Monday, July 11, 2005

George Galloway and Friend

Here are the first sentences of the statement issued by George Galloway on the day of the London bombings:

We extend our condolences to the families and loved ones of those who have lost their lives today and our heartfelt sympathy to all those who have been injured by the bombs in London.

No one can condone acts of violence aimed at working people going about their daily lives. They have not been a party to, nor are they responsible for, the decisions of their government. They are entirely innocent and we condemn those who have killed or injured them.

Galloway thus manages all at once to “condemn” the attackers and to express tacit understanding for their motives. As Charles Johnson at LGF has noted, Galloway’s words imply that if the attackers had “merely” killed those who are “party to, and responsible for, the decisions” of the British government – i.e. on Galloway’s understanding presumably the members of the government, for instance – their actions might, then, indeed be condoned. In the same spirit, Galloway’s statement concludes with a plea for the British government to reverse policies that are assumed by him and other partisans of appeasement to lie at the source of the – on this view in effect – legitimate “grievances” of the terrorists:
We urge the government to remove people in this country from harms way, as the Spanish government acted to remove its people from harm, by ending the occupation of Iraq and by turning its full attention to the development of a real solution to the wider conflicts in the Middle East.

But George Galloway is not alone. A well-known French radical, who so happened to be in the UK at the time of the attacks on account of a prior appointment, made a remarkably similar statement. In it, he denounced:

A terrorist action that, once again, ignoring all human feeling, has caused dozens of civilian victims: victims who, of course, bore no responsibility of any sort or any nature and whose lives, whose bodies, and whose dignity have been struck by these savages.

The author of these words? Jacques Chirac. The occasion for them was Chirac’s press conference in Gleneagles on the afternoon July 7 [official transcript – link in French], i.e. likewise the very day of the attacks. Remarkably, after some brief remarks devoted to the attacks and the assassination of the Egyptian Ambassador in Iraq, Chirac then went on, entirely unprompted, to beat the drum at some length about climate change. German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder is not likely to win any awards for tactfulness. But when he was asked at his own press conference on the same day [official transcript – link in German] about the climate change talks, he had the decency to say: “It is a little difficult for me at the moment to switch to the agenda of today’s discussions. You understand....”

Either George Galloway and Jacques Chirac are insincere in their ostensible condemnations of the attacks or they both have difficulties grasping the nature of democracy. In a representative democracy, of course, ordinary citizens do indeed bear political responsibility, since it is to them that the government is answerable. If the word “condemn” is being used in its ordinary sense, it is no more possible to condemn the attacks and express understanding for their motives than it is to square a circle.

(Note: “We condemn but understand” is also a standard trope of allegedly “moderate” Islamists like Tariq Ramadan. I discuss an example in “Tariq Ramadan, Non-Violent Man of Peace”.)