23 FEBRUARY 2002, Page 19


Mark Steyn takes issue with EU Marshal

Chris Petain, Stephen Glover and other sodaphobes

New Hampshire SAY what you like about those wacky Islamofascists but at least they revile America as the Great Satan. By contrast, to Europe, America is now and for ever the Great Moron. So it was inevitable that, when George W. Bush started going on about his 'axis of evil', this would be just another excuse for cartoonists in the Rest of the West to depict him as a bozo in a triangular (Iraq–Iran–North Korea) dunce's cap. To Chris Patten, this sort of rhetoric is unhelpfully 'absolutist' and in 'unilateralist overdrive': to Hubert Vedrine (the French foreign minister, apparently), it's 'absurd' and 'simplistic — on which Jo Johnson expands in these pages.

The formal state-department handbook says that, on being insulted by European grandees. administration officials should endeavour not to titter, but even Colin Powell, Mister Moderate himself, is having a hard job keeping a straight face. Invited to respond to Mr Patten, the general said, 'I shall have a word with him, as they say in Britain.' Invited to respond to M. Vedrine. he suggested the poor fellow was 'getting the vapours'. In neither case did he think it was worth taking on their arguments, such as they are. The 'axis of evil' is actually a pretty sophisticated construct. When the Rest of the West protests that it's not an `axis', they're missing the point. It's like the new Ocean's Eleven: they're not really buddies, but they've been cast together in a remake of an old-time buddy caper. Ocean's has George Clooney, the ultimate smooth operator, Brad Pitt, the all-purpose conman, and Don Cheadle, the black guy who's there to make up the numbers. In the axis of evil, these roles are played respectively by Iraq, Iran and North Korea, who, like Cheadle, is mainly there for ethnic variety. Iran's on the list just because Washington sees nothing to lose in messin' a little with the mullahs' heads. As for Saddam, it's true that Iraq doesn't seem to have been as directly involved in al-Qa'eda operations as, say, the Metropolitan County of the West Midlands, or whatever Heatho-Walkerian administrative unit Tipton is presently consigned to. But the administration intends to have a new Iraqi president visiting Washington and sitting up in the gallery by the time of Bush's next State of the Union address in January (the Hamid Karzai role's already been cast), and, if they have to snub Chris Patten to achieve their goal, then by jingo they're prepared to do so.

Sixty years ago, another simple-minded absolutist was in unilateralist overdrive. George Winston Bush was in Downing Street filling the air with inflammatory cowboy rhetoric about 'a monstrous tyranny never surpassed in the dark, lamentable catalogue of human crime'. Meanwhile, on the Continent, EU Marshal Chris Petain was deploring this crude talk of 'the abyss of a new Dark Age' as frankly unhelpful and certainly not as effective as 'constructive engagement' with 'moderate elements' in the Third Reich. At decisive moments in human history, someone has to be simple, someone has to be primal. For two crucial years in the mid-20th century, the British Empire played that role alone, and in so doing saved the world.

This is one of those moments. If Osama had had a nuke on 11 September, he'd have used it. Maybe Saddam wouldn't, maybe he'd be more rational. But, honestly, I'd rather not wait to find out. As for Iran, consider a recent speech by Hashemi Rafsanjani, the former president and now head of the Expediency Council, which sounds like an EU foreign-policy agency but is, in fact, Iran's highest religious body. Rafsanjani said that on that fast approaching day when the Muslim world gets nuclear weapons the Israeli question will be settled for ever 'since a single atomic bomb has the power to completely destroy Israel, while an Israeli counter-strike can only cause partial damage to the Islamic world'.

Unlike Chris Petain, I take these guys at their word. The EU supposedly fears massive 'destabilisation' of the Muslim world. I say, bring it on, baby. If we don't destabilise them now, they're going to be destablilising us the day after tomorrow. The population of the Middle East is growing at a rate six times faster than that of Western Europe, whose populations are either stagnant or declining. Islam is turning out ever greater legions of poorly educated young men with little or no economic opportunity at home and every incentive to head to Frankfurt or Marseilles or Luton and drift into Islamic terrorism while living off Euro welfare. The refusal of the Continent's political class to adjust its support for Yasser Arafat no matter how many Israeli bat mitzvahs get blown up by suicide bombers may strike many Americans as repugnant, but it has a compelling demographic logic about it if you look at even the official figures for Muslim immigration to Europe. If Washington isn't getting much support for its plans to take out Saddam now, France and Germany and co. are going to be a lot less keen in five or ten years. If it were done, then 'tw-ere well it were done quickly.

That's why I find it slightly perplexing to have my colleague Matthew Parris characterising my support for America's war as in some way unBritish. In the choice he posits between 'America' and the 'Rest of the World'. [bet on form. Of the 20th century's three global conflicts — the First, Second and Cold Wars — who was on the right side each time? Germany: one out of three. Italy: two out of three. For a perfect triple, there's only Britain, America, Canada, Australia, New Zealand. Even now, with their military capabilities shrivelled to almost nothing, the only guys actually on the ground in any combat role with the Americans are the British, Aussie and Kiwi SAS boys and Canada's JTF2, I think there's something to be said for being on the right side of history. In that sense, in my argument with the swelling ranks of Speccie and Telegraph doubters, I'm not the loud-mouthed Yank; I'm the British traditionalist.

Alas, Britain is no longer as British as I am. 'Night after night,' wrote Salman Rushdie in the New York Times recently, 'I have found myself listening to Londoners' diatribes against the sheer weirdness of the American citizenry. The attacks on America are routinely discounted. ("Americans only care about their own dead.") American patriotism, obesity, emotionality, selfcenteredness: these are the crucial issues.'

Just so. Not Our Kind Of People. Lardbutts. U! S! A! U! S! A! Healing. Closure. Would you like fries with that? Vulgar, vulgar, vulgar. In September, Maulana Inyadullah, one of the more quotable jihadi holed up in the Greater Kandahar area, nailed it perfectly in this pithy soundbite for the Daily Telegraph: 'The Americans love Pepsi-Cola, we love death.'

The sodaphobe knew his audience well. You can almost hear Chris Patten, Hubert Vedrine, Lionel Jospin and a thousand others stampeding to agree: 'Exactly! We hate Pepsi-Cola, too!' I think of a telling vignette I caught on TV one bank holiday in London a decade or so back. Sir Edward Heath had looked in on a constituency fete and been inveigled into conducting the local marching band. Unfortunately, they were playing 'Hey. Look Me Over!', which, as I'm sure all Spectator readers will know, was introduced by Lucille Ball in the musical Wildcat! Sir Ted held the baton like it was a piece of dog turd as his cheery constituents blasted out Cy Coleman's showtune in all its brassy, confident, highstepping Amen

can ghastliness. A look of almost physical revulsion crept across his face, as if to say, this is what happens when you let the masses pick the programme. For someone like Ted Heath, conservatism is as much about restraining the people's right to 'pursue happiness' as liberating it.

For more than five months now, a continuous stream of preposterous criticism of the Americans has had at its core the assumption that such a demotic culture must necessarily be a profoundly stupid one. Yet funnily enough, it's the sophisticates who keep getting everything wrong: the Arab street will rise up! Musharraf will be overthrown! The Taleban will never surrender! Millions will starve! Thousands of Afghan civilians are dead! (Not true: see below.) There's evidently a powerful psychological need among the non-American Western elites to believe that, if America is big, it must also be blundering; if it's powerful, it must also be clumsy; if it's technologically superior, it must also be morally inferior. Hence the frenzied rush to accuse America of 'torture' in Guantanamo, a camp where the medical staff outnumber the prisoners. Atrocious, eh? I bet Rose Addis is glad she didn't get shipped there rather than the Whittington.

In September, I wrote here that one of the consequences of that awful day would he the end of Nato. Under Nato, America has over-guaranteed European security, reducing the Rest of the West to the status of a neurotic girlfriend you can never quite shake off, the sort who insists on moving into r'our pad and then keeps yakking about how she needs her space. Officially, the ROTVy' is side by side with America in the 'War on Terrorism'. In practice, its principal contribution to the team effort seems to be sitting on the sidelines watching the Americans skate all over the rink and then handing them a succession of cranky 4.3s. That's where Mr Inyadullah's Pepsi line isn't quite right. America is Coca-Cola, the market leader. It would benefit from a Pepsi, a credible number two — emphasis on the 'credible'. Paavo Lipponen, the Finnish Prime Minister, was in London last week and gave a speech arguing that 'the EU must not develop into a military superpower but must become a great power that will not take up arms at any occasion in order to defend its own interests'. Perhaps it lost something in translation.

As for Mr Inyadullah's choice between Pepsi and death, Professor Glenn Reynolds, America's Instapundit, remarked the other week, 'Well, it's January and I'm drinking a Pepsi and Mr Inyadullah is probably dead.' So things worked out swell for both parties. It's only the Europeans who find themselves agonisingly caught between Iraq and a soft drink.

A note on civilian deaths: My colleague Stephen Glover stands by his assertion that Bush and Rumsfeld have killed more Afghans than Osama killed Americans. This statistic derives from the work of Marc Herold, a Women's Studies professor at the University of New Hampshire (my tax dollars at work, I regret to say), whose study of civilian casualties in Afghanistan put the death toll at a little over 4,000. John Pilger insouciantly rounded this up to 5,000, and I fully expected it to rise over the weeks as spectacularly as Enron stock in the late Nineties..

Professor Herold's general methodology seems to be that if, on Wednesday morning, the Peshawar Bugle, the Baghdad Courier and the Des Moines Register each report that 20 people were killed overnight, that adds up to a total death toll of 60. I'd mentioned that even Human Rights Watch put civilian fatalities at around 1,000, and Stephen Glover promptly called up a spokesperson at HRWs London office to chastise me for conjuring this figure up out of thin air. 'We're very cross with Mark Steyn,' she told Stephen. 'We've never released figures for civilian fatalities in Afghanistan, nor have we speculated. It's all utterly made-up.'

Actually. I got that figure of 1,000 from the HRW New York office, which offered it as a 'rough estimate' to Murray Campbell in a Canadian Press story of 3 January. His report appeared in several North American papers from Toronto to Seattle, and no one from HRW went around huffing that they were 'very cross' with Mr Campbell. The Associated Press, after studying fatalities reported by Afghan hospitals and tracking down families named in casualty reports, has come up with a civilian death toll of 600 or more. It also quotes Afghan spokesmen who say the Taleban required them to exaggerate numbers. Reuters estimates 1,000. The Project for Defense Alternatives (a leftie group) reckons somewhere between 1,000 and 1,300. Even Professor Herold has revised his figures, abandoning his total of 4,050 and now placing the total between 3,000 and 3,600. So here's the current Hit Parade at a glance:

Associated Press: 600 Reuters: 1,000 Human Rights Watch (New York): 1.000 Project for Defense Alternatives: 1,000-1.300 Professor Marc Herold (UNH): 3.000-3,600 The Spectator (Stephen Glover): 4,000 The Mirror (John Pilger): 5.000 Professor Noam Chomslcy: 7,000,00(1*

(*Cautious estimate ventured in a speech in New Delhi in the middle of the campaign; it may be higher by now.)

Right now, I'd say the balance of probability favours the AP-Reuters-HRW-PDA end of the scale rather than the GloveroPilgerian-Chomskyite end.