Sunday, August 13, 2006

Messenger Shoot

The hysteria triggered by this letter is a worrying signal that bin Laden is succeeding.

The BBC's Have Your Say on the subject has been swamped by giyus subscribers but even so, reading through the comments is proper scary. Not as scary reading John Reid's response of course but we'll get back to that.

How many of those who've commented there bothered to read the letter, do you think? It looks like many didn't feel the need. Never mind, I'm sure they've got a perfectly satisfactory version of it in their head built out of nothing more than their own raw prejudices. Sigh.

That sort of thing is, of course, exactly what bin Laden is trying so hard to provoke. He wants us to be hostile to all Muslims. I'm going to write that again. Bin Laden wants us to be hostile to all Muslims. Tell your friends.

If you think bin Laden wants the Israelis to stop bombing Lebanon, you've got totally the wrong end of the stick. He sheds no tears for the Lebanese people. For the likes of him, this crisis has been a fantastic opportunity and he embraces it as such. On a similar note, bin Laden doesn't want us to withdraw from Iraq; he's got us right where he wants us blundering around down there. I'm going to write that again too. Bin Laden doesn't want us to withdraw from Iraq. When he says he does, he's bluffing. Tell your friends that too.

This is all about strategy. As I've said before, bin Laden is a callous long termist. He may genuinely believe that he's acting for the good of all Muslims in the long term, and I think he probably does, the moron, but he clearly doesn't give a toss about individual Muslim lives in the present day. He wants a create a clash of civilisations and he doesn't care how many Muslims have to die to bring it about. And he wants us to hate all Muslims because that'll divide "them" from "us" and provide an environment which is more conducive to the dissemination of his propaganda.

It is vital to understand this if we are actually serious about winning the "war" on terror. Terrorism, ultimately, is fought mostly inside people's heads, "ours" and "theirs". Bin Laden gets this; our leaders don't seem to.

As for the letter itself, note that it says this:
Attacking civilians is never justified. This message is a global one. We urge the Prime Minister to redouble his efforts to tackle terror and extremism and change our foreign policy to show the world that we value the lives of civilians wherever they live and whatever their religion.
That is as unequivocal a statement as you're ever likely to get. Try asking Blair, Bush or Olmert to say "attacking civilians is never justified" and see far you get.

(They'll add "deliberately" every time if you're wondering. As in "deliberately attacking civilians is never justified" . That's because sometimes their armies will "have no choice" but to attack civilians and they need to be able to justify this by saying they didn't kill anyone "deliberately".

This letter is not about support for terrorism. It is a warning but it is not a threat. Unfortunately, it is unlikely that the real message will be heard above the howls of indignation amd outrage.

John Reid illustrates the point with some proper hardcore scariness:
No government worth its salt would stay in power in my view, and no government worth its salt, would be supported by the British people if our foreign policy or any other aspect of policy was being dictated by terrorists.
Yeah, John, I don't know if anyone told you but we're in the middle of this thing called the "war on terror. It's quite important apparently. In fact, it sort of dictates our whole foreign policy and has done for quite some time. I know you're at the Home Office these days but I'm surprised that no-one told you about it when you worked over at Defence. "War"on terror. Google it. I'm not making this up...

Tomorrow's headline should be
John Reid Says Terror Threat Best Ignored
I don't know about you but the fact that someone so idiotic could be in a position of power is the most frightening thing I've heard today.

As I'm not in full agreement with the authors of the letter, here's a final thought on the letter as a whole. I think they needed to separate this out into two distinct issues:
  1. Our foreign policy is ethically unsound and (more importantly for all you old school realists) isn't achieving the desired results
  2. Our foreign policy is creating new enemies
The second does not automatically mean we should change course. Sometimes, if you're doing the right thing, it may be worth it. The first, however, does. Understanding the consequences of the second is important but it should be clear that it is the first which means we need to change our approach.

(I've sort of used bin Laden as a simplified personification of al Qaida strategists generally here. Not sure how important he is personally to al Qaida anymore. Like white dog shit, you just don't see him about these days.)

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Mark said...

You're absolutely right that bin Laden likes America and Britain in Iraq, for as long as they're disposed to stay. For one thing, their conduct is a bonus - just their mere presence is enough, but rapes and murders and brutality show the invaders have feet of clay, and cannot hold the moral high ground. For another, they're where their enemies can keep an eye on them night and day, and exploit newly-discovered weaknesses. How many times have their tactics evolved, until the safest thing for the "Coalition" to do is pull in its head like a turtle, and not patrol at all?

I recall the tag slogan I once used for an art project in school; "...a fanatic is one who redoubles his efforts after he has lost sight of his objective". I can't remember who wrote it, or I'd credit them. Ring any bells, Bush and Yo Blair?

. said...

Excellent post. You've probably already read Lord Stevens intervention in this (, but it shows increasingly how I think the rabid right are going to start playing this, and John Reid is only a step away from it.

Davide Simonetti said...

I'm glad I read your post after writing mine, otherwise I would have excessively quoted from it.

I liked your point about Bin Laden wanting the 'clash of civilisations' and hostility to Muslims. How true! I also think that Bush wants exactly the same thing. Al Qaeda terrorism stories around the time of the mid-term elections will give him just the boost in the polls he's looking for (just as a timely Bin Laden appearance helped him win his second term). Blair of course is happy to go along with it all, but I can't make my mind up whether he actually wants this clash he is helping to create or is just too weak and stupid to try and do anything to stop it in case he incurs the wrath of Washington. As for John Reid, well, I think his moronic utterences have exposed him as 'not fit for purpose'.

Parlicoot said...

Posted to the BBC Have Your Say topic suggestions box:

"Is the discussion of some political topics biased on Have Your Say, given the computer applications used by organisations like GIYUS ( ?"

I'm genuinely interested in their answer. Subsiduary questions that came to me include:

Do other groups use such tools?

Does this undermine the principle of democratic discussion, especially when many readers will be unaware of such group participation?

I'd love to find out more about this subject...

Antipholus Papps said...

Our foreign policy is ethically unsound

This is something of an understatement don't you think? Our foreign policy is the supreme international crime.