A Uniquely Guardian Exercise in Rebranding Terrorism

One of the more tricky tasks which confronts adherents to the Guardian World View is the by now almost quotidian need to re-brand terror.   After all, there’s a limit to how effective words such as ‘freedom fighters’, ‘resistance’ or ‘militants’ can be in trying to explain away and rationalise fusions of mangled metal, shattered glass and human flesh.

One alternative method is to call in an ‘expert’, and so we see the Guardian reprinting an article on January 24th by Robert Grenier which appeared the day before over at the site of the Guardian’s new best buddy Al Jazeera, where Grenier is quite a frequent contributor.

Now of course I am not a ‘former government practitioner’ (that’s polite-speak for ‘sacked ex-CIA spook’) and I do not get invited to speak at Al Jazeera conferences together with people such as Robert Fisk, Osama Hamdan, Robert Malley, Seumas Milne, Abdel Bari Atwan, Daniel Levy, Wakil Ahmad Muttawakil, Azmi Beshara or Ibrahim Mossavi. Neither am I a big cheese in an international security firm, but I nevertheless recognise a terrorist when I meet one – obviously unlike Mr Grenier.

Yasser Arafat, by contrast, had never permanently abjured violence. He continued to calibrate repression of the most violent elements among his people with the threat of armed resistance to Israel, and when he felt his political needs were being frustrated, he was willing to turn his Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades loose and to empty the jails, allowing nature to take its course. At the end he was again labelled a terrorist by the west; few would meet him; and his final days were spent surrounded and alone, besieged in squalid defiance.”

It should be remembered that the predominantly accepted narrative outside the occupied territories themselves was that Arafat had gone badly wrong, that he wasn’t sincere about peace, that if only he had abandoned his militant roots and acted in good faith to “end terror”, he might have succeeded in winning peace and justice for his people.”

Yes folks; he really did write that! Poor old Yasser – labeled a terrorist by the West, and for what? Well in the minds of people such as Grenier, it’s all about narrative. Thousands of dead Israelis mean nothing. $900 million of stolen funds to bankroll suicide bombings – a mere trifle. Decades of dragging his people into unnecessary violent conflict and the cultivation of a repressive and corrupt society ruled by gangs with guns – purely an oversight and certainly no reason not to join him for tea.

When he’s not engaged in whitewashing one of the world’s most infamous terrorists, Robert Grenier busies himself trying to persuade the world to embrace others who follow devoutly in Arafat’s footsteps and berating those Palestinian leaders who actually have made attempts, however reluctantly, to rein in terrorism.

“Thus, the one core component of the Palestinian state-building project since the signing of the Oslo accords in 1993, insisted upon by Israelis and Americans alike, has been for the Palestinians to establish full control over radical elements who might not abjure violence in pursuit of Palestinian aims, and to demonstrate the willingness and ability to identify, track down and arrest or kill anyone involved in terrorism – even as very broadly defined to include those who, in other times and places, would be seen as engaged in legitimate armed resistance to oppression.”

Just what kind of a functioning state can be built without its citizens rejecting terrorism and why anyone else should agree to be neighbours with a country which didn’t renounce violence as a way of life is frankly beyond me. Maybe Grenier’s long years in Islamabad have caused him to forget how a normative country works and acts.

However, I can say that I am very relieved not to be a client of the ERG Partners security firm; I wouldn’t want my life to be dependent upon a company whose chairman idolizes and re-brands terrorists.

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