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September 12, 2004

More thoughts on the GWOT.

Cap'n H, who does a great job of keeping up on Anglosphere papers for me, yesterday sent me two opinion pieces from the Telegraph that nicely enlarge on the thrust of my 9/11 piece (see below). The first is on two facets of our current situation and how it shapes our response - and can ultimately deaden it. Boredom and terror. With boredom being the more dangerous of the two.

Charles Moore observes:

Bin Laden probably wouldn't collect more than 200,000 votes in a presidential election in any Western country, but he has done more to reshape European attitudes to America, and American attitudes to Europe, than anyone since Hitler and Stalin. He sees decadence, lack of will, in our boredom - and exploits it.

The first effect of boredom is one of "Oh, here, just go away and don't bother me" - which serves to encourage the fanatic. What's the problem with this? You assume that by listening to the loudest voices, you are hearing the whole group. Kinda the problem the MSM has these days - when they keep getting surprised that the great unwashed don't think like they do.

You might think that this lack of interest would help - a robust, if ignorant, refusal to be impressed by fanaticism. I fear not. If we do not know who is doing the talking and why, we are very susceptible to the idea that the Muslim who makes it to the screen speaks for Muslims.

Do you know the difference between the Muslim Council of Britain and the Muslim Association of Britain, and which, if either, speaks for many or is "moderate"? Here comes someone from the London-based Committee for the Defence of Legal Rights.

Bet you didn't know that he is part of a Saudi "takfir" movement - one that makes a particular point of calling for the death of Muslims who disagree with them. You've heard of al-Qa'eda, but it simply means "the base". Built on the base are hundreds of shifting, amoebic grouplets who may, for all you know, be living next door to you in Luton or Burnley.

The ones who shout the louder will seem, to the inattentive, to be "more" Muslim, and therefore there will be a tendency to give in to them. Thirty years ago in Britain, very few Muslims demanded the right to wear headscarves in school or to days off on their holy days, or complained about public representations of pigs.

Most seemed content with non-Islamic banking. Perhaps many were pleased to have come to a country where secular law prevailed. Today it is those who demand more and more of these religious rights who get attention, and most of us assume, without knowing, that they speak for their own people. We, the bored, tend to think that, wherever possible, we should give them what they want in the hope they will go away. But they won't go away.

Another effect (and ask yourself, don't we see a lot of that in the US - especially from the "elites"?) is anger at those who intrude upon our boredom:

The final effect of boredom is resentment at those leaders who keep telling us about the danger. The natural temperament of British people bored by fanatics is to take comfort in Chamberlain rather than listen to Churchill. People seem angrier with Blair and Bush than with the murderers they seek to combat. One of the narrative voices in David Hare's new play about the Iraq war, Stuff Happens, rips into the way we sit round at dinner parties, our faces reddening with wine, complaining about "the exact style in which [in freeing Iraq] something was given to those who had nothing". It strikes home.

Go read the whole piece here. As always, you really should go read the whole thing - and not just rely on the pieces I have plucked from context to support my own prejudices.

The next piece from the Telegraph, on the same day, reads as a metaphor for the war on terror, and dovetails nicely with the above. It's about being alert, aware, and willing to ACT in order to protect yourself and the ones you love or are responsible for... even if they themselves won't seem to do it. Face it - in the herd of humanity, many of us are sheep. Some of us are wolves. Therefore, we need shepherds, not so much to tell us where to go - but to deal with the wolves.

As Adam Nicholson relates:

It is horrible to see a dog attacking your sheep. Last week, at about 8.30am, for the first and, I hope, last time in my life, it happened to me.

That's how I felt, as a soldier, on 9/11.

It was a beautiful morning, suddenly autumnal, a slight mist in the valley, the trees in the woods looking exhausted after their dreadful summer, the field maples and the oaks already dusty with mildew, the beeches and the hornbeams wind-browned and wrecked. When I woke up, I knew there would be some mushrooms just up and spreading in Great Flemings, the big field at the bottom of the farm.

9/11 was a very nice day, with everyone off to work.

I was listening to the radio... A plane hit one of the WTC towers?

As it came up to each of the sheep in turn, they lay down on their backs and held their legs in the air, like a pet waiting to be scratched. The dog buried its teeth in the flesh of the upper legs and under the belly. Again, there was no excitement, nor any frantic attempts to escape. The sheep were simply lying there to be eaten alive.

Watching the news on the TV that suddenly appeared in the office... in this case it wasn't the people - it was the two towers that were the sheep. If only we'd had something better... but of course, we didn't. We didn't know we were at war.

As I ran, I went on shouting at the dog to drive it away, but then realised I wanted to catch it, and started cooing and clucking it towards me. It approached. I saw it had some kind of purple flea collar around its neck, and a leather collar with a metal strip fixed to it, but no dog tag. It came within a few yards, but stayed out of reach. If I'd had a gun, I could have shot it there and then.

But we didn't know. We weren't ready. We were still in this mode:

One is allowed to kill an attacking dog only if it is in the act of savaging sheep. But the sight of that laid-back mauling has filled me with disgust and the owner of this animal, if by any chance he is reading this, should know that, if he ever lets it run among my sheep again, I will shoot it without a second thought, and then leave it in the field, as the police insist, where he can come and collect it.

And that is exactly the response of governments prior to 9/11. And is seemingly the preferred response of several Euro-governments, still. I'm all for hunting down those dogs, killing 'em as necessary, capturing and domesticating as practicable. Ah, if you are a lefty or "progressive and PC"now you are uncomfortable, eh? The Armorer wants to 'domesticate' the dogs. What hubris! What cultural imperialism! How dare you want to 'domesticate' the Islamofacsists and impose your own culture and values upon them! Bad Armorer! Sit! Stay!

That's not what I said, really. Or, not what Adam says in his piece, that I am using for metaphor. The money quote is this:

"...the sight of that laid-back mauling has filled me with disgust and the owner of this animal, if by any chance he is reading this, should know that, if he ever lets it run among my sheep again, I will shoot it without a second thought, and then leave it in the field..."

This screed is for the owner of that animal. Islam. Curb your dog, or I will deal with it.

Adam's complete piece is here.


Three years on, and we're bored to death with the war on terror By Charles Moore (Filed: 11/09/2004)

Orson Welles famously said that the only two emotions one feels on an aeroplane are boredom and fear. On the third anniversary of "9/11", these two emotions predominate, competing with one another in the same breast.

Fear is obvious. That is why terrorism is called terrorism. It is the ideology of fear - the belief that you can and should advance your cause by terrifying people. Boredom is less obvious, but it is a tremendously powerful weapon for fanatics to deploy against public opinion in the West.

For years and years, I used to wonder at the stupidity of the IRA. It seemed to believe that Britain was passionately concerned to hold on to Northern Ireland. As a result, it couldn't think of any way to weaken our hold on the province except by "war".

At last, it began to realise that the biggest single British mainland feeling about Northern Ireland was boredom. If we could decently sneak away from it, we would. So clever republicans, such as Gerry Adams, preserved the weapon of fear ("the Armalite in one hand"), but added the weapon of boredom, becoming droning, self-righteous players in a "peace process" that we could all agree to pretend was the real thing. We grasped it gratefully, and turned our attention to other matters.

Boredom is an even greater factor in our reaction to Islamist terrorism. How many non-Muslim British citizens, when they turn on the news and see men with black beards and head-dresses, shouting and shaking their fists in front of piles of rubble, really want to know what they are shouting about? It could be Baghdad, Gaza, Beslan, Kandahar, Jakarta, even Bradford, but we, the somnolent majority, would rather not know about it.

Partly it is a matter of names. Christian Westerners have a first name and a surname, which is easy, to us at least. With Muslims, it seems to be different: is calling Saddam Hussein "Saddam" like calling Mr Blair "Tony", or is it, in fact, his surname? And when people are all "al" this and "bin" that, and use a wide variety of spellings, and often seem to have different names at different stages in their lives, we tend to give up. How many Islamist terrorists and their sympathisers can we identify, name to face? Only, I would suggest, Osama bin Laden and (except we can't always quite manage the name) the fellow with the hook.

You might think that this lack of interest would help - a robust, if ignorant, refusal to be impressed by fanaticism. I fear not. If we do not know who is doing the talking and why, we are very susceptible to the idea that the Muslim who makes it to the screen speaks for Muslims.

Do you know the difference between the Muslim Council of Britain and the Muslim Association of Britain, and which, if either, speaks for many or is "moderate"? Here comes someone from the London-based Committee for the Defence of Legal Rights.

Bet you didn't know that he is part of a Saudi "takfir" movement - one that makes a particular point of calling for the death of Muslims who disagree with them. You've heard of al-Qa'eda, but it simply means "the base". Built on the base are hundreds of shifting, amoebic grouplets who may, for all you know, be living next door to you in Luton or Burnley.

The ones who shout the louder will seem, to the inattentive, to be "more" Muslim, and therefore there will be a tendency to give in to them. Thirty years ago in Britain, very few Muslims demanded the right to wear headscarves in school or to days off on their holy days, or complained about public representations of pigs.

Most seemed content with non-Islamic banking. Perhaps many were pleased to have come to a country where secular law prevailed. Today it is those who demand more and more of these religious rights who get attention, and most of us assume, without knowing, that they speak for their own people. We, the bored, tend to think that, wherever possible, we should give them what they want in the hope they will go away. But they won't go away.

Boredom also makes us half-fatalistic and half-insouciant. How often I hear people say, "What's the point of all these precautions? If terrorists want to kill us they will find a way and there's nothing we can do about it." And I also hear - often, oddly, from the same people - "What is this war against terrorism, anyway? The resources of the West can easily defeat whatever primitive maniacs can throw at us. Life goes on."

Yet neither is true. Precautions, vigilance, intelligence can and do stop numerous attempts to kill, and every such interdiction helps to dishearten the killers, who depend on a fairly large amount of death for their power. There are quite a lot of MI5 agents and police officers and co-operative moderate Muslims all round us who are saving our lives by the information they report. If we controlled our immigration policy properly, we could achieve much, much more.

And while it is obviously the case that the West can defeat its enemies in battle, in cash and in technology, Islamist terrorism knows this, and develops strategies to get round it. Al-Qa'eda can't take power in a Western country, but its actions can change the government, as happened in Spain earlier this year.

Bin Laden probably wouldn't collect more than 200,000 votes in a presidential election in any Western country, but he has done more to reshape European attitudes to America, and American attitudes to Europe, than anyone since Hitler and Stalin. He sees decadence, lack of will, in our boredom - and exploits it.

The final effect of boredom is resentment at those leaders who keep telling us about the danger. The natural temperament of British people bored by fanatics is to take comfort in Chamberlain rather than listen to Churchill. People seem angrier with Blair and Bush than with the murderers they seek to combat. One of the narrative voices in David Hare's new play about the Iraq war, Stuff Happens, rips into the way we sit round at dinner parties, our faces reddening with wine, complaining about "the exact style in which [in freeing Iraq] something was given to those who had nothing". It strikes home.

In our Sussex village in May 1940, my grandfather met an elderly neighbour on the green. "I'm afraid the news from France is very bad, Mrs X," he said. "Oh, I never bother my head with that sort of thing," she answered. There was something reassuring about that remark: it emerged from a fundamentally peaceful and confident society.

That is the sort of society that one should defend to the death; but if one is not careful, death becomes the operative word. We were warned about that three years ago today, but already we are forgetting.
© Copyright of Telegraph Group Limited 2004.

'My sheep would have allowed that dog to eat their throats and stomachs out' By Adam Nicolson (Filed: 11/09/2004)

It is horrible to see a dog attacking your sheep. Last week, at about 8.30am, for the first and, I hope, last time in my life, it happened to me.

It was a beautiful morning, suddenly autumnal, a slight mist in the valley, the trees in the woods looking exhausted after their dreadful summer, the field maples and the oaks already dusty with mildew, the beeches and the hornbeams wind-browned and wrecked. When I woke up, I knew there would be some mushrooms just up and spreading in Great Flemings, the big field at the bottom of the farm.

The sheep at the moment have the run of that field, as well as the two fields above it. As I walked down towards Great Flemings, the flock of 78 ewes and their lambs filed past me up towards the water trough.

They are in the best condition they have ever been. Angie Wilkins and Simon Bishop, who look after them, have been slowly improving them over the past four or five years. Good rams; culling the ewes that are past it; a clean-grazing system which means that they regularly move on to grass that has few or no parasites: all of that has produced the wonderful-looking lambs we've got this year. They've got big fat haunches, tightly curled fleeces and an overall air of healthy wellbeing.

To see good animals coming off one's land is one of the deepest of pleasures. We sold a batch of lambs last week to a man in West Sussex and they averaged a few pennies short of £51 each. The shearling ewes, which are going to be put to the ram this winter for the first time, are probably worth £80 or £85 apiece. At last, this farm might be moving towards some kind of profitability.

Delight in the vigour and strength of one's dependent animals must be among the most ancient of human pleasures, as old as the domestication of sheep in the Near East, perhaps 14,000 years ago. Good lambs mean that, however dreadful the news from the rest of the world might be, at least the year has been worth something. And that is why, coming over the brow at the top of Great Flemings, the sight below me was as horrible as it was.

In the foreground, 50 yards below me, were the mushrooms I had come to pick, growing in the same ring I have picked them from for the past 10 autumns. But I ignored them, because down in the bottom of the field, where the sweet chestnuts and oaks of Park Wood fringe the edges of the farm, was a dog attacking two of the flock that had stayed down there.

I ran towards them, shouting, but the dog ignored me. It was clearly a young animal, rangy and loose in its movements like a puppy grown big, looking something like a young black Alsatian, with very pricked-up ears and a long, slowly wagging tail.

It was running, or at least half-loping, half-running, between a lamb in one corner of the field and a shearling ewe in the other. There was no rage or frenzy in its behaviour. It was simply having a good time first thing in the morning, clearly let out by its owner for a quick run in the fields, the sort of animal that farmers and insurers call ``a latch-key dog''.

As it came up to each of the sheep in turn, they lay down on their backs and held their legs in the air, like a pet waiting to be scratched. The dog buried its teeth in the flesh of the upper legs and under the belly. Again, there was no excitement, nor any frantic attempts to escape. The sheep were simply lying there to be eaten alive.

As I ran, I went on shouting at the dog to drive it away, but then realised I wanted to catch it, and started cooing and clucking it towards me. It approached. I saw it had some kind of purple flea collar around its neck, and a leather collar with a metal strip fixed to it, but no dog tag. It came within a few yards, but stayed out of reach. If I'd had a gun, I could have shot it there and then.

Eventually, it sloped away, giving me those backward, rather rat-like looks that reveal dogs as the guilty, marginal parasites they are, slithered under the lowest bar of the field gate and trotted off through the wood. The two sheep half-stood and half-lay against the fence, shuddering, the bright poster-paint red of the blood gradually seeping into more and more of the wool on their legs and bellies.

They stood there like stupid ghosts, deep in trauma. If I had not happened to have arrived at that moment, they would have allowed the dog to eat their throats and stomachs out, passive, rageless, innocent victims, made totally incompetent by the casual attack of an infinitely more capable enemy.

It is now five days later and both sheep are still alive. We dressed their wounds against septicaemia and fly-strike, and kept them, with the others, in a smaller paddock nearer the house. The two victims shuddered for a day and stayed apart from the rest of the flock, but now all are back together. We have waited with guns, morning and evening, for the dog to return, but it never has.

One is allowed to kill an attacking dog only if it is in the act of savaging sheep. But the sight of that laid-back mauling has filled me with disgust and the owner of this animal, if by any chance he is reading this, should know that, if he ever lets it run among my sheep again, I will shoot it without a second thought, and then leave it in the field, as the police insist, where he can come and collect it.

© Copyright of Telegraph Group Limited 2004.

John | Permalink | Comments (2) | Global War on Terror (GWOT)
» Ghost of a flea links with: Boredom