Another day, another piece of the usual on the comments pages of the Guardian. I know - you're going to say 'And another normblog groan(iad) on the subject.' You'll be right. As I don't like to be too straightforwardly repetitive, however, let me try a new angle on this. I start by proposing a distinction.
When someone genuinely tries to understand something in a non-moralized way, I will call it simply understanding. When, on the other hand, they offer, in the guise of that, something which is plainly of a blame-focusing or blame-shifting kind, I'll call it, instead, mbunderstanding - formed, as you can see, out of the basic word itself and the initials of a certain journalist well practised in the exercise it refers to, but by no means alone in being so. The neologism may be seen as a resource for avoiding the over-use of scare-quotes. (A guide to its pronunciation can be had by listening to Steve Earle singing 'Ben McCulloch' - in which he renders the line 'Goddamn you Ben McCulloch' as 'Goddamn you mBen McCulloch', with the 'm' in 'mBen' not silent but not entirely full either.)
Right, so today we have Mark Curtis who is rich in connections: the London bombings to 'illegal invasion and occupation'; the Bali bombings to British complicity in the coup in Indonesia in... (hold on, I've just got to check the date)... yes, October 1965. Is Curtis's article just an essay in understanding? No, it's full of blame. It is 'we' - in London - 'pay[ing] the price' for the fact that our leaders have not been held to account for the aforesaid illegal invasion. It is the Bali bombings as 'long-term blowback' for complicity with the 1965 coup. It's 'our leaders... get[ting] away with murder'.
Now, I could once again go into the matter of the 'illegality' of the Iraq war being moot and the question of whether or not there was a good moral case for it likewise. But I'll try something different here, since while I would, as readers know, defend the case for the Iraq war, I certainly would not defend the coup in Indonesia in 1965 and its aftermath, nor anyone in fact complicit in that. But whatever you may think of either the one series of events or the other, they do not lead in an unbroken chain to what Curtis wants us to connect them to - not unless you accept the logic of the man who lately wrote, 'You have arrested innocent people from the village. I have killed innocent people in return.'
Here's a hypothetical situation. A certain newspaper carries, week in and week out, articles of a political complexion that one of its readers judges to be dreadful. Not all readers do, but she - for it is a she - does; and her view is shared by a lot of other people. This reader, alienated, one day heaps a bucket of excrement over the head of a random pedestrian walking along the street in a city of the country in which the newspaper in question is published. I'd say that, irrespective of whether or not the offending articles were as dreadful as the woman thought them to be, if a bystander, happening to be on the same street as the excrement-heaping incident, made it his primary purpose to persuade the people standing around there that it was the newspaper that was to blame for the pedestrian's misfortune, what that bystander would be giving out would be mbunderstanding.