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Nov 2001 Journal

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God Bash America

In mid-February 1945, 18 days after the liberation of Auschwitz, the ultimate horror of Nazi Germany's assault on civilisation, Bomber Harris targeted Dresden, incinerating thousands of civilians. I am certain that, had a newsreel showing Dresdeners leaping to their deaths from burning buildings been screened in a London cinema frequented by refugees, it would not have triggered scenes of jubilation among the audience!

Yet the televised horrifying carnage at the World Trade Center prompted spontaneous eruptions of joy in places as far apart as West Bank towns and Finsbury Park mosques. This dehumanised reaction to a thousand-fold human tragedy was 'explained' - and thereby sanitised - by Messrs Benn and Pinter, recycling Franz Werfel's dictum Nicht der Mörder, der Ermordete ist schuld (Not the murderer, but the victim is guilty).

One would not expect anything else from those eloquent scourges of America, the 'Great Satan' in Pinteresque Ayatollah-speak. Though marginally the more moderate of the two, Tony Benn has for decades counselled supine inaction in the face of murderous evildoers - first Gaddafi, next Saddam Hussein, then Milosevich, and now Bin Laden. As for Harold Pinter, he is so consumed with Americophobia that he is in danger of upstaging the mysteriously unmotivated psychopaths, such as Goldberg in The Birthday Party, who populate his own plays.

Such obsessional anti-Americanism, alas, taps into a more widespread undercurrent in the British national psyche. Just as in oceanography a surface current can mask an undertow flowing in the opposite direction, so Prime Minister Blair's declaration of Anglo-American solidarity overlays a virulently anti-American (as well as sanctimoniously 'highminded') strand in UK public opinion.

For our native Stars-and-Stripes burners the US is too powerful, too self-confident, too denuded of historical patina, too future-oriented, too nouveau riche, too efficient - after all, weren't thousands already at their desks in the World Trade Center by 9 am on that fateful Tuesday? - too corporate, too globalist, too oblivious of the Third World and, last but by no means least, too pro-Israel.

In the Americophobes' view, Bin Laden's mega-atrocity articulates the despair and frustration of a Third World exploited by Wall Street, oppressed by the Pentagon and force-fed by McDonalds. 'Ask yourself why you are so hated!' is a cry frequently raised since Black Tuesday.

This, like every other rhetorical device in the Benn-Pinter vocabulary, is based on a misrepresentation of the truth. Islamic suicide bombers do not express the impotent frustration of the great majority of the world's poor, i.e. billions of Indians, sub-Saharan Africans, Latin Americans - or even Moslem Bangladeshis! The paradise-seeking jihadis simply act out the lurid revenge fantasies of zealots for a faith constitutionally incapable of adapting to modernity, and of their captive audiences.

Laying the blame for the 11 September outrage at the feet of a US riding roughshod over Muslim susceptibilities differs only in degree, but not in kind, from ascribing the guilt for Auschwitz to the signatories of the Treaty of Versailles.
RG

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