Keeping Us Updated

by Kieran Healy on November 20, 2003

I wonder if we’ll hear again from that friend of Eugene Volokh and Kathryn Lopez that, well, maybe a few protestors turned out after all. Perhaps he or she will follow the lead of Iain Murray’s friend who has sensibly stayed some distance away from the protests so that he can truthfully say “it’s quiet around here again.” Meanwhile Iain’s wife suggests the protestors are inconsistent: “Were there protests like this during the height of the IRA terrorist attacks in London against the British government’s military intervention in Northern Ireland? … [I]f you’re going to protest a nation or group of nation’s ‘aggressive behavior’ towards a country or region that appears to support terrorism, shouldn’t you protest all such ‘aggressive behavior’?” I don’t know whether she’s aware of what originally provoked British military intervention in the North (it wasn’t because the IRA had bombed London). But I’ll have to leave it to others to explain the difference between (a) Efforts to capture or control terrorists living in your own country who bomb your citizens, and phone you up to say so, and (b) Invading a country which, though run by a universally reviled evil dictator, does not pose any credible threat to your nation or have any known links to the terrorists who attacked you.



Mikhel 11.20.03 at 11:02 pm


I don’t particularly want to agree with you, that arguments attacking the hypocrisy of protestors are disanalagous, but — I do. That being said, I certainly feel that the point of view expressed by your run-of-the-mill protestor is a vast oversimplification.

Many in the crowd said Thursday’s bombings in Istanbul, which killed more than two dozen people, strengthened their resolve to oppose U.S.-British policy in Iraq.

“There have been more and more bombings since the action in Iraq and more terrorism,” said Mischa Gorris, a 37-year-old London lawyer. “You will never change the hearts and minds of terrorists by bombing them. This is what you will get.”

Is that true? Well, I don’t think so. In fact, I would argue that the opposite is probably true. It’s hard to find any reliable date, though, as (for some curious reason) attacks on Israel are often absent.

None here (which may be US only, though it doesn’t look like it):

So while I agree that the comparative argument used by many anti-anti-war pundits if often off the mark, I can still sense, and do feel, some frustration at the proestors themselves.


Vinteuil 11.20.03 at 11:49 pm

Kieran objects to “Invading a country which, though run by a universally reviled evil dictator, does not pose any credible threat to your nation or have any known links to the terrorists who attacked you.”

Is he thinking of Milosevic?


Jonas Cord 11.21.03 at 12:10 am

I’d change it to:

Invading a country which, though run by a universally reviled evil dictator, does not abide by the terms of a cease-fire with your nation and may have links to the terrorists who attacked you, but probably didn’t help with the huge attack on your own soil.

That would make more sense, I’d say.


--kip 11.21.03 at 12:44 am

Whoops! Kieran also forgot to add:

bq. …against the wishes of every major ally but one, and your own reading of international law, while depending on an appalling combination of pig-headed faith and mendaciously willful thinking to force piecemeal intelligence into a seven-year-old pipe dream that enshrines a formerly unthinkable precedent for pre-emptive warfare.

Milosevic!? Jesus Effing Christ on a jumped-up sidecar…


ssuma 11.21.03 at 1:18 am

Check out Instahack, an absolutely classic post. After about a half dozen posts claiming there were no protesters he …. admits he was wrong? No, he points out that the protesters are ugly. Well, he dosn’t say it himself, he attributes it to someone else. Missing the indeed, however


John Isbell 11.21.03 at 1:53 am

Milosevic? The US invaded Serbia?
I tend to think the right-wingers who post this sort of folderol (Saddam behind 9/11, for instance) are neither actually dumb enough to believe it, nor are they shameless liars. They are engaging, in Coleridge’s term, in a willing suspension of disbelief.
I may take to calling them suspenders.


Chad Dimpler 11.21.03 at 3:02 am

I’d like to point out as ‘Iain Murray’s friend’ who e-mailed the updtaes to him, that at no pouint did I ever claim to be near the demo in Trafalgar Square. I merely pointed out that working near the palace, and with a major train terminus nearby, it was VERY quiet. Both were places we might have expected people to congregate before moving on.

As the reports came in over the news feed, I updated accordingly. The numbers didn’t become truly exciting until after most offices had closed for the evening.


Thomas 11.21.03 at 5:15 am

John–I know you’re being clever, but I think I’m missing the funny. Wasn’t Milosevic president of Yugoslavia? Didn’t the US, with Nato, invade Yugoslavia? Didn’t we bomb Serbia, for that matter?

Kieran–I thought we’d all backed away from the “no known links” position. Isn’t the newly operative position that the links were tenuous?


Keith M Ellis 11.21.03 at 5:38 am

Isn’t the newly operative position that the links were tenuous?


Feith’s leaked memo is nothing new. Nothing has changed. We don’t know anything more than we did. There’s still no good reason to believe that Iraq cooperated with al Qaeda.

That doesn’t mean that the connection necessarily doesn’t exist. Maybe it does. But there’s far more reason to doubt it than to favor the possibility—really solid evidence is needed to confirm it. Given that we know a great deal about the 9/11 hijackers, that we have in custody many al Qaeda members, control (well…) both Afghanistan and, especially, Iraq, there should be a lot more evidence of a connection than there was three years ago, if it exists. But there’s not.


Jack 11.21.03 at 7:02 am

Thomas, NATO did eventually play a role in Bosnia and bombed Belgrade and the Chinese Embassy when things began to look lke they might get Bosnian in Kosovo but Milosevic was thrown out by his own people and Serbia and Montenegro were never invaded.

I think there are some parallels with Yugoslavia but as ever the Yugoslavian example is not simple or a direct parallel. I think the Yugoslav experience is a charitable partial explanation for current twitchy triggers.

It is still perhaps worth noting that it is a popular opinion that the break up of Yugoslavia was part of a western plot to control its might so we didn’t win many hearts and minds.


Danny 11.21.03 at 8:05 am

The demo had only 70,000 people – not that much. In Israel, this year’s annual rally in memory of Yitzhak Rabin (which I attended) drew double that amount, in a population a tenth the size of the UK’s.

I think pulling down the statue of Bush, parodying the pulling down of Saddam’s statue by a liberated (yes, liberated) Iraqi populace is just plain sad. How dare they compare Bush to one of the worst tyrants of the century? There’s just so much bile, spite and blind hatred there.


John Kozak 11.21.03 at 9:07 am

There were many demos in the 70s against the British presence in NI (most organized by a group called “Troops Out”).

Danny: a lot more than 70,000 people attended – London police crowd size estimates are notoriously inaccurate.


TomD 11.21.03 at 9:36 am

Major media outlets put the number at 100,000 – 130,000. (Not all in Trafalgar Square at the same time, though).

Perhaps the reason there were very few people at a given place near Trafalgar Square was that the way the protest was organised required people to *be elsewhere at the time*. You could probably gather dozens on dozens of reports from central London yesterday afternoon and evening of instances where there weren’t many people around, but this doesn’t add up to a hill of beans.

To be precise it adds up to a reporter who “covers” a football match by standing outside the stadium.


Dave 11.21.03 at 9:38 am

Mikhel seems to believe that you can “change the hearts and minds of terrorists by bombing them.”
London was comprehensively bombed during World War II, and as we all know, public morale collapsed, people stopped drinking warm beer, preferring steins of bier, and we all sang “Deutschland uber alles”. Or are terrorists different?


Mikhel 11.21.03 at 1:19 pm

Dave —

Thanks for the strawman, I’ll put him in the storage room with all the rest. At no point did I use the phrase ‘hearts and minds’, and talk about changing terrorists. I pointed out that the protestor’s comments that there have been an increase in bombings since the Iraq invasion, is not at all true. The absolute worst string of bombings that I can recall happened around passover in Israel in 2002.

Look here:

By my hasty count, twelve bombings in Israel this year (which is nearly over) and twenty-two bombings in 2002 alone; I have no idea if this list is comprehensive, but I will surmise that it is.

Furthermore, there were definitely attacks in Turkey, in Spain (Basque — though I don’t think anyone was killed, and I might be mistaken about the time frame), and in Bali.

My point was that one can certainly be frustrated at how protestors prosecute their protesting — just see what Chris has written above — and yet not make the disanalagous comparisons between protesting Bush and not protesting Saddam.

It’s certainly interesting that you choose to use London as your prime example, which was, as you say, horribly bombed during World War II. Nevermind that public institutions and non-military targets (like blocks of houses) were specifically chosen as part of Hitler’s strategy; and nevermind that Hitler had an actual British army to fight; tell me, are the British and Germans still engaging in hostility? Have they continued to fight in an atmosphere that breeds frustration and terror? No? Do you think this comparison is unfair?

Well, so do I.


Matt Weiner 11.21.03 at 4:59 pm

Maybe it depends on whether you count on Kosovo as part of Yugoslavia. Still, I would say that the intervention in Kosovo was analogous to Bush I’s establishment of the autonomous Kurdish-controlled zones in Northern Iraq–protecting an ethnically distinct part of the country against genocide from the central leader. So I don’t think the Kosovo/Gulf War II analogy will work.


Thomas 11.21.03 at 6:08 pm

Matt–My response was meant simply to show that John hadn’t a clue, and is rather careless in throwing the accusation that others haven’t a clue around. My response is not an argument that the situations are analogous.

Keith–I guess I was thinking of this, from the WaPost: “Rockefeller also took issue with the Standard’s assessment that the Feith memo proved a strong operational relationship existed between al Qaeda and Iraq before the war began last spring. “The intelligence community assessment was and continues to be that any connection between Iraq and al Qaeda is tenuous,” Rockefeller said.” That’s the new talking point, isn’t it?


nick 11.21.03 at 7:34 pm

I think pulling down the statue of Bush, parodying the pulling down of Saddam’s statue by a liberated (yes, liberated) Iraqi populace is just plain sad.

Except, danny, that the Saddam statue wasn’t pulled down by the ‘populace’, but rather by a select group of Iraqis (many of them recent arrivals from exile) in an area cordoned off by tanks. That is, it was made for the lenses of CNN et al, rather than for the Iraqis who’d endured Saddam. That’s plain sad to me: in place of liberation, the Americans offered a television metaphor. Baudrillard would be proud of them.


Antoni Jaume 11.21.03 at 9:58 pm


I saw the toppling of the statue while shopping, it was so anticlimactic as to be unbelievable. It had no feeling to it. I remember how exhilarating was to see the breaking of the Berlin wall, the taking of Baghdad had none of that.



John Isbell 11.22.03 at 3:44 am

thomas: “Matt—My response was meant simply to show that John hadn’t a clue.”
It was meant to show that? And yet, it failed to do so. Life is so full of mystery.

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