Friday, July 8

"Our Way of Life"

In the wake of the bombings in London, we keep hearing the expression "our way of life" in the mouths of Tony Blair, George Bush, Condoleezza Rice, and other corporate militarists. These three in particular have claimed that "our way of life" was the source of anger of those who planted bombs in London. Why do they keep saying this? To what does the "way" correspond? And to whom does it belong? Who is the "our" in the expression? Let's first sample a few quotes as we consider these questions.

Here's Blair:
I think we all know what they're trying to do. They're trying to use the slaughter of innocent people to cow us, to frighten us out of doing the things that we want to do, of trying to stop us from going about our business as normal, as we're entitled to do. And they should not and they must not succeed. When they try to intimidate us, we will not be intimidated. When they seek to change our country or our way of life by these methods, we will not be changed.
Here's Bush (from an Address to a Joint Session of Congress and the American People in late September, 2001, at a moment when presumably the convenience of the phrase was first seized upon):
These terrorists kill not merely to end lives, but to disrupt and end a way of life. With every atrocity, they hope that America grows fearful, retreating from the world and forsaking our friends.
And here's Condoleezza Rice (in an August 2004 discussion with Tim Russert):
On September the 11th, we were brutally attacked by people who had an ideology of hatred so great that they, with a few people, threatened to try and bring down our way of life.
As I see it, the expression is simply meant to obscure the highly probable reasons for terrorist attacks generally and, recently, the bombings in London. It is calculated to deflect indirect (but serious) responsibility from the leaders in Britain and the US who have conducted a needless, illegal, unpopular war that has already likely caused the death of over 100,000 unarmed civilians in Iraq while greatly increasing the threat of terrorism in the US and Britain in particular.

Bush, Blair & Co. want you, the public, to believe that it is you who are hated and not the policies of Bush, Blair & Co. (that many of you have rejected, anyway). They want to get your dander up. The expression "our way of life" is tirelessly floated out into public discourse as if it corresponded to some actual source of ire among the terrorists. It even does double duty as a deft recruitment device meant to deceive unsuspecting and easily-offended young men and women who can be duped into thinking that, in going off to kill and possibly die, they are protecting their own "way of life." Not only their own, but "our" way of life, every decent person's "way of life."

This strategy of deflection and distraction was exploited again yesterday when Blair went out of his way to state that the vast majority of Muslims in England abhor what happened in London -- as if we didn't already know that. In short, he tried, in this case, to make the whole affair seem explicable in terms of religious affilations. The "way of life" would thus, by implication, mean "our Christian, non-Muslim way of life here in Britain." In the end, though, the tactic remains the same: by talking about Muslims, Blair tried to downplay his own responsibility for the worldwide upsurge in violence and for the backlash against US and British military terrorism by casting the motivations of the bombers in false terms (whether of "lifestyle" or "religion"). Either way, this is a serious insult both to Muslims and to the victims of this latest wave of violence. To stoke anger and fear among the populace for things that are at best marginally related to the very likely movitations of the bombers is simply political opportunism and cynicism at their worst.

Some UK citizens have spoken forthrightly about the likely motivations of the bombers. Let's compare their statements to the woolly stuff we keep hearing about "our way of life":

George Galloway (British Member of Parliament):
London has reaped the (results) of Mr. Blair's involvement in Iraq .... because, of course, the vast majority of Londoners, and I have no doubt the vast majority of people affected by that despicable act of mass murder yesterday, were opponents of Mr. Blair and Bush's war on Iraq... It would be entirely dishonest to pretend that this came out of nowhere. Inexcusable, but not inexplicable. Sadly, all too explicable and explained, even before we did it, by the anti-war movement. We said this (war in Iraq) would not make the world a safer place, it would make the world a more dangerous place.
Juan Gonzalez (journalist, responding to George Galloway):
Your criticism of Britain's participation in the war... apparently there was a rebuttal from Home Secretary Charles Clark who said that, "This has nothing to do with Iraq or any other particular foreign policy, it's about a fundamentalist attack on the way we live our lives."
George Galloway:
Only a fool would say that, and only a fool would believe that. In fact, the terrorists themselves have said... that that's exactly why they carried out the act.
Galloway refers here to the statement posted online according to which the bombings were carried out, "in revenge of the massacres that Britain is committing in Iraq and Afghanistan." That's the justification given for the violence in London by the group that took responsibility for the bombings on a website that has yet to be given full credence. Whether or not we can trust this statement as being authentic, it certainly sounds like it is concerned about politics more than about religion or others' "way of life."

Robert Fisk, of the UK's Independent News and Media, responded to Blair's strategy of deflection by stating that,
To go on pretending that Britain's enemies want to destroy "what we hold dear" encourages racism; what are confronting here is a specific, direct, centralised attack on London as a result of a "war on terror..."
George Monbiot, a columnist for the London Guardian, cautions against assuming that we know who carried out the bombing, but does admit that,
There's no doubt that by invading Iraq we have caused a great deal of resentment and anger within the Muslim world and if that hasn't come back to haunt us yet, then it may well come back to haunt us in the future.
Stephen Grey, of the Sunday Times of London, also shows that he is under no illusion as to the probable motivation behind the bombings:
One important thing to understand about the nature of Islamic terrorism is that it's not just about a threat to the way of life to the West. If you talk to people who are actually close to these movements, they hate, above all, the policies of the West, (which) they extend not just to the invasion of Iraq, but also to the Middle East peace process, (and) the involvement in Afghanistan. Many of the people who are drawn to these movements are not people who are looking for some sort of Taliban lifestyle, they're people who are motivated because they support some kind of insurgency about the way the West is dealing with the Middle East. They feel the Middle East is utterly humiliated by the West and the Western policies.
With those sensible remarks in mind, it is very clear that my own "way of life" has nothing at all to do with Bush's and Blair's foreign policies, nor the policies of Bush's predecessors, Clinton, Bush Sr., and Reagan. It is not part of my "way of life" to order and subsequently pass over in virtual silence the killing of countless Iraqi civilians in a needless and illegal act of state terrorism and military aggression. It is not part of my "way of life" to oppress the Palestinian people. And it is not part of my "way of life" to support tyrannical dictators in oil-rich countries.

How about you? Do you recognize in these policies your own "way of life"?

I'll end this post by letting the eloquent George Galloway have the last word:

It's just basic common sense that... if you don't intervene to stop the ongoing Calvary of the Palestinian people, who for 50 years have been dispossessed, sent to the four corners of the world as refugees, regularly massacred, occupied, if you don't do something about the hundreds of thousands of foreign soldiers occupying Iraq, if you don't stop propping up the puppet presidents and the corrupt kings who rule the Muslim world almost without exception from one end to the other, then you lay bare your double standards, your hypocrisy, when you talk about liberty.

What our leaders want is liberty for us, but only up to a point, and they're ready to take that away if it suits them, but no liberty for anybody else. And the people in the Muslim world can see it very clearly. They know that nobody gave a toss about the thousands who were killed in Fallujah. Nobody in the British Parliament raised any qualm about the American armed forces reducing Fallujah to ash and killing thousands of people. Yet, they go into the kind of emoting that we saw yesterday about the deaths in London.

I'm different from that, and most British people are different from that, when you reach them. The blood of everyone is worth the same. God didn't differentiate between a dead person in London killed by sheets of flying glass and red-hot razor sharp steel and someone who died the same death in Baghdad. These deaths are the same. And war of the kind that we have seen -- unjustified, illegal, based on lies, in Iraq, is terrorism of a different kind. Just because the President, who ordered it is wearing a smart suit rather than the garb of an Islamist in the Tora Bora doesn't make the orders more legitimate than orders if they were given from bin Laden.
(12517) photo by terrette. Warsaw, Poland

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