LI is a little bummed. We wanted to stick out our tongue and dance around and pull down our pants and moon a petition that has been cobbled together to “condemn terrorism” that has attracted the signature of loony luminaries, like C. Hitchens and Nick Cohen and, etc., etc. You can tap dance out the rest. The whole gang. But Crooked Timber got there before us. So in the interests of economy, we’ll stick into this post our comment to CT, with some revision. Ah, but to preface this: what wasn’t argued about on the CT post was the very nature of these kinds of petitions. What in the world are they for? Are they supposed to go forth and make the conspiring militants in Samarra tremble as they hold the blasting cap? Are they supposed to rally a victim population that is crushed and trembling because they haven’t heard from the brigade of stalwart intellectuals just over the horizon? Are they supposed to influence policy in any country whatsoever? There is less sense and more vanity in this kind of petition than there is in anonymously dedicating a song to the one you love via your local dj.
Any petition against terrorism that ignores the one glaring and salient fact—that the promise made by George Bush to bring down Osama bin Laden in 2001 was callously and criminally unfulfilled—doesn’t seem to me worth the piece of paper it is written on. I think a condemnation of terrorism that was serious would, at the very least, point the finger at the failure of financing governments like Pakistan’s , which have worked hand in glove with terrorism in the past, to “police” terrorism now; it would condemn any government or coalition that used the war on terror as a disguise to hatch a war for a very different purpose, as the U.S. and the U.K. did in 2002; and it would condemn the villification of real anti-terrorist measures (for instance, police measures) in favor of faux anti-terrorist measures (as in, military action against countries that were not generators of terror), such as happened in the last presidential campaign in the U.S. It would also remark on the continuing civil damage that occurs when the war on terror is used as a diversion to wage a war of choice. That civil damage consists in spreading an unease among the population as governments engage in preliminary deceits that have to be shored up with further deceits. When anti-terrorist politics goes hand in hand with the politics of manipulation and misinformation, we know that anti-terrorist measures are not aimed at terrorists, but at entrenching the governing class’ privileges and assaulting our rights. Among the signatories are many, such as Christopher Hitchens, who have spent a lot of ink in the last two years trying to persuade people that Osama b is either dead or so crippled he doesn’t matter—a use of diversionary propaganda in support of the policies of the invaders of a bystander country that is, arguably, acting with extreme negligence vis a vis any terrorist threat, if not constituting a passive aid to the terrorists themselves. I myself would sign an anti-terrorist petition – being always a brave blogger, willing to put my very signature, that most precious of things in the whole wide world – on a petition that clearly outlined how a malign symbiosis between terrorists and “anti-terrorist” politicians in the West has left civilians more vulnerable to violent death or injury, and how anti-terrorism requires a global reckoning with this fact as a preliminary to a real anti-terrorist policy.