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Dear British Idiotarians…

The next time one of you says that “The so-called war against Al Qaeda has got nothing to do with us in the United Kingdom, we must just leave the Yanks to sort out their own problems”, please wait a moment while I read the following list of British names to you:

    Neil Bowler
    Jon Ellwood
    Ian Findley
    Marc Gajardo
    Paul Hussey
    David Kent
    Peter Record
    Chris Redman
    Clive Walton
    Douglas Warner
    Tim Arnold
    John Beaumont
    Daniel Braden
    Chris Bradford
    Matthew Chappell
    Rachael Edwards
    Lucy Empson
    Emma Fox
    Laura France
    Tom Holmes
    Chris Kays
    Annika Linden
    Daniel Miller
    Natalie Perkins
    Stephen Speirs
    Edward Waller

All these British people were murdered in Bali by Islamic terrorists whilst on holiday. Add them to the 67 British reasons from September 11th as to why this is not just a matter for the United States .. and then please shut the fuck up.

23 comments to Dear British Idiotarians…

  • One of the more powerful arguments against taking military action against Islamic terror organizations and their supporters has been the notion that it’s best to ignore such threats if they do not concentrate on you because otherwise you could draw their attention. Such reasoning is cowardly and inconceivably cruel to begin with, but most importantly it is not accurate with respect to the Europeans. Since the beginning of widespread Islamic terrorism against the west, France, Italy, Spain, Germany, and Britain have not been spared their attacks. It was not just American Marines who were attacked in 1983 in Beirut, dozens of French soldiers were killed as well (in a separate attack). Small scale terror attacks were common in Europe throughout the 80s and 90s (so much so that in many major European cities there are no longer trash cans on the streets). The recent attacks in Bali, Moscow, and Yemen are simply more of the same of what has occured for decades. The difference is that Europeans by and large do a much better job of deluding themselves that terror attacks are random, inexplicable, and uncorrelated and are also much better are rationalizing cowardice and appeasement.

  • David Carr

    Well said, Perry.

    If the savage and unprovoked murder of British citizens is not a matter of British concern then I would like to know, precisely, what is

  • This is actually a remarkably small number of people to start a war over. Would you be willing to spend billions of pounds of your tax money on the prospect of saving ten times this many people through some government health care program? I think I can safely assume the answer is no. So why are you willing to spend that amount of money in war over this many deaths?

  • Because we know what motivates those who killed the ‘small’ number of people in Bali and New York and realise that they have waged a war on us. Ignoring all arguments about justice for the moment, here is another utilitarian one.

    Terrorism by its nature is random, it is the uncertainty of terror, death, mutilation, and disrruption to life that lends it its terrific impact. Western economies and markets are free, interconnected and fuelled by creativity and speculation and as such do not handle ‘macro’ uncertainty very well. Of course, the markets operate on the very principle of uncertainty of all sorts but at a very different level.

    If instead of ‘conquering the markets’ you have to worry about a potential threat of your flashy HQ or your customers/markets blowing up, you do not feel like investing in a better tomorrow. You wait until the danger goes away…

    In other words, if you are terrorised, you think of protection and survival and not about the stuff that capitalist economy is made of. At the moment, it is not so obvious, capitalism is still ticking over happily and it is resilient enough to keep doing so even in the face of further attacks, I am sure. But the difference is there – survival vs progress. I work in the City of London and travelling on the London Underground does scare me now. Paranoia? Perhaps. The fact that I have to worry about it at all is another reason why this war is a matter for us and everybody in the Western world.

  • Nothing against assisting the US in the ‘war on terror’ against an identifiable, verifiable, and extremely dangerous threat. As Germany is being targeted despite its pacifistic policy, it is clear that playing ostrich will not work.

    I am just unsure if GB has taken sufficient time to differentiate its own interests from US in terms of other targets like Iraq and the ‘axis of evil’.

  • J. Austin Wilde

    A question for Mister Wiman:

    In the grand scheme of things, how many more lives will be lost by spending tax monies on more bloated, mismanaged government health care rather than on the vigorous prosecution of the war against those responsible for those 67 deaths? After all, if you don’t do anything to stop the terrorists, they will keep hitting you. And hitting you. And hitting you. And why shouldn’t they keep on swinging, since you’re not willing to hit back? Suddenly it’s not 67 innocent Britons murdered anymore. It’s hundreds. Then thousands.

  • molly

    I agree with Austin and Perry. Let people do something by force and they just keep doing it because they discover it works. So you have to prove to them not only does it not work but it can get them dead and in the case of loony muslims, cause their civilization to be bombed flat and then rebuilt with a stip club and a MacDonalds on every corner 🙂

  • Lucas, how many people would you let terrorists kill before trying to fight them? 100? 20,000? When does it become right to start fighting? How many have to die?

  • Peter, Let me reverse the question: would 1 death suffice to start a war? 2? 3? When do you start a war? It’s a fairly unanswerable question, which of course depends on your own views about war. Since I’m opposed to starting a war in general, the justification needs to be a lot stronger than a nongovernmental terrorist organization killed 3,000 number of our people.

    Austin, If the U.S. and Britain started spending the same amount of money that we spend on war on health care in Africa, Latin America, and the rest of the third world, then they could probably save lives by the hundreds of thousands. I’m not avocating this course (I think that private development in these countries is best in the long term), but it’s certainly something to think about. I find it extremely doubtful that the war on terror will “save” this many lives. In the end, it will probably lead to tens or hundreds of thousands of deaths. It may or may not reduce the risk of terrorism, but so far it’s not been very effective in that regime. As the attacks in Bali, the Philipines, Yemen and Kuwait show, the terrorists seem to be very active indeed. (I could also mention Tenet’s testimony to congress, but given the CIA’s glowing record of predictions under his adminstration, I think if he told me the sky was blue, I’d look up anyway.)

    Adriana, as usual, has some very insightful comments. The creation of terror is the purpose of of terrorist attacks, and can substantially hurt investment and growth (as it has in Israel). Whether this is a worthwhile reason to go to war will vary from person to person, but I think that with the relatively low level of terrorism we’ve seen so far, our response has been blown all out of proportion. Economic arguments for war have always seemed to lack any kind of morality to me, and my own fear of terrorist attacks is tempered by the fact that I’m much more likely to die in a car accident than a terrorist attack. More people reading this will also die of heart attacks than terrorist ones, but I’d bet few of you are doing the 4 hours a week of aerobic activity recommended by the American Medical Association. (I’m not really sure about that number, but it doesn’t matter that much). That reminds me, I’d better get to the gym 😉

  • Quentin Stephens

    Lucas, no deaths are needed. Put it another way, what if you stated that the number was N and N-1 were killed?

    You state that you are more likely to be killed in a car crash than a terrorist. This is true now, but if we don’t squash these terrorists now, then they will take heart and strike more and more and we will capitulate. Look at the IRA in Northern Ireland.

    Under what circumstances are *you* prepared to fight back? Your comments about healthcare are fatuous: billions have already been loaned and spent and most of the money has gone into the bank accounts of local potentates.

  • Quentin: you’re right that the number of deaths required to start a war is not well defined. That’s why I said that it was “a fairly unanswerable question, [and the answer to it] of course depends on your own views about war.” In any case, under the circumstances and from my point of view, such a small number of deaths seems like a bad reason to start a war.

    As regards the claims of “capitulation,” that’s a very ideologically charged term. It assumes that not starting a war over terrorism is giving in to the terrorists, yet most of the real gains against terrorists have been through police work throughout the world, and not through war.

    “Under what circumstances are *you* prepared to fight back?”

    I don’t know. It’s difficult for me to come up with any political reasons to kill others, but perhaps I would know them if I saw them. I might have fought in WWII, though I would have had moral troubles with killing Germans who had nothing to do with Hitler’s evil.

    Are you in the military, by chance?

    “billions have already been loaned and spent and most of the money has gone into the bank accounts of local potentates.”

    Quite true. However, if money were spent in the tens of billions on healthcare and not on these local potentates, then hundreds of thousands or millions of lives could be saved. This money could also do a lot of good in the hands of people from whom it was stolen in the first place.

  • I’m not going to agree or disagree with this war on al-Qaeda / terrorism / etc.

    But saying “So why are you willing to spend that amount of money in war over this many deaths?” seems really… I don’t know, insensitive. The victims’ families certainly cannot attach any value to the loss of their relatives.

    I’m not saying people can’t say things, but I’m thinking it could have been said a little, er, better? I hope people searching for news of their friends don’t find opinions that imply a dollar value can be attached to a life.

    I didn’t find that losing a friend in Bali made me more for a war, though. But that’s just me.

  • No, the victims families cannot attach any dollar value to their lost loved ones. On the other hand, war will not bring them back, and in matters of public policy money is important. We are constantly accepting certain losses because of economic reasons, and the amount of money is out of proportion to the problem.

    Would you spend an extra 10.000 pounds ($15,000) on a car which reduces your chance of dying by half? I would imagine not, unless you are extremely wealthy. There you put a price on your own life and the lives of your family. It’s painful, but necessary. Unless, that is, you want to be spending an unlimited amount of money on anything which might possibly make you a little bit safer.

    I’m saying the costs of war (i.e. the lives which could have been saved with the same amount of money) vastly outway the gains. Agree with that or not, but I don’t think it’s insensitive to think about saving lives, especially given my belief in the inherent immorality of war.

    Your statement about your friend is interesting, and it seems like the strongest argument I’ve heard against Perry’s post (if you’re at all representative of humanity, that is).

  • David Carr

    “On the other hand, war will not bring them back”

    No kidding!!?? Whenever I hear that fatuous statement I know that desperation is starting to set in.

    Of course, military action won’t bring back the victims of Bali or 9/11 but it may well prevent other casualties like them in the future. You may well consider war to be ‘inherently immoral’ but do you consider self-defence to be inherently immoral as well?

    Honestly, Lucas, I know that you’re a fellow libertarian but why is it that you sound increasingly like those pathetic leftist cretins that we both despise?

  • Your statement about your friend is interesting, and it seems like the strongest argument I’ve heard against Perry’s post (if you’re at all representative of humanity, that is).

    I’m not sure if what I said is meant to rebut anyone on this site, posters or commenters. I was just saying what I felt. I’d like to think I’m part of humanity… (o:

    Other people know better than me and have more points to argue for or against military action. I am an anti-war lefty, but i recognise that sometimes that sort of action is needed, despite the costs. So maybe I’m not an anti-war lefty, I don’t really know. Ahem.

    I guess the argument is whether or not any action against Iraq is really considered as self-defence. Sorry I’m not more enlightening.

  • Tom Burroughes

    I just caught up with the above thread after Perry’s initial post. I love Lucas’s phrase “remarkably small number”. Yes, I suppose compared to the IRA’s haul of thousands of dead over 30 years, the deaths in Rwanda, etc, it is “remarkably small”. But surely nit-picking over numbers in this case is fatuous. The intent of the killers was to demonstrate their total disregard for life and if they had been able to massacre many more, they would have done so. That surely is the whole point. Their INTENT was and remains mass murder. While one can legitimately debate HOW we respond to such attacks, to suggest we should wait until some particular mathmatical threshold is passed is daft.

  • “Honestly, Lucas, I know that you’re a fellow libertarian but why is it that you sound increasingly like those pathetic leftist cretins that we both despise?”

    I don’t know why pacifism and economic views are so frequently associated. It bothers me a lot, and I’ve been labeled a leftist at least once on this forum because of it. I was raised in the Mennonite church, and I’ve taken a lot of my political philosophy from them (though I’m an atheist now). The core beliefs that I took from them are personal good works, not government interventions in social ills, and pacifism. I remember when I was a child having conversations with an economics professor who was a member, and I learned a lot about economics from him. He is as devoit a free-marketeer as he is a pacifist.

    For reference, if I were a pathetic leftist cretin, I would have written something along the lines of the following: “The oppression of the proletarian by the ruling classes in the form of war has a long and troubling history. The ruling classes will stoop to any level to justify the deaths of proletarians in war. Whenever there is war, the rich get richer, while the working man dies. An end to war is possible if we working people force the bourgeois out of power. We have nothing to lose but our chains…” (this stuff is easy to come up with because there’s little substance to it)

    This is the kind of leftist drivel to which I’m frequently exposed on a college campus, and it’s why I’m not involved in any anti-war activism. No one there seems to take the cause of pacifism seriously, and rather want to use it as just another excuse to dislike Bush. The hypocrisy is really astounding. One sign at an anti-war rally that said “I won’t go to war because a rich white man says so” was in the hands of a white man with an Abercrombie & Fitch shirt, for example.

    As for your point, I think the fact that war doesn’t bring back loved ones means that we shouldn’t consider families’ greif very much in deciding to go to war. War won’t solve their problems, and public policy shouldn’t be based upon knee-jerk reactions like an urge for revenge. If it’s determined that a war could save more lives than it costs, then perhaps it’s the right course, but the fact that X people died is not terrifically relevant to whether we should go to war or not.

    (p.s. Please forgive any spelling errors. It’s a little early in the morning for me)

  • Tom Burroughes

    Would agree with Lucas’s point that public policy should not be based on thirst for revenge. But responding to the slaughter in Bali or New York is not revenge. It is self-preservation.

    As for the point about pacifism, there is indeed a long and generally honorable tradition of classical liberals, exemplified by such folk as the 19 th century free trader Richard Cobden, who loathed war and who believed that free markets and pacifist attitudes went hand in hand. Well, maybe. The trouble is that the islamo-nihilists won’t let us be. And even if the West were to adhere to a strictly isolationist foreign policy, the maniacs would not leave us alone. Quite the opposite. The sheer prosperity and dynamism of a minimal-statist libertarian civilisation would be a standing challenge to the Islamo-nihilists and would surely encourage them in their murderous campaign.

    And that is why I feel, sadly, that the dividing line between pacifism and delusion is very blurry indeed.

  • I would still call it so-called. Does the fight against Al-Qaeda exist anymore?

    If you’re point is that 93 British people died so England should be enganged then on principle I agree.

    By the way you sounded very American at the end there.
    Americans – usually on the right strangely enough – are always saying – why not let Europe/Africa/Pakistan/pick a hotspot “let them sort out their own problems.

    I’m sorry I always seem to check in a couple of days later after the fact.

  • You know, I can’t seem to find Lucas’s answer to the question, “How many more deaths before it is ok?” Apparently to him, It’s ok to have thousands of civilians slaughtered as long as one has free health care. May I suggest, then, moving to Nazi Germany where both occured?

  • First of all, Nick, I’m not in favor of free health care. I think the idea is ludicrous (look at Oregon’s $20,000,000,000/year universal health care program for a recent American example), but I think the idea of going to war is even more so. As I said, the question of “how many deaths before war?” is a meaningless question.

    I should have said “under these circumstances, this seems like a remarkably small number of people to start a war over.” Under these circumstances, I think it quite reasonable to not go to war despite thousands of civilian deaths. Al Qaeda is a criminal organization, and should be treated as such. None of the thousands of civilians we have killed so far in the pursuit of the war on terror was involved in the 9/11 attacks, but we killed them anyway.

    It is different in that the military didn’t target civilians, but I doubt it felt very different to the people we killed.

  • David Carr


    I keep hearing the same points again and again from the peace-at-any-price crowd, most notably that this should be treated as criminality not war. It’s not a solution it’s a cop-out (scuse pun).

    To pursue Islamic terrorists as criminals (which is also being done, incidentally) involves the use of state power, uniformed agents, guns and killing people who get in the way. War by other means. Also, I cannot help but notice that when they are pursued as criminals the anti-war faction whine about that as well!!

  • Andy

    I believe that it’s worth noting that the USA did not act against Al-Qaeda after several attacks (Naval attack + African embassy) attributed to the organisation. With the benefit of hindsight many people would conclude that that inaction was a mistake. How many lives does it take to justify a war is the wrong question. How many lives does it take to legitimise a war in the eyes of world opinion? That’s easy: about 3000 and two big buildings dissappearing on our television sets. On the Sunday morning after Bali I was very annoyed to find that it wasn’t being treated terribly seriously (I very nearly sent an indignant email to the radio station I was listening to who continued with their jokes). Later that week I learned that someone I knew had been lost (Lucy Empson). Her funeral is on Monday. Her parents want it to be a celebration of her life. Freedom and liberty is something worth celebrating and cherishing and fighting for. Not every wrong can be righted, and it will always be a fact of life that economics dictate that not every life will be extended with all the health care that can be provided. But to do nothing in the face of terrorism (actual and potential) is for all of us to lose some of our of individual liberty. Democratic societies can be freedom fighters too!