Dead Men Left

Monday, July 18, 2005

"Unite Against Terror"

It's disappointing to find apparently endorsing the insidious "Unite Against Terror" initiative. I say "insidious" quite deliberately; as the comments below the post reveal, "Unite Against Terror" appears to be a creature of the decidedly ill-named "Labour Friends of Iraq", an organisation dedicated to building support in the UK for the occupation of Iraq, which is chaired by the pro-war Ann Clwyd, and at least of one of whose officers argued in favour of the invasion.

Despite considerable squealing, Labour Friends of Imperialism has never amounted to much beyond its (currently hacked) website, there being a firmly-established opposition to both the war and the occupation prevailing over the British labour movement. No doubt the London bombings represented as good a time as any to push whatever half-baked hodgepodge of sub-Shachtman theorising and sub-Old Labour tub-thumping LFI appear to think represents left-wing "democratic politics". No doubt, too, we will see far more of the "sinister platitudes" "Unite Against Terror" are peddling over the next few weeks and months. Phil E, in the comments to the post, sums the problem up very well:

...we know that everyone (apart from a handful of psychopaths) shares a fundamental ethical objection to terror. We also know that almost everyone makes qualified exceptions to the rule, in line with their political positions. The alternative would be to condemn terror attacks even-handedly, irrespective of whether they’re committed by soldiers or guerrillas, Republicans or Unionists, Serbs or Bosniaks, Israelis or Palestinians, etc. It’s not clear to me that this is possible, or even that it’s desirable: “a horrific crime in an evil cause” is a very different judgment from “a horrific crime which sullies the name of a good cause”, let alone “a horrific crime which was nevertheless the best available way of advancing a good cause”. Ethical absolutism would discard all those distinctions, making it impossible to distinguish between running a death camp and bombing a death camp.

In any case, on reading the appeal it’s clear that its claim to ethical absolutism is spurious: they aren’t really calling for unity against all terror, any time, anywhere. Rather, there’s a political agenda which hardly bothers to conceal itself: to oppose ‘the terrorists’ in Britain also means opposing ‘the terrorists’ in Palestine and opposing ‘the terrorists’ in Iraq.

Yes, I’ll oppose terror: I’ll oppose terror attacks by the IDF and the US Army, as well as terror attacks by Hamas and the Iraqi insurgency. And, having a political outlook on the world (as you do), I’ll make my own judgment as to which of those sources of terror it’s more important for me to condemn at any given time.

There’s also the fact that this is an appeal from the political mainstream to a community outside the mainstream, inviting them to declare themselves for or against an approved set of positions. As such it’s a factor for division and instability rather than unity. Initiatives like this will serve the interests of the (respectable) Left, but they won’t do anything for the unity, political coherence or self-respect of the Muslim community - and, that being the case, I doubt they’ll do much to prevent further terrorist attacks.

(Phil also blogs at Actually Existing.)