Editorial from Church & State, Spring 2006 (Number 84)
Liberal Fundamentalist Truth
A spokesman for the American Government estimated that something like 35,000 innocent civilians have been killed so far in the liberation of Iraq from tyranny (a Mr. Rivkin on BBC Newsnight, 21st March). He said that there is always collateral damage in war, and that as wars go—compared with World War 2 for example—this is a very modest and acceptable degree of collateral damage.
An independent estimate last year put the figure at close to 100,000.
Iraq was liberated three years ago. The tyrant was overthrown. But the War continues. The British Prime Minister says it is now a war for civilisation. Tyranny was overthrown and civilisation collapsed. War is now being waged against the consequences of liberation, which have undermined civilisation.
Afghanistan was liberated by invasion four years ago and democracy was installed. Imperialist feminism, led by Polly Toynbee of The Guardian, made propaganda for the war of liberation on Afghanistan. The women are now democratically subjected to the traditional culture of Afghanistan, instead of being oppressed by the Taliban. And a man has been lawfully and democratically sentenced to death for converting from Islam to Christianity.
The overthrow of the tyranny in Iraq led to the upsurge of the strict Islamic forces which the tyranny had held in check and was eroding. And, if a democratic settlement is finally arrived at, it is a virtual certainty that it will be strongly Islamic.
Imperialist democracy is liberal. It is a powerful military/industrial structure seeking to control the material resources of the world for its own benefit. It believes in little beyond material wealth and, for the purpose of controlling material resources everywhere, it makes superficial accommodations with the culture of the various peoples who live there, while attempting to disable and erode those cultures.
Democracies which are not imperialist, and which concern themselves with their own affairs, tend to be strongly conservative of their cultures—their ways of life—and to let other peoples be. Edmund Burke made this observation over two centuries ago when opposing the democratisation of Britain. He did not anticipate that democracy might be added to an imperialist state that was turning the world upside down, and that the state would continue its imperialist activity. But that is what happened in Britain in the course of the 19th century, in the USA as a British offshoot, and in the imperialist states of Europe, so that today only the political systems of the imperialist states are considered to be properly democratic. All other systems, no matter how much they are in accord with the actual will of the people, are judged to be tyrannical, oppressive, fascistic, or whatever other term of disapproval, arising out of imperialist democracy, comes to mind.
Cultures which attempt to resist the destructive influence of Western imperialism are called "fundamentalist|".
The tyranny which has been overthrown in Iraq was one of the few Western implantations which took root in the Middle East and which developed in accordance with the Western ideal. It was an engine of what is called modernisation, drawing people from the various religious social cultures into the administration of a secular state, individualising people away from organic religious cultures, and forming them into cogs of a de-personalised bureaucracy, dispensing social welfare through secular institutions, breaking women of their family orientation and urging them to become apparatchiks, sex-objects etc., and displacing the social forms of religion with the social forms of the welfare state. It was the great success story of American intervention in the Middle East. But then, when it had served a major Western purpose by making war on the Islamic Revolution in Iran, America decided to destroy it, tormenting it for twelve years, and shredding its infrastructure, before invading and occupying it.
The reasoning behind this escapes us. How has it served the interest of the West to destroy the secular state in Iraq and facilitate Islamic development?
Senator Mansergh, who will probably be Foreign Minister one day, says international law had to be upheld against the Iraqi occupation of Kuwait. (Invasion would be much to strong a word for it.)
Edward Heath, creator of the independent state of Kuwait, was appalled when he realised that Bush Senior and Thatcher were seriously intent on making war on Iraq. He knew that Kuwait properly belonged with Iraq, and that it had been filched by Britain and erected into a puppet state to serve British interests. And he knew that Iraq might easily have been deterred from responding to Kuwaiti provocations with an occupation, if Britain and the US had told the Kuwaitis to behave, and had told Saddam that he mustn't cross the border. The Iraqi move was not a surprise attack. The event was widely discussed for weeks before it happened. And, a couple of days before, the US Ambassador gave Saddam to understand that it was an inter-Arab affair in which America had no interest.
Once Iraq moved across the border, the US and UK prepared for war. The object of the 'diplomacy' of the following months was to prevent a negotiated retreat by Saddam. General Schwarzkopf said on Radio Eireann that an Iraqi retreat from Kuwait without warfare was "the nightmare scenario". The reasonable conclusion from that is that Iraq was lured into Kuwait in order to be destroyed.
As the Iraqi Army was in full retreat (and was being slaughtered en masse by the US and UK air forces in a way that one British pilot compared to stamping on ants) the people of Iraq were called upon to arise and overthrow the tyrant. They arose. And it was naturally the forces that had been held in check by the secular state that rose. US/UK promptly washed their hands of the revolution they had called for when they saw that it was an Islamic revolution. They facilitated Saddam in suppressing it. But they maintained strict sanctions against Iraq for the next twelve years, killing hundreds of thousands of people, chiefly women and children. Iraq was highly vulnerable to sanctions precisely because it had been developed as a modernised, secular, welfare state by the Baath regime. Then, after twelve years during which Iraq had done nothing whatever to give offence, US/UK invaded, overthrew the regime, and the Islamic forces which had been suppressed by the regime again took over.
Islam as a political form is now developing freely from the Mediterranean to Central Asia. Thirty years ago such a possibility could only be envisaged as science fiction.
This development is democratic, in the sense of being in accordance with what people actually want. But it is Islamofascist (as John Waters puts it) because it does not accord with what we want.
Waters is the most articulate Irish supporter of Neo-conservative American Imperialism. (Eamon Delaney is gauche and inarticulate by comparison.)
He says it is not imperialism at all but democracy. And it is certainly not conservative.
Democracy and Imperialism are not mutually exclusive terms. Democracy developed in the British State, when Ireland was part of it, with imperialism as its precondition. In the propaganda of the period, from the 1880s to the Great War, democracy and imperialism went together as mutually supportive tendencies. The democracy was imperialist then, and it never ceased to be so.
A State which interferes actively, and by force, in the affairs of other states and peoples, and insists that they should change themselves in ways that it requires for its own purpose but that they themselves feel no need of, can only be described as imperialist. The USA can therefore be described as a revolutionary imperialist democracy in its action in the world in recent years, its revolutionary democracy being a means of disrupting other states and bending them to its will.
"Islamofascism" is for John Waters the justification of US imperialist interference in the Middle East. It is, however, also the outcome of that interference, which in the actual event is merely destructive.
Twenty-seven years ago there was a secular State in Afghanistan—a Communist movement succeeded in gaining sufficient purchase on the fragmented population to draw elements from it into the apparatus of a secular national state, which was something unprecedented in Afghanistan. Traditional social elements (tribal and Islamic) resisted the national state, because it was State more than because it was Communist. The United States supported and armed the resistance, because the state was Communist and was aligned with Moscow. It also took the resistance in hand, modernised it within Islamist parameters, and produced the Taliban. When the Communist national state was destroyed, the Taliban national state took its place. The USA then bombed the hell out of the Taliban state, and installed a fictional democracy, which was in reality a restoration of tribalism—which might be described as the natural Afghan mode of social existence. But the Taliban movement survives the destruction of the Taliban state, and it is an active element in the life of Afghanistan today.
The doyen of British political reporters, John Simpson, led the liberation of Kabul. The US put a reward of millions of dollars on the heads of Osama and Mullah Omar. Simpson, being an Oxbridge-educated Brit, knew Afghanistan. Britain had interfered with it so often that knowledge of it was in his genes. He said it was only a matter of time until Osama and Omar were betrayed into the hands of the Americans, because betrayal was the national culture of Afghanistan. But, despite the carrot and stick of bribes and saturation bombing/internment, Osama and Omar were not betrayed. Afghanistan is not what it used to be. "Islamofascism" has had an enduring effect on it.
The swathe of Islamic fundamentalism by which imperialist democracy is now resisted from the Mediterranean to Central Asia is the net product of US/UK foreign policy in the region. (The national democracy of Iran was destroyed in the early 1950s, being replaced by the Western-oriented puppet-autocracy of the Shah, which was swept away by the popular Islamic upheaval of 1979.)
But it all really began with the imposition of Jewish nationalist fundamentalism on Palestine by an American/Soviet alliance acting through the United Nations.
But Waters is not deterred from campaigning against "Islamofascism" by the fact that the campaign has at every turn brought about an increase in what it aspires to destroy. He wages the campaign for its own sake, regardless of its actual consequence. He is himself a fundamentalist bearing witness. And he supports the ridiculing of Mohammed in those stupid Danish cartoons:
"I actually believe that it is now almost a bounden duty on Editors to publish them. The public cannot know properly what is being discussed without seeing these images. But, secondly, because the gauntlet has been thrown down to the media and to Western society in terms of its freedom of expression. There has been a challenge accompanied by threats of violence which can only be met by a solid wall of defiance. By saying, Look, in the West we have the tradition of democracy, of freedom of self-expression, of the right to satirise and to say strong things and to offend one another. We have those traditions. And they are not just whimsical luxuries that we indulge ourselves in. They are fundamental bulwarks of our democracy" (Radio Eireann, 6 Feb. Vincent Browne Show).
It's true. As Voltaire put it by way of a joke: "This animal is dangerous. If attacked it defends itself."
Our "democracy" cannot survive anywhere if it is resisted anywhere, because it is imperialist in its essence. It is only a form of imperialism. It has nothing within itself with which it can rest content. It must always have an enemy to destroy, because it is only in the destruction of enemies that it feels its value.
"Western values are universal, and they're under threat". And they're put under threat simply by being resisted.
That was Waters on Radio Eireann last Summer (Off The Shelf 7.7.2005). He continued:
"You have to take the world by the scruff of the neck and impose your will… America has to take responsibility… It is becoming clearer that America is the force that will protect the West when and if the day arrives… We had a decade under Clinton and the first George Bush when the West was sitting back and allowing people to make arrangements of their own all around the world. The Neocons were right in addressing that issue and saying, Look, we need to start kicking ass here, and let them know that we're alive."
John Waters is unusual amongst Irish Times journalists in that he is not a creation of the Irish Times political project, as Fintan O'Toole & Co. are. He was a public commentator in his own right long before he was recruited into the Irish Times and he knew that Ireland was not Dublin 4, and that the world was not Dublin 4 writ large. He is a convert to the Dublin 4 vision, and perhaps for that reason he is more aware of what he signed up for than his journalistic colleagues are. The creatures do not question the ways of their creator. They are made important by their service in the cause of the political Directorate that plucked them out of obscurity and gave them the task of undermining the Fianna Fail establishment that gave coherence to the state for half a century. They do not reflect on what they are doing. They are deterred from doing so by a mixture of caution and inability. There was never any danger that their investigative journalism would discover the unique internal structure of the Irish Times, or its close connection with a foreign state. "Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also."
But Waters, the adult in the kindergarten, knows what it's all about. It must have been difficult for him to contain this knowledge within himself. It was not something he could express in the paper. So he took the opportunity to give it what seemed to be safe expression in a communication to a French academic, who was writing a history of the Irish Times in French, which might have been expected to moulder away in a French university library:
"It is important to understand that The Irish Times is not so much a newspaper as a campaigning institution committed to making Ireland come to resemble the aspirations of its more privileged citizens. There is, accordingly, no tradition of giving voice to difference opinions in the Irish Times. What there is, is a desire to present the “truth”, to have this “truth” accepted, and to discredit all viewpoints which do not accord with this" (cited in Évolution et singularités d'un journal de reference irlandais: L'Irish Times by Jean Mercereau).
This puts one in mind of Pravda. It used to be a joke that the campaigning newspaper of the Soviet Union was called Pravda (Truth). But there are two Russian words for truth. Ordinary, matter-of-fact, truth—truth about the winner of the 2.30 at the Curragh for example—is istina. But there is a higher truth—truth which is a programme to be realised, and which handles the lesser truth with a view to realising it—and that is pravda. We have said before that the Irish Times is the Irish Pravda, but we never expected to hear it so well described out of the horse's mouth.
An English propagandist in the Arab world, Freya Stark, groped for words to describe what her task was. It was, of course, to disseminate the truth. But she knew that the truth she was disseminating was not mere factual truth, but truth which served a purpose. She therefore distinguished between truth and mere accuracy.
John Waters once strove for accuracy in his commentary on Irish affairs. He now strives for the higher truth to which accuracy would be an obstacle.
And, since he is intent on kicking the Arab word in the ass and insulting the sensibilities of the Moslem world, might we recommend to him that he should draw the attention of his readers to Voltaire's Mahomet. It was performed only a few months ago in Voltaire's home town by a group of self-consciously enlightened, post-Christian, European cosmopolitan intellectuals as a gesture of defiance against the angry victims of a form of imperialism which for once unites France with Britain and America.
It is a play with a European history. Voltaire himself read it to Frederick the Great. He sent a copy of it to Pope Benedict XIV, who expressed his appreciation of it. And a readable English translation was made of it under Smollet's supervision.
What more convincing exercise in freedom of expression could there be for the defiant enlightened ones of Dublin 4 than to get it performed in the Gate?
Here is the concluding speech by Mahomet (who, through instigating a murder, has lost his girlfriend):
She's gone; she's lost; the only dear reward
I wished to keep of all my crimes: in vain
I fought and conquered: Conscience, now I feel thee,
And feel that thou canst rive the guilty heart.
O thou eternal God, whom I have made
The instrument of ill, whom I have wronged,
Braved and blasphemed; O thou whom yet I fear,
Behold me self-condemned, behold me wretched
Even whilst the world adores me; vain was all
My boasted power: I have deceived mankind;
But how shall I impose upon my own heart?
A murdered father and two guiltless children
Must be avenged: come, ye unhappy victims,
And end me quickly!—Omar, we must strive
To hide this shameful weakness, save my glory,
And let me reign o'er a deluded world:
For Mahomet depends on fraud alone,
And to be worshipped never must be known."
Voltaire himself admitted that the play was not factually based. It was written in the cause of the higher truth whose object is not accuracy—the truth to which Waters and the Irish Times Directorate are dedicated.
Contents of Number 84
Liberal Fundamentalist Truth
The Cartoons: Premeditated To Foster A Clash
"I Slept With James Connolly "—A
Contribution To The Patrick Pearse Discussion.
The Thoughts Of Lundy.
Letterkenny Says No Pope Here.
Collins, Churchill And All That.
Co. Offaly Protestants Killed By IRA In 1921:
Part Two, I Met Humbug On The Way.
Michael Cordial's Witness Statement.
The Failure & Co-option Of Feminism (Part
Archbishop Neill & The Tilson Case .
1916: A Newspaper Debate.
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