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August 03, 2005

Response To "Discreet Charm of Terrorist Cause"

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(Poster’s Note: Graydon Wilson’s Response to “The Discreet
Charm Of The Terrorist Cause”. The original article is
also included. Jay)

Oh, my, Annie. What a tale you tell. My, my, my. Your
biased slip is showing.

When you wrote about people in one country supporting
revolutionists in another country, you forgot to mention
the French having supported the American colonists, who
suffered far, far less under the heel of British oppression
than have the Irish, and their suffering spanned a far, far
shorter interim than has been the case in Ireland.

And when you bandy about the word "terrorist" so casually,
perhaps you would do well to remember that that the British
called George Washington a murderer and a terrorist. A
couple hundred years later, they were still at the same
game, calling Menachem Begin a murderer and a terrorist,
also, and later on called Idi Amin a trusted soldier.

And when you talk about Maggie Thatcher asking Ronnie
Reagan to disrupt American support for Ireland, you might
do well to remember that, at the very same moment, Ronnie
was supporting terrorists in Guatamala, Honduras and El
Salvador and Maggie was supporting the very same terrorists
who murdered lawyer Pat Finucane in his home while he sat
at Sunday dinner with his family.

Yeah, Annie, I'd say your credibility is shot. Like any
flim-flam artist, you can sell your shoddy goods to people
who don't know the subject. But not here, darlin'. Nope.

Graydon Wilson
Post Office Box 3084
Burlington, Vermont 05401-3084


The Discreet Charm Of The Terrorist Cause

By Anne Applebaum
Wednesday, August 3, 2005; Page A19

Since the bombing attacks in London last month, a welter of
columnists, writers, talking heads and ordinary people have
puzzled over the mystery of British Muslims, one in four of
whom recently told pollsters that they sympathize with the
July 7 suicide bombers.

The idea that British Muslims, whose parents received
asylum, found jobs, and made lives in Britain, could be so
deeply affected by the "oppression" of Muslims in countries
they have never visited seems incomprehensible. The notion
that events in distant deserts should lead the middle-class
inhabitants of London or Leeds to admire terrorists seems
inexplicable. But why should this phenomenon be so
incomprehensible or inexplicable, at least to Americans? We
did, after all, once tolerate a similar phenomenon

I am talking about the sympathy for the Irish Republican
Army that persisted for decades in some Irish American
communities and is only now fading away. Like British
Muslim support for Muslim extremist terrorism, Irish
American support for Irish terrorism came in many forms.
There were Irish Americans who waved the Irish flag once a
year on St. Patrick's Day and admired the IRA's cause but
felt queasy about the methods. There were Irish Americans
who collected money for Catholic charities in Northern
Ireland without condoning the IRA at all. There were also
Irish Americans who, while claiming to be "aiding the
families of political prisoners," were in fact helping to
arm IRA terrorists. Throughout the 1970s, until Prime
Minister Margaret Thatcher asked President Ronald Reagan to
stop them, they were the IRA's primary source of funding.
And even after that they were widely tolerated.

I concede there is one major difference: The Irish
terrorists were setting off their bombs across the ocean
and not in New York or Boston, which somehow made the whole
thing seem less real. But in Britain the explosions were
real enough. In 1982 -- the year an IRA bomb killed eight
people in Hyde Park -- four IRA men were arrested in New
York after trying to buy surface-to-air missiles from an
FBI agent. In 1984 -- the year the IRA tried to kill the
whole British cabinet in Brighton -- an IRA plot to smuggle
seven tons of explosives was foiled, an action that led to
the arrests of several Americans. As recently as 1999, long
after the IRA had declared its cease-fire, members of an
IRA group connected to an American organization, the Irish
Northern Aid Committee (Noraid), were arrested for gun-
running in Florida.

The range of Americans who were unbothered by this sort of
thing was surprisingly wide. Some were members of Congress,
such as Republican Rep. Peter King of Long Island, who
stayed with IRA supporters on visits to Northern Ireland
and drank at a Belfast club called the Felons, whose
members were all IRA ex-cons. Some were born in Ireland,
such as Michael Flannery, Noraid's founder, who once said
that "the more British soldiers sent home from Ulster in
coffins, the better," and whose flattering obituary in 1995
described him as a man who "treated everyone he met with
gentle respect." Some were Americans of Irish descent, such
as Tom McBride, a businessman who is still the chairman of
the Hartford chapter of Noraid, and who still refuses to
condemn IRA terrorism. "I think they are protecting a
segment of the population that needs to be protected," he
told me over the phone.

Nor were these opinions irrelevant. The Irish journalist
Conor O'Clery, who has followed Irish-American relations
for more than a decade, says the IRA has "always looked to
the diaspora for moral backing" as well as money. That
meant that when, in the 1990s, prominent Irish Americans
began to advocate "constitutional nationalism" (meaning the
political process) instead of "armed struggle" (meaning
terrorism), the views of many in Northern Ireland shifted,
too. The IRA's announcement last week that it would finally
abandon armed struggle was at least partly the result of a
decade of Irish American pressure. Which means, of course,
that if Irish American pressure had been applied much
earlier, the whole thing might have been over long ago.

My point here isn't really about Northern Irish politics,
however, but about the extraordinarily powerful appeal of
foreign, "revolutionary," "idealistic" violence to the
inhabitants of otherwise peaceful societies. You don't have
to be Muslim, or poor, or an extremist, to feel the
romantic pull of terrorism. You can be a middle-class
American and a lapsed Catholic whose grandmother happened
to come from Donegal.

But the appeal of foreign violence can also be destroyed,
or at least reduced, if community leaders agree that they
want that to happen. If British Muslims deploy every one of
their religious, civic and business institutions, they may,
over time, be able to eliminate the climate of tolerance
that made the London bombings possible, just as Irish
Americans -- as well as Rep. King, who has now called on
the IRA to disband -- eventually helped eliminate the
climate of tolerance around the IRA. And if they don't --
there will always be recruits willing to die for a
glamorous foreign cause.

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