A week or so ago I noted an outbreak of moonbattiness in the Grauniad. Well, not much to my surprise things have not noticably improved now that everyone is back from their holidays. This article by The Grauniad's "security affairs editor" has so much that just cries out to be fisked.
The war on terror is being lost
The greatest obstacle to reducing the threat is the US administration
Richard Norton-Taylor Wednesday September 8, 2004 The Guardian
It starts out clearly enough doesn't it? No dancing around the issue here. Quite why the USA - a notorious sponsor of terrorists no doubt - is to blame is unclear but obviously it will be explained later
Forget all the arguments about Iraq, we are told. We have had Hutton and Butler, Tony Blair won't apologise for misleading the public and parliament, and it is time to move on. But how can we possibly move on? The invasion of Iraq has cost the lives of more than 1,000 American and more than 60 British soldiers. Put on one side the failure to find any weapons of mass destruction and the fact that Saddam Hussein's Iraq posed less of a threat to its neighbours - let alone the west - last year than when western governments were supplying his regime with WMD precursors right up to the invasion of Kuwait in 1990.
Already we have one lie and one misdirection.
The lie: In Iraq there has been one Sarin shell used as an IED and a number of other shells discovered by the coalition, not to mention numerous cannisters of pesticide (a chemical munition precurson) in ammo dumps so failure to find any weapons of mass destruction is a flat out lie. True Bush, Blair etc expected to find more but since some have been found and in fact reported in the Grauniad this flat out lie seems to indicate the quality of journalism we can expect.
The misdirection: The last line has this gem "western governments were supplying his regime with WMD precursors right up to the invasion of Kuwait in 1990" which seems to be suggesting that:
no one was supplying Hussein before 2003 (whereas the Washinton Times has a recent article showing that France was cheerfully supplying weapons in 2002)
it was all the US's fault in the first place when a more accurate description would be that French and German companies where doing the supplying (see above Washington Times article).
For Blair, as well as Bush and his neocons, an invasion of Iraq would topple a vicious dictator, help the "war on terror" by preventing nasty weapons getting into the hands of al-Qaida sympathisers and promote democracy in the Middle East and neighbouring central Asia.
So far Blair and Bush seem to be at 100%. Democracy is taking root in both Iraq and Afghanistan (and yes neither place is perfect but they are getting there), nasty weapons do not seem to have got into the hands of Al-Qaida sympathisers and a vicious dictator has indeed been toppled. Where's the beef?
We have just witnessed the latest manifestation of the so-called war on terror in the Caucasus. Further east, across the oil-rich Caspian, lies Uzbekistan, where the US turns a blind eye to serious human rights abuses in return for military bases for the same war on terror. They were initially used to attack the Taliban and al-Qaida in Afghanistan, where elections are due next month - an event the US has done little to prepare for, wary of upsetting warlords, while leaving responsibility for security to its European Nato allies, which are unwilling or unable to provide.
Oh boy another paragaph ladened with half-truths. Lets start with We have just witnessed the latest manifestation of the so-called war on terror in the Caucasus. As noted at Harry's Place, a fast reader might think the article had suffered from one of the Grauniad's famous typos - surely its the "war OF terror in the Caucasus". But leaving that aside what precisely has the USA got to do with Chechnya, Ossetia and Dagestan? The only thing the US has done with regard to the Chechen situation is chase hard core terrorists out of Afghanistan who seem to have subsequently made their way to Chechnya. There is a logical disconnect here; either we are in a Global War against Islamic Fascism, in which case the USA has not provided enough support to Russia in its fight, or we are not in which case the USA has correctly done nothing to help. However from the context neither of these options appears to be what is meant.
We get to see what is probably meant in the discussion on Afghanistan, but before we get there lets point out that "turning a blind eye" to Uzbekistan's human rights abuses includes the announcement in July this year that the USA "will withhold millions of dollars in security and economic assistance to Uzbekistan, citing "disappointment" over Tashkent’s human rights practices."
As for Afghanistan, when its government begged NATO to send more troops which country was it that said "non"? The Americans have committed billions of dollars and twenty thousand troops while Europe has managed to produce a measly 6000ish and next to bugger all in aid. It is unclear how the US has contributed to the lack of support when in fact it has been the sole country to actually meet its promises in the 2001/2 aid meetings.
In Iraq - described with out irony by the Bush administration as the new "front line" in the war on terror - the US has installed a government of placemen. As the respected Iraq expert Toby Dodge observes in Survival, the International Institute for Strategic Studies journal, it has "a high proportion of formerly exiled politicians in the cabinet and a prime minister closely associated with the intelligence arms of both the British and American governments".
Can we please be reasonable here? In Iraq the Ba'ath regime ruled for decades and exiled or killed its political opponants so, given that the Ba'ath party is not acceptable in government from whence, other than the exile community, is the political leadership to come? And how, given the lack of contacts possible under Hussein, should a trustworthy prime minister be picked, if you are going to ignore those with linls to intelligence? Finally one notices a complete lack of mention of the UN in the process of picking the government. My recollection is that a certain Lakhmar Ibrahimi was quite involved.
The insurgency, he writes, is a home-grown phenomenon, springing from the political and security failures of the occupation. Foreign troops, he suggests, will be needed "for many years to come if anarchy is to be avoided". Dodge adds pointedly: "In the 20s and 30s, the hegemonic power seeking to recreate Iraq was Britain. The 1920 revolt made the occupation extremely unpopular with the British people and led to a change in government in London. The result was that state-building in Iraq was sacrificed at the altar of British domestic politics."
That "home grown phenomenon" is another sweeping statement that fails the smell test. There have been numerous indications that foreigners have been involved in the Sunni triangle fighting and likewise that Iran has been providing cash and armed assistance to Moqtada al Sadr. On the other hand the statement that troops will be needed for years to come is not one that should surprise anyone. Afterall the UN peacekeeping force in East Timor, not to mention the forces in parts of former Yugoslavia have been there for years and show little sign of withdrawal (contrary it might be added to the statements of Clinton in the 1990s). In fact I can hardly think of a single intervention since WW2 that has not resulted in the intervening troops remaining for years.
Blair insists his government will not walk away from countries it has helped occupy. The bigger question is how he will achieve his stated objectives of promoting democracy and human rights in the Middle East (as well as the road map to a peace deal between Israel and Palestine), fighting poverty, and giving a much-needed boost to a UN-focused internationalism. All this would help, much more than military occupation, in the fight against terrorism.
When you don't have anything positive to suggest just make blanket statements that occupation won't help the fight against terrorism. The idea that occupation may in fact help human rights and democracy the Middle East by providing a role model state seems to have escaped the author, who seems to think that somehow Iraq will blossom into a peaceful democracy as soon as the occupiers leave. Quite why this is more likely than a Somali or Afghani style descent into anarchistic chaos is utterly beyond me and the journalist fails to explain.
In a telling comment last week, Mai Yamani, of the Royal Institute of International Affairs, described the annual get-together at Oxford University of the Project for Democracy Studies in Arab Countries. The participants, she wrote in the International Herald Tribune, represented the "lost resources of an Arab world that is fast becoming isolated by illiteracy, ignorance, and repression".
OK and this is the fault of the evil coalition because...? One can't help but note that this illiteracy, ignorance and repression seems to be being driven by all the non-democratic regimes in the region. Precisely how maintaining the status quo from before the Iraqi invasion would help to foster change is a little unclear to me.
A new generation "denied the opportunity to participate in a range of democratic institutions or other vehicles for public self-expression, is finding more dangerous outlets for its passions". Yamani quoted a Saudi researcher at an English university as remarking: "It's easier for a young Arab to blow himself up than sweep outside his house. He doesn't feel he belongs to anything."
Oh really? If this Saudi at an English University is so intimately aware of the life of the young, one wonders why the entire gulf region is failing to be engulfed (sorry) in revolution? Part of the problem it seems to me is that the young in these countries are being encouraged to believe that in fact internal change is impossible. If Iraq succeeds then we can expect bloody revolution in the rest of the Middle East.
It is hard not to conclude that one of the greatest obstacles to the kind of better world Blair says he wants - one with less cause for terrorism, even if terrorists will always be around - is the Bush administration, and notably the likes of Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld. They have consistently dismissed British interests and embarrassed a prime minister who has attached himself so closely to the president with such little reward.
Why is it hard not to conclude this? I'm sorry did some piece of logical argument pass me by here? You haven't made a case for anything of the sort. If anything you have made the case that armed intervention is required and made clear that no one other than the US can actually do this. And as for the dismissal of Blair's/British interests. Right? like the way they failed to go to the UN and try and get a resolution in early 2003? Like the way they have told their traditional British allies, the Conservative Party, to get lost. And so on.
What did Blair think when delegates at last week's Republican convention booed speakers who mentioned the UN? How much longer can Blair, or his ministers, accept to be led by a US administration that denigrates everything they say they stand for? Asked at his press conference yesterday whether the war on terror can be won, Blair replied: "We can win it and I believe ultimately we will win it. But it is going to require emphasis not only on security, but tackling other issues as well." There is absolutely no sign he is succeeding in tackling them, not least because his closest ally, the US president, is simply not interested.
Did I miss the news that the UN had launched a fierce anti-corruption campaign? did I see a mea culpa about UNSCAM last week? in fact did I see anything at all that indicated that the UN was willing to take a tough stand on terrorism, genocide and the like? umm NO. Is it a surprise that people boo the UN? Blair has consistently said that he would prefer to work within a multilateral (UN) framework, likewise, although the Bush-haters seem incapable of hearing it, Bush and his team have said the same thing. Both leaders have also stated that when the UN drops the ball they need to do something more constructive than talking and hand-waving. Although Grauniad "journalists" seme incapable of actually listening to what Bush says, he has in fact at numerous times and in numerous places and perhaps best stated at the Air Force Academy graduation in June this year:
Just as events in Europe determined the outcome of the Cold War, events in the Middle East will set the course of our current struggle. If that region is abandoned to dictators and terrorists, it will be a constant source of violence andd alarm, exporting killers of increasing destructive power to attack America and other free nations. If that region grows in democracy and prosperity and hope, the terrorist movement will lose its sponsors, lose its recruits, and lose the festering grievances that keep terrorists in business. The stakes of this struggle are high. The security and peace of our country are at stake, and success in this struggle is our only option. (Applause.)
In the terrorists' vision of the world, the Middle East must fall under the rule of radical governments, moderate Arab states must be overthrown, nonbelievers must be expelled from Muslim lands, and the harshest practice of extremist rule must be universally enforced. In this vision, books are burned, terrorists are sheltered, women are whipped, and children are schooled in hatred and murder and suicide.
Our vision is completely different. We believe that every person has a right to think and pray and live in obedience to God and conscience, not in frightened submission to despots. (Applause.) We believe that societies find their greatness by encouraging the creative gifts of their people, not in controlling their lives and feeding their resentments. And we have confidence that people share this vision of dignity and freedom in every culture because liberty is not the invention of Western culture, liberty is the deepest need and hope of all humanity.
Fourth and finally, we are denying the terrorists the ideological victories they seek by working for freedom and reform in the broader Middle East. Fighting terror is not just a matter of killing or capturing terrorists. To stop the flow of recruits into terrorist movement, young people in the region must see a real and hopeful alternative -- a society that rewards their talent and turns their energies to constructive purpose. And here the vision of freedom has great advantages. Terrorists incite young men and women to strap bombs on their bodies and dedicate their deaths to the death of others. Free societies inspire young men and women to work, and achieve, and dedicate their lives to the life of their country. And in the long run, I have great faith that the appeal of freedom and life is stronger than the lure of hatred and death.
I wonder whether, if someone gave Richard wossname part of the text of this speech with a few alterations to remove the giveaway bits, he would be nodding in agreement or not. Do Richard Wossname and his fellows actually want action or would they prefer to stand around moaning about how bad everything is? I suspect the latter and that ultimately explains why they hate Bush and Blair. For people who prefer profound words and sonorous treaties to verifiable actions, the idea that a despot or a terrorist leader should be held accountable for his actions and deposed or killed is repellant because is shows up their shallowness.
I must give credit to Harry's Place for bringing the original bilge to my attention.