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Monday, November 14, 2011

Washington's Warning From Britain's Past.

At university, as a London-Irish boy fresh out of school, I had a lecturer tell me in front of the whole class(after asking where my family was from), that I should go study mining at the other campus because if I did so I'd be able to study the use of explosives: "useful knowledge if you're a Paddy", he added.

This was in the nineteen nineties. Being labeled an Irish terrorist in front of my friends, aged just eighteen. Even today, as I write these words, my heart rate picks up and I remember what went through my head that morning: "Yeah...maybe I should just join the IRA". The hatred I felt for that crass, bigoted old fool stayed with me for years. I don't much like it myself, but that's how you create terrorists out of good, honest kids.

A week later a male student from my halls of residence pinned a note to my door saying "Sign up here to join the IRA". It was the last decade in which it was acceptable in Britain to call Irish people terrorists "for a laugh". Always the excuse of "humour".

The current spate of anti-Muslim rhetoric in US politics is neither a new phenomenon nor is it any surprise.

When the Irish landed in America, cartoons depicting them as apes, monkeys and Jesuit spies out to crush America for Holy Mother Rome were printed in every "respectable" paper in the land. The Know Nothing Party launched a murderous campaign of violence and bloodshed against people they said were "anti-American" and "incapable of civilisation". How the times they aren't a'changing.

Once the Irish took over US urban politics, the army, and the police force (thereby utterly destroying the Know Nothings) the US press had to find a new enemy. It found the Jews, arriving in the 1880s, to be a perfect target. More cartoons, this time the enemy was an occultist, a thief, a perverter of descent Christian youth, and a banker out to take over America. Looking familiar, isn't it.

Then it was the turn of the gays and the actors and the writers, who were clearly all anti-American communists...out to take over America. McCarthy had great fun destroying lives, setting Hollywood against itself, banning books, and locking up innocent people on false charges.

Now America has the Muslims, and clearly these people are all bomb-carrying lunatics who wake up each morning and cry out with their first breath, "Sharia Law for America!!", right?

Wrong.

Most Muslims in the west are as dull, honest, hardworking and mundane as the rest of us. Most of them do a better job of looking after their extended families of parents, grandparents and elderly cousins. Most of them actually do better in school, according to the stats out there.

Yet I sense something positive in the middle of all these reactionary and ideological fires ripping at the heart of Muslim-American relations; I sense an American public now greatly lacking in trust of this phony "war with Islam".

The recent farce in Washington DC where a seemingly jovial and kind-hearted Iranian-American was arrested and accused of a bomb plot to kill the Saudi ambassador has been met by the majority of Americans with outright derision. The power of the internet to inform opinion has been at its zenith in all this, allowing people to connect with news sources which do not sit in the pocket of big business nor in the hands of a corrupted Congress, reliant as it is on lobby groups to get elected.

I'm one of the last members of the global Irish community to remember what it was like to be told I belonged to a bunch of murdering savages. I remember very well seeing racist, anti-Irish scrawls on London walls calling for the Irish to be sent home because we all supported the IRA. I remember people who were locked up for no reason under the much-despised Prevention of Terrorism Act which managed to become a recruiting shop for the IRA after hundreds of young men were arrested, beaten up in cells, then chucked back out onto the street after days of false arrest.

I'll never forget the day that I saw members of the IRA walk into a packed London pub and do the rounds collecting money. I remember it very clearly even though I must have been only 12 or so. You knew what was happening but if you asked about it you got a glance from a parent that could cut you in half. When, some time ago, I saw a similar event occur I was moved by the difference between the two occasions: this time around, the jar stayed empty and the calendars with republican quotes on them found no buyers; the peace process had ended the desire of so many Irish to have anything to do with "the cause".

Yet I remain certain that the current cycle of victimisation of Muslims in American politics will do to America precisely what the Prevention of Terrorism Act did to Britain: it will feed a generation of anger and resentment among younger Muslims which will leave America more at risk than before. I don't state that the FBI and CIA should sit back and do nothing, but the American president and his cabinet needs to be absolutely adamant with regards to any attempts by the idiocy of the Republican party in attempting to make Islam the latest scapegoat in a war promoted for the benefit of the state of Israel.

America has gone from being the hero of 1945 to the pariah of 2011, and with the year rapidly heading for a close, the signs of aggression toward a remarkably restrained regime in Iran are deeply disturbing.

Iran's leaders do not fear a war; they are among the last truly fundamentalist religious dictators on the planet and although among them are truly good men such as Mousavi and Karoubi, the central leadership of the Supreme Council is headed by men who have no fear of death and have shown themselves capable of sustained all-out war, just as they endured in the war with Iraq for eight solid, expensive years.

Whatever one thinks of Iran's desire to possess nuclear capability, one must remember that Netanyahu continues to pressure the US into conflict with Iran and he continues to cleanse East Jerusalem of Arab Muslims who have lived there for centuries before his people arrived. It can be said to be beyond doubt that Netanyahu seeks a continued assault against any nation which seeks justice in Palestine (regardless of its purposes) and in so doing he relies on the US taxpayer to pay for it all, as usual.

With daily talk of Iran now accelerating, this is a time for all of us to stop and ask what is truly going on in this extension of the Great Game. Are we, yet again, to be drawn into a false conflict or are we to make a stand against interference in the Islamic world?

Who really is our "enemy"? I rather fear that we are losing sight of the fact that, as in the past, our truer enemy is the faction which lusts for violence no matter what the cost.

2 comments:

  1. Congress is hard at work getting ready for the next war. It is absolutely ludicrous. This H.R. 1905 needs to be stopped, write your Congressional leaders and tell them.

    http://www.commondreams.org/view/2011/11/12-4

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  2. I completely agree with the above poster. Just as Thatcher relished a war pre-elections, in the build-up to the Falklands, so the current administration appear to be letting Congress turn the entire issue of Iran into a great way to "look American" before the 2012 race starts.

    As with the British, nothing quite says "Vote for me! I'm a patriot!" like starting another of Israel's phony wars for it.

    Beware the man who cries "Liberty!" whilst screaming "War!"

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