Tuesday, 14 September 2010

From the Standpoint of Michael Burleigh

This is a brief exchange with historian Michael Burleigh in Standpoint Blog comments. I had linked to it, but the link is now dead. It is however reproduced elsewhere. It's not possible to link directly to it at that location, so I'm copying it here.

Standpoint Blog [dead link]

Michael Burleigh


Monday 7th July 2008

Anyone who needs reminding of the horror of 7/7 could do worse than read Canadian journalist Peter Zimonjic's Into the Darkness. Apart from being a harrowing eye-witness account, it is also remarkable for the way in which the author develops several stories spread over three locations simultaneously.

Meanwhile, over in the parallel moral universe Islamists inhabit, the extended Pakistani family of bomber Shezad Tanweer have invited four hundred people to a village party in Chak 477 to 'celebrate him as a martyr'. One is not surprised that the Pakistani government allows this to happen. But that the event's organiser, a Mr Tahir Pervez- a property developer and the bomber's 42 year old uncle- is allowed to pass back and forth into this country without inhibition is testament to the spinelessness of the British authorities. Rather than simply messing him around for a bit at immigration, the government should issue a 'no-flight' ban before he even attempts to board an aircraft. They don't even need to give a reason since Mr Pervez is outside the clutches of the British human rights lawyers who would undertake a gadarene rush to represent him. Let's see what they do. Or don't we have such provisions in this country?
4:52 pm


T Wilkinson
July 9th, 2008
1:07 PM

'Celebrate him as a martyr?' which parallel universe are you in? They were quoted even by the Eveneing Standard - quite a War-on-Terror fan - as 'celebrating his life' and 'regarding him as a martyr'. In fact, the family think he was murdered and framed. Whether they are right or not, the portrayal of this distant and private family gathering as some kind of provocative gloat-fest is well wide of the mark. Do you have no respect for the families of 7/7 victims whose mourning was interrupted by the publication of sensationalised accounts of the event? As for your calls for 'measures' against this Tanweer character, can't you hear how demented you sound? Things and people you happen to have taken a quite unjustified dislike to - due to your newfound zealotry - are to be banned, are they? You remind me of the general in Catch-22 who thought he could have people taken outside and shot. You were quite well-respected as a historian. You will now be remembered instead as a third-rate, rabid ideologue.

July 9th, 2008
11:07 PM

T Wilkinson - Couldn't have put it better myself. Just because this is a blog doesn't mean you can omit to check facts Mr Burleigh. When you write history you do your research and it shows. Go and do likewise in this area.

July 23rd, 2008
7:07 AM

Regarding Tanweer as a martyr, which no one is disputing, seems pretty like celebrating his actions as a suicide bomber. The notion that Tanweer was framed or murdered is equally preposterous. As for "facts", I don't believe my post says anyone should be shot. I said he should be prevented from boarding a plane to fly to this country, a practice well-established in the US. As for being an "ideologue"- I always pride myself on being pretty reasonable on most issues, and certainly don't try to fit everything into a single template, instead of working through issues on a case by case basis.

Tim Wilkinson
July 27th, 2008
10:07 PM

1. You equivocate on the term 'celebrate'. Use of the term 'martyr' (or an untranslated original) may entail celebration (i.e. approval of) his conduct: it doesn't entail throwing a party in honour of it. I don't know (and neither, I assume, do you) whether the Standard were correct in saying that he was regarded as a martyr, and if so whether that implies anything beyond simply being killed. In any case, the family do appear to think he was killed, which surely trumps any inference you might make from the supposed 'martyr' label to a belief in his bomber status. 2. The notion that Tanweer was framed or murdered isn't especially preposterous - certainly not to the family, who seem to believe it, which is the relevant issue. Perhaps you would suggest that since it is preposterous, it is implausible that they really do believe it. As with the term 'celebrate', this confuses the public and private aspects. If they proclaim such a belief, that is enough to rebut the claim that the 'party' is openly honorific of a suicide bomber. 3. I didn't suggest that you called for anyone to be shot - only that to me the 'something must be done' attitude is reminescent of that fictional general (Korn, I think - memorably played by Orson Welles in the film). I'm genuinely not sure what you mean by 'in the US' - are you referring to people being prevented from leaving or entering that country? In any case, many practices have recently become established in the US which we may not wish to emulate. 4. I can only go on appearances - as will posterity. All I can say is please don't jump (or stumble) onto this Islam/Axis of Evil/Terror War bandwagon, which is similar in very many ways to the cold war Red scare. I don't deny, and am assured by historian friends, that you are a reasonable man 'on most issues', and proud of it. I wouldn't have bothered either rebuking or reasoning with you otherwise. You must recognise that a sensationalist piece in the Evening Standard reporting unattributed (and unquoted) opinions/motives is a poor source. You must also recognise that there is a major propaganda campaign under way whose bloody effects to date are all too apparent. I only ask that you think carefully before effectively helping Neo-con hawks to influence minds, or as in this case - and more importantly I fear - 'hearts'.

July 28th, 2008
5:07 PM

Thank you for taking the time to reply at such lengths. As the editor of Standpoint will tell you, I am certainly not a neo-conservative, and I am also highly critical in Blood and Rage of the concept of a 'war on terror' which is as useful as a 'war on Blitzkrieg' or 'drugs'. I also don't think Axis of Evil was helpful either, partly because I know, as a historian, how insubstantial the original Axis was in the 30s. The US has a 'no-fly ban' which means that as you check in, the computers flash up that you will be denied entry on arrival in the States. It saves everyone the hassle at that end, plus the cost of deportation. Anyway, I am astounded that any historians think I'm a reasonable man, although in the Mail I've written denouncing water-boarding and on two separate occasions the prospect of anyone attacking Iran.


  1. Good exchange. Amused to see that by the end he's given up on trying to defend his post. Without correcting it, I'd guess?

  2. No, Burleigh never retracted/corrected. That said, he no longer 'blogs' at Standpoint, even if he does contribute a column to the Neocon rag. He's a good example of how a historian can destroy his reputation by prostituting himself for a 'cause'. This review of his later book pretty much sums up what has happened to this once interesting writer: