Tuesday, July 26, 2005

The London Bombings and Iraq:How the Neocons Now Explain Terror

John Brown, a former Foreign Service officer who resigned over the war in Iraq, edits a daily “Public Diplomacy Press Review” available free by requesting it at http://www.uscpublicdiplomacy.org/index.php?/newsroom/johnbrown_main

By John Brown

In recent weeks commentators from all sides of the political fence have
tried to make sense of the recent London bombings. The neocons and their
fellow travelers are among these. But they have another, more immediate
concern. They’re eager to decouple the tragedy in England from the
U.S./British occupation of Iraq. That’s because they seek to prevent further
erosion of popular support for the Iraq war, which could mean the end of
their imperial ambitions in the Middle East.

There’s some historical irony here, if one considers what the neocons and
their allies were saying in the fall of last year. At that time of the
presidential elections, über neocon Norman Podhoretz announced in a long
Commentary article (September 2004) that a reason we were in Iraq -- a
campaign, he argued, of World War IV -- was to prevent the terror of Islamic
jihadism, including from Iraq, from reaching our shores.

But today, the neocons -- who had long argued of a link between Al-Qaeda and
Saddam Hussein -- claim there’s no connection between the Coalition’s presence in Iraq and the terror outbreak in England. “Islamist malignancy long predates Iraq,” declared Charles Krauthammer in the Wall Street Journal (July 18) “[I]t is ludicrous to try to reduce [the London bombings] to Iraq,” says Christopher Hitchens (Slate, July 7).

According to the neocons’ “it’s not Iraq, stupid” updated version of
terrorism, what the atrocity in England really represents is the morally
reprehensible behavior of evil, delusional fanatics with Islamic slogans but
no real political program. They will strike anywhere, any time, anyone, and
without reason. There is no place for wishy-washy academic illusions about
the complexity of human nature in trying to analyze terrorists’ motivations,
actions and psychological make-up. They’re mad killers, pure and simple. In
the words of Cal Thomas, in the Baltimore Sun (July 19): “I don't want to
understand why they hate us … since the jihadists have declared war on us, I
want to kill them before they kill me.”

Given the brutality of the London tragedy, it’s hard to argue rationally
against this reaction to terrorism, which on a rudimentary level does appeal
to a basic human emotion, the desire for vengeance against unjust, inhuman
acts directed at persons with whom we share common experiences and values.
But it doesn’t tell the whole story about terrorism. Terrorists may indeed
be driven by hate and resentment, but their actions are also determined by
geopolitical considerations, as Professor Pape of the University of Chicago,
among others, has pointed out. Many terrorists -- and among them there are
educated persons -- have reasons for their horrible deeds: “The central
fact,” notes Professor Pape, “is that overwhelmingly suicide-terrorist
attacks are not driven by religion as much as they are by a clear strategic
objective: to compel modern democracies to withdraw military forces from the
territory that the terrorists view as their homeland” (interview in The
American Conservative, July 18).

The neocons’ response to these observations by specialists is simply to
repeat that terrorists are ogres with nothing more on their minds than death
and destruction (even though, in Commentary, Podhoretz claimed jihadist
fundamentalists had long-term geopolitical plans against the United States).
This crude caveman analysis -- to be fair -- could be an honest effort to
expose the nature of terrorism to ordinary citizens without over
intellectualizing the issue. But it is naïve to assume that the neocons are
only interested in enlightening the public. They have a political agenda,
and their current decoupling of terror from international politics is at
heart an attempt to maintain declining popular support for their no. 1
priority: a forceful, aggressive U.S. military presence in the Middle East
that will assure permanent American-led control of the area (for reasons the
neocons have never made entirely clear). Their catchword for this bloody,
expensive, universally despised U.S. domination? “Democracy in Iraq.”

The neocons can’t fail to realize that terrorist acts, no matter how they
dismiss the current impact of these deeds, threaten their own imperial
ambitions. Let’s face it: if the public in the United States and Europe
increasingly sees a cause-and-effect relationship between the intervention
in Iraq and present and future abominations such as the ones in London,
support for the Iraq war could decline even more than it has in recent
months. Of course, the U.S. and the U.K. are not “pacifist” Spain, and many
in these two countries will continue hoping that “staying the course” in
Iraq and keeping a stiff upper lip at home is the only answer to fighting
terrorism on their own turf. But according to a recent poll by the Pew
Research Center for the People & the Press, 45% of Americans believed “soon
after the subway bombings in London that the war in Iraq was raising the
risk of terrorism in this country. That's up from 36% last fall” (Washington
Post, July 22). Although “about half of the public, 52 percent, favors
staying in Iraq until the country is stabilized,” calls for an American
withdrawal from Iraq could increase, especially if other terrorist attacks
occur. And if American troops leave Iraq, the neocon “Project for the New
American Century” -- imperial hubris gone awry -- is all but over, at least
in the Middle East.

Of course, the thought of what could be interpreted as the U.S. acceding to
the demands of terrorists is by no means comforting to some. But, rather
than expressing surrender or hopelessness, a serious reconsideration of our
role in Iraq would suggest that Americans are not buying the neocon idea
that Iraq and terrorism aren’t connected. More important, Americans, with
the latest barbarity in London, are becoming increasingly aware that the war
in Iraq is a misadventure in which they were misled by weapons of mass
deception, many of them cynically invented by the neocons. Lying and
neoconservatism are becoming synonymous in the American language, and
“liberating” Iraq is now seen as the neocon fabrication par excellence. So
why should we believe their latest fiction -- that terror has nothing to do
with Iraq -- so that they can keep us fighting in the Middle East for
reasons we don’t even understand?

2 comments:

  1. Hey, excellent website. A great Iraq resource is Deaths in Iraq. It breaks all of the casualties down by age, race, branch of the military, country, etc.

    ReplyDelete