Where will the next bin Laden come from ?

The latest atrocious murders committed by Al Qaeda raise a number of thoughts for me, as does the swift killing/capture of those apparently responsible for the murder of Paul Johnson in Saudi Arabia.

First, however bad the crimes that have been committed in our name, nothing that has yet been revealed comes close to the gratuitous evil of Al Qaeda. That shouldn’t be taken as an excuse, or a reason for playing down such crimes; in the presence of such an enemy its more necessary than ever to keep our own hands clean and to be seen to do so. But nothing should be taken to mitigate the guilt of the Al Qaeda terrorists or to suggest that there is any possible compromise that can be made with them.

Second, as I’ve pointed out previously, the fact that Al Qaeda is committing crimes within Muslim countries, and particularly Saudi Arabia is a sign of self-defeating weakness. Much as the Saudi authorities, and much of the Saudi public, would like to sit on the fence, they’re being forced to choose sides.

Third, although the evil displayed by Al Qaeda is inexcusable that doesn’t mean it’s inexplicable or comes out of nowhere. There’s always a supply of angry young men, but it takes both motivation and training to convert angry young men into effective terrorists. Both are provided by participation in holy wars like the fight against the Russians in Afghanistan. The current generation of Al Qaeda leaders came up through the fighting in Afghanistan and the training camps there. This group has been taking heavy casualties, mostly as a result of effective police work around the world. Quite a few attacks have been prevented, and in most cases where an attack has been carried out, those responsible have been killed or captured.

This leads me to conclude that, if the world community, led by the US, had followed through effectively in Afghanistan, putting substantial resources into restoring order and reconstructing infrastructure there, and had worked together against terrorism, Al Qaeda would have been gravely weakened by now.

Unfortunately, while some of the necessary things have been done, any benefits have been largely offset by the war in Iraq. Among the many negative consequences of the war, the one that will have the most direct consequences for us is the boost it has given to terrorism. Until recently, the main effect has been to stimulate terrorist recruiting by inciting anti-American feeling. But it’s looking increasingly clear that places like Fallujah are going to be the 21st century equivalent of Taliban-controlled Afghanistan. The bloody and futile assault by US forces in May, in retaliation for the earlier killing and mutilation of private military contractors there, has solidified public hostility to the US among the people of the city. The recent US missile attack on a house allegedly used by terrorists only reinforces the point that Fallujah is a no-go zone for ground forces loyal to the US, and will undoubtedly remain so after June 30. If we are dealing with a new bin Laden in ten years time, he will probably have come from Iraq.

49 thoughts on “Where will the next bin Laden come from ?

  1. If one includes in Al-Qaeda all the spin-offs (like Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula) or those thrown into the umbrella category (al-Tawhid, Ansar al-Islam) then the most likely answer is we will have several bin Ladens in a decade’s time.
    One from Iraq certainly but also Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Morocco, Egypt, Malaysia, Phillippines, Indonesia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, etc. Most will utilise the label of al-Qaeda to big-note themselves and tap into Western fears. Links and support with al-Qaeda may be real or imagined and its really not important.

    Over a century ago a Sudanese Islamist called himself the Mahdi (a messianic sort of myth) and rose an army against English imperialism. He was successful at first then quickly eliminated. But, for the next few decades any rebel in the MidEast would use the Mahdi label – sort of like a scene from Life of Brian (I’m the Mahdi and so is my wife).

    We are going to see the same thing with al-Qaeda. Get used to the name, its here to stay regardless of what actually happens to the original leaders.

    Saudi Islamists attacking Saudis is not a ‘self-defeating weakness’. One tribe seized control of Arabia and imposed a veneer of modernisation on the populace. Most Islamists are simply members of other tribes hoping to undermine the ruling tribe and seize control of the nation themselves.

    The same situation happened throughout the 1990s in Algeria, except without attacks on US cities and with a death toll in the dozens of thousands, not hundreds. That Islamist conflict was peopled by urban poor, led by former mujahideen from Afghanistan’s battlefields, avoided attacks on oil and gas infrastructure and targeted western workers. Its the blueprint for what the Saudi Islamists are doing.

    Without the vast human resource that urbanised, poor youth represent in the Muslim world these terrorist groups would never amount to anything. The solution is clearly removing the poor youth by investing in infrastructure and employment. A Marshall Plan for the Muslim world.

    At least the Romans knew that if you kept your subject states well fed, educated and employed everyone was safe and happy. The West needs to stop kidding itself that the Third World is not our responsibility or our fault.

  2. It should be remembered that many recent terrorists have either been based in the West or been Western educated. I think it is likely that that the next generation of terrorist leaders will arise in France, Britain, the United States or some other Western country. Around 10 percent of Muslims in the west would welcome another Sept 11 incident in their own countries and, at least 50 per cent of Muslims have a more favourable view of the likes of the Taliban and Saddam than they do of the US. Most of the remaining 50 percent keep quiet in the face of Islamic terrorism including on fellow Muslims and certainly do not support brave individuals such as Irshad Manji – the author of The Trouble with Islam – when they criticise the excesses of their own religion. The left has also failed to support her. So while I heed John’s warning about not letting our standards slip re human rights and civil liberties there are some areas where a good deal of tightening is needed. For example, those Muslim who marched through the streets calling for the death of Salmon Rushdie should have been jailed and then kicked out of the country. I also don’t understand the outrage from civil libertarians when someone who has close associations with terrorists has their door kicked in by Asia – After all, in these days of rapid technological progress and the rapid spread of scientific expertise, the next terrorist atrocity could well involve finely milled Antrhax or some other WMD which could kill millions.

  3. It should be remembered that many recent terrorists have either been based in the West or been Western educated. I think it is likely that that the next generation of terrorist leaders will arise in France, Britain, the United States or some other Western country. Around 10 percent of Muslims in the west would welcome another Sept 11 incident in their own countries and, at least 50 per cent of Muslims have a more favourable view of the likes of the Taliban and Saddam than they do of the US. Most of the remaining 50 percent keep quiet in the face of Islamic terrorism including on fellow Muslims and certainly do not support brave individuals such as Irshad Manji – the author of The Trouble with Islam – when they criticise the excesses of their own religion. The left has also failed to support her. So while I heed John’s warning about not letting our standards slip re human rights and civil liberties there are some areas where a good deal of tightening is needed. For example, those Muslim who marched through the streets calling for the death of Salmon Rushdie should have been jailed and then kicked out of the country. I also don’t understand the outrage from civil libertarians when the likes of ASIO kicks in the door of someone who has close contact with terrorists. After all, in these days of rapid technological change and the rapid spread of scientific expertise the next atrocity could well involve a WMD such as finely milled anthrax powder which could well kill millions.

  4. there is one common thread that ties all members of AQ and that is their intrepretation of the Koran and Hadiths.
    They are quite keen students.
    The reason they can kill muslims on 11/9 and in Islamic countries is that they do not recogise the people as muslims.

    In essence we are fighting ideas which enable people to murder that allow the people to rationalise the act.

  5. Michael – what if any basis exists for the statistics as to Islamic public opinion you cite? And should people who march in the street be “kicked out” – one imagines many are British citizens?

  6. On the stats numerous recent surveys basically indicate the same thing. Anecdotal evidence is also compelling. When, for example, Irshad Manji, who is a lesbian Muslim, ran a TV show in the States numerous progressive Christians would contact her and offer their support after she had on a conservative Christian attacking gays and lesbians. On the occasions she had a conservative Muslim on the show not one Muslim contacted her to agree with her – she has, however, had numerous death threats. In addition, never once on her numerous talks (where she is often heckled my Muslims) has one Muslim stood up and said he or she agreed with her. Progressive have got to stop downplaying the extent of Islamic extremism in both western and non-western countries. Rather than promoting tolerance, they are actually spitting in the face of secular Muslims like Manji many of whom have been tortured and killed. Incidentally, secular Muslims generally support intervention in Iraq- they know who the real enemy is and it is not Bush or Blair.

  7. Michael, I’d be more convinced if you could specify which surveys, and be more specific about what exactly you mean about Muslims “in the West”. There would be a big difference, I should think, between opinion among Islamic people in Northern European countries, countries like France and countries like Britain, the US, Canada and Australia with long established Islamic communities. What concerns me about your comment is that it appears largely anecdotal and collapses together some very diverse populations. Islam is by no means a monolithic religion – your example of the Islamic lesbian also calls to mind largely secularised Islams (for instance Bosnian Muslims – are they in “the West”?), the differences between Sunni and Shia, and the differences within these communities, not to mention ethnic and national cultural differences. To me, it makes about as much sense as a survey of what “Christians in the West” think.

  8. John

    I don’t quite agree with you when you state, “However bad the crimes that have been committed in our name, nothing that has yet been revealed comes close to the gratuitous evil of Al Qaeda”. Evil is evil, vile is vile whichever way you look at it. The truth is that many of the horrific things “done in our name” are suppressed by the media, which work hard for the most part to support the establishment and maintain the status quo.

    I suggest you read Ward Churchill’s excellent book, “On the Justice of Roosting Chickens” which details very many of the despicable acts carried out by the US over the past 227 years. One can go from the 40-odd Indian wars in the US, through the slaughter of up to a million Phillipinos between 1899-1902, the dropping of atomic bombs on Japan, No-Gun Ri in the Korean War, the brutal overthrow of Sukarno helpled by MI5 and the CIA which left hundreds of thousands dead, the infamous “Tiger Unit” in Vietnam which carried out all sorts of atrocities that are not even mentionable, My Lai, and the terrorist war waged against Nicaragua in which the US supported remnants of the Somosza guard (the “Contras”) who also committed unspeakable acts of savagry. And this is just for starters. Churchill’s book provides much of the background. As despicable as Al Qaeda are, I believe John Pilger is correct when he states that they are a “lethal flea” compared to the combined atrocities committed by “our side”. And let’s be honest – who helped to create Al Qaeda in the first place?

  9. it is perhaps myopic to get hung up on how ‘evil’ someone is. It’s a quality that can be found much closer to home than a terrorist training camp in Afghanistan.

    There’s an old truism about one person’s terrorist being another’s freedom fighter.

    Unfortunately, it’s never more true than in the current situation where a war without end against a ‘terror’ beyond any one name (and remember ‘al Quaeda will not go away’). The term blinds us to who the enemy is and why they are fighting. And the monotony of it’s overuse has all the hallmarks of propaganda and is itself a reminder of ‘the banality of evil’.

    Lest I be misunderstood – the crimes of megalomania and mass murder undertaken by bin Laden are as terrible as the crimes of Hitler or any other person you care to name, there are plenty. But we are so overawed by the seeming cleverness of his choice of weapon that some people can’t help themselves when it comes to ‘homeland security’.

    Pakistan is teetering on the brink of a fundamentalist coup according to more than one news report recently. How many more goes at Musharraf do the bomb makers need? The so called victories in Waziristan have been hollow.

    And why does the House of Saud always remind me of the Romanoff’s?

  10. John,

    I’m not sure how you reach your conclusion that restoring order and building infrastructure in Afghanistan is such a critical issue.

    Is there evidence that there are still Al Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan? Or that a new generation of ‘Afghan Arabs’ is going to Afghanistan to fight NATO?

    On a slightly different topic, something we never seem to see discussed is the identity of suicide bombers in Iraq. There seem to have been scores of suicide attacks. Are these by Iraqis or foreigners? Why are the ‘martyrs’ not celebrated as Palestinian suicide bombers are?

  11. And why does the House of Saud always remind me of the Romanoff’s?

    just to test the scope of the analogy, do you see a metaphorical rasputin, or indeed a hemophiliac?

  12. Mark,
    My stats are in Sydney so I can’t cite them now. However, one set of stats I do recall is the results of the French attempt to set-up a Muslim council – the intention being to marginalise extremists. The expectation was that so-called moderates associated with the Paris mosque (and most so-called moderates support suicide bombers against Israel etc) would dominate the election. I think these so-called moderates actually only got around 6 out of 42 or so seats with around 16 going to a group associated with the Muslim Brotherhood. The rest went to extremists of various sorts. To view extremism in Islam the same as in Christianity is quiet frankly dangerously naive and PC. Again, Manji is worth reading on this and certainly more worth reading than so-called Middle Eastern experts who seem intent on playing down the threat of Islamic Fascism and exaggerating the crimes of the West.

  13. A good way to sound statesmanlike and impartial in the middle of a war is to talk about the “sunlit uplands” of the world after (your) victory. Until the US-led coalition comes up with some positive proposals for the wonderful world to be created after all the terrorists have been killed, condemnations of Al-Quaeda etc. are pointless. We could start with reaffirmation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the UN Charter, the cancellation of a lot of 3rd world debt and abandonment of international trade policies which maintain too many countries and too many people in poverty. This would be a start. But war aims which just reflect the one-sided status quo ante won’t cut it.

  14. Gordon,
    Firstly, if France etc had supported the US (and god forbid Muslim leaders stopped condemning the west and did something positive) then the situation would be a lot better. In any case the West had to take a stand on this issue or otherwise it would have been read as a sign of weakness in the Arab world. Secondly, most academics and social activists caught in their befuddled moral and culturally relativist universe reject notions such as Universal Human Rights – this is even essentially the case with Amnesty International now which has become just another polemical NGO. After all when we support such notions the West and the majority populations within these countries clearly score far higher than other countries or minorities within Western countries such as Muslims – that is attitudes to women and free speech etc.

  15. As for the UN, Sudan has just been elected to their human rights committee- so the less said the better

  16. Michael, I’d be interested when you do get a chance. It seems to me that the Islamic population in France is a distinct case for several reasons. Algeria, of course, was before its war of liberation considered not a colony but an integral part of metropolitan France so it was relatively easy for Algerian Muslims to move to France. So France has the highest Islamic population of any Western country. Because of the very secular and universalist French ideology, there has been little attempt (until recently – as with the Islamic Council you refer to) to recognise any difference through multicultural style policy. The French attitude is that if you are a citizen, then you are French – full stop. Obviously, this is an assimilationist policy by another name – but that hasn’t happened because of the size and homogeneity of the Islamic population and the racism and discrimination that lurks beneath the surface. Given that France is also the most vocal opponent of US policy, it would be very interesting indeed to compare opinions among non-Islamic and Islamic French people on the US and the Iraq War. I suspect there wouldn’t be a massive difference.

  17. Don’t like decapitations myself,too many aussies and kiwis murdered this way in WW2.
    But the saudi government do about one a week,publicly.Is this an outrage?
    This week the americans killed about 20 civilians in a rocket attack on a house,they missed who they were after.
    Do these dead women and children counst at all?

  18. Mark, One lot of stats are quoted in an article in the SMH 27 Jan 2004 entitled cowering under Islam’s Sway. A survey concducted by the ICM polling agency indicated that more than 10 percent of Britains Muslim population believed that further attacks on the US would be legitimate and 8 percent supported such attacks against Britain. The figure would be far far far higher if we were to talk of supporting suidide bombings against Israel – the one democracy in the Middle East. As for France and assimilation, I for one see nothing wrong with this if it means respecting ethnic diversity, science, reason, free speech the rule of law etc rather than emphasising differences. My Malaysian wife, doesn’t make a point of hanging around with other Malaysians nor do I have any English friends. I find it somewhat hypocritical that when English people who retire in Spain and just watch English TV and associate with fellow English people they are rightly regarded as being somewhat pathetic but when people of other cultures do similar they are viewed in far more positive terms. Also, the main reason in Britain and even (the more racist) France why Muslims are marginalised is their attitude to issues such as western women who most Muslims regard as sluts whether they are prepared to admit it or not. Whenever I tell a Muslim I am married to an Asian, they inevitably voice their approval followed by negative comments about western women.

  19. Terrible murder of one man,acceptable murder of 20 civilians by US rocket attack.
    What the hell is the difference?
    Was the american pilot a hero-I don’t think so.
    What is the difference beteen an arab suicide bomber and an american pilot.
    They both kill civilians,don’t they?

  20. Oh yes and both the Allies and nazis killed people and both sides committed atrocities at times does that make them both as bad as each other. The rocket attack was aimed at terrorists who take refuge among the civilian population. The Americans and Blair are doing the right thing and most people who think otherwise are so infected with anti-Americanism and so used to criticsing their own cultures that they are simply incapable of thinking rationally. Really,a rational leftie I am sick and tired of irrational lefties from Marxists to utopian end of the world is nigh greenies to cultural relativists dominating the agenda – if your aim was to allow the right to claim the intellectual and moral high ground and get jobs for yourself in academia you have succeeded very well – some of us still have some more nobal aims such as supporting the small number of secular Muslims attmeping to turn Islam into something approaching a civilised religion.

  21. Michael, what form does your support for secular Muslims take? Please tell me it’s more than trotting out cliches about Marxist academics and utopian end-of-the-world-is-nigh greenies (oxymoron, anyone?). As JQ points out, the invasion of Iraq has probably bolstered the cause of AQ and its ilk, as plenty of people warned would happen 18 months ago.

    If you want to reply, it’s going to have to be a lot better than those poorly written, poorly spelled and solipsistic efforts above.

  22. do you see a metaphorical rasputin, or indeed a hemophiliac? LOL …Chalabi, the Rasputin of the Potomac…maybe not haemophilia but quivering chins seem to run in the Shrub family.

  23. Sorry Michael (Burgess), but you are speaking complete and utter nonsense that legitimizes US and British terror on the pretext of elite and establishment rationale. For heaven’s sake man, learn some history!!! Its total nonsense to make excuses for western atrocities on the basis of the kinds of feeble argument you are postulating – that the bombing of civilians is justified because (according to you, and to the robots at CENTCOM, but without a shred of evidence to back it up) civilians are being used as “human shields” by terrorists. The same pathetic justification has been used time and time again as cover for western carnage in Afghanistan, Somalia, Sudan, The Balkans, Indonesia, Viet Nam, Latin America etc. etc. I suppose you’d pull this lame excuse out of the hat also to legitimize the slaughter of tens of thousands of Nicaraguans during the 1980’s by the American- backed Somosza guard – actions whch led to the Reagan administration being found guilty of “unlawful force” (e.g. state terrorism) at the World Court, but which led to them escalating their terrorist war.

    Mark B, why not read some of the books I mentioned above, such as Ward Churchill’s opus, Bill Blum’s “Rogue State” and Mark Curtis’s “Web of Deceit”, all of which detail Anglo-American atrocities over the past half century. Your problem, as defined by Gore Vidal in his latest book, “The United States of Amnesia”, is that we learn nothing if we remember nothing.

  24. (If I may return briefly to John’s actual question)

    I don’t think that there ever will be a “next bin Laden”. Osama was/is a product of his time and place in the Saudi elite’s late 70s/early 80s oil boom heyday. As journo Jason Burke has written, bin Laden does not, and never has, *run* a transnational terrorist outfit; he is much more akin to a dabbling venture capitalist. In Western terms, we would say that he’s in it for the “lifestyle”.

    In contrast, as some commenters above have pointed out, the Muslim world has a vast surplus of angry, unemployed (*and* often highly-educated) young and young-ish men. Their financial and psychological condition has so far made them prime recruits, of course, for front-line suicide missions. Conversely, this makes it impossible for them, in future, to become independently-wealthy “lifestyle” terrorists, a la bin Laden.

    What this boils down to – and this is something already seen in Madrid, and more recently in Saudi Arabia – is that the days of big budget, high production-value terrorism are probably over. GenX terrorists operating autonomously as share-house sized (and resourced) cells are less likely to want to, or be able to, do the front-line suicide thing. Now lacking a head-office PR department (= bin Laden), they have to also stand behind the cameras filming their front-line debaucheries (viz, to double-up as snuff-film producers).

  25. Jeff, I’m not sure why you recommend that reading list to me – I’ve read Vidal and Blum and am well aware of the atrocities committed in the name of Empire by the US and UK. I’m in general agreement with John Q’s post – perhaps that didn’t come through clearly enough in what I wrote.

  26. Rather than arrogantly recommend reading lists of ideologically indulgent authors who are so used to criticising their own cultures and the US that they are incapable of rational analysis in the present context, I suggest you read the like of Hitchens and Shawcross who do know what their talking about. Oh and better still – you ideological indulgent individuals who don’t really care less about social justice – why don’t read some works by secular Muslims such as Manji or Ibn Warraq. They are well aware who is the real source of evil in the world today and it is not Bush, Blair or Howard or, for that matter, Israel- a country which has suffered from appalling academic and political bias of the years.

  27. Mark Bahnisch is wrong about the French attitude that anyone with French citizenship is French. That is merely the official attitude, as held by the dominant elite. What the French actually do is reject outsiders in a very parochial way.

    I know – my mother’s family emigrated there, and even after my uncle obtained French citizenship he was an outsider to the family he married into. And French xenophobia was a large part of my mother’s resaon to emigrate to the UK in her turn.

    Readers might want to research the fate of the Harkis, too.

  28. “For heaven’s sake man, learn some history!!!”

    Good advice Jeff. You might like to refer to historical context yourself before you next ascribe a singularity of evil intent to American foreign policy over the last 50 years. The relevant geopolitical context is of course the Cold War in which the United States took the lead role in confronting Marxist-Leninist totalitarianism – itself no slouch when it came to perpetrating atrocity. My immediate reaction to lurid depictions of the US as a maddened power-mad beast rampaging through the last half century is to diagnose selective amnesia.

  29. PML – I don’t think we disagree – I pointed out that the official universalist ideology masked racism.

  30. MarkLatham
    I feel your pain.
    Here’s a list of those women and children that you care so much about(and their nationalities, of course) that were killed by those just awful Americans.
    I haven’t found out the names of the bunny wabbits and fluffy ducks you were so concerned about yet. But don’t worry, I’m working on it, so don’t go to pieces on us just yet.

    1.Muhamed bin Salem Al-asmari Saudi

    2.Abdullah bin Baz Al-utaibi Saudi

    3.Muhamed Al-zahrani Saudi

    4.Sa’ad bin Khaled Al-shahri Saudi

    5.Abu Muhamed Al-Kusaimi Saudi

    6.Muftaah saed Abu-dajana Emirates

    7.Sultaan Mutaseem Al-ashmuri Yemen

    8.Zakaria Abu-alabaas Morroco

    9.Saed Muhamed Abu-zaaker Algeria

    10.Mahmud uthman Al-shaikh Syria

    11.Abu-attah Lybia

    12.Abu Abdullah Somalia

    13.Kaari Handalh Somalia

    14.Omaar Hamid Khlil Iraq (Kurdistan)

    15.Saif Al-Turkstani China

    16.Abu Al-waleed Mauritania

  31. Mark Bahnisch –

    I think we disagree about whether we call the actual on the ground grass roots French attitude “the” French attitude, or the official elite endorsed version. It doesn’t mean a disagreement about what is going on, but it can lead to confusion and cross purposes in discussion.

    Ironically, the former approach to naming fits better with British descended thinking, but the latter fits better with post-Descartes French traditions – descriptive or prescriptive. So there is a risk of building in one’s conclusion when discussing French culture, whichever approach one adopts.

  32. Christopher Htchens? You must be kidding? The man is vile – like his opinions. An ex-Pat Brit who writes so much bilge about world affairs that its hard to keep track.

    Is clear to people like Mike B that the Anglo-American axis can do no wrong; moreover, our governments are paragons of virtue that universally respect human rights. People like our dear old Mike see the world through a one-way moral and legal lens, with western values depicted as threatened, justifying a global campaign of unrestricted violence (to quote Princeton Professor Richard Falk). This is why, to cite several of a million examples, Suharto was “our kind of guy”, to quote Bill Clinton, who received immense military and diplomatic support in full knowledge of the mass murder he was committing in East Timor. This is why the main partners in the mythological ‘war on terror’ – Algeria, Turkey, China, Russia, the US and Great Britain, are all leading exponents of state terror. This is why the US is bolstering vile regimes like Uzbekistan, whose leader, Islam Karimv, is a monster in the vein of Saddam Hussein who boils his political opponents alive. This is why the US has increased military and economic support to Colombia and Turkey in the post-cold war years, knowing full well that the military hardware they are selling is being used to slaughter civilians and peasants (Colombia was the recipient of 1.3 billion dollars worth of US ‘aid’ last year – a year in which Amnesty International declared it to be the world’s most despicable regime). This is why US-British aid goes disproportionately to countries with appalling human rights records – countries that routinely murder union leaders, political opponenents, and civilians.

    The FACT is that the US and UK support regimes (including many in the Middle East), no matter how vile, that support their business interests. The ‘war on terror’ – replacing the old ‘red scare’ of the cold war years – is nothing more than a semantic camouflage disigned to obscure the real objectives of American foreign policy: economic expansion and control of resources the neocons in Washington argue are “rightfully theirs” but tend to lie under the land masses of other countries. What the Bush/Cheney junta fears most is indiginous nationalism – that political systems will emerge in countries which attempt to use their resources to benefit their own populations. This is what happened in Guatemala under Arbenz in the 1950’s, Indoneia under Sukarno in the 1960’s, and Nicaragua under the Sandanista’s in the 1980’s (to cite just three of countless examples). In each case, a pretext was made to “cut out the cancer”, as George Schultz described Nicaragua’s inherent nationalism in 1984. This is nothing new. The US will ensure – economically or by military force if necessary – that a countries’ first priority is to US investors ad conglomerates. This explains their policy of support for brutal regimes around the world – a “top down” form of democracy which is not democracy at all but a polyarchy or plutocracy.

    Last point: for your sake, Mike, I hope you never witness a debate between Mark Curtis and Hitchens because Curtis will totally and utterly humilate Hitchens.

  33. jeez tipper i feel your pain too – here’s an even bigger list of the names 2081 civilians that have died since the U.S invaded Iraq

  34. Now, now, KG. Utilitarian pro-Americans have actually argued that you should net those 2,081 off against the number who would have died under the US sanctions and bombing that would have continued if there had been no invasion and occupation. (Irony off)

  35. PML
    Surely it would be more rational to offset the 2081 (actually closer to 4000, but lets not quibble) against these numbers. And thanks for resurrection that blast from the past, about all the “victims” of inhumane US/UK sanctions.

  36. No Tipper –

    You simply should not do that utilitarian stuff, ever. It fools people into mistaking lesser evil for good, and it’s a short step from there to losing track of ethical standards entirely as you choose the measurement you are most comfortable with and stop asking questions.

    Consider the Bialik Brigade, Jews active in Poland during the war. They forced Polish Catholics to shelter Jews by taking reprisals that were worse than the German ones. They saved Jewish lives. If you account their actions good, you are saying that their own atrocities and murders of innocent Poles were justified.

    And you cannot use the incidental benefits of the end of Saddam’s rule that way anyway, for several reasons. He himself had a similar justification, stopping people like the Kurds from massacring local Christians. The US figures of what he did wrong are no more substantial than any other US intelligence (which is precisely why there is a risk in going the utilitarian route, of choosing what figures suit you). And the assumption that there has been a change for the better is on a par with those halfwits who claimed a year ago that Iraq had been liberated and wouldn’t listen when people like me said what they had just got was occupation, with liberation a prospect on the horizon (you simply can’t count the gains until they really are realised and present).

    The USA usually screws up, and since you cannot ever stop the counting in utilitarianism, you just can’t use it. The final figures never are in. It’s a nonsense to claim that the USA improves things, when you can actually trace most of the evils it fixes back to its own actions and omissions, so we shouldn’t try that counting game – it backfires. None of us is without sin, and if all had our deserts none would escape whipping. Not even the exceptionalist USA.

  37. Ignoring, well, blathering fools is a collective action problem as I see it, with the predicted result. Unfortunate.

  38. Jeff Harvey states that Christopher Htchens ‘is vile – like his opinions. An ex-Pat Brit who writes so much bilge about world affairs that its hard to keep track.’ He then goes on to attack the US listing a litany of things they have done wrong or allegedly done wrong without making any positive statements. There is also the assumption that anyone who does not agree with this idiotic worldview must be ignorant of history.
    Well Jeff, I am well aware of history – in fact, obviously far more than you are give that ideology rather facts influences your views– I marched against the Vietnam war etc and, until recently was a long-time member of Amnesty International. However, unlike the likes of you and other members of the dogmatic Marxist cum cultural left, I also vigorously opposed human rights abuses in the Soviet Union and Cuba etc and did not naively side with Arafat’s mafia regime at the expense of innocent Israeli’s. Also when the US does positive things, I can actually bring myself to say so – keeping Europe safe in the cold war, the Marshall plan, the Green Revolution in India without which massive starvation would have occurred (which the nation would not have survived), and its lead in the current war against Islamic fascism etc. Incidentally, I have never seen Hitchens or William Shawcross bested in an argument. I suspect this is while a simple minded, ideologically blinkered individual such as you hates him so much. Stick to computer games and leave politics to adults – I sick of you ideologues on the left allowing the right to dominate.

  39. Michael Burgess, you are a complete hypocrite. Airbrush from history a lengthy litany of abuses of power – and draw conclusions based on a narrow (exceedingly narrow) list of altruistic US actions (if you can call that thin list using such a metaphor). I have read articles by both Hitchen and Shawcross, and its funny how failed liberals tend to fall behind the vassals of power as they age (like you). By contrast, you’ve never read a thing by any of the authors I have listed, its patently obvious from the simplicity of your arguments. Moreover, how can Hitchens and Shawcross be ‘bested’ in debates when, like the servile politicians they support, they limit access to sycophants? Like another vile ex-liberal, Thomas Friedman, they wallow in empire and violence so long as America (and its junior partner and full time poodle, Britain) is pulling the trigger.

    I won’t even attempt to answer the appalling examples of US generosity you mentioned, with the excepton of the “Marshall Plan”. Don’t you realize that Europe paid back, with immense interest, proceeds from the MP? Britain was only able to pay off this debt by pludering resources from its colonies – such as British Guiana, Malaya, Iran and Kenya – often using brute force to maintain the status quo (while suppressing nationalism in these countries). Your problem, Mr. Burgess, is well explained by Gore Vidal in his latest book, “The United States of Amnesia”: – “We learn nothing if we remember nothing”. Furthermore, I’d suggest you read the words of US strategic planner George Kennan, made in 1948, if you want a clearer picture of US global ambitions. But of course, you’ve never heard of him! And you lecture me on politics? By the way, before you make any more attacks on my integrity, I have a PhD and hate computer games.

  40. Thomas Friedman is still a liberal you cretin and it is offensive to suggest otherwise. The reason pure and simple that you don’t like him is that he quite rightly supports Israel in the face of appalling terrorism. In addition, secular and left wing Iraqis support US intervention in their country while the illiberal elements don’t-so who is the liberal and who is the reactionary those who support progressives or those who support religious lunatics. You are clearly the type of ideologue who in the 1930s to the 1960s or later would have gone to the Soviet Union and thought they saw Utopia and ignored the millions of people in concentration camps. Anyone who disagreed with such a cretinous was labelled a reactionary. As for your PhD, well I also have one – but what does it mean when Social Science departments are dominated by mindless ideologues whom seem to think that Bush, Blair and Howard are a bigger threat to world peace than Islamic fascism and that a middle class Anglo-Saxon making a remark which is deemed sexist or racist by the thought police is viewed as a bigger threat to human progress than Muslims throwing acid in women’s faces or threatening writers with death.

  41. …The same Islamic fascists that have been for years cultivated by the US and Britain. Or do you know nothing of the history of the Middle East? Oman? Bahrain? The UAE? Saudi Arabia? Or who created the Mujahadeen from which the Taliban emerged? Or who supported the death squads in Latin America whe they were mutilating women and children? The infamous “Tiger unit” in Vietam? Mike, you are the cretin here, a blind and ignorant xenophobe who expunges all of the vile deeds carried out under Anglo-American support. Wakey, wakey…

  42. So the fact that the US played a role in the development of the Mujahadeen in the past means that they should try to put things right in the present – smart thinking that. As for expunging all of the vile deeds carried out under Anglo-American support when have I done that – I am very critical of many aspects of US policy in the past. This is in contrast to you who can’t bring yourself to say anything positive about the US or admit that Islamic extremism goes beyond just a small minority of fanatics. As such you are simple an irrelevance and not worth bothering with any longer.

  43. …While I am on the subject, I would like to ask Michael if he can explain why the US government was flying in Mujahadeen and Hezbollah fighters into Kosovo in 1999 while Israel, Greece and Ukraine were funding arms to Serbia. This is total and utter hypocricy. Furthermore, when Moshe Dayan said in 1975 that “We will treat Arabs as dogs”, he was setting out Israel’s brutal domestic policies against Palestinians for years to come. Lastly, Thomas Friedman is not a liberal – he’s a hack. Anyone who makes statements like “We should bomb Iraq over, and over and over again”, and, regarding Serbia, “You want 1950? We can give you 1950. You want 1350? We can give you that too” is pure and utter human filth – nothing less.

  44. I just love reading impassioned dialogues like this thread. They invariably end-up with the most frenetic posters “proving” that whatever/whenever the inhumanity, the Brits/UK are most horrid and the Jews the worst.

    My immediate research tool to test textual claims, particularly the awesome volume of Jew-Quotes, is Google ™. No doubt not 100% coverage of all references, but searching 4,285,199,774 web pages is better than none.

    Here are a couple of examples:

    Google’s response to Jeff Harvey’s direct quote of Moshe Dayan (“said in 1975”) that “We will treat Arabs as dogs” is … “did not match any documents”.

    And what are the other pages on the internet mentioning the “Bialik Brigade” which P.M. Lawrence informed us were “Jews active in Poland during the war” who “forced Polish Catholics to shelter Jews by taking reprisals that were worse than the German ones”? Absolutely none. The only reference to “Bialik Brigade” found by Google was what P.M. Lawrence posted in this actual thread.

    This occurs time and time again. Try it yourself. It’s just like looking up footnotes at a library. And easy.

    And critical if we are to filter the crazed anti-democratic/cum/anti-Semetic/cum/totalitarian-apologists from genuine debates.

  45. ‘And what are the other pages on the internet mentioning the “Bialik Brigade”…’

    Try looking outside the internet. I noticed this when I was astonished by the amount of eulogy given to the eponymous Bialik in an obituary in the Melbourne age a few years ago – even though it was quite explicit about the activities of the Bialik Brigade! Of course, looking up old newspaper files may take quite a bit of work, but hey, once you get the information you can put the secondary information on the internet yourself.

    The internet is not the source of all wisdom. It is merely a medium.

  46. Not good enough, P.M.

    Comments of good charactor have an obligation to provide sources/evidence for new information used in arguement either by hyper-link or by direct quotes with notes and references (eg. The Age, which city, which date, etc).

    This is not a matter of academic correctness or politeness. The enemies of freedom are using the internet as a vehicle for propaganda on a grand scale. Promoting documenation, accuracy and relevancy is an important defence against the onslaught.

    Quite frankly, I am astounded by your suggestion that I view the internet as “the source of all wisdom”. Are you associated with johnquiggin.com?

  47. Jeff Harvey you are as incredibly selective as your undoubted hero Noam Chomsky when entering into the Israeli/ Palestinian debate. You refer to an alleged comment made by Moshe Dayan. Now I don’t know whether he made this comment or not but that is not the issue. The issue is which side do the overall facts support.

    It is a fact that on three occasions since the Second World War the Palestinians have been offered a continuous state. Initially the state of Israel would have been a relatively small amount of poor quality land much of which they purchased from the Arabs in any case. Rather than accept this or the very generous offer (given the past behaviour of the Palestinians) made when Clinton was President, the Palestinian leadership and Arab leaders have continiously chosen to seek to wipe out all Jews. During the second world war a delegation of senior Palestinians went to see Hitler to seek his support for a final solution, solution in their region of the world.

    When the Arab countries invaded Israel following the end of the Second World War, they called on their troops to massacre any Jews they came across which they did. When the incredibly corrupt Arafat speaks to his own constituency he makes similar remarks advocating the destruction of the Jews (whatever his comments to the international media) a point that Friedman has constantly made and obviously one reason why an ideologue like yourself does not like him. As a recent book, The Case for Israel, by Alan Dershowitz has pointed out, when faced with such appalling behaviour Israel has generally responded with impressive moderation. That is, the measures it takes are no more punitive (probably less so) than would have been the case if another democratic country was faced with similar provocation.

    On the issue of who is the real liberal, I should also point out Jeff that Gay Palestinians frequently claim political asylum in Israel – I wonder why. Many Arab Israeli’s are also more than happy to remain in Israel rather than go to an Arab country – I wonder why. Jeff why don’t you go and live in Palestine or any other Arab country and see how you like it. Even Chomsky and Said et al choose to live in the US – the country they supposedly hate- rather than put their convictions into practice.

  48. Michael,

    You can defend Israeli actions until you are blue in the face but you cannot excuse many of the atrocities they have committed over the years, actions which the establishment media never refers to as state terrorism – which is exactly what it is – but as “retaliation”, “response” “or, my favourite, “operations”. These “operations” have left the Palestinian community in ruins, many thousands dead, and 65% of Palestinians living below the poverty level. I am not going to go into a length discourse over the specifics of the atrocities but there are many – Mark Curtis details some of the more egregious abuses in his book, “Web of Deceit” – and there are reams of other sources.

    As far as Said and Chomsky are concerned, along with the likes of Gore Vidal, Curtis, John Pilger, Robert Fisk, Naomi Klein, Jonathon Steel, Paul Street, Edward Herman, Amy Goodman, Tariq Ali, Arundhati Roy, Norman Solomon, Howard Zinn, Tom Engelhardt, and many others, they are (or were, in Said’s case) examples of individuals who unravel accredited lies. I lost faith in the news promoted by the elite (television, newspapers) years ago, and rely instead on books and commentary over the internet. – I find it incomprehensible when MB uses the same stupid argument that individuals within the USA or the UK who criticize the vassals of state and corporate power are “anti-American” or “anti-British” and should live elsewhere. This is so blatantly and brazenly arrogant. John Pilger, questioning John Bolton, one of the neocon “crazies”, as former CIA man Ray McGovern refers to the current incuments in the White House, had Bolton downplay the deaths of 10,000 civilians in Iraq due to the latest Anglo-American invasion as being “not so bad”. Consider the outpouring of grief in any western country from this kind of slaughter. These are on top of the horrendous death rates from Gulf War I, when the ‘coalition’ deliberately targeted the civilian infrastructure, and the sanctions which killed hundreds of thousands more and which Madeline Albright said infamously, “were worth the cost”. Bolton then when on to ask Pilger if he was a communist. This is the kind of crazy speak that pervades the current US administration, and its truly democractic when individals like McGovern – a lifelong Republican – express their views that Bush and his administration are a threat to world peace and security. I just wonder how many Italians who criticize pseudo-fascists like Berlisconi are called “anti-Italian”. I live in Holland, and I haven’t yet heard critics of the incompetent Balkenende government smeared as being “anti-Dutch”. The real aim to achieve true democracy from within. This is why the aforementioned dissident academics and journalists are so important.

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