I see my dear old friend Ed Moloney has been writing about when it makes sense to negotiate with terrorists. Ed and I, as they say, go back a long way - back to the days when Anthony McIntyre was a republican critic to be reckoned with. That is to say, he was critical of republicans other than himself and a few mates because he didn’t think they – all the other republicans – were republican enough. I wrote a piece about Anthony in the late lamented Daily Ireland and almost immediately got an emotional and tired email from Ed on the other side of the Atlantic, telling me that if anything were to happen to Mr McIntyre, I’d be responsible. Cheesh. We then had a kind of verbal war for a while on the pages of DI, which was good fun but irrelevant to this blog.
Right. Ed’s now giving his thoughts to the issue of negotiating with terrorists and is waving the flag for Mitchell Reiss, over whom Ed is weak with admiration. You see, Reiss figures that the time to negotiate with terrorists is when you know and they know that they’re not going to win, before that there’s no point. All of which is relevant to the agonising now going on in the US as to whether they should negotiate with the Taliban. Do they see the futility of their cause, do they have a single leader (like Gerry Adams) with whom negotiations can take place? Dick Cheney didn’t go in for any such softy stuff. The US, he has declared, doesn’t negotiate with ‘evil’. The US defeats evil.
Sometimes when you read about the American right-wing, you figure you must have fallen down a rabbit-hole and are now in an Alice-in-Wonderland situation where things are their opposite. Post-war US foreign policy has been what looks very like a series of disasters – Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia, Iraq, Afghanistan - which have left millions dead and nothing really changed. Yet the cry still goes up: It’s Good vs Evil, Us vs Them. We got the same here for years from the DUP – until, that is, Big Ian realised it was McGuinness or worse, and hopped into shared-power. Before that republicans were so evil and the DUP so good, a single studio couldn’t contain them because that would have been to mingle darkness and light.
Maybe the American right could make a start by doing some thinking about the word ‘terrorist’ (and the DUP, come to that). A couple of hundred thousand civilians dead in Hiroshima and Nagasaki – who was terrorising who there? Fifty thousand Americans dead in Vietnam, some two million Vietnamese – who was terrorising who there? That shock-and-awe assault on Baghdad - who was terrorising who there?
Until the Americans can face the facts about their role as well as image in the world, the political moral debate is going nowhere. Not even with my good chum Ed out and pushing.