A Few Obscenities

28 July 2005

A Few Obscenities

By Gwynne Dyer

Let’s talk dirty. The 9/11 suicide hijackers — all Arabs —
attacked the United States instead of Brazil or Japan because the US
government has been neck-deep in the politics of the Arab world for a
generation, whereas the Brazilian and Japanese governments haven’t. There
is a connection between Washington’s Middle Eastern policies — its
support for oppressive Arab regimes, its military interventions in the
region, and its uncritical backing for Israeli government policies — and
the fact that Americans have become the preferred targets for Islamist
terrorist attacks.

Indeed, no other non-Muslim nation except Israel was a target for
Islamist terrorist attacks until after the invasion of Iraq in March, 2003.
And the attacks since then have been aimed at the citizens of countries
that were complicit in that invasion: Londoners, not Parisians; Spaniards,
not Germans; Australians holidaying in Bali, not Japanese holidaying in

There you have it: two full paragraphs of obscenity. Prime
Minister Tony Blair himself says so. He informed us last Tuesday that any
attempt to link the terrorist attacks that struck the London transport
system on 7 July, and the subsequent failed attempts on 21 July, to his
decision to follow the Bush administration in invading Iraq was “an

That’s nonsense, of course. All the comments in the first two
paragraphs of this article are about cause and effect. You may agree or
disagree with the analysis, but discussions of cause and effect are still
permissible and even necessary. So how does Blair — and President George
W. Bush in Washington, and Prime Minister John Howard in Canberra, and
their partners elsewhere — get away with forbidding us to talk about what
is causing all this?

The key technique, which they all use, is to claim that any attempt
to explain why these attacks are happening is also an attempt to condone
and justify them.

None of their critics is actually saying that killing innocent
people in suicide attacks is justifiable. But the people who insist on
talking about cause and effect — about how American foreign policy
radicalised a generation of Arabs, and how the invasion of Iraq convinced
some deluded Muslims in other parts of the world (including in Western
countries) that “Christendom” really is unleashing a crusade against the
Muslim world — have to be shut up somehow.

Blair gave a virtuoso demonstration of the technique in his last
press conference on Tuesday. He urgently needed to put some distance
between his decision to invade Iraq and the phenomenon of young,
British-born Muslims, not of Arab origin, blowing themselves and a large
number of Londoners up. So he deployed his considerable rhetorical skills
to change the subject.

What he said was this. “It is time we stopped saying: OK, we abhor
(al-Qaeda’s) methods but we kind of see something in their ideas or they
have a sliver of an excuse or a justification for it.’ They have no
justification for it. Neither do they have any justification for killing
people in Israel. Let’s just get that out of the way as well. There is no
justification for suicide bombing in Palestine, in Iraq, in London, in
Egypt, in Turkey, anywhere.”

Nobody had actually said that suicide bombings are justified. What
they are saying, in increasing numbers, is that actions have consequences,
and that the reason a few young British Muslims became suicide bombers in
2005, whereas none at all became suicide bombers in 2000, is precisely the
invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Blair is condemned to deny that obvious fact until the day he dies,
because his only alternative is to admit that he made a huge and
unpardonable mistake. George W. Bush is in a similar situation, though his
main technique for denying it, even now, is to insist that the invasion of
Iraq really did have something to do with fighting terrorism.

As the US Central Intelligence Agency pointed out recently, the
invasion of Iraq has turned the country into a breeding ground for a new
generation of Arab jihadis in the Middle East. What it failed to add was
that it has also spread the virus of Islamist terrorism into Muslim
communities in Western countries that previously contained only a few
fanatics (as any community does). Until Iraq, none of them contained
people so filled with rage and so convinced that they were involved in a
holy war that they were willing to blow themselves and dozens of strangers

The problem is that the invasion of Iraq made it look (to those
already susceptible to such extreme religious arguments) as if the Islamist
extremists, who had barely any credibility outside the Arab world even ten
years ago, were right. If there were no terrorists in Iraq, why did Western
countries invade it? Because there is a Judaeo-Christian conspiracy to
destroy Islam, stupid. If there is another Islamist terrorist attack in
the United States, it is more likely to come from within the resident
Muslim community, as it has in Britain, than from foreign infiltrators.

Most American Muslims, like most British Muslims, are appalled by
the radical doctrines that are sweeping some of their young men and women
away. But it is self-serving nonsense on the part of the governments of
these countries to pretend that this is just some inexplicable outburst of
violence by weird Muslim people. The laws of cause and effect still rule.
To shorten to 725 words, omit paragraphs 6 and 10. (“None…somehow”; and
Gwynne Dyer is a London-based independent journalist whose articles
are published in 45 countries.