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Sunday 16 September 2007

What do Osama Bin Laden and Gerry Adams have in common?

Not their sense of humour -- their rationale says Ruth Dudley Edwards

Two has-beens produced lengthy drones last week. On Tuesday, the anniversary of 9/11, celebrating what he thinks of as his finest day, Osama Bin Laden released to the American people a 26-minute video speech called The Solution. The following day, The Guardian website provided a podcast of a long, long, long interview with Gerry Adams in which Nick Stadlen, a tenacious barrister, tried nobly but failed to pin him down on a straightforward point: since the Good Friday Agreement of 1998 was substantially the same as the Sunningdale Agreement of 1973, for what have thousands died?

I slave for my readers, so -- groaning -- I yomped through every word of the transcripts (9,500 in the case of Adams -- that's 12 times the length of this article) and I can report my major conclusions: apart from their beards and their involvement in terrorism, what Osama and Gerry have in common is that they're obsessed with self-justification, they're losers who have to rewrite the past to fit in with present fantasies, they struggle to be thought modish and neither has the gift of the gab.

Of the two, Bin Laden was more interesting. First, there's the matter of his beard, which has gone from grey to black, thus causing the international intelligence community to indulge in orgies of speculation. Is it dyed? Is it false? Is it Bin Laden at all, at all? Personally, I go with the proponents of the Grecian 2000 view. Look, the guy was 50 six months ago, he's hiding in a cave Allah knows where and apart from the London bombings in 2005, his operatives are failing to deliver spectaculars in Europe. How could he not be having a bit of a mid-life crisis?

It's similar for Adams. Since his humiliation in the Irish General Election, the invitations to exciting places have dried up. It's Martin McGuinness that gets to go to the sexy spots like Finland: Adams is reduced to hanging around with his dwindling band of admirers in West Belfast.

Still, there's some pleasure to be had for him on Memory Lane. Like Bin Laden, who did some predictable gloating about the great achievements of the 19 young murderers of 9/11, Gerry had a nostalgic moment about some of his, though because of his present peace-loving persona, he had to do a lot of equivocating.

The IRA (with which, it was implied, he had nothing to do) were justified in their campaign -- even if he completely failed to explain what they had achieved -- but he couldn't agree with some of their more embarrassing actions. Asked why he had described the Balcolmbe Street bombers as "our Nelson Mandelas", he explained that it was because they spent 24 years in jail. He admired them "as freedom fighters", while having a bit of awkwardness about their having murdered 16 people in London and Guildford with guns and bombs.

But one must be fair to Adams. He's in a very difficult position. After all, Hugh Doherty, one of that terrible gang, is a brother of Pat Doherty MP and is a Sinn Fein organiser in Donegal.

Bin Laden addressed the shortcomings of Islamic rule by explaining that any failings of Muslim rulers were because they had departed from slavish submission to the Koran, and by telling lies: Christians and Jews, he said, have lived happily among Muslims for 14 centuries.

Adams told many porkies too. When the IRA used to claim they were fighting for a united Ireland, what they really meant was for "a united Irish people": so when they said they would fight until they got the Brits out, they really meant they were trying (as John Hume used to put it) to unite "our divided people".

Ignoring the fact that the Provos were as sectarian as al-Qa'ida and picked off their Protestant neighbours as enthusiastically as a violent Islamist goes after the kuffar, Adams talked piously of the inspiration of Wolfe Tone and other Protestant republicans of two centuries ago.

An amusing contrast is in their attitude to business. Here, Adams has done a complete flip-flop. In the Provos' heyday, they murdered businessmen for the crime of propping up the economy: now Adams recommends treating Ireland as a single economic unit in order to increase prosperity. However, while Adams has given up Marxism, brooding in his cave Bin Laden has taken it up. The "real tyrannical terrorists" are global corporations, he tells us, the upholders of those twin evils of capitalism and democracy -- who are responsible for everything bad including global warming.

When it comes to a solution, Adams' is the modest if taxing one of achieving a united Ireland in his lifetime by winning the hearts and minds of unionists. Bin Laden is a bit more ambitious: the world has a simple choice -- convert to unadulterated Islam or die. Well, at least you know where you are with Osama: that's more than you can say for Gerry.

Ruth Dudley Edwards

© Ruth Dudley Edwards