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    impressive arrays of accountability..., 2005-10-24 12:14:35 | Main | meanwhile in the other alternate universe..., 2005-10-24 22:48:47

    the vital centre:

    One could read Brendan O'Neill's review of Faisal Devji's latest in spiked and wonder, considering the novelty with which some fairly mundane observations are treated, if Brendan O'Neill ever read his own review of Jason Burke, et. al., or the constant stream of "Al Qaeda 2.0" articles that have been pushed out since the Afghan campaign ended all making pretty much the same points.

    Giving himself his usual brand of contrarian independence BO of course needs some leftist position to be against, and so he picks Tariq Ali out of the lineup of usual suspects:

    some of a leftish persuasion have come dangerously close to gushing over al-Qaeda and its offshoot groups, or at least seeking to explain their actions with reference to historic movements for land and freedom. Tariq Ali, for example, compares the al-Qaeda-inspired insurgents in Iraq - those car-bombing killers of children and religious worshippers - to the French resistance to the fascist Vichy regime, and said of the 9/11 attacks that 'the subjects of the [American] Empire had struck back', demonstrating the 'universal truth that slaves and peasants do not always obey their masters.' (2) He wilfully overlooked the fact that the 'peasants' who organised 9/11 were in fact middle-class students with cushy lives.

    The quotes from Ali are lifted context free from his meandering prologue to The Clash of Fundamentalisms, published in April of 2002, in which Ali never so much as mentions Al Qaeda but discusses his concern over the broad swathe of public sympathies for the 9/11 attackers, for whom "no exact, incontrovertible evidence about who ordered the hits" exists. "The subjects of the Empire had struck back" is just Ali's tautology for "blowback", e.g. the "idea that a Yorkshireman can kill people in London as revenge for the bombing of 'my people' in Baghdad or Bethlehem".

    When Ali brings up the French resistance regarding the insurgency he still isn't talking about Al Qaeda:

    And how better to facilitate this than by dredging up the bogey of the Wahhabite al Qaeda? The US may have sought to blame it for this week's car bomb attacks. But this ignores the fact that “if you collaborate, then be prepared to pay the price” has been the message of virtually every national struggle over the last century.

    In Vichy France and occupied Yugoslavia and later in Vietnam, Algeria, Guinea and Angola, collaborators were regularly targeted. Then, as in Iraq today, the resistance was denounced by politicians and the tame press as “terrorists”. When the occupying armies withdrew and the violence ceased, many of the “terrorists” became “statesmen”.

    When and if a political settlement is made with the Sunni Arab resistance in Iraq who doubts that this will be the case? That's what anybody who calls for bringing them "into the system" is talking about.

    Ali's actual position on Al Qaeda appears to be virtually indistinguishable from BO's ringing endorsements of Burke or Devji: a "bogey" dredged by Western governments to give form to an enemy, in turn adopted by violent fanatics for not dissimilar reasons. Furthermore the organizational chart of a vague international movement and acts of media whoring propaganda described by BO is exactly the position Tariq took when describing them as "Islamo-anarchists" not long ago:

    What the 9/11 bombers and their London brethren believe in is the propaganda of the deed. That is the similarity with anarchism and situationism. Clearly the social program of anarchism is far removed from their thinking. It is this notion favored by anarchists of the 19th and early 20th centuries (but not Durrutti) that assassinations, bombings, etc were impactful and might induce change. That is why Lenin referred to this brand of anarchists as 'liberals with a bomb'.

    So basically BO is endorsing the views of TA, but has the reading comprehension of a retarded pre-schooler.

    Let's turn to another of BO's pieces on AQ2.0 from last August, where he wrote:

    Peter Taylor's theory, of course, is that the smashing of the al-Qaeda hierarchy has given rise to a 'new al-Qaeda', one that flourishes in cyberspace rather than in caves and which is more like an ideological virus than a command structure. Perhaps. But that illustrates the further drubbing of al-Qaeda, and shows that this small gang of deluded nihilists that was never very threatening in the first place (certainly not to Western civilisation) has been reduced to a small gang of deluded geeks who 'meet' in chatrooms where they fantasise, like overgrown disgruntled teenagers, about bringing the West to its knees. The 7/7 bombings show that these delusions can sometimes become reality, but such acts remain rare. As one report pointed out recently, there are fewer terror attacks today than at any point in the past 20 years: 'During the 1980s, the number of international terrorist incidents worldwide averaged about 360 a year. By the year 2000, it was down to just 100.' (7) The fact that we become more scared of al-Qaeda the less we can see it reveals as much about our own culture of fear as it does about a new terror threat.

    That report refers to this tool, which produces this chart for incidents of interntational terrorism since 1968:

    This coincides with that final State Department report "Patterns of Global Terrorism" that since GWOT started international acts of non-state terrorism have rapidly returned to the levels of their Cold War peak, and since niether (with good reason) includes data from Iraq represents a signficant undercount. The above analysis of this, conveniently stopping at 2000 and bizarrely conflating acts of terrorism before and after Al Qaeda existed as emblematic of the threat poised by Al Qaeda, serves as another fine example of BO's reading comprehension. He complains about the lack of moral consensus in the West, but what's lacking is a basic consensus over simple facts.

    Hence Brendan O'Neill demonstrates that he is niether capable of understanding what he disagrees with Tariq Ali about or grasping what it might be that so concerns Tariq Ali, which is about what one would expect from a dipsetic poser who can't read a fucking line graph.

    update: Do I fail to make my point clear enough? Perhaps. O'Neill's description of the rightwing tautology concerning Al Qaeda and its affiliates is accurate in the sense that it describes the ostensible goals well enough of Sufi extremists, and he allows as much while rightly observing that such goals are not realistic and cannot be taken as a serious threat. At the same time he accuses, quite wrongly, some generic left of "almost gushing" over Bin Laden, as is the style of the times, and then libels his example case by lifting quotes seperated by whole paragraphs - the beginning and the end of a whole chapter really - into a derogatory frame of logic irrelevant to the matter actually discussed by the defamed target. There's a cottage industry vilifying Chomsky for lesser examples of the same crime. Does O'Neill further his own views by distorting those to his left? Only by the logic of cowardice.


:: posted by buermann @ 2005-10-24 16:46:16 CST | link





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