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Are they all mad?

Many of Tony Blair's former comrades defend not democracy but mass-murdering fascists and head-lopping Islamists.YES, Tony Blair did sound good when he spoke to our Parliament on Monday about Iraq.

No wonder the commentators were awed.But here's his trick: it's easy for the British Labour Prime Minister to sound so sane, because much of the rest of the Left sounds so mad.

I mean, did you hear writer Robert Fisk, in a special ABC broadcast of his speech just the night before, suggest the September 11 attacks may have been the work of . . . Americans?

What on earth has happened to the Left when it has made a conspiracy monger like Fisk one of the hottest speakers on our literary and activist circuit, and a best-selling author and much-petted guest on the ABC?

To contrast him here to Blair is to see that the true icon of the Left is now not the red flag but the white coat.

Poor Blair, who thought he was of the Left himself, has trouble understanding why many of his former comrades now defend not democracy, but mass-murdering fascists and head-lopping Islamists.

In his speech to the joint sitting of our Parliament, he rightly said Islamist terrorists were ideologues "at war with us and our way of life".

But in a little-noted aside, he added: "Their case is that democracy is a Western concept we are forcing on an unwilling culture of Islam. The problem we have is that a part of opinion in our own countries agrees with them."

He's talking of his own Left here, and warns: "The strain of, frankly, anti-American feeling in parts of European and in world politics is madness when set against the long-term interests of the world we believe in."

Madness? That brings me to Fisk, the ABC darling. But let me first describe the rank garden in which he thrives.

It was always going to be hard for Leftists to find ways to excuse the terrorists with whom we in the capitalist West are now at war. For many this strain of excusing the inexcusable has become just too much.

At first the cracks appeared only on fringes of the rational world, like France, where Thierry Meyssan, head of a Left-leaning think-tank, in 2002 wrote a book suggesting it wasn't a plane at all that hit the Pentagon on September 11. No, it was a cruise missile.

And the planes that hit the World Trade Centre weren't hijacked but piloted by remote control. And, you guessed it, it was all the work of people "from inside the American state apparatus".

The claims of his L'Effroyable Imposture (The Frightening Fraud) were easily disproved -- see, for instance, www.popularmechanics.com -- but of course the facts didn't matter.

This wasn't about reason but hate, so the book quickly sold 200,000 copies in France alone and is now translated into 28 languages. The fantasy it spun span like a dervish in Muslim countries.

American activist filmmaker Michael Moore then produced his own blame-America fantasy in Fahrenheit 9-11, showing President George W. Bush as a shyster who'd been bought off by Saudi oil tycoons, and thus didn't chase the real villains of September 11. And they weren't al-Qaida, but . . . his Saudi mates.

As for Iraq, what a peaceful, loving place it was under Saddam Hussein. See the children playing before the Americans bombed them!

This sleazy stuff went down so well that Moore won the top prize at the Cannes Film Festival, and was given a seat in the box of former US president Jimmy Carter at the Democrat convention.

It seemed you could tell any crazy lie to smear the US, and you'd be praised as a truth-teller. And so our own SBS ran a French documentary, The World According to Bush, arguing that Bush attacked Iraq just "for the benefit of Israel", because he was a "political whore" who was a puppet of Jews and Christian Zionists. Goebbels couldn't have put it better.

When such mad material is circulated even by state-funded broadcasters in the West, it's no surprise to find the same lines turning up in the mouths of "politically aware" actors.

Cue Charlie Sheen, the Spin City star, who this month hinted darkly that the September 11 attacks were really an inside job, with Bush perhaps in on "some sort of rehearsal".

"It seems to me like 19 amateurs with boxcutters taking over four commercial airliners and hitting 75 per cent of their targets, that feels like a conspiracy theory," he said.

Consider the first plane to hit the World Trade Centre: "There was a feeling, it just didn't look like any commercial jetliner I've flown on any time in my life and then when the buildings came down later on that day I said to my brother, 'Call me insane, but did it sorta look like those buildings came down in a controlled demolition?' "

Of course, Sheen is just a dumb actor, right? No serious person of the Left would say he'd speak for them.

Robert Fisk, however, is a veteran British foreign correspondent and author living in Beirut and now working for the London Independent.

He has countless fans among the Left, especially in Australia, where he is a regular on ABC programs such as Lateline and Phillip Adams' Late Night Live.

Just this month he was a guest of Adelaide's Writers Festival and gave a long lecture at Sydney University that was broadcast in full on the ABC on Sunday.

Osama bin Laden would be delighted, I'm sure, since the al-Qaida leader in 2004 urged us to listen especially to Fisk because "I consider him to be neutral". And he'd be even happier to hear Fisk's message to us.

Apparently every bad thing in the Middle East is our fault. Said Fisk: "I see this immense world of injustice . . . and I must say given our constant interference in the Middle East, I'm amazed that Muslims have been so restrained."

In fact, so "restrained" are they that Fisk isn't sure how much they can be blamed even for September 11.

He often spoke in the US, he said, and "more and more people in the audience believe the American administration had some kind of involvement".

"I have to say before you clap (indeed, some in his audience were applauding) I don't have any proof of that.

"I mean, the worst I can envisage is that they know something was coming and they preferred it to happen so that their strategy could be put into place."

(Hmm. What sinister strategy would that be, Bob?)

But Fisk could not leave it even at that: "Serious people across the States are asking -- people in Iowa, for God's sake -- are asking me in letters, 'What really happened? How did those buildings fall so neatly down?'

"And I can't answer them except to say I am in Beirut and not New York and I can't investigate this. But there are a lot of things we don't know, a lot of things we're not going to be told."

Like this, perhaps: that although we've read that United Airlines flight 93 crashed when its passengers tackled their hijackers, Fisk thinks "perhaps the plane was hit by a missile". An American missile.

"We still don't know," he claimed.

Don't think such insidious conspiracy mongering is new to Fisk. Only a month ago he told Lateline it was "not logical" to believe Iraqis were killing Iraqis, and that "the real question" was "who are these people trying to provoke civil war?".

Fisk's hint? "Who pays the militia men who make up the death squads? We do, the occupation authorities.

"I'd like to know what the Americans are doing to get at the people who are trying to provoke the civil war. It seems to me not very much." Those evil Americans again.

Unlike Sheen, Fisk can't be dismissed as just another crank who represents no one.

He is welcome in almost any ABC studio even today, his documentaries are reverentially presented on SBS, his books sell well in modish shops, and even at the end of his bizarre Sydney speech, the audience gave him a long and loving ovation.

This is the kind of madness in the Left that so worries Blair. And if it worries even a leader of that Left, it sure frightens me.


# reads: 313

Original piece is http://www.heraldsun.news.com.au/common/story_page/0,5478,18636966%255E25717,00.html


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