Notes On The News
By Gwydion M Williams
Driven To Death [Road Accidents]
“It is nigh on impossible for normal people to put themselves into the minds of the sort who planned or carried out last year’s slaughter” says The Economist in its editorial of September 7th.
Ask any bomber pilot, I reply.
September 11th was an act by devout Muslim Arabs reacting to a sustained assault on their religion and their culture. The Western attitude is that they should be grateful for the assault on their religion and their culture, which is going to make them better, happier and more free. There is in the USA a genuine inability to understand why anyone should be less than delighted at becoming more and more like small-town America.
That’s not the only problem. Whereas the Soviet Union was genuinely ready to absorb anybody in its Modernist culture, the USA wants to keep itself at the centre and intentionally defended traditionally-minded regimes like the Saudi dynasty that did not cause the immediate trouble that you got from secular nationalists. But a Middle East that was not allowed to develop in its own ways was a Middle East that was bound to borrow and adapt the Anglo-American idea of global terrorism based on aircraft.
Britain and America spent most of the 20th century developing the idea of ‘strategic bombing’—destroy the enemy society rather than pay the price for a victory against the enemy army. The Germans also contributed, but Britain and America formed those policies without reference to Germany, which was encouraged by their example.
Iraq between the wars was one arena where the new policy was tried out. The notion of non-white peoples replying in kind was not considered, it was a great shock to discover during World War Two that the Japanese were excellent fighters and had developed aircraft that were in some cases better than the American equivalent. Japan was finally conquered, indeed, and Western lives were saved by using atomic weapons on basically civilian targets. But early Japanese success plus America’s failure to win in Korea and its decisive defeat in Vietnam has led to much more polite treatment of East Asians.
By contrast, the various Arab-Israeli wars, and the Gulf War mean that the West still finds it safe to bully and disrupt the various Arab and Muslim countries. September 11th was a set-back in this process, but the USA has far more terrorist power than Bin Laden and has been using it. They now have a strong home defence and have found various work-rounds to avoid the inconveniences of the Geneva Convention and the normal rights of fair trial for suspect bombers. And now another mass killing in Iraq is being planned, with vastly less justification than existed for the first Gulf War. Slaughter of Afghans and Arabs is normal politics, it is only slaughter of New Yorkers that is seen as incomprehensibly awful.
The Economist is the same magazine that vigorously supported the policies that led to mass starvation in the Irish potato famine in the 1840s, and in its official history insisted on the virtuousness of letting helpless Irish starve. (This is documented in my book Wealth Without Nations, for those who’d like the details.) The value of human life grows or shrinks according to the status, wealth, skin colour, religion and nationality of those who die.
Talk of ten thousand deaths from the Two Towers soon shrunk to 6000, and stuck there for some time until it was admitted that there was double counting and that it was 3000 or so. Meantime the Afghan war had cost rather more lives than that, and who commemorated them? Deaths among the US Overclass are treated as vastly more important than deaths elsewhere.
People established the custom of two minutes silence for at least 9 million dead in the Great War, that’s 75,000 per second and 3000 should merit one twenty-fifth of a second.
Firemen die all the time and don’t get many commemorations, nor even all the equipment they need, with the general demand to cut ‘wasteful’ public spending.
Unleash the lemmings of war! Or words to that effect, because there is every possibility that the West will be worse off with Saddam gone than they are with Saddam in place
The First Gulf War ended because Iraq was able to lob missiles at Israel, and no one could be certain if he could throw something worse than high explosives. Saddam for the moment has an interest in keeping whatever weaponry and knowledge he had. This is the policy of the entire Baathist movement, a coherent secular development that has tried to absorb Western values into a society where they do not grow naturally.
A recent report warned that Iraq could build a nuclear bomb if they had the fissile material. But so any competent engineer, which is why there are strict controls. (And why it was amazingly foolish to let controls slip when the Soviet Union fell apart)
Saddam survived, avoiding the ignominious fate of other Cold-War Western allies like Ceaucescu in Romania, Mobutu in Zaire, Sukarno in Indonesia. He’s lasted more than a decade after they tried to be rid of him, refusing to write off the debts of the war he had wages on Iran on the West’s behalf. He plans to go on surviving—but who knows what he and other Baathists might do if they knew they were doomed?
Is this being seriously thought about? Or are there other motives? Talk of a war against Iraq has helped deflate a market that was anyway grossly over-valued. And it diverts attention from what could be turning into a ‘double-dip’ recession.
As part of the general campaign against the democratically-elected government of Zimbabwe, it is suggested that they’ve refused food-aid for they hungry people because it consisted of genetically-modified maize.
There has been no rejection of milled GM food, just to varieties that could be planted. Previous examples of ‘food aid’ being used as a Trojan horse for the USA’s agricultural policies have been noted: maize that can be planted will be planted. In Zambia, there has been an outright rejection of GM food as ‘poisonous’, which it is not. But Zimbabwe and other African countries have taken a rational line—the maize must be milled, to stop their own agricultural policies being subverted.
There was never the slightest reason for the events of Soham to become news outside of the immediate area (where there was a possibility that someone might remember something or have seen something suspicious). And a s time goes by, there is less and less of a pretence that the media has any real sympathy for the unhappy victims. Rather, it is another outbreak of the unhealthy fetishisation of murder which is so much a part of English culture.
The motives for Soham killings remain unknown—the Soham suspects are universally considered guilty, but we are forbidden to know why. The excuse is always ‘fairness’, but there is no inhibition on naming names. But while this particular case remains enigmatic, the widespread fetishisation of murder has been a motive for murder in the past, and assuredly will be again.
We currently have the great oddity of Ian Huntley being charged both with murder and with “conspiracy to pervert the course of justice”. This normally applies when someone told lies to the police to protect a criminal, but had no part in the crime itself. It’s the same charge that his girlfriend was finally charged with, after initial suggestions that she too was guilty of murder. So just what is going on
It would have been better left to experts, perhaps with a panel of ‘Lay Supervisors’ drawn on the same basis that juries are selected, because the police will get up to all sorts of things if left unwatched. Local concern is natural, but the case would have been a minor item in the local press if the girls had been run over by a drunken driver, and the way the story was hyped was utterly unjustified. (Never before in the history of news reporting has so little been said so often by so many.)
Would this mean curbing the freedom of press? Of course it would. And there is every reason to forcibly stop them making a public spectacle of the lives or tragic deaths of the innocent. The reality is that the ‘freedom’ of the press is curbed all the time, mostly by commerce but also for military-security reasons. And by the law, rather irrationally, with intimate details of people’s personal lives becoming media entertainment if the truth (or even the untruth) has been uttered in a court of law under the control of the lawyers.
Is there a real concern for young lives? Figures for the risks to young people in England are:
Killed or seriously injured on the roads: 530 per million.
Died in accidents: 48 per million.
Murdered: 4 per million
(Guardian, 28th August 2002)