Not Saussure

February 9, 2007

Helping al-Qa’eda?

Filed under: Australia, Iraq, War on Terror — notsaussure @ 9:15 pm

Running a temperature probably doesn’t help, but I’ve been trying all day to get my aching head round this, without much success:

Anti-American feeling in Europe is playing into the hands of al-Qa’eda and unwittingly encouraging terrorism, Australia’s foreign minister said today.

Mr Downer gave warning that criticism of America’s conduct in Iraq could – inadvertently – provide an incentive for terrorist attacks.

“People in the West, and not only in Europe, blame America for a suicide bomber in a market in Baghdad,” he said.

“That only encourages more horrific behaviour. Every time there is an atrocity committed, it is implicitly America’s fault, so why not commit some more atrocities and put even more pressure on America?”

Mr Downer added: “The al-Qa’eda leadership has said on many occasions that more than 50 per cent of the battle is a battle in the media. The more you can get media denigration of America, the more that the war against terrorism is seen to be an indictment of America, the better for those who started this war.”

The article’s accompanied by a picture, captioned France’s Jacques Chirac and Germany’s Gerhard Schroeder both opposed the US-led war in Iraq in 2003, which shows both men laughing like drains about something or other, though we’re not actually told whether it’s the news of the latest bombing in Baghdad that’s causing them so much much merriment, or the news that Margaret Beckett was to be our Foreign Secretary or Tony’s little problems with the Old Bill, or what.

My confusion wasn’t just caused by the reference to ‘those who started this war’ — and he’s right, by the way; war is declared in response to a hostile action rather than by the side who starts it — though I did have to think about it for a minute. My first problem is with the term ‘anti-Americanism’, at least in this context. I take it to mean opposing something that you might otherwise support (or supporting something you might otherwise oppose) just because the Americans are doing it. Well, I suppose you should never rule anything out — as a very eminent psychoanalyst once told me, speaking of the insights he’s gained from his profession ‘you have to realise, and you soon learn in my job, just how many crazy people there are around’ — so there probably are some people who wouldn’t be half so concerned about the bloody debacle in Iraq if it were the French who’d led the invasion (rather, I suppose, as we weren’t many of us that worried about heavily armed Islamic fundamentalists in Afghanistan so long as they were giving the Soviets a hard time, though I do recall the reaction of my then father-in-law, an elderly Indian gentleman, when he heard we were sending large amounts of weaponry to the Pathans — ‘I don’t care whose allies they’re supposed to be; we’ll live to regret this’ ). But there can’t be that many, surely?

I’m the first to admit I’d have been all in favour of the invasion of Iraq if I thought the original bill of goods was an honest one. Quick invasion, get rid of Saddam, run the place as a protectorate for a few years — longer than was being talked about, given the amount of time it would obviously take to undo a whole generation of a pretty ferocious dictatorship, but not a problem since the exercise was supposed to pay for itself (and maybe show a profit for the victors — after all, we deserve something for our trouble). Show other governments in the region what happens if you don’t behave yourself. Maybe get the price of petrol down (bugger the environment — the voters wouldn’t complain). Excellent idea, to my mind, except it so obviously wasn’t going to happen like that and the present descent into chaos and civil war was, if not inevitable, so very likely — as the Pentagon knew from wargaming it in 1999 — that it wasn’t worth the risk. And as to the point — Tony Blair’s killer question, it seems — ‘wasn’t it worth it to get rid of Saddam?’, well, first, I suppose you’d really need to ask some Iraqis that, but a quote I’m sure I saw on Mike Power’s Weblog — though I can’t now find it there — made the very good point that if you went into hospital for much needed surgery on your knee, and the operation was botched to the extent you lost your whole leg, you wouldn’t be too pleased to be told that at least you didn’t need to worry about your knee any more.

Many people who opposed the invasion were, I’m sure, opposed to it not primarily for the practical reasons that put me off the idea but, indeed, because President Bush was behind it. But what of it? Had the war gone well, then they’d have looked very foolish, but, as it is… . Jon Swift skewered this quite neatly, I think, in his complaint about the way the Democrats

are so blinded by hatred of Bush that they are against anything he is for. I guess if Bush told Democrats to jump off a bridge, they would probably refuse to do it, even if it was the right thing to do.

As it is, Mr Downer’s line of argument seems to be that al-Qa’eda hope the American government will be criticised for doing stupid things so best not to criticise it when they, in fact, that’s what the American government does, since that’s playing into the hands of the enemy. In other words, it is in the nature of American governments (as opposed to a particular faction in the present one) to be stupid and criticising them is pointless. Seems like a pretty good description of anti-Americanism to me.
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  1. This has been over done…BUT it all sounds very 1984. ‘To protect freedom of speech, we have to end freedom of speech’

    Basically, he wants people in democraitc nations of the west to sit down and shut the fuck up!

    I also hate this term ‘Anti-Americanism’…its thrown about with such glee, normally by the right, whenever anyone dares have a difference of opinion…and one day, it will get to the point when people will just go, ‘yeah, down with the USA!’

    Comment by MattUK — February 9, 2007 @ 9:34 pm

  2. “criticism of America’s conduct in Iraq could – inadvertently – provide an incentive for terrorist attacks”

    True as it stands of course, but I think it’s better pruned:

    “America’s conduct in Iraq could – inadvertently – provide an incentive for terrorist attacks”

    Comment by Larry Teabag — February 10, 2007 @ 1:50 am

  3. What, you mean none of you are rooting for the final triumph of Islamism in Great Britain?

    I’ve been sold a pup, I thought that was all us America-haters did all day.

    Damn it, I’ll just have to plough this lonely furrow solitaire. There’s nothing I enjoy more than a bit of dhimmification of a spring morning.

    Comment by Flying Rodent — February 10, 2007 @ 2:50 pm

  4. ‘Fraid so, FR. We’re more in the useful idiots line — well, they’re useful, anyway — but, of course, objectively…. Your man Nick Cohen will explain it all, especially if you offer to water-board him.

    Comment by notsaussure — February 10, 2007 @ 3:39 pm

  5. John Howard and Alexander Downer has used this line and other increasingly tenuous arguments in Australia to defend a very unpopular war. Their strategy is that they are in as long as the Americans ask them to stay. Don’t abandon your buddies when things aren’t going well. Tosh. Hopefully it will assist Labor to throw these guys out in the election this year.

    Comment by Colin Campbell — February 11, 2007 @ 6:48 am

  6. The premise for going to war in the first place was false and it seems that the participants knew this, so strategies based on that premise had to be doomed to failure. Yet this is the line of logic still being relentlessly pursued. A little honest reflection wouldn’t go amiss here yet Bush had to be harried into admitting ‘it’s bad in Iraq’, as if even stating the obvious was too much to ask.

    Comment by Noosa Lee — February 11, 2007 @ 3:15 pm

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