Declare war for peace

Dear Terry,

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 célèbre 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.

  1. You are exactly right, of course. There was an excellent article in the last London Review of Books on the blindness of the neo-cons to the illogicalities of their position on Iraq.

  2. offering you the choice of being a sinner or a winner.

    Wouldn’t it be more accurate to say he he offers to turn you from one to the other?

  3. Ritu said:

    the Osamas and Hassan Nasrallahs of this world

    I am not convinced that these two belong together. Nasrallah’s support base and program has a definite natinalistic base, and, by all accounts, he is into efficient reconstruction. Osama can’t be accused of building anything, and seems to be aiming for a global jihad.

  4. Garry said:

    Good stuff Jonn.

    The conviction with which Blair and Bush make this argument is the stuff of nightmares. What I still can’t work out is whether they’re being knowingly disingenuous in an attempt to hide a politically embarrassing truth or genuine believers in this logic defying dogma. At times, it seems to be a strange mixture of both.

    Either way, it’s not good. For whatever reason, our leaders refuse to accept the crucial importance of the recruitment process and behave as if they are facing a finite, well defined enemy. It seems to have led to a belief that no action they take could ever make the situation worse. Not good at all.

    I wonder if Terry (or Blair) could accept even theoretically that the actions of the U.S. and U.K. governments could make the situation worse?

    Hypothetical extrapolation:

    “Terry (or Blair), Mr Bush has invaded Pakistan, Turkey, almost every other Muslim country (not Saudi Arabia strangely) and France. He’s said he won’t rest until every Muslim is dead, and now the Middle East is in flames and…”

    “And I suppose you leftists think that this escalation was his fault. Well let me remind you pinkos that they hated us first. They started this…”

    Sadly, that’s probably just what Terry (or Blair) would say.