more for the education of miles and george

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    this interview was held very soon after sep 11.he is an enourmously respected historian.i remember his interview had an effect on he wasn't a neo-con or anything.just a hard working respected historian who even the abc considered worth listening to.

    Interview with Sir John Keegan

    Broadcast: 10/10/2001
    Interviewer: Jennifer Byrne

    Sir John Keegan has spent his life studying and lecturing on war. But his scholarly dispassion deserted him when discussing the war on terrorism. Jennifer Byrne spoke to Sir John at his home in Wiltshire, U.K., just before the U.S. retaliatory strike, and began by asking him if there had been any way to avoid the Afghanistan conflict.


    Keegan: Oh a conflict is avoidable in the sense that you could just sit and wait for it, but if we don't want that to... if we don't want another occurrence then we have to attempt to eliminate them. It's really as harsh as that.

    Byrne: Explain, what do you mean by eliminate them ?

    Keegan: Oh kill them I think. Actually get rid of, physically get rid of them. There's nobody to deal with. You can't rationalise - how can you reason with somebody who actually wants to die?

    Byrne: Who do we eliminate?

    Keegan: Well if they are trying to kill you, on the whole they're the people you have to kill aren't they?

    Byrne: Really, that simple?

    Keegan: Well they've killed 7,000 people in New York in the twinkling of an eye. Just think if they get their hands on nuclear weapons, they'll kill 70,000 people... 700,000 people. In the twinkling of an eye they'll do it.

    Byrne: Well that could be the Al Qaeda network, loose as it is, but does one extend, does one then go to terrorist networks everywhere?

    Keegan: Some people are more terrorist than others. And if it's shown that the US and its allies does have the capacity to run them down and eliminate them - although some will seek the glory still of dying - in a way it becomes less of a point really. I think to be shot in a mountain valley somewhere or other is altogether less glorious than crashing an airliner into a skyscraper.. I mean there's some evidence that Gaddafi of Libya got much less keen on sponsoring terrorism since America bombed him in 1986.

    Byrne: How do you see this network? I mean, as a historian who has studied movements and nation states, are they utterly unprecedented?

    Keegan: Oh no, not at all. It's very.... it's very Islamic, but particularly very Arab - and you can see that it has its roots in Islamic but particularly Arab Islamic style of war making that goes back to the 7th century AD. The surprise attack... victory... killing for its own sake. That's really how the Arabs achieved their great conquests - they weren't stand-up, face to face battles of the Western sort.. they were large scale raids.
    Although it was truly unprecedented, what they did - and although it was so horrifying and horrifyingly spectacular, that for a moment one thought, well, it has no connection with anything - when I began to think about it I did see it belonging in a style of warfare - a distinctive style of warfare.

    Byrne: Is there any room for international justice here?

    Keegan: Ah now that is a very very big question, because the world is dividing itself into those who believe that world order should be based on an international system of criminal investigation and trial and those who say
    if you put lawyers in charge nothing ever happens - and that's the soldiers' view and the view of the executive branch of government in countries like the United States and Britain - and I think the executive view is absolutely correct. If we put affairs into the hands of a nascent, not yet developed, international justice system we could be here for years and years and years. We could be here while the first nuclear terrorist outrage takes place.

    Byrne: And you see that that is the continuum - that's where these sorts of assaults will lead.

    Keegan: Oh I should think that Osama bin Laden when he goes down to say his daily prayers, says please God bring me nuclear weapons. And he's trying very very hard to get hold of them. And it won't just be one nuclear weapon, they'll let off six at the same time in six of the world's greatest cities.

    Byrne: You've written that World War 2 was beyond question the outcome of World War 1 -it was almost its continuation - where are the roots of this conflict?

    Keegan: Where are the roots to this conflict? ... I'm afraid to say that I think they're in the history of... the history of the Arab conquests and of the rise.. rise and spread and fall and rise of Islam.

    Byrne: It's their fault?

    Keegan: Not necessarily their fault but in the nature... in the nature of their beliefs.

    Byrne: Really? You wouldn't have been allowed to say that it would have been absolutely politically incorrect before this.

    Keegan: I'm a historian... and historians if they don't tell the truth as they see it what use are they? I mean they can't be politically correct. History isn't politically correct and if a historian's job is to write or speak the story of history then one cannot be politically correct. I think we can take some hope from history here - and that is hope in the very marked tendency of Islam to fluctuate in intensity. The Islam of the early conquests of the 7th and 8th century was Messianic - although of course that is a Christian word. It was an extraordinarily vital and energetic religion then it turned in on itself. The Islam of the 18th, 19th and first half of the 20th century was a poor thing. Nobody bothered about it. Islam was that funny sort of pure system of beliefs, that depressed people in the Middle East held as their religion - and the revival of Islam dates from the early years of the 20th century - no longer than that - the Arabs awakening. It was brought about by their humiliation... by their sense of how low they'd fallen compared with the West.

    Byrne: And do you believe that Bin Laden and Al Quade comes out of that?

    Keegan: I don't think it's so much the material achievements of Islam which were considerable in their day - which is so important to them as the true belief - the word of God. What dominates their life is the belief that Islam is the only thing in this world, you know - the living life around us is Islam.

    Byrne: World War I of course, three empires collapsed, the whole map... the atlas, was changed. World War 2 Europe was divided - the cold war came about. Will geography be reformed as a result of this conflict, this war?

    Keegan: We may have to have a geo-political re-grouping or major geo-political changes. If it can be squashed quickly... if we can satisfy ourselves that it's limited to an identifiable number of groups and we can get rid of them quickly, I think things could go on as they are. But... I'm not very hopeful. When I allow myself to think about it I grow very, very pessimistic.

    Byrne: Really?

    Keegan: Extremely pessimistic - because of this awful, awful danger that they'll get their hands on nuclear weapons. Ahh... because you see... they don't care. Curiously, in my club in London about a week after the disaster I was sitting opposite a very, very well known British newspaper commentator who said to me, "well I s'pose after a bit it will all be the same again won't it?" and I looked at him with complete astonishment. I was struck dumb. And I thought I just cannot believe it. How on earth can you think that?

    Byrne: From what you're saying you would agree with what one hears a lot - that things will never be the same - that things have changed after September 11.

    Keegan: We ended the totalitarian division between liberal states and totalitarian states without a nuclear war. I thought life's wonderful.... we're going to have peace for ever - and then of course, round the corner - the corner you weren't watching - something that you'd never thought of popped up. And what popped up was terrifying - IS terrifying - truly, truly terrifying - and every optimistic idea that one had has suddenly flopped.

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