Did Iraq cause 7/7?

Needless to say, July 7 was pretty harrowing for me. As I walked to work, I hardly thought anything of the two police cars that screamed down the wrong side of the road (the right side of the road for this Yank) near the Holborn tube station. But when I got to work and learned that there was an explosion in the tube near Aldgate East, I panicked. I knew my girlfriend took the bus to work, but her office is so close to Aldgate East...

She was fine. I even got a text message from her later in the day, when cell phone bandwidth was relinquished by the emergency services: "Entire underground just shut down. Can't get on a bus for the life of me." When she sent that text, she had no idea how true that second sentence was.

Right now, I'd rather not write about my emotional reaction to the bombings, if you please (hint: they were more intense than I'd expected, but didn't surface for days). Instead, I'd like to discuss the emergence of an orthodoxy that's emerging among many on the left. The new mantra -- that Britain's participation in the Iraq War is what made the country a target for terrorist attacks -- is being chanted by scores of people, including my current manager at work and at least one good friend (who approvingly linked to this noxious article).

It's also patently ridiculous.

First things first. Of course al Qaeda and its affiliates (they might have been homegrown, but there's little doubt that the 7/7 bombers were "handled" by a non-British national...and it's certainly the case that they considered themselves soldiers of al Qaeda) are targeting countries that are seen as close allies of the US. Part of al Qaeda's stated strategy is to divide the West. The electoral response to the Madrid bombings was the intended consequence of the bombings, as al Qaeda spokespeople have subsequently bleated.

The Iraq-7/7 mantra -- which never EXPLICITLY fesses up to its George Galloway-esque solution: complete Western disengagement from the Arab world -- demonstrates a complete misunderstanding of the role of agency in the so-called "War on Terror." It links up with that tired leftist line: "The West gets attacked when it does things that it shouldn't be doing in other parts of the world." The syntactical use of the passive voice is very telling, since this line of argument rarely seeks to understand what motivates these fanatics...it assumes that American (and British)
wrongdoings in the Middle East somehow stoke Muslims into a dervish-like frenzy as automatically as a match lights newspaper.

But that assumption flies in the face of the wealth of knowledge we have about the motivations of radical Islamism. Bin Laden founded al Qaeda largely in response to the US presence in Saudi Arabia (Look, mom! The 1991 Gulf War led to 9/11!). But the grievances of al Qaeda are not about U.S. troops. Hell, they aren't even about Israel (though boy, isn't Israel an amazing recruitment mechanism?). Screw the idea that al Qaeda hates the "freedom" of the West. What they hate is that they don't have a global caliphate ruling the world.

A medieval caliphate is their STATED aim...which is why conservatives are so fond of comparing Islamism to Fascism or Stalinism. Here, conservatives (and several firebrand liberals like Paul Berman and Christopher Hitchens) are right. The Nazis were not content with putting only Europe in chains...they wanted world domination -- a thousand-year Reich modelled on the Roman Empire. The Soviets wanted the global proletarian revolution. And al Qaeda will not be satisfied until it runs the world.

Do the mantra-chanters really believe that if the West pulled all of its troops
out of the Muslim world (and if Israel were to cease to be populated with Jews), al Qaeda would lose its purpose and dissolve? Did Hizbullah dissolve when Israel pulled out of Southern Lebanon? Nope. These murderous ideologues will attack every country that does not conform to their barbaric ideology.

But then why have the major bomb attacks been against US allies? Easy: the TIMING of bombings is a matter of geopolitical strategy. If the Radical Islamists can convince people that only the US and its closest allies will be targets, they know they won't have to deal with a concerted offense from the West. 7/7 was as much about Iraq as it was about Israel or about Afghanistan or about the 1956 Suez Crisis or, for that matter, the Iron Sheik.

The first British fighters killed during the invasion of Afghanistan were fighting for the Taliban. Islamic acts of terror across Europe began well before Bush sent troops into Iraq (and in countries that didn't even support the Iraq war). Bombings of French synagogues have been going on for years. Theo van Gogh was murdered in 2004 by a radical Islamist, but Dutch jitters about radical Islamism within the Netherlands began years ago -- they're what motivated the rise of Pym Fortuyn. The argument that non-Arab Muslims are merely reacting to injustice in Iraq belies the seductive power of Islamist ideology ON ITS OWN. It is also incorrect. This blood-curdling flash presentation catalogues every al Qaeda or al Qaeda-affiliated attack since 1998. Notice how many of those attacks were in India and Pakistan...

Make no mistake about it. As much as I loathe many of the policies pursued by the Bush administration, the Bushies did not invent al Qaeda. And al Qaeda is the unspeakably barbaric enemy. We might differ strongly on tactics in this struggle...but let's remember that readers of this blog are all on the same side. It's the side that wants to eliminate Islamic terrorism from the face of the earth. I'm perfectly content to differ with people on the Iraq War. But if you differ, then offer an alternative to fight this ideological monstrosity. There are plenty of viable ones...but pretending that it's all our fault is not one of them.


Blogger Christopher W.C. said...

Absolutely. The UK was a target before, say, Canada because it is a central part of the West whose influence and power the radical Islamists want to destroy. The "special relationship" with the US (which predates Iraq by decades) might have been the proximate cause, but even if that didn't exist, the UK would have been a target eventually. Your comments, Matthew, remind me of those of Newsnight's Mark Urban (which I read quoted in the New Yorker): "What is there to negotiate with these people? An end to the American presnce in Saudi Arabia? All right, we'll consider it. The elimination of the State of Israel? Hmm, that may be a bit more difficult. The restoration of a universal Islamic caliphate? It may be a bit of a deal-breaker, that. This is not a program, really. It's a wraparound justification for a violence whose real end is the expiation of shame through massacre."

Tuesday, July 19, 2005  

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