NewsHog: "He who has one enemy will meet him everywhere": Max Hastings is a veteran British journalist who writes for the rightwing Daily Mail (that's Brit rightwing - a lot saner than the US rabid version) but also contributes a provocative op-ed column for the Guardian. Hastings is a colourful character and about as Tory as the come. That's why I was pleasantly surprised by his Guardian column today. It's comprehensive roasting of Bush's rhetoric of "either for us or against us" and belief in a worldwide Islamist conspiracy. You have to read it all, but here's a whet for your appetite:
George Bush sometimes sounds more like the Mahdi, preaching jihad against infidels, than the leader of a western democracy. In his regular radio address to the American people on Saturday he linked the British alleged aircraft plotters with Hizbullah in Lebanon, and these in turn with the insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan.
All, said the president of the world's most powerful nation, share a "totalitarian ideology", and a desire to "establish a safe haven from which to attack free nations". Bush's remarks put me in mind of a proverb attributed to Ali ibn Abu Talib: "He who has a thousand friends has not a friend to spare, and he who has one enemy will meet him everywhere."
In the United States a disturbingly large minority of people - polls suggest around 40% - remain willing to accept Bush's assertions that Americans and their allies, which chiefly means the British, are faced with a single global conspiracy by Islamic fundamentalists to destroy our societies.
In less credulous Britain one could nowadays fit into an old-fashioned telephone box those who believe anything Bush or Tony Blair says about foreign policy. Many of us are consumed with frustration. We know that we face a real threat from Muslim fundamentalists, and that we are unlikely to begin to defeat this until we see it for what it is: something infinitely more complex, diffuse and nuanced than the US president wishes to suppose.
And more, as he cuts to the quick of the neocon's amateurish "framing" in pursuit of power rather than actual success in the "long war":
The madness of Bush's policy is that he has made a wilful choice to amalgamate the grossly irrational, totalitarian and homicidal objectives of al-Qaida with the just claims of Palestinians and grievances of Iraqis. His remarks on Saturday invite Muslims who sympathise with Hamas or reject Iraq's occupation or merely aspire to grow opium in Afghanistan to make common cause with Bin Laden.
If the United States insists upon regarding all Muslim opponents of its foreign policies as a homogeneous enemy then that is what they become. The Muslim radicals' "single narrative" portrays the entire course of history as a Christian and Jewish plot against Islam.
It is widely agreed among western governments and intelligence agencies that, in order to defeat the pernicious spread of such nonsense, a convincing counter-narrative is needed. Yet it becomes a trifle difficult to compose this when the US president promulgates his own single narrative, almost as ridiculous as that of al-Qaida.
And finally, the coup-de-grace on the whole failed neocon adventure and on the leaders who have championed it to the world - Bush and Blair:
Tony Blair - "waist deep in the big muddy", as Pete Seeger used to sing about Lyndon Johnson in the Vietnam era - clings to a messianic conviction that he must continue to endorse American statements and policies to maintain his restraining influence on George Bush. This invites speculation about what the president might do if Tony was not at his elbow. Seize Mecca?The west faces a threat from violent Muslim fundamentalists that would have existed even if a Lincoln had been presiding at the White House. As a citizen, I am willing to be resolute in the face of terrorism, which must be defeated. I become much less happy about the prospect of immolation, however, when Bush and Blair translate what should be an ironclad case for civilised values into an agenda of their own which I want no part of.
It would be a wonderfully erudite and convincing argument if a peacenik liberal had written it. That the author was a champion of old-style conservatism as editor of the Daily Telegraph for so many years, and a friend and confidante of Maggie Thatcher, is just.... how can I put this... sublime.