Not clever and not funny

Mark Steel’s always dreadful Independent column is particularly dreadful today as he deals with the reaction to the atrocities in Karbala and Baghdad.

How do they choose which word to use after a terrorist bomb? It must be co-ordinated, otherwise there might be an argument. The news would report how: “Mr Blair described the attack as ‘grotesque’, whereas Mr Howard said, ‘That’s not fair, I wanted to call it grotesque, now I’m stuck with despicable as usual’.” And unless they take it in turns there might be a news report that: “The Foreign Office was embarrassed today when Jack Straw said the bomb was barbaric, until he was informed that Charles Kennedy had already said it was barbaric. Mr Straw has apologised and said that, on reflection, it was cruel and outrageous.”

That’s the hilarious intro by the way.

He goes on to Tony Blair’s reaction to the attacks as “evil”. “So to defeat these terrorists we don’t need an army or a plan for democracy, we need a bloody Hobbit,” he says. Ha bloody hah.

And predictably we then have a couple of paragraphs mocking Blair’s religious beliefs as though only a Christian fundamentalist could believe that blowing up 200 innocent Iraqis is evil.

It gets worse. There is then mocking of Blair’s description of the terrorists as “a small but highly active group”. Steel compares it to criticisms of anarchists and trade unionists – producing the classic post 9-11 liberal lefty trick of trying to make anyone who condemns terrorism sound like a Daily Mail reactionary. It is more revealing than I suspect Steel realises.

Then we have another staple of the anti-war movement argument. Lets call it, for convenience, the downright lie:

“It is worth remembering, whenever they make a pronouncement on what is happening and what will happen next, that when Saddam was captured every statesman from the American and British governments declared that this signalled the imminent demise of the violence.”

Really? Here is what a certain George W Bush said on the very day that Saddam was captured:

I also have a message for all Americans: The capture of Saddam Hussein does not mean the end of violence in Iraq. We still face terrorists who would rather go on killing the innocent than accept the rise of liberty in the heart of the Middle East

Moving swiftly on from that blatant untruth we head into more familiar territory. The man accused of plotting a civil war strategy for Al Qaeda in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi is described as a “new hate figure” by Steel.That’s another old trick used by the Stoppers and designed to portray opponents of Islamic terrorism as fools who have been duped into disliking terrorists and religious fanatics for some reason. It also leads nicely into a particularly weak conspiracy theory which even Robert Fisk might think twice about:

“Because without an evil face at the head of the enemy, the American military machine grinds to a halt”.

If only the Russians had known it was that easy….

Just to round things off Steel provides us with a little ‘joke’ about Bin Laden’s ‘leaving party’ and his beard.

Ok. I know. It is predictable enough. I’ve said before that Mark Steel is not funny and you could produce a book’s worth of dreadful material that has appeared in the Indie on the Iraq issue. So no surprises there.

But really what have things come to when on the very day of such dreadful bloody slaughter a columnist on a British broadsheet newspaper sits down at his computer and thinks “we can have some fun with this one” ?

I know the ‘jokes’ are supposed to be on Blair for the terrible offence of describing the attackers as “evil” but the point remains that less than 24 hours after the killing of 200 innocents, Steel and the Indie think we can all have a little giggle.

Even after the deaths of minor British television celebrities there is usually a grace period of more than a day before the gags start to be cracked.

But then these 200 innocent victims are far away people in a far away land.

Mark Steel, you are the Ann Winterton of the left.