-Saddamists. I am sure you are not defending suicide bombs aimed at Jewish kids in Israel if their planters are secular Palestinians (the UAT statement, note, calls for mutual recognition and political dialogue).

You ask “why be so specific about the kind of terrorism that is being condemned here?” Because we have to be in order to measure the threat, its source, and decide how to respond. Isn’t that just obvious? The threat we – in London, Iraq and Israel – faced that week, and face today, was and is from that kind of terrorism. As was the attack in Egypt (or are you claiming the attack in Egypt was a direct consequence of the invasion of Iraq and the Luxor tourists were killed because someone might, one day, invade Iraq). I would point out that some leading Muslim community activists in the UK have signed and not one has made this complaint.

You then complain about some of the short 200 word ‘why I signed’ statements of the signers. You don’t say what it is you object to in those statements. We also make it clear on the site that these statements are “personal to the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the organisers”. It’s the statement you are singing up to not the personal views of the signers. Mine read like this:

“When the news came through of the terrorist attacks in London on 7/7, I was at my desk writing an introduction for a seminar organised by my friend Brian Brivati. It was to be held in London the next morning and the theme was ‘towards a social democratic foreign policy’. I had already written my opening lines. “A social democratic foreign policy should achieve two goals: the security of the British people in the context of new deadly threats and challenges and the pursuit of enduring and universal values in a world being rendered one by globalisation. What is the prize? A successful response to the threats that, in part at least, also advances the values”. I still think that’s right. Against their killers we must pit not only arms but values. Against their totalitarianism we pit democracy. Against their misogyny and homophobia, equality. Against their obscurantism, reason. Against their hate, love. Against their sectarianism, genuine community. Against their cult of violence, the ethic of responsibility. Against their hatred of the Other, the kindness of strangers. The signatories to this statement are saying, I think, ‘for these values, here we stand, for these values, here we fight”.

But signing up to my personal statement, or anyone else’s, is NOT part of the ‘contract’ between signers and organisers. Only the full UAT statement is being endorsed by a signature. Today Francis Wheen signed on. And Robert Fine. And yesterday Anne Showstack Sasson, and Cynthia Fuchs Epstein. I don’t think they were supporting Bush, or being tendentious.

Finally, you say you found it a “highly unpleasant experience” to read statements “drip with venomous hatred” toward the perpetrators of these acts. Why do you find that unpleasant? They are fascistic. They are killing us. They do so in the name of everything we hate and to deny us everything we value. Don’t you want to fight to keep those things? If not now, when? For my part I do feel hatred toward the perpetrators, just as I feel love for those they harm. I feel that in both instances I am, to be terribly pretentious, in an Aristotelian ‘mean state’. Sometimes anger, and a willingness to fight, to engage, is right and appropriate and a meandering meditative ‘analytical’ scepticism that paralyses action is, well, something of a mistake, to say only that about it.

Alan Johnson

35

Eric 07.26.05 at 10:16 am

If you compare yourself to Orwell (as ‘eric’ implicitly does by comparing his opponents to Orwell’s opponents) when the only thing you have in common with Orwell is that, er, you disagree with some people, and you know, um, Orwell disagreed with some people too…

This is off topic, but pointing out Orwell’s views on intellectuals who were soft on fascism in the 1930s is in no logical way a suggestion that the author is comparing himself to Orwell.

For instance if I pointed out Alex Ferguson’s views on referees, would that mean I was comparing myself to Alex Ferguson? Or if I pointed out Nigella Lawson’s views on chocolate chip muffins, it would not mean I was claiming to wander around my kitchen in a tight cardigan suggestively sucking melted treacle off my fingers. Get a grip.

36

Eric 07.26.05 at 10:17 am

Oh, Steve put it much better, unless you like tight cardigans.

37

Chris Bertram 07.26.05 at 10:22 am

Finally, you say you found it a “highly unpleasant experience” to read statements “drip with venomous hatred” toward the perpetrators of these acts.

Alan, I think you have misread this part of John’s post. The “venomous hatred” in those statement is not directed to the perpetrators of acts of terrorism but towards those sections of the left (or “left” if you prefer) who disagree with Cohen, Kamm, etc.

38

Brendan 07.26.05 at 10:28 am

Gosh isn’t it funny how things change? It seems like only yesterday (in fact, it was yesterday) that ‘Islamo-fascism’ was the new fascism, Christopher Hitchens was the new Orwell, and we are only weeks away from Islamic hordes descending through Spain, overthrowing the EU and reinstating the Caliphate. In other words, this was ‘World War 4’, we faced a terrifying and ‘unprecedented threat’, and those who denied this would have to ‘wake up’ before Osama Bin Laden set up public executions in our local town square, and Cherie Blair would be frightened to go out in daytime without the Hijab (insert joke here).

Now, however, it seems that the war on terror is merely the equivalent of a ‘police crackdown’ on ‘organised crime’. My mistake.

In short: obviously if the war on terror is merely another example of organised crime, terrorism, call it what you will, then obviously, yes, the police and intelligence services can be put in charge of it.

If, on the other hand, as the pro-invasion side perpetually attempt to argue, this is really ‘a battle for Western civilisation’, ‘Islamo-fascism’ is the new Nazi-ism, and Osama Bin Laden is Hitler, then I think this question has to be answered. In a ‘similar’ situation, in the 1930s, Orwell (and many others) picked up guns and took the fight to the ‘enemy’ because they saw that just sitting and writing about it wasn’t going to change anything.

By a simple analogy. If Iraq is Spain. If George Bush is Andres Nin. If ‘civilisation’ depends upon ‘our’ ‘victory’ in Iraq.

Why aren’t the pro-invasion bloggers fighting?

Orwell made the decision to fight .

But those who aspire to be like him, who, unblushingly, refer to themselves as the ‘bravest and best’ (italics added) have normally been brave enough to avoid hearing the siren call of their country calling for them, even though, as they well know, more troops are desperately needed in Iraq.

Questions about ‘disability’ are particularly vapid, as of course Orwell himself was exempted from the draft in WW2 on health grounds. Instead he chose to work in government propaganda to the colonial holding of India. Perhaps some of those in the pro-invasion side could volunteer to provide US/UK government propaganda for the long suffering Iraqi people, or would that fall under the heading of ‘cruel and unusual punishment’?

Failing that they could always provide government propaganda for the ‘home front’. Or perhaps they already do.

39

dsquared 07.26.05 at 10:34 am

The reason I don’t like this statement is that it’s either a pointless loyalty oath or it’s a blank cheque. Alan Johnson et al have not made it clear what is going to be done with their “Unite Against Terror Statement”. If it’s just going to hang around on the internet like a thinking man’s “werenotafraid.com” then it is a bit pointless. Also if that is all it’s intended for then it seems silly beyond belief to have prominently displayed personal attacks on many potential signers. In fact, it would be so silly to do that if it was just a unity statement (and to do so in an entirely one-sided manner; where are the statements criticising Blair and Bush for acts of state terror? I know I sent them), that I can’t believe that it is one. In any case, it’s usually good practice to refuse to sign pointless loyalty oaths because otherwise you tend to encourage the kind of people who create them.

It seems much more likely to me that this petition is going to be used in support of a much more specific political agenda. Specifically, Alan Johnson is going to use it as evidence of widespread popular support for some as yet undisclosed policy agenda, probably not a million miles distant from Labour Party policy. And anyone whose name on it who finds out that they end up disagreeing with what the “United Against Terror Coalition” say is going to feel a) embarrassed and b) used. It’s a blank cheque.

40

Harry 07.26.05 at 10:34 am

Aside from the obvious logical stupidity of the ‘chickenhawk’ argument it seems to have escaped Brendan’s attention that the British army is a fully professional armed force and has not been calling for volunteers.

41

shinypenny 07.26.05 at 10:40 am

I think, by the way, that this silliness and hysteria is an example of what Nick Cohen meant by the Michael Mooronification of the left.

Oh lord. Invoking Michael Moore (ooh, sorry, “Mooron”) already. Tell me why we should take anything you say seriously ever again?

There really needs to be a new Michael Moore corollary to Godwin’s law, I think.

42

Matt McGrattan 07.26.05 at 10:43 am

“fascistic in political character exists…”

Where does this Islamic extremism = fascism theme come from? It’s continually repeated and yet it doesn’t look from my point of view like these individuals, nasty as they are, have much in common with fascism as commonly understood.

They may have dreams of theocratic authoritarianism but authoritarianism in and of itself doesn’t equal fascism.

What’s specifically fascistic about their ideology?

43

Juan Golblado 07.26.05 at 10:44 am

Oh, so _that_ is what he meant! Are you sure?

Anyhow, all I wanted to say is that I don’t see the hatred John Quiggin is referring to — whether directed at the pseudo left or at the terrorists, and in fact certainly not toward the pseudo left.

To call it such is an insult to Nick Cohen, Oliver Kamm, Stephen Pollard and Peter Tatchell.

44

Brendan 07.26.05 at 10:44 am

Harry

last I checked the British Army has a website with a section marked ‘careers’. Moreover, I have seen (and you have, too) TV and cinama adverts for the British army calling for people to become soldiers. And there is such as thing as the territorial army you know.

(And who mentioned volunteers? Not even i would actually expect the pro-invasion-as-long-as-someone-else-is-doing-it tribe to join the army and work without pay ).

Incidentally, there is nothing logically absurd about saying: ‘If you love a war so much, go and fight it.’ What’s absurd about that? In the United States, after all, many people do (or did) love this war and did go and join up to fight Saddam. This is not the chickenhawk argument (which was about Vietnam, as you well know) this is about an ongoing war, in which you, every day, cheer from the sidelines even though (as your tone makes clear) you have absolutely no intention of playing any part in it whatsoever.

The key question is the one you avoid. Orwell (and many others) went and fought. Why don’t you?

45

Ray 07.26.05 at 10:45 am

Wow, steve, you and eric are just like the Sanhedrin, in their persecution of Jesus.

46

Brendan 07.26.05 at 10:45 am

Sorry i do actually know how cinema is spelt. apologies.

47

Matthew 07.26.05 at 10:49 am

Jon’s attitude, “I marched against the war in Iraq because, well, I was pretty much against it. I didn’t agree with many others who marched against the war, and I’m not bound by or committed to their reasons for being against it” is a fair one, but I can’t believe it is held by most of the organisers or signatories to this statement. In fact the error of judgement of those who marched against the war, not for their political view but for marching with its unsavoury organisers, is one of their favourite subjects.

Furthermore at first, much like John, I thought it seemed a worthwhile exercise given the political disunity over the last few years. But then I read the ‘why I signed’ from far more politically aware people than myself, for example, Nick Cohen, Stephen Pollard and Peter Tatchell and I realised that their rationale for signing it was nothing to do with uniting against terror, and instead was to continue their campaigns (often going back decades) against other sub-sections of the “left”, in fact in Tatchell’s case not even a sub-section, rather one man, Ken Livingstone.

The problem then is not one of personal distate, (in fact I am normally a big fan of Tatchell’s work). It is that given this evidence as to what these signatories believe is the point of the exercise, it is wise to conclude that you have misinterpreted it badly, and withdraw swiftly.

48

dsquared 07.26.05 at 10:50 am

To call it such is an insult to Nick Cohen, Oliver Kamm, Stephen Pollard and Peter Tatchell.

Such an insult would only be unwarranted in the case of Oliver Kamm, who manages to make his point without insults. Cohen refers to “the left” as morons, Pollard calls them “fellow-travellers of terrorism” and Tatchell says that they are “guilty of the greatest betrayal since the Hitler Stalin pact”.

49

Phomesy 07.26.05 at 10:54 am

My goodness Brendan’s a nasty piece of work isn’t he?

Anyhoo…

Are Messrs Quiggin and Dsquared really suggesting that Unite against Terror will be used to push a neo-con political agenda?

It’s what it says on the pharkin tin – Unite against Terror. Get a bloody grip.

50

Phomesy 07.26.05 at 10:57 am

And, in fact, this very comments section is a perfect illustration of why people like Cohen and Tatchell are becoming so frustrated with sections of the policial identity they share.

Get a grip.

51

dsquared 07.26.05 at 10:58 am

Since it was organised by the Labour Friends of Iraq plus a leading pro-war website, since all of the “personal statements” appear to support a broadly neo-con agenda (in the sense that they believe that spreading democracy to the Middle East by force is a good idea) and since it is an utterly pointless exercise if it is not going to be used to push some political agenda then I would like to see a) some kind of promise that it is not going to be used for what certainly looks like its purpose b) some more obvious unity in the personal statements and c) fewer personal insults (ideally none at all) before I thought it was safe to sign.

52

Brendan 07.26.05 at 11:04 am

‘Cohen refers to “the left” as morons’.

And refers to himself as amongst the ‘best and bravest’ (which I in particular regard as the funniest thing I have ever heard in my life).

Goodness, Cohen is a nasty (and pompous, and arrogant, and self-aggrandising, and cowardly, and humourless) piece of work isn’t he?

53

nikolai 07.26.05 at 11:09 am

A simple statement that terrorism … is a crime against humanity, would have been much more valuable than the tendentious analysis presented in this statement.

Is terrorism a crime against humanity? I keep on hearing this, and have asked people to explain why this is the case on various blogs, but have never got a response. This is a genuine request – I’m not a specialist in this area – and am willing to accept correction.

As far as I’m aware, according to the Rome Statute of the ICC ‘[murder] when committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population, with knowledge of the attack‘ is a CaH. And:

“Attack directed against any civilian population” means a course of conduct involving the multiple commission of acts … against any civilian population, pursuant to or in furtherance of a State or organizational policy to commit such attack

As far as I can see, terrorism often won’t meet all the criteria.

54

Brendan 07.26.05 at 11:11 am

Sorry one last thing before I actualy get back to doing some work.

Christopher Hitchens.

‘Association with this statement and with many of its fellow-signatories involves two commitments. The first is the elementary duty of solidarity with true and authentic resistance movements within the Muslim world, such as the Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq and the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan… (and then Hitchens names) Ahmed Shah Masoud.’

‘In March 1995, Massoud [Defence Minister at that time] forces were responsible for rape and looting after they seized control of Kabul’s predominantly Hazara neighborhood of Karte Seh.
On the night of Feb. 11, 1993, the Massoud and Sayyaf forces conducted a raid in west Kabul, killing Hazara civilians and committing widespread rape. Estimates of fatalities range from 70 to more than 100.

Human Rights Watch, October 10, 2001′

‘Masood had a deceptive personality. He belonged to the Jamiat-i-Islami that was an ultra-fundamentalist outfit. During his regime, thousands of women were raped in Afghanistan.’

http://www.rawa.org/massoud-n.htm

To be fair, Hitchens goes on to say he has ‘political (but not moral) differences’ with this rapist and murderer and torturer.

Which is nice.

55

Chris b 07.26.05 at 11:19 am

Brendan,

“And who mentioned volunteers? Not even i would actually expect the pro-invasion-as-long-as-someone-else-is-doing-it tribe to join the army and work without pay”

Neither would I, by the definition of your phrase, because if they joined the army it _wouldn’t_ be someone else doing it. Besides which, and this seems to be forgotten, is it only people with knowledge of the military and of servable age who are allowed to have an opinion on anything of this nature? I’d suggest that knocks most of us out of it for one or other reason. As you wanted to keep Saddam in power perhaps you could have volunteered as a pilot to patrol the no-fly zones to protect the Nothern Kurds? or been a Red Cross worker trying to save the lives of children dying from sanctions starvation? it’s a pointless argument.

56

Simon 07.26.05 at 11:23 am

It’s what it says on the pharkin tin – Unite against Terror.

Except no it isn’t, because it restricts its detail to condemnation of Islamist terror, and has nothing to say about the terror of, say, the PKK, let alone the military forces of nation-states.

57

roger 07.26.05 at 11:28 am

I think a condemnation of terrorism that was serious would, at the very least, point the finger at the failure of financing governments like Pakistan’s, which have worked hand in glove with terrorism in the past, to “police” terrorism now; it would condemn any government or coalition that used the war on terror as a disguise to hatch a war for a very different purpose, as the U.S. and the U.K. did in 2002; and it would condemn the villification of real anti-terrorist measures (for instance, police measures) in favor of faux anti-terrorist measures (as in, military action against countries that were not generators of terror), such as happened in the last presidential campaign in the U.S. Any petition against terrorism that ignores the one glaring and salient fact — that the promise made by George Bush to bring down Osama bin Laden in 2001 was callously and criminally unfullfilled — doesn’t seem to me worth the piece of paper it is written on. Among the signatories are many, such as Christopher Hitchens, who have spent a lot of ink in the last two years trying to persuade people that Osama b is either dead or so crippled he doesn’t matter — a use of diversionary propaganda in support of the policies of the invaders of a bystander country that is, arguably, acting with extreme negigence vis a vis any terrorist threat, if not a passive aid to the terrorists themselves. I myself would sign an anti-terrorist petition that clearly outlined how a malign symbiosis between terrorists and “anti-terrorist” politicians in the West has left civilians more vulnerable to violent death or injury, and how anti-terrorism requires a global reckoning with this fact as a preliminary to a real anti-terrorist policy.

58

Phomesy 07.26.05 at 11:35 am

Except no it isn’t, because it restricts its detail to condemnation of Islamist terror, and has nothing to say about the terror of, say, the PKK, let alone the military forces of nation-states.

Get a grip.

59

Phomesy 07.26.05 at 11:46 am

A lesson how to get a grip, Simon.

Widen your frame of reference in your personalised explanation for why you are signing.

In the meantime – how about signing a basic pledge of unity in the face of mass murder.

Or are we even quibbling about that?

60

Matt McGrattan 07.26.05 at 11:54 am

“In the meantime – how about signing a basic pledge of unity in the face of mass murder.”

The whole point, phomesy, is that from many people’s point of view this pledge is not a basic pledge for unity but rather comes with some ‘baggage’ that people, who would be happy to sign a basic pledge for unity, are unhappy with.

It’s not quibbling.

“Besides which, and this seems to be forgotten, is it only people with knowledge of the military and of servable age who are allowed to have an opinion on anything of this nature?”

Clearly not, but Brendan does have something of a point. Some of the pro-war left is quite keen on painting opponenets of the war as appeasers and cowards and painting themselves as among the ‘brave’ for their support for the war.

As Brendan points out there’s nothing specifically brave about writing newspaper articles, especially newspaper articles which support current government policy, and that if one does want to describe oneself as brave and invoke the spirit of those like Orwell, then one really ought to be more prepared to do more than just spout off in print.

On the other hand, where I disagree with Brendan, is that I see no reason why people who supported the invasion but who don’t go around levelling accusations of cowardice at their political opponents or proclaiming their own ‘bravery’ should be singled out for criticism because they aren’t actually making plans to serve in the military.

It’s a matter of calling the ‘fighting keyboarders’ on their hypocrisy rather than a matter of denying legitimate comment to non-combatants.

61

nick 07.26.05 at 11:57 am

Aside from the obvious logical stupidity of the ‘chickenhawk’ argument it seems to have escaped Brendan’s attention that the British army is a fully professional armed force and has not been calling for volunteers.

Curiously, it seems to have escaped Harry’s attention that the same applied to Bethnal Green & Bow.

Anyway, whenever Cohen invokes Michael Moore, we get to mention how he seems to think that ‘decent’ included carrying water for Chalabi.

I can only look forward for their ‘United Against Voldemort And In Favour Of Cute Kittens oh, and in favour of the neocon agenda’ petition.

62

nick 07.26.05 at 11:59 am

In the meantime – how about signing a basic pledge of unity in the face of mass murder.

Where’s the ‘basic pledge of unity’? I see a cross between the 2005 Stating The Bleeding Obvious Cup winner, and the entry form for the Which? prize draw.

63

jane adams 07.26.05 at 12:01 pm

I will point to one feature which is repeated over and over in allegedly anti terrorist material. This is an attack on “understanding” the terrorists.

Now “understanding” can mean many things. I will tell you right now that it has been used by the alleged anti terrorists to attack Michael Scheur (who I certainly don’t fully agree with) who uses it in the sense of analyze, understand goals and who specifically states theirs and ours are not compatible, but who is portrayed by the so called anti terrorists as fuzzy wuzzy appeaser.

People such as Generals Scharzkopf and Zinni called on us to understand the problems of invasion and possible civil war. They are ignored because they can’t be attacked. But anyone who calls on us to understand the situation is attacked if the information is not Panglassian.

This is “faith based reality” we deal with. It’s insanity has reached the point where the right is trying out the thesis that civil war in Iraq was George Bush’s secret plan:

http://fallbackbelmont.blogspot.com/2005/07/global-civil-war.html

“Understanding” is anything which is not blind acceptance of the rights perspective (the president is more reasonable than they) and it double plus ungood.

In faith based reality Iraq and the world don’t exist. It is about getting thiose liberals, the enemy within. Notice the complete lack of concern of the recent Iraqi agrements with Iran or with the recent (probably) Kurdish bombings in Turkey. Do the torture and murders of Sunni (allegedly) by Iraqi security count as terrorism?

There is a long list.

But that isn’t the point. A specific set of choices are made as the *only* legitimate response against terrorism. The success of these methods is not the issue, they are like the 5 year plans in the old USSR, they never worked, but the point was to BELIEVE!

Rather than sign vague petitions lets sign specific petitions such as Mr. President: We want 10,000 new qualified Arabic translators within our intelligencem, police, state department, military departments within 2 years and quite frankly we’re wondering why the hell yiou didn’t start taking care of it 3 years ago.”

Nah, can’t do it. That’s “understanding.” We oppose those who would understand terrorists.

64

Harry 07.26.05 at 12:02 pm

Sorry but that has gone over my head Nick. What does Bethnal Green have to do with this?

65

Brendan 07.26.05 at 12:08 pm

‘On the other hand, where I disagree with Brendan, is that I see no reason why people who supported the invasion but who don’t go around levelling accusations of cowardice at their political opponents or proclaiming their own ‘bravery’ should be singled out for criticism because they aren’t actually making plans to serve in the military.

It’s a matter of calling the ‘fighting keyboarders’ on their hypocrisy rather than a matter of denying legitimate comment to non-combatants.’

Fair point, but as the pro-invasion people fail to point out, I have nowhere actually suggested that they be stripped of their right of free speech. Nor (to the best of my knowledge) have I ever suggested that because they do not fight this automatically means that their arguments are worthless or that any evidence they marshall is besides the point.

My point is much simpler. I simply do not believe that they actually believe their own arguments. I do think (and I mean this with no irony) that if any of us genuinely believed that ‘this is the 1930s all over again’ and that Iraq was Spain, we would give serious thought to picking up a gun and joining the International Brigade (or the equivalent). Obviously some of us might decide that we had families etc. and couldn’t go, which is fair enough. But we would at least think about it.

The reason I am pissed off with the pro-invasion cultists is that they obviously never gave a seconds thought, as they watched ‘our boys’ being shipped off to the desert, to the idea that one day the call might come for them, and that this war might lead to a situation where one day they would have to pick up a gun and fight.

Moroever it is clear that if this situation did arise none of them have the slightest intention of doing anything. I have made this point on a variety of blogs and sitautions and not once, ( not once ) has a pro-invasion type even hinted that they might be prepared to fight. It is obvious that they already have their excuses (bad leg, bad hair day, don’t have the change for the bus) already sorted.

And the reason they do this is because, deep down, they know this isn’t the thirties, that the threat is very different and that the situation is very different. Thet boast about their own bravery because they know they are never going to get called on it (they are probably right).

(incidentally I have debated with soldiers and ex-soldiers with their (sometimes pro-war) viewpoints on blogs and have found them usually far more reasoned, civil and decent than the middle class keyboard warriors who ‘support’ them. It is also noticeable that some of the most searching criticism of this war has come from current or ex-soldiers, something that the ‘pro-liberation left’ invariably ignore).

66

Harry 07.26.05 at 12:22 pm

Brendan,

This is just silly.

Who has ever argued that it was ‘brave’ to have taken a pro-liberation and anti-Saddam position on the Iraq war?

Who has argued that those who took a pro-Saddam position or an anti-war position were ‘cowards’?

The rest of this is just nonsense.

The logic of your argument is that Tariq Ali and Seamas Milne should join Al-quada in Iraq and blow themselves up.

67

roger 07.26.05 at 12:24 pm

Brendan, there is one thing I don’t understand about your position. Why do you want people to join up to fight a war you obviously think is unjust? Don’t you think the logic goes the other way — that we should universalize the “let somebody else fight this war’ position of the chickenhawks, squeezing to death the armies of the coalition powers so that they are forced to withdraw from their ill judged war? I think counter-recruiters should take full advantage of the chickenhawk position to persuade young people that patriotism doesn’t require enlistment; the model, to me, is Dick Cheney’s statement about Vietnam: I had other priorities. Obviously, this did not impede his success — it in fact helped him get a head start as others fought and died in Vietnam. The moral is clear: sign up and become a loser, or refuse to sign up and become a success. Follow your leaders.

68

Matt McGrattan 07.26.05 at 12:24 pm

“And the reason they do this is because, deep down, they know this isn’t the thirties, that the threat is very different and that the situation is very different. Thet boast about their own bravery because they know they are never going to get called on it (they are probably right).”

I’m sure you’re right here. Many of the pro-war types are replete with acclaim for their own bravery which is, as you say, an easy thing to be when you’re never going to called on it.

I’m also sure you’re right that the supposed parallels between the current situation and the 1930s fight against fascism are overblown and inaccurate at best, and uttered as cynical and knowing falsehoods at worst.

However, I’d hope that I could have, for example, voiced support for military action to halt the violence in Rwanda in 1994 without being called out for not actually joining up and going to fight there myself.

I say all this by way of criticism of the ‘chickenhawk’ argument in general, not in this specific case (Iraq).

69

Luc 07.26.05 at 12:37 pm

I think the co-author Alan Johnson (#34)unwittingly describes why the statement is divisive for some.

You ask “why be so specific about the kind of terrorism that is being condemned here?” Because we have to be in order to measure the threat, its source, and decide how to respond. Isn’t that just obvious?”

There is a large political divide in how to measure the threat, its source and how to respond. And in being selective, the statement hints at a specific political opinion. And those that see it that way are confirmed in that by looking at the previous statements by the authors of the petition, and by some of those “why I signed” comments.

Besides I can’t imagine anyone taking terror seriously, agreeing to statements like
These terrorists do not hate what is worst in the societies they attack, but what is best.

But that’s probably because I’m a hardcore “root causer”. It takes some juggling to combine the well founded opinions of Olivier Roy and Robert Pape, but the result is still miles off from the Decent Left frontier.

70

al 07.26.05 at 12:40 pm

Brendan,

It may hve escaped your notice, but the British army only accepts applications to sign up from people aged 30 and under (there is also an eyesight test required). So, plenty of the folk you castigate for not joining up would not have been accepted even if they had intended to join.

71

Harry 07.26.05 at 12:42 pm

The statement hints at a specific political opinion

It hardly ‘hints’ at a political opinion – the whole statement is exactly that and makes no secret of it.

Of course it is a political opinion what else did you think it was?

And unless you think that gender equality, racial and religious tolerance and a commitment to liberty and democracy are not the ‘best’ of our society – or unless you believe that Bin Laden is lying when he says he hates all those elements of free societies then what possible objection could you make to the phrase:

These terrorists do not hate what is worst in the societies they attack, but what is best.

?

72

Brendan 07.26.05 at 12:45 pm

Harry

as i have made clear, my statement about bravery was taken from Nick Cohen’s statement that the ‘best and bravest’ (a grouping in which Cohen clearly includes himself) share his political views on the war. (reference in John Quiggin’s original post).

The statement about Milne and Ali is frankly beneath contempt, unless you have access to documents demonstrating their support for Al-Qaeda and Osama Bin Laden which have been hidden from the rest of us. (Texts similar, for example, to the texts which i have quoted which document Christopher Hitchen’s support for the murderer, torturer and rapist Ahmed Shah Masoud).

Matt McGratten’s and Roger’s arguments deserve a post on their own (and I am sympathetic to both their points), but one point that deserves to be made is that my understanding is (and i could be wrong about this) that the Genocide Convention necessitated UN action in Rwanda which was why Bill Clinton was so keen not to have the situation decided as being ‘genocide’. A legal, UN action (with no lying about WMDs etc.) is rather different to a (probably) illegal, US action with loads of lying all the way through the whole operation.

I think the length of time of the operation also matters. It was obvious to anyone who had eyes to see that the Iraq situation was going to drag on for years or decades, and so the question of ‘where are the troops going to come from?’ is an issue where it (might not) have been in Rwanda.

But your basic point is valid, i think. Roger’s point may also be valid in highly pragmatic way.

73

Harry 07.26.05 at 12:57 pm

Brendan,

Both Ali and Milne are on record in the Guardian as supporting the terrorists in Iraq.

Yes it is indeed stupid to suggest they should join the ‘resistance’ they support – I was merely highlighting the crassness of your position.

74

Brendan 07.26.05 at 1:01 pm

I would like to see your references. In any case you didnt say anything about joining ‘terrorists’ per se. You said they should join ‘Al-quada’. I am still waiting for your evidence that they support Osama Bin Ladin/Al-Qaeda.

75

Steve Burton 07.26.05 at 1:09 pm

brendan: I am glad to learn that your strictures only apply to people who say that “Islamo-fascism [is] the new fascism,” and that “Christopher Hitchens [is] the new Orwell,” and “we are only weeks away from Islamic hordes descending through Spain, overthrowing the EU and reinstating the Caliphate,” and “this is World War 4,” and “we face a terrifying and ‘unprecedented threat’, and those who den[y] this…have to ‘wake up’ before Osama Bin Laden set up public executions in our local town square,” and “Cherie Blair [will] be frightened to go out in daytime without the Hijab” and “this is really ‘a battle for Western civilisation,’” and “‘Islamo-fascism’ is the new Nazi-ism,” and “Osama Bin Laden is Hitler.”

Trouble is, you were ostensibly responding to eric, who didn’t say any of these things – or anything remotely comparable.

Engage in guilt-by-association much?

Since you obviously lack the intellectual and emotional discipline necessary to characterize the views of your opponents at all fairly, I would strongly suggest that in the future you refrain from attempts at paraphrase and stick to actual quotations.

That’s not fool-proof, of course; for example, to write, as you do, that Nick Cohen “refers to himself as amongst the ‘best and bravest’” is an obvious distortion, despite the inclusion of three words worth of direct quotation. (I mean, really: for Mr. Cohen to write that anyone who, like him, signs the petition “will be on the side of the best and the bravest” simply is *not* for him to say that he is himself “among the best and bravest.” This is *not* a subtle point.)

Still, it would preserve you from some of your most obvious and embarassing logical errors.

76

Brendan 07.26.05 at 1:41 pm

Nick Cohen’s statement in full:

‘The Michael Moroonification of the majority of leftish opinion might not seem to matter greatly. Obviously, anyone concerned with upholding basic principles is going to want to oppose the apologists for the extreme right, mock their perfidy and correct their errors. Yet Britain still has a Labour government. It isn’t going to be out of office anytime soon, however loudly its opponents scream, and its policies are generally sensible. Why bother with the battle of ideas?

The answer lies in the world beyond the polemics on the net and the hysterics in the media. What we have witnessed is a sinister attempt by liberal opinion to deny legitimacy to the very liberals, feminists and socialists who have a right to expect support. The authentic Muslim has become the blood-crazed fanatic rather than the reformer. The authentic liberator has become the fascist rather than the democrat. This is a betrayal on an epic scale which casts doubt on whether it is now possible to have a decent left.

Fighting back proves that a pulse still flickers. You can expect to lose a few friends and have many rows, but at least you will be on the side of best and the bravest. With a bit of luck you will enjoy the struggle and learn the truth of Lady Bracknell’s words:
‘On an occasion of this kind it becomes more than a moral duty to speak one’s mind. It becomes a pleasure.”

The only people who are praised are (explicitly) the current Labour government (‘generally sensible’) and (implicitly) Goerge Bush (‘the authentic liberator’). This implies strongly that Cohen believes that Bush and Blair are amongst ‘the bravest and best’.

The only others are ‘feminists, liberals and socialists’ amongst which Cohen presumably counts himself.

However, you are technically correct. The statement has plenty of wiggle room, in which Cohen can claim ‘of course i did not mean to imply myself, goodness no, who could have thought such a thing.’ You don’t have to read much of Cohen’s self-regarding prose to see that he self-evidently views himself as being brilliant and more moral (and probably braver) than the ‘anti-war’ crowd.

Luckily we have Christopher Hithens to openly identify with murderers and rapists to balance the scales. Or is that an ’embarassing logical error’ too?

To coin a phrase: ‘Why bother with the battle of ideas’?

Quite.

77

roger 07.26.05 at 1:44 pm

Brendan, I’m completely serious about the silliness of trying to get chickenhawks to sign up. The reality is, the war in Iraq is supported by both parties in the U.S. and by Labour and the Conservative parties in the U.K. So getting out of Iraq is not going to happen via the parties. Nor is it going to happen in the blogosphere, although I love writing about these things as much as anybody. It is going to end by squeezing the volunteer army until Rumsfeld has no more men to play with. It is already happening, in fact. There is discontent in the army about the home front ignoring soldiers; there’s been a severe shortfall in enlistment, which the army disguises by lowering its enlistment targets.

So the question is, what are the drivers of enlistment, and how to counter them? Patriotism and the goal of success are the two major ones, I’d think. The patriotism issue is easily addressed. Even if you support the war, on the copious evidence of the war supporters, it doesn’t require you to fight it. Among young people, leaders and role models are important, so it is important to emphasize, without any lack of respect, that the President and Vice President both supported the Vietnam war without going, and nobody is questioning their patriotism. Quite the contrary. So (to be sarcastic about it), if you support the war, start a warblog — don’t enlist.

The success issue is trickier. A lot of counter-recruitment people are simply against the military. I think that is foolish. Joining the military in time of peace is an option that makes some economic sense. But in time of war, I think the point can be made that you will probably have less success. Not only because of the chance of being wounded or killed, but because veterans of wars are looked at with suspicion. The last two elections are great examples. The democratic candidate, who did go to war, was trashed for it; the guy who got his legs blown off in Vietnam was laughed at as a drunk by prominent columnists. In South Carolina, there was a whispering campaign about John McCain’s pow experience: he was said to be a little nuts. I think, rightly expressed, this would make a big impression on young people, who are highly susceptible to honor arguments. Even the people who support wars despise the soldiers that fight them. Behind the yellow ribbons is an “apply elsewhere” sign. Besides being emotionally effective, this is also true — to put it bluntly, they send you there to be a garbageman, and when you come home, they slot you into a position as a garbageman.

This isn’t true for peacetime service. You can be a soldier, take advantage of the economic opportunities, and come out without having the “crazy” label attached to you. It is important to be honest about that, too.

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Eric 07.26.05 at 1:46 pm

“But it has become ever clearer that they are in fact a classic resistance movement with widespread support waging an increasingly successful guerrilla war against the occupying armies. Their tactics are overwhelmingly in line with those of resistance campaigns throughout modern history, targeting both the occupiers themselves and the local police and military working for them.”
Seamus Milne (Just one example)

The immediate tasks that face an anti-imperialist movement are support for Iraqi resistance to the Anglo-American occupation
Tariq Ali

resistance of which Iraqis can be proud and of which British and US citizens should be envious
Tariq Ali

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Luc 07.26.05 at 1:58 pm

Of course it is a political opinion what else did you think it was?

A political opinion, that hints at a specific other political opinion, that is otherwise known under the catch-all label of “Decent Left”.

But I do admire your naïvité.

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soru 07.26.05 at 2:07 pm

_So the question is, what are the drivers of enlistment, and how to counter them? _

In your old or middle age, I hope you get to look back on your younger and more foolish thoughts with mere chagrin instead of despair.

soru

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fifi 07.26.05 at 2:17 pm

I think a basic pledge of unity in the face of mass murder is a good idea. But why drag terrorists into it? If we’re going to be easy with our own violence, related as acts of martial duty told simply without dwelling on the horrors and orders of magnitude more victims, well then small wonder the species is hopelessly vicious squabbling pricks, isn’t it?

Damn dirty apes.

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fifi 07.26.05 at 2:18 pm

Now, now, there’s no reason for anyone to go to Iraq. We’re all soldiers here.

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Steve Burton 07.26.05 at 2:46 pm

brendan: Nick Cohen does not “praise” George Bush as “the authentic liberator.” You are simply misreading him.

Here’s what he writes:

“What we have witnessed is a sinister attempt by liberal opinion to deny legitimacy to the very liberals, feminists and socialists who have a right to expect support. The authentic Muslim has become the blood-crazed fanatic rather than the reformer. The authentic liberator has become the fascist rather than the democrat. This is a betrayal on an epic scale which casts doubt on whether it is now possible to have a decent left.”

For your better understanding, let’s amplify the second and third sentences a bit:

“The authentic Muslim [according to a certain “sinister” segment of liberal opinion] has become the blood-crazed fanatic [i.e., the terrorist] rather than the reformer [i.e., the moderate Muslim]. The authentic liberator [according to said “sinister” segment of liberal opinion] has become the fascist [i.e., the terrorist and those he serves] rather than the democrat.

In short, Cohen is not praising *anyone* as “the authentic liberator.” He is complaining that certain segments of “liberal opinion” regard terrorists as “authentic liberators.”

This may or may not be a defensible claim. But your interpretation simply misses the boat.

Again, this is *not* a subtle point.

Read better.

Think harder.

Write slower.

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Nick cohen 07.26.05 at 2:51 pm

Look, I’ve learned after the last few years not to appeal to basic principle or to imagine that those who say they’re leftists are within one thousand miles of the left. But after being sent to this thread by Harry I’m genuinely curious: didn’t you people take my reference to the best and the brightest to refer to the democrats, liberals, women — and, yes, for there are still a few — socialists who are being slaughtered in the Middle East?
Can one perso here name one genuine secular democratic party in Iraq — or Iran, or Syria or Palestine — they support and which acknowledges their support?
If your answer is no, and you fully understand why it is no, you may at least, after all this time, be experiencing the novel thrill of intellectual honesty.

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roger 07.26.05 at 3:05 pm

Soru, I figure the crepuscule of senility will be brightened, a bit, by the thought that I helped save one man or woman from being chewed up in a purposeless vanity war. Of course, sweeping away the whole criminal lot that got us into that war would be nice, too, but I am not counting on my memories of our current epoch being that sunny.

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Simon 07.26.05 at 3:25 pm

While you’re here, Nick, I’d be interested to learn of your reasons for believing Labour’s policies to be ‘generally sensible’, given that in 2001 you were so disgusted by them you publicly urged a vote for the Lib Dems, the Greens or the Socialist Alliance (that’s the pre-Respect SWP front, grouplet fans) – anything, in fact, but the hated New Labour. The ‘generally’ in ‘generally sensible’ seems to imply that, not only have you come round to them in foreign policy terms, you don’t find their domestic policies exceptionable either. Or have I misread your statement?

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Brendan 07.26.05 at 3:37 pm

Steve

I must apologise. Nick Cohen’s piece is so incoherent and borderline ungrammatical that I really don’t know what it means anymore. Wouldn’t it have made more sense to say ‘Fascists are taken for liberators. Blood crazed fanatics are taken for reformers’? That would at least have made clear, if inaccurate.

I’m not excusing myself here: I accept that your (tendentious) reading is possible but so are many others and i’ve read it about six times now. But now I am getting angry that someone who gets paid more than any of us ever will ( and earns his living from writing!! ) is simply no longer capable of writing a coherent line of English prose (neither is Christopher Hitchens anymore. Style is the physiognomy of the soul, as they say. Draw your own conclusions).

And then what does this sentence mean?

‘Can one perso here name one genuine secular democratic party in Iraq—or Iran, or Syria or Palestine—they support and which acknowledges their support?’

What is the purpose of that last clause? And what does it mean? Do Iraqi political parties now have to write back to acknowledge my support? Is my support invalid unless this is the case? If this point isn’t important why raise it? Doesn’t it bother people that someone who is employed by an allegedly serious broadsheet appears to be incapable of presenting a logical argument in clear, umambiguous prose?

Incidentally the sneering tone of ‘the novel thrill of intellectual honesty.’ as though that was an orgasmic experience Cohen experiences on a regular basis leaves me in no doubt that Cohen does indeed consider himself to be a brilliant, brave and super-moral fellow who has (through sheer power of intellect) seen through the lies of the fellow travellers of the ‘Islamo-fascists’. The pro-invasion left is increasingly resembling a schoolboy’s circle jerk in which the participants perpetually rock to and forth, hands in each other’s laps, experiencing the ‘thrill of intellectual honesty’, while Iraq burns behind them.

May I note, incidentally, that not one person has answered my point about Christopher Hitchens and his open and explicit support for a known murderer and torturer? Is Hitchen’s feelings for fascism now so well known no one feels the need to comment on it?

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John Quiggin 07.26.05 at 3:53 pm

Nick Cohen, the current Palestinian government seems to me to be as close to secular and democratic as is feasible under the circumstances, and I broadly support their position. They don’t ‘acknowledge’ my support: why ever should they?

But since you’re here, let me ask why you think references to secularism are relevant here? Are you saying (as the petition appears to be) that the only legitimate opponents of terrorism are those who attribute it exclusively to religious extremism? Why else circulation a petition calling for unity against terrorism and then incorporate a detailed and divisive political analysis?

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Daniel 07.26.05 at 3:57 pm

I do think that a lot of this debate could be avoided if we just realised that the question “why don’t you Unite Against Terror?” could be easily replaced with “why don’t you sign my web petition?”. Because the second question can much more easily be answered “Because it’s a pointless vanity exercise which I would only sign if I was one of your mates and in fact I’m not because you’re so bloody rude”.

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fifi 07.26.05 at 4:03 pm

Has anyone else noticed this pattern? Intellectuals become angry at each other, no doubt planning subconsciously to swoon the lovely ladies with formidable argument, and then all of a sudden people are dying for liberty or progress or some such make-pretend gibberish. Jesus, what’s wrong with learning to play the guitar like regular boys learn to do instead.

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roger 07.26.05 at 4:10 pm

Wow. Cohen’s comment is a beauty. Who else could take a war led by a president whose open goal is to tear up the last remaining shred of the social welfare network in the U.S., whose favored Iraqi leader was a man who defrauded a bank in Jordan of 40 million dollars, and whose occupation is shoring up a Taliban state in Basra and, according to the Kurdish press, a national government that is directed by fatwa — and pretend that it is a socialist project?

Throw the metrics out the window. Throw the language out there too. Haul into the socialist hall of fame General Franco (whose views on religion are secular compared to the leader of the SCIRI party) and General Pinochet (whose social security plan was the inspiration for the leader of the socialist invasion of Iraq). It is a new day for the intellectually honest left. What bliss, to march to Utopia with Karl Rove leading the parade.

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Kevin Donoghue 07.26.05 at 4:19 pm

Steve Burton,

In short, Cohen is not praising anyone as “the authentic liberator.” He is complaining that certain segments of “liberal opinion” regard terrorists as “authentic liberators.”

Then what is “rather than the democrat” doing in his sentence? As I read it, some democrat or other is “the authentic liberator.” Which one, only Nick Cohen is qualified to say.

Nick Cohen,

I’m genuinely curious: didn’t you people take my reference to the best and the brightest to refer to the democrats, liberals, women—and, yes, for there are still a few—socialists who are being slaughtered in the Middle East?

If there actually had been a reference to “the best and the brightest” that, to me, would read like a reference (probably ironic) to the Pentagon planners – since that phrase is normally reserved for the team assembled by Robert McNamara during the Vietnam War. However, the phrase actually used was “the best and the bravest” and the only fight which the pro-war squad are actually engaged in is rhetorical combat with the critics of the Iraq war.

The more important and more hazardous fighting involves Arabs and Kurds of various denominations and coalition forces. None of those are fighting against any segment of liberal opinion, for the simple reason that the John Stuart Mill brigade has no troops on the ground. The protagonists are fighting for their religious faiths and their national aspirations.

Can one person here name one genuine secular democratic party in Iraq—or Iran, or Syria or Palestine—they support and which acknowledges their support?

My support won’t do any of them the slightest good, nor will yours. The fact that you can ask such a question suggests you have lost all contact with reality. Iraqis are not looking to us for support. They have noticed by now that even the US military is out of its depth. But I would like to know which Iraqi party you regard as secular and democratic. Most of those with any prospect of real power seek guidance from Sistani, so they are hardly secular.

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Steve Burton 07.26.05 at 4:30 pm

Wow. I feel like Woody Allen (was it Woody Allen?) in that movie where he brings in Marshall McLuhan (was it Marshall McLuhan?) to contradict someone’s silly misinterpretation of same.

brendan: the fact that you found Nick Cohen’s remarks “incoherent and borderline ungrammatical” while I found them perfectly straightforward should give you pause.

I don’t think that you’re stupid – but I do think that you have a problem reading those who disagree with you with any degree of charity.

As for Christopher Hitchens, he can shuffle for himself.

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Steve Burton 07.26.05 at 4:44 pm

kevin donaghue: sorry, I was doing my best not to insult everyone’s intelligence by spelling out the painfully obvious – but, since you ask, “the democrat” quite obviously means “those courageous Muslims who fight for democracy.”

C’mon, people. Kant is hard to understand. So is Hegel. Nick Cohen is not.

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Kevin Donoghue 07.26.05 at 4:58 pm

…“the democrat” quite obviously means “those courageous Muslims who fight for democracy.”

That’s a pretty strained interpretation. Sure, if there are no foreign forces involved “a liberator” certainly means a local friend of liberty. However when the year 2003 is mentioned, given that the main event of that year was an invasion billed as a liberation?

But you may be right. I have no desire to represent myself as an interpreter of the writings of Cohen, since I don’t read them at all frequently.

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soru 07.26.05 at 5:05 pm

Because it’s a pointless vanity exercise which I would only sign if I was one of your mates and in fact I’m not because you’re so bloody rude

That doesn’t really explain someone writing an essay about why they are not signing it.

Especially when the only arguments made are so obviously spurious. If there are Republicans who say ‘2 + 2 = 4’, does that mean the search for a different answer must start now?

soru

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John Quiggin 07.26.05 at 5:18 pm

Alan Johnson,

As regards the factual claim that terror attacks are organised by both ex-Baathists and foreign jihadists, this is acknowledged by everyone (here’s George Bush, for example) The fact that the latter group contributes most or all of the suicide bombers is irrelevant.

As you say, “I am sure you are not defending suicide bombs aimed at Jewish kids in Israel if their planters are secular Palestinians (the UAT statement, note, calls for mutual recognition and political dialogue).”

Exactly, so why is your statement (and your email) so insistently focused on Islamists. Why not, as I suggested, a clear statement that terrorism is always wrong, regardless of the perpetrator and purported cause?

Finally, if your statement was not meant as a coded attack on people who do not share a particular analysis and policy position, including support for the Iraq war, why did so many prominent signatories read it this way? And why don’t you take up my suggestion to ask them for some positive statement in place of the diatribes against fellow-leftists they have posted.

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josh 07.26.05 at 5:39 pm

I also got the email asking me to sign the petition, and also decided not to. Not because I regard it as pro-Bush (it isn’t, though some of the statements supporting it certainly are — though I think this is less widespread among the signers than John Quiggin suggests. Indeed, I think it a mistake to confuse the vitriol and wrong-headed views expressed by some of the signers on the side, with the views represented by the statement, and held by others who signed it). Nor even because I disagree with parts of the statement (which I do), nor even because finding myself in the company of Christopher Hitchens and Stephen Pollard would be just a little confusing. My beef with the statement — which has been signed by some people I like and respect — is that I really don’t see the point of it. Signing petitions for or against particular actions, which might be prompted or prevented, is one thing; but signing on to general statements that yield only the vaguest of programs, and really just express an attitude or emotional response, seems largely pointless to me — attitudinising masquerading as activism, and the reiteration of shared beliefs among those who agree rather than critical thinking or constructive action.
I might be wrong in this, of course, and I’d be very interested to hear from people who think this statement worthwhile.

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Backword Dave 07.26.05 at 5:53 pm

OK. Here’s one reason for not signing. I don’t wish to ‘Unite Against Terror.’ We weren’t united before, and I’ll be damned if the terrorists change the way we live.

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Uncle Kvetch 07.26.05 at 5:57 pm

If there are Republicans who say ‘2 + 2 = 4’

Cite, please.

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soru 07.26.05 at 6:33 pm

It was a hypothetical.

soru

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Harry 07.26.05 at 7:03 pm

My support won’t do any of them the slightest good, nor will yours.

….signing on to general statements that yield only the vaguest of programs, and really just express an attitude or emotional response, seems largely pointless to me.

Well done for making this chap, still clinging to internationalism and activism, feel like an old lefty for the first time in ages.

Do you people actually believe in anything other than being against Bush?

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Henry 07.26.05 at 7:14 pm

bq. Do you people actually believe in anything other than being against Bush?

Yes.

Number 27 in a series of Obvious Replies to Stupid Rhetorical Questions (with apologies to “the Editors”:http://www.thepoorman.net/ )

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fergal 07.26.05 at 7:59 pm

My support won’t do any of them the slightest good, nor will yours… seems largely pointless to me

Timberites of the world, unite!

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floopmeister 07.26.05 at 10:46 pm

…or unless you believe that Bin Laden is lying when he says he hates all those elements of free societies…

Harry

“Free people do not relinquish their security. This is contrary to Bush’s claim that we hate freedom. Let him tell us why we did not strike Sweden, for example.”

Osama bin Laden

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Ben P 07.26.05 at 10:49 pm

Ah this is fun.

While I think that the argument suggesting one has to sign up to fight in order to fight the Iraq War is perhaps unfair, I do think that one has to be willing to personally die for the cause to support the war. 1800 US troops have already paid this sacrifice. I find it especially irksome coming from British intellectuals playing parlor games with people I know personally. I don’t expect that you “rush and sign up” – although the war effort certainly lacks and has lacked troops throughout – but I do expect one to recognize that this is a deadly serious exercise and that others shouldn’t die just so you can play a glorified version of Axis and Allies. And don’t try to give me the dodge that “we are all on the front lines of terrorism.” This doesn’t wash because: 1) the Iraq War was a war of choice; 2) it was not – prior to 2003 – related to Sunni Wahabbi terror; 3) the chances of experiencing death – to mention nothing of general loneliness, homesickness, isolation, and discomfort – in Iraq remains infinetly higher than any major western city.

As to the general statement against terrorism, personally, I wouldn’t sign it because I think it confuses the issue. The enemy isn’t terrorism. It is an extremist brand of Wahabi/Salafi Islam. To play the devil’s advocate, I think terrorism could indeed be regarded as a legitimate military tactic. What I object to, then, is not the tactic, but the fact that 1) the tactic is aimed at me; 2) and I find the ideology of those using the tactic contrary and repellent to my own.

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Ben P 07.26.05 at 11:03 pm

BTW, to make some of you squirm, I’d also suggest that AQ and its fellow travellers are not “Islamo-fascist.” For one, their ideology has nothing to do with the nation-state, which is pretty central to any form of fascism I’ve ever read about. I’d grant you that Wahabbi Islam is totalitarian, but its not fascist. Indeed, I’d say its closer to revolutionary Marxism in its psychological appeal and in the nature of its adherents.

Really, this term has two uses, none of which are descriptive. For the right and left wing, it is used to pretend the historical moment is similar if not exactly the same to that faced in 1940 or thereabouts. While in moral and intellectual terms, I have sympathy for this argument, in operational and existential terms, this argument is patently absurd. If you can’t see the massive operational, financial, military, and infrstructural power disparities between Nazi Germany and AQ, its probably not worth continuing the discussion. But I think this whole “Islamofascist” thing is doubly useful for the “prowarleft” because it makes them feel that they are unequivocally good and moral through there choices, when in reality, I would argue that AQ is much closer ideologically to the western leftist tradition, as bothNiall Ferguson and Olivier Roy have argued.

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roger 07.26.05 at 11:23 pm

Ben, I don’t know why understanding AQ requires an analogy with the west. Personally, I don’t know of any western terrorist movements, outside of James Bond novels, that were underwritten by a millionaire leader. Certainly if we were looking for ideological equivalents in the West, we’d look for some appeal to the working class. The underemployed in Saudi Arabia, for instance, or rural groups. But Osama seems pretty typical of his class — notice he has been pretty careful not to mount the kind of attacks on the oil business in Saudi Arabia that could really hurt his family. And his followers are almost all college educated middle to upper middle class. Actually, the closest organizational equivalent to Osama in the West is rock n roll — if rock n roll were carried out by suicide bombers. The same garage spirit, the same passing around of treasured cds and pronouncements, the same let’s get together and form a band spirit among young men. Does this mean rock n roll is to blame for Osama bin Laden? No, it means looking for equivalents in the West is a rhetorical, not a sociological exercise. The rhetoric is all about projecting shame.

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dsquared 07.27.05 at 1:42 am

Well done for making this chap, still clinging to internationalism and activism, feel like an old lefty for the first time in ages.

Presumably “feel like an old lefty” has its common language meaning here of “feel completely ineffectual and useless”. I see that “Activism” is also being used as a one-word oxymoron too, since what you’re actually supporting is a web petition which it has been specifically promised is not going to lead to any action.

On your side!

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soru 07.27.05 at 3:08 am

If you can’t see the massive operational, financial, military, and infrstructural power disparities between Nazi Germany and AQ, its probably not worth continuing the discussion.

So fascism is defined by sucess? Hitler wasn’t a fascist until he became chancellor?

The nation in islamo-fascism is the arab nation, and the state the Caliphate. That shouldn’t be news to anyone.

I’ll admit the term does get misused, some people say Wahhabis, or the Iranian regime, are islamofascist, which is nonsense. But specifically in respect of Al Qaeda it is the most accurate word available in English.

soru

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Kevin Donoghue 07.27.05 at 3:50 am

But specifically in respect of Al Qaeda it is the most accurate word available in English.

“Islamofascist” is English in much the same sense as “Muslimonazi” is English. AFAIK the former was coined by Hitchens, the latter by Fafblog. IMO the most accurate term for a group like Al Qaeda is “cult”. But I would be interested in other suggestions. “Islamofascist” is strictly a propagandist’s word; useful precisely because it is not accurate. Mussolini called himself a fascist; no member or sneaking regarder of Al Qaeda would accept such a description, nor would anyone seeking to describe the movement in a strictly factual manner.

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nick 07.27.05 at 4:39 am

Time to circulate my ‘Unite For Cute Puppies And Kittens And Bush’s Impeachment’ petition, I think. What, you hate kittens?

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Backword Dave 07.27.05 at 4:43 am

No, it means looking for equivalents in the West is a rhetorical, not a sociological exercise. The rhetoric is all about projecting shame.

Roger, you do realise that your logic justifies “Bush = Hilter” perfectly, don’t you? Kevin got there first, but using “Islamofascist” in your way would justify calling abortionists (because they take innocent lives and it’s “all about projecting shame”) “fascist.” BTW, is it OK to shoot fascists?

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soru 07.27.05 at 6:25 am

no member or sneaking regarder of Al Qaeda would accept such a description, nor would anyone seeking to describe the movement in a strictly factual manner

Take the self-descriptions of Al Qaeda members at face value and you would conclude they are the only true muslims, with the other 99.9..% being cowards or infidels.

Fascism is a political concept, if anything in political philsophy is. And just about every dot and comma of that description, as set out in, for example, Paxton’s ‘Anatomy of Fascism’, applies to Al Qaeda (and not to other islamic-flavoured political organisations that are not similar):
http://www.foreignaffairs.org/20040301fabook83239/robert-o-paxton/the-anatomy-of-fascism.html

Fascists, he concludes, were identifiable most of all by a style of political behavior that emphasized historical grievances, worshiped the cult of leadership, relied on a mass-based movement of national militants, repressed democratic liberties, and used violence as a political tool.

Al Qaeda is fascist in much the same way a lizard is a reptile.

soru

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Kevin Donoghue 07.27.05 at 7:55 am

…worshiped the cult of leadership….

If that’s true of Al Qaeda, as you claim, what’s “Islamo” about them? Islam is implacably monotheistic.

Use the term if you want readers to identify you as just another warblogger, neocon or stop-the-stoppers headcase. But since this thread is about a statement ostensibly calling for unity, it may be worth remarking that you won’t persuade even the most moderate Muslims with language like that. Juan Cole explains:

It is hard to see the difference between the bigotry of anti-Semitism as an evil and the bigotry that Medved displays toward Islam. It is more offensive than I can say for him to use the word “Islamo-fascist.” Islam is a sacred term to 1.3 billion people in the world. It enshrines their highest ideals. To combine it with the word “fascist” in one phrase is a desecration and a form of hate speech. Are there Muslims who are fascists? Sure. But there is no Islamic fascism, since “Islam” has to do with the highest ideals of the religion. In the same way, there have been lots of Christian fascists, but to speak of Christo-Fascism is just offensive.

Of course if you are partial to words like Islamofascist, probably Juan Cole is not your kind of guy and persuasion isn’t really your thing.

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Fergal 07.27.05 at 8:13 am

Did I miss it or did this thread take 115 comments before the Juan Cole rule could be invoked?

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soru 07.27.05 at 8:16 am

_In the same way, there have been lots of Christian fascists, but to speak of Christo-Fascism is just offensive_

How else would you refer to the League of Archangel Michael in 1930s Romania?

http://taylorandfrancis.metapress.com/app/home/contribution.asp?wasp=04d3bc812d7c40d6bf4c3dd911e407a1&referrer=parent&backto=issue,5,9;journal,2,13;linkingpublicationresults,1:110543,1

_Romania’s most important fascist movement, the Legion of Archangel Michael (also called the Iron Guard), willingly inserted strong elements of Orthodox Christianity into its political doctrine to the point of becoming one of the rare modern European political movements with a religious ideological structure. It also drew on the support of the minority of Orthodox clergy that was devoted to it, a number of whom stood as Legionary candidates in the 1937 elections. However, Orthodox Christian spirituality underwent significant modifications within the Iron Guard mindset, owing to the attempts by the movement to canonise certain saints chosen from among the ‘Legionary martyrs’ as an integral part of its intense cult of death, instinct, the providential leader, youth and of martyrs to the cause of the nation. Thus despite its pronounced Orthodox character, Legionary mysticism did not signify the total assimilation of Orthodox theology by a fascist political movement. On the contrary, it is to be seen as an attempt at subordinating and transforming that theology into a political instrument in a way that made it the enemy of genuine Christian values and spirituality_

They were genuine christian-fascists, in a way nominal christians like Mussolini or Hitler, who rarely if ever quoted scripture in a political context, weren’t.

soru

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josh 07.27.05 at 8:18 am

Thanks for the response, Harry. Unfortunately, you don’t address the question I in all honesty asked, which is, what exactly is this statement meant to do, aside from announcing the righteousness of those who sign it, and saying that terrorism is wrong (which, while a valid and important thing to say, has been said, and doesn’t need a petition to say; nor so far as I can tell does the petition advance or develop the arguments against terrorism in any way). Also, your own rather ad hominem counter-question seems irrelevant — I do indeed dislike Bush (as anyone who feels like or is a lefty should, given his deeply inegalitarian and in many cases illiberal domestic policies), but that, as I tried to explain, has nothing to do with why I object to the petition. The question I tried to raise isn’t about Bush at all, but about the efficacy of this petition as political activism. As for positive commitments, I have plenty, most of which aren’t particularly relevant here; my point was that I don’t see how the petition actually does any good in pursuing those positive commitments. If you can explain how it does, I’d be happy to sign. If you can’t, then making irrelevant charges against those who criticise you is probably not the best policy for winning friends (or allies) and influencing people.

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Marko Attila Hoare 07.27.05 at 8:46 am

Kevin Donoghue is wrong; ‘Islamofascist’ is a perfectly acceptable term. Islam is a set of beliefs that can be interpreted in different ways, and a minority of Muslims interpret it in a fascistic manner. Kevin is deluding himself if he thinks Al-Qaeda’s ideology has nothing to do with Islam; it just isn’t the only possible interpretation.

But for the record, as this is a democracy, we have every right to insult Christianity, Islam, socialism, fascism, liberalism or any other set of beliefs that we want.

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roger 07.27.05 at 8:49 am

Backwards D, hey, I’m against using fascism as the term to describe Al Qaeda. I think Al Qaeda is sufficient unto itself, and the theocratic principle of rule could be called Talibanism, if an ism name is needed. On an ironic note, the real fascist party is part of Berlusconi’s coalition, and is on the U.S.’s side, officially, in occupying Iraq.
As for Bush=Hitler — that’s a pretty ridiculous equation. Generally, the urge to use Nazism as the only reference point for political evil strikes me as bizarre. It is like reaching for a rifle every time you want to squash a mosquito.

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soru 07.27.05 at 9:25 am

Using Al Qaeda for both the actual organisation and the political philosophy would make news stories like Zarqawi announcing he was officially joining forces with Al Qaeda really confusing.

If anyone want to use the term ‘religious fascism’ instead of islamo-fascism, feel free.

If anyone wants to mount an actual challenge to the specific argument made that Al Qaeda is fascist to more or less the same extent the League of Archangel Michael was, feel free.

If anyone wants to go on thinking this is nothing but a matter of individual conscience, where essentially morally neutral forces happen to choose to abstain, or not, from incidental badness like torture or terrorism, feel free to get a clue.

soru

122

Backword Dave 07.27.05 at 11:57 am

Hi Roger, sorry, I misread your comment.

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Nick cohen 07.27.05 at 12:21 pm

And what’s all this sutff about anyone who has the independence of spirit to disagree with you being in the pay of Chalabi? Can’t you jerks accept, if only for a moment, that people may truly believe you are fools, rather than be paid to believe you are fools — profitable though that may be. Is this what it’s come to at Oxford? Go with the dons or you are a crook?
I repeat, if you want to say you are on the left: tell me who your comrades in Iraq are or go home, read some books, make some phone calls and come back when you have something interesting to say.

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Nick cohen 07.27.05 at 12:27 pm

Sorry to hog the blog
But the answers to the above are
Communist
Socialist
Kurdish nationalist
Shia
Liberal
Fascist
Or, as I think in most of your cases,
Coward

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Chris Bertram 07.27.05 at 1:20 pm

Nick Cohen: what is this nonsense? “Go with the dons or you are a crook?” The commenter who mentioned Chalabi was the semi-anonymous “Nick” posting from a dialup service somewhere in the US (I’ve checked the IP).

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jamie 07.27.05 at 1:32 pm

Nick, off topic but as a matter of interest, if you were writing Pretty Straight Guys now would you do it in the same way? If not, what would you change about it?

I ask because it made a very good case that the Blair government is untrustworthy and opportunistic, and a sense of distrust with the government(with WMD etc)was clearly a major motive for opponents of the war in Iraq. It certainly affected my perspective.

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Ben P 07.27.05 at 1:45 pm

I’ll take up Nick’s challenge:

For one, I don’t identify with the left, certainly not as it is historically understood in a European sense. I’m only on the “left” in the US because there is no significant “left” in the United States in the terms European leftists define. I’m left insofar as I’m “not a movement conservative.”

As to signing the pledge (or not), it has nothing to do with supporting the insurgency. I agree that the insurgency is certainly nothing anyone reasonable should stand up for or support. This is separate from the logic of the pledge. Is its against terrorism or Wahabbi Bolshevism? I know its kind of hard to get straight, but we’re not fighting terrorism – which is a tactic. Even the Bush administration has started calling the war as being “against violent extremism.” For which I commend them.

Ben P

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nick s 07.27.05 at 2:51 pm

To Nick Cohen:

As a reader of your column, I swallowed your line in 2002 that there was, indeed, an Iraqi government in exile, and its name was the Iraqi National Congress, proprietor Mr. A. Chalabi.

Cheers for that, mate. The feeling is a bit like being sold some dodgy double glazing, and before the panes fall out of the wall, recommending the same company to all your friends.

Now, could you please provide a succinct explanation of why your preferred vehicle of liberty and secular democracy in Iraq can still be considered worthy of any support from the left, after bullshitting the White House and Pentagon neocons into an invasion? I’m pretty sure that you’ve never properly addressed that one.

The conclusion the Iraqi opposition has reluctantly reached is that there is no way other than war to remove a tyrant whose five secret police forces make a palace coup or popular uprising impossible. As the only military force on offer is provided by America, they will accept an American invasion.

At least there was a degree of honesty in mendacity, ‘heroes in error’ as Chalabi so amusingly put it. One wonders whether it would be half as amusing were someone to call the police tips line and say that they’d heard from a friend of a friend that someone was making bombs in your kitchen, though the principle might be the same.

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Kevin Donoghue 07.27.05 at 3:22 pm

Marko Attila Hoare,

Kevin Donoghue is wrong; ‘Islamofascist’ is a perfectly acceptable term.

I’m sure they use it all the time on Little Green Footballs. I did a quick check to see who has been using the term in recent days. Using Google News and sorting by date, the most recent users are: RedState.org, the Washington Times, RenewAmerica.us, The Omega Letter, and FrontPage mag (DissidentVoice used it in a piss-take).

So “Islamofascist” is acceptable in certain circles, which does not come as a surprise. Indeed that was my point: people who want to flaunt their hostility to Muslims will find “Islamofascist” a very useful term for that purpose. The other points you made are pure straw. I am not deluding myself about Al Qaeda and I have not sought to restrict anyone’s right to free speech.

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Daniel 07.27.05 at 4:56 pm

I do think that in the interests of fairness to Nick Cohen, it is in order to clarify that although he was one of Chalabi’s boosters in the Western media and the evidence is right there on the Guardian and Observer websites, he was almost certainly not paid by Chalabi to do so. If the phrase “carry water for” has this implication then (wor) Nick was wrong to use it. Personally I think it doesn’t and the post was substantially correct.

I think the answer to your question for my own part is that my own position on Iraq is pretty much identical with that of the joint statement of US Labour Against the War and the Iraqi trade unionists who made it with them (perhaps speaking on behalf of IFTU, perhaps not, it’s not very clear). I don’t think they “acknowledge” my support because they haven’t heard of me but if they had I think they would as I agree with them on all important issues where they have expressed a position.

Quite why one has to have mates in Iraq to be on “the Left” these days is not very clear to me though and I would have to advise you that your very visible anger is interfering with your normally excellent ability to communicate clearly.

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John Quiggin 07.27.05 at 5:12 pm

Nick Cohen,

As regards Iraq, I agree with the majority of Iraqis (as recorded in opinion polls and as stated in the platform of the winning parties at the election) who want immediate publication of a timetable for rapid US withdrawal.

132

harry b 07.27.05 at 5:20 pm

Cowardice is a very strong epithet to use against people about whom you know…nothing. Several of our readers who object to the war are veterans of previous wars, including Iraq 1. Who knows what dangers these commentators have braved in service of causes that they — and perhaps even Nick Cohen — regard as worthwhile? Disagreements about major political matters, including wars, rarely fall along lines such that one side has all the virtue. As for academics — like journalists we stand or fall by the cogency of our arguments.

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nick s 07.27.05 at 5:27 pm

Let me make it clear: I do not believe that Nick Cohen was on Chalabi’s payroll, and any suggestion thereof can be attributed to the defensive sarcasm of someone who doesn’t particularly enjoy being conned.

In the meantime, still no signers for my ‘United for Cute Kittens and Impeaching Bush’ petition? Why do you hate kittens?

134

Chris Williams 07.27.05 at 6:55 pm

Nick C, here are some comrades:
http://www.wpiraq.net/english/

To think that they managed to be against the war, against Saddam, against terrorism, against Islamism, and against the occupation! Amazing – it’s almost as if the working class and the employing class have nothing in common, isn’t it?

It’s pretty easy to see why the Decent Left are banging on about 1940 all the time. When you have that Max Schactman moment, you need to refer back to that one time when the Popular Front strategy may well have been the correct way to go.

Actually, you’re not joining the LDV at all: you’re voting for the war credits in 1914. In hell we stay, thanks once more to the Second International. What is it with those people, who think that ‘second time as farce’ was some kind of instruction?

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roger 07.27.05 at 11:43 pm

The payroll argument is a red herring. The argument about Chalabi and Allawi is pretty simple. Those who really support secular and socialist, or secular and conservative, or secular and liberal movements in the Middle East will discredit all secular movements if they support an invasion with the purpose of putting a secular criminal on the throne. That’s the end all and be all. If a group of people with my Keynesian liberal believes invaded the U.S. and attempted to install some Keynesian liberal variant of Ken Lay or Timothy McVeign in the Oval office, I would not greet them as brother’s in arms. In fact, there is no better way to delegitimate the role of secular politics, which is how the elections happen to have been won by various shades of the Khomanei party.

Of course, I am writing this as if it is possible to respond logically to Mr. Cohen, but his comments, so far, have been puzzlingly obscure and bizarre. It is as if this is some playground pissing match. Nah, this is about Iraq, not about whether you have made phone calls to buddies in Baghdad. I do hope you have, and they gave you an earful. Maybe, before you supported Chalabi, you should have dialed a few of your buddies in Jordan.

136

Marko Attila Hoare 07.28.05 at 7:58 am

Come on, Kevin Donoghue; are you really trying to suggest that because the Washington Times uses the term ‘Islamofascist’, then it becomes unacceptable ?

Chauvinists may attack Muslims using words like ‘Islamofascist’, ‘fundamentalist’, ‘terrorist’, etc., but that doesn’t mean the words themselves are illegitimate…

137

dsquared 07.28.05 at 9:02 am

Marko: this is a stylebook issue. I can’t find a single use of the word “Islamofascist” on Google News that isn’t from a source at least as rightwing as the Washington Times (unless you count Julie Burchill). When a word is heavily used by wingnuts and hardly at all used by people who are not wingnuts, then those stalwart souls beloved of HW Fowler, “careful writers” will avoid it.

By analogy, the State of Israel is a state and it is by definition Zionist. But I would not use the phrase “the Zionist state” to describe the state of Israel in anything I wrote, because I happen to know that 99% of the people who do use that phrase are nutters.

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Marko Attila Hoare 07.28.05 at 9:35 am

I’m not quite sure who the worst ‘wingnuts’ are right now; probably those who think that the sectarian murderers in Iraq are some sort of ‘resistance’; or those who think that the London bombings were an understandable response to Blair invading Iraq without a UN resolution, or whatever…

It might just be that some right-wingers have a healthier appreciation of the dangers of Islamofascism (or whatever you wish to call it) than some members of the idiot anti-American left…

And is the Washington Times made up of ‘wingnuts’ ? I think it’s a perfectly decent paper – better than the Morning Star or Socialist Worker, at any rate…

139

Kevin Donoghue 07.28.05 at 10:37 am

Marko Attila Hoare,

Fond of building straw men, aren’t you? Chop them up to your heart’s content, the exercise will do you good. But people who are sufficiently interested to have read this far down in the thread know the views usually associated with the use of words like Islamofascism. They will also know better than to use it in any effort to promote unity against terrorism.

Maybe in time the word will become mainstream. Having googled for a while, I found one use of “Islamofascism” by a Muslim, Farish A. Noor (on muslimwakeup.com). So it is acceptable to some Muslims. Even in that article however the term is used for its shock value, which is presumably what Christopher Hitchens was aiming for when he coined it in the first place. The shock-value has pretty well worn off and now all that’s left is the power to irritate, as kids do when they chuck an obscenity into every sentence. Unless one is looking for that effect it is (at best) a useless term.

If you are wondering how people can get by without “Islamofascism” take a look at the writing of Marc Lynch, a political scientist and Middle East specialist who has numerous posts about Islamism on his blog and doesn’t use “Islamofascism” in any of them.

http://abuaardvark.typepad.com/abuaardvark/islamism/index.html

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Marko Attila Hoare 07.28.05 at 2:47 pm

So Kevin, you’re saying one should avoid using the term ‘Islamofascism’ because some people might associate it with the views of some other people that they don’t like ? And furthermore, that the term in question is to be rejected on the basis of a search on Google News ?

Sorry, but I use words to mean what I want them to mean, irrespective of their hypothetical connotations for unknown third parties. And I don’t let internet search engines dictate my vocabulary…

141

Henry 07.28.05 at 2:56 pm

bq. Sorry, but I use words to mean what I want them to mean

Marko, meet “Humpty-Dumpty”:http://www.sabian.org/Alice/lgchap06.htm . Humpty-Dumpty, meet Marko.

142

Kevin Donoghue 07.28.05 at 3:23 pm

There’s glory for you!

143

Marko Attila Hoare 07.28.05 at 3:59 pm

I borrowed Lewis Carroll’s phrase deliberately, because it’s a great phrase. Carroll (through the mouth of Humpty Dumpty) was making a profound and subtle point about the use of words and language – a point that is obviously lost on Henry and Kevin.

I agree with Carroll – I suggest you both re-read his whole chapter and work out what he was trying to say…

144

Henry 07.28.05 at 4:31 pm

I fear that the reference hurts you rather than helps you; the concept of Islamofascism seems to have something of the badger, something of the lizard and something of the corkscrew about it.

145

Ben P 07.28.05 at 6:19 pm

My problem with “Islamofascist” is that is inaccurate term and the people who have adopted it have done so just to a) make themselves feel better about themselves, and b) for propaganda purposes.

Fascism does not describe the Taliban. Indeed, I would argue fascism has nothing to do with religion. Whatever you may think, AQ regards its philosophy as utopian and millenial, which to me makes it much more like Marxist or various forms of religious thought. It makes claims that are universal, and is a set of beliefs potentially accessible to all humanity. Nazism or Italian or Spanish fascism wan’t. All the various fascisms of the 20th century were predicated on chauvinism surrounding the nation state. AQ’s view of Islam (and perhaps the ultimate result of any religion) makes a claim that transcends national borders.

Whether the Taliban (or AQ, or various revolutionary Marxisms) are totalitarian then I would agree with you. Most value systems that claim universal applicability are totalatarian if taken to their logical extreme.

146

the march hare 07.28.05 at 6:56 pm

Shorter Marko: I don’t have time to defend my bizarre meta-linguistic claims: I’m late for a very important date.

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Marko Attila Hoare 07.29.05 at 3:49 am

Ben, the term ‘fascism’ is itself highly controversial and open to wildly different interpretations among students of the subject. Some would argue that Nazism is not fascism, precisely because there is a racial dimension to its ideology that transcends the nation-state.

I don’t think the border between the religious and the national is as clear-cut as you suggest; Nazism clearly borrowed from traditional Christian anti-Semitism.

As for Al-Qaeda, its ideology may be theoretically universalist, but its goal of reestablishing an Islamic caliphate stretching from Indonesia to Spain seems to me to resemble the ‘great nation’ projects of the fascists. And its mobilisation of chauvinistic violence and glorification of killing outsiders (Jews and Christians) seem to me to resemble the fascist or Nazi attitude toward national or racial minorities. Add to that the fact that Al-Qaeda is a modern revolutionary organisation, as was the Nazi party, and I think ‘Islamofascism’ is a pretty apt term.

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Kevin Donoghue 07.29.05 at 5:15 am

Granted there is no clear-cut border between religion and nationalism. It is also true that Mussolini’s fascists and the Nazis borrowed religious ideas and imagery when it suited them. But any anti-fascist who, on that account, decided to start calling them Jesus-fascists or Christi-fascists would have been making a mistake. On the other hand, any reckless, atheistic bigot who simply wanted to get into a fight with Christians, without any regard for their actual politics or for the consequences of his blather, would have been going just the right way about it.

Having said all that maybe the analogy doesn’t work, since Islam differs from Christianity. So it is conceivable that the term Islamo-fascist will prove useful. The acid test is whether progressive Muslims adopt it in order to rally opposition to reactionaries and especially terrorists. They are best placed to judge the likely effect of the word. So far, they don’t seem to have much use for it.

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Marko Attila Hoare 07.29.05 at 6:23 am

For the German and Italian fascists, the nation came first, so ‘Christo-fascist’ wouldn’t be an appropriate term for them (though it might be appropriate for some of the Christian fundamentalists in the US South). But for Al-Qaeda, Islam ‘is’ the nation.

Islam is, it should be said, much less readily compatible with national divisions than is Christianity – as Adrian Hastings pointed out in ‘The Construction of Nationhood’. So fascism is going to take a somewhat different form in the Islamic world.

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Kevin Donoghue 07.29.05 at 9:46 am

How different from European fascists do Muslim cultists have to be before it becomes inappropriate to call them fascists? When every foe of secular democracy is a fascist the word is practically emptied of meaning. For those of us who are not disciples of Humpty Dumpty fascism has certain characteristics.

Power worship is essential to fascism. To be defeated is in itself a refutation. Pomp, ceremonial and outward display are important. For cults, this is not so. A martyr gets to Paradise, win or lose. Fascist movements have a hierarchy with a leader whose word is law. For Muslim cultists, there is no God but God and Osama isn’t even his prophet. One could extend the list of differences; for example, it is characteristic of fascism to reject both socialist and capitalist modes of production – an issue which does not even arise for cults, since they don’t have a hope of controlling a developed economy. But there is really no need to go on with this; as I write, British police are rounding up suspects for the London bombings. To me it looks like an arrest operation, not a skirmish in a war on a menacing fascist power.

Enough already. CT threads close for comments shortly after they drop off the front page and anyway I suspect we have this one all to ourselves by now. In closing let me say that I found this article about some radical Arab Muslims very interesting. I wondered why the author saw no need to drag “Islamofascism” into it.;)

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Marko Attila Hoare 07.29.05 at 11:39 am

Funny how you cannot close without making yet another snide remark, Kevin, but you seem to be applying the Humpty Dumpty principle yourself: you are defining fascism to mean what YOU want it to mean, not what it necessarily does mean. And that is the whole point…

152

Brendan 07.29.05 at 5:26 pm

Apologies for missing out on this fascinating discussion, but I had assumed it was dead. Imagine my surprise to find out it was still going on. And surprise turned to astonishment to discover that Captain Cohen of the Keyboard Kommandos had graced our presence not just once but three times. And astonishment was hardly the word when I discovered that one of the words of abuse he used was ‘coward’.

Well!

I need hardly point out (well it hasn’t occurred to him so obviously I do) that Captain Cohen has never, in 4 years of polemic, indicated that in any way he plans to help out in the Global War on Terror (RIP). No how, no way. He has not offered to join the army, air force or navy. He has not volunteered his services to the government. He has (to the best of my knowledge) not made any efforts to contact the relevant NGOs and help them out in any way whatsoever. Neither has he visited Iraq, learned Arab, visited, for that matter, any country in the region. On the contrary. The sum total of his help to the long suffering Iraqi people would seem to be, if you’ll pardon the expression, sweet FA.

So coward is not the word i would have chosen to criticise those who disagree with him. Nor is ‘brave’ the first word I would have used to describe him.

One last point. Cohen is too…shall I say disingenous to be polite?….but it must be pointed out again and again and again, that the views of those he describes as ‘fools’ and ‘cowards’ ARE EXACTLY CONGRUENT WITH HIS OWN VIEWS ONLY THREE YEARS AGO. Now I don’t know how much the average reader’s political views have changed in the last three years, but I suspect the answer is ‘not a lot’. After all, Cohen is not 18, and he hasn’t changed that much in 3 years: and neither (for all his protestations) has the external world.

But here he is in July 2002: ‘But what will the Americans and their British sidekicks be fighting to replace the tyrant with?
It’s impossible to say with certainty, but most reports from Washington suggest that Bush wants another tyrant and Blair will concur.’

The headline is “The last thing the US wants is democracy in Iraq”. It ends: ‘If anything, the Brits are more fanatical supporters of infinite injustice in the Gulf than the Yanks.’

Or here he is again: ‘The Prime Minister gives every appearance of being willing to risk the lives of British troops in a war he believed should not be fought. His Foreign Secretary and Defence Secretary didn’t believe it was justified either. His generals have warned against it as noisily as serving officers can. His diplomats and spies have found no excuse for it. But if and when America tells Britain to send its soldiers into Iraq, Tony Blair will comply with alacrity. What is there left to say about such a man? ‘

Quite. And what is there to say about a man who says this, and then, only three years later, announces that anyone who holds these views is a coward and a fool?

By Captain Cohen’s own logic, he was either a fool and a coward then, or a fool and a coward now?

So which is it?

153

Ben P 07.29.05 at 7:00 pm

Final comment.

Anybody can become a fully “equal” member in AQ. Anybody can become a Muslim. Or a Wahabbi. Presumably even conservative, but not radical Islamists think you go to hell if we don’t convert (as is the case with evangelical Christians). This is the same with Communism. Anyone can “sign up.” Lots of AQ’s membership has origins outside the traditionally defined Islamic world. This was not the case with Germany or Italy or Spain or Greece in the 20th century under varying “brands” of fascism. For Hitler, if you were Jewish or Black or even a Slav, you could never claim to be a part of the Reich.

Ben P

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Backword Dave 07.29.05 at 8:24 pm

Brendan!

I must say I’m disgusted! Disgusted! and shocked! shocked! I tell you. You’re holding Nick Cohen to some kind of standard of consistency. You might expect academics at a degenerate institution like Oxford to be consistent, but Mr Cohen is, let me remind you, a journalist! If he says you’re a jerk, you’re a jerk. He doesn’t have to give explanations or justifications or reasons. Good god man, what do you expect … If he tosses insults around just after noon, you’re not appreciating how much not doing research and not writing takes out of a tired and emotional journalist. You try only writing 800 words a week where most of those are cliches and the rest are factually incorrect and see what it does to your dignity. Poor Mr Cohen is suffering as he neither toils nor spins nor signs up for anything remotely useful in the great campaigns he urges on others. Can you not feel how awful it is to be so overpaid, so puffed up, so talentless and yet full of bile? Poor Nick Cohen. Just imagine a balloon filled with snot. Now imagine an elephant steps on it ….

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Brendan 07.30.05 at 5:24 am

Backward Dave

You are so right: I take it all back and now hold a position diametrically opposed to the position I stated above, although I reserve the right to change my position 180 degrees again by teatime and then savagely attack anyone who held my first position as being a ‘fool’ and ‘coward’.

And I might do the same (except in reverse) tomorrow.

Can a column in the Observer be far behind?

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Kevin Donoghue 07.31.05 at 8:07 am

Correction: it seems that “islamofascism” was not coined by Christpher Hitchens as I thought but by Khalid Duran:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,3604,1405605,00.html

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