These are bad days for peace. There are riots in Ulster, the PLO and the
Israelis are nose to nose again, and there is new talk of confrontation in
the Middle East. How is this possible? In each place it all comes on the
tail of something called the "peace process." There has certainly been
plenty of process, but it always seems to make things less instead of more
The spectacle recalls a curious gap in George Orwell's list of rhetorical
swindles and perversions (in "Politics and the English Language"). Orwell
did not mention the word p, though there was good cause to do so. In
1947 when his essay was first published, the image of Chamberlain waving
that pathetic scrap of paper in the wind was vivid in the memory of everyone
who had ever seen a newsreel.
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Why did Orwell skip over such an obvious case for indictment? Maybe he
too was subdued by the peculiar hypnotic spell which is cast by the mantra
of peace, peace. Its current underlying element of appeasement is --
if journalists do remark on it -- studiously ignored by politicians.
"Peace" (joined at the hip with "process") is chanted by ministers and hacks
as a kind of hieratic litany which is not to be questioned, nor even
properly defined. Any attempt to do either can provoke angry accusations of
warmongering, of callous indifference to bloodshed, of enmity to the
brotherhood of man, and other hideous moral crimes and misdemeanors.
An interesting remark on peace was made in the famous book "On War," by
Carl von Clausewitz. He observed that the aggressor always prefers peace,
because it allows him to get what he wants without the effort of fighting
for it. This view is confirmed when the goal of "peace" and its "process" is
infused with malice, shown in the forked-tongue pronouncements of Sinn
Fein/IRA in Ulster, or Islamist rhetoric in the Middle East, which calls for
the destruction in Israel while talking peace in English. And in Ulster Sinn
Fein/IRA sit smugly on their hands watching the Protestant riots -- the
fruit of a "process" of one concession after another to Sinn Fein/IRA,
salami-slicing away British sovereignty while the Republican terrorists
continue to bomb, kill, and maim.
Running circles around Western governments, terrorists and their
supporters have transformed a relatively straightforward swindle and
perversion ("peace in our time") into an adroit and crooked game of
political judo ("peace process"), in which a vicious, undemocratic minority
(Sinn Fein/IRA in Ulster, Islamist bigots in Israel) trip up a more powerful
opponent and render him vulnerable in the court of public opinion. Defensive
action by Israelis, or the British government's anti-terrorist legislation,
is treated as morally equivalent to bloodshed and violence perpetrated by
terrorists, whose own calculated viciousness is ruefully portrayed by
politicians and journalists as "unfortunate," the work of "splinter groups,"
or simply as "provoked" by the "failure" to accept terrorist demands --
e.g., an armed IRA's United Ireland, or, in the Middle East, an independent
(and armed) Palestinian State in return for palpably hollow promises of
security. In Israel the knowledge of this double standard is grimly
cartooned on a T-shirt sold all over Tel Aviv: an American Indian in full
war bonnet says to the late Yitzhak Rabin: "Let me tell you about land for
Of course "stubbornness," i.e., refusal to truckle to terrorists, is
decried as the greatest threat to the 'Peace process' in either conflict.
Western journalists and politicians are notoriously reluctant to moot any
idea that terrorist goals in Ulster, let alone violence, might represent
such a threat, or that the Islamist commitment to destroy Israel is inimical
to peace. These factors are neatly shuffled out of the "peace process";
terrorists are rewarded for mere rhetoric, or transparently tactical
gestures like the IRA "ceasefire." Mrs. Albright courts Syria, tries to
placate Hamas and, against all common sense, removes the (fully armed) IRA
from America's list of terrorist groups. This despicable schmoozing allows
terrorists in the Middle East and Ulster to exploit the "process," like Mel
Brooks' Nazis singing "Springtime for Hitler," with "a little peace of this,
a little peace of that."
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This moral double standard is now a normal part of international
politics. Perhaps it always was. The wide-eyed diplomat will certainly reply
with a shrug: "What is the alternative? War?" The question is disingenuous,
because an effective state of war already exists, both in Ulster and the
Middle East. The very label of "peace process" in both areas underlines
that fact. It appears less concerned with ending these wars than with
muffling the embarrassment they have caused. If wise-monkey smugness over
this state of war serves (as it does in both cases) to envenom matters
further, well, er, we don't talk about that.
The starry-eyed preference of liberals for this loathsome game is
understandable. For them and their journalistic ilk here in Britain and in
America, active resistance to Islamists and/or Sinn Fein/IRA (and its
so-called "dissidents" who enjoy the use of its arsenal) smacks too much of
fighting. Fighting is bad. It is violent. It hurts people. And if people
sometimes get hurt when they do not fight -- as in terrorist attacks --
well, then, we must not do anything that will provoke terrorists. It follows
that if they attack anyway, it must be the fault of their victims, who have
upset the terrorists, as when Israelis voted for a prime minister who
refuses dangerous concessions to the terrorists and fights back when they
attack. Sheikh Yassin of Hamas and the rulers of Iran have made it clear
that the real Israeli "provocation" has to do with -- simply and in fact --
the country's existence.
What should be done? For a start, less of the tu quoque used by
hacks and politicians to justify Middle Eastern and Irish Republican
terrorists. The British, for their part, might try turning the judo tactic
around: by pointing out, for instance, that the goal of a United Ireland is
a threat to peace; and by highlighting, especially in the United States, the
fact that the so-called "Republican" terrorists are not "The Republican
Movement"; indeed not a "movement" at all, but a small violent cabal
significant only for the semtex and arms which they refuse to give up.
Of course these suggestions are spitting in the wind. In any case the
question "What would you do?" is not one I am bound to answer; I have no
executive power in this matter, which means that "If I were King" is a cheap
game for a journalist to play in these circumstances; it does no more than
trivialize these grim post-imperial tragedies. Like the child in the crowd
around the naked emperor, my job is to point out that our own emperors are
naked and cowardly in the conference chamber, and (in these matters) are
swindling the people they purport to govern. Except for the vicarious
terrorists in the Irish-American community, America's mainstream electorate
is largely indifferent to (and ignorant of) the problems of Ulster, and see
Israel as a far away country of which they know little or nothing. Britain's
electorate is now defenseless against the continuing legitimization of a
murderous, patently fascist criminal cabal whose real constituency is among
the vicious, the ignorant, and the politically cynical in the United States.
The result of this will be the infiltration of a still-armed and dangerous
Sinn Fein/IRA into Irish and British politics in exactly the same way that
the Mafia have infected the politics of Italy.
The continuation of the Drumcree March ban shows the Blair government
still inflicting on the desperate and frightened Protestant community of
Ulster the slow death of a thousand cultural cuts, clearly intending to
shuffle them as soon as possible into the waiting hands of Catholic Ireland.
(This is not new. For some years the mainland British have despised and
loathed the Ulster Protestants, wishing only to be rid of people whom they
regard as disruptive and brutal rednecks. Like patriotism on the mainland,
Ulster's Protestant loyalism is sneered at especially by the anti-patriotic
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For the Middle East, I can only note that our leaders prefer to live in a
virtually real pipe dream in which we are perched somewhere above that
conflict on an abstract Olympus -- supposing that the implacable hatred of
Arabs for Israelis is not directed with equal virulence at us in the West.
This illusion caters nicely to the poisonous and craven shadow-show which
our leaders give us now, in the name of peace.
Herb Greer is an American writer residing in Great Britain. He is a
frequent contributor to the Sunday Telegraph.