Unite on this and swivel

by Daniel on August 2, 2005

It appears that John was entirely right to be suspicious of the “Unite Against Terror” campaign. Just a few weeks after collecting signatures, signatories might be interested to know that your name is apparently to be used for a campaign against the BBC for apparently not “framing” the debate in a suitably congenial way.

The question of whether the BBC was right or wrong on this issue is irrelevant here. I didn’t watch the BBC tonight so I can’t say whether they were or they weren’t. The facts are though, that this was ostensibly the “Unite Against Terror” petition, not “Unite Against People Who We Consider To Be Insufficiently Cooperative In The War On Terror”. Anyone who has no particular views about BBC bias, but who out of goodwill and solidarity signed up to a nonspecific statement of opposition to terrorism in the belief that the people behind UAT[1] had too many scruples to start using them for an entirely unrelated political agenda, has the right to be bloody angry at this little shenanigan. I for one am glad I didn’t. My own reasons for not signing UAT were rather more visceral than John’s and are summarised below the fold, in literary form

Update: Alan Johnson has now removed the “News and Forums” section from the UAT website. I have to say that in general he has behaved really rather well about the whole thing.


Almost overnight the Glorious Loyalty Oath Crusade was in full flower, and Captain Black was enraptured to discover himself spearheading it. He had really hit on something. All the enlisted men and officers on combat duty had to sign a loyalty oath to get their map cases from the intelligence tent, a second loyalty oath to receive their flak suits and parachutes from the parachute tent, a third loyalty oath for Lieutenant Balkington, the motor vehicle officer, to be allowed to ride from the squadron to the airfield in one of the trucks. Every time they turned around there was another loyalty oath to be signed.They signed a loyalty oath to get their pay from the finance officer, to obtain their PX supplies, to have their hair cut by the Italian barbers.

To Captain Black, every officer who supported his Glorious Loyalty Oath Crusade was a competitor, and he planned and plotted twnety-four hours a day to keep one step ahead. He would stand second to none in his devotion to country. When other officers had followed his urging and introduced loyalty oaths of their own, he went them one better by making every son of a bitch who came to his intelligence tent sign two loyalty oaths, then three, then four; then he introduced the pledge of allegiance, and after that “The Star-Spangled Banner,” one chorus, two choruses, three choruses, four choruses. Each time Captain Black forged ahead of his competitors, he swung upon them scornfully for their failure to follow his example. Each time they followed his example, he retreated with concern and racked his brain for some new strategem that would enable him to turn upon them scornfully again.

Without realizing how it had come about, the combat men in the squandron discovered themselves dominated by the administrators appointed to serve them. They were bullied, insulted, harassed and shoved about all day long by one after the other. When they voiced objection, Captain Black replied that people who were loyal would not mind signing all the loyalty oaths they had to. To anyone who questioned the effectiveness of the loyalty oaths, he replied that people who really did owe allegiance to their country would be proud to pledge it as often as he forced them to. And to anyone who questioned the morality, he replied that “The Star-Spangled Banner” was the greatest piece of music ever composed. The more loyalty oaths a person signed, the more loyal he was; to Captain Black it was as simple as that, and he had Corporal Kolodny sign hundreds with his name each day so that he could always prove he was more loyal than anyone else.

from “Catch-22” by Joseph Heller.

[1]The post ends with the words “Alan Johnson” but the signature is “Unite Against Terror”; at the very least, a clear distinction ought to be made between the petition itself and its founders’ personal political hobbyhorses.

{ 112 comments }

1

Dave 08.02.05 at 6:58 pm

To be honest the campaign to turn the BBC into Fox News is just par for the course.

More interesting – and revealing – is their promotion of Jean Bethke Elshtain’s “Just War Against Terror” in this post.

Following the link to Amazon I came across a splurge on the book by the American Library Association which includes the following pieces of commentary…

“On the bedrock of Christian just-war doctrine, social and political ethicist Elshtain builds the most morally profound case to date for war on terrorism and against criminal regimes…”

and my personal favorite

“Her bottom line is that Christianity enjoins those who can end others’ suffering to do so; on the international scale, that injunction warrants militarily ending the indiscriminate outward aggression that is terrorism and the organized torture and murder of their citizens by criminal regimes. The U.S. is the nation most capable of militarily quashing evil, she says, and must do so, aided or alone.”

Yeah, right – so the solution to the problem of Islamic ‘Jihadis’ is to cultivate our own Christian Jihadis in response.

No doubt HBO and Fox already have bids in for the TV rights to the final showdown on the plains of Meggido – will the last one off the smoking cinder please remember to turn off the lights.

2

schwa 08.02.05 at 7:51 pm

Yet another demonstration that it’s usually the people who are ranting about how we need to unite against something that need uniting against.

Personally I never understood why anybody thought anybody would care if a bunch of nobodies and Christopher Hitchens[1] were “uniting” on a website somewhere, anyway.

fn1. Who we only wish was a nobody, sadly.

3

Steve Burton 08.02.05 at 8:54 pm

In what sense are the names of signatories “to be used for a campaign against the BBC?”

You link to a couple of people complaining about bias in BBC reporting. But there’s next to nothing about a “campaign,” and nothing at all about using “the names of signatories.”

The closest we get is this: “don’t we need to take the BBC on, to reclaim the airwaves? After all, the BBC is a public corporation, funded by our license fee. Maybe, to begin with, readers of this site could log episodes when BBC coverage of terrorism is of this cringing, exculpatory, apologia-mongering kind? Or maybe readers have better ideas?”

Are those who signed the UAT *petition* automatically committed to everything anyone writes on the UAT *website*?

4

almostinfamous 08.02.05 at 9:39 pm

No doubt HBO and Fox already have bids in for the TV rights to the final showdown on the plains of Meggido

i dont intend to disturb you i saw an ad for the bible network on one of the post-midnight ads for a direct-to-video title named Meggido on something called The Bible Network… just letting you know that the fundies are way ahead of you on this one

5

almostinfamous 08.02.05 at 9:42 pm

i realize that i mentioned TBN (which is what they call themselves) twice. this should tell you how freaked out i am.

6

siaw 08.02.05 at 10:38 pm

Even by your abysmally low standards (vietnam, Mugabe, the Lancet report, etc., etc.) this is total nonsense. One article by one person on a website does *not* a campaign make. You could just as easily have picked out the article about opposing “race hate attacks”, or the one about “Galloway of Arabia”, but that wouldn’t have suited your purposes, would it? Pity you weren’t around in the 30s – the propaganda department of the Comintern could have used your services.

7

Bostoniangirl 08.02.05 at 11:05 pm

I caught an example of the foxification of the BBC this morning/ last night while I was streaming the Today Programme. Now mind you, this is Radio 4, not BBC 2.

They interviewed David Frum to ask him about Bolton’s recess appointment, and–although the presenter did identify him as a former speechwriter for GWB–he was described as a foreign policy expert. I almost spit up.

8

fergal 08.02.05 at 11:08 pm

OK, I give up, where’s the “campaign”? I guess Dan’s “visceral” reaction is like the London police’s shoot-to-kill policy; no evidence needed.

9

roger 08.03.05 at 12:22 am

Actually, if the U.A.T. thingy really wants to allow freedom of expression, why don’t they put up one of those disclaimers — the views and opinions expressed here don’t necessarily represent the views of the U.A.T. That way, those signers that are strong supporters of George Galloway but are united against terrorism can write posts that won’t embarrass the U.A.T. people…
because surely, surely they have a big tent policy enfolding supporters of George Galloway. I’d hate to think it was a petty, pro-war, pro-Bush, pro-Blair front that was less against terrorists than out to make hack neo-con points that are too tired, at this point, even to get excited about. That would be so disillusioning.

10

Daniel 08.03.05 at 12:30 am

One article by one person on a website does not a campaign make

It does if it’s an article asking people to start a campaign. This is hardly rocket science.

And when that person (Alan Johnson) is in posession of several other websites, it makes sense to ask why he decided to kick off his campaign on this particular website (the answer is obviously that it is the most popular of his websites, due to the promotional gimmick of having told everybody it was a neutral anti-terror website).

Come on people. Did it say at any point on the UAT website or in the email asking for signatures “your signature will appear on a website which we also plan to use for specific campaigns in UK politics”? Did it chuff. Can I get some outrage?

11

andrew 08.03.05 at 12:43 am

I’m starting a “Unite against Serial Axe Murder of Children” petition.

My humble hope is that by obtaining millions of signatures, the serial axe-murderers of children will be so stunned by the sight of mass disapproval of their activities that they will immediately cease and desist.
Also, I hope to prove that the BBC is objectively pro-murder on the grounds that it fails to condemn serial killers explicitly every 90 seconds.

12

John Quiggin 08.03.05 at 1:26 am

” You could just as easily have picked out the article about opposing “race hate attacks”, or the one about “Galloway of Arabia”, but that wouldn’t have suited your purposes, would it? “

The post on race hate attacks is consistent with the petition, but it’s the only post on the site that is. The attack on Galloway is of a piece with the attack on the BBC, and the positive links to various supporters of the Iraq war like Townhall and National Review.

The only thing that appears entirely absent is any direct criticism of terrorism and terrorists.

13

dsquared 08.03.05 at 2:01 am

By the way, I really have to pick on this example of what counts as argument on the internet these days:

“You could just as easily have picked out the article about opposing “race hate attacks”, or the one about “Galloway of Arabia”, but that wouldn’t have suited your purposes, would it?”

is an all too common whine these days; the implication is that it is in some way dishonest or underhand of me to make a strong argument rather than a weak one, and if I would just have the decency to stick to the strawman party line I could be refuted in seconds. Pathetic. And

“Pity you weren’t around in the 30s – the propaganda department of the Comintern could have used your services.”

is the most abject projection I’ve seen for a while; you’re trying to claim that a bait & switch game on a petition and a campaign-that-isn’t-a-campaign is a legitimate political tactic, but I’m the propagandist?

14

SP 08.03.05 at 3:19 am

It must be a quiet blog day at CT for such a non-story to turn up.

The section of the web site to which you refer is called “News and Discussion”. It was established following requests from signatories. People have signed the main statement and that is all, nothing else. They are free to comment in this section and lets hope they do, the range of opinion and persuasion from signatories has been wide and diverse.

As is made clear on the main page of the “Why we signed” section individual reasons are just that. Neither do they, as has been suggested here before, contaminate others by association. We added this feature precisely to avoid the accusation you make today – that the organisers are hijacking peoples views. Here is the opportunity to make plain political, religious and moral motivations for support and to differentiate such reasons from others and the organisers – as many do.

Your final point is ludicrous. It is clearly signed by one individual but is unsurprisingly posted by UAT as all pieces on that page are likewise. It is the personal opinion of the author and it is deliberately disingenuous to interpret this as anything else.

Your own motivations here, as a non-signatory, are less clear.

Your allegations are simply groundless. The piece by Alan to which you refer is expressly for “discussion” no more, no less. All can address the substantive issue and all signatories have the opportunity to place their reasons for signing on the site.

Disagree with us by all means D2 but keep it to the real issues.

15

Ray 08.03.05 at 3:41 am

The question is, why does a supposedly simple, unifying petition against terror have an attached news and opinion page at all? Anything appearing on the same site is bound to colour the petition. (And if only a select few of the signatories can post news and discussion articles, they will get to tilt the interpretation of the petition their way)

The honest thing to do is to keep the two separate – if the petition is to say exactly and only what the petition says, put it on its own site. If you want a site for news and opinion, decentleft.com is still available.

16

SP 08.03.05 at 3:49 am

Ray

You ask:

“The question is, why does a supposedly simple, unifying petition against terror have an attached news and opinion page at all?”

As I said above because signatories asked for it.

17

SP 08.03.05 at 3:51 am

Ray

You say:

“The question is, why does a supposedly simple, unifying petition against terror have an attached news and opinion page at all”

As I say above largely because signatories asked for it.

18

Ray 08.03.05 at 3:56 am

Do you not agree that the selection of news and opinion is going to influence how people read the petition? Who gets to post news and opinion articles? Why not set up a different site?

19

Chris Bertram 08.03.05 at 3:56 am

sp, I’m afraid it is you who is being disingenuous. Those who started UAT clearly started a collective project which the individual signatories were invited to associate themselves with. Now they find that statements are being issued on behalf of that collective project attacking the BBC and promoting the works of FrontPageMag/TCS/National Review nutjobs like Stephen Schwartz. If I had signed I’d certainly feel used.

As for “signatories asked for it”, I’m guessing that this means some rather than all and that you didn’t actually take a vote.

20

Backword Dave 08.03.05 at 4:14 am

“As I say above largely because signatories asked for it.”

When? Where? How? To whom? Which ones?

21

SP 08.03.05 at 4:23 am

Chris

I do not know of another site which centrally involves the following.

Individuals expressly choose to sign a petition.
They are actively encouraged to submit their views for so doing gaining thereby some “ownership”.
Have their views and ideas (yes obviously some and not all) for development of the site acted upon (over a very short period of time).
Any “news or discussion” piece can be submitted for publication and comments boxes are open.

No “statements have been issued”. I trust our signatories to understand the difference between a “petition” and “discussion”.

The truth is we disagree over the substantive issue.

22

Brendan 08.03.05 at 4:32 am

SIAW (which, fact fans, actually stands for Socialism In an Age of Waiting, an extremely perplexing moniker give his support for George “Intelligent Design should be taught alongside evolution” Bush, not normally considered to be one of the foremost communist theorists of our time) accuses those who object to this wretched “loyalty oath” sorry statement against terrorism of being, essentially, a Stalinist. (‘the propaganda department of the Comintern could have used your services.’).

This is highly ironic as one of the best critiques of such activities was stated by Vaclav Havel. It’s such a long piece i can only provide extracts, but the rest of it can be found here.

‘The manager of a fruit and vegetable shop places in his window, among the onions and carrots, the slogan: ‘Workers of the world, unite!’ Why does he do it? …
I think it can safely be assumed that the overwhelming majority of shopkeepers do .. (not)… use them to express their real opinions….The slogan is really a sign, and as such it contains a subliminal but very definite message….
Let us take note: if the greengrocer had been instructed to display the slogan, ‘I am afraid and therefore unquestioningly obedient’, he would not be nearly as indifferent to its semantics, even though the statement would reflect the truth. … To overcome this complication, his expression of loyalty must take the form of a sign which, at least on its textual surface, indicates a level of disinterested conviction. It must allow the greengrocer to say, ‘What’s wrong with the workers of the world uniting?’ Thus the sign helps the greengrocer to conceal from himself the low foundations of his obedience, at the same time concealing the low foundations of power. It hides them behind the facade of something high.
And that something is ideology.
Ideology is a specious way of relating to the world. It offers human beings the illusion… of morality while making it easier for them to part with (it)…. it enables people to deceive their conscience and conceal their true position and their inglorious modus vivendi, both from the world and from themselves….’

I hope it’s not stretching a point too far to say that the whole purpose of such “statements” “petitions” etc is to have them phrased so that people who sign them can say “What’s wrong with being against terorrism?”.
If something more accurate was to replace the seemingly innocent text, something like: “I support the invasion of Iraq” or “I approve wholeheartedly in the foreign policy of George Bush and Tony Blair” or some even more inflammatory statement (and a quick glance at Little Green Footballs will quickly show that many such inflammatory statements are possible), then the “game would be up”, and discussions of power, economic interest, and military might would replace the high sounding rhetoric of morality.

Before anyone points out, incidentally, Havel’s current political position I am aware of the irony. But then plenty of people change their political opinions as they get fat rich and old. Just ask Christopher Hitchens.

23

Chris Bertram 08.03.05 at 4:38 am

The truth is we disagree over the substantive issue.

Meaning what exactly? Personally I’m all in favour of “uniting against terror”, supporting democracy and human rights etc etc. I’m not in favour of having my commitment to those goals hijacked as part of a political operation by the self-styled “decent left”

24

Alan Johnson 08.03.05 at 4:39 am

Can I clarify?

The organisers of UAT wrote to signers. Ideas? Signers said a bunch of stuff, including ‘how about a news, views, and comments’ section? (they also suggested a ‘resources’ section, and a series of exciting campaigning ideas, and, given the hours in the day, and the total lack of resources, staff, or money, and while doing the day jobs, we will do what we can. But to refuse to use the site as a forum and resource, to ignore the suggestion of many signers to open it up would not have been wise. The net opens up new possibilities. In the old days a petition was just that. But the web opens up the possibility of the signers beginning a conversation. It woould have been wrong not to take that opportunity.

Each of the posts I put up yesterday evening at UAT – (with my name attached to each, as Simon points out the admin system puts UAT on whatever I do)– each open to comment, each intended to spark debate – took off from a sentiment or idea contained in the statement. See:

Post on Hate Crimes

We stand firmly against those who apologize for the terrorists and who misrepresent terrorist atrocities as ‘resistance’.

Post on Galloway’s comments to Arab TV

We stand firmly against those who apologize for the terrorists and who misrepresent terrorist atrocities as ‘resistance’.

Post on the BBC’s coverage of the T Word

We stand firmly against those who apologize for the terrorists and who misrepresent terrorist atrocities as ‘resistance’. We offer our support and solidarity to all those within the Muslim faith who work in opposition to the terrorists and who seek to win young people away from extremism and nihilism, towards an engagement with democratic politics.

(By the way, go to BBC website where a new series on ‘what Muslim Youth really think’ kicks off with… a defence of Tariq Ramadan)

Post on Schwartz on Wahhabism

These attacks were the latest atrocities committed by terrorist groups inspired by a poisonous and perverted politics that disguises itself as a form of the religion of Islam. The terrorists seek a closed society of fear and conformity. They are opposed by Muslims the world over. Muslim community leaders have condemned the London attacks unequivocally. We reject the terrorists’ claim that they represent authentic Islam. They do not.

(…) we know that al Qaeda and groups that are inspired by Bin-Ladenism have carried out atrocities in France, Pakistan, Israel, Kenya, Tanzania, India, Iraq, Morocco, Yemen, Tunisia, Indonesia, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, North Osetia and many other countries.

The vast majority of the victims of al Qaeda’s violence have been Muslims. Those who have suffered at the hands of violent Islamic Fundamentalist movements in Iran and Algeria have also been ordinary Muslims.

This terrorist violence is not a response by ‘Muslims’ to the injustices perpetrated upon them by ‘the west’. Western democracies have been responsible for some of the ills of this world but not for the terrorist murders of these deluded Bin-Ladenists.

These attacks did not begin in 2003. The first attempt to blow up the World Trade Center took place ten years before, in 1993.

These terrorists do not hate what is worst in the societies they attack, but what is best. They despise individual liberty, critical thought, gender equality, religious tolerance, the rights of minorities and political pluralism. They do not criticize democracy because it sometimes fails to live up to its principles; they oppose those principles.

(Chris Bertram calls Stephen Schwartz a ‘nut job’. He is the author of ‘The Two Faces of Islam. Saudi Fundamentalism and its role in Terrorism (Anchor Books, 2002). Yes, Stephen Schwartz believes in God. Chris, its just a fact that as certain appalling ideas can be found in left-wing publications these days so some sense can be found on some issues in right-wing places. That’s just the way it is. (Like the Right Book Club in the 1930s?)Schwartz is (now) a conservative. I am not. But who else knows as much about Wahhabism and its relation to terror as Schwartz? So we have to read each link and decide whether to post or not. I dont think the idea of having a litle list of ‘beyond the pale’ publications really works anymore if it ever did.

Post on Etzioni’s communitarian view of Security and Liberty and Terror

We can find our inspiration in the behavior of ordinary people in the immediate aftermath of terrorist atrocities. Always the story is the same. A fractured world is mended by the kindness of strangers. We see, amidst the pain and anguish, in the rubble of the Twin Towers, the wreckage of a London bus, the bloodied glass across a Tel Aviv street, and among the Mothers searching for their children in Baghdad, that a common humanity asserts itself. Extraordinary acts of courage and selflessness become commonplace. The impulse of solidarity overwhelms fear and help comes from strangers.
With every healing gesture between strangers we feel a candle of hope has been lit in a dark world. On 7/7 a London tube worker rushed towards the blast, running down a smoke-filled tunnel, torch in hand, to lead out the survivors.
These ordinary yet heroic rescuers teach us the ethic of responsibility. It is time to assert our common humanity against all who would divide us. It is time to forge communities united against terror, respectful of the dignity of difference, and organised to extend active solidarity to each other across the globe.

Post on Jean Bethke Elshtain’s book

We are frequently urged to understand the terrorists, but too often the call to understand is code for justification and apology. There are always other, better, more effective, and more human ways of opposing injustice than by killing yourself and others in a symbolic act of hatred.

CT is a site of people who really value free no holds barred, lets see your reasons, debate and discussion. The UAT site has a statement, over 50 personal statements from a wide political spectrum, links to Christian, Jewish, Muslim and secular, democratic and socialist opinion about 7/7. And now we have begun posts and comments boxes. Why don’t you just join the debate?

Finally, I don’t read CT all the time. But sometimes I am struck by how odd a view some at CT have about how politics – any politics – gets done. You seem to think you have unmasked somebody when you show they have ‘an agenda’ or ‘other sites’ or ‘an axe to grind’, and so on (ie. that they are a political activist trying to lead opinion in a certain direction). This can chime with a widespread and quite worrying anti-politicalism that has many registers. From the Today Programme’s contempt for all politicians, to the Question Time audience in mob-mode, to the anarchoid tone of much anti-globalisation activism right through to the ‘they should leave it to the experts’ chestnut.

Politics is not a grand Oxford seminar. Yes, reasons have to stand against reasons (though, in fact, your comments are all about form and process – who are these nobodies?, it’s a trick! – not content). But politics is also about organisation, strategising, leadership,robust debate and, yes, action. It gets a bit messy. Fortuna and all that.(can I hear sone of you tittering already?)To hold as suspect those who have a political history, or who act as part of a political group, or who are trying, urgently, to lead opinion in a certain direction just because they do and are…isn’t that a form of illiberalism?

Currently the statement has been translated into eleven languages and has been signed by about 2,500 people from 40 countries. That’s not bad start for an entirely voluntary effort. Amongst the signers (whom I urge CT readers to join) are:

Todd Gitlin
Filippo Modica, Italia, Partito d’Azione Liberalsocialista
Mike Gapes MP (British Parliament, ILFORD SOUTH)
Ann Clwyd MP (British Parliament)
Andrew Dismore MP (British Parliament)
Ceri Jones AM (National Assembly for Wales)
Leighton Andrews AM (National Assembly for Wales)
John Lloyd, UK
Paul Berman
Frank Kane (The Observer, UK)
John Palmer
Nabil, Nabil’s Blog
David Hirsh, Goldsmiths College, Engage (www.liberoblog.com)
Peter Tatchell
Kanan Makiya (Iraq, Iraq Memory Foundation)
Prof. Anne Showstack Sassoon (Birkbeck, University of London)
Sami Zubaida
Ammar Al Shahbander (UK, the Institute for War and Peace Reporting)
Paul Anderson
Michael Allen
Marko Attila Hoare (University of Cambridge)
Prof. Jeffrey Herf, (University of Maryland, College Park)
Derek Catsam
Francis Wheen
Carl Gershman, (National Endowment for Democracy, USA)
Ami Isseroff (Israel MidEastWeb for Coexistence)
Robert Fine
Cynthia Fuchs Epstein
walladasarraf (Iraq – Iraq Memory Foundation)
Anthony Julius
Ali A. Fadhil
Jean Bethke Elshtain (Professor of Social and Political Ethics, University of Chicago)
Cllr Neil Nerva – Brent Council – London UK
John Medhurst (PCS Union NEC – personal capacity)
Maqsood Ahmad
Jon Mendelsohn
Alex Gordon (UK, National Union of Rail, Maritime & Transport Workers, RMT – personal capacity)
Omar (Iraq the Model)
Christopher Hitchens
Urmee Khan
Ferid (http://iraqi4ever.blogspot.com)
Syed W Ahmed (Islamic Center of Chicago)
Stephen Pollard (Author)
Cllr Clive Furness (Newham Council UK)
Brian Brivati (Professor of Modern History, Kingston University, London, personal capacity)
John Strawson
Nick Cohen (The Observer)
Ahmed (http://iraqiexpat.blogspot.com)
Micheline Ishay (Director, International Human Rights Program, University of Denver, personal capacity)

25

Ray 08.03.05 at 4:39 am

_Any_ news or discussion piece can be submitted for publication? If someone submits a piece criticising the US and UK for invading Iraq, thereby providing massive impetus to terrorism worldwide, will that be published (and signed UAT)? A news piece on civilian casualties in Iraq will be published if submitted?

Who decides which pieces are relevant and apropriate? Was this person voted in by the signatories? Can the signatories overrule the editor, getting news and discussion pieces added or removed? What mechanism is in place to allow this?

26

Alan Johnson 08.03.05 at 4:43 am

Amendment

Sorry. I meant, of course, to say that the UAT post on Hate Crimes related to this part of the statement:

We stand firmly against the racists who seek to exploit the current tensions for their own agenda.

27

Chris Bertram 08.03.05 at 4:50 am

Alan, I stand by the “nut job” characterization and it has absolutely nothing to do with Schwartz’s belief in God (why did you raise that?)

As evidence I cite as Exhibit A his article “Is Cat Stevens a Terrorist?”:http://www.frontpagemag.org/Articles/ReadArticle.asp?ID=15219 from FrontPageMag.

28

Backword Dave 08.03.05 at 5:03 am

“… as Simon points out the admin system puts UAT on whatever I do … “

Since you’re using Movable Type (it’s credited in the RDF file, if nowhere else), changing this isn’t hard.

BTW, Alan, out of curiousity, you are the Labour MP aren’t you?

29

Alan Johnson 08.03.05 at 5:06 am

Chris, sorry I thought you were saying his support for Sufism and his interest in Kabballa and all that was at stake. Apologies.

In the article you cite Stephen Schwartz actually says this:

Yusuf Islam is already well known for his public endorsement of the death sentence issued by Ayatollah Khomeini against Salman Rushdie in February 1989. “Salman Rushdie, indeed any writer who abuses the prophet or indeed any prophet under Islamic law, the sentence for that is actually death,” he said at the time. In addition, he has been barred from entering Israel because of alleged financial aid given to terrorist groups.

Is the singer a terrorist himself? Probably not. Is he an active sympathizer of terrorist groups? Perhaps not as much as he was in the past.

But Yusuf Islam is most certainly a fundamentalist Muslim, whose views are radical enough to set him at odds with the great majority of the world’s Islamic adherents.

Is that nutty?

Maybe 7/7 tells us we cant accept anymore as legitimate people talking about death in that way. Maybe we have to take it on more urgently. Maybe there is a pretty clear relation between talking about death in that way and Jihadi terrorism? I think Schwartz book is valuable in helping us see those relations while retaining a profound respect for Islam and resolutely opposing all racism. That’s why I posted his interview.

30

Chris Bertram 08.03.05 at 5:15 am

BTW, Alan, Cat Stevens “won substantial libel damages”:http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/4268651.stm from British newspapers in the wake of his exclusion from the US after they falsely suggested he was a terrorist sympathiser.

31

soru 08.03.05 at 5:20 am

I hope it’s not stretching a point too far to say that the whole purpose of such “statements” “petitions” etc is to have them phrased so that people who sign them can say “What’s wrong with being against terorrism?”.

Well yes, that’s rather the point. Some people consider (non-state) terrorism to be not a problem in itself, just a regrettable but predictable outcome of certain other actions, something that only their high morals (or perhaps cowardice) would stop them doing if they were in that position.

Some other people consider terrorism a ‘root cause’ in itself, something that makes resolving injustice more, not less, difficult. People in this second camp include some who might be judged to have relevant information about it, including Mandela, Abbas and Adams.

In my opinion, the first camp is wrong, and the second right, but if my opinion were law, there wouldn’t be two camps.

Given they do exist, any position on terror that united those two camps would be meaningless, a wonk’s version of ‘were-not-afraid.com’. Terror is a political act, to oppose it cannot be apolitical.

Compare poverty – if you thought poverty is inevitable and predictable, and mostly the fault of those who suffer from it, would you sign up to the Make Poverty History campaign?

Rather than picking nits in the website of the other camp, you would do better to work through your own position, check it against the known facts, and, if you think it still stands up, express it openly for others to agree or disagree with.

soru

32

Alan Johnson 08.03.05 at 5:27 am

In reply to Ray

No, I was not voted in by anybody. I co-wrote the statement and am one of the organisers. I am not sure how we could take a vote of 2.500 signers about every post. It’s just not practical. I think that is the kind of thing I meant about politics being a bit more messy than a seminar. If signers, or anybody else, complains then we talk and think about what to do. For instance, I’ve copied to the other organisers Chris’s objection to linking to National Review. I have asked: Am I right that it’s the individual post that matters and we can’t have proscribed lists? Or is Chris right and we should remove the link? One organiser is going to check out NR (not to see if it’s conservative but if its views on, for instance, gay rights, really are such that we should remove the link. If that happens I will find another link to Stephen Schwartz talking about Wahhabism and its relation to Terrorism. We listen, think, talk, act. Not sure what else we could do. Pretty sure holding a vote of the 2,500 (getting each communication translated into 11 languages, mind) is not the right way to proceed.

No, only the organisers can post. Others can comment. Isn’t that how CT works?

If a signer wants to make the case that we need to take up the issue of the invasion of Iraq, which, for the record I opposed, in a certain way, then yes, a post would be sent to us, we’d discuss it, and then post it. But if a non-signer wants to attack the statement, no. But what’s wrong with that. Being able to draw boundaries and organise segments of opinion, keeping others out while you do, while in other places debating, is, again, part of normal politics. We might be the soft left but we are not that soft. And we do have a comments box.

If the statement becomes a campaign then yes we’d need an elected and accountable committee. But we are not there and may never get there. Again, it’s just messy. You keep things under review and do the best you can.

No, Im not the Labour MP. I used to edit New Politics and Historical Materialism. I am setting up a new ejournal called Democratiya. I am an ex-Trot. Ive shifted my politics, basically. An old story, littel different in my case I guess. I would call myself a reformist democratic socialist now. LP member. I think socialism and liberalism need articles of reconciliation. Bit of a communitarian as well, though, like anyone who is, I worry over the lines to draw (I thought Etzioni did it pretty well in his radio interview I posted at UAT).

33

Dave F 08.03.05 at 5:33 am

Daniel has yet to explain how my name is to be used in support of a campaign against the BBC. There is no suggestion of that on the UAT page he links to.

Cut the blustering and answer the question without moving the goalposts. Cor, I though CT was supposed to be a light of reason.

34

Ray 08.03.05 at 5:46 am

The problem with this method of organising – the committee that drew up the petition is choosing which articles to publish, essentially – is that it lessens the possibility that the petition can be read on its own. The news articles on the same site, chosen by the people who wrote the petition, linked to sections of the petition, can’t help but be read as an authoritative exegesis of the text of the petition. While the petition is vague enough to allow for some different interpretations, this exegesis is not. And this is happening _after_ some people have signed. Which causes Daniel’s problem – someone can sign the petition because they are against ‘terrorism’, and then a week later discover that the UAT thinks being against terrorism includes being against wishy-washy BBC coverage of terrorism. Its a bait-and-switch.

There are two ways of getting past this.
1. Democratise the process. Instead of a self-appointed UAC committee that gets to decide what news is appropriate, have elections for editors, and a recall process for editors and articles. Ensuring that the articles produced by UAT, which benefit from the association with the UAT petition, represent the views of the people who signed that petition. This is a lot of work.
2. Disconnect the petition and the news/comments site completely. Mail the people who wanted a news/comments site, or add a note at the end of the petition, saying that the petition stands on its own, but the people behind it have launched a separate site. Call it something else, and host it somewhere else. I don’t see any good reason why you couldn’t do this.

35

Brendan 08.03.05 at 5:47 am

Just so I’m not misunderstood, what I am objecting to is statements like: ‘These attacks did not begin in 2003. The first attempt to blow up the World Trade Center took place ten years before, in 1993.’ Which is expressly written so that every single statement in it is factually accurate. So any counter-argument can be dealt with by simply saying: ‘So…are you denying that there were terrorist attacks before 2003? Are you mad?

But I think you would have to be unbelievably naive to think that whoever wrote that statement was trying to make a point about chronology.

36

Marcus 08.03.05 at 6:13 am

“I’m not in favour of having my commitment to those goals hijacked as part of a political operation by the self-styled “decent left””

I’d be very surprised if Chris Bertram can produce evidence of any person or group actually calling themselves or itself “Decent Left”. Isn’t it the case that it’s the people who are against the politics often described as “Decent Left” who tend to use the term? That’s my observation anyway.

I dislike the term myself as it seems to imply “indecency” on the part of non-members which is an unhelpful starting point.

37

John Quiggin 08.03.05 at 6:18 am

“Finally, I don’t read CT all the time. But sometimes I am struck by how odd a view some at CT have about how politics – any politics – gets done. You seem to think you have unmasked somebody when you show they have ‘an agenda’ or ‘other sites’ or ‘an axe to grind’, and so on (ie. that they are a political activist trying to lead opinion in a certain direction). “

While that’s an apt description in this particular case, that’s only because the agenda, other sites, axes to grind and so on were undeclared, at least in the email I received. It is only when you get to the supporting statements and the news site that you realise that this is, as you say, an attempt to lead opinion in a certain direction rather than a restatement of the generally accepted opinion that terrorism is evil.

Apart from this instance, there hasn’t been a lot of unmasking here at CT, simply because Townhall, National Review and so on don’t normally bother with masks any more than we do.

38

Chris Bertram 08.03.05 at 6:19 am

Marcus, I suggest you feed the term “decent left” into google and see what comes up…

39

Anthony 08.03.05 at 6:25 am

When will we see Crooked Timberites spend as much time attacking terrorist idealogy as they do the self-styled decent left? (which I’m pleased to be a part of).

Is this some form of displacement activity?

40

dsquared 08.03.05 at 6:30 am

Marcus: The person who I’m criticising here is Alan Johnson, who certainly has self-described as “decent left”, in the article excerpted here for example.

41

Anthony 08.03.05 at 6:51 am

Good article that dsquared. You have a problem with it?

42

Marcus 08.03.05 at 6:59 am

“Marcus, I suggest you feed the term “decent left” into google and see what comes up…”

Stalinism.com ?

43

Backword Dave 08.03.05 at 7:09 am

Anthony, do you mean by “terrorist idealogy” the shared ideas of all terrorists (which may be reducible to “Blowing up people is good”); or a specific ideology? If so, which one?

If you mean a general “Islamist” ideology: one for suppression of women, the establishment of a Caliphate, closing universities and replacing them with Koranic study, the belief that the West is decadent, materialist, and atheist (and that these are bad things) — don’t the nature, structure, and membership of CT form a perfectly clear position against such an ideology?

44

SP 08.03.05 at 7:14 am

D2

The substantive article you link to uses the phrase “decent left” 3 times (2 of which are repeated in the initial summary). In over 5000 words these two are used 3 times each. They are as follows:

“The decent left will emerge as a political force by turning each negative refusal into a positive policy and campaign. For each refusal of ours does carry a positive charge: pro-human rights above all, pro-international solidarity with the victims of Genocide and Crimes against Humanity, pro-worker, pro-feminism, pro-gay rights, pro-democracy, pro-liberty, pro-social justice. A decent left politics in the post-cold war world will define itself positively as the pursuit of these values and not as a negative coalition of ‘antis’. On such values we can build a culture not just a political movement.”

“Rooted in that wisdom a decent left can grow”

There is no “self description” here. Whilst I now appreciate that you struggle with this concept, this was nonetheless a “discussion” piece. It is also tempting to ask what you can possibly disagree with in the above quotes but I anticipate a (not unreasonable) “they need reading in context” response.

We are primarily involved (voluntarily) in active campaigns, LFIQ, Engage and now UAT. These are always hindered by elements of the left often for the worst motivations. For myself I find the creeping (conscious or otherwise) anti-Semitism of the left its most “indecent” characteristic (for the avoidance of doubt I make no personal allegations of this to any of the moderators of this site). We comment on these issues and the general state of the left as we go along, this is as inevitable as it is unavoidable. Debate with us if you like but don’t put words or fake “self descriptions” in our mouths.

45

Matthew 08.03.05 at 7:19 am

“Good article that dsquared. You have a problem with it?”

Anthony, the point is it contains a reference to a ‘Decent Left’.

It’s not uncommon. In the infamous “Why I signed” section of UAT (where Nick Cohen, Stephen Pollard and Peter Tatchell all completely failed to get the point of the statement, it seems), Nick Cohen said the left’s behaviour “casts doubt on whether it is now possible to have a decent left”, Pollard talks of “the decency for which the Left ought proudly to stand”. Elsewhere Oliver Kamm has spoken of ‘Nick Cohen is thus in the interesting position of being a distinctive voice of a decent and perspicacious Left’

46

dsquared 08.03.05 at 7:36 am

Plenty more where that came from:

“That’s how the decent left will come to know itself and challenge the pro-tyrant left” (source)

“We need a decent left that fight for the democrats in Iraq, for labour, for women’s rights, for social justice in the economy of post-war Iraq, and for the speedy withdrawal of coalition troops as part of a political settlement that gives Iraq a future. Most trade unionists and peace activists want that. They do not support the thugs who killed Hadi Saleh.

It is time for the decent left to saddle up and reclaim the leadership of their own movement.” (source)

I don’t know why you’re bothering to quibble about this. The phrase “United States of America” only appears twice in the Declaration of Independence, but that’s what it’s called. I’m specifically talking about Alan in this post, and he is someone who has regularly and non-ironically referred to himself as part of something called the “decent left”.

47

Simon 08.03.05 at 7:46 am

Here’s another

The so-called Stop the War Coalition are so-called because they aren’t against stopping the war. They have been given a chance to turn away from the Ba’athist-Islamist killers and make a clean break and join the decent left in supporting the Iraqi labour movement and other progressive democratic forces in Iraq.

48

Simon 08.03.05 at 7:47 am

(Sorry, that was by Harry, not Alan Johnson.)

49

bat020 08.03.05 at 8:02 am

Regarding “Unite Against People Who We Consider To Be Insufficiently Cooperative In The War On Terror” – the NYT’s Thomas Friedman has recently been pushing precisely this kind of rabid McCarthyism: “These excuse makers are just one notch less despicable than the terrorists and also deserve to be exposed.”

And this isn’t a mere ideological spat – the British police, when they’re not executing random Brazilians, have now taken to raiding bookshops and confiscating anti-war material on the grounds it could “work someone up”.

50

Brian 08.03.05 at 8:14 am

When will we see Crooked Timberites spend as much time attacking terrorist idealogy as they do the self-styled decent left? (which I’m pleased to be a part of).

Is this some form of displacement activity?

When will we see the self-styled decent left spend as much time attacking child abuse as they do attacking the anti-Iraq war part of the left (which I’m pleased to be a part of).

Is this some form of displacement activity?

51

SP 08.03.05 at 8:21 am

All the quotes you link to speak of the need for a “decent left” and do not, as your earlier post clearly implied, show that Alan had self declared himself, or anyone else, as being that creature.

Is this more than a sticks and stones issue? Do you not think that left social democracy, democratic socialism or what ever you want to call it requires some renovation (or any other r word you prefer, regeneration, recreation etc.).

If it is about name calling look at what the AWL call us which is much worse than being “non-ironic”.

52

Matthew 08.03.05 at 9:02 am

What, so when Alan says, “It is time for the decent left to saddle up and reclaim the leadership of their own movement”, he is not saying “the decent left” exists, and is not including himself as a member of it?

53

Backword Dave 08.03.05 at 9:04 am

sp, then try this:

The decent left will emerge as a political force by turning each negative refusal into a positive policy and campaign. For each refusal of ours does carry a positive charge: pro-human rights above all, pro-international solidarity with the victims of Genocide and Crimes against Humanity, pro-worker, pro-feminism, pro-gay rights, pro-democracy, pro-liberty, pro-social justice. A decent left politics in the post-cold war world will define itself positively as the pursuit of these values and not as a negative coalition of ‘antis’. On such values we can build a culture not just a political movement.

That looks like self-declaration to me. FWIW, I don’t see this as a “sticks and stones issue” — merely a reply to Marcus above.

54

Chris Brooke 08.03.05 at 9:07 am

Or this:

“Hitchens’ marvellous lecture – he speaks as well as he writes – shows us why we of the decent left should see Tom Paine as one of our greatest heroes…” (link)

55

SP 08.03.05 at 9:10 am

“time for”
“will emerge…by”
“can build”

56

Ray 08.03.05 at 9:18 am

If you look up a little, sp, you can see that marcus is the one who brought ‘decent left’ up, to ask whether the term is used as a self-description or only really as an ironic attack on the pro-war left. All of the quotes so far are indications that the term is used as self-description. There is no Decent Left Party though.

57

bat020 08.03.05 at 9:24 am

There’s something terribly pooterish about the phrase “decent left”, donchathink? Quite why anyone would actively court it as a label is a mystery to me.

58

Brendan 08.03.05 at 9:30 am

Ummm…..

‘When will we see Crooked Timberites spend as much time attacking terrorist idealogy as they do the self-styled decent left?’

As the link in the first sentence of this post clearly reveals this was all started off by:

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

Osama Bin Laden and the rest do not, on the whole, clog up our email inboxes with emails asking us to sign a petition supporting jihad or asking us to protest against the infidels continuing to occupy Iraq.

The pro-invasion “left” on the other hand never stop attempting to get Western journalists and academics to join them in backing the foreign policy of George Bush and Donald Rumsfeld.

If John Quiggin HAD received such an email from Osama Bin Laden I am sure he would have condemned it in similar terms.

Incidentally, 2,500 signatories doesn’t sound like that much to me (and how many of those signatories actually came from Iraq as a percentage?). Not when compared to (for example) the (allegedly) 400,000 who have signed a petition asking the Coalition to get out of Iraq (they are aiming for a million and may well get it).

59

Brendan 08.03.05 at 9:33 am

Apologies the link for the petition was wrong.

Correct link here.

60

Brownie 08.03.05 at 9:51 am

This is a joke, right? People who failed to sign a petition argue that those who did ought to feel angry at some illusory misuse of names, even though the signatories themselves reject such a claim?

The day we signatories cry foul and protest at the manipulation of our support for UAT, you will have a story. Until then, you have only projection.

As for the “decent left” accusation, you guys ought to be embarrassed. The juxtaposition of two words mid-article does not support any contention that we on this side of the fence self-describe in that way. It’s rhetorical flair, poetic licence, or whatever you will, but certainly not a claim to a specific title. I simply don’t know of anyone who shares my view of the Iraq war and war on terror who self-describes in that way. Not a single person.

References to “pseudo-left” to describe the more unthinking elements who comprise the anti-war movement, are in use. But self-effacing as we are, laying claim to a title ourselves would never happen.

61

Ray 08.03.05 at 10:06 am

Of the six comments on the BBC article on the UAT site, three are critical, and at least of those had signed the petition. Which is a more visible group than those petitioners calling for news and opinions articles
And on The Decent Left, how’s this – http://hurryupharry.bloghouse.net/archives/2005/01/30/the_decent_left.php

62

dsquared 08.03.05 at 10:10 am

The day we signatories cry foul and protest at the manipulation of our support for UAT, you will have a story

Robin Grant was a signatory, and a quick glance at the link above reveals that I do in fact have a story.

63

Jeremy Osner 08.03.05 at 10:14 am

“self-effacing as we are…”

Something a bit wrong here — was this intended ironically?

64

Luc 08.03.05 at 10:19 am

In the Google-a-quote contest:

Hitchens’ marvellous lecture – he speaks as well as he writes – shows us why we of the decent left should see Tom Paine as one of our greatest heroes.

Here.

But maybe I’m misstaken?

AFAIK the source of the phrase is “Can There Be A Decent Left?”.

And it is about decency vs. indecency.
“What ought to be done? I have a modest agenda: put decency first, and then we will see. So, let’s go back over my list of reasons for the current indecency.”

But as it uses a caricature of the American left (powerless marxists who blame only the US), it is not surprising that the resulting decent left is little more than a shadow of what it could (or should) have been.

65

roger 08.03.05 at 11:39 am

It is funny to see that list of Uniters against terrorism. Perhaps it should be called enablers of terrorism, since many spent time sending up a smokescreen of propaganda and deceit to allow Bush and Blair to abort the war against Al qaeda and engage in a war of their choice that had nothing to do with terrorism. While Cat Stevens guitar riffs might have spread a subversive, blow up your train station meme in “Cat’s in the Cradle,” somehow I think he failed, if that was his intention, to inspire his fans to acts of mayhem that went beyond the next doobie. But surely more objective help was given to Osama bin Laden by spreading the idea that he was dead in 2002, which Hitchens was very vociferous about. Cohen, Gitlin, Hitchens, et al… it is sort of like the cigarette manufacturers petitioning sternly against lung cancer.

On the other hand, the UAT crusade against the BBC has some merit. Calling the resistors terrorists is a start at truth in labeling. The occupation forces can be called torturers, of course. And the announcement of news from Iraq could mention that both sides are battling to enforce a fundamentalist Islamic state on Iraq. That would be at least more truthful than the coverage we usually get.
Something I think we can all get behind.

66

Jane Adams 08.03.05 at 12:41 pm

It amuses me and clarifies things that so many of the backers of this petition define themselves as leftist. This type tends to need to have absolute certainty and to belong.

As I stated earlier I found the petition unacceptable because of it’s rejection of “understanding.” Individuals with a sense of honesty and honor don’t reject understanding, we know that a majority of child molestors were victims of sexual abuse themselves, we then often chose to support hard punishment because the individuals still retain responsibility, but we can mantain this with some sense that the guilty are human, we can be torn, we can deal with ambiguity. We also know that understanding events is often a way of arriving at a strategy with which they can be dealt with.

However the socalled “decent left” seems to be individuals who had to have certainty, black and white reality. At one time it seems that they were comfortable asssociated with people who could rationalize communism and could blame all ills on the west despite the fact that this simplifies reality in a way that is destructive for those most torured; but suddenly they had an awakening and are shocked by the kind of thing that normal people fgound ridiculous, and must parade around saying we are the “decent left” as they march on the path of Horowitz.

These people have always coluded with the right in thinking their little cliques and ideas are of major importance, but they are and always have been only one influence and unknown to most; their biggest influence is making lots of noise and silencing serious discussion, they have always worked with the right to prevent serious criticism and change, we’re talking fundamental reactinaries here and now they are leading a crusade to bring us all back to decency.

They always know the absolute truth! Even when they swich sides there is never any doubt.

Leftist, rightist, they are about the same and they all consider themselves the only decent ones about. And if they have to engage in a little trickery for their goals it’s not dishonesty because it’s the higher truth they represent.

And now they are going to get some attention and money because there is nothing the right loves more than a reformed leftist.

67

soru 08.03.05 at 3:27 pm

As I stated earlier I found the petition unacceptable because of it’s rejection of “understanding.”

There is nothing to be said against ‘understanding’, when it is defined as a process where information comes in and views are adjusted as a result.

They type of ‘understanding’ that needs to be criticised is where the flow of information is entirely in the opposite direction, the one where people imagine ‘what kind of terrible situation would make me do something horrible like that’, and then assume, instead of investigate and verify, that those circumstances apply.

soru

68

Brownie 08.03.05 at 6:12 pm

Dsquared,

Robin Grant was a signatory, and a quick glance at the link above reveals that I do in fact have a story.

According to the timestamps, you made your post about 17 hours before Robin made his comment at UAT. (Now, according to the timestamps again, you made your remarks italicised above about an hour before Robin made his comment, which cannot be right, but I’m working on the premise that we could have a BST v. GMT thing going on here.)

Regardless, it does appear that your original post was made before Robin’s comment at UAT and without any prior knowledge that there was a single petition signatory objecting to Alan’s BBC article. The fact that there now appears to be one (Robin), can’t provide the retrospective justification required if you are to avoid charges of projection.

To be clear, this attack on UAT is being orchestrated by those with diametrically opposed views on Iraq and who voiced opposition to the original petition, not the signatories (Robin excluded) whom you assert ought to feel used and abused. That’s why this is absurd.

Jane,

[the “decent” left’s] biggest influence is making lots of noise and silencing serious discussion

A rather bizarre observation given this entire thread is devoted to the decision by those looking after UAT to write an opinion piece and invite comments, even going so far as to actively encourage dissenters.

Does any of this matter to you, or did you simply have something you wanted to say which, come hell or high water or context or facts, you were going to say anyway?

69

Backword Dave 08.03.05 at 6:45 pm

As an experiment, I’m writing this at 00:45 on Thursday, 4, August.

70

Dave 08.03.05 at 7:57 pm

Might be worth noting at this point that UAT’s entire news section has disappeared from its website lock, stock and link on UAT’s home page.

I wonder, does this indicate that there were other signatories who were equally unhappy to find that attacks on the BBC had suddenly become part of the UAT package deal and, if so, will they own up to it.

71

Dave 08.03.05 at 8:00 pm

Ought to point out that UAT’s news section has now disappeared completely from its website.

I wonder if that means that other signatories were less than happy with attacking the BBC getting added to the package deal…

…and that is the case, will they admit to it?

72

Dave 08.03.05 at 8:01 pm

Oh bugger – sorry about the double post – got an error on this first one which made me think it hadn’t gone through so I posted again.

73

siaw 08.03.05 at 9:55 pm

It’s a minor matter compared to the rest of the misrepresentation going on here (the time signatures trick was particularly impressive – does dsquared have a time machine?), but “brendan”’s defamation of us in comment 22 above should not go unanswered. First, we did not accuse “those who object to” the UAT site of anything, we specifically accused just one of them, dsquared, of behaving like a Comintern hack by blatantly misrepresenting it – and nothing said here since comment 22 has altered that central fact. Second, we do *not* support Bush, as “brendan” could work out if he bothered to read anything the three of us at SIAW have written with any care, instead of rushing to judgement: we supported the liberation of Afghanistan and Iraq *despite* Bush (and Blair), not because of them. But such a position is clearly too subtle for the simple-minded to grasp.

74

roger 08.03.05 at 10:34 pm

Wow, SIAW supported its own alternate war on — excuse me, liberation of — Afghanistan and Iraq. In spite of Bush and Blair. Did this event occur in Possible World 7? It has been radiating a distress signal lately, I hear.
Back in the simple minded real world — World 1, let’s call it geocentrically — there was a war that occured in Afghanistan and Iraq too! In that one, Bush and Blair were much involved. In fact, they planned the whole thing and unfortunately didn’t invite the SIAW to one single meeting. I don’ know what the devil got into those fellas. In our world, Afghanistan and Iraq are in the Middle East, by the way, not off the coast of Florida, which is where I hear they are in PW 7. Makes it much easier for the SIAW frogmen to come ashore and all that, as they smash feudalism and set up soviets for the cheering peasants. That must have been a grand liberation. So exciting! I do hope some post cards from it are posted on some weblog soon.

75

Matthew 08.04.05 at 2:15 am

As Dave says it looks like saner voices have prevailed and the section has been dumped. Well done to them.

76

Brendan 08.04.05 at 3:52 am

‘we supported the liberation of Afghanistan and Iraq despite Bush (and Blair), not because of them. ‘

Actually my position in WW2 was exactly the same. I supported the German liberation of the Sudetenland and Abyssinia DESPITE Hitler and Mussolini, not because of them. Obviously this has been too subtle a distinction for my political enemies who have continually posited the risible idea that this means I might be in some way ‘pro-Hitler’.

77

Brendan 08.04.05 at 3:56 am

Damn my overquick use of the ‘post’ button! I of course meant the German liberation of the Sudetenland and Mussolini’s
liberation of Abyssinia. So the last sentence now makes more sense as ‘pro-fascist’ rather than pro-Hitler.

The reason I chose both those ‘interventions’ incidentally, is that at the time they were indeed posited as ‘regime change’ for ‘human rights’. Mussolini claimed that he was liberating the Abyssinian slaves, and Hitler claimed that he was liberating the Sudeten Germans from Czech discrimination and racism.

78

Alan Johnson 08.04.05 at 4:56 am

Dear Ray / others,

Basically, we took your advice, which, on reflection, was wise. So, many thanks. The site now reads:

We have removed the links to various statements against terror, such as those from the TUC, the MCB and the Chief Rabbi. Several signers felt that while our intentions were good it would be better to let the founding statement and the ‘why I signed’ statements stand alone.

I said yesterday that we’d talk about the points made at CT and keep things under review. We did, and decided that it had been a mistake to try and go beyond the statements and the ‘why I signed’ statements. I was also persuaded that in light of other articles in NR we should not have posted a link to it anyway. Thanks to Chris for pointing that out.

I was aware of the new possibilities that the web offers of enabling a list of individual signers to become something more, a conversation, a collective of some kind (Sartrean seriality to collective and all that). But I ballsed up bringing it off. And it was me, not the other organisers who managed that cock-up, so dont blame them. Mea culpa. As I said, its messy.

As regards this ‘decent left’ business. I do NOT think those who dont sign the statement are not part of the decent left. That would be absurd. I can understand hesitations. Fair enough. Maybe we can work togeter on other things. Is the term useful? Not sure, I took it from Michael Walzer, of course. Others think it a problem because it suggests indecency in those who dont ‘join in’ which is not the intent. The intent (on my part anyway) was to point out that sections of the left – the Galloway-SWP-Respect-Ali- lot, with their talk of ‘you cant be choosy’ and ‘its not pretty but’ and ‘indefatigable’ and ‘any means necessary’ need to be opposed. To be honest Im more bothered to encourage people to saddle up than what they call themselves when they do.

Please dont think me rude if I dont reply to any comments but Im off to France for a holiday.

best,

Alan

79

Brendan 08.04.05 at 5:31 am

Alan

to be honest I think the fundamental problems are much deeper, in that I am still unclear as to the point of this petition.

Most petitions that are gathered are orientated towards some specific action. For example, if someone has been falsely imprisoned you might get up a petition to have them freed. Or you might get a petition asking for a country to have economic sanctions applied to it, or for the G8 to cancel 3rd world debt, or to have the US leave your country (as in Iraq).

But I am still completely in the dark as to what actions this petition is meant to lead to. At the end of the day, so what? OK so we all condemn terrorism. We’re all against it. Yah boo sucks to terrorism. Hooray for us.

But what actions are you suggesting should be taken after we have decided this, and by whom?

80

Dave 08.04.05 at 5:57 am

Brendan,

You’re right that the fundamental problems with UAT’s statement are much deeper.

Having worked through the statement in some depth in this post there seem to be some rather disturbing undercurrents lurking beneath the welter of bland populism.

Its one thing, for example, to decry terrorism, its quite another to introduce thinly veiled attacks on Islamic conservatism by incorporating references to Iran and Algeria – both marked different situations – into the statement, particular when the statement also makes use, in other places, of pieces of blatantly Christian rhetoric.

There appear to be subtexts to this statement which I really don’t like at all for the same reasons that I wasn’t overly enamoured of his recommending Elshtain’s ‘Just War Against Terror’ – allusions towards a wider sense of a religious/ideological conflict with Islam which I really don’t think we want to get into at all.

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Sancho Panzer 08.04.05 at 6:26 am

The morons at United-Against-Truth missed one thing in their desire to censor – Google’s cache:

Oops

82

Backword Dave 08.04.05 at 6:40 am

I’m impressed that Alan has listened to criticism and adjusted his site. (Less so that he appears to 403ed the news pages, but whatever.)

Brendan’s argument above comes the closest to my main reason for not signing: it appeared to be a loyalty oath (as D2 points out) not a course of action in itself. I have another concern, which would apply even if the UAT statement were reworded. In what sense have people “signed” their names? I notice that Brownie of Harry’s Place and Patrick of Siaw have signed using their full names; but many haven’t. If I can use an alias, what is stopping my signing twice? Indeed how have I put my name to anything? You can’t stand together and hide at the same time. There are three “signatories” called “Amber D.” are these the same person? And there are two called “USA.” I don’t wish to be called anti-American, so I won’t question where the nation counts as a person; I would like to point out there is only one, however.

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Brownie 08.04.05 at 7:19 am

Brendan,

Your Sudetenland and Abyssinia analogies are fatally flawed.

Firstly, and less significantly, you claim you analogously supported these liberations DEPSITE Hitler and Mussolini, but then in the very next post say you selected these two interventions precisely because of the motivating reasons supplied by Hitler and Mussolini. So which is it?

More importantly, your position on either intervention should be judged on its own merits. The unsupported (by you) ancillary aims of the protagonists demand examination, of course, but every nefarious intent of Hitler cannot be ascribed to you by dint of a shared view on the justification of the “liberation” of Germans living in the Sudetenland. That would be manifestly unfair.

There may well be those who opposed the war who did so because they get sexual gratification from the knowledge that Shi’s Muslims and Kurds were oppressed under Saddam. Indeed, there are those generally considered to be ‘leading’ the anti-war movement who espouse views from which you would, I hope, look to disassociate yourself.

If we cannot lay all their shit on you, you cannot do the same with respect to Bush and us.

Justifiably, at least.

To be clear, we supporters of the war have to take the war we were given, and cannot support the alternative war that didn’t take place. However, we are perfectly entitled to assert that, as individuals, our motivations differed from those of Bush and Blair and that our own cost-benefit analyses look markedly different to those drawn up in either Washington or London.

This ought to be relatively uncontroversial.

84

Dave 08.04.05 at 7:58 am

So Brownie, what you’re actually saying here is that your support for the war is based on your own subjective interpretation of it, irrespective of whether that interpretation of has any basis in fact.

Looks to me like you’re the one supporting an alternative and entirely fictional war here.

You’re clearly, perhaps deliberately, not understanding Brendan’s point here by assuming that the parallel being made is between Hitler/ Mussolini, on the one hand, and Bush/Blair on the other where it should be obvious that Brendan’s analogy refers directly to your own position.

The question of exactly who supplies the false justification is of no consequence within Brendan’s analogy, it matters only that the justification is false.

Your position is only uncontroversial is so far as you stick to reality and point out that a democratic Iraq may – possibly – be the silver lining on the cloud. The problem is that’s not been happening – while you may recognise that privately, in public your obsessive turf war with Galloway and the SWP has led you into trying to sell the silver lining as being the whole damn cloud.

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Brendan 08.04.05 at 8:29 am

‘Firstly, and less significantly, you claim you analogously supported these liberations DEPSITE Hitler and Mussolini, but then in the very next post say you selected these two interventions precisely because of the motivating reasons supplied by Hitler and Mussolini. So which is it?’

Well, quite. So: you tell me. SIAW claims that he supported the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq despite Bush and Blair not because of them. Therefore the reasons Bush and Blair stated they went into those countries are irrelevant . They could have said they went in to slaughter Muslims, or for a bet, or for a laugh or something of that sort: what matters is the ‘cost-benefit’ scenario.

But of course, over at Harry’s place, that’s not how it goes down is it? Instead, arguments that “It was all about oil” are normally met with the profound rejoinder of reprinting the word oil with five ‘o’s and stating that this is a “whine” or “cliche” or something of that sort.

It says something about the pro-invasion case that I have to turn to Julie Burchill (!) who said

‘The fact is that this war is about freedom, justice – and oil. It’s called multitasking. Get used to it!’

Now this is at least an argument I can get my head around. I don’t agree with it, but there you go. But at Harry’s place any idea that there might be any benefits accruing to the US from a huge oil producing country having its anti-American government replaced by a pro-American government is sneered at.

Why are you so keen to emphasise (at least by default) the purity of Bush’s motives if they don’t matter?

And incidentally:

‘but every nefarious intent of Hitler cannot be ascribed to you by dint of a shared view on the justification of the “liberation” of Germans living in the Sudetenland. ‘

Maybe not every, but most. This was after Kristallnacht and the Anschluss remember. People who mindlessly cheered the ‘liberation’ of the Sudetenland from the “evil” Czech “regime” knew what Hitler was about.

In the same way, after Venezuela, after Haiti, after his behaviour in the “Stan” countries, after holding hands (!) with Crown Prince Abdullah, after his brilliant interventions in profound scientific debates like evolution versus ID (“I think that part of education is to expose people to different schools of thought”), after the stem cell debacle….etc. etc. etc..(I could go on all day as you well know)…..people know what Bush is about. There is no real excuse for deluding yourself as to what he wants, what is aims are, or how he plans to achieve those aims.

And incidentally, I don’t actually agree that your last statement is ‘uncontroversial’. Slightly different, maybe. But markedly different? In what way?

‘But come on, Blair’s point in his conference today was that whatever your views about the rights and wrongs of the war in a struggle between democrats and terrorists we should stand with the democrats.’

Harry from Harry’s place. Essentially saying his “cost-benefit” analysis of the war is the same as Blairs yes?

Finally, the comparison vis a vis “stoppers” and the “pro-invasion” left doesnt hold. There are many loonbats (and worse) in the anti-war grouping. But these people do not lead the movement in the same way that Bush leads (literally) the war effort. It is a metaphor to say that ANSWER (or anybody else) leads the anti-war movement but it is literally true to say Bush leads the pro-war effort: he is the commander in chief of the US army. By definition to support the war you are (in the purest sense of the word) supporting Bush. To oppose the war does not mean I support George Galloway.

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soru 08.04.05 at 8:45 am

To oppose the war does not mean I support George Galloway.

No, by your logic, it would mean you support the leaders of the anti-war movement, Zarqawi and whatsisname the uncaptured ba’athist.

Because they are the actual commanders-in-chief of the military forces on the opposite side to Bush.

Any meaningful genuinely anti-war position now involves a time machine. Those of us lacking such a thing can either pick a way they would prefer to see the situation evolve from here and now, or just declare indifference.

soru

87

Brendan 08.04.05 at 8:59 am

‘No, by your logic, it would mean you support the leaders of the anti-war movement, Zarqawi and whatsisname the uncaptured ba’athist.’

Er no because I take into account war aims, unlike you. That would only work if I was to adopt the position that “it didn’t matter” what Zarqawi “really wanted” and that I supported the “resistance” despite the fact (assuming it is a fact) that the the insurgency was led by Ba’athists etc.

But you would quickly see that that was a ridiculous argument. You can’t pick and choose from Zarqawi’s political programme. If you support him you support his whole programme , including the bit about Jews, woman and gays.

To make crystal clear, if I was to support Zarqawi et al, but to state:

‘However, we are perfectly entitled to assert that, as individuals, our motivations differed from those of Zarqawi and Bin Laden and that our own cost-benefit analyses look markedly different to those drawn up in either Kabul or the Pakistan Border (or wherever he is).’ you would quickly see that that was an absurd, disingenous and morally repulsive argument.

Ipso facto …….

88

Brownie 08.04.05 at 9:03 am

No, Dave. Whether the justification is false is something sensible people can argue and disagree about. It is subjective by definition. What matters is that it is my justification and you have to deal with that on its own de/merits.

If you also want to put Bush in dock, be my guest. There may some criticisms I will share, and others I will reject, but that registers as a big fat “so what?” when it comes to discussion of my own arguments for why intervention in Iraq was correct.

89

Brownie 08.04.05 at 9:10 am

Brendan,

You said to soru:

Er no because I take into account war aims, unlike you.

Really? How ever did you come to the conclusion that soru/I do not take account of the Bush/Blair war aims? Did you ever consider the possibility that we absolutely DO but sitll, on balance, determine that supprot for the war is in order?

Assume we accept the war is all about oil (we don’t, but assume we do). We may still believe that removing Saddam trumps everything else. Ergo, we take into account everything, just arrive at a different conclusion to yourself.

It happens sometimes, you know?

90

Brendan 08.04.05 at 9:12 am

A final point: the whole “I support Zarqawi” idea would only work in any case if the only opposition to Bush etc. came from violent sources. But even in Iraq this is an absurd position. As Soru and SIAW both know (though they sometimes pretend they don’t for rhetorical reasons) almost every trade union, secular organisation, political party, woman’s group, you name it, in Iraq wants the US/UK out of the country as soon as possible and is using every peaceful method possible to work towards this end. As I mentioned earlier there is currently a driver to create a petition of 1 million Iraqis asking the US/UK to leave immediately. This is without doubt an ‘action’ that is intending to force Bush’s hand, and yet it is completely non-violent. In fact, if you take into account marches, petitions, political organising etc in Iraq and outwith it, the vast majority of actions against the invasion and current occupation are peaceful not violent.

To repeat, almost everyone knows this, but the pro invasion side sometimes like it to be forgotten to create the false dichotomy that to oppose a war (!) this means you must be in favour of violence. Or something.

‘Any meaningful genuinely anti-war position now involves a time machine. Those of us lacking such a thing can either pick a way they would prefer to see the situation evolve from here and now, or just declare indifference.’

Well quite. I think you can work out my idea of the way I would like the situation to ‘evolve’. What’s yours?

91

Brendan 08.04.05 at 9:21 am

My statment about war aims wasn’t aimed at you or SORU but at SIAW who wrote:

‘we supported the liberation of Afghanistan and Iraq despite Bush (and Blair), not because of them’.

I have no idea what this means, but I assumed it meant that SIAW doesn’t care what Bush and Blair’s war aims were, he only cares about the results of the war, not its motivations.

I am perfectly aware that at Harry’s place you do take into account Bush and Blair’s war aims, and that, on the whole you support them. That was my point.

92

soru 08.04.05 at 9:31 am

every trade union, secular organisation, political party, woman’s group, you name it, in Iraq wants the US/UK out of the country as soon as possible and is using every peaceful method possible to work towards this end

Yes, by working to write a constitution, get that approved by referenda, hold parliamentary elections, training up viable military and internal security forces, negotiate an amnesty with insurgents prepared to lay down their arms, build a self-sustaining, non aid-dependant economy, etc.

Do you consider Bush to be an anti-war activist?
Or do you think he secretly opposes that agenda, and is working to undermine it?

soru

93

Brendan 08.04.05 at 9:46 am

‘Yes, by working to write a constitution, get that approved by referenda, hold parliamentary elections, training up viable military and internal security forces, negotiate an amnesty with insurgents prepared to lay down their arms, build a self-sustaining, non aid-dependant economy, etc.’

Er…no. Most secular democratic forces in Iraq want the US/UK out first, and then they want to do these things themselves. The ‘extreme moderates’ (if I can use that unpleasant phrase) want the US/UK to be leaving as these processes are set up, so that by the time of the final installing of the last stage of this process the US/UK will be gone. Bush and Blair want it the other way round. This is crucial: for this reason.

‘training up viable military and internal security forces’

As I have explained elsewhere (and can’t be bothered repeating here, but really it’s common sense) this can never happen under an occupation, and so if that is a criteria for leaving, the US will never leave. You probably don’t believe me about this. It doesn’t matter. It will happen (or rather it won’t).

There was an old joke in the USSR. Khruschev, apparently, gave a speech in which he loudly proclaimed “True Socialism, my comrades, is on the horizon!”

At the end of it an excited apparatchik came up and asked Khruschev: “Comrade, is it really true that socialism is really on the horizon??”.

To which Khruschev replied, with a cynical glint in his eye: ‘Of course. Don’t you know that the dictionary defines “horizon” as an imaginary point that recedes as you approach it?’

The American withdrawal is (and always will be) on the horizon, on this sense.

This is grossly unfair of course to the leaders of the USSR who actually had the balls to give dates as to when “true socialism” or “communism” would arrive (in terms of when the USSR would ‘overtake’ the US), whereas Bush and Blair can’t even do that. All they tell us is that it will happen ‘soon’.

They have been telling us that it will happen ‘soon’ for quite some time. They will be telling us it will happen ‘soon’ for many years (and decades) to come.

As Karl Popper tells, unfalsifiable hypotheses are what distinguishes magic and religion from science.

94

soru 08.04.05 at 10:40 am

As I have explained elsewhere (and can’t be bothered repeating here, but really it’s common sense) this can never happen under an occupation

This is a universal statement, right (‘an’ occupation, not ‘the’)? If so, how many counter-examples would you like me to list? Pretty sure I could get to 3 figures.

What do they know of history, who only Vietnam know…

The American withdrawal is (and always will be) on the horizon, on this sense.

I am pretty sure I can predict more or less what you will say when it happens. I certainly know it won’t change your views on anything.

soru

95

Brownie 08.04.05 at 10:42 am

I am perfectly aware that at Harry’s place you do take into account Bush and Blair’s war aims, and that, on the whole you support them. That was my point.

That was your point? You should have said earlier. I’d be more than happy to discuss those aspects of Washington/London foreign policy that resonate with me, and those from which I dissent.

Over the years, I’ve developed this ability to critique the issues of the day, taking into consideration the views of others, but only in so far as they inform my own view of what is and isn’t correct. I certainly don’t lend my support to anybody or anything as a matter of ideology. Similarly, one ought not to oppose a specific policy as a reflexive reaction to those in favour.

If Liverpool needed a point to win the league and Man. Utd. required the same to stay up, a draw between the two on the last day of the season would please both me and my brother, but for very different reasons.

Or, to put it another way, I would favour a draw despite that Manc. bastard.

96

Brendan 08.04.05 at 12:48 pm

‘As I have explained elsewhere (and can’t be bothered repeating here, but really it’s common sense) this can never happen under an occupation

This is a universal statement, right (‘an’ occupation, not ‘the’)? If so, how many counter-examples would you like me to list? Pretty sure I could get to 3 figures.’

This was not actually intended as a universal statement. But it is true about Iraq.

Just to make clear, I think an American withdrawal (as long as it is predicated on the Iraqi army being ‘up and running’) is impossible and if it does happen I will be wrong (see my point about falsifiable hypotheses and the difference between magic and science. The pro-invasion side have been pretty careful not to make any predictions for the good reason that when they do, they are invariably wrong (“WMDs will be found in Iraq” to quote one out of many)).

But it IS possible, and in the long run probably inevitable, that the Americans will be forced out militarily. After all that’s what happened in Vietnam.

However I think many many bad things will happen before then (I suspect that bad things will continue to happen after then), and in any case if it gets to that stage, it’s possible/probable that Iraq will no longer exist in its current form.

97

soru 08.04.05 at 1:04 pm


The pro-invasion side have been pretty careful not to make any predictions

Well, other than ‘date of handover of sovereignty’, ‘date of election’, ‘date of formation of provisional government’, etc (some of which were wrong by a few weeks).

Date of complete constitution draft, and date of signature of an amnesty with Sunni insurgents are the next mileposts. If either is missed by more than a month or three, feel free to call me wrong.

soru

98

Brendan 08.04.05 at 1:40 pm

I think it should have been obvious from context that my remarks referred to predictions of the way that the invasion would go before it took place, not predictions of the “I predict that next week Wednesday will fall between Tuesday and Thursday” sort. However obviously we are the level where I do have to spell things out, so I have now made that clear, ok?

(Note: reading back over what I wrote, i should have used the conditional tense so it read “The pro-invasion side were pretty careful not to make any predictions (i.e. about the way things would go in Iraq after the war)for the good reason that when they did, they were invariably wrong”) would have made things clearer. mea culpa).

However, if you feel that you are really on a roll as far as predictions will go, feel free to make some more. May I suggest predicting when you think the US will leave Iraq for starters? I mean, you know roughly. Answers in some form of temporal unit I can recognise, preferably with some form of number in front of it (rather than answers in terms of emotional states or pious rhetoric) will be appreciated.

99

Brownie 08.04.05 at 2:31 pm

Brendan,

1 – “The coalition forces will lose the war to remove Saddam” – as in, removing him from Kuwait was one thing, but ordinary Iraqis will unite against an invading foe.
2 – “The war will precipitate a refugee crisis.”
3 – “The war will spread to other Gulf states.”
4 – “Israel will get involved.”
5 – “The US will not allow Iraq to hold democratic elections.”
6 – “The US will cut and run once GWB has avenged his daddy and toppled the tyrant” – as in, the US is not interested in the democratisation of Iraq and would be happy for another dictator to take Saddam’s place.
7 – “Iraqis will reject “western” democracy even if 6 above turns out to be untrue.”

7 pre-war predictions made by various anti-war luminaries, all manifestly wrong or well on their way to being proved wrong.

100

Brendan 08.04.05 at 3:53 pm

You forget these predictions as well.

‘Although everyone is lining up for or against a war on Iraq, few are asking what the war would be for. We know it would be against Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship. 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.’

What a crazy fool! I dissociate myself from him immediately.

But hold on. Here is another brilliant anti-war thinker who explicitly destroys that particular argument.

‘Using the massacres in New York and Washington as an excuse to go for Iraq never made sense. Saddam is a secular tyrant who prefers Stalin to Muhammad. An alliance between Baghdad and an al-Qaeda whose members would cheerfully have killed Saddam seemed unlikely, even to those who understood the ‘my enemy’s enemy’ principle. A story that Mohamed Atta met an Iraqi intelligence agent in Prague before crashing into the Twin Towers played into Rumsfeld’s hands and swept round the world. It was quietly put out of its misery in January when the Czech police admitted they had no evidence that Atta had talked to the Iraqi Embassy. Perhaps one day we will know whether the newspapers which ‘revealed’ the ‘Prague connection’ were the victims of a cock-up or black propaganda….Blair, as you would expect, is harder to pin down. But Downing Street advisers told journalists he worried that an assault on Iraq would destabilise his friends in the Middle East….Every British account of diplomacy after 11 September says Blair lobbied against America attacking Iraq….’

Yes on the whole I will go with the arguments of journalist number 2, whose statements, note, are completely incompatible with journalist number 1.

Just my little joke there you understand! And of course, not really relevant, as you will doubtless point out. But I just like to remind people if, as seems to be the case, I get judged by the moral calibre of the people on the anti-war side, then this argument cuts both ways.

Anyway enough of this gay banter!!!

‘1 – “The coalition forces will lose the war to remove Saddam” – as in, removing him from Kuwait was one thing, but ordinary Iraqis will unite against an invading foe.
2 – “The war will precipitate a refugee crisis.”
3 – “The war will spread to other Gulf states.”
4 – “Israel will get involved.”
5 – “The US will not allow Iraq to hold democratic elections.”
6 – “The US will cut and run once GWB has avenged his daddy and toppled the tyrant” – as in, the US is not interested in the democratisation of Iraq and would be happy for another dictator to take Saddam’s place.
7 – “Iraqis will reject “western” democracy even if 6 above turns out to be untrue.”’

5 of course is a ridiculous sentence and only a complete fool and hysterical anti-war ‘stopper’ like journalist number 1 would suggest such a thing. Same goes for statement 6. Only a complete imbecile or Saddam loyalist like journalist number 1 might think such a thing.

As for statement 1, if you have a TV put it on. The US/UK are currently in the process of losing the war and the only way to say otherwise is to agree with George Bush that this war ended when he said it did. Reality dictated otherwise, as it so frequently does.

All the other points seem to me to be not only still possible but in many cases likely. Since we were talking dates, come back to me in 10 years (or maybe even five) and see how amusing you still find them. Better still ask the Iraqi people, if there are any left.

101

Ben P 08.04.05 at 4:04 pm

(99) I think both sides have been right and wrong in somewhat equal measure. I freely admit that some of the more catastrophic implications of the war did not happen.

But I also think it is quite clear that Iraq is going to muddle along as a poor, fragmentary state with a low-level civil war for a good long time to come. Which, incidentally, will prove as a place where international Sunni jihadis will find a relatively good space within which to operate and organize.

I still think that your position to support the invasion can be justified in terms of Saddam’s removal was welcomed by the Shi’ite and Kurdish communities, however. This is a point I don’t think the anti-war side is willing to admit.

I’m also not precisely sure what you mean when you say western democracy. If you define democracy by voting and representative insitutions, I think Iraq will have these at least into the middle-term future. I don’t rule out the possibility of a coup and a return to authoritarianism in the future, but I wouldn’t stand by this prediction. If by western democracy, you mean adoption of the rule of law as opposed clientelism and neo-patrimonialism and the adoption of secular ideology as opposed to religious and or ethnic identifications as the primary driving forces of democracy, than I think it is clear the country will not fulfill your expectations, at least not for a long, long time.

102

Brownie 08.04.05 at 4:46 pm

Brendan,

I can scarcely believe you wrote this:

Just my little joke there you understand! And of course, not really relevant, as you will doubtless point out. But I just like to remind people if, as seems to be the case, I get judged by the moral calibre of the people on the anti-war side, then this argument cuts both ways.

This, from you, who instigated this secondary disucssion when you refused to allow we pro-warriors to make a case for war in Iraq distinct from that made by Bush and Blair. Remember how SIAW are not allowed to support the war “despite” Bush and Blair?

In so far as you’ve come full-circle, welcome, but I rather suspect you’re simply confused.

103

soru 08.04.05 at 4:46 pm

May I suggest predicting when you think the US will leave Iraq for starters?

Prediction: within 4 years, the level of US military activity in Iraq will be lower than it was pre-invasion.

Very likely advisors, trainers and special forces, possibly a permanent rented air base, but nothing that could reasonably be described as an occupation.

soru

104

Brendan 08.04.05 at 5:04 pm

‘Remember how SIAW are not allowed to support the war “despite” Bush and Blair?’

No. My point was simply that SIAW seem to support Bush and Blair ‘despite’ their policies, whereas in Harry’s Place you do indeed support those policies. Whatever you think that’s two VERY different positions. SIAW’s position doesn’t seem to me to make much sense (actually I’m not sure I understand it) but that’s a different issue.

Soru.

Thank you.

105

roger 08.04.05 at 6:55 pm

Brendan, perhaps in Britain there were few predictions, but there were plenty in the U.S. For instance, Paul Wolfowitz predicted it would cost 10 billion dollars, and might be paid back by the booming Iraq oil industry. That has proven to be completely true.
Rumsfeld, who is now the official torturer in chief, predicted that U.S. troop levels would be at 30,000 by October, 2003. A torturer whose prophecies have proven on the mark! This went along with the commander in chief’s prediction, in May, 2003, that Mission was accomplished. However, it turned out the mission accomplished banner was written by someone else, and they ran out of room to add: when hell freezes over.

There was the prediction that we would be greeted with flowers and candy, the prediction that Chalabi natural and overwhelming popularity would make him a key ally of America and Iraq’s De Gaulle, the prediction in June, 2003, that electricity levels would be up to pre-sanction levels in six months, which has been revised, scientifically, every six months since — one of the best predictions ever. Then there was the prediction that the new democratic government would embrace constitutional rights for all, the prediction that Sistani was a different kind of cleric and would never, ever force Islamic law on the country, the prediction that Sadr was history, the prediction that Sadr was dead, the prediction that the rape of Fallujah — sorry, I meant the shining victory at Fallujah — broke the back of the insurgency (the metric in American bodies is, what, 800 since then? dead, I mean. Wounded around 6, 000). The prediction in 2002 in the official appropriations bill for medical care for the military that the peak figure would be 20,000, revised upward this summer to 100,000. The prediction that Allawi would win the election, the prediction that the Sunnis would vote in the election, the prediction that turning the government over to Allawi would end the insurgency, the prediction that the election would end the insurgency, the prediction that the insurgency was in the last throes, the prediction that Iraq’s occupation would be just like Germany’s, the prediction that Basra and Southern Iraq would go for a secular government like gangbusters, the prediction that Anbar provice was pacified (fill in your town — Samarra, Hit, Baghdad – was pacified), the prediction that the sweep of Baghdad had eliminated the suicide bombers, and of course the best pro-war headline ever, in the AEI for April, 2005: The War is Over, and We Won
(Headline, AEI magazine, April, 2005).
There is one prediction I’m truly interested in. The military forecast 80,000 recruits by this time in 2005, and they are down by 40,000. If the antiwar people can squeeze that figure further, the withdrawal from Iraq will not only happen, but the force will be small enough to deny the criminals in D.C. the ability to attack Iraq, Syria, or whatever. The withdrawal from Afghanistan will have to follow. It is a possible goal. That way, the only war the ‘decent left’ can wage is the one they want to age – in another possible world, in a galaxy far away. I’d be totally supportive of that war.

106

Ben P 08.04.05 at 9:55 pm

Prediction: within 4 years, the level of US military activity in Iraq will be lower than it was pre-invasion.

Clearly, you’re not much of a student of US foreign policy or military history. I’d say they’ll be a minimum of 40,000 US troops in Iraq in 4 years. They are building at least 5 major permanent bases, and as many as 14. The stuff is pretty out in the open.

107

Ben P 08.04.05 at 10:22 pm

Here are some links talking about a permanent US presence in Iraq.

No. 1, from globalsecurity.org

No. 2, from the Christian Science Monitor

No. 3, a second link from global security with much more detailed info

No. 4, from the NY Sun, a decidely pro-Iraq War paper

This final source is most interesting in that it comes from a relatively right wing forecasting site that quotes extensively from Stratfor, which is – bar none – the premier game in town in terms of this kind of “strategic forecasting” game. I’d subscribe, but it costs somewhere in the neighborhood of 400 dollars a year to do so. Anyway, Here is link No. #5

Here is an extensive quote from Stratfor via this profutures.com website I link to above. I think this is absolutely the reason the US went to war. Its worth quoting at length:

Stratfor.com Had A Very Different Analysis As Compared To The Media
As I told you last year, one of my very best geopolitical sources had a very different view of how and why President Bush decided to take us to war in Iraq.  Here’s what I also said in May 2004:
“From the beginning, Stratfor had a very different take on why we went to war in Iraq.  In February and March of 2003, Stratfor laid out the following analysis for why we were going to war in Iraq:
‘The primary purpose of the Iraq campaign will, of course, be to influence and reshape the region. Al Qaeda has support throughout the Middle East, and most governments are either complicit or unwilling to incur the political costs of disrupting al Qaeda and similar [terrorist] groups at home. The purpose of this campaign is, first and foremost, to create a politico-military environment that persuades countries in the region to redefine their behavior. To put it more brutally and honestly, it is to bring massive military forces to bear on countries in the region in order to compel them to cooperate, or failing that, carry out future military confrontations.
There will be two dimensions to this. The first will be to redefine the atmosphere of the Middle East. Washington now accepts as a given that it bears the deep animosity of the region. Officials do not see any opportunity for a short-term solution to this problem, and the problem presented by al Qaeda is immediate. If the United States cannot be loved, the second best outcome is to be feared. A victory in Iraq would demonstrate both American will and power. If it can be coupled with a successful and relatively prosperous occupation, fear can be coupled with respect.
The second dimension is politico-military. Following the war, the United States not only would be an occupying power but also would field a force that is in effect indigenous to the region, at least from a military point of view. The presence of a massive, mobile force, permanently based in the region, without depending on the permission of others, would redefine the region dramatically.The United States expects to be able to use that force to its ends. [Emphasis added, GH.]
From the U.S. point of view, three countries are particular post-campaign targets: Syria, Saudi Arabia and Iran… Once Iraq is occupied, U.S. forces will have two missions. The first will be the occupation, pacification and reconstruction of Iraq. The second will be to pose a direct military threat to these countries. The United States certainly has no intention or desire to invade any of these countries. At the same time, the United States takes the view that it is only the threat of direct military action that will compel them to cooperate in destroying al Qaeda. A threat has no meaning if it is not serious. Therefore, in order to be effective, the United States will have to be prepared to carry out follow-on campaigns…
For the United States, fighting and winning a war against Iraq has become a strategic imperative. Although it is true that this war could engender greater support for al Qaeda among the Islamic masses, the consequences of not attacking Baghdad — from Washington’s perspective — could be worse. But even more important, a victory and U.S. occupation of a conquered Iraq would reshape the political dynamic in the Middle East. The United States would be in a position to manipulate the region on an unprecedented scale.’  
Stratfor and its high placed sources believed from the beginning that the plan was to invade Iraq with overwhelming force, oust Saddam Hussein and install a permanent US force on the various Iraqi military bases seized in the conflict.  The war effort would result in the capture and control of the most strategic country in the region, and the US military presence would then be used, either directly or indirectly, to influence other countries in the region to oust al Qaeda and other terrorist groups.”
Four Large New Military Bases In Iraq
The Washington Post was the first to run the story of the planned large, new – and probably permanent – US military bases in Iraq on Sunday, May 19.   The story was confirmed by top-level military officers in Iraq the following day.  The report said the Defense Department plans to consolidate the more than 100 bases where US personnel are now stationed in Iraq into four huge, new, more permanent bases.  The Post and others reported that these four new bases will be located in the north, south, west and center of Iraq.
The Washington Post reported that the military spokesmen who announced the base consolidation plans in Iraq were careful to assure the media that these bases will not be permanent.  The article quoted one military spokesman as saying the new plans are “part of a withdrawal expected to occur in phases, with Iraqi forces gradually taking over many of the bases inhabited by US and other foreign troops.”
However, a week after the initial article in the Post appeared, US military commanders in briefings in Washington and Baghdad, and in media interviews, said that growth of the insurgency has convinced them that the US will be in Iraq for “many more years to come.”  The commanders are particularly concerned that the pace at which Iraqi police, in particular, are being prepared to take over their own country’s defense is not going anywhere near as fast as the US would like.
Was The War In Iraq Worth It?  I Think So.
Public opinion on the war in Iraq has been very divided from the beginning, and for some understandable reasons.  As I argued in my May 18 E-Letter last year, if Bush was unwilling to share with the American people what was really driving the war in Iraq – a permanent US military presence in the Middle East and a continuation of the War On Terror – then he would be subject to widespread criticism, unless the war went spectacularly well.  It didn’t.
It has been clear for well over a year now that the Bush administration and the Defense Department did not adequately plan for the bloody insurgency that followed the initial success in toppling Saddam Hussein’s regime.

It goes on, but I’ve already quoted enough here.

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soru 08.05.05 at 3:22 am

They are building at least 5 major permanent bases

http://www.voanews.com/english/2005-07-30-voa9.cfm

I assume that base one of the special biodegradable bases, not permanent?

soru

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Backword Dave 08.05.05 at 3:44 am

That’s a non-sequitur, Soru. Those bases look permanent (more details).

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Brownie 08.05.05 at 4:16 am

Extract from the globalsecurity.org link:

Now U.S. engineers are focusing on constructing 14 “enduring bases,” long-term encampments for the thousands of American troops expected to serve in Iraq for at least two years.

My emphasis.

I guess the point is that if you are planning on having a sizeable troop presence in Iraq for the up to 4 years suggested by soru, the bases will be built as if they are permanent, not temporary.

I don’t suppose there is a design they work to whereby the bases will look significantly different depending on whether the plan is they remain for 4, 8, 12, or 16 years.

What did you expect? Tents and a mobile burger van?

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Backword Dave 08.05.05 at 6:11 am

Brownie, I saw that too. But the bit I’d emphasise is:

“Is this a swap for the Saudi bases?” asked Army Brig. Gen. Robert Pollman, chief engineer for base construction in Iraq. “I don’t know. … When we talk about enduring bases here, we’re talking about the present operation, not in terms of America’s global strategic base. But this makes sense. It makes a lot of logical sense.”

I admit that’s a bit ambiguous, but I read it as “a swap for the Saudi bases … makes a lot of logical sense.” Like Brendan, I think they’ll be there for a long while yet.
AFAIK, the US believes a) Iran is a future threat (perhaps to the mainland USA, depending on what kind of delivery vehicles it can aquire for its putative nuclear weapons programme) and b) Israel needs support. If I’m correct (and I’m happy to be shown I’m wrong), does US withdrawal in the foreseeable look at all likely?

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Ben P 08.05.05 at 10:38 pm

Brownie and Soru:

The point is that I have this information and I am cross-referencing with a detailed knowledge of US strategic thinking and a history of US military engagement, at least in the last half century. You can choose to be willfully ignorant of these factors, but it is quite obvious the US plans to use Iraq as a means of projecting its influence across the Middle East. This doesn’t necessarily have to invalidate the goal or the reasons you support the Iraq War. But I think you are being willfully ignorant to not understand the nature of US military and strategic planning.

Ben P

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