Fishy Tales

29 July 2005

Rumours of War

Words matter.

I was inordinately pleased to read that the US Government is to abandon the phrase "War on Terror".
A Whitehouse spokesman clarified:

The 'war' is more than a military response, it is a battle of ideas and a struggle against extremism, and all aspects of the US Government and its allies around the world need to be called upon in fighting it. In Afghanistan, the extremist Taleban regime no longer has a base of operations, a clearly identified location that requires a war ... It's a different situation again in London where you've got, say, a second generation British Muslim influenced by the preachings of a radical cleric.
Absolutely. When one key "tactic" may be to engage disenchanted sections of the electorate (e.g. through electoral change and by providing more direct democracy) the language - and thus approach - of war is not only inappropriate, but counter-productive. If you try to force integration the result is likely to be further disintegration. You can't impose freedom; you can only set aside and protect the space in which it can thrive.

Irwin M. Stelzer clearly sees as a weakness
...the unwillingness of the majority of the British people to recognize that they are indeed in a war. The flak-jacketed, heavily armed men and women lining my road to Heathrow last week were cops, not troops. America is at war, Britain is playing cops and criminals.

[Blair] is the prisoner of a dominant political class that is preventing Britain from responding to the threat the nation faces--and that threatens the durability of the Anglo-American alliance.

[My emphasis]
And Larry Elder (thanks for the reference, Anon) sees the current situation as an almost apocalytic war, and so defined by Muslim law:

Islamic Sharia law says Muslims must present non-Muslims with the three choices from Sura 9:29 of the Koran: conversion, submission to Islamic rule with second-class status and a special tax called the jizya, or death.

For those of us who support freedom, minority rights, women’s rights, religious freedom, rule of law, transparent government, and separation of religion and state — they want mass suicide. Nothing less.

Strong stuff. Not to mention scaremongering. Check out my old mate Osama Abdallah (again), who would, I reckon, take exception to Mr Elder's somewhat selective use of the Quran.

In "Terrorism: not who but why?" Turi Munthe looks at and untangles the primary causes of recent terrorism, and proposes future policies that may help remedy the situation. Unsurprisingly, none of these involve acts of war. Such idealism, eh?

28 July 2005

Political Terrorists

So the IRA has formally ordered an end to its armed campaign.

About bloody time.

Personally, I'm amazed that the UK's very own friendly neighborhood terrorists have had the nerve to continue to exist at all since September 11th, when some of their strongest supporters experienced terrorism first-hand.

The continued barrage of bombings by "insurgents" fighting the "occupation" in Iraq - with the subsequent death of so many innocents, including many children - should also have given some IRA apologists food for thought. Any comparisons?

And the icing on the cake is that the last London bombings - 1996 bus bomb, 2001 car bombs - were , of course, acts of the IRA and "Real" IRA, respectively.

Blair's comments about al-Qaeda being entirely different to the IRA are plain foolish, a desperate attempt,perhaps, to justify the government's communication with the IRA when officially speaking there can be no negotiation with terrorists these days. Any difference is more quantitative than qualitative (though that's only from a global point of view - in UK terms the IRA has killed far more innocents than al Qaeda as matter stand).

We should note that the IRA maintain their so-called "armed struggle" was entirely legitimate. So we can expect no acknowledgement of error or apology. What's more the IRA is most definitely not disbanding. Could be business as usual any time. So let's see what happens with weapons as a first big step.

Slugger O'Toole is an excellent site for all things Northern Irish. Highly recommended point of reference as matters progress (and for details on crucial matters past at that). Here's Mick Fealty's first take on the IRA statement.

26 July 2005

The North Wind and the Sun

Very worrying: I'm actually in partial agreement with Tony Blair today.

Indeed, the war in Iraq - or more accurately, the continuing presence of British troops - cannot be used to justify the London bombings and the slaughter of innocents. No matter Bin Laden's slippery statements (2002) about the American people (and by extension anyone in a democratic country) being "the ones who choose their government by way of their own free will; a choice which stems from their agreement to its policies" - that's just trite over-simplification and obfuscation. How many of those murdered actually voted for the current government? How many marched in protest against government foreign policy? How many may have been actively pushing for change of policy, possibly even succeeding in some small way? Many were Muslims, of course. You can't justify that other than by saying God knows his own and will give them a good afterlife ; small comfort to their bereaved families.

The other justification used is that tens of thousands of innocent Muslims (including very many women and children) have died as a result of British/US foreign policy, with Iraq being a case in point. Suicide bombings etc merely return the compliment. Well, I certainly wouldn't argue with the fact that an obscene number of innocents died in Iraq and Afghanistan. Indeed the original rant page that led to this blog was obsessed with the matter. But what is an appropriate response by those wronged, or rather one to be made on their behalf? Does it really make them feel better to see the same suffering inflicted on other innocents? I'd expect them to be more strongly in favour of preventing such atrocities ever happening again. Mothers are mothers, fathers are fathers, brothers are brothers and sisters sisters no matter where you are in the world, regardless of race, culture or creed. Would one mother who had lost her son want any other mother to lose hers, save perhaps another who had actually committed the murder, or at least had unarguable direct responsibility? Surely the love of family is a powerful force for good, something to be deeply revered even within what is seen as a corrupt and/or decadent society?

Perhaps it comes down to good old-fashioned vengeance, underwritten by God, as according to Bin Laden:
Allah, the Almighty, legislated the permission and the option to take revenge. Thus, if we are attacked, then we have the right to attack back. Whoever has destroyed our villages and towns, then we have the right to destroy their villages and towns.... And whoever has killed our civilians, then we have the right to kill theirs.
But this doesn't tally at all with, say, Osama Abdallah of Answering Christianity (who would certainly appear to be a seriously devout Muslim and dedicated student of the Quran):
Whether people speak evil of you, in your presence or behind your back, or they do evil to you in either of those ways, all is known to Allah Almighty. It is not for you to punish. Your best course is not to do evil in your turn, but to do what will best repel the evil. Two evils do not make a good.
Osama backs this up with copious quotes from the Quran. He does the same in speaking powerfully against the interpretation of Jihad so beloved of so-called Islamic terrorists. A highly recommended read.

The bombings can't even be justified as a means of preventing further atrocities against Muslims, for the simple reason that they will never change anything. Part of me is delighted to be able to say this, because it means that we will never allow our decisions to be dictated by terrorists. Part of me is deeply saddened, because I would personally like to see the UK out of Iraq as soon as possible, and now it won't happen for quite a while. If anything the bombings will have served to keep us there for longer. It's a bit of a North Wind and Sun thing - the more we're pushed, the more obdurate we will become, and the more we will draw together against a common enemy.

So wasn't Spain's response to the terrible Madrid Bombings appeasement, letting Al Qaeda get what it wanted? Certainly not. And it's very important that everyone realises that.

Because if any terrorist group is ever seen to be getting what it wants by murdering innocents then the killing will never ever stop.

And I couldn't disagree more with Justice not Vengeance:
British withdrawal from Iraq is a fundamental building block for creating a safe and vibrant Iraq, free from exploitation and violence. We should withdraw from Iraq because it is the right thing to do, and it so happens that this will also increase the security of the British people.
If only it were true.

19 July 2005

Thank God for Satire

Just (re)discovered the highly satirical UK web publication the Rockall Times, and have been laughing my head off. Excellent stuff, does wonders for the soul. And, incidentally, is a fine example of freedom of speech in action. The day this kind of writing is threatened or damaged by legislation (e.g. the proposed Religious Hatred Law , just possibly) is the day we must stand up for our right to send up, regardless of how powerful the people or organisations in the firing line.

Anyway, in the latest article in the RT, Defiant Brits Battle On there is a paragraph which I just have to share:
..the problem lies in the Koran's failure to explicitly rule out suicide bombing as a legitimate weapon of jihad. One scholar told The Rockall Times: "Apart from the bit about not killing people, the Holy Scriptures are notoriously vague on the matter of killing people. You Christians have the same problem with the Bible, I understand."

12 July 2005

Situation Normal..

Generally speaking I've been making a point of completely ignoring the London Attacks. There are plenty of good reasons, but the main one is that I've not been personally affected in the slightest. That may sound selfish and/or unsympathetic, but in my opinion you can never really empathise with the victims of such atrocities; so unless you have actually been invited to watch or listen, any involvement is as an intrusive audience. And that kind of involvement all too easily turns into nothing better than "grief pornography"- the ghastly fascination of a car accident, the need to find out how, exactly, people died, the need to get under the skins of their nearest and dearest and feel their pain and grief, especially if they're at all like you, the need for detailed descriptions, and especially for photographs. It could be we actually need the (vicarious) proximity of death to feel emotionally alive, our lives being so shallow. Though that's putting it ungenerously - if, by submerging ourselves in horror, we emerge with a deep and lasting appreciation of how lucky and blessed we are, it's probably no bad thing.

However, to the extent that the media is obliged to cater for our hunger for more information and to grab our attention, there is certainly the danger that it can play right into the hands of terrorists at times like this. I find myself (and this is becoming a habit) in very strong agreement with Simon Jenkins in the Sunday Times:
The terrorist’s objective is not to kill but, by doing so, to publicise a cause and incite a violent and repressive response... It is one thing to report, another to wallow in grief pornography as if the bomb itself were a celebrity. Such massive publicity feeds terror’s first objective and incites its second.

I also agree with his tying in Blair's adoption of (Bush's) catastrophically stupid term "war against terrorism"
Blair’s desire to associate the London bombs with the global war on terror leads him into dangerous territory...Such confusion leaves Britain vulnerable to a lethal moral calculus. It invites critics worldwide to set the number of dead Londoners against the number of Iraqi civilians killed each month by coalition forces. It asks how many Muslims have British forces killed. It asks why the West waxes hysterical over London’s dead “innocents” and not over equally innocent corpses piled in the morgues of Baghdad as a result of British policy.
And to quote Robin Cook:
I think the problem with George Bush's approach is that he does keep talking about it as a war on terror as if there is a military solution and there isn't.
I suppose the point is that we need to genuinely know our enemy and avoid simplistic conclusions like "They're all nutters who will attack us in any way they can regardless of anything we do", the former view shared by Brian Walden. For Blair to attempt to dissociate the London Attacks completely from British foreign policy of the last few years (decidedly similar to American foreign policy) is at least disingenous, but is dangerous to the extent it fosters ignorance.

And he'd better keep to his word and not bring in strict new security laws on the basis of these attacks.

Anyway, life goes on more or less as normal, and there's the beauty of it, and long may it reign in London and throughout this little bunch of islands in the North Atlantic just off the coast of Europe.

Damn. All I originally intended was to say that I like the idea of everyone setting up universally recognoised Emergency Contact (ICE) Numbers on their mobiles. Ah well.