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An Unwontedly Political Observation, The Necessity of Which I Regret. - Wemyss's Appalling Hobby:
From the Party Guilty of Committing 'Gate of Ivory, Gate of Horn'
An Unwontedly Political Observation, The Necessity of Which I Regret.
Good afternoon. I should like to make a few brief points, even at the risk of entering territory that I have tried mightily to avoid before now.

First, let me say, please, that I am not at all scornful of, dubious of, or unmoved by the outpouring of American and Canadian and elsewhere-in-the-Commonwealth-and-abroad support, and I should be very sorry indeed if I gave that impression. It is, unquestionably, grateful and welcome, and I cannot imagine any Briton resenting it. That its expression implicates a difference in national character and style is of no moment whatsoever.

I mention this because, inevitably, I am coming more and more to see the second wave of reaction to the events that, I see, some are delicately calling the ‘incidents’ in London. (Who the devil are we? Bloody Reuters? ‘Incidents’, great God: call the damned things what they were, terror attacks. Mass murder.)

I am coming, in short, increasingly to see THIS sort of thing. That’s in appallingly poor taste, vicious, in fact, and no amount of BNF status or competence or even glimmerings of talent as a writer, can excuse it. (And that is aside from its being objectively as wrong as can be.)

The first stage of these newer and contemptible reactions, at FA and LJ both, now that the immediate shock is past, is to make hay of the distinction between American and British modes of reacting to the initial news, and then to go on to paint the Americans as hysteric, histrionic (a term usually indifferently spelled), neurasthenic, and cowardly. Having discharged their first spasm of ejaculatory anti-Americanism, the bloody twats of whom I am speaking then proceed to hijack – I use the term advisedly – the mass murders as a prop for playing out their own politico-Œdipal dramas and partisanship, usually in a fashion that could fairly be described as hysterical, histrionic, and neurasthenic. Theirs is the George Galloway reaction, the Spanish-voters-after-the-Madrid-bombings reaction. The Cliveden reaction.

Well, so be it. Yet my experience of Americans in real life suggests to me – and this is one reason I entered LJ only reluctantly, as the fandom is much less overwrought, generally, at, say, FA – that, to the extent Americans on LJ have been hysteric, they are a highly unrepresentative sample of the Yank spirit.

In any case, their clogging threads with well-meaning if treacly expressions of concern is infinitely preferable to having a thread dedicated to calling roll suddenly stuffed full of half a page of hectoring about geopolitics. Better the most blowsy and extravagant of sympathy posts than yet another LJ or FA rant. No one struggling to arise after a mugging is particularly in want of a lecture on how to identify with, connect with, and ‘understand the issues of’ his late assailant.

As for the fundamental issues, that is, the partisan appropriation of mass murder in an attempt to score cheap debating points off of the Americans or the PM or anyone not supinely committed to appeasement and breast-beating mea culpas, I make a very simple request. For a day, now, people have been asking, How can I help, and bleating, Whatever can I do? I have an answer. Please, before you get on your patent Hyde Park, Speakers’s Corner soapbox, go and read, mark, and inwardly digest:

The Times’s leader, ‘Revulsion and resolve’: ‘There may be a few people inclined to make a link between the deaths in London and the intervention in Iraq. This is utterly flawed thinking. Al-Qaeda and its subsidiary branches began their sadistic campaign more than a decade ago….’;

Gerard Baker in The Times, ‘In the service of fanaticism’: ‘The fight in Iraq is not, as the opponents claim, a self-inflicted wound….’;

Amir Taheri in The Times, ‘And this is why they did it’: ‘But sorry, old chaps, you are dealing with an enemy that does not want anything specific, and cannot be talked back into reason ….’;

The Telegraph’s leader, ‘A dark day from which we will emerge stronger’: ‘There are those who will blame British involvement in Iraq for yesterday’s attacks. That is to misread the nature of the struggle. Its modern manifestation goes back to the 1993 assault on the World Trade Centre in New York….’;

Tom Utley in The Telegraph, ‘Accept that the terrorist threat is here to stay’: ‘I myself was never fully convinced by the arguments for invading Iraq. But the London bombings make me all the more certain of how important it is that our troops should now stay there until democracy is established firmly enough for the Iraqi government to look after its own security. I bet that many tens of thousands of Britons feel the same way. We cannot and must not surrender to al-Qa’eda’s terrorism, and Osama bin Laden must surely know enough about the British character and temperament to realise that….’;

Mark Steyn in The Telegraph, ‘The quiet-life option ensures that attacks go on’: ‘… Omar Sheikh was a westernised non-observant chess-playing pop-listening beer-drinking English student until he was radicalised by the massacres of Bosnian Muslims.[*] Abdel Karim al-Tuhami al-Majati was another Europeanised Muslim radicalised by Bosnia. The inactivity of Do-Nothin’ Doug and his fellow Lions of Lethargy a decade ago had terrible consequences and recruited more jihadists than any of Bush’s daisy cutters….’; and

Chris ‘Man of the Left’ Hitchens in Slate, ‘The Anticipated Attack’: ‘It is ludicrous to try and reduce this to Iraq. Europe is steadily becoming a part of the civil war that is roiling the Islamic world, and it will require all our cultural ingenuity to ensure that the criminals who shattered London’s peace at rush hour this morning are not the ones who dictate the pace and rhythm of events from now on….’.

Or ask an Australian: the Bali bombing preceded the operations in Iraq by some five months.

If you’ve a principled argument to make against any policy of any government, for God’s sake, make it: debate is one of the primary things we mustn’t let ourselves be inhibited from by any fear of terrorists. But it would be rather nice of you to know and use the facts in arguments. And it would be considerably more damned becoming if you would stop commandeering the coffins of the dead to use as a soapbox from which to preach appeasement and barrack your partisan opponents – especially if they aren’t your dead.

* And what fruit that bore: 20 April 2004, The Evening Standard, ‘Terror on the dole: ‘“As far as I’m concerned, when they bomb London, the bigger the better”…. “Pass the brown sauce, brother”….’


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(Deleted comment)
wemyss From: wemyss Date: July 8th, 2005 03:45 pm (UTC) (Link)

And I Believe We Are Unanimous In That.

(I dearly need a Mrs Slocombe icon.)

When you and I have reached what I seem to recall is bipartisan agreement, surely the rest of the world can fall into line.

I'm still amused, though, by the suspicious package of washing on the platform at Swindon. 'There will always be an England', and that means that terror will not disrupt the rail schedule for more than a day, yet leaves on the line will, and someone's lost smalls can shut a station down. Only in the UK.
(Deleted comment)
wemyss From: wemyss Date: July 8th, 2005 04:01 pm (UTC) (Link)

Well, We Cd Ask the Boffins at Porton Down.

I mean, it cd be possible that this is some cunning germ warfare (Osama's linens, perhaps?), but I somehow think not.

Again, that presumes that this was indeed an al-Qaida operation. If it transpires that M Chirac's gustatory comments sparked a sudden raid by an ad hoc coalition led by M Bove and the anonymous critics at the Guide Mich', well, that's another story. (Beware of dodgy escargot.)
magic_at_mungos From: magic_at_mungos Date: July 8th, 2005 04:35 pm (UTC) (Link)


Have I completely missed the memo where we actually know who did it. We know who's claiming responsibility but we don't actually know for sure. I mean, if it was something to do with G8, why didn't they try and blow up Gleneagies or target London on Saturday for the Live 8 concert or on Tuesday because of the Battle of Trafagler whatsits.

I knew this was going to end up turning into a political pissing contest. *grumbles* I need a stiff drink.

**This post was brought to you by your slightly wet Guardian reading fangirl :)**
wemyss From: wemyss Date: July 8th, 2005 05:23 pm (UTC) (Link)

Well, The Met Think They've A Goodish Idea of Who.

Still, as I said above, it cd be the Frogs.

I'd suggest having a sniffer dog take a dekko at any runny cheeses.
avus From: avus Date: July 9th, 2005 04:20 am (UTC) (Link)

Oh, please don't run away from debate after this....

Ah, wemyss, you make so many wonderful points. Mind you, I suspect we disagree violently on the subject of Iraq. But that makes you so valuable -- a thoughtful and humane voice with differing views. And thus someone for that, and for so many other reasons, to be treasured.

I agree with you about separating, to some extent, the war in Iraq and whether it is the right war fought in the right way for the right reasons and with the right preparations, from the mass murder of innocents. (Fuck "incident". 'Nough said.) And scoring political points from the murdered, or using coffins for soap boxes is beyond bad taste. It is obscene.

And yet, it is also inevitable.

Remember the American experience of 9/11.

The day after, our dear president was calling for a "crusade". *shudders* And he meant it, in more ways than one. Americans, by and large, did not object to entering into Afghanistan. That seems, from what I've read, to have been genuinely a war against terrorism, in general, and a war against, specifically, the terrorists who perpetrated.

But not only LJers & FA fans, but also Bush are standing on your coffins, and our Yank coffins, dear sir, talking about your terrorism in ways that link it, directly & indirectly, to the war in Iraq. That, to me & to you is vile.

Can we regard that part of it as resolved?

Now your quotes do sneak Iraq back in, too. As I said, probably inevitable. Certainly tracing direct causal links is suspect, but ignoring all connections may also be suspect, if a lesser suspect. Hard to prove either way. Let's set that aside, perhaps, as agreeing on massive unclarity, shall we?

But since Iraq is raised, whether justly or not, and on both sides, I think it appropriate to weigh in. If you object, I'll certainly understand, and you need not read further.

From what I've been reading, the accumulating evidence is that this was not, in Iraq, primarily a war against terrorism, and it does not seem to have been a war that made the world any safer from terrorism, or is even likely to. (I haven't seen that case carefully made. Have you?) Yes, it removed one of the most vile world leaders from the stage. But, sadly, there are so many to choose from. Why Saddam? I fear the mixture has more to do with the oedipal issues in the Oval Office than those of his critiquers, not to mention oil, and (though you may not be aware of this part) a strained reading of the Book of Revelations.

I fear, good sir, that Americans may have been lied to about the reasons for starting a war. And I warn you that, if this is true, or the extent to which it is true... well, I have very strong feelings about that, feelings that get re-aroused daily, by the suffering of military families in my office. Yes, I recognize the first casualty of war. But this does not make me like it any better for its being commonplace. Perhaps you'll permit me those feelings?

The preparations for after the war, which was never supposed to be long, appear to have been almost wantonly, or at least irresponsibly poor. The finger, at this point, appears to be moving back to those around Bush. This does not improve my temper, working with families where a parent is going back for their 2nd or 3rd tour of duty, and with exit plans that have not yet inspired confidence in me. (Have you seen plans that seem, to you, adequate to the gravity of the situation?)

On to the second posting....
avus From: avus Date: July 9th, 2005 04:22 am (UTC) (Link)

Blathering on.....

And that Bush is in office a second time -- something, I hasten to add, that my wife & I worked feverishly to prevent -- is in large part due to his standing on the coffins of our dead, and doing so in a way that tried frantically to cut off serious debate. (And that largely succeded, for which the opposition bears blame, too.) Try doing serious debate on the Iraq war in my town, a military town, and see how far you get. Understandable, yes, but sad and dangerous.

I'm not claiming to know how to fight terrorism. You Brits have a lot more experience than we Yanks, given Ireland. But it appears to be quite different from, say, Gulf War I. Clearly, in spite of Bushian rhetoric linking it to Pearl Harbor, there was no clear return address to the bombings of 9/11. Perhaps we must live with terrorism -- that may be our late 20th & 21st c. cross to bear, and so shoulder our struggle to deflect and limit it as much as we can. This will be on-going, costly, and liable to ghastly failures, where mass murder comes again.

But clearly how to combat terrorism needs better thought that what has already been received by the American public, at least, from their leaders on both sides. I don't have to draw on either Churchill (whom I greatly admire) or Chamberlain as my only choices -- which is what too much Bush-talk appears to suggest. I doubt, in the end, that either of them will work. Mlitary strategy is not my strong suit, but Bush-talk is not about opening this debate, but about closing it off, either in a directly threatening way, or in a "Father Knows Best" way.

I have revulsion to all wars, but that, I consider, healthy, realistic and certainly part of my family's tradition. Wars are repulsive, and anything that takes that away is in the same category as "incident". Since they are repulsive, it seems that, in a democracy, we have a responsibility to continually ask if this is the right war, in the right place, fought in the right way, and for the right reasons. Anything less is obscenity. We owe it to our troops & their families, and to the most vulnerable in our land who suffer because of resources directed elsewhere. And for that, we both agree, open debate is critical.

In the US, anything like open debate is quickly squashed by Bush & his minions as defeatist. I cry "Untrue and Obscenity!" Please join me in this.

I know nothing of war, but it seems less than rocket science that the American cowboy unilateralism that Bush has exhibited in so many ways is clearly Not the best way or, in the end, even the most efficient way to fight terrorism. I don't have to back into UN dithering to make that statement. We have other alternatives. For example, building on the inspired work of St. Augustine about concepts of a just war, and seeking to bring that, wherever possible, to the debate, and to international law, isn't, as I fear Bush has repeatedly suggested, craven. It's the best way we can ensure the survival not just of us, but of our grandchildren.

Oh, dear, I must to on to a third posting. Sorry.

avus From: avus Date: July 9th, 2005 04:24 am (UTC) (Link)

Blathering on II....

I know some of what I said is probably unfair. I have never expected, let alone insisted on sanctity in politicians. That does not mean, however, that I appreciate sanctimoniousness, either. I may be unfair, to you, but as an Anglican and a Brit, I strongly suspect that you don't understand American Protestant fundamentalism. It is no better than any other form of religious fundamentalism. And Bush's approach & rhetoric makes me very uneasy on this score. This is far beyond what Churchill described, in his speech speaking of the sorrow of the House to the King, after FDR's death, about FDR's keeping his hand on the pulse of mobile American public opinion.

Have I gone round the bend? Sigh. I should probably have put this on my computer, and looked at it in the morning. My dear wife will be furious with me, as I'm late going home. But we Yanks are so impulsive, you know. Some of us think it's a virtue, and the rest of us can't help ourselves. Such lack of self-restraint; we've so much to learn from you in this matter. I suspect it comes from our not having the stable cultural, intellectual & spiritual base you Brits have.

So, please, have a go at my positions. I look forward on your educating me from your much more experienced perspective. From you, of course, I've learned to expect sanctity, in the best moral sense, as well as perceptiveness, and so I eagerly await your reply while I fumble around in the mud & the mire (is there a difference?), which is my lot, if not also my station.

Lighen my darkness, I beseech, thee, O wemyss.

And don't, in any way, regret your posting, nor blame yourself for my intemperance. I assure you, it's a longstanding family tradition, and is probably genetic. That & bullheadedness, with which it is closely linked.
wemyss From: wemyss Date: July 9th, 2005 02:13 pm (UTC) (Link)

No. Sorry, But No. It's Not On.

Suffice it to say that I disagree absolutely, categorically, and in toto with every last statement that you have made, and that I find that the facts are precisely the opposite in each case. That runs from your pious shuddering over the term ‘crusade’ – a term Ike and Winston both used – to the ridiculous assertion that ‘anything like open debate is quickly squashed by Bush & his minions’, when in fact your duly elected president is generally drowned out around the world by the Party of Whinge, the defeatists, an allegedly loyal opposition that is in no small measure what Orwell wd have called ‘objectively pro-[Islamo-]fascist’, and domestic opponents who in not a few instances are vy nearly Fifth Columnists. So far from joining you in condemning a factitious and imaginary censorship, I suggest instead that you ask our mutual friend bufo_viridis what a real censorship state looks and feels like. I also fail to comprehend how one can elide the distinction between the whingeing of some Starbucks-swilling, swingeing little cow on LJ, and the perfectly proper and necessary statements of the American president at a time of international crisis, particularly when the first is peddling half-truths and whole falsehoods and the latter, frankly, is NOT. I do not consider that Mr Bush any more than the PM, or for that matter M Chirac, was standing on coffins as a soapbox, now or formerly, in the fashion in which the LJ and FA Left are. The remarks of the G8 leadership are not, to me, vile, and, no, my dear sir, we are assuredly not agreed and that issue is not resolved in the fashion you assume.

And I am stopping just there because I have already amply demonstrated precisely why I will not allow this issue to take over a journal that, save in moments of shock, is, I am resolved, to remain dedicated to fiction, fandom, and HP criticism. I will not lose my regard for you or our acquaintance over this, and the only way to make sure of that is to take this matter off the table. I will not be tempted into this minefield. When I have calmed down and when the situation has calmed down, I will quite likely email you the bases of my conclusions, and we’ll drop the subject thereafter.
avus From: avus Date: July 9th, 2005 04:05 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: No. Sorry, But No. It's Not On.

Dearest wemyss,

Thank you for the clarity and passion of your reply. I will await your email, and please take whatever time you need.

Clearly, there are places where I'm in error. This doesn't surprise me. I often am. I reserve the right to be wrong but educable. For example, I don't know the LJ & FA posts you refer to. I've not been reading much of either. So to compare an unknown with a known was, of course, wrong.

I'm sure there are other points, too.

I will of course respect your resolve to keep your journal and your comments as you see fit. I am sad, though, that we won't be able to struggle to find ways and meanings that enable to me to better understand a desperately important other side.

Which is why, of course, I chose to make these remarks, remarks that were clearly both ill-made and ill-timed, and for that I apologize.

But I don't apologize for the impetus behind the remarks. I cannot speak for your country, much less the rest of the world. But for mine, we are more divided, and what is much worse, more implacably divided than at any time in my memory, excepting only the time of the Viet Nam war and the Nixon impeachment.

By implacably divided, I mean that neither side seems to have the ability, perhaps even the will to speak across that divide, w/o being caught up in questioning not the merits of the argument, but the motives and fundamental beliefs of the arguer. This has led us -- and I freely confess myself to be as caught in this as others -- into unfruitful anger, even hate, about complex issues. And I know enough about complex issues to know that resolutions & agreements are never simple nor easy nor one-sided. And, at least on this side of the pond, we desperately need to find ways to resolve and agree, in things both small & large.

I would never doubt your motives or your experience or your intelligence. I'd hoped that, perhaps, we could find a way to conduct our disagreements that might, at least for me, model what I needed in talking with my countryfolk. That, more than expression, was my deepest intent. Not that I wished to use you, as some sort of rhetorical tool, which you and our relationship most definitely are not. I don't make those kinds of reductions.

But, again, I will, of course, agree with whatever you deem best.

With undiminished affection and respect,

wemyss From: wemyss Date: July 10th, 2005 12:29 pm (UTC) (Link)

Yes, Well, This Is Why I Don't Do This.

You see, I'm well aware that my temper on this matter is volatile at best.

That being so, I'll send my thoughts on, later, and via email.
avus From: avus Date: July 10th, 2005 03:14 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Yes, Well, This Is Why I Don't Do This.

A volatile temper is something with which I have intimate knowledge. And on these things as well. We all struggle in our own ways -- this being my struggle, and I'm so sorry that my struggle set off yours.

And, dear sir, that we have a temper means, at base, that we care deeply about good & evil, right values, our country & our duty. Not, mind you, that I always care well or wisely. But caring well & wisely can, I believe, be learned, but only if the caring is there first.

And we both recogize that, somehow, there is a good in people even of unlike views, and that good, too, can be treasured. Perhaps there is some wisely peeking through my temper? Oh, dear. Makes me kinda nervous. Hmmmmmmmmmm.
avus From: avus Date: July 9th, 2005 05:23 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: No. Sorry, But No. It's Not On.

I realized, on my drive to work, what my intention was last night, and what I was groping to say this morning after a poor night's sleep -- in my business, an occupational hazard:

I was hoping to enlist you in helping me learn a duty of citizenship, one my country very much needs, and an art in short supply here. Moving away from partisanship, which is often excellent but now in overabudance, to a different sort of place where views are expressed, heard & critiqued in a much different way.

I should, of course, have stated this at the beginning, and worked accordingly, and enlisted your agreement first, perhaps setting groundrules as well.

And I should never have tried such a complex project late on Friday night after a day's work. Once again, I learn the truth of the old Pennsylvania Dutch saying, "Ve grow too soon alt & too late schmart."

Ah, my client arrives....

Who, if I may ask, is the composer of the Salisbury requiem?
wemyss From: wemyss Date: July 10th, 2005 12:31 pm (UTC) (Link)

Music: A Greater Magic Than Any We Do Here.

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