Sunday, September 19, 2004

So Dublin must be equivalent to Tehran, then?

Where does Karl Rove get the idea that there's an analogy between Northern Ireland and Dubya's War on Terror? A few weeks ago, we had the spectacle of Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble professing mystification about this question, even though, the answer is essentially: because, David, you told him. Perhaps the peddlers of the analogy had to lie low for a little while after that embarrassment, but Mark Steyn can't be held back any longer. He's at it again in today's Sunday Telegraph, house organ of the old world branch of the VRC.

He begins with one of the standard VRC points -- the liberal media has managed to squelch the astonishing news that most Iraqis are not dead, and therefore that Dubya's invasion is going brillliantly. And what about those parts of the country where there is trouble? Well, as Mark has said before, it's just like the UK, with Northern Ireland as the most troublesome part. But he takes it up a notch with this allusion:

Do you remember that moment of Fallujah-like depravity in Ulster a few years ago? Two soldiers were yanked from a cab in the wrong part of town and torn apart by a Republican mob. A terrible, shaming episode in the wretched annals of Northern Irish nationalists.

We had noted this comparison at the time of the Fallujah incident, but what comes through as much as anything here is Mark's sheer laziness -- somewhere in the back of his head he knows that there was some incident in Belfast that sounded a bit like the Fallujah mob, but he couldn't be bothered to look it "a few years ago" (when it was actually nearly 20), "two a cab" (which leaves out all the details of how they wound up in the cab). [all explained in our linked post]

In fact we suspect that the only reason the original Belfast incident is fresh in Mark's mind is because the Northern Irish legal system finally just managed to get a conviction in the murder of the solicitor who had successfully represented one of the accused members of the Belfast mob -- a case that raises the spectre of collusion between reactionary paramilitaries and the security forces, which is a likely scenario for a near-term Iraq. But that's not the kind of cheery prospect Mark would want to talk about.

If there's anything new in this column, it's the further evidence that Mark's sheltered life in the welfare program for Canadian hacks (= Hollinger International) has made him such a useless pundit on terrorism issues. Because when he tries to argue that most of Britain was able to function oblivious to the troubles in Northern Ireland, he's either factually wrong or hopelessly shallow (unless, as Andrew Sullivan seems to argue when he links to the column, Steyn is just being his usual funny self; Atrios is not amused though). On the part where he's just wrong:

The Sunni Triangle, meanwhile, looks like being the fledgling Iraqi federation's Northern Ireland for a while to come. That's a pity. But, if you can quarantine it, the difference between it and the rest of the country will become starker, month by month.

The notion that terrorism was quarantined in Northern Ireland will come as news to residents of Birmingham, Manchester, and London, just to pull three most of the obvious ones out of the last thirty years.

His more general claim is that people still do stuff in countries where there is terrorism. Mark thinks this is because terrorism can be easily isolated. But it's because people adapt to it. Israelis still get on buses and go to restaurants. Baghdad's citizens go back to the market that was bombed a few days beforehand. People in Belfast still go out for pints. It all looks very jolly viewed through the Fox News prism, but that doesn't make it another offering at the Adoration of the Dubya.

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