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April 10, 2007

Comments

Hello Gina,

My attention was drawn to a couple of quick points you make:


"At its worse, Britain far outstrips its strongest enemies"

and

"Our worst is usually better than our enemies' best."

Gina, this is precisely the kind of warped thinking (perhaps self-congratulatory and in denial) that is being flagged by Dennis. The "enemy" that he refers to is not someone in a distant, far-off land but the enemy within -- be that an elitist moron who wants to use the power of the govt to "feel good" by increasing taxes and such in the name of helping the "underprivileged", or a confused second-generation kid of an immigrant torn between a repressive culture at home and a more permissible culutre outside home.

That is exactly what Dennis is warning us against -- a sense of smug, holier than our enemy attitude. How does one deal with the enemy at home?!!

Sriraj, I'm not sure quite what you mean, although your comment is welcome food for thought.

What I mean when I say that Britain and other Western nations are usually better, at their worst, than their enemies when they are at their "best," are these sorts of contrasts:

- At Iran's "best," it holds a celebration of its progress toward "peaceful" nuclear enrichment at which the crowd shouts (as is routine in Iran) "Death to America!" and "Death to Israel!" and burns British and American flags. At its worst, Britain does not usually have crowds of people shouting for anyone's death. The same is true for America and most other Western democracies.

- At America's "worst," as seen by the left anyway, America holds terrorists captured on the battlefield for an indefinite period as enemy combatants (Guantanamo). This is done for several legitimate reasons of national self-defense. At the enemy's "best," referring to Al Qaeda now, it killed thousands of civilian airline commuters and office workers at the World Trade Center on a clear September day, and called that "success."

- At America's "worst," it might accidentially execute one innocent man due to human error. Even then, the execution, if it occurred, would be quick and merciful, probably by lethal injection. At Al Qaeda in Iraq and the Iraqi insurgent terrorists' "best," they deliberately kidnapped and beheaded an innocent man, Nicholas Berg, and proudly posted the videotape on the internet, and that atrocity has been deliberately repeated with other completely innocent men whom Al Qaeda and Iraqi "insurgents" knew to be completely innocent. Daniel Pearl, the Wall Street Journal reporter, is a another example. At their worst, no Western nation would ever deliberately kidnap and behead an innocent man and claim that to be a success of some kind.

These are but a few examples of thousands that could be provided. While there are always rare exceptions, there is simply no comparison between Western democracies and their enemies. They operate on two completely different moral planes.

What makes Western nations special are things like democracy, freedom of speech, personal freedom, rule of law, respect for life, religious freedom and practice, and prosperity and techonological advances that spring from the other freedoms and from free market economies.

If the enemies of Western civilization want similar success and prosperity, they are there for the taking -- those nations simply need to emulate some of the same ideas that have made America and other Western nations so successful, including democracy and free markets.

Instead, many enemies of the West are short-sightedly attempting to destroy the West. In the long run, this will destroy not the West, but the aggresssors.

As far as the enemy at home in Western democracies, I think the first step in dealing with that enemy is to better educate them as to the building blocks that have made Western nations great. That includes, for starters, encouraging a thorough understanding and appreciation for constitutional democracy, rule of law, and protection of individual freedom, peaceful religious worship, and private property and free markets.

"... a thorough understanding and appreciation for constitutional democracy, rule of law, and protection of individual freedom, peaceful religious worship, and private property and free markets."

I hope Gina that you would concede that Bush has made several inroads into each of those:

• "Constitutional democracy" has never suffered so badly in the last seven years – executive privelege has dominated Congressional oversight, and the lack of transparency, if not downright obstructive secrecy, has been nearly as big a hallmark of this administration as moronic ignorance and self-interest.
(www.law.duke.edu/adminlaw/papers.html)

• Does "Rule of law" includes suspension of habeas corpus, disregard for the Geneva Conventions and abandonment of international treaties concerning chemical weapons?
– www.latimes.com/news/opinion/editorials/la-ed-habeas28sep28,0,3456512.story?coll=la-news-comment-editorials
– www.nytimes.com/2006/08/14/opinion/14mon1.html

• "Protection of individual freedom" doesn't seem to apply to those whisked away on secret rendition flights to allies who use torture, does it? How about passing a bill that enables torture?
– www.guardian.co.uk/usa/story/0,,1762212,00.html
– www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A26401-2004Jun8.html

• "Respect of private property" is fine, unless you're Palestinian and US-armed IDF troops can come onto your land and steal it because a Jewish family from Brooklyn wants cheap accommodation.
– www.nytimes.com/2007/03/14/world/middleeast/14israel.html

• "Free markets" are wonderful... unless you're a defence contractor and can simply grease a few Washington palms to bypass competition completely and ensure a multi-billion dollar pay-off from an illegal war. Ah, the price of freedom...
– www.cbsnews.com/stories/2003/04/25/60minutes/main551091.shtml


May the impoverished, backward East learn from Bush's scintillating example.

Gina

Nox, I don’t know where you live, but I am a native of (Great?) Britain, a country which has scrupulously avoided taking the kind of steps that you criticise Bush for. As a result, many of our cities are full of insane Islamists who do not conceal their desire to convert Britain to a sharia state, our culture is balkanized to an extent which makes the Balkans look like Toytown, our justice system is of the pollyanna variety, and according to MI5, around 1600 terrorist cells are having to be watched closely. Any public suggestion that all this might be linked in any way to Islamist Jihad brings an avalanche of hate mail, and hysterical accusations of Islamophobia and racism, so that even Government spokesmen hardly dare call a spade a spade. In some weird way, every time a new plot is discovered, it is as though Islam had been attacked and the rage gets even worse.
I imagine, though you don’t actually mention it, you disapprove of Guantanamo. Well, the last detainee to be returned to Britain is Moazzam Begg, co-founder of an Islamist bookshop in Birmingham which has been a hub of nasty activity including the 7/7 bombers. Frankly, I wish he was safely locked up still, and not back here being lionized by our brave press, so quick to hit Bush, Blair, Christianity or the West, soft targets that do not hit back, and so ‘respectful’ of Islamists, who do..
In 1972 I demonstrated against Vietnam, and in 1987 I was arrested demonstrating against Cruise. (I would no longer join such a demo, it’s true). I was raised on the left of the political spectrum, and yet now find myself scared and angry both about the way the Left in Britain has cosied up to a vicious form of religious fascism, and about the supine response of the establishment.
Those who argue that the imperfections of other political sytems can not be absolute, and therefore that Islamists ‘have their own reality’ which we must ‘recognise’ invariably proceed to argue that we must ourselves act according absolute moral standards. This is a moral asymmetry we can’t afford, and is actually a form of concealed arrogance. In 1939, the Left in Britain was violently opposed to the ‘imperialist’ war with Hitler, as Hitler and Stalin had signed a non-aggression pact. Once Hitler attacked Russia, they mysteriously came round to the ‘anti-fascist’ war. What was the moral principle here, please? There was none, of course, just a political principle: always support Communist countries, never Britain.
We are currently losing the moral struggle with Islamism in my view, because our left-wing, multi-cultural elites are operating out of a political principle: always support non Western countries, never the West.

Steve,

Needless to say I reject most of the knee-jerk reactionism of your post – most of it prompted by reds-under-the-bed scaremongering of our less repsonsible media outlets. But that's not the point.

The point is that people continue to believe that their system is "best". That was the crux of Gina's response. But when does the West's system actually start to resemble those systems from which it perennially seeks to differentiate itself? When a system starts to abandon the values and systems that allowed it to claim the moral highground – in some jumped-up security red-herring nonsense – then what are you actually defending?

If you are defending Guantanamo, then you are actually defending the very kind of fascism that you claim to oppose.

If Moazzam Begg is such a hideous criminal – he might be, I've no idea – then arrest him and put him through the courts in the ways the British legal system currently allows.

If you believe that provisions against torture can be supsended at will, or that habeas corpus or governmental oversight are disposable because some government figure says so, then you are defending nothing more than tyranny.

If the West is losing anything, it is the moral legitimacy to claim that one system is right and another is wrong. That's not down to the left, that's down to irresponsible governments seeking to bolster power through fear.

Sadly, in your case, it seems to be working.

Nox

Needless to say, I reject most of your knee-jerk leftism. And supposing that what I think is down to media alarmism is impertinent and incorrect. I think what I think.

You speak of our behaviour as fascism. I think you do not know the meaning of the word. The wars of the last century (including the Cold War) were fought against regimes which sought to control every aspect of life, and in order to do so, massacred millions of people, either in gas chambers, by shooting or by deliberate starvation (eg the peasantry of Siberia and China). That was fascism.

Neither Gina nor I claimed our system was right and others wrong. We claim our system is better. It will resemble that of Islamists when we persecute homosexuality, execute adulterers, imprison or stone women who have been raped, hang 18 year old girls for immoral behaviour, and consider unbelievers to be no better than animals and then proceed to justify such behaviour by reference to a book written 1300 years ago.

It will resemble Soviet Russia and fundamentalist Islam when people stop flocking to Western countries and start trying to leave instead, and we in response build walls or condemn them for apostasy, and kill them or threaten to kill them for their treachery.

I agree with you about torture. There you go.

Steve,

In your first post you said the following: "As a result, many of our cities are full of insane Islamists who do not conceal their desire to convert Britain to a sharia state..."

You then call me "impertinent" for saying this is clearly the product of reading the Daily Mail once too often. But how else could you come to such an wildly inaccurate, apocalyptic conclusion? "Full of insane Islamists..."? How many is "full"? And what are you basing this on? Other than the media, what's the source of this claim? Have you direct experience of hordes of Muslims demanding Sharia law and attacking British homosexuals? If so, where?

I have lived in two major northern cities, where Fleet Street assumes most of these latter-day Ottomans reside, and more than five years in London, and I can't remember a single encounter with any Muslim who wanted to change the basic tenets of British law. Do nutcases exist? Sure. Does British law enable nutcases to spout hateful filth? Most of the time, yes again – have you read Richard Littlejohn recently? But is Britain about to be swamped by a neo-Wahabi dictatorship in which your wife, daughters and nieces will have to cover up and travel only with a male relative? Of course not. When you get your Sunday papers tomorrow on a lovely spring morning, I hope you accept how chronically irrational that view is.

Strangely, I left Britain to move to a Muslim country - and I am about as religious as a dinosaur egg at a Creationist conference – and as I drank my beer last night with a Christian Armenian, a Palestinian Muslim, a Circassian Muslim and a Christian Jordanian, I was as far from Taliban style religious fanaticism as a golfer in Gerrards Cross. Living a good life here, being a good Muslim, is so little to do with angry, chest-beating fundamentalism as to make any observations about the onset of radical Islam's medieval practices woefully ill-informed. Even Saudi Arabia – a country I generally have little time for – is relaxing rules on covering, driving, etc. Adulterers aren't executed where I live, nor are girls stoned or imprisoned for being raped. Please stop basing your entire view on Islam on one or two countries...

Interesting point about a book written a long time ago justifying behaviour, though; there are three generations of Palestinians ethnically cleansed from their homeland because of a religious text who would very much agree with you. The West doesn't seem to mind to that hollow resort to scripture, does it?

It's absolutely you're right not to like Islam, but the way you live your life in Britain faces a bigger threat from dreadful education, high urban crime, rampant automation of services, mammoth indirect taxation, and the widespread, very much homegrown belief that everyone has the right to be a millionaire celebrity without having to do a day's bloody work. Islam is a part of British life but, unlike the teenage mugger or the VAT man, it has no interest in what Steve, UK does on a Saturday night.

The West's standing as a place of adherence to law, justice and tolerance, which in Britain's case is the product of 1,000 years of legal and constitutional development, are, in my commie opinion, considerably more important that the fear that an idiot with Pakistani heritage in a Leeds bedsit might be able to learn how to make a pipe bomb from the Internet....

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