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Left-wing Irish blogs - Fiona de Londras


Discussion with Fiona de Londras, Mar 2006

Fiona de Londras has an interesting blog. I decided to comment on it, and this started a discussion.


My original post

My original post, in my list of left-wing Irish blogs I sometimes read, was as follows (links fixed):






Her initial reply

Her initial reply did not really address the issues, nor did her commenters. Though it did have an amusing title, a reference to one of her previous neo-con critics.



Mark Humphrys definitely doesn't fancy me!

I just came across this page by Mark Humphrys. Here's his entry on me:
Fiona de Londras writes intelligent leftie commentary.
De Londras is a member of the globally persecuted gay minority.
Islamism is the greatest killer and torturer of gays on earth.
Yet De Londras considers "Islamophobia" and "The rise in the security paradigm" (the War on Islamism) as the greatest problem in the world today. She even suggested that the Muhammed cartoons should not be published because they violate Islamic taboos (though she does not think this should be enforced by law). Not all gays are hostile to the war on homophobic Islamism, but many are. It is a real mystery to me. Gays, like Jews and atheists like me, should be leading the fight against the evil philosophy of Islamism, which would exterminate us all if it could.

As with David Norris and Richard Dawkins, Fiona de Londras doesn't realise that the neo-cons are fighting for her.

I am both speechless and entertained. Although I have no objection to being compared with David Norris....




My reply

Hi Fiona,
I just discovered this post.

[In reply to her commenters who claim that I am defending the Republican party on gay rights:]

On gay rights in America, I actually prefer the Dems to the Republicans. On keeping religion out of the laws, I prefer the Dems to the Republicans. On keeping "creationism" out of science class, I prefer the Dems to the Republicans. But that's all at home. Who's actually standing up to the gay-murderers, religious fascists and heretic-burners internationally? On that issue, the Republicans are clearly better.

In an ideal world, it would be the Dems who would be leading the war against the violent totalitarian religious fascism of Islamism. But it's not an ideal world, and the Dems are not serious about the War on Islamism. And the war matters more than anything else.

I did support Bush against Kerry, but that was because of the War on Islamism, and despite Bush's domestic policy, not because of it. I'm like the 23 percent of gays who voted for Bush. So no need to criticise the Republicans on gay rights at home. I agree with you.

Part two in a second.

Mark



My further reply

Finally, Fiona, I may not fancy you precisely, but I am fascinated by people like you and David Norris and Richard Dawkins. You are members of minority X. Philosophy Y is the biggest persecutor, torturer and killer of X on earth. There is a hot war on against Y, and brave men and women are dying fighting it. And yet you oppose them, and all your criticism seems for them rather than for Y. I don't get it.

Is it displacement? Is it easier to hate those close to us trying to protect us rather than the stranger who wants to rape us, kill us and burn down our house? Why is it easier for the middle-class "anarchist" student living in his parents' 5 million euro house in Blackrock to hate the police who are protecting him rather than the violent criminals they are protecting him from?

So the Republicans don't want gay marriage. Well that's not nice, but the Islamists want to exterminate every gay on earth. Dawkins is the same. So the Republicans go on about God, and that's annoying. I agree. But the Islamists want to exterminate every atheist on earth. These guys are the genuine Nazis of our time. Don't you believe that? Or do you think somehow Islamism is "valid". Do you think religious fascism is bad in the West, but maybe ok for foreigners?

This, in short, is why I find people like you and Dawkins so hard to understand. To me, a War on Islamism is a no brainer. Everyone should support it, including all moderate Muslims (and indeed many do).

I'd prefer a coalition of gays, atheists, women and Jews fighting Islamism, since these are the four major groups it hates. But failing that, I'll take Republicans and anyone else who's willing, because I want to see Islamism destroyed. I want to see Islamism defeated. Don't you?

Mark Humphrys
http://markhumphrys.com/
http://markhumphrys.com/blog.html



Her reply

Her proper reply went as follows:


The Counterproductivity of the War on Terror

Last week I discovered this page by Mark Humphrys which included a critique of me and some of the opinions I express on this blog. Mark responded in the comments with some of the response directed to me and some to others. From the discussion a few interesting issues arose that I'm interested in talking about some more.

Essentially Mark appears to be bemused that someone who belongs to what he describes as "the globally persecuted gay minority" could be opposed to the "war on Islamism" as he describes it. Let me say categorically that I am not opposed to policies that try to minimise religious fundamentalism and release us all from what I feel is one of the most destructive forces in history. What I am opposed to on this front at least is the presentation of some kind of notion that Islam is the only religion plagued by fundamentalism. It's quite simply not. The rise in fundamentalist evangelism in the United States is equally worrying to me and is equally dangerous for fellow members of the LGBT community, for women, for immigrants and for people of other faiths. People who blow up abortion clinics, for example, can not to my mind be said to have a moral superiority over people who blow up pizza parlours in Jerusalem. The scale of the violence is incidental to the reality of fundamentalist violence within religions. As long as the American establishment courts religious fundamentalism while at the same time denouncing it elsewhere I find the moral argument for a 'war against Islamism' hypocritical, worrying and unconvincing.

The second point I wanted to make is, as I said in the comments to the original post, I truly believe that most neocons are fundamentally good people. I have heard George Bush, Richard Perle and co. speak about the project of spreading liberal constitutionalism and the notion of freedom and I can't help but believe that fundamentally they support the idea of freedom and liberty everywhere. The fact that the spread of freedom, liberty and constitutional democracy is good for America is to some extent irrelevant to me; the ideal is also good for individuals and communities and that's what matters from my perspective. I also agree with the notion that the world's only superpower has a responsibility both to itself and to the international community. If a country has the capacity to step in and help people to liberate themselves then I believe they should do so.

HOWEVER America does it badly. That's the problem. America is practicing exceptionalism by saying that they will liberate people in country X but not step in to help end genocide in country Y. If you are going to undertake a project such as this then you have to do so consistently and with a clear decision making structure that is transparent and accountable, otherwise your project is both counterproductive and open to criticism of ulterior motives..

In terms of counterproductivity the argument should be clear. By practicing exceptionalism America ensures that countries who are strategically important for them can essentially continue to act as they wish towards their people with no risk of American action against them. Take for example Pakistan which is a vital ally in the 'War Against Terror' - America was quite prepared to lend legitimacy to the Musharaff regime which is essentially perpetual martial law despite the fact that he took control in a military coup, is completely controlled by the military, gives the Inter-Services Intelligence Agency free reign to spread terror and insecurity in the country and, in turn, allows intimate ideological relationships between the ISI and the mullahs to flourish. America however invites him to the White House, gives him a unending river of 'aid' money and calls him a reformer and modernist in return for the freedom to capture, detain and interrogate suspects in the Tribal Areas where Pakistani law has no jurisdiction. They develop ghost detention camps in those same areas and are happy for Pakistani officials to do the dirty work for them. How can America claim that this is a war for freedom and liberty and democracy when they behave in this manner? How can you criticize people who criticize the policy?

America needs people like me to support them - people who believe that the ideal of speaking constitutional liberalism and freeing people from the yoke of oppression are laudable aims and America's responsibility - but they isolate us by acting in this manner. America has lost all good will in the vast majority of the human rights community.

The second way in which it is counterproductive is in the creation of blowback. When America armed resistance against the Soviets in Afghanistan they unwittingly created a band of jihadists with sophisticated training, good financing and American blessing for the creation of a theocratic state. They also unwittingly created Al Qaeda. To make such a mistake once may be denounced as irresponsible, but to now make the same mistake again is simply criminal. If this is really about American security and a fight against Al Qaeda then this is the worst tactic imaginable and it is all down to the failure to properly plan Phase IV of the war. Good idea; dreadful execution.

The third way in which it is counterproductive and worrying is in its flaunting of international law. An argument might be made that there was Security Council authorization for the war - I'm not sure I'm convinced but nevertheless there is an argument that can be made. However the main area of concern is with the flaunting of the well established laws of war, human rights law and jus cogens norms (i.e. rules that may never be excepted regardless of the situations). If America is trying to instill the Rule of Law everywhere how can it behave in a manner that suggests law is applicable to all except the most powerful - that is the very antithesis of the Rule of Law. It undermines international law. America may feel it doesn't need international legal regulation at the moment in this area but it does need it in trade and so forth. If it consistently flaunts international law how can it expect other states to respect it in relation to them? The international community is essentially anarchic and the loose institutions and legal regulations we have are the only semblance of order within that system. They are vital. America can not insist on compliance with laws that it consistently excuses itself from.




My reply

Hi Fiona,

Thanks for the reply.

The point of my original post was not just to annoy you, but to express how I don't understand you. I can understand how hard-left, West-hating commies, for example, don't like the current War on Islamism. But I really find people like you and David Norris and Richard Dawkins hard to understand. Finally, at last, here we are in a shooting war with the fascism you have hated all your life, and yet, bizarrely, you don't support it.


Christian fundamentalist terror as a "threat"

You say that Islamism is not the only threat: "The rise in fundamentalist evangelism in the United States is equally worrying to me".

Look, you know I'm no fan of Christian fundamentalist evangelism. On my website I have pages criticising Christianity, listing Killings for Christianity throughout history, and criticising the Bible. See for example The Bible in its Own Words: An unbeliever's choice of quotes, my list of awful stuff in the Bible. I criticise Jesus for some of his daft beliefs, and I call Moses an evil rapist and murderer (because he was).

And yet, in all honesty, how on earth can you consider Christian fundamentalism to be an equal threat to Islamic fundamentalism? Islamists have killed about 50,000 people (*) in terror attacks all over the world in the last 5 years alone, and that's not even counting Sudan, where the Islamist jihad has killed 2 million people since 1983. Look at the steady, endless list of Islamist terror attacks at thereligionofpeace.com, which documents over 4,500 Islamist terror attacks just since 9/11 alone. That's an average of two attacks every day for 5 years, killing about 50,000 (*) men, women and children (Islamist attacks are almost entirely on infidel civilians):

Updates:

  • (*) I thought my estimate for Islamist killings was too high, but it turns out I was right after all. thereligionofpeace.com says that Islamic terrorists have killed about 60,000 men, women and children in the period Sept 2001 - Nov 2007. Not counting Sudan, where the jihad has killed maybe 100,000 in the same period.

  • Also, "Islamist attacks are almost entirely on infidel civilians" should really read: "Islamist attacks are almost entirely on civilians". Islamists are prolific killers of Muslim civilians too (e.g. in Iraq and Pakistan, where Islamists actually suicide bomb mosques). The Islamists usually have some bullshit reason why the Muslim victims are "infidels".

And yet you're equally worried about "People who blow up abortion clinics". Look, there are bad people everywhere. People who blow up abortion clinics should be in jail. But how many people have they ever killed? Two? Five? I'm sure it's less than ten.

I was right. It is less than ten. thereligionofpeace.com gives numbers as at 2007:

  1. Islamic terrorists have killed 60,000 people over the last 6 years.
  2. Abortion clinic bombers have killed 7 people over the last 35 years.
  3. Islamic terrorists have killed 5 million people over the last 35 years.
Yes, you read that right. It's seven (not seven million, just seven) versus five million.

And look at the dates of anti-abortion murders. When I wrote the above in 2006, there had been not a single anti-abortion killing since 1998. In fact, George W. Bush would end his 8 year presidency in Jan 2009 without a single killing of an abortion clinic worker during his time in office. As Natalie Solent says: "I doubt that he will be given much credit for this, though if the trend had been otherwise he would certainly have been given the discredit."

New anti-abortion killing, May 2009. First such killing since 1998.
It is shortly followed by a pro-abortion killing, Sept 2009, which (I am predicting) will get a lot less press.

The list of modern Christian terrorism attacks is, um, just not very scary. Being "equally" concerned about this as about the global Islamist jihad seems so irrational that it seems like you really have another agenda. It seems that you are desperate to find some sort of moral equivalence between Islam and Christianity so you can say: "Look, all religions have crazies."

But what's so wrong with saying that Islam is particularly bad right now? Christianity was a much bigger killer in the past, when it killed millions of innocents, but it (and Judaism) have largely reformed, and now tolerate criticism and diversity (far more than Islam does at least). What's wrong with saying that we should focus specifically on Islam now? That there is something wrong with the Islamic world. It's not bigotry that makes people say this. Otherwise, why wouldn't people like me be equally worried about Buddhist terrorists and Hindu terrorists? It's not bigotry. It's because there really is something wrong with the Islamic world.


Islam is unique among religions because of the credible threat of violence to its critics

One last thing on this (Christian terrorism v. Islamist terrorism). As I said, I have a page criticising the Bible, with a list of awful quotes. Am I afraid of Christians coming to kill me? Of course not. Christians are mature. They tolerate criticism, and have done so for decades, even centuries now.

But I have no such page on my website discussing quotes from the Koran or the Hadith. Nowhere on my website will I tell you what I think about the Koran, the Hadith or the Prophet Muhammad. I may link to some sites that criticise them, but I do not have the guts to criticise them myself. Why is that? Because I don't want to die. Because there is a credible threat of violence to those who criticise Islam. There is no such threat from Christianity (or indeed any other religion on earth except Islam).


World War Two - Were those who were neutral morally superior to the Allies?

You exaggerate the flaws of modern Christianity. You also exaggerate the flaws of the Allies in this war. You claim to oppose Islamism, but you seem to be more annoyed with the (inevitable) flaws of those fighting it than you are with Islamism itself. You say: "As long as the American establishment courts religious fundamentalism while at the same time denouncing it elsewhere I find the moral argument for a 'war against Islamism' hypocritical, worrying and unconvincing." In other words, you're prepared to reject the entire war because of the flaws of the Allies fighting it, with no reference as to whether Islamism needs to be defeated anyway, by somebody.

You remind me of someone in 1942 saying: Well, of course I don't want the Nazis to win, but I cannot support the Allies because:

  1. They are allied with Stalin.
  2. They are committing war crimes by bombing enemy cities.
  3. The British are imperialists, and have committed crimes in India, Ireland, etc.
All of this is true, and yet do you really argue that those who were neutral in World War Two, such as Eamon de Valera and Pope Pius XII, were morally superior to the Allies, who sacrificed 900,000 (*) of their people to defeat Germany and Japan?

(*) I'm talking about the British, American and other democratic Allied dead here, not the Soviets.

This is not just a thought experiment. The above reasoning - complaining about British imperialism, allied bombing, and so on - is really how both Irish and Vatican apologists for neutrality wrote during the war. They were full of moral equivalence, and said both sides were bad. And people like you are the heir of this tradition. This is how I view the modern Irish left - as the heirs of Eamon de Valera. Yes, the Allies committed terrible crimes in WW2. But surely you don't think neutrality was a better stance?

If you want to complain about the support for the appalling states of Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, while still saying of course I support the general war effort against Islamism, then welcome to the club. Bush has a lot of neo-con critics on this front. I'm not sure I go along with your "blowback" theory, and I couldn't give a hoot for international law, but I certainly agree with you on places like Pakistan. Coddling the dictators of Saudi Arabia and Pakistan is not just immoral - it's bad for the war effort. But what I don't understand is how such flaws can make you hostile to the War on Islamism generally, as when you say that "Islamophobia" and "The rise in the security paradigm" are the greatest problems in the world today. Again, I ask: Don't you want to see Islamism defeated? Isn't that what's really important?

Would you have been neutral in WW2? Or would you have supported the Allies? Let us know. If you would have supported the Allies, please justify supporting people who carpet bombed cities. If you can understand how someone could fight for the Allies in WW2, despite their crimes, then maybe you can understand how people like me can strongly support the Allies in the War on Islamism, despite their inevitable flaws.

Mark Humphrys



Addendum

The discussion here suggests a fourth reason for the complaining, whining neutral in World War Two:
  1. The Allies aren't really at war to "save the Jews" or stop the Holocaust. They're at war to defend the British Empire, or constrain German power, or restore France, or other reasons. They don't really care about the Jews.
There is some truth in this, but the reader will recognise that this is the same as the modern argument that the Allies didn't really "care" about Iraqi freedom, but were interested in oil, or whatever. To which the correct response of any Iraqi would be "Who cares".

Likewise, anyone who cared about the Jews in WW2 supported the Allies. There is a convincing case that they should have tried harder to disrupt the Holocaust, such as bombing the traintracks leading to the camps (but there was no precision bombing then). But they did defeat Nazi Germany, at great cost in brave Allied lives. And that puts them morally head and shoulders above disgusting neutrals like Ireland and Rome.




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