Monday, April 03, 2006
  Critique of Poor Reason
Melanie Phillips commits at least two errors, should I say crimes, in the name of logic in her latest post, analysed by Clyde below. I was going to write about Jack straw's smug grandstanding during this tour, but before that, I just thought that I would take some time to go into just what is wrong with her.

Immanuel Kant had a lot to say about logic and ethics. Which is probably why he never mentions Melanie Phillips in any of his long, boring books.

1. The characterization of those against Rice's presence as "anti-American". I listened to her debate with John Gummer. He claimed that the British parliament were misled, that the war in Iraq had nothing to do with September 11th and that the only reason that we had to satnd shoulder to shoulder with America on this was because we had gotten into that mess with them. Which part of this is anti-American? She also characterised the protests themselves as anti-American. On TV I saw activists protesting about Guantanamo Bay and the war, no burning flags, no attacks on the country itself. They objected to Rice coming because they quite rightly perceived her as a disgusting human rights violator. In her feverish scarp for the moral high-ground she pulled the most incredible example out of her bag: that the demonstrations were discorteous. Well, I thought I had exorcised the free speech debate from my mind over the weekend but I'll happily revive it to point out that if it is permissible to upset a whole sector of society through some cartoons [which she defgended vigorously, suspiciously vigorously...] then why can't we target a politician who actually has done something wrong and needs to be called to account. She says that we depend on the US for our protection and therefore we must be polite to their government. Such obligations do not exist. If somebody does something wrong they must be called to account, and her lying means that we must never trust her again. We may depend on the US for our protection from the USSR [wait a second...] but we certainly do not have such reliance when it comes to launching wars that have nothing to do with stopping Islamic terrorism. In fact, numerous experts pointed out before the war that the risk of terror would go up because A: it would divert resources from the focus in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Esat Africa, where there should have been an international policing operation rather than a bombing campaign, B: the instability in Iraq would let jihadists in, as it did Afghanistan in the 1980s and C: what we were doing there was so transparent that it was bound to anger people who want to keep a hold of their natural resources. To not stoip the Bush administration from this folly was the real appeasement. And bare we always obliged to suck up to the US government, just because of our special relationship? Would it be rude to insult other US leaders?

"This is because it always was a con-trick. Supposed to provide an alternative to the old right/left division, it was as dishonest as it was vacuous. Its creators – Tony Blair and Bill Clinton -- grasped that the public whose votes they had to win were instinctively conservative." Melanie Phillips, 14.7.03

"If President Clinton had not decided to wait when Osama bin Laden was expelled from Sudan in 1996, the thousands who died on 9/11 might have been spared." Melanie Phillips, 14.3.04

So, Clinton's policies were "vacuous" and "dishonest"? I sure a shell agree, but then I wasn't the idiot who said that it was rude to criticize our allies. And as for blaming his lapse for 9/11, well, tut tut. Whatever Clinton did, we also know that a month before 9/11 Bush received a daily intelligence briefing entitled "Bin Laden determined to strike inside in U.S." It was never too late to deal with the problem. Not that schadenfreude is my cup of tea, but what was the name of the National Security Adviser at the time..? Oh yeah, we're not allowed to talk about her.

By the way, having mauled Jack Straw so viciously [see my post below] for his speech last week, isn't it a little late to get so sanctimonious about our leaders?

2. Whenever an individual or a group fails to criticize another, it is, in her view, because they support them or are willing to tolerate their abuses.

"Here is a country which utters not a batsqueak of protest when Sheikh Qaradawi, who endorses and encourages human bomb terrorism in Iraq and Israel"

This is simply diverting the issue. It does not make Rice less of a lawbreaker simply because there are other lawbreakers. Reversing the logic, where has Melanie's batsqueak of protest been about current events in Colombia, the DRC, Sri Lanka, Chechnya, Kashmir and Equatorial Guinea? Where was her cry of consternation when the president of China visited last year? She was angry that Putin's Russia and China for their alleged inaction over Iran, but would she honestly want either of these two countries on her's and Bush's "side"? I would not claim that she supported any of the above, yet under her rules, her refusal to protest makes her an appeaser and morally bankrupt.

And finally, a word on these definitions she uses. The Stop the War Coalition is not Trotskyite. It has socialist elements to it, but Trotsky participated in the destruction socialism in Russia after the revolution. Trotskiyite sounds inflammatory and would be just like me referring to Bush as "fascist" just because he happens to be on the right. The fighters in Iraq are largely not al Qaeda. In late 2004 Abu Musab al-Zarqawi changed the name of his terror group from Tawhid al Islam to Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia. It was a tactical switch, designed to make al Qaeda look bigger and more omnipotent than it actually was. Up until then al Qaeda had no presence in Iraq, having fled to Pakistan from Afghanistan in late 2001. Al-Zarqawi's group, on the other side of Iran, did have a presence and eventually made contact [somthing he had refused to do when he met bin Laden for the first time in Afghanistan] with the shattered remnants. But with Iraq the September 11 planners are most definately out of the picture and have little more than symbolic value. Then there is Baathists, by which she means the national resistance. When the occupiers disbanded the army they left a mass [I've heard the figure 1 million, could it have been so high?] of dejected but well trained soldiers that had been part of Saddam's army because the alternative was too gruesome to contemplate. They were not policy makers and probably the vast majority don't want Saddam back. They want the coalition out for various reasons given in the excellent BBC programme aired yesterday called The Insurgency. And finally, hysteria, a term she uses to slime those who want the troops out, but might better be used to describe a woman who believes, despite all the evidence, that Saddam's weapons were smuggled out to Syria, that he had a working relationship with al Qaeda, that we need to enforce regime change on Iran [ie: bomb it] and that the left in Britain is engaged in some vast conspirarcy with hardcore Islamists. That, my love, is hysteria.
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