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New York, Madrid, London, Mumbai

15 July 2006

The list of cities bombed by Islamic terrorists continues to grow, with Mumbai as the latest outrage. As usual, both Muslim and non-Muslim apologists like Tariq Ramadan keep telling us that the extremists are a tiny minority, that Islam is a religion of peace and so on. Around the recent first anniversary of the 7/7/2005 London bombings I heard an interview with some British Muslim “community leader” (nice phrase: I hereby appoint myself community leader of agnostic Jews of Polish origin and Danish roots in the Netherlands), who complained that the police were focusing too much on Muslim neighbourhoods, mosques and other institutions. What the hell does he expect the police to do? While clearly not all Muslims are terrorists, virtually all terrorist attacks in Europe since the demise of the left-wing groups like Bader Mainhof or the Red Brigades in the 1980s have been perpetrated by Islamic radicals (the exceptions are the IRA and ETA, both of which are also much weaker than earlier). So as a citizen in a democratic European country I do expect my government to protect me, and that means that the police should keep an eye on Muslim neighbourhoods, that the secret services hopefully infiltrate Muslim organisations, that the border control at Schiphol is particularly focused on Muslim travellers etc. etc. This is not discrimination, it is common sense.

If the self-styled Muslim community leaders want to be taken seriously, they should cooperate with the efforts of the authorities to catch the radicals before they commit terrorist attacks. If it is really true that the extremists are a tiny minority, then surely it must be in the interest of the majority to get rid of them. But perhaps they are not such a tiny minority as we are always told. Perhaps this is also why, after every terrorist atrocity, these “mainstream” Muslim leaders condemn the attacks in a strange, half-hearted kind of way: yes, it is wrong to kill innocent people on a bus or a train, but the wider society must understand the alienation of the young Muslims, there is the Iraq war, there is the eternal favourite, the Israeli/Arab conflict, etc. etc., invoked ad nauseum. There is always the yes, but… No, there is no but. The Western, democratic societies are in a war against Islamic ideology, a war like not unlike the Cold War, but against a more fanatical and vicious opponent. And like in every war, mistakes will be made: small ones like the recent raid on a house in London where nothing incriminating was found, and big ones like the invasion of Iraq, which was probably motivated more by GWB’s desire to finish what his dad had not finished ten years earlier. But we must keep a sense of perspective; we must never forget who are the good guys and who are the bad guys, who is on the side of freedom, democracy, equal rights for women, and who represents backwardness and tyranny.

  1. luc permalink

    Thank you for your thought-provoking thoughts. Let’s me start with a private joke. I am happy to read that Iraq’s invasion was a big mistake 🙂 More seriously, it comes as a welcome admission that the “good guys, bad guys” model doesn’t work in international relations (IR).

    Call me a ‘realist’ but IR is a game between sovereign states whose primary objective is survival– no other state can be relied upon to guarantee your survival. Other actors are of much lesser significance.

    The model applies to the 1948 creation of the State of Israel (a state that can be there when the Jews call ‘911’ and no one, not even the United States, picks up the phone) as well a the ‘two-state’ solution in Palestine (it’s about time that the Palestinians become masters of their own destiny not a pawn in others’ games—the Arabs, the occupying power, the international ‘community’).

    With sovereignty comes responsibility.

    Ehud Olmert was a ‘realist’ when –contradicting Bush– he said that the cross-border Hezbollah attack was “not a terrorist attack, but the action of a sovereign state that attacked Israel for no reason and without provocation.” As unfair and frightening as it may look, little Lebanon, and possibly other sovereign states, must be held responsible for the deeds of Hezbollah. Of course, it does not exonerate Israel, as a sovereign state – from a purely national interests’ point of view, leaving aside international law for a moment — of the test of proportionality.

    From an IR perspective, the defunct cold war and the Islamic jihad have little in common except in both cases brutal ideological confrontation –needless to say that I am not neutral in this confrontation. Global terrorism is a non-conventional war waged by non-state actors; the cold war was a pure balance of power exercise. Sovereign states have to fight terrorism thru all means at their disposal (at Schipol airport and elsewhere) including non-conventional ones. It requires determination and international cooperation (including with Muslim states!). Ideological oversimplifications are not part of the programme.

    GWB’s “war on terror” is a political slogan void of any conceptual significance in that it can be used to justify Iraq’s invasion– against US national interests, stretching Presidential powers, eavesdropping the citizens or more importantly (thanks Karl Rove) discrediting your ‘unpatriotic’ opponents.

    In short, I cannot subscribe to your jihad ‘à l’envers’ whereby the West, after defeating communism, would be at war with a loosely defined Islam. I am not even convinced that your ‘jihad’ could become a self-fulfilling prophecy because the Muslim world is much more complex than the late Soviet bloc—many state actors with conflicting interests.

    What we witness today in the Middle East is the sad result of a bad US foreign policy combining the –very predictable–destabilising effect of the unnecessary, second Gulf war –creating this unpredictable face à face between the two remaining regional powers, Iran and Israel—and, the unbelievable disengagement of the Bush administration from the so-called Middle-East Peace Process.

    Isn’t ironic that the great idea of Bush second term –‘transformational diplomacy’—i.e. the promotion of ‘democratic’ elections in Arab countries—resulted in Islamist parties who are elected to power –at Europe’s doorstep, by the way–, but who insist on maintaining their own private militias and refuse to assume all the responsibilities of a sovereign government—today in Lebanon, in Iraq (yes, in Iraq), in Palestine and tomorrow, in Egypt and Morocco? This is what a former proponent of the war in Iraq, Tom Friedman, calls in his NYT’s column of yesterday ‘the kidnapping of democracy’.

    Wake up Condi! So much for your ‘transformational diplomacy, what is needed is more ‘realism’ not less!

    To end on a lighter note –and to allude to one of your previous entries–it seems that, in the World Cup final, Marco Materazzi fell victim of the ‘jihad à l’envers’ ideology when he would have said: “Meritate tutti ciò, voi gli enculato di musulmani, sporchi terroristici” (decency forbids translation, of course and no excuse for Zidane re-of course) 🙂

  2. From the previous comment, sounds like the fringe left and right have some common ground, everything is Bush’s fault, or is he just the puppet?

    When Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert unleashed his navy and air force on Lebanon, accusing that tiny nation of an “act of war,” the last pillar of Bush’s Middle East policy collapsed.

    First came capitulation on the Bush Doctrine, as Pyongyang and Tehran defied Bush’s dictum: The world’s worst regimes will not be allowed to acquire the world’s worst weapons. Then came suspension of the democracy crusade as Islamic militants exploited free elections to advance to power and office in Egypt, Lebanon, Gaza, the West Bank, Iraq and Iran.
    Now, Israel’s rampage against a defenseless Lebanon – smashing airport runways, fuel tanks, power plants, gas stations, lighthouses, bridges, roads and the occasional refugee convoy – has exposed Bush’s folly in subcontracting U.S. policy out to Tel Aviv, thus making Israel the custodian of our reputation and interests in the Middle East.

    The Lebanon that Israel, with Bush’s blessing, is smashing up has a pro-American government, heretofore considered a shining example of his democracy crusade. Yet, asked in St. Petersburg if he would urge Israel to use restraint in its airstrikes, Bush sounded less like the leader of the Free World than some bellicose city councilman from Brooklyn Heights.

    What Israel is up to was described by its army chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Dan Halutz, when he threatened to “turn back the clock in Lebanon 20 years.”

    Olmert seized upon Hezbollah’s capture of two Israeli soldiers to unleash the IDF in a pre-planned attack to make the Lebanese people suffer until the Lebanese government disarms Hezbollah, a task the Israeli army could not accomplish in 18 years of occupation.

    Israel is doing the same to the Palestinians. To punish these people for the crime of electing Hamas, Olmert imposed an economic blockade of Gaza and the West Bank and withheld the $50 million in monthly tax and customs receipts due the Palestinians.

    Then, Israel instructed the United States to terminate all aid to the Palestinian Authority, though Bush himself had called for the elections and for the participation of Hamas. Our Crawford cowboy meekly complied.

    The predictable result: Fatah and Hamas fell to fratricidal fighting, and Hamas militants began launching Qassam rockets over the fence from Gaza into Israel. Hamas then tunneled into Israel, killed two soldiers, captured one, took him back into Gaza and demanded a prisoner exchange.

    Israel’s response was to abduct half of the Palestinian cabinet and parliament and blow up a $50 million U.S.-insured power plant. That cut off electricity for half a million Palestinians. Their food spoiled, their water could not be purified, and their families sweltered in the summer heat of the Gaza desert. One family of seven was wiped out on a beach by what the IDF assures us was an errant artillery shell.

    Let it be said: Israel has a right to defend herself, a right to counter-attack against Hezbollah and Hamas, a right to clean out bases from which Katyusha or Qassam rockets are being fired and a right to occupy land from which attacks are mounted on her people.

    But what Israel is doing is imposing deliberate suffering on civilians, collective punishment on innocent people, to force them to do something they are powerless to do: disarm the gunmen among them. Such a policy violates international law and comports neither with our values nor our interests. It is un-American and un-Christian.

    But where are the Christians? Why is Pope Benedict virtually alone among Christian leaders to have spoken out against what is being done to Lebanese Christians and Muslims?

    When al-Qaida captured two U.S. soldiers and barbarically butchered them, the U.S. Army did not smash power plants across the Sunni Triangle. Why then is Bush not only silent but openly supportive when Israelis do this?

    Democrats attack Bush for crimes of which he is not guilty, including Haditha and Abu Ghraib. Why are they, too, silent when Israel pursues a conscious policy of collective punishment of innocent peoples?

    Britain’s diplomatic goal in two world wars was to bring the naive cousins in, to “pull their chestnuts out of the fire.” Israel and her paid and pro-bono agents here appear determined to expand the Iraq war into Syria and Iran, and have America fight and finish all of Israel’s enemies.

    That Tel Aviv is maneuvering us to fight its wars is understandable. That Americans are ignorant of, or complicit in this, is deplorable.

    Already, Bush is ranting about Syria being behind the Hezbollah capture of the Israeli soldiers. But where is the proof?

    Who is whispering in his ear? The same people who told him Iraq was maybe months away from an atom bomb, that an invasion would be a “cakewalk,” that he would be Churchill, that U.S. troops would be greeted with candy and flowers, that democracy would break out across the region, that Palestinians and Israelis would then sit down and make peace?

    How much must America pay for the education of this man?

    Reprinted without permission from

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