Of all the total non-stories reported by the British media since 9/11 – the brutal Afghan winter, the non-existent Jenin massacre – has there ever been a bigger waste of space than the column inches devoted to “Bush: God Told Me to Invade Iraq”? That was the Independent’s headline. The Guardian, like the Indy, led with a front-page picture of the President aglow in his own personal halo, but preferred the caption: “George Bush believes he is on a mission from God.” And my old comrade Mark Lawson piled on with a full columnar sneer at the President’s “Manichean convictions”.
The source for this story was essentially a BBC press release for a forthcoming documentary. Nabil Shaath, the so-called Palestinian “foreign minister”, told them (the BBC) that Bush told him (Shaath) that God told him (Bush) to invade Iraq and Afghanistan. The White House said this was “absurd” and the only other Palestinian present at that meeting, Mahmoud Abbas, has denied Shaath’s account of the conversation. As evidence of Bush’s “Manichean convictions”, the whole thing’s a lot of Manichean piss, as the Belgians would say.
One suspects a few of those excitable British editors realised that, even as they stampeded to the picture desk to work up some shots of the President looking insanely beatific under the “It’s Official: Bush ‘Religious Nut’ Says Respected Palestinian Intifada Apologist” headlines. One day, when they’re sifting through the ruins of post-Christian Europe, archaeologists will marvel at the energy expended on the gleeful mockery of open religiosity.
Well, not all religiosity, of course. If there’s anything worth jeering at or condescending to about a certain other big-time religion much in the news these days, the lads at the Guardian and Independent seem far less eager to lead the charge.
We hear endlessly about “systemic racism” in British institutions, but the really rampant contagion seems to be systemic auto-racism, a psychologically unhealthy predisposition to believe the worst only about one’s own culture. And the trouble with the Anne Owers school of pre-emptive misinterpretation is that the perpetually aggrieved interpret it all too accurately.
Thus, Chris Doyle, director of the Council for Arab-British Understanding, already feels Ms Owers’s ban is insufficient. The cross of St George, he explains, is offensive to Muslims because it was carried by English crusaders in the 11th century.
Hmm. Would that be the 11th century that ended nine and a bit centuries ago? When a fellow’s got hang-ups about things that happened a millennium ago, there’s no point trying to assuage them; he’ll only unearth some earlier grievance, demanding the Natural History Museum be dismantled because some stegosaurus was disrespectful to Muslims back in the Jurassic era.
So Mr Doyle wants England to find a new flag which “is not associated with our bloody past and one we can all identify with”. How about we simply swap with the Yanks? Give Crusader Bush the cross of St George and England can have the Stars and Stripes? The stars would be the 50 shards of a pork scratching crushed underfoot by a Dudley council official, with 13 horizontal yellow streaks representing the prostrate backbones of the nation.
Why is George W. Bush’s utterly unremarkable evangelical Christianity so self-evidently risible but complaints from British Muslims hung up over the 11th century are perfectly reasonable and something we should seek to accommodate? Where is the secular Left’s “insensitivity” when you need it? No doubt the bien pensants will still be hooting at born-again Texans on the day the House of Lords gives a second reading to the Sharia Bill.
It may be time to open a book on when precisely that will be. Any guesses? Whoever is closest wins a one-way, first-class air ticket out, with complimentary in-flight bacon butty and Zionist banana.