Tim Blair


New Criterion



Saturday, September 11, 2004
WHEN THE APOLOGISTS for Islamist terror say 'it's our fault', they really mean 'it's your fault'. It's the fault of those of us who don't see that the motivation of Islamism lies in US policy, and who insist that terror is not the inevitable outcome of grievance.

Paul McGeough uses the anniversary of 9/11 to remind us of this ugly and hateful creed in today's Henny Herald (registration required).
A failure to address the causes for the susceptibility of whole populations - and individuals - to the mad blandishment of fundamentalists of any kind, makes us all responsible for the consequences.
This is a truly weird statement. It can be interpreted, reasonably, in ways that make it simply impossible for 'us all' to ever escape responsibility for the savagery others inflict on us.

The causes for others' "susceptibility" to terrorism may well lie in their own natures, cultures, religions and personal histories, but still the victims are responsible for what the terrorist does.

Does McGeough favour the kind of thorough-going interventionism that would permit 'us' to address the "susceptibility" of the Islamists, for example, to vicious behaviour?

I'm sure you guessed, if you didn't already know, that McGeough opposed intervention in Iraq and Afghanistan to remove even those outrageous monsters imposed on the susceptible people of the Middle East. Not because intervention is too difficult, but because it interferes.

According to the Henny/McGeough line, it was "the West's massive military response to the September 11 attacks [that] generated hatred, confusion and new fears that old enemies are still recruiting".

Total internal contradiction, without a blush. You leave the susceptible to rot, and you deserve your throat-cutting. Remove their oppressors and you merit the same response. Is this man Irish?

The French and the Germans would be right to complain about McGeough's use of "the West" to represent the Coalition of the Willing in Iraq. But if McGeough recognised the divisions in "the West" he would need to note that the Islamists have been active in those countries that have stood back from the war, planning at least one major Christmas assault on civilians on the border of France and Germany. The Asian members of the Coalition might also consider themselves demeaned by McGeough's resort to prejudice.

McGeough then judges the victims of terrorism by a form of moral equivalence that is standard doctrine at the Herald: fundamentalisms of all kinds are equally prone to destructive outcomes. So we cannot criticise the Islamists while there are Christians, or other believers, who can be labelled fundamentalist. The real crime, one we all share with the terrorists according to McGeough, is believing anything.

This particular form of moral equivalence is one of the dominant themes of left commentary in the media at present. You'll find it in crude form in Counterspin, the aptly named Herald election website, where I'll pursue it later on.

If several recent Presidents of the US were conscientious Christians, what further excuse do Osama and his fellow throat-cutters need?

Not that atheists escape Henny's condemnation. They can make the mistake of taking action. Like President Putin. According to McGeough Putin "might have acted to resolve a nationalist crisis", that is the Chechen rebellion, "before Chechnya became a magnet for religious fundamentalists."

That is, those Chechen separatists who picked up the gun against their governments are beyond criticism or responsibility for the consequences. And if Putin or his predecessors had stitched up some kind of deal that created an indigenous Chechen government with the capacity to resist the rebels, the Islamists would have said 'that's cool', and walked away?

The Russian response to the Chechen rebellion was typical of Russian government behaviour, although superior to the practices of their Soviet predecessors. Political incompetence, more normal than good government in the world, now as always, and is another justification for slaughtering children in the ugly world-view of collaborationist left.

Enough of the world stage. Henny brings the war on the rest of us back home with a commentary by Peter Hartcher. The text is as subtle as its title: "Making political gain out of national crisis".

The gist of Hartcher's argument is that John Howard has used the Jakarta bombing to his advantage by the devilish cunning with which he has refrained from using it.
Howard was statesmanlike and stood above politics, yet subtly moved the political psychology in his favour. He was calm and sober, yet he managed to clearly lay blame at the feet of th Indonesian authorities while estabishing himself as a source of national reassurance.
And if that deviousness of Howard's doesn't turn your gut, how about this:
"one reporter asked him whether the attack made "life easier or more difficult for the Government"? Howard waved the question away with a dismissive gesture and the single word "please". All this established that he was above politics and magnanimous, yet firmly in charge.
All a pretence, according to Hartcher, who claims in support of his twisted thinking Howard's warning that "there is the possibility of another attack of this kind in Jakarta". Howard was in Hartcher's view promoting a sense of threat, while denying there was a " specific threat" so that he could "not be accused of hysteria".

Unfortunately for Hartcher, Howard's assessment of threat was based on specific advice from Indonesian police intelligence, as we now know, and it would have been criminally irresponsible of him not to have advised the rest of us about it.

Mark Latham also gets a minor serve from Hartcher because he "kept open the option of announcing new policies". If you follow that one please enlighten me.

Hartcher's eccentric attack serves the appeasement left in a general sense by creating the impression that the Australian political response to the Jakarta bombing is so putrid that the deeds of the Islamist murderers have a kind of brutal purity in comparison.

On the contrary. Our political leaders have both displayed commendable restraint in the middle of a close election campaign. They have done nothing to worsen relations with Indonesia, where there is still a great deal of work to be done in the war against JI, an enemy we know to be working to develop a capacity for chemical and biological warfare.

Like the survival of our Embassy in Jakarta, the response of our main political leaders has been a small victory in this war, and stands in contrast to the constant war of attrition waged by the defeatist left on the Herald and the ABC against the victims of terrorism.