Saturday, November 12, 2005

Unwilling to confront Islamofascism?

"My experiences in the contemporary academic setting since 9/11 have convinced me that the left, which controls that precinct, tends to offer one-sided, quasi-religious trumpetings of the sins of the United States and of American “empire” and its “quest for global domination”, while being unwilling to name and confront the reality of Islamofascism".

This summarises Thomas Cushman's critique of Barnett and Hilton's piece about democracy on openDemocracy. He is unhappy about the way many commentators make a moral equivalence between the Bush administration's actions in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, in Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo, and in the secret "renderings" of terrorist suspects for torture in third party countries, and in the succession of acts that take away ancient civil liberties in the name of fighting terror.

Remarkably for an academic, he asserts that Saddam's Iraq was linked to Al-Qaeda, backing it with a link to a book by Frum and Perle. I would be grateful to read a summary of Perle's arguments, since it is the consensus view that Saddam and OBL shared only a mutual distrust.

Is it the case that we seem to criticise Bush more than we seem to criticise the terrorists? If so, I suggest that once we have condemned the terrorists' atrocities, which we do, and their fundamentalist line of thought, which we do, there is little more that we can do about Bin Laden. He and the jihadists are immune to reason, and we have no leverage on him. There is no point in ranting against him and his works. We support the policy of defending ourselves against him through police and legal action until his fires burn out, as they undoubtedly will.

The only thing that we can do is to try to stop our governments' responses from making a bad situation worse, by provoking frustrated young muslims to associate themselves with jihadists. And this, emphatically, is how we see the "war on terror", the bombings in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the illiberal counter-terrorism measures enacted in our country.

Al-qaeda is an ugly, even a psychotic, phenomenon, but it will pass, just as the Red Brigades, the Red Army Faction, the IRA and all of the other terrorist organisations passed. By bombings such as the current outrage in Jordan, they will erode their support base. They kill many people, but then, so do our bombs and our wars. Thomas Cashman speaks of proportionality, but proportionally, the war on terror has killed a far greater proportion of the muslims population than the proportion of America's population that was killed on 9/11.

In the end, it is a question of judgement, not of logic. Some, mainly on the the right, are sincerely convinced that Al-Qaeda is the greatest threat that we face today. Most of us feel that it is one threat among many, and in comparison to the threat of climate change, he is a fairly minor one. Indeed, if we began seriously and constructively to address the challenges of environmental sustainability, there would follow a diversion of energy and attention away from hatred, jealousy and the arts and machinery of war. We need a major, "New Deal on Sustainable Development", a wave of construction and co-operation in pursuit of management of water infrastructure, food supply, habitat, renewable energy sourcing, and safe waste management throughout the world, beginning in the Middle East. If that were associated with a New Deal in terms of improved governance and equity, (mediated perhaps in part through the Index of Human Rights in the UN ) political psychopaths like Osama bin Laden might find themselves short of recruits.

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