Fighting terrorists, fighting myths

With the recent bombings in London, it’s very easy to fall for the idea that it is our involvement in Iraq which is causing these bombings. In a more honest moment, I’d say even I think that sometime. We want to think that if we leave the terrorists alone, they’ll leave us alone, so maybe we did bring this on ourselves. I want to think this despite all my Calvinistic pessismism concerning the human condition and rabid, jingoistic patriotism. But we must remember the history of bombings before the Iraq war. John Howard, the Australian prime minister, had to deal with this myth when a reporter asked about it while he was in London. His response is dead on and worth a full quote (emphases are mine):

Could I start by saying the prime minister and I were having a discussion when we heard about it. My first reaction was to get some more information. And I really don’t want to add to what the prime minister has said. It’s a matter for the police and a matter for the British authorities to talk in detail about what has happened here.

Can I just say very directly, Paul, on the issue of the policies of my government and indeed the policies of the British and American governments on Iraq, that the first point of reference is that once a country allows its foreign policy to be determined by terrorism, it’s given the game away, to use the vernacular. And no Australian government that I lead will ever have policies determined by terrorism or terrorist threats, and no self-respecting government of any political stripe in Australia would allow that to happen.

Can I remind you that the murder of 88 Australians in Bali took place before the operation in Iraq.

And I remind you that the 11th of September occurred before the operation in Iraq.

Can I also remind you that the very first occasion that bin Laden specifically referred to Australia was in the context of Australia’s involvement in liberating the people of East Timor. Are people by implication suggesting we shouldn’t have done that?

When a group claimed responsibility on the website for the attacks on the 7th of July, they talked about British policy not just in Iraq, but in Afghanistan. Are people suggesting we shouldn’t be in Afghanistan?

When Sergio de Mello was murdered in Iraq — a brave man, a distinguished international diplomat, a person immensely respected for his work in the United Nations — when al Qaeda gloated about that, they referred specifically to the role that de Mello had carried out in East Timor because he was the United Nations administrator in East Timor.

Now I don’t know the mind of the terrorists. By definition, you can’t put yourself in the mind of a successful suicide bomber. I can only look at objective facts, and the objective facts are as I’ve cited. The objective evidence is that Australia was a terrorist target long before the operation in Iraq. And indeed, all the evidence, as distinct from the suppositions, suggests to me that this is about hatred of a way of life, this is about the perverted use of principles of the great world religion that, at its root, preaches peace and cooperation. And I think we lose sight of the challenge we have if we allow ourselves to see these attacks in the context of particular circumstances rather than the abuse through a perverted ideology of people and their murder.

And if that isn’t enough, perhaps a pictorial history (via Instapundit) would drive the point home. And if even that isn’t enough, perhaps the 88 dead in Egypt will be a sufficient reminder that Islamofascists really do want to kill everybody who isn’t one of them. Despite reports that our actions are aggravating the situation, we must remember that it’s likely things will get worse before they get better. When knocking down a hornet’s nest, you don’t expect the number of hornets to reduce immediately.

5 thoughts on “Fighting terrorists, fighting myths”

  1. You are partly right. It is certainly our responsibility to recognize certain extremist groups as being a threat to our own national sovereignty and to attack them preemptively if possible so as to avoid the loss of American lives. Also, we are well justified in seeking out those who have attacked us and executing reasonable revenge upon our enemies.
    However, in the case of Iraq, I would tend to disagree with the idea that we have any sort of responsibility to have been there, or to continue to be there at all.

    First of all, when we first went to Iraq, we were sold on the idea that we were protecting ourselves from some future attack from Saddam and his supposed WMD’s. We have not, in all our time spent in Iraq, recovered any of these mythical weapons. Now we are operating on the notion that we are somehow morally bound to estalish a free, democratic Iraq. This has nothing to do with threats against the USA.

    One thing that is clear however, is that the longer our war of attrition has been waged, the more these “insurgents” and “terrorists” seem to be coming out of the woodwork. When we started this war, we were fighting Iraqis. Now we are fighting Muslims from around the world, Syria, Iran, Libya, Saudi Arabia, practically everywhere. Thousands of fighters from around the world are uniting against us in Iraq. Now, as a result of our war aginst Iraq, infamous terrorists Osama bin Laden and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi are operating in tandem. Thousands of uneducated, pissed-off nationalists from a dozen or more Islamic countries are joining the fight against us. The “insurgents” and “terrorists” are getting stronger, and it is our fault. We are giving them a good reason to unite and grow. We are threatening their autonomy.

    I pose the question: if we hadn’t gone into Iraq (under mistaken or falsified pretenses mind you), would they be anywhre near as structured, internationally influental, or powerful as they are today? Oddly enough, when dealing with this kind of enemy, our continued efforts are only making them stronger. And how can we expect anything different? Our enemies are drawing their numbers from an endless source of uneducated, easily influenced people whose goal at this point is to defend their right to decide for themselves what kind of government they want in place, or who are defending their traditions from Western powers historically reputed to be very violent and unfair to Muslim races (the Crusades all the way to the Soviet Union).

    Unless these people pose a direct threat to our own people, we NEED to leave them alone-for the sake of our own safety.

    The bombings in London have hit home for me much closer than for most Americans. I’ve been to London thrice, and stood precisely in each spot where the bombings occurred. That could have been myself or my family that was killed in these attacks had they come but a year earlier.

    We do not know what the motivation of these bombers were. They are either dead, or have not as of yet been discovered. It is likely that we will never know whether the bombings were linked to Britain’s efforts in Iraq, or were just coincidental acts of random hatred and violence. However, I know one thing for certain. I fear death. If I were to strap on an explosive device and detonate myself, I would certainly want it to serve some greater purpose than mindless violence. These people are not robots of desruction, they are people who love their families and way of life just as we do. To assume anything else is an affront to your own humanity. What kind of desperation these people must have felt that would have driven them to commit suicide in such a manner I will never fully understand, but I know one thing-that they were driven to such an end.

    I pose another question. Don’t you think it is a bit odd that such attacks would come from Islamic extremists at precisely the same time that Britain is waging war against Islamic extremists abroad? To deny a connection seems very specious.

    I do not support the notion that terrorists should continue to be allowed to pose a threat to us, just as I do not support the idea that they should be allowed to merely “get away with” attacks against us. But don’t you think that our involvement in Iraq is merely fueling the flames of Islamic hatred. I believe that, so long as we continue our war in Iraq we are only empowering these extremists. We are giving them reason to hate us more, giving them the initiative required to raise more support, and giving them very good reasons to repeat attacks such as the one we sustained on 9-11-01.

  2. To answer your questions:
    1. To address your paranthetical slam on our reasons for going into Iraq, I would say that you’ve bought into the the lie that the only reason we went into Iraq was to get WMDs. Indeed that was a very important reason for going into Iraq, but not the only one. This has been hashed over many times (start here for plenty of links) and reasons include: WMDs (threat and possession), humanitarian reasons, promoting democracy material violation of many UN resolutions, continually belligerency (one of the few nations in the world on 9/11 that we actually had fighter patrols over), eliminate a haven and support for global terrorism, and, some would say, to end the original Gulf War the way it should have been ended. WMDs have just become the big one because that was the most controversial before and after the war. To address your actual question that, I don’t believe that terrorists have gained much if anything from our war. Structurally, Al Qaeda has been gutted. It’s leadership is driven into hiding, killed, or captured, official support from states is eliminated, and popular support for Bin Laden and his monsters is eroding as well (thanks in part to their demonic tactics in Iraq). Unfortunately, we are now left with the task of getting the worst of the terrorists who happen to be the best at surviving. I guess it’s a kind of sick natural selection. In short, I reject your assertion that terrorist organizations are some how vastly improved by our actions in Iraq.

    2. I don’t find it odd at all. Of course, they’re going to attack us. It’s impossible to prove that Britain was bombed because of Iraq just as much as it is impossible that Britain wouldn’t have been bombed if they hadn’t gone into Iraq. Personally, I think it’s dangerously naive to think that terrorists are only going to attack people who attack them. I think that has been well proven by their actions around the world (see the links at the bottom of my post for proof of this). They attack who they want for their own twisted reasons. Iraq is just another item in their long list of excuses they use to play off the fears of the blame-America-first, we-had-it-coming, moral equivalency crowd.

  3. One of the suspects in the failed bombing plot (the Italian guy) said himself that the bombings were intended to “draw attention to anger over the war in Iraq.” (a CNN.com article 7/31). I think it is equally naive to assume that these and other so-called “terrorists” are fighting and dying for reasons you deem as being solely “twisted.” I think, like so many other culturally blinded Americans, you assume that our nation and its allies don’t have our share of ill-spilt blood on its hands. Furthermore, I never said that terrorists are only going to attack people who attack them.

    Also, my question to you was not neccessarily about what Al Queda as a structured organization has gained by our war in Iraq; it was aimed more at addressing what we have lost. We have lost international credibility and respect. People around the world who would otherwise remain uninvolved are now uniting against us because they feel we are overstepping our bounds. I asked you if you thought our involvement in Iraq was fueling the flames of hatred. I don’t think you understood my question.

    Your comment regarding the intent of the London bombers being unproveable was rather specious in my opinion. Simply because you can’t interview a dead man or ask an unfound fugitive why he or she commited a crime does not mean that you know why they did or did not do it. I would say, given that the most obvious answer is typically the correct one, that the bombings in London most probably were in protest against Britain’s involvement in Iraq. I think the fact that the cheif suspects are British nationals makes this theory even more plausible. But you are right, we can’t prove it. However, to assume that one had nothing to do with another would be like assuming some past IRA bombing would have nothing to do with Britain’s shaky relationship with Ireland in years past. It just doesn’t make much sense.

    Either way, I don’t think we should get bent out of shape over this. I’ll merely agree to disagree.

    I like your painting by the way.

  4. Who cares about all this? What we did was right, even if people hate us for it.

    I think what we did in Iraq benefited the people of Iraq as a whole, thus justified. Similar with Afghanistan. We should do the same in Sudan. We should’ve done the same in Rwanda.

    The rights of the ruling class in these countries shouldn’t be protected when they take away the rights of most of the citizens (such as killing them!) and/or when they protect the rights of terrorists.

  5. I see your point, but is it our responsibility to save the Iraqis and Afghanis from their own backwards governments? Is it ou responsibility to garuntee freedom, equality, and democracy to every backwards country in the world? If so, we’ve got quite an impossible task ahead of us!

    Shouldn’t we be doing more in our own country? Shouldn’t we try spending more money on our underfunded public schools, battling our ever-burgeoning crime rates and unemployment rates, basically trying to make our nation a better place instead of blowing billions and billions of dollars trying to give the Iraqi people a government that they will probably overthrow for yet another despotic regime in a couple of decades anyways?

    It is nice that Iraqis can have a better government, but at what cost to us?

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