Many thanks for your letter. If you would be so good as to look behind you and use your binoculars to scan the horizon, there is an outside chance that you might locate the point.
The letter I refer to was printed in last week’s Economist, and relates to the Iraq war (yes, I know, I’m sorry, I’m sick of it too, but sometimes the only way to stop the flow of steam from my aural cavities is to scream; and not wanting to lose my job right now, blogging will have to do).
In it, a Mr Terry Nugent of Illinois takes the news magazine to task for its assertion that only “the wilfully dim-sighted” would fail to notice that the Iraq war has gotten terrorists rather excited.
Mr Nugent smugly notes that “I haven’t noticed any Manhattan skyscrapers burning lately” (except of course for that which was unfortunate enough to be the inadvertent target of the Yankees’ kamikaze pitcher Cory Lidle, and I don’t suppose we can blame Bush for that one). Then he moves in for the kill:
…The sad fact is that jihadists will use any reason to spread their murder and mayhem. Had we left Iraq unmolested they would have incinerated the innocent on behalf of Chechnya, Palestine, etc, on whatever rationale they found in the day’s news…
Deep healing breaths, deep healing breaths.
Okay. One more time for the hard of understanding. The leaders of al-qaeda and its pals, the Osamas and Hassan Nasrallahs of this world, believe themselves to be fighting a war against the nebulously allied forces of America, zionism, capitalism and modernity. Our Mr Nugent is not wrong in noticing that these chaps were pissed off a long time before Dubya decided it would be a pretty neat idea to finish what his dad started.
What he has failed to notice, however, is that these leaders are reliant on a generous supply of impressionable young Muslims, who feel their religion/values/way of life (delete as appropriate) are under attack and want to fight back. These guys provide the jihadists with foot soldiers and suicide bombers. Without people willing to fight for them, the leaders of al-qaeda are just another bunch of religious nutjobs shouting from a street corner, no bigger threat to our way of life that that chap who stands at Oxford Circus with a megaphone offering you the choice of being a sinner or a winner.
The jihadists will, indeed, use any reason to spread their murder and mayhem – but without a cause cÃƒÂ©lÃƒÂ¨bre to act as a recruiting sergeant, they’re going to be a lot less good at it. The invasion of Iraq gave them that cause, in one fell swoop making many thousands of people a lot more open to the notion that the west was at war with Islam. Which, you may recall, we’re not.
Mr Nugent has, in effect, fallen prey to what one might term the “lump of jihad” fallacy.
And, Terry? That smug line about Manhattan continuing unscathed? In July last year my city was attacked by terrorists. And despite John Reid’s contorted attempts to claim otherwise, the bombers were pretty unambiguous in citing the invasion of Iraq as a reason for it.