To sustain the idea of political equality, we must understand American exceptionalism not in abstract terms but rather as something we practice.
Songs of Innocence and Experience: I Don’t Like Mondays
The silicon chip inside her head
gets switched to overload
and nobody’s gonna go to school today
she’s gonna make them stay at home
And Daddy doesn’t understand it
He always said she was good as gold
And he can see no reason
Cos there are no reasons.
What reasons do you need to be told?
Tell me why.
I don’t like Mondays
I want to shoot
The whole day down
Oh, for a Tardis time-machine to transport me back to the lost innocent days of 1979, when, for several weeks that summer, Bob Geldof’s song I don’t like Mondays stood at Number 1 in the UK Pop Charts.
Now, the fictitious shooting spree about which he then sang has become only all too agonizingly familiar a phenomenon world-wide.
None to date, however, has produced more fatalities, or been potentially more portentous, than that for having gone on which one fateful day last summer in Norway, Anders Behring Breivik is currently undergoing trial in an Oslo courtroom which opened a week ago — last Monday.
Breivik freely admits that July day having shot dead 69 young people on the small island of Utepo where they had been attending a summer camp held annually there for Norwegian Labour party activists. He had been allowed onto the island, dressed as a policeman and bearing an assault rifle, ostensibly to protect his victims along with the several hundred other young activists whose deaths, he explained in court last week, he also hoped to bring about by causing them to flee in panic into the sea and drown after he began firing.
Earlier that same day, he had provided the pretext for their need of police protection by causing the Norwegian government to declare a state of emergency after he had detonated in the Norwegian capital a large car bomb that he placed outside government offices.
Breivik freely confessed in court last week his original intention had been to confine his killings to the occupants of that building by bringing it down with his bomb. In the event, because, when he arrived there, the parking space he needed for that purpose was already taken, he had been obliged to leave the car containing the bomb where the building was able to withstand the blast, although it did cause eight fatalities, most of them passers-by.
Only for having caused their deaths has Breivik expressed any regret. However, he did tell the court that, had his bomb succeeded in bringing down the government building and thereby killing many of its several hundred occupants, he would not have felt need of having to drive out to Utepo to carry on his killing spree.
Breivik freely admits to all the killings but is pleading not guilty to charges of murder and of terrorism on the grounds that, in carrying them out, he had been acting out of necessity in self-defense. His claims he was obliged to carry out the killings to protect himself, his country, and Europe more generally from the sustained assault on their cultural identity each has undergone in recent times from the multiculturalism to which each has become exposed as result of mass immigration of Muslims. It is because Breivik considers the Norwegian Labour Party the prime movers in effecting their mass entry into his country that he considered its members, even its young ones, to be legitimate targets.
Breivik strenuously resists any suggestion that he was or is insane. So too do the two psychiatrists whose earlier diagnoses of his sanity reversed earlier psychiatric opinion that he was and which, had it remained uncontested, would have prevented his trial from taking place.
Whether he truly is sane is something that his judges will have to decide. Either way, his current trial, and the earlier deeds for which he undergoing it, bear gruesome testament to the profoundly unsettled period Europe has been undergoing, especially since the events of 9/11 and the larger civilizational war of which many regard the destruction of New York’s Twin Towers that day as having symbolized the opening salvo.
Quickly, of course, any such a construal of the Al Qaeda attack that day became frowned on and taboo. So too did even the suggestion it had been motivated by a perverted version of the religion common to its perpetrators and organizers. Instead, the prime culprit quickly became identified as being neither any people nor any version of any religion. Instead the attack was attributed to that impersonal abstraction, Terror, against which US President George W. Bush was soon to declare war.
Waging it, we all know, has involved a US led invasion of Afghanistan to overthrow the Taliban regime that for several years before 9/11 had given sanctuary to Al Qaeda, and above all to its leader, Osama bin Laden.
One of the prime reasons America invaded Afghanistan in 2002 was to capture, or if necessary to kill, bin Laden. This was something that continued to elude America until a decade later when he was finally tracked down to a compound in the Pakistani city of Abbottabad, situated in Pakistan’s wild northwest frontier province close to the Afghan border.
It turns out that bin Laden had been living in hiding there for several years, along with assorted wives and children. The Pakistani authorities, supposedly America’s close ally in its war against terror, professed no prior knowledge that bin Laden had been living there, despite his compound being located close to one of the country’s largest military academies also situated there.
How genuinely ignorant they were of bin Laden’s whereabouts remains a matter of speculation. According to former CIA agent Bruce Riedel, now senior fellow at the Brookings Institute, when on a trip to South Asia five years ago he had asked a former Pakistani ambassador where bin Laden was hiding, he was told ‘he would be found in a safe-house built by Pakistan’s intelligence agency, the ISI, near a military headquarters.’
Riedel has also recently let it be known that documents recovered from bin Laden’s compound during the raid by American Special Forces that led to his killing show that, far from having been relatively quiescent during his period of residence there, the Al Qaeda leader had been heavily involved in both the planning and financing of several major terrorist operations.
Not the least of these operations was that which took place in 2008, when ten gunmen belonging to the banned Pakistani organization Laskhar-e-Taiba, ‘Army of the Pure’, went on the rampage in Mumbai, shooting dead some 200 hundred victims. Their immediate ambition has been to secure through such acts of terror the secession from India of its Muslim majority region of Kashmir. Their ultimate aspiration is to return the entire Indian subcontinent to Muslim rule as it was under the Mogul empire
It was reportedly on the strength of what was contained in the documents recovered from Ladens’s compound that, earlier this month, the American government announced it was offering a $10 million bounty for information leading to the arrest and conviction on charges related to the 2008 Mumbai attack of the Pakistani Muslim cleric, Hafiz Saeed, who founded Laskhar-e-Taiba but for a long time has professed no ties with the proscribed organization.
Shortly after the Mumbai attack, the Pakistani authorities arrested Saeed at the behest of India on suspicion of being linked to it, but subsequently they released him without charge, ostensibly for lack of any incriminating evidence linking him to it. By offering the bounty, America has signalled clear intent to succeed in tying him to it in a way the Pakistani authorities failed to do.
The latter have not been entirely happy with America’s offer of a bounty, any more than they have been of late with the raid on bin Laden’s compound which America carried out without notifying them in advance of it. Nor are they happy about America’s increasingly frequent use of drones to attack believed Taleban forces operating out of Pakistan.
It was in protest at and in retaliation for these drone attacks there that, last November, Pakistan closed its northwest frontier border with Afghanistan to US military convoys, thereby impeding the supply of NATO forces stationed there. In recent weeks, Hafiz Saeed has been actively campaigning in Pakistan against its reopening the NATO supply lines. Doubtless, the nuisance factor he is currently proving to America is partly behind its recent offer of a bounty for information leading to his arrest and conviction.
America’s increasing unilateral military operations in Pakistan are understandably proving very unpopular with local residents because of the collateral civilian fatalities some have caused. Doubtless, it was with knowledge of just how unpopular America’s increasingly more overt military operations in Pakistan were becoming with locals that, on his recent visit there earlier this month, Lord Nazir Ahmed, Britain’s first Muslim to be made a peer, delivered several speeches in which he took America to task for having offered a S10 million bounty for information leading to Hafiz Saeed’s arrest.
A week ago, the British Labour Party suspended Lord Ahmed, pending a still as yet un-conducted enquiry into the veracity of a Pakistani newspaper report that, at a reception given in his honor in the town of Haripur, situated less than 25 miles from where bin Laden had been found residing, Lord Ahmed had delivered a speech in which he resolved to raise £10 million by way of bounty on President Obama and former American President, George W. Bush.
Lord Ahmed, who has since returned to England, vehemently denies saying any such thing and indeed the Pakistani newspaper that originally reported he had done has since retracted and apologized for the assertion. However, .Lord Ahmed does freely admit that during his recent visit to Pakistan he publicly undertook to raise £10 million to support efforts to secure the arrest and prosecution of George W. Bush and former British Labour Party Prime Minister Tony Blair who ironically had been responsible for Nazir Ahmed’s elevation to the House of Lords. On his recent visit to Pakistan, Lord Ahmed admits having publicly said:
There have been war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan and these people who have strong allegations against them – George W. Bush and Tony Blair – have been involved in illegal wars and should be brought to justice.
Lord Ahmed is by no means alone in this opinion. However, few other current Labour Party members have publicly voiced such a sentiment, let alone any occupying such elevated heights as the House of Lords.
Among those in Britain who have long voiced similar sentiments is the Scottish former Labour MP George Galloway. As fate would have it last Monday, on the very day the story broke in the British media about Lord Ahmed’s suspension from the Labour Party, Galloway was being installed in the House of Commons after winning from Labour in a by-election the traditionally safe Labour seat of Bradford West.
Galloway had taken the seat from Labour standing as a candidate for the anti-war Respect Party he had helped found after being expelled from the Labour Party for publicly protesting against the Iraq War. Galloway had earlier won a Parliamentary seat on the same Respect Party ticket after also taking from Labour in the 2005 General Election the previously safe Labour seat of Bethnal Green and Bow in London’s East End. Both previous Labour strongholds in which Galloway has won Parliamentary elections are home to exceptionally large concentrations of South Asian Muslims.
The ease with which Galloway secured these two victories over Labour while campaigning primarily on an anti-war ticket bodes ill for British politics, should they indicate an increasing trend towards the kind of sectarianism previously witnessed in the UK only in Northern Ireland.
After inviting Lord Ahmed to leave the Labour Party and join his Respect Party, Galloway used the occasion of his Parliamentary swearing in last Monday to make the following ominous declaration:
There’s an army mustering in the North… of this country, an army of discontented, alienated people who feel this place has let them down.
The suspension of Lord Ahmed indicates that new Labour is in some kind of suicide mission as far as Muslim voters are concerned. Bush and Blair should be on trial and they should be locked up for the rest of their natural lives in the same cell.
Lord Ahmed and George Galloway are by no means the only ones who consider the two former national leaders guilty of war crimes. One thing is certain, however. This is that the continued accusations that Bush and Blair are guilty of war crimes, made by the likes of Lord Ahmed and Galloway, can only serve further to enflame anti-western animus among Muslims world-wide and above all those in Britain.
Oh, how I wish I could be transported back to the balmy, innocent days of 1979.