Strange Days

by Quinn

Yesterday’s leader in the Telegraph was full of righteous indignation about “the ‘buts’”; people who were “lining up to suggest that the (London) bombers had been forced into their terrible actions by the policies pursued by our own government”. It continues

The idea that Iraq – or even Palestine, a cause notoriously ignored by Arab and Muslim leaders until the 1990s – explains the campaign of death now waged against the West is so false as to be contemptible.

I think this is part of what I was talking about in my previous post when I said “although I don’t want to try to pin the blame on Blair for the London bombs, I am not that happy about letting him of the hook either”. Anxious as I am not to spread the blame where it is not deserved, I also don’t want a flat out rejection of the possibility that Iraq may in part explain the motivations of the London bombers. To say “Iraq has nothing to do with this”, as certain government ministers have been doing, seems to me like a dangerous denial, just as similarly saying “this is all Blair’s fault” is plainly stupid. The Telegraph does say that “It is surely undeniable that Iraq and Afghanistan have contributed to the radicalisation of Muslims across the world” but then pretty much tries to ignore this fact by saying “those conflicts have stimulated an attitude which existed quite independently of them”, continuing with this tired mantra that “the West first felt (al Qaeda’s) force with the bombing of the World Trade Centre in 1993”. So, is the Telegragh really suggesting that because al Qaeda existed before the Iraq war, then Iraq cannot have any bearing on events that have occurred since? This is just nonsense.

I have long thought that terrorism is just criminality with a cause. Criminology of course studies what causes people to become criminals, and in the case of the London bombs a good place to start could be to look at what it was that drew those particular bombers towards their twisted ideology. It seems likely that Iraq played a part in this, and to deny this is to potentially lose a valuable understanding of the terrorists’ reasoning. Of course there will be many other factors involved, otherwise everyone who opposed the war would become a terrorist, but if we choose to ignore the possibility that the war can have at least partly influenced some individuals in their journey towards terror, just because it may be embarrassing to those who have supported the war, then we may wilfully lose a part of the understanding regarding what makes some terrorists tick, and so fail to learn some vital lessons. At the same time, to characterise “The real project” of the Islamists as “the extension of the Islamic territory across the globe, and the establishment of a worldwide “caliphate” founded on Sharia law and the temporal reign of ayatollahs and imams” appears to me to be an over simplification. That may indeed be the aim of the generals, but not necessarily the foot soldiers who may have been drawn to radical Islam for all manner of reasons – peer pressure, disaffection, brain washing – and may not have signed up for everything in the al Qaeda handbook. Of course we have to fight the generals, but we also have to deal with the foot soldiers, and hopefully act to ensure that as few people as possible join their ranks.

To try to understand the bombers is not to empathise or condone, it does not mean you are trying to justify their actions, it is not an attempt to shift responsibility or culpability from the terrorist to elsewhere; it is, as it says, an attempt to understand what is going on, and to see how we can prevent such acts in the future.

You can see why those who supported the war would want to deny any role for Iraq, but I think that if I were in the pro-war camp then I would not act this way. If I thought the war was the right thing to do then I would stand by that belief, and say that even if the war may have influenced some into commiting terrorist acts then it was still for the greater good. Surely the people who supported the war must have known there was a possibility that it would provoke a backlash; to now seek to deny any link between Iraq and the bombs means we may not learn anything from those tragic events.

Meanwhile, Telegraph columnist Mark Steyn continues to spread himself ever more thinly by writing for a host of other publication. His website lists about 13 titles he currently writes for. With so many commissions he must have to dash them off on the hoof, and so it is little wonder that as a result he usually talks a right load of old shite.

This article for The New York Sun features many trade mark Steyn-isms. There is the hyperbolic title (“Islam’s Anschluss”), the nod that anyone who disagrees with him is an anti-Semite (by quoting some dick who has written to him saying “ bet you Jewish supremacists think it is Christmas come early don’t you?”) and a fair dash of Islamophobic bollocks (“When France began contemplating its headscarf ban in schools, it dispatched government ministers to seek the advice of Egyptian imams, implicitly accepting the view of Islamic scholars that the Fifth Republic is now an outlying province of the dar al-Islam”).

But then, surprise of all surprises he actually makes a point I had not considered before, namely that

when one contrasts the vast number of British, European and Canadian jihadists who’ve turned up in the thick of it in Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Iraq, Israel, Bosnia, Chechnya and beyond with the relatively insignificant number of American Muslims so embroiled, one begins to appreciate that the Great Satan is indeed a relatively effective seducer — at least to the extent that America seems to be doing a better job at assimilating Muslims than Europe or Canada

Now this is an interesting point, and again something we could do with understanding and learning from. If Steyn’s assertion is correct then there may still be a simple explanation, that more Muslims in the States are African Americans and followers of the Nation of Islam, and so perhaps do not feel the same link with the Middle East and Arab regions compared with those Muslims who live in Europe; but I don’t really know and I am not sure how to find out. Whatever, I still think it is still an interesting observation.

It would be wrong to say that this is the first time Mark Steyn has ever made me think; however, usually all he makes me think is “What a knob!”. These are strange days indeed.