It's almost tempting to breathe a sigh of relief.
Raw, heads-in-the-sand stupidity is not limited to those who prop up the Bush
agenda here in the land of polarized red and blue.
Last week the Royal
Institute of International Affairs (RIIA) issued a report
[.pdf] suggesting that Britain's backing for the war in Iraq had raised the
dangers of a terrorist attack. The RIIA is a respected organization, but its
conclusion that the UK's involvement in Iraq has resulted in boosting recruitment
and fundraising for al-Qaeda was received angrily.
While interior minister Charles Clarke and opposition
party leaders mulled over further anti-terrorism
legislation to follow the London bombings, the RIIA
report sat, apparently minimalized and unstudied.
From what this reader deduced, wagonloads of words were shuttled from room
to room, from official to official, all dealing with how to fight the terrorists,
without ever weighing in the root causes of terrorism.
Prime Minister Tony Blair's spokesman was quick enough with requisite words
("We all have to recognize where this perversion of Islam comes from"),
but the RIIA report getting to these root causes seems to have been the skunk
in the unhappy garden party.
The unwanted report read clearly that Britain had created problems by playing
"pillion passenger" to Washington. Security experts Frank Gregory
and Paul Wilkinson warned,
"The UK is at particular risk because it is the closest ally of the United
If it went in one ear and out the other, the road most
traveled by reports citing rising terrorism as a
result of Anglo-American occupation, it stuck long
enough for Foreign Secretary Jack Straw to rebuff the
report with familiar words: "The time for excuses for
terrorism is over."
For inexplicable reasons, the West is peopled by an inordinate number of strategists
who cannot seem to see the difference between "making excuses" and
"seeking causes." I'm reminded of the little girl who sticks her tongue
out at her classmates and tells them their shoes are ugly, then goes home wailing
that they don't like her to a mother whose comfort we've all heard: "They're
just jealous of you, honey."
Right. A little like telling a glassy-eyed audience
that the terrorists are attacking us because they hate
Causes are a bit more complicated than those manufactured by the benefactors
of the current war, yet they are not unfathomable. Terrorism, though a horror
never to be defended, arises out of helplessness.
Men have fought since they had nothing but stones to throw at each other.
It may be partly hormonal. But even when stones were state of the art, there
were reasons for throwing them. There was a difference, whether it was over
a source of water or a more comfy cave. There were reasons, and each side fought
with what it had available, be it dirt, sticks, stones, then in time, bronze,
gunpowder, AK-47s, or atomic bombs. If one side is underarmed, it must face
either immediate defeat or use another tactic.
The terrorism that dominates the world today is Muslim terrorism, a movement
that has little or nothing to do with traditional Islam. It is, instead, a result
of the formation of the Muslim
Brotherhood in 1928, a trend in the Islamic reform movement that attributed
the difficulties in Islamic society to a deviation from the ideals and practices
of early Islam. The Muslim Brotherhood was created as a direct result of the
British occupation of Egypt.
With the formation of the state of Israel in
Palestine, the Brotherhood grew, seeing Palestine now
occupied by non-Islamic peoples.
Foreign occupation seems to always have been the root of the terrorism that
grew from the early Muslim Brotherhood. The South Lebanon Shi'ite groups, Amal
and Hezbollah, evolved into "terrorists" as a result of the 1982 Israeli
invasion and occupation of southern Lebanon.
The very radical Muslim terrorism of Khomeini's
Revolutionary Guard developed in response to the 1953
CIA coup that overthrew the last freely elected
parliament in Iran.
Hamas is another case of terrorism resulting from
occupation. Hamas is the Palestinian Muslim
Brotherhood, and it turned to terrorism after being
rendered helpless to fight the Israeli military
occupation of Gaza.
Leading up to even more current difficulties, the Soviet invasion and occupation
of Afghanistan in the 1980s generated the radical Muslim terrorism that unleashed
precisely what we are seeing today. A chronology of that development leaves
Washington with egg on its face. While terrorism was growing in response to
Soviet occupation during the Reagan years, the CIA secretly sent billions of
dollars of military aid to the mujahedin in a U.S.-supported jihad against the
What resulted was Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda. While bin Laden's big gripe
later was the stationing of U.S. forces on holy soil in Saudi Arabia, it was
the Soviet occupation that gave birth to the people who would later aim their
stolen weapons at the Twin Towers of New York.
People don't like for their homelands to be occupied. Generally, under occupations,
the natives feel pretty helpless. Throw in a few atrocities, a frequent byproduct
of invasions and occupations, and things get uglier at an exponential rate.
A boy sees his family blown to pieces by "shock and awe," and there
it is: you have a terrorist before he's even trained. Well into the occupation,
he may be willing to take a dozen people down with him.
It's there between Israel and Gaza, between Russia and
Chechnya, between India and the Kashmiri Muslims.
There are those in the White House who like to soothe us by telling us that
"we" are winning. Iraq is on the road to democracy. They repeat over
and over their one point to support that contention: Elections were held last
Since those elections on Jan. 30, terrorist attacks in Iraq have more than
doubled. Further, terrorist
attacks around the world more than tripled in 2004, from 175 in 2003
to 655 in 2004. In Iraq itself, 2004 saw nine times the number of attacks as
2003. These numbers do not include attacks on U.S. troops.
The U.S. State Department has not released figures on the number of terrorist
attacks and information on whether they are increasing. According to Jonathan
Landay of Knight Ridder, the clampdown came when the government's top terrorism
center concluded that there were more terrorist attacks in 2004 than in any
year since it had begun tracking them. Former senior counterterrorism official
Larry Johnson has said that the State Department balks at releasing the data
because "It might lead to the public perception that America is losing
the global war on terror."
In mid-April, Knight
Ridder reported that the White House planned to withhold the terrorist attack
statistics. Democratic Congressman Henry Waxman angrily responded:
"This is the definitive report on the incidence of terrorism around
the world. It should be unthinkable that there would be an effort to withhold
it – or any of the key data – from the public. The Bush administration
should stop playing politics with this critical report."
Shortly thereafter, the BBC reported that it was more
difficult for the U.S. to keep this data from the
public due to Congressman Henry Waxman's having
released the figures.
What matters in all the squabbling about whether to
release the figures or the methodology for
calculations is that terrorism has increased
noticeably since the U.S. invasion of Iraq. What
matters is that the piles and piles of dead bodies and
the overflowing prisons have not curbed terrorism in
any way whatsoever.
Angrily ignoring information such as the RIIA report is indirectly creating
greater threats of terrorism than ever. American novelist Alexander Jablokov
has written, "The road to truth is long, and lined the entire way with
annoying bastards." If Jablokov is correct, we might wonder if the potential
victims of terrorism have even a faint shot at survival.