To sum it up: Tony Blair took a non-threat to the U.K., Saddam Hussein, implanted a continuing British presence in the Middle East, and for the return on the British investment got 50 some deaths, 700 some casualties, and the disruption of all of London.
Steven Coll, whose Ghost Wars is the best book I’ve read about the Reagan era financed adventure in creating the jihadi movement in Afghanistan, has a good article in the WP. Here are two grafs:
“Yet al Qaeda's chief ideologues -- bin Laden, his lieutenant Ayman Zawahiri and, more recently, the Internet-fluent Abu Musab Zarqawi -- have been able to communicate freely to their followers, even while in hiding. In the past 18 months, they have persuaded dozens of like-minded young men, operating independently of the core al Qaeda leadership, to assemble and deliver suicide or conventional bombs in Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Spain, Egypt and now apparently London.
As in the Madrid bombings, these looser adherents sometimes copy al Qaeda's signature method of simultaneous explosions against symbolic or economic targets, an approach repeatedly advocated by bin Laden in his recent recorded speeches.
"No more 9/11, but lots of 3/11, especially in Europe," declared the final slide in a PowerPoint presentation about al Qaeda's evolution presented at numerous U.S. government forums this year by terrorism specialist and former CIA case officer Marc Sageman, a clinical psychologist who has recently studied al Qaeda's European cells.”
Terrorism on tap – it is evolving nicely in the direction of a constant structure. The war on terrorism, enacted with the incompetence at which the governing class is especially good, to create a continually mobilizable base of support; the occasional real explosions, to instantiate a strong psychological restraint on dissent; and the filtering of all discussion through an endlessly growing network of anti-terrorism experts, whose ideas, a junk shop of reactionary ideological clichés that would have bored a John Bircher meeting in the 60s, will be presented with suitable worshipfulness every time an incident happens. It is rather like interviewing the head of the Nuclear Energy lobby every time there is a Chernobyl.
The end of the Coll story is a nice example of this blindsided mindset:
“Even the relatively unsophisticated nature of the attacks in London has generated soul-searching about whether effective countermeasures exist against an Islamic extremist movement that appears able to "self-generate" new terrorists, as a former senior U.S. counterterrorism official put it. "The impact of it is significant. It shows they have been able to overcome a well-developed security architecture in London," the former official said. "It shows that al Qaeda and associated groups and fellow travelers still have the ability to conduct an effective operation."
A number of themes come out in this graf.
a. The self exculpation of the experts. Since the main fact, here, is that the U.S. spectacularly blew it both by encouraging Al Qaeda at the outset and renting out to a former Al Qaeda collaborator the job of handling Bin Laden, the main goal is to disguise this fact. Soul searching indeed. The job is just so complicated, it is just so intricate, it just requires so many brain cells, that we might need whole offices and bureaucracies to do it, and certainly many, many terrorism experts. It isn’t as simple as: removing the structure and removing the cause – taking down bin Laden and ceasing to occupy significant parts of the Middle East and blowing up Moslems every day on the tv in the name of … well, something. The job couldn’t have to do with exploiting the torture facilities of our ally states in the Middle East while loudly proclaiming our commitment to compassion. No, that is way too simple. The discontent of those young Moslems are because they hate us. They have hate in their hearts. We have compassion.
b. Then, of course, there is the absence, in that soul searching, of a pretty simple solution for the U.K. – withdraw from Iraq. Hey, it worked for Spain. And perhaps, oh just perhaps, a war that is opposed by the majority of the population shouldn’t be pursued by an isolated, arrogant elite – perhaps that was one of the reasons, in the eighteenth century, that the aristocratic/monarchic form of governance was either overthrown or reformed away.
c. Which is why we need a cover story. The “self-generation” one is nice. We know, to a t the kind of landscape that ‘self-generates’ terrorism, since we gleefully exploited that landscape in Afghanistan against the Soviets. And we’ve faithfully copied that landscape in Iraq, with the U.S. this time starring as the U.S.S.R., and with co-stars the Badr Brigade and Sciri imposing shari’a law in those areas ‘democratized’ by the British occupation, such as Basra, while our opponents, yesteryear’s freedom fighters, are showing what good pupils the CIA had back in the golden days.
Of course, LI’s criticism of U.S. policy in the Middle East shouldn’t overlook the good things we’ve done. For instance, we are cleverly bedeviling the ghost of Khomenei with irony. The man, from all accounts, did not take to irony. But what is his ghost to make of the fact that the U.S. has succeeded, where he failed, in spreading his revolution? This graf from the NYT is a juicy one, buried at the bottom of an Iraq story:
“While the United States has pressed hard for friendly Arab nations to upgrade their ties here, it has been wary of the new government's ties with another neighbor, Iran, and American diplomats and military commanders said on Thursday that they were still weighing an announcement that Iraq and Iran had reached agreement in Tehran on a military cooperation pact that will include Iranian training for Iraqi military units.
Iraq's defense minister, Sadoun al-Dulaimi, was quoted by Agence France-Presse as having told reporters after the signing ceremony, "Nobody can dictate to Iraq its relations with other countries."”
PS – we’ve been very displeased, lately, to see one meme among liberal bloggers: that of getting young Republicans to sign up to go to Iraq. This is another example of rhetoric surmounting common sense. If you want the US to withdraw from Iraq, or set a timetable, don’t encourage, even as a sport, giving the War department more toys to play with. The principle of the strike is pretty simple. Discourage recruitment. Discourage enlistment. I was happy to hear, from my brother, that in Atlanta, the quakers have been active in some of the high schools, passing out anti-recruitment literature. The joke of encouraging Young Republicans to sign up is ultimately on the recruits that are over there right now, and on the Iraqis. It is a sick and sorry joke.
“I’m so bored. I hate my life.” - Britney Spears
Das Langweilige ist interessant geworden, weil das Interessante angefangen hat langweilig zu werden. – Thomas Mann
"Never for money/always for love" - The Talking Heads
"Never for money/always for love" - The Talking Heads