Deborah Orr: The trouble with the terror script - everyone's making it up as they go

This battle is about fake propaganda, and which side's lies and distortions can capture most 'hearts and minds'
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The Independent Online

This statement is funny on so many levels that I can barely decide where to begin.

There's the obvious point, of course, that it only became a "centre for terrorism" at the point when George decided he was going to make it one, by invading it. Now the occupation of Iraq is seen around the Muslim world as a symbol of anti-Arab foreign policy, with the insurgents constantly making their violent protests against this being the only thing that stops US-UK forces from making a sharp exit.

No use pointing out that Saddam seemed anti-Arab enough anyway, what with the torture and genocide of his people, and his invasions of Iran and Kuwait. No use pointing out that suicide bombers in Iraq target Muslims, or that intervention in Kosovo and non-intervention in Darfur belie an anti-Muslim policy.

No use either pointing out that Palestine is still the issue, and that if we turned our attention there, we'd find Israel and Palestine need all the help we can give.

This battle is not about truth or justice. It's about fake propaganda on both sides, and which side's lies and distortions are the ones to capture the greatest number of "hearts and minds".

Bush's statement is acknowledgment of what Tony Blair denied - that the English bombers were likely to have been motivated by Iraq. But the fact remains that watching Muslims blowing up other Muslims in Baghdad and deciding it would be heroic to do a similar thing in London, is not that bright.

Mind you, no part of this situation is amenable to logic. For while I fully believe in my statement that the insurgents are the only thing keeping the troops in Iraq, I also know that if they'd been hailed as the liberators of their imaginings, Bush and Blair would both be scrambling like the provocative fools they are to buy up the country in the service of neo-liberal globalisation.

That's part of the trouble with this script. Everyone is making it up as they go along.

It's easy to see this is what al-Qa'ida is doing, with its panto villains popping up after atrocities, in order to imply a spurious ownership (though the sad fact is that this lame strategy works perfectly well). It's easy to see that this is what Bush is doing too, with his tales of WMD, and his sad little pre-war corporate carve-up of Iraq.

And it's easy to see what Blair is doing too. His own corruption is almost innocent in comparison to the other players in this great game. He believed that no matter why it was that Bush was making war against Iraq, all would come right as long as his own little motives were honourable. He took his country to war on a false prospectus, claiming that he wanted to disarm a terror state with WMD, when what he really wanted was to be the little guy who took on the dictator and liberated the oppressed. Not a bad fantasy, but one that was never going to be achieved by tagging along with an army so hopelessly enmired in realpolitik. Now, Blair won't admit that he was wrong to do so. With this display of stubborn, moral cowardice, he continues to travel down the dark and twisted road that guarantees him a place in history as an idiot who wasn't even useful.

* No man can play propaganda better than George Galloway, who has been bigging himself up by spouting unhelpful nonsense at a level unprecedented even for him. On an Arab television station this week, it is reported, he said: "The foreigners [that's us] are doing to your daughters as they will. The daughters are crying for help, and the Arab world is silent."

As Blair calls for deportation of those who preach hate, I find myself dreaming that Scotland will soon gain independence. Then Galloway can be deported, and London can be a little bit saner. Hurrah!

Keep the insults coming

Lauren Bacall is, by general agreement, too magnificently elderly to care much about whom she insults. I have to confess, mind you, that if she said I was too young to be a legend, as she did Nicole Kidman recently, I wouldn't take it as the put-down it was made out to be.

More recent comments, about Nicole's ex-husband Tom Cruise, though, were more genuinely hostile. She mocked him for his histrionic declarations of love for Katie Holmes and said she was appalled by his vulgar and unseemly antics.

Likewise, Elton John is considered too rich, talented and successful to be careful about the feelings of others. This week he really crossed the line and slagged off Live8 as an "anticlimax".

Rod Stewart has yet to comment on the accusation he served Dairylea cheese triangles, unwrapped and incognito, at a dinner party.

But Graham Norton? He's more scurrilous than them all. His best story was about seeing a child misbehaving at an airport, then being amazed to see his mother trying to settle him with Coke. The punchline was that he eventually identified her as Angelina Jolie. How does he get away with it all? God knows. But it's fabulous.

I sentence Martha to a lifetime's yoga

I don't know if it was linked to her fall from grace because of insider dealing. But I was recently able to buy a highly efficient Martha Stewart salad spinner in gleaming and hygienic white for £1 at the local Poundstretchers-type emporium.

I am grateful, whatever path brought me this good fortune, and not a little peeved to hear that, post-trial and post-imprisonment, America's foremost lifestyle guru is still being picked on just for being an over-enthusiastic capitalist. (I mean, like that ever hurt anybody! Talk about a victimless crime.)

The latest is that she has had her term of house arrest extended by three months, after she broke the conditions under which she was released with an electronic tag. Apparently, she is allowed to leave her home for a total of 48 hours a week, but only if she is doing work, food shopping, going to the doctor or attending church. Martha, right, has been caught sneaking out to go to a yoga class instead. I have to say this does not strike me as delinquent.

In fact, on the contrary, I think it should be on the list. Not only does regular yoga quite definitely save on visits to the doctor, it's also generally recognised as every bit as good for your health as a dutiful visit to the local god shop.

If Martha did more yoga and less work, then she would probably be happier. If she did less food shopping (for the concoction of her endless recipes no doubt), and less fetishising of "lifestyle", both personally and professionally, then the rest of America would probably be happier.

I demand that the woman should be sentenced to yoga for the rest of her natural life. And if that doesn't work, Pilates.