Ken Livingstone, the twice-defeated former Mayor of London, cropped up again this week. His return is not entirely welcome. Livingstone cropped up on Iranian television to blame America for the Boston bombings.
Yes, you read that right. Livingstone appeared on the propaganda station of the Iranian government to berate Americans for bringing the bombings on themselves. And it should be stressed that Livingstone did not appear as a guest on this program but as a presenter – that is an employee, someone on the Tehran pay list.
As Gatestone readers will know, Press TV is the propaganda wing of the Iranian government abroad. Unbelievably, and shamefully, it has studios in London. Happily the station's broadcast license was revoked a couple of years ago after the station broke its licensing requirements. For the insatiable, die-hard Khomeinist, however, badly produced propaganda is still available to view daily online. And one of the staple amusements of following the station is finding washed-up radicals like Livingstone who spent their careers burnishing their "liberal" credentials now shilling in retirement for a regime which hangs gays from cranes and stones women for adultery.
However, even for Press TV, what Ken Livingstone said on its program (captured by the superb MEMRI) could hardly have been bettered had it been scripted for the former mayor by the Mullahs themselves.
In a discussion posted on the internet on 26th April, Livingstone was discussing the Boston marathon bombings. A caller named "Muhammad" from the UK asked Livingstone how it was that the Boston bombers could have enjoyed "all these pleasures" (of being in the West) "and yet, they ended up blowing themselves up [sic] like that?"
Reminding us Londoners of the full horror of his time in office, this is Livingstone's answer:
"Well, I think there is a problem… Very often people get incredibly angry about injustices that they see. They would have been reading about the torture at Guantanamo Bay, at Baghram airbase. They would have read stuff about how, I think it is 54 different countries secretly collaborated with America for this rendition – people being snatched off streets taken to be tortured, because the Bush regime believed that they were all potential terrorists. There was such ignorance in the Bush White House about Islam and about the history of so many disputes that exist in the Middle East. People get angry – they lash out."
One of the absolute fail-safe things one learns to look out for in the wake of any terrorist act is ascribing motives to the attackers that the attackers themselves never asked for. Most of us have become wearily familiar with this trait over the last decade or more. After 9/11, Noam Chomsky & co. told us exactly why they would have done what Al Qaeda had just done before Al Qaeda was even off the starting blocks with its own explanation. The same with the London bombings, Madrid and every other subsequent attack.
Livingstone was always especially keen on this game of pre-emptive explanation, although he played a slightly more cautious game when the attack happened in his own city, aware as he must have been that the public who had voted for him might be wary of repeating the mistake were he to promptly tell them that they had brought the assault upon themselves. But the former Mayor of London had no such concerns, moral or political, when it came to Boston. Here he is again in reply to "Muhammad":
"It's the whole squalid intervention that has disfigured the record of the Western democracies. I think this fuels the anger of the young men, who – as we saw in Boston – went out, and, out of anger and demand for revenge, claimed lives in the West."
There are a number of things to note about this other than the 2001-ness of it all.
The most striking is the question of where all this Western self-blame must stop. It is not just in the outlets of the Iranian propaganda machine that the "Bostonians brought it on themselves" crowd have begun to be heard. They have already spoken, albeit in more cautious tones, in the New York Times and other mainstream U.S. publications. Granted they have been slightly discombobulated by the ethnic issue. The fact of the culprits being Chechen has dampened their greatest hopes -- after all what is the U.S. supposed to do about Chechnya? Should they withdraw all those US troops that aren't there? Or put troops in, perhaps? It would have been so much easier if the bombers had just hailed from Iraq or Afghanistan or – jackpot of jackpots – one of the many countries which Palestinians can call home.
Where would the Livingstone view of exculpation end? Is there a date on which the former mayor and others think that Bostonians will no longer have to fear a marathon attack? Or deserve it? Is there any timeline in the future that can be plotted out for the absolution of historic sins? Any sense of how many lives it will take, or how many lifetimes?
Of course the answer is "No." As Livingstone and his employers have demonstrated before, and as they and others have demonstrated again and again, comments such as these are made not by critics of any one administration or policy, but by enemies of our societies. It does not matter what America does, or who attacks it, these are enemies who will always be with us.