General Dempsey’s disastrous intervention

13 September 2012

When the Danish Cartoons affair broke in 2005-6 there was considerable pressure on the Danish Prime Minister, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, to issue a condemnation and apology. Demonstrating considerable statesmanship he nevertheless repeatedly said that ‘You cannot apologise for something you have not done.’ When so-called ‘community leaders’ insisted on seeing him he refused because he, as the Prime Minister, was not responsible for the contents of a Danish newspaper. The Danish press is not only free, but separate, from the Danish government. Rasmussen’s belief was that the sooner anybody who was unaware of this became aware of it the better.

Fast forward to 2012 and we seem to have yet another set of eruptions in the cartoon/film/book wars. This time somebody who may or may not be an American may or may not have made a film which may cause offense to some Muslims but which nobody appears to have seen. Nevertheless various crowds have used this as an excuse for violence which could yet worsen.

It also seems possible that one of the people who supported the film, or might in future support the film in some way, is Florida Pastor Terry Jones (he of Koran-burning, rather than Monty Python, fame).


And what is the American response to this? Well among other things the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Dempsey has phoned up the crazy Pastor and tried to talk him down.

I am well aware of – and sympathetic with – the fact that significant numbers of American military and diplomatic personnel are deployed in a number of very hazardous areas around the globe. And I realise that the main aim of General Dempsey and the rest of the American political and military leadership must be be to have as few American troops and other nationals killed. But what a disastrous and misjudged intervention General Dempsey’s phone-call is.

Across much of the Muslim-majority world there are not only a thousand conspiracy theories, but all sorts of imagined chains of command and ideas of how such things work. Polling as well as plenty of anecdotal evidence tells us that very common misperceptions do not need a helping hand from the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs.

Many people will now either be confirmed in the idea, or introduced to the idea, that the highest ranking officer in the US Armed Forces can at any moment stand down a film-maker or one of his supporters. And if such a leader can stand such a figure down, then surely they can also stand them up?

When the next film/cartoon/article/book/picture/documentary comes out and General Dempsey fails to stop it, there will be many people who will take the lesson that this must have been one which the US military backed.

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  • John Court

    Perhaps the best bet is to ‘offend’ Islam every few days and batten down the hatches for a while. The embassy-burners will get bored of it and go back to whatever it is they usually do. Maybe they’ll even reflect on it and realise that free speech doesn’t actually do any real harm and isn’t worth being shot for.

  • Hannah

    I’ve always said and will say it again, Islam will always win. Not because it is more powerful, no, because its defenders in the West: our politicians, our school teachers, university professors, our judges, our government institutions and organisations, media to name but a few, have sold out to the cult of Mohammad. Many see in Islam a final solution to rid the West of Judaism and its practitioners once and for all.

    • Basil

      Tempting to agree with you – but in the end it will lose – because it is wrong, bad and mad.

    • john

      What we are seeing now in Islam are its death-throes, not a sign it’s rising. Unfortunately, those death-throes could last another 100 years, and bring the world to another global war that would make WWII look like a piss-take.

    • james

      The irony here is that douglas has just been discussing conspiracy theories and their nut job proponents. Although i am sympathetic to the idea that you know what any one university professor will say before he opens his mouth.

    • SirMortimerPosh

      Are you insane? I think you must be. not because you suggest there is a cadre of multiculturalists in our society, but because you suggest their motivation is to ‘rid the West of Judaism.’ You would have to be MAD to think that let alone to write it.

  • Daniel Maris

    As far as I know no one has yet said that the film – however amateurish a production it might be – depicted Mohammed doing something which isn’t related in one of the well attested Hadith or in the Koran.

    • john

      That’s a very good point, and I’m notching you up-one for it…

      • Daniel Maris

        Do you remember the movie Fitna…all they did in that was quote the Hadith and Koran and the statements of Jihadists. The protests about that soon fizzled out. What exactly can they complain about?

  • edlancey

    Dempsey should be sacked.

    • kidmugsy

      But that would require a decision from O. Does he do decisions?

  • Laurence

    Swift had it best when he wrote that it is impossible to reason a man out of something that he never reasoned himself into. The ‘Religion of Peace’ is impervious to rationality and has been since the 12th century.

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