Monday, July 18, 2005

Listener Editorial on Terrorism

The Listener this week had an argument in its editorial:
If we really want to show solidarity with the good people of London, there's a simple way to do it. Stop using the slogan "terrorist" to describe the criminals who attacked them in last week's crude display of force.

Eh? Why?
The word terrorism glorifies those who wish to inspire fear. It reinforces a siege mentality.
I've heard a number of absurd arguments against using the word but glorifying terrorists is news to me. Does this mean that we should not label what happened at Auschwitz "genocide" on the grounds that it glorifies those that wish to kill large numbers of people? I'm far from convinced.

The editorial then points out (correctly) that most terrorists are "disaffected middle-class attention seekers" rather than being poor and impoverished before criticizing George Bush for remaining in Iraq to fight terrorists because:
The irony of course is that by deposing Saddam, whose regime was the most secular of the Arab regimes, the US actually transferred power to the imams.
Where to start? Saddam's regime varied in policy quite a bit over the years (except when it came to brutality) but after 1990, the regime implemented religious law in order to shore up its shaken authority - the Islamic legend on the Iraqi flag dates from this time. Secondly Imans is the wrong word. Among the Sunnis, the word means leaders of prayer while to the Shi'a, it refers to the divinely ordained successors of Muhammad. The US could no more hand over power in Iraq to the Imans than it could hand over power in Italy to the Popes. "Mullahs" would have been a better word to use but even here, the Listener's statement is dubious. Based on advice received from the Iranians of all people, the Shi'ite clergy of Iraq believes that clergy exercising governmental power is a very bad idea. So the clergy has great influence in Iraq but it does not have power.

The editorial says that publicity should be given to the Muslim scholars condemning the attacks by means of a fatwa, which sits rather oddly with the previous statement about the US giving power to the Imans. It then goes on to criticize Red Ken for giving prominence to Dr Al-Qaradari while mention of his stirring statement condemning the Subway Attacks is oddly lacking.

Finally it ends up with good news by saying that Terrorism was twice as bad during the eighties than it is now. I'm somewhat dubious about this assertion as previous records of terrorism tend to only count what looks newsworthy in the western media. When the US State Department tried to correct the figures earlier this year by counting attacks in places like Kashmir, the number of attacks shot up even though nothing really had changed.