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Fascist Flower: The Language of Mars PDF Print E-mail
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Friday, 24 March 2006 11:35

Fascist Flower: The Language of Mars

AG - Tom Porteous - This has been a theme of the war's supporters for some time but the argument has flowered in its fullest form on this anniversary. Using a technique long tried and tested by colonial and occupation authorities (including Nazi Germany in occupied Europe, the Imperial Britain in Kenya and Malaya and -- far more effectively -- the Israeli state in the occupied territories) the allies deny the resistance any iota of political legitimacy by branding them as terrorists in what Blair calls a "struggle between democracy and violence."


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Upping the Ante in the War on Terror

Tom Porteous

Agence Global
March 24, 2006


Copyright ? 2006 Tom Porteous - Agence Global
[republished at PEJ News with permission of AG]


On the third anniversary of the Iraq war many commentators have seen the justificatory speeches and remarks of the architects of the war as the empty rhetoric of leaders discredited by a military intervention which even many former supporters of the war now acknowledge to be a failure.

"Valedictory," "deluded," and "quaint" were among the adjectives used by one pundit to describe Tony Blair's speech at the Foreign Policy Centre in London on 21 March, in which the British Prime Minister gave a stubborn and unapologetic justification for Whitehall's most disastrous foreign policy adventure since the Suez crisis in 1956 rang the death knell of the British Empire.

Similar adjectives have been used by pundits in the United States to describe President Bush's anniversary remarks. The consensus seems to be that the disaster of the Iraq war has put paid to the idea of any military adventures in the Middle East in the near future.

In fact, a close reading of Blair's and Bush's speeches suggests that however deluded their arguments, they could well be deployed by Blair and Bush themselves (who still have two or three years to run) or by future British, American or European leaders to justify further action in the Middle East and thus dig deeper the gulf of mistrust, anger and violence which is opening up between the Western and Muslim worlds.

Indeed these arguments are already effectively deployed -- without serious critique from the mainstream opposition in the United States or Britain -- to justify a continuing strong military presence in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere in the Middle East.

The Blair/Bush defence of the war in Iraq has two prongs.

First, it seeks to diminish the responsibility of the invaders and occupiers of Iraq by blaming the "terrorists" for the dire consequences of the invasion and occupation.

Thus although Blair, for example, does acknowledge that some things (like De-Baathification) could have been done better after the invasion, and others should not have been done at all (Abu Ghraib), he strenuously asserts that the blame for the dire current state of Iraq -- the insurgency and the sectarian violence -- lies not with the authors of the invasion and occupation but with those who dare to resist it.

This has been a theme of the war's supporters for some time but the argument has flowered in its fullest form on this anniversary. Using a technique long tried and tested by colonial and occupation authorities (including Nazi Germany in occupied Europe, the Imperial Britain in Kenya and Malaya and -- far more effectively -- the Israeli state in the occupied territories) the allies deny the resistance any iota of political legitimacy by branding them as terrorists in what Blair calls a "struggle between democracy and violence."

When Blair said in his speech that the terrorists' "attitude towards America is absurd," he even appeared to blame the terrorists for another disastrous consequence of the war: the dramatic loss of U.S. and British prestige in the Middle East which will make it that much harder in the future for the United States and Britain to secure their interests in the region by using political and diplomatic influence.

Refusing to accept any real responsibility for the Iraq disaster, Blair has also laid some of the blame on the critics of the war. These he accuses of failing to acknowledge the despicable nature of the political forces opposing the West's military interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan and of "pandering" to terrorists. In Blair's interpretation it is "defeatist" to lay the blame for the disaster of the Iraq misadventure on its authors when it is so very clear (to him at least) that the real blame lies with the "terrorists".

The Bush/Cheney riff on this theme is that the media themselves are unwittingly to blame for much of the current violence by focusing their reporting on the violence (rather than all the good stuff that's going on in Iraq) thus giving the terrorists the oxygen of publicity without which they would somehow be unable to make any headway.

The second prong of the defence of the war in Iraq is this: In order to underline just how serious the threat emanating from Iraq is, Blair and Bush have now explicitly identified Islamist radicalism as the enemy number one of the civilised world, the wellspring of the "terrorism," in Iraq and beyond, that now threatens the West and its allies with death and destruction.

"This terrorism will not be defeated," said Blair, "until its ideas, the poison that warps the minds of its adherents, are confronted, head-on, in their essence, at their core."

In his speech Blair gives a potted history of Islam in order to explain the roots of this Islamic extremism and concludes: "This is not a clash between civilisations. It is a clash about civilisation. It is the age-old battle between progress and reaction, between those who embrace and see opportunity in the modern world and those who reject its existence; between optimism and hope on the one hand; and pessimism and fear on the other."

As such, said Blair, it is a battle we cannot afford to lose: "We can no more opt out of this struggle than we can opt out of the climate changing around us."

Now this is very dangerous territory indeed, and Bush and Blair seem to recognise this because they are quite imprecise about whom they are referring to when they talk of radical Islamists. But it is nonetheless quite clear from the speeches of both that they mean more than just Al-Qaeda. Indeed Blair himself could not stop short of declaring openly that Iran was "part of the same battle with the same ideology at its heart."

If Blair really believes this, and if he really believes that we cannot afford to lose the battle, then surely he cannot agree with the recent assessment of his Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, that Western military action against Iran is "inconceivable".

The trouble with identifying "radical Islamism" as the root of the problem is that, shorn of its terrorist fringe, this ideology is now the most popular mainstream political force in much of the Muslim world today. As recent elections in Palestine, Lebanon, Morocco, Egypt, Iraq, and elsewhere indicate, were free elections to be held tomorrow radical Islamism would win in most Arab and Muslim countries. This ideology now holds political power in Iran and Palestine, and effectively (thanks to the U.S. British invasion) in much of Iraq.

Radical Islamism may, as Blair says, be backward and reactionary. Its position on women and other faiths may be regressive. It may be prone to conspiracy theories. It is undoubtedly anti-Western and fervently anti-Zionist. But it is also what many Muslims seem to want, or think they want.

The arguments of Bush and Blair about radical Islamism -- and the failure of mainstream political parties in North America and in Europe to present a cogent and consistent critique of their dangerous elision of terrorism and radical Islamism -- make the possibility of continuing Western military intervention in the Muslim world all too real.

But the more Muslim peoples are subjected to military intervention and occupation by the West and its proxies, the more the ideology of radical Islamism will gain in strength and popularity -- and the more it will turn to violence to resist Western violence.


Tom Porteous
is a freelance writer and analyst who was formerly with BBC and the British Foreign Office.

Copyright ? 2006 Tom Porteous
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Released: 24 March 2006
Word Count: 1,221 words
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Agence Global is the exclusive syndication agency for The Nation and The American Prospect, as well as expert commentary by William Beeman, Richard Bulliet, Juan Cole, Mark Hertsgaard, Rami G. Khouri, Tom Porteous, Patrick Seale and Immanuel Wallerstein.

Last Updated on Friday, 24 March 2006 11:35
 

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