"At the World Economic Forum last year, Gareth Evans, the former Australian foreign minister and head of the International Crisis Group thinktank, said: "The net result of the war on terror is more war and more terror. Look at Iraq: the least plausible reason for going to war - terrorism - has been its most harrowing consequence."
As Gary Younge -- a commentator who has grown as he has thought more about Iraq, American policy and the world as it is -- from being an issues whiner to a truly astute observer (in marked contrast with Nick Cohen, who has broken the back of his credibility on this issue and could be writing his mindless bollocks for the Mail: Islamism has not claimed "millions of lives" anywhere, and even if it had, Cohen's never been very clear on how adding our share to the death toll has actually helped; there is no "totalitarian" monolith -- no connection either, as Cohen seems to think there is -- between Islamism of the Qutbista variety and the Shia fundamentalism that is an influence (although not the only one) in Iran -- Cohen either understands not or cares not that the Qutbistas hate Shias more than they hate "crusaders": just a tip, Nick old bean, they call themselves "monotheists" as often as anything else because that distinguishes them from the Shia, who venerate saints and previous community leaders in a way the shrinesmashing Wahhabis who were the ideological forefathers of the Qutbistas despised) -- the bombs in London are inextricably linked to the killing in Iraq. The smokescreen began with Tony Blair. They are trying to change our values, he bleated. They are trying to impose extremism on us.
But they are not. They are trying to get us to pull out from Iraq. Our world does not intersect with theirs much beyond that. For many years, we had a "don't ask, don't tell" relationship with them. We knew we were harbouring terrorists -- Islamists who were destabilising Algeria, Morocco and Egypt -- but we didn't care. They weren't hurting us. And it flattered us that they were continuing the tradition we have of being a safe haven for other people's irritants -- to us flooded the emigres from the French Revolution, the Huguenots, European Jewry.
If they did want to change our values, they have succeeded. We have abandoned the right to due process, to trial by jury and soon we will be surrendering the right to privacy, as we are forced to carry ID cards. Charles Clarke -- a man of extremely underwhelming intellect -- wants to permit the secret services to monitor our emails and phone calls. Is a secret police, snooping on us, part of our values? Is torture? Why, then, are our values thought to be superior to theirs? If they were nicer to women, frankly, their values would trump ours in nearly every respect. That's what infuriates them about us: they see their world as moral, a place of respect for one another (not for women, of course, whom they fear and despise), with ground-level democracy, a system of charity that would leave no one behind, a profound sense of community. Of course, that's the principle they believe they are fighting for, rather than what they actually offer.
If we really did want to fight a war on terror, we would be doing it by trying to alleviate the reasons there is a war. We would not be lecturing the third world on its need to become "democratic", as though voting in its masters once every four years would fix its ills (although of course the broader apparatus of Western democracies would help them a great deal). We would not be demanding that they liberalise trade (Alexander Downer, in the Australian, once more parrotted the lie that the only way to end poverty is to make trade with the poor easier -- that is not how we became rich and it has not actually worked in any of the places it has been tried: as Bolivia (economy destroyed, people starving), Argentina (an economy on a par with, say, Greece's destroyed by lack of protection), Russia (a wealth of resources, all owned by a handful of men) and Africa itself (shattered by the liberalisation demanded by the World Bank) demonstrate; and it is not how those countries that are becoming richer are doing it: China has skilfully avoided free trade and the countries of east Asia also have guided their economies, Venezuela has retained ownership of its resources and is now enriching itself.
No, the extremism we actually are having imposed on us is the straitjacket of a belief in "freedom": freedom to be enslaved by capitalists, freedom to have your resources pillaged by big Western companies, whom you cannot compete with because a/ you have to sell because you need the money, b/ you cannot match the economies of scale of a big company so you're not competitive, c/ you don't have the money to match the subsidies that are poured into Western companies, d/ you face tariffs when you try to sell into the "free" world (whose free trade only actually goes one way) and e/ you are liable to be attacked if you do, not just militarily but economically.
But are you free? Are you empowered? I remember marching in the streets to say no to the Iraq war. Two million people. All ignored.
And, what was it, three billion, demanding that the G8 should alleviate poverty. The G8 simply did what it does: offered debt relief to those who will allow them to take their resources, those who will allow us to dump our goods on them. It remains true that our leaders do not want to see justice in the world, no matter what we call for.
I read something in the paper the other day about Tony Blair's only being paid a tenth of what a CEO with the same responsibilities would get. The report said that it was a worry that because ministers are not paid what executives in business are, politics would not attract the same calibre of person. When I had wiped the tears of laughter away, I tried to decide which was funnier: that our current politicians are considered to be of any particular substance or that businessmen are. The latter get as much wrong as they do right. They are hugely rewarded for running oil and gas exploiters (only have to dig it up), banks (lend money at very high rates, borrow it at very low rates -- don't have to be a genius to figure that one out) and phone companies (charge a large amount of money to let people use the equipment -- not rocket science).
I am as smart as Tony Blair. I could easily accept his responsibilities and I would readily do so. Yes, I'm not as adept at politicking, but I think I could manage the issues. I know more economics than he does too. I'll do it for half the money.
The myth that is being played out in this report is that prices are always fixed by the market. It's a central tenet of modern economics. Its corollary is that people will pursue a job because of the money attached to it. But are executives paid a great deal of money because they are valuable? Well, one has to take into account that they generally set their own wages, so whom they have value for is a consideration.
I was thinking about this when I saw that wages for doctors in Cuba (which has, as we know, very many doctors) are pitiful. Well, one might ask, why don't all those doctors become something else that pays more? Why did they pursue doctoring, when it is not lucrative?
The answer is simple, of course. We know what it is. It's not all about money. People become a doctor for all sorts of reasons. They do not necessarily choose between doctoring and business. They might not touch business with a very long bargepole.
Our economics does not recognise that (yes, I know, it is a part of "utility" that one trades off one's happiness in pride in one's job etc against one's acquisition of resources that would buy things that would make one otherwise happy but economics insists that both sides of the equation are equally tangible when they are not).
These are the "values" we are fighting for, ultimately. To make our world worth money, to equate everything to resources, to make it small. There's nothing new in that: it's been the thing we've fought for since the year dot. They have a god that they will fight for. We have Mammon. I daresay we'll win, given enough time. We are greedy little apes, and appealing to the greed will, finally, win the hearts and minds fo the world.