Monday, July 18, 2005


I was going to have a bit of a break from blogging, but some things need to be said. Firstly, on the innumerable discussions that have been broadcast since 7 July.

On the Muslim side, many emphasize that terror is not an integal part of their faith. Suicide bombings, it is pointed out, are not unique to Islam. The female academic from York on The Moral Maze,  mentioned the Japanese kamikase in the Second World War. Brian Walden, too, has reminded us that revolutionaries of the late 19th century used suicide bombings, one of them killing the Russian Tsar. These are good points, but the fact remains that, in a Western context, this has not happened since 1914.

Muslims stress, rather, the injustice in the world that many in their community feel. They cite, above all, the war in (or on, or against) Iraq explain (not justify) why some (a tiny minority) take such extreme measures.

Many non-Muslims are hampered in their responses to this by the positions they have taken on the war: that it was immoral, illegal or based on lies.  I was struck by this when BBC radio had on their discussions recently two writers from the Daily Mail or Mail on Sunday: Melanie Phillips on The Moral Maze, Wednesday, and Stephen Glover on The Message, Friday.

Muslim spokesmen cite, aside from Falluja, which I have dealt with separately (see), Guantánamo and Abu Ghraib. Aside from the obvious point that abuses at these places do provide Islamist extremists with a propaganda victory,  the counter-arguments are not put forward, as far as I have heard. Glover, as an opponent of the war, is not in a position to do so and Phillips, a proponent of it, chooses not to, preferring to focus on the uniqueness of the death cults coming out of Islam. The points to be made are again obvious: do you think a situation of justice obtained in Saddam's Iraq ? And do you not think that abuses, and far worse ones, were taking place at Abu Ghraib before March 2003?

Of course it's true that it is cowardly and wrong to say that we should not be in Iraq, because Britain would then be less of a terrorist target. It's also true that the demands of the jihadists are not negotiable (read Ian Buruma in the FT). A more fundamental point needs to be made, though. Victories, real or imagined, fuel their fanaticism. Fifteen years later, they still view the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan as their great victory. If the intervention in Iraq in 2003 had not taken place, it would have been seen, at the least, as a demonstration of weakness on the part of the West and they would probably have portrayed it as being due to the threat of terrorist attacks. Now, detaching Britain from the US-led alliance would be a big enough victory. Still bigger would be cede to the demands some are making for an immediate withdrawal, or even withdrawal on a fixed timetable, leaving the bombers free to destroy the democratically-elected government of Iraq. Analogies with 1930's appeasement, though often misused, could well be right here.


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