The idea that al-Qaeda was no threat until we created it does not stand the slightest scrutiny of events in the 1990s — from the first attack on the World Trade Centre in 1993, to the bombing of the USS Cole in 2000 and, of course, the September 11 atrocity a year later. And no one seriously thinks that only America was in their sights. The ideology of Islamism doesn’t stop at the superpower’s borders; its ambitions sweep through Europe; indeed that is where it is breeding so many of its jihadists.
The fight in Iraq is not, as the opponents claim, a self-inflicted wound, suddenly giving rise to new threats on our homeland from people we should have left well alone. We are, steadily, beating the terrorists in Iraq. Not only in the military operations, but also by demonstrating who and what the enemy really is. and thereby creating the only real long-term conditions for safety from Islamo-fascism — free states that do not deny the most basic human rights to their peoples. The people who murdered innocent Londoners yesterday are the same people who are murdering innocent Iraqis.
There’s another way in fact of looking at the question that offers a rather more optimistic perspective. Is this the best they can do? Is this what we have reduced them to? The damage to al-Qaeda wrought by four years of war is clearly impressive. The leadership is disconnected from its fanatical followers. The support infrastructure has been broken up. And yes, by fighting them in Iraq, side by side with Iraqi soldiers and police, we are showing too just how empty their death-loving cause is. We are still not safe from a much larger, more destructive attack than yesterday’s, but we are steadily eliminating the conditions that create the motivation.
From the same paper, Amir Taheri:
It is, of course, possible, as many in the West love to do, to ignore the strategic goal of the Islamists altogether and focus only on their tactical goals. These goals are well known and include driving the “Cross-worshippers” (Christian powers) out of the Muslim world, wiping Israel off the map of the Middle East, and replacing the governments of all Muslim countries with truly Islamic regimes like the one created by Ayatollah Khomeini in Iran and by the Taleban in Afghanistan.
How to achieve those objectives has been the subject of much debate in Islamist circles throughout the world, including in London, since 9/11. Bin Laden has consistently argued in favour of further ghazavat (raids) inside the West. He firmly believes that the West is too cowardly to fight back and, if terrorised in a big way, will do “what it must do”. That view was strengthened last year when al-Qaeda changed the Spanish Government with its deadly attack in Madrid. At the time bin Laden used his “Madrid victory” to call on other European countries to distance themselves from the United States or face similar “punishment”.
Bin Laden’s view has been challenged by his supposed No 2, Ayman al-Zawahiri, who insists that the Islamists should first win the war inside several vulnerable Muslim countries, notably Afghanistan, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Iraq. Until yesterday it seemed that al-Zawahiri was winning the argument, especially by heating things up in Afghanistan and Iraq. Yesterday, the bin Laden doctrine struck back in London.
Tony Blair performed in a statesmanlike manner yesterday, condemning the terrorist attacks in London, but Ken Livingstone’s emotional response surely reflected the view of the majority of citizens. It was the ordinary working people of London who bore the brunt of these attacks, irrespective of colour, race or creed. My heart goes out to all the victims, and their relatives and friends. We, the British people, must demonstrate to the world our commitment to the values of a tolerant, democratic, free society, and our rejection of the prescriptive message of the terrorists. Like the people of Spain, let us all join in mass demonstrations in our towns and cities this weekend to convey this message.
I will open the comments on this post for your reflections, observations and links to other material. Even though we are being urged everywhere to ‘return to normality’ today I’d rather we keep the discussion on topic and cordial.