Monday, August 16

Be Afraid ... But Also Be Defiant

Flipped through this piece today before realising, at the very end, who the writer was - venturing out into the real world where Menswear means clothing and there's no instant ineffaceable association with puerility.

Well... as it's a particularly blue monday (for reasons I will never bore you with here), I couldn't resist firing off a reply. So here it is - I suppose were I a wanker I'd call it an open letter ...

Dear John

It was only when I reached the end of your piece that I twigged it really was you, and not some other John Harris. You should stick to music punditry...and looking like a Pet Sounds era Brian Wilson on Newsnight Review.

To the point: essentially what al-Qaeda 'want' is a return to the Caliphate dating back -roughly - to the 7th century. Imagine a hockey stick shape winding up and east from southern Spain and you'll get the general idea.

Of course, given that kind of imperial base their ambitions may (I say they would) alter ...

Given that, any talk that we should just walk away from Saudi Arabia etc., ie give them Stage One of what they want, is phooey. Complete yarbles. (Unless you really do believe in a Tony Benn love-in, where everybody - given the chance - would get along just fine dunking our Rich Tea biscuits; or like say, Tariq Ali, you hold the view that since Vietnam the USA is to blame for just about everything that's gone awry in our world, and you'd rather see China as the dominant superpower or, equally frightening, that there was no dominant nation to operate the carrot and stick on the despots of the world. A kind of Limbo Logic. Not for me, thanks.)

Al-Qaeda are "super terrorists", in the sense that the moment the second plane hit the WTC the IRA were finished as a terrorist organisation. Old hat. Over. Relegated to Division One. If I may digress: the fact is that by and large we've always known where the IRA are (for proof see Roger Graeff's mid-80s book on the Metropolitan Police). The fear was that taking them out would provide future generations with martyrs. Again, that's a consideration that 9/11 blew asunder. In fact, I'd go so far as to dare the IRA to hit mainland Britain one more time - and I say that living near to South Quay* station. They could then wave bye bye to any American support, for ever. That most Irish people have no wish for a united Ireland, thanks to the economic grants gifted them by the EC, closes the whole issue down ... to the present-day level of turf wars for drugs.

Back to the real threat, the clear and present danger. It is, sadly, equivalent to a whole new ball game, and I think we can assume that we'll both be long gone before the final whistle.

And I'll confess what I feel in my bones: the longer the wait is before an attack on London, the bigger that attack is going to be. Why take a solo shot at a McDonald's, when you could hit a hundred simultaneously? (And those bits flying out of the windows will not be chicken wings - they'll be children's limbs.)

But we should keep it in mind that this is a war that we can't lose. The issues are: how dark the scenario gets before we have to start pushing some big red buttons of our own, and how far we have to compromise our secular liberal democratic traditions and habits in defeating al-Qaeda. There are plenty of excellent commentators out there - the likes of Christopher Hitchens, Michael Ignattief and, in the Guardian itself, David Aaronovitch and Timothy Garton Ash - who return again and again to analyse these grey areas.

But to reiterate, some things are clear: we know what they want; we know what they're prepared to do to achieve their goals; now we have to continue catching the bastards - and if we can liberate millions of oppressed people along the way with a relatively small fraction of casualties (cue Iraq) then I'm ticking the YES box for action each time.

So I say, be afraid ... but also be defiant.

To end on a different tack, isn't The Libertines' Music When The Lights Go Out a fantastic song?


*Go here to see a pic of what the Fenians did back in the day, in their attempt to blow up Canary Wharf's (then sole) tower at 1 Canada Square.

posted by DD @ 13:48 


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