Anti Fascism

The Straw Man

I did think this time we could get through a few days before the same old stuff was trotted out but sadly there is some fairly predictable garbage in the Guardian today.

The worst comes from Faisal Bodi. it’s the Galloway ‘Chickens come home to roost’ line and as such is worth nothing but contempt.

More serious is David Clark’s flawed piece. I’ll start by responding to a point which was also made by Robin Cook on Friday:

“It should be clear by now that we cannot defeat this threat with conventional force alone,” says Clark.

That sounds very reasonable and intelligent until you realise that no-one at all has been arguing we can beat violent Islamism with conventional force alone. Not George Bush, not Tony Blair, certainly not the neo-cons. In fact I cannot think of any serious or relevant person who has argued that Islamist terrorism can be beaten by purely military means. It is a straw man.

Clark says: An effective strategy can be developed, but it means turning our attention away from the terrorists and on to the conditions that allow them to recruit and operate.

Again, Clark appears to be oblivious to the fact that people such as Condi Rice and yes, GW Bush, while not urging us to ‘turn our attention away from the terrorists’ (and why should we?) have been making the point about dealing the broader conditions since 9-11. That is what all those speeches about transforming and democratising the Middle East have been about.

Clark makes no mention of that aspect of the strategy to undermine support for Islamists says the ‘war on terror’ is failing and this is why:

Everything that has followed the fall of Kabul has been ruinous to the task of winning over moderate Muslim opinion and isolating the terrorists within their own communities. In Iraq we allowed America to rip up the rule book of counter-insurgency with a military adventure that was dishonestly conceived and incompetently executed. Tens of thousands of innocent Iraqis have been killed by US troops uninterested in distinguishing between combatant and noncombatant, or even counting the dead. The hostility engendered has been so extreme that the CIA has been forced to conclude that Iraq may become a worse breeding ground for international terrorism that Afghanistan was. Bin Laden can hardly believe his luck.

First of all, after watching an ex-CIA ‘Bin Laden specialist’ sounding like Robin Cook on Newsnight last night I now, finally understand why American hawks have been criticising the CIA so much. The phrase ‘Even the CIA think’ now has as much weight as an argument as ‘even former British ambassadors believe’.

There are of course, many, many criticisms that can be made of the way the US carried out the liberation of Iraq and notwithstanding Clark’s crass comment that US troops are uninterested in distinguishing between combatant and noncombatant there is no point in denying that many, ordinary non-Jihadist muslims have been angered by the war in Iraq and the way the US military have behaved. But again, what is not said here is important. What is not said is that eight million Muslims voted for the first time in free elections in Iraq. The majority of Muslims (and others) in Iraq support the UN-backed political process in Iraq aimed at strengthening a legitimate democratic government and ending the occupation. What is not said is that the Jihadists have shown Muslims in Iraq and elsewhere exactly what they think of those who search for a democratic and political solution to their problems. They have shown their true face once again and most importantly been rejected by the vast majority of Muslims in Iraq and elsewhere. But for Clark “Everything that has followed the fall of Kabul” has been to the gain of the terrorists.

Those who claim, with little or no evidence, that ordinary Muslims have been transformed into supporters of Jihadist terrorism as a result of the Iraq war decline to wonder about the impact of the bombing of mosques (not by US troops but by the Jihadist fanatics btw) on Muslim public opinion. The horrors in Iraq have indeed shown us the problems associated with a US military invasion but they have also revealed to anyone who had doubts, the true nature of Jihadi terror which, despite September 11, despite Madrid and despite London, remains targeted , above all, at Muslims who refuse to toe the Bin Laden line. To argue this has been to the gain of the Jihadists is to discount the capacity for Muslims to understand exactly what their and our enemy stands for and to reject and oppose it.

What is also missing from Clark’s review of our ‘losing’ the war on terror is – the destruction of Al-qaeda training camps in Afghanistan, the free elections in Afghanistan, the return of women to education in that country, the busting of the AQ Khan WMD for Sale Ring, the effective surrender of Gaddafi, the elimination of key leadership figures in Al-qaeda, the resumption of an attempt at peace in the Israel-Palestine conflict, the growing signs of an emerging democratic opposition within the Arab world, the overthrow of Saddam Hussein’s dangerous, terrorist-friendly Ba’athist regime, the struggles of Iraqi civil and organisational organisations against Islamist terror aided by that country’s religious leaders who have explicitly rejected the Bin-Laden doctrine. All of these have been serious blows to the enemy.

Not to mention the numbers of Jihadists who have been hurried to their ‘martyrdom’ by counter-insurgency activities carried out by local and international forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The ideology to which the Islamist terrorists subscribe regards democracy and individual liberty as poisons which must be dealt with because they represent the greatest threat to their goal of restoring the caliphate and imposing a Medieval Sharia law. On that issue I am in 100 percent agreement with them. That is why the expansion of freedom is the greatest weapon we possess against them.

David Clark might agree with that – if so he could stop pretending it is a weapon that is not being used.