March 15, 2004


In a Guardian roundup of opinion on the war, playwright John Mortimer observes:

This conflict has been the biggest foreign policy mistake since the Second World War. Saddam kept the Shias and Sunnis from killing each other. Now they're doing so again.

Saddam’s means of achieving this -- killing Iraqis before they could kill other Iraqis -- may have been a little questionable. So is the Guardian’s editorial on Madrid, which asks:

Are those who perpetrated the commuter train bombings to be hunted down and smoked out of their lairs ...?


... and if they were, are we confident that we would prevent the next attack, and the one after that?

Well, we could be reasonably confident of preventing any further attacks from the smoked-our former lair-dwellers, for a start.

An international conference, to bridge the divide between Muslim and Christian communities, should be one first step ...

... towards the most pointless response to terrorism since those human shields rode their bus to Baghdad.

We need to take the fight against terror out of America's hands. We need to get beyond the them and us, the good guys and the bad guys, and seek a genuinely collective response. Europe should seize the moment that America failed to grasp.

What, by holding religious conferences? Actually, it does sound pretty scary; imagine listening to Desmond Tutu or Rowan Williams for more than 15 minutes. No wonder we’re so hated.

UPDATE. More on this from EURSOC.

Posted by Tim Blair at March 15, 2004 01:05 AM

"All we are saaaayyyiiing....

is `Give appeasment a chaaaance'..."

Posted by: Jim Robertson at March 15, 2004 at 01:30 AM

"We need to take the fight against terror out of America's hands"

Better yet, let's try two stategies and see (again) which stands the test of time. Europe can lead the appeasement approach while America will lead the just-kill-the-fuckers approach.

Posted by: Mark at March 15, 2004 at 01:32 AM

An international conference, to bridge the divide between Muslim and Christian communities, should be one first step ...

It's March 2004, and they are ready to take a first step. Good for them.

However, why haven't they sponsored their own conferences in all this time if they think that would be so productive?

Posted by: David at March 15, 2004 at 01:34 AM

It doesn't do any good to send the agreeable members of these communities to a conference... they'll just agree about the need for agreement. What's needed is a conference that includes only the real firebreathing hotheads -- the more intolerant & spittle-spewing, the better. If they can come to an agreement (besides the need to kill each other), then you've really got something.

I'll open the nominations with Moqtada al-Sadr (Shi'a -- Iraq) and Ian Paisley (Protestant -- Northern Ireland). Any others?

Posted by: snellenr at March 15, 2004 at 01:51 AM

He has divided Europe at a historic time of expansion and imposed greater strains on the transatlantic military alliance than ever a Soviet general sitting in Moscow at the height of the cold war could have done.

Apparently, al Guardian forgot to tell the border guards that. Whenever I show my U.S. passport, I just get waived through into Germany, the Czech Republic, Italy, Slovenia, Croatia...

Posted by: Mishu at March 15, 2004 at 01:53 AM

No need to read todays papers. Just go back to the decade prior to the Nazi takeover of most of Europe. People never seem to learn. The Guardian editorial is taken right from the Chamberlain doctrine of cowardly appeasement. And OBL and his circle are well aware of the lack of will in the Western(Christian) world. Let us see if the death of 200 Spaniards is too high a price for the Spanish electorate. Will they cravenly cave in and elect the "peace" party? The split between the US and Old Europe will become a wide chasm if they (Old Europe) can be intimidated so easily.
I watched the PAZ group in Madrid last night and wondered just what they meant by "peace". Do they believe that "peace" is some sort of unilateral condition?

Posted by: Ted at March 15, 2004 at 01:54 AM

Love that line in the Guardian's leader:

"Spain has a history which places it at the crossroads of the European and Arab worlds. It understands both traditions. It is a country where once Jew, Muslim and Christian lived together."

Yes, it understands both traditions. The Muslims invaded Spain and conquered most of it with the sword. When the Spaniards recovered their strength they kicked them out.

Posted by: Sue at March 15, 2004 at 01:57 AM

Following Ted's posting, I must also break a lance in defence of Chamberlain, who has been saddled with the image of the archtypical appeaser not quite fairly. Recent rearches, including the very important study "British Rearmament and the Treasury" show he was trying to rearm up to the limit it was thought the British economy would stand. The real appeasers, who opposed and hindered this every step of the way, were the British Labor Party and the Left (As in Australia).

Posted by: Sue at March 15, 2004 at 02:08 AM

Well and good, Sue, but how does that explain Munich?

Posted by: Paul Zrimsek at March 15, 2004 at 02:29 AM

Sue: Check your history. Chamberlain ran for Parliament on a consistant "No Great Armaments" platform, which he consistantly turned into a "No Armaments At All" policy. If Chamberlain hadn't killed off England's defense establishment in the prewar years, there would have BEEN no need for appeasement. America too had little interest in big military expendatures, but we leveraged what we had with a tough and smart series of studies on what we would need to fight the next war and a solid (and sucessful) program of building competent cadre. I have seen no signs that England, with more commitments, did anything similar.

Posted by: Dave P. at March 15, 2004 at 02:50 AM

He has divided Europe at a historic time of expansion

Works for me.

Posted by: Bruce at March 15, 2004 at 03:16 AM

Oh, a Muslim-Christian conference. What a shocking, surprising, amazing idea. I'm stunned that these clowns came up with it, and no one else ever thought that bringing a bunch of talking heads together in a room would effectively transform the entire world.

Wake me when they're done, will you?

Posted by: ushie at March 15, 2004 at 03:57 AM

"... and if they were, are we confident that we would prevent the next attack, and the one after that?"

Reminds me of the old song, "What's the use of getting sober when you're just going to get drunk again?"

This defeatism in a supposed bastion of human rights makes me think that if the Guardian were an individual, he/she should be on suicide watch.

What a bunch of wussies!

Posted by: JDB at March 15, 2004 at 04:20 AM

First, Mark, "just-kill-the-fuckers approach" is time-tested and really tends to work. At the very least you get the satisfaction of ridding the world of a pustulant canchre. It is the appeasement approach that has been tried and found wanting. Much the same way that, in the US, the look-say method of teaching reading has been tried and failed repeatedly for the past 100+ years under different names, but some won't give it up. In both cases, the motto appears to be, "But it _should_ work."

Second, there, indeed, _is_ a way to bring rapprochement between Christianity and Islam (which after means Peace). Unfortunately for Chrisitians (or even agnostics or atheists) it has always included either dead or converted Christians. It has the advantage of working.

As an anarchist friend once explained to me on matters of bringing peace, "ain't nothing much more peaceful than a dead man, less'n it's a cemetery full of dead men."

Posted by: JorgXMcKie at March 15, 2004 at 04:47 AM

Better yet ... let every non-muslim in the world commit suicide... then there will be complete peace.

Uh .... well.... maybe not.

Posted by: Crazy at March 15, 2004 at 05:20 AM

"He may be a dictator, but at least he's keeping things stable" is an excuse more people would associate with the Nixon-era CIA than with the Daily Wanker. Isn't that the sort of thinking that we're always told made the Third World hate us in the first place?

Posted by: Paul Zrimsek at March 15, 2004 at 05:26 AM


Why does the Third World hate us? Whey do you think envy is one of the 7?

Posted by: Crazy at March 15, 2004 at 05:49 AM

This is "the biggest foreign policy mistake since the Second World War"?

Did they just call WWII a foreign policy mistake?

Posted by: Doc at March 15, 2004 at 06:14 AM

World War II Foreign Policy Mistakes:

- Hitler "Let's start Barbarossa and roll over the Russians"

- Yamamoto "Let's attack Pearl Habor and cripple the American Naval Forces"

Posted by: Crazy at March 15, 2004 at 06:27 AM

Could someone please feed John Mortimer through
a paper shredder. Slowly.

Perhaps we could add Mortimer to "Pilgerise"
and to "Fisk".

ie : " Don't be a Mortimer"

Or: "You are a cunt".

Posted by: fred at March 15, 2004 at 07:20 AM

Are they saying this is a 'bigger mistake' than Vietnam now? Hold on, I smell a quagmire comin'!

Posted by: Quentin George at March 15, 2004 at 07:27 AM

Emily Bell, editor in chief of Guardian Unlimited, can be contacted at
To reach the Guardian Unlimited newsdesk, contact

That disgusting op-ed is beyond belief.

these people are out and out Fifth columnists.

Posted by: fred at March 15, 2004 at 07:54 AM

Sue is right, at least to some degree. Chamberlain built up armaments to the degree he thought would not break the treasury. He comcentrated on the Air Force, and to a lesser extent the Navy. The Army was left out in the cold, except for the Anti-Aircraft Command to support air defence.

It was these priorities that left Britain with no well-equipped army to send to the Continent until too late. One plan that might have had a good effect was Liddell=Hart's suggestion of raising six armored divisions. This would give the most combat power for the least call on manpower, and complement the French army which had none at that time. Sadly, this was too radical an idea for the Colonel Blimps, as well as being very expensive and using resources wanted for the aircraft programs.

British cutting of defence began well before Chamberlain and was continued by Stanley Baldwin long after it should have been dropped because he feared the voters would turn his government out if he went to the country in 1935 on a rearmament platform.

Munich came about because Chamberlain's Air Force advisors told him Britain was wide open to bombing without the new 8-gun fighters and radar chain. One of the reasons for appeasement was to buy time for such equipment to reach the forces. Another was Chamberlain's misconception that he could do business with Hitler. He could not, but learned it only in the Spring of 1939. So there is enough blame to spare for Chamberlain, but not as much as he is usually heaped with.

Posted by: Michael Lonie at March 15, 2004 at 08:21 AM

You would think Mortimer & Co would be urging the Muslims in his country to set up a "Muslims against Terrorism" Party and to take to the streets en-masse urging Al-Quaeda and the like to cease terrorism.

It might possibly do a little good, not least for the said Muslims who may get a little public sympathy. Unfortunately I don't really think you'd find many Muslims prepared to do it.

Posted by: Fool to Himself & Burden to Others at March 15, 2004 at 08:45 AM

Hey, Crazy. Yamamoto argued long and hard against attacking the USA, but was overruled.

"A year of study in the U.S. convinced him of the nation's immense—if latent—strength, and he earnestly warned his superiors against an unnecessary attack on the American democracy."

Posted by: Australian Elvis at March 15, 2004 at 08:46 AM

I'm expecting to read one day: `world collectivist leaders' send bouquets of roses and Valentine cards with lots of kisses to murdering scumbag terrorists to `help give peace a chance'.

I'd say they would have a problem with the return courtesies, perhaps a box of chocolates containing a bomb - you knbow, just for that little extra loving feeling terrorists express so well.

Posted by: d at March 15, 2004 at 09:03 AM

Such conferences happen all the time. Fat lot of good they do.

Posted by: Douglas at March 15, 2004 at 10:00 AM

I agree that Chamberlain is treated a bit unfairly by the popular memory when Stanley Baldwin and Lord Halifax are the real figures of appeasement. If you read about the struggles between Churchill and Halifax in the early days after Churchill became PM (ie in Lukacs, Five Days in London), when Chamberlain was still in the cabinet, it's clear that Chamberlain had finally woken up and was mostly in Churchill's corner (despite the fact that he could easily have been consumed by personal resentment at his successor). All of which proves that Chamberlain was wiser than the sodding Spanish, or at least the 5% or so of them who changed their votes in the last few days.

Posted by: Mike G at March 15, 2004 at 10:39 AM

But... but I thought that everyone agreed on an agressive policy to deal with terrorism. Was Mork lying when he claimed that? I'm so confused.

Posted by: Sortelli at March 15, 2004 at 10:54 AM

Apropos Chamberlain, even Halifax and Baldwin were not the worst. Labor voted against every Defence Estimate for the armed forces till 1937 when it became patriotic and concerned enough to actually abstain.

What matters now in Britain, I think, is whether or not the Tories succumb to the temptation of a Spanish position to attack Blair (they could attack him on health, education, transport and a lot of other issues). If the Tories attack Blair from an anti-war position, and win the next election, goodbye to the US alliance, and, I think, goodbye to European civilisation.

Posted by: Sue at March 15, 2004 at 01:07 PM

I found that very strange too, the Tories deciding to attack Blair over Iraq and related matters.

On the domestic front, the LP govt. has supplied enough fuel to burn Blair and the cabinet at the stake: but to use Iraq and terrorism to do so is downright folly.

Posted by: d at March 15, 2004 at 02:05 PM


I stand corrected... THX

Posted by: Crazy at March 16, 2004 at 01:59 AM