Yes, yes, fear not; my exciting Scottish economy post is on its way. However, for now I want to grace you all with my take on the London bombings. Before I start, I would like to point out that this article is simply my opinion
based on my own research and speculation. Most of the research has come from blogs and information gleaned from my two subscription mags, Private Eye
and The Spectator
Firstly, it was a tragedy, but the fact that London's network is so disparate made it less of a disaster than it could have been. Just think how many more might have died (and how much more disruption might have occurred) if we had just the one Underground system and bigger trains.
The second is that, if the Police are to be believed, there have been at least five foiled attack attempts in the last couple of years. Tim at Bloggerheads points out
that all is not necessarily as it appears as far as these "foiled" attacks go, appearing, as they have, just when the government is trying to force through another piece of illiberal legislation.
However, I think that we can probably thank our lucky stars that an attack has not happened sooner. We are, given our role in Afghanistan and Iraq, a prime
target, but what I want to look at is: is it solely our involvement in these invasions that have made us a target?
Firstly, and most obviously, we should remember that both of these wars were initiated by the attacks of 9/11. Some people have proposed that Bush wanted to invade Iraq all along, whether through misplaced pietas
, or because he wanted to get his hands on the oil reserves (more on this later). Whether or not this was the case, the invasions could not have had any political
justification without the attack on the World Trade Centre. This in turn has led unpleasant people
(thanks to Freedom & Whisky
) to allege that Bush either knew about the attacks or was active in making them happen, a theory that I find repugnant.
However, given that 9/11 did happen and was—from our perspective, anyway—unprovoked by any particular act by the US, would suggest that we, as a democracy, could always have been a target. This attitude is further backed up by this well-researched post
Secondly, I would be interested to know how deep your knowledge or understanding is of Islamism: i.e. political islam. We haven't spoken about politics for some time, so I don't know if you have read any articles or books about the history, philosophy and politics of Islamism at all. If you have, I apologise for what follows.
Perhaps you think that Islamism is the same thing as Islam. Perhaps you think that it is some form of national liberation struggle, or a reaction against imperialism or Bush's failure to sign up to Kyoto.
It is not.
Radical Islamism - in its most important strain - is a political doctrine which was developed principally by two arab thinkers in the first part of the 20th century - Qutb and Banna - who were deeply immersed, not in the culture of the middle east, but in the theoretical perspective of the European romantic movement. It is not an alien, exotic or even really an "oriental" doctrine. It is directly inspired by the same intellectual currents which gave rise to romantic nationalism in the 19th century, and fascism in the mid 20th century.
You might think that its main aim is to oppose military action in the middle east.
It is not.
Its main aim, explicitly, is to restore the Caliphate, abolished by Ataturk when modern Turkey was established. It is not an anti-imperialist movement. It is an imperialist movement, yearning for an imagined golden age which it hopes to recreate.
Qutb saw the primary enemy, not as the foreign policy of Western states, but as Modernity: and in particular materialism, liberalism, and democracy. This is the primary reason that London has been bombed: not because it has "attacked muslims" but because they fear that materialism, liberalism and democracy are damaging to the values which Islamists hope to promore: piety and submission to the will of god.
The radical Islamists are not fighting a realisable campaign, in the same sense that the Irish nationalists were. They do not want a Caliphate in the sense that the IRA wanted a united and independent Ireland. They are fighting a battle against the corrupting forces of modernity for the souls of all muslims. Their principal enemies are principally "apostate" muslims, not you or I.
Harry's post is further backed up by the entirety of The Religion of Peace
, which keeps a running total of the bodycount (about 10,000 people since 9/11) caused by Muslim terrorists around the world, and particularly by its post on Infidelophobia
These sources, to me, both seem to sum up the situation quite nicely. It would also imply that Britain was, at all times and regardless of our involvement in Iraq, a potential target. However, our involvement in Iraq has moved us up the list to, if you like, priority status. However, this is not because of the simplistic reasons that most anti-war campaigners shout about; there is a slightly more subtle motivation. I would like to point out here, that I am cleaving to the "Islamist" wording used in Harry's post up above; I realise that most Muslims are perfectly peaceable people.
Back in January, I pointed to
a little-reported article about the elections in Iraq: this was the declaration by the leader of the insurgents that democracy was the target. I wrote:
This interesting little snippet is from Scotland's The Herald: you can find the full article here.
Abu Musab al Zarqawi, the terror chief, warned Iraqis yesterday he would wage a "bitter war" against next Sunday's election... "We have declared a bitter war against the principle of democracy and all those who seek to enact it," a speaker identified as al Zarqawi said on an Islamist website. "Those who vote . . . are infidels. And with God as my witness, I have informed them (of our intentions)."
Now, haven't the press given the distinct impression that it is people who object to the USA being in Iraq at all that have been doing the bombing? People have said to me that we should send the UN into Iraq instead, because the Americans are ballsing it up. Now we find that the Iranian-back al Zarqawi is fighting against "the principle of democracy", not the Americans. In other words, even were the UN to have been involved from the very beginning in the Iraq invasion, this campaign of terror would still be happening.
This angle was, and still is, ignored by most of the mainstream press, most especially The Guardian, whose anti-American bias would be poorly served by dwelling on such a statement. This statement, however, is crucial; not only in backing up the point of view put forward in the posts at Harry's Place and of The Religion Of Peace site, but also in understanding why what happened happened, and what we must do next.
The first and obvious thing to ask is why Iraq and Afghanistan were attacked in the first place; and here, I am afraid, I am going to have to extrapolate some of the thinking in the White House. When 9/11 happened, Bush and his advisors not only had to find out who did it for security reasons, but also to appease the people who wanted a scapegoat. Much of what happens in the terrorist world is known by security services around the world, notably by Mossad who are—as it were—on the doorstep. The White House were aware of the training camps in Afghanistan (they had, after all, essentially set them up themselves) and, given the weakness economically and lack of popular support for the Taliban—both within and without the country—it seemed an easy, and effective, target. And so, within reason, it proved.
Why was Iraq chosen? Some people have pointed to a motive of postively psychotic, and thus pretty unlikely, pietas
; others pointed to the oil. The fact is that the US itself produces the vast majority of the oil that it uses, and most of the rest comes from Venezuela and other South American countries. Sure, they may want to gain control of oil supplies; but would they really go to war, with all the expense—both in terms of money and in the possible loss of American lives (and votes)—that that could entail? As Saudi Arabia, the country with the most reserves, was still more than happy to deal oil to the them, it would seem to be foolish to pursue a course which could, in fact, turn Saudi—and its oil reserves—against the US. In fact, the oil companies specifically lobbied Bush not
to attack Iraq. I think there was another reason.
I think that both Afghanistan and Iraq were chosen because they were not Iran.
Indisputably, in the world of terror the greatest team has been Syrian terrorists and Iranian funding. It was this team, for instance, that was almost certainly responsible for the Lockerbie bombing; a revenge attack for the Iranian airbus shot down, over the Gulf, by a US warship a couple of years earlier.
*Please forgive me if I indulge in a small aside here.
The excellent Private Eye
special report written by the late Paul Foot, Lockerbie: The Flight From Justice
highlights the considerable evidence for this at the time. Around the time of the first Gulf War, when we needed the Iranians onside, all investigations into the Lockerbie affair were quietly dropped. When they resumed after the war, it was found that several imcriminating bits of evidence had been "misplaced". Two things about the affair are
certain: firstly, the man who is currently serving 27 years in a Scottish prison did not do it. Secondly, the politicians who organised, and the spooks who were present at, the trial (which was described by the UN observer, a Chilean professor whose report was printed in full in the Eye
report, as having brought "the entire Scottish legal system into disrepute") know
that he did not do it. Libya agreed to go along with the whole thing because it would get them back onto the USA's trading list: that was the deal. And when you consider the amount that Libya could get out of trading with the US, the £6 billion compensation to the victims is a paltry sum.*
The White House really wanted to go for Iran, a radical Muslim state who were continuing to develop nuclear weapons and who were, in any case, the biggest funder of terrorism in the world, providing money and resources to Hamas, Hezbollah and Al-Qa'ida (which is, in any case, more of a philosophy than a concrete organisation as such), amongst others. However, there were two severe problems. Firstly, Iran was militarily far superior to Iraq, whose army had been decimated, discredited and demoralised by the first Gulf War and ten years of sanctions. If this were the only stumbling block, I don't believe that the US would have held back.
The second reason was far more problematic: Iran was, and is, a fundamentalist Islamist state run, in all but name, by a collective of radical Mullahs who farm out parts of its economy to themselves; much as the alien family runs the town in Diana Wynne Jones' Archer's Goon
. Although there have been elections, of both government and president, in Iran recently, this is no more than window-dressing. The power has never, actually, shifted away from the clerics who have controlled the country since the revolution.
By contrast, Saddam Hussein was embattled and shackled, forced to resort to corrupting UN officials to get money through the Oil For Food scam. Furthermore, ideologically he was isolated. As a Sunni , an essentially secular form of Islam, Saddam was isolated ideologically as well as economically. This was, and is, not the case with Iran.
If the US had decided to invade Iran, the other radical Islamic nations would have been compelled to support her. Allah must not be mocked, and it would be unthinkable that the Muslim government of Iran be toppled. It might even give ideas to the increasingly restless populations of the other Arab states, such as Saudi Arabia (where unemployment is running at roughly 18%). Immediately after the Afghan War, when the US was casting about for its next target, Saudi investors suddenly started withdrawing huge numbers of investments (especially university endowments; one of the reasons that the academic world in the US, in any case socialist in tendency, is so hostile to Bush); it was a warning. Even if the other Arab nations did not actively join in militarily, they would at least have to support Iran financially and politically. They could not have done otherwise. The Taliban could be allowed because they were too
radical and may even have become a threat to the other Muslim nations (which is why they were never supported financially); Saddam was too moderate, and not considered a proper Muslim anyway.
Thus, the US came up with the "War On Terror" rhetoric: it was a bluff. They desperately hoped that Iran, having seen the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, would believe that the US would
invade her if she didn't stop funding terrorism. It was always a feeble gamble, and Iran has wrong-footed the US again. Iran courted the anti-US Old Europe countries, and signed up to a deal to stop its nuclear programme. This provided a stick with which the French and Germans could beat America, and on two fronts. Firstly, they could say ,"see what we can achieve with our diplomatic processes, rather than your illegal war" and it also provided a boost to the ego of Old Europe, allowing them to believe that they could equal America's power and thus to be more bold with their needling than they might otherwise have been. O, the folly of proud men!
Iran carried on meanwhile, securing a few weeks later a deal with Russia to buy enriched uranium; and whilst this could be used in a nuclear reactor for power, why would one of the most oil-rich countries in the world bother? Furthermore, they then employed Al-Zarqawi in Iraq, supplying him with weaponry and support, to further mire the US and ensure that there was no way that it could possibly now invade Iran. The diplomatic skills and cunning of the Iranian authorities does, occasionally, take my breath away. (It must be said, however, that I admire their ability to survive in the same way as I admire the Human Immunodeficiency Virus, i.e. a certain amount of awe tempered with a healthy dose of fear.)
So, we come to our current situation. What do we do? Well, we could withdraw from Iraq; as I have said, I believe that to be bad, both morally and strategically. I also don't believe that it would take us off the hitlist: we are too prominent a hate figure for too many countries.
We could, of course, struggle on: carry on with our daily lives, struggle on in Iraq, and further tighten our security. As each new atrocity happens—as surely it must—the laws governing us will become tighter and tighter, and we ourselves will lose more and more of our freedoms.
There is a third way, of course, and I think you know what I'm going to suggest here. After all, I have already posted it
We have to remove the Mullahs in Iran. I believe that it will have to happen eventually. The trigger is going to be Iran's announcement, which at least one commentator in The Spectator
believed could be as soon as November this year, that they have developed nuclear weapons. And the same commentator feared that they are fanatical enough to use them, and that the first target would be Israel. This could, of course, let us off the hook. If Israel fears that they are to be attacked, they will almost certainly act pre-emtively. If that happens, we must
be prepared to back her, to the exclusion of all other commitments. Not because we should feel protective of Israel, but because she will almost certainly be engaging in a full-scale war against Islamist states on all sides. It could be argued that we are only facing this crisis because we were uninterested in fostering democracies in the Middle East and, in fact, that having totalitarian regimes—as long as they were ostensibly friendly to us—suited us far better. We need to make amends, and we cannot let democracy and freedom to choose that we have, be denied to others. If we believe that our way of life is better, and I, lacking the morally relativistic outlook of some, do believe that, then it behoves us to free others too. And, yet, obviously logistics dictate that we cannot "liberate" everyone at once.
I am not a warmonger, nor am I insensible to the "that's very easy for you to say, it won't be you digging a trench with your bare hands whilst eating sand for breakfast" argument; I just think that, eventually, we are going to be forced into removing Iran's current leaders. And I am also pretty certain that people are going to continue to die in Iraq until it happens.
We are paying a heavy price for the Iraq war and, although I do not believe that freeing the Iraqis from a murderous regime was ever a reason for our leaders taking us to war (even though it has become a rationale since), we should look at it like this: that we have freed millions of people from a repulsive regime. They have, in turn, backed us by walking miles to show, by voting, that they wish to be free. We have worried the totalitarian Muslim regimes nearby, who are putting down resistance in their countries with ever greater savagery; and we may yet be the catalyst to free millions more. Both the soldiers who have died in the Middle East and the commuters who died in London will not have died in vain if we can make Iraq work. If we drop the ball, pull out and leave the Iraqi people to the tender mercies of Sharia law, then we will have failed, and the terrorists will have won.UPDATES 10/08/05
Drawn up in response to Nosemonkey's post
.Iran rejects EU nuclear offerRussia asks Iran to halt activityIran urged to stop nuclear workIranian weapons found in Iraq