Friday, 5 September 2008


“Civilian or at least non-military interventions are
at the heart of sustainable progress - hence the emphasis in Anglo-French
discussions of the need for a political surge in Afghanistan, led by the Afghan
government at national and local levels.”

“Sixty children were among 90 civilians killed in an American airstrike in
northwest Afghanistan according to a United Nations investigation. More than 700
civilians have died this year!”

The Spanish Civil War was the most conspicuous, perhaps, of its kind to witness the launching of the great Communist lie that the republicanos were fighting for democracy. Idealists from
all over the world joined the International Brigades, led and organised by the
Republicans, and made up of young believers whose common goal lay in fighting
Fascism. They included Ernest Hemingway, George Orwell, Andre Malraux, Arthur
Koestler and many others, while the Nationalists received the support of the
major European powers, such as Italy and Nazi Germany. Of course, the Taliban
don’t even pretend they are fighting for either freedom or democracy. Albeit
that news of British recruits among the Taliban strongly suggests that the war
in Afghanistan, like that in pre-fascist Spain, has become a magnet for
International Brigades determined to fight the infidel. For as an amalgam of
veterans and press-ganged extremists trapped in ideological circumstances, they
too, from their own particular perspective appear to be fighting for freedom.

Yet, while Bush’s suspension of habeas corpus tainted liberal
democracy in America, even today in Western liberal circles the view that NATO
entered the fray in Afghanistan to defend democratic ideals remains pretty much
the unchallenged consensus. But can it really be upheld, that refractory
individuals, let alone entire tribal cultures, that do not accept these premises
are not worthy of equal protection in a liberal democratic world?

Ostensively, Anglo-America's policy is committed to the idea of
freedom, often aggressively so. But in reality, the civilisations of the
European enlightenment, of which Anglo-Saxon liberal democracy claims to be the
heir, can never own such cultural prerogative since Islamic societies, too,
exist in their own moral universe. Enclosed in a separate ethical biosphere,
Islam has its own hereditary values regarding the worth and dignity of
individuals. It is all a matter of perspective. And just how honestly can anyone
claim that the world promised by America is the best of all possible worlds. On
the one hand there is the promise of temporal freedom with its doctrine of
ever-present pleasure, on the other there is the essentially religious character
of all Islamic institutions. And as for that freedom America does propagate so
much, we have counted its blessings alone...

It is no doubt the case that by surrendering habeas corpus for enemy
combatants the US has lost the moral high ground and replaced it with a complete
disregard of legal process, a highly repressive system of state security, and
the idea of revenge uppermost on their minds. At the same time, on the critical
matter of individual liberty, President Hamid Karzei's cabinet has long since
approved the proposal to re-establish the notorious Department for the Promotion
of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, which was first set up by the Taliban, so that
all that remains now is to make war on an entire Islamic culture in which
everyone is a Taliban at heart!

It’s madness!

Indeed, I have the most hideous premonition that the only possible
solution to the great American conspiracy to democratise Islam — and I’m looking
at five decades into the future here — is extraordinary rendition, deep
interrogation, indefinite detention, targeted killings
and all-out warfare
between Mecca and Rome.



All Shook Up said...

As well as being a domestic affair, the Spanish Civil War was something of a proxy for European Powers - the Soviet Union supported the Republicans (Communists) with 'advisors' and weaponry to an arguably far greater extent than did Italy and Germany for the Nationalists. Those International Brigade idealists who went over to fight could still in those naive days, do so under the impression that Socialism was a benign force. Much like the motivation of youths from Luton and Brighton who finish up in Guantanamo, I expect. No doubt they would be happier to have been shot on the battlefield without legal redress rather than fall into such a loophole of having neither rights nor protection. But hey... no good not recognising the law and then claiming Habeus Corpus. Sure it makes us as bad as them.. why wouldn't it?

Isn't the idea that "NATO
entered the fray in Afghanistan to defend democratic ideals"
just the window-dressing? Nobody's suppoed to believe it, are they? I thought we were there make sure that Afghanistan doesn't again become a 'failed state'.. a vacuum, a haven for Al Qaeda to use as a base? To prop up any old regime there who will manage the country more as a government, less as a bunch of Mad Mullahs committed to extremes of Islamic-based superstition.

Not that I've any more confidence than you have that the West can succeed. On the whole, though, I think that trying to dismantle such beliefs is a noble, if fruitless and dangerous, aim.

If only they could all be like our own dear Pope. Well I guess they are actually... if we go back a few centuries.

Selena Dreamy said...

“I thought we were there make sure that Afghanistan doesn't again become a 'failed state'.. a vacuum, a haven for Al Qaeda to use as a base?

Of course, the real tragedy is that instead of a “failed state”, Afghanistan has become the biggest recruiting ground for Islamic resurgence since the Knight Templars fought the Saracens.

Indeed, one of the blights of Anglo-American politics over the past 20 years or more, has been the preponderance of ideology over enlightenment. While young people in a different era might have enjoyed a first rate secular education, contemporary youths - East and West - have been tricked into their respective fundamentalisms and, hence, into fighting, killing and persecuting each other. In fact, by the time they’ve laid eyes on each other, they have already been culturally programmed to view each other as inherently repulsive...

It's an omen of cultural disaster!

Jonathan said...

As I see it, Islam is not democratic, but some/many (?) Muslims want democracy more than they want Islam, even though they might feel frightened to say that. While, on the other hand, other Muslims want to use democracy to destroy democracy, masking a hatred of democracy under an apparent short-term, tactical enthusiasm for it. Most complex, most involved.

Let us not forget that not so very long ago secular pan-Arabism, not Islam, was all the rage in the Middle East (at least). Turkey also shows the inner capacity for non-Arabic Muslims to embrace secularism as an antidote to the Islamism. While in Iran a vigorous underground liberal movement against theocracy goes often unreported because Iran's liberals are not anti-American but rather anti- Persian despotism, which subverts the left's anti-American platform.

One way round the tensions regarding many Muslims' actual desire for freedom (which surely explains their coveting of western pop culture, and business acumen) is to water down the Islam, as we have watered down, thank God, our Constantinian, Political Christianity. Another is to playgames with the meaning of 'democracy'.

A big question, to me, is what factors underlie your average everyday Muslim being attracted to rowdy Islamist ideas, as opposed to just wanting to have a peaceful, prosperous life and smile under the sun. Many after all, do seem highly chilled and benign, to my experience. And we should recall that such types are of little interest to the media or commentatros who seek the simplicity of, and the good copy accruing from, stereotyping.

Still, I do not deny the big chasms and deep distances between our civilisations at the level of psychology and the individual -in his relation to both public and private space, the world and to God.

It's complicated.... complication should not surprise us as a feature of such an intricate Universe, should it?

Interesting that you should pitch Mecca against Rome. Whatever happened to the Reformation?

Greetings from Bratislava. It is a joy to be back in the land of superior lager and ubiquitous female beguilement.

Selena Dreamy said...

"Let us not forget that not so very long ago secular pan-Arabism, not Islam, was all the rage in the Middle East (at least). Turkey also shows the inner capacity for non-Arabic Muslims to embrace secularism as an antidote to the Islamism. While in Iran a vigorous underground liberal movement against theocracy goes often unreported...

Absolutely - spot on!

The resurgence of a 7th century Islamic fundamentalism is due - precisely and solely - to the pressures exerted by the West!

It's basic physics!

Selena Dreamy said...

...and how the heck did you get to Bratislavia from one moment to the next? That's like time-travel...

...or was it Ryan-Air?

Anonymous said...

Bratislava is brilliant. I wish I was with you Johnny!

You are quite near Bosnia - an interesting Muslim country - have you ever been there? I have by the way.. very interesting but Slovakia is more fun! There are bears in the woods you know...

Jonathan said...

Yes, you are right , it was Ryan Air. I prefer Sky Europe of course. Far better customer service and prettier hostesses (well, they're more likely to be Slovak since its a Slovak based company). Alas, however, Sky Europe now only fly to Luton.

Yes Selena Islam gets ancy when it feels threatened, which it tends to feel rather too easily I find. Though perhaps not as easily as it takes offence.

Yes Mutley been twice to Bosnia, in 2003 and 2006, both before and after the Mostar bridge was resurrected. The Mostarovians (if that's the way of it) seemed in 2006 oddly unsuccessful in pulling down their old ruined buildings. Do they keep them like that as mementoes and scars of the struggle? It can't be that they can't afford to pull them down can it? There are EU posters displaying EU involvement in many places.

Sarajevo has recovered far more thoroughly.

Yes bears, though I never saw one in the 6 years I was here....:(