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Thursday, July 07, 2005

Statement on the London Bombings by George Galloway

[via Socialist Worker Online]
We extend our condolences to those who have lost their lives today and our heartfelt sympathy to all those who have been injured by the bombs in London.

No one can condone acts of violence aimed at working people going about their daily lives. They have not been a party to, nor are they responsible for, the decisions of their government. They are entirely innocent and we condemn those who have killed or injured them.

The loss of innocent lives, whether in this country or Iraq, is precisely the result of a world that has become a less safe and peaceful place in recent years.

We have worked without rest to remove the causes of such violence from our world. We argued, as did the Security Services in this country, that the attacks on Afghanistan and Iraq would increase the threat of terrorist attack in Britain. Tragically Londoners have now paid the price of the government ignoring such warnings.

We urge the government to remove people in this country from harms way, as the Spanish government acted to remove its people from harm, by ending the occupation of Iraq and by turning its full attention to the development of a real solution to the wider conflicts in the Middle East.

Only then will the innocents here and abroad be able to enjoy a life free of the threat of needless violence.

George Galloway, Respect MP for Bethnal Green and Bow

10 comments:

Doctor Logic said...

You should be wary of this Galloway character. He is a very nasty piece of work, and this is coming from a progressive liberal.

Here's what Galloway had to say about the USSR:

"I am on the anti-imperialist left." The Stalinist left? "I wouldn't define it that way because of the pejoratives loaded around it; that would be making a rod for your own back. If you are asking did I support the Soviet Union, yes I did. Yes, I did support the Soviet Union, and I think the disappearance of the Soviet Union is the biggest catastrophe of my life. If there was a Soviet Union today, we would not be having this conversation about plunging into a new war in the Middle East, and the US would not be rampaging around the globe."

I'm sorry, but anyone who supported the Soviet Union has no credibility whatsoever. I may lament the loss discipline that the U.S. suffered after the fall of the Iron Curtain, but I don't miss communism at all.

Given his statements about the Soviet Union, it's not surprising that Galloway is also a terrorist sympathizer. Parse his comments (not just these) carefully. They are consistent with the view that terrorism is a) expected and b) justified, as long as it is aimed at the right people.

The war in Iraq was a disastrous mistake, and BushCo have run the entire operation (especially postwar) incompetently. We missed an opportunity after 9/11 to change the world for the better. A nuanced and competent foreign policy would have hindered terrorist recruiting, isolated the terrorists in their respective countries and made counterterrorism efforts more productive.

However, this does not justify the views of some on the left who rule out all military action. Hard-core terrorists like the London bombers will only be prevented from attacking innocents when they are either behind bars or killed by Mi-5. No form of political action on the world stage will stop them.

Dale Carrico said...

You say I should be wary of Galloway. I am wary of everyone.

Galloway is speaking truth to power right about now in a number of contexts in which few others are doing so quite so spectacularly, and in consequence he is being selectively smeared by his powerful targets and their apologists.

I have heard this quotation you offer up endlessly reiterated by literally everybody who is exposed in their present-day venality by Galloway's sharp tongue. I don't have a personal litmus test marginalizing into irrelevance anybody who supported the Soviet Union (of which, like you, I was and remain a harsh critic), especially given the many things that can be reasonably implied by the verb "support."

I agree with the timely sentiments Galloway expressed about the bombing, and since I have enjoyed the effect he has had in the media landscape generally recently I was happy to provide a modest multiplier for his contemporary circulation as a figure.

None of this implies or should be seen as implying some sort of comprehensive endorsement of everything he has ever said or done.

It is absurd to connect dots from a socialist's support for the Soviet Union to an attribution to him of terrorist sympathies. Please let's not proceed from here to spitting out spools of talking points from sympathizers and detractors to pretend we know more about Galloway than either of us actually do.

I like what Galloway said. I like what I have heard him saying lately. I like very much the impact he has been having. And I cannot fail to notice how disgusting have been almost all of the people who fulminate most hyperbolically against him (be assured -- I don't include you among their number at all!).

Your final point about pacifism is a larger one. I cannnot say that I am a pacifist myself, but I suspect this bespeaks my own limitations rather than my strengths.

There is, however, a difference between pacifism and anti-militarism. The many hundreds of American military bases distributed across the globe, many of them provoking endless resentment in the populations where they are to be found and all of them maintained at extraordinary expense, constitute an ongoing recruitment tool for terrorism, an ongoing subversion of democratic institutions with their culture of secrecy and authoritarian hierarchy, and a stealthly command and welfare state economy benefiting the bomb building billionairs who otherwise pretend to be paragons of laissez-faire all the while draining our fragile civilization of its treasure and its hope.

Surely one can intelligently advocate global and homeland security in ways that will be compatible with anti-militarist critique. It strikes me in fact that such critiques and alternatives are vitally important in this historical moment (and I see puzzle pieces from which such a program might be contructed in sources as diverse as David Srephenson, Chalmers Johnson, Bruce Schneier, and Gene Sharp). Of course, anybody who talks about such things can expect to be smeared as an effete pacifist or terror-apologist by the rabid dogs of market/religionist fundamentalist right. Of course, we all know what to do with that crapola when we hear it.

Eric said...

Dr. Logic sez:

"Given his statements about the Soviet Union, it's not surprising that Galloway is also a terrorist sympathizer."

What an absurd leap, worthy of the Bush-era neocons for sure but quite beneath someone claiming to be a progressive liberal calling himself "Doctor Logic"...there is nothing logical about such a lazy, stupid smear.

The illogic continues:

"Parse his comments (not just these) carefully. They are consistent with the view that terrorism is a) expected and b) justified, as long as it is aimed at the right people."

Terrorism IS expected. It is an expected response to the actions of the USA in the Mideast, for example. Even the Bushies admit that with their stupid 'flypaper' comments. When someone is attacked, they tend to attack back if they can. This has nothing to do with right and wrong or good and evil and everything to do with humanity. It isn't a value judgement but a statement of reality.

As for justifications and 'right' targets, well...that is what war is, 'justified' terrorism against the 'right' targets. If you support war, you support justified terrorism of civilians. Nowadays this is called, in the West, "collateral damage".

Don't make the mistake of confusing expecting terrorism with condoning it either. Don't pick up the lie of the warmongering right that equates pointing out that the policies and actions of the US provoke anger abroad that is bound to result in physical harm being done to Americans with supporting the 'evil-doers'.

Doctor Logic said...

The Soviet Union murdered and imprisoned millions of its citizens, and denied its people basic human rights. The Soviet Union's policies were no secret during the cold war. To support the Soviet totalitarian regime, one must accept that human rights and human life are secondary to ideology. If one believes this, terrorism is most certainly on the menu.

I am well-aware of the right's tendency to lump all dissenting views into a single category of traitors and appeasers. I'm sure that many conservatives would affix the same label to me, probably just because I don't think foreign policy can be expressed on a 3x5 index card. However, that doesn't mean that everyone labeled by the wingnuts as an appeaser gets a free pass.

It is wrong to equate all military action with terrorism. Deliberately targeting civilians is completely different from accidental collateral damage. War should be avoided wherever possible, but sometimes war is the least bad alternative. The liberation of Europe and Asia in WWII are the classic examples. The invasion of Afghanistan is a modern example of justified military action.

When I say that Galloway thinks terrorism is expected, I'm not saying that he merely anticipates terrorism. We should all anticipate terrorist attacks, and take the few precautions we can. In my opinion, Galloway goes beyond anticipation by trying to establish an ethical imperative for continued attacks (the attacks are "expected of" Arab nationalists). In his twisted view, the terrorist attacks are a military counterstrike, when, in reality, the terrorist attacks are just cold-blooded murder.

Galloway is delusional because he thinks that withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan will pacify the terrorists. It will do no such thing. We should consider withdrawal from Iraq on pragmatic or utilitarian grounds, not based on childish hopes of evading future terror attacks. We did immense damage to the cause of counterterrorism by invading and occupying Iraq. It is unclear whether our departure at this stage will help or hurt.

Dale Carrico said...

So, now one can't sympathize with Galloway's comments about the Iraq War or Anglo-American complicity in the emergence of and consolidation of terrorism without denying the crimes of the totalitarian Soviet regime? You don't mean that, that's manifestly silly.

Does Galloway's support for the Soviet Union, or at any rate his admission that he found its disappearance personally "catastrophic" in the quote you proffer translate logically to support for the imperialism of Soviet foreign policy? Presumably the explicit statement that he is "on the anti-imperialist left" should open up some real question there, as would his refusal of a Stalinist label.

I believe you when you say you know as well as I do how some know-nothing American conservatives and their fellow-travelers like to label everything to the left of Goldwater as a kind of totalitarian communism. I myself have explicitly refused to repudiate the Soviet Union utterly for fear of appearing to endorse such crude stupidities, and I was a harsh critic of Soviet authoritarianism.

I know you are a progressive, so why join in the conservative dumbass brigade and pretend not to know things you do know?

By the way, as a sidenote, how can it really be true that we are still flogging this ridiculously dead horse in the twenty-first century, for heaven's sake? These absurd conversations about the Soviets look like nothing so much as mechanical sex among cadavers.

Moving on, I cannot believe you seriously propose that careful "parsing" of Galloway's initial claim reveals an insinuation of actual "support" for terrorism. He explicitly condemns terrorism! Why doesn't that matter to you?

Galloway doesn't just disagree with you but is "delusional," in your view? Do you really mean this? Or are you just hypersensitive and stubborn to find reasonable people you otherwise like disagreeing with you a bit here?

In the quote you recommend I "parse" more carefully he actually says: "We urge the government to remove people in this country from harms way... by ending the occupation of Iraq and by turning its full attention to the development of a real solution to the wider conflicts in the Middle East."

Note and "parse" that conjunction: "and." Following the conjunction is the recommendation that governments turn their full attention to real solutions.

Clearly, then, withdrawal isn't the full solution itself, and so equally clearly Galloway isn't proposing the thing for which you feel compelled to deride him as "delusional." In such circumstances you will want to refrain from flinging around glib attributions of "delusion" lest one land on your own head.

Again, I don't endorse everything Galloway has ever said or ever done. Implying otherwise is unwarranted and a bit silly. I certainly wouldn't want people to think that sympathetic quotations of things I have said imply a comparable support for everything I have said or done, since I doubt many people would ever take up anything I say, however sensible, if it were weighted under such a burden.

Finally, I see the point of your hesitation to take up Eric's identification of war and terrorism here. It's a strong formulation. I have to say I sympathize with it myself, even if I wouldn't have put it this way myself.

Since WWI the distinction between "collateral damage" and the "outright targeting of civilians" has been less than clear in practice than its deployment as a justificatory abstraction has been to let liberals and other decent people off the hook for advocating war as the "least good alternative" when it has quite palpably not been that at all.

Doctor Logic said...

So, now one can't sympathize with Galloway's comments about the Iraq War or Anglo-American complicity in the emergence of and consolidation of terrorism without denying the crimes of the totalitarian Soviet regime?

Let me offer you an analogy, albeit an extreme one. Would it be appropriate for me to offer, with my personal endorsement, a quote from Muammar al-Qaddafi on my blog in reference to, say, third world development? What if the quote reflected a perfectly innocent, progressive and just sentiment on the part of the Libyan dictator? Would those who felt that my endorsement was inappropriate be accused of establishing a silly link between third world development and blowing up airliners? I think not. What I am saying is that quoting Qaddafi would weaken my argument because the source of the quotation is tainted.

Galloway is no killer. He's a two-bit politician who has gained popular support for his stance on the war. Even I was pleased to see Republican senators get skewered by Galloway during their anti-U.N. witch hunt. Unfortunately, Galloway is using his supporters, not serving them.

Soviet foreign policy was indeed brutal. But not much more brutal than its domestic policy. One can argue that all's fair in war and espionage, and that the Soviet Union took imperialist measures to protect itself militarily. The CIA also took brutal action in the cold war. However, one cannot justify the Soviet Union's internal operations on the same grounds. There was nothing in the Soviet Union that was worthy of admiration, except, perhaps, their space program.

As for parsing, how's this:

No one can condone acts of violence aimed at working people going about their daily lives. They have not been a party to, nor are they responsible for, the decisions of their government. They are entirely innocent and we condemn those who have killed or injured them.

Maybe Galloway is simply crap when it comes to writing speeches, but this looks to me like he's saying that he condemns the attacks because they hit the wrong targets. He is saying that the attacks on working people were wrong because the working people were not a party to the decisions of their government. (I'll forego the democracy tangent.) His is just the kind of half-hearted condemnation we see from dictators in terrorist sponsoring nations, or from the political wings of terrorist groups.

I don't mean to criticise you for expressing the sentiment that Bush's foreign policy has made terrorism worse. I agree with you. I just argue that quoting "the Member from Baghdad," as he is known in the UK, might not make the most effective contribution to the cause.

Dale Carrico said...

Please don't apologize, I'm not angry or upset at all, just intrigued. The last thing I want to do is to alienate a regular reader -- it's not like I have so many, you know! But let's get at what's afoot here, and tend to the bruises and abrasions in the Hurt Feelings Department, if there any, in the fullness of time.

You have called Galloway "a nasty piece of work," "a two-bit politician," "the member from Bagdad"... "Galloway is no killer," you confide, and then analogize him to Qaddafi, that is to say, a killer...

You'll forgive me if I cannot take my expected part in this sort of debate and reply that, on the contrary, Galloway is all heart, an incomparable statesman, a patriotic paragon, and better analogized to a scrubbed and perfumed amalgam of Mother Theresa and Jonas Salk.

As I have said all along, I posted Galloway's quote because it was timely, in my view struck the right note, and because at the moment Galloway is a figure who gets under the skin of scumbags who should be itching at the very least.

"Galloway" the man who has a trackable history of words and deeds you can weigh is just the iceberg tip of larger culture machineries that get mobilized by "Galloway" the public-figure, the celebrity, the hot-button -- and it is important to try to get a handle on the differences.

I think you are rather uncritically repeating an awful lot of smears (some of which have been occasions for celebrated Court battles in which Galloway has been vindicated, as it happens), but I can't say I feel particularly impelled to assume the contrary role of a Galloway booster. I don't think either response is finally particularly appropriate.

I'll skip the Sovietological stuff. Yes, the totalitarian regime was bad news both foreign and domestic. I don't mean to trivialize any of that, I just wanted to point out that even in the very quotes that got your dander up Galloway was taking measures of distance from the regime even while clearly his larger commitments to his sense of the project of the left made him ambivalent about jumping on wholesale anti-communists bandwagons. I agree with him that it is a tired game, and I get the feeling you understand and mostly concur anyway. Our time is better spent condemning the conservative killer clown college in their efforts at ginning up a new beloved Cold War with "the Arab World" (TM) than cranking through the motions rehashing the lightless heat of the old Cold War.

Now, to return to the quote we've been parsing:

"No one can condone acts of violence aimed at working people going about their daily lives. They have not been a party to, nor are they responsible for, the decisions of their government. They are entirely innocent and we condemn those who have killed or injured them."

You then write:

"Maybe Galloway is simply crap when it comes to writing speeches, but this looks to me like he's saying that he condemns the attacks because they hit the wrong targets. He is saying that the attacks on working people were wrong because the working people were not a party to the decisions of their government. (I'll forego the democracy tangent.) His is just the kind of half-hearted condemnation we see from dictators in terrorist sponsoring nations, or from the political wings of terrorist groups."

Because he expresses grievances for the actual victims of this attack rather than hypothetical victims you ascribe to Galloway the view that these hypothetical victims of yours should have been attacked? Galloway has a primary political identification with working people and so registering this fact constitutes a threat of violence against figures sitting in government? Galloway does indeed actively indicate the fact that he blames the policies of his government and actual, likely criminal, activities of members of the government, for complicity in the forces that eventuated in the possibly avoidable deaths in the London attacks -- and this criticism makes him equivalent to a terrorist himself, pining to aim explosives at the targets he criticizes?

Not a single one of claims that you attribute to Galloway and on the basis of which you go on to revile him is logically entailed in his actual statements, nor to this reader in any case seem to be insinuated as a matter of "tone."

I think you find an incubus because you want to. The question for you: Why do you want to? I agree you are a progressive liberal, and I am happy to have you as an ally. I don't suggest Galloway is above criticism, but I sense a cranking of the media calliope here more than actual criticism.

Doctor Logic said...

I still maintain that one cannot be a supporter of the Soviet regime and have good character. And my statement has very little to do with communism in general (for any Marxist third-parties who may be reading this).

No, it is Galloway's statement last week that is the most damning evidence against him.

Galloway reveals in his statement that he doesn't understand terrorism. He says:

We urge the government to remove people in this country from harms way, as the Spanish government acted to remove its people from harm, by ending the occupation of Iraq and by turning its full attention to the development of a real solution to the wider conflicts in the Middle East.

There's suspicion among experts that the group that attacked London is the same group that attacked Madrid. If it is the same group of criminals, they probably left Spain because it became too hot for them there, not because the Spanish withdrew from Iraq. But Galloway appears to believe that, if we withdraw from Iraq, that this group of thugs will lay down their arms, or fly elsewhere. Now this is a ridiculous notion. These jihadists don't see us as fully human. They will never stop killing us unless we convert to Islam (not just any kind of Islam) and give up our freedoms.

But why would Galloway believe that political action will stave off attacks?

I suspect he feels, as the Soviets did, that asymmetric warfare is justified as a motivator of political change. He's connecting our policy towards Israel and the military protection of our oil supply to the present actions of individual terror cells. In the 1970's, gangs like the PLO and the Red Brigades may have undertaken operations on a political basis. Yet, today, even the old-guard terrorists know that terrorist attacks are politically counterproductive. al-Qaeda does not operate this way. Our policies may have contributed to the creation of jihadist groups, but it is divorced from the operation of groups for whom killing is a goal in and of itself, separate from any political gain.

There's a slim chance that political gestures (like withdrawal from Iraq) will lower our priority on their hit list, but political action will never remove anyone from their list entirely.

We can reduce the terrorists' ability to recruit, but we cannot reduce our risk to zero without locating and neutralizing terrorist cells whether here or in foreign states.

Galloway also trips up on the question of the innocence of the victims. Instead of simply saying that the victims were innocent, he ends up saying that the victims did not deserve to be attacked because they were not responsible for the decisions of the government. By my reading, Galloway suggests that if the victims had been party to the government's decisions, the attack might have been legitimate. He then says that the perpetrators are to be condemned for targeting civilians because they are innocents by his definition.

If you don't see it, here's an analogous statement:

It is wrong to limit educational opportunities for black men. Black men have the same needs as white men, and have different needs from women in general. Black men are therefore entitled to the same education as white men, and we condemn those who would deny them this.

Note that, technically, this statement does not explicitly condone limiting educational opportunities for women. Technically, it just acknowledges that, generally, women and black men have different needs. However, in conjunction, the three sentences take on a very different meaning.

It is obvious that, by targeting civilians indiscriminately, the bombers have committed a terrorist act. That is the only relevance of innocence in this context. For Galloway to sugest otherwise on the day of an attack is despicable.

Dale Carrico said...

Withdrawal from Iraq would not be a mere "political gesture" but a relinquishment of the conspicuous imperial ambitions represented by the military bases we are building there and which fuels the burgeoning insurgency and depth of anti-western fervor. It is American militarism that enables what would otherwise be a marginal minority of extremists to mobilize wide populations to their cause. Terrorism really isn't about some scary cartoon vision of unquenchably irrational hordes of furriners, as you well know.

And to return yet again to the long long ago: Sure, one cannot support or condone the crimes committed by the Soviets (or Westerners for that matter) and come off smelling like a rose, but it is easily possible to condemn all of that in the strongest terms and still recognize that the institutional, theoretical, figural, historical realities of the Soviet Union are considerably more complicated than that, and you know that, too.

Finally, I still don't agree with you that Galloway's claims logically entail the unappealing things you attribute to him. Londoners didn't deserve to be bombed, and my heart goes out to them as does, apparently, Galloway's. As for the policymakers and apologists who lied us into war, they belong behind bars for the war criminals they are. I see nothing to suggest Galloway wouldn't be as well-pleased by such an outcome as I would be myself.

Doctor Logic said...

Just FYI...

Galloway praises Iraq 'martyrs'