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Thursday, September 11, 2003

NEVER FORGET, NEVER FORGIVE It is exactly two years ago today that al Quaeda terrorists committed mass murder in New York. There has been some progress, though we are by no means at a point at which we could afford to relax. There is also still no real political consensus on the situation that Western civilisation is in.
The most serious error being made is the search for "root causes". Now, in principle there is nothing wrong with trying to understand one's enemy. The problem is that everybody tends to simply pick out that apparent grievance of al Quaeda that fits their own agendas and prejudices. For example placing the blame on Israel is certainly the most widespread because it offers a huge variety of root causes; anything form the evils of Western civilisation to nebulous "Zionist world conspiracies". It is true that this is one of the grievances that Osama bin Laden mentions, but he also lists, among many others, the Kashmir conflict, the transition of Eastern Timor from an oppressed Indonesian colony to an independent democracy and, his real casus belli, the presence of non-Muslim troops in Saudi Arabia (soon to be over thanks to the Iraq war). Just to give it that final touch of absurdity al Quaeda's statements also lament the "tragedy of Al-Andalus" and the crusades. Someone should try to explain in earnest, how these events, that occurred many centuries before the US declaration of independence, can be considered both an inevitable and legitimate reason to murder thousands of innocents in New York. Someone who actually buys this line must be fairly deranged and I cannot see how any amount or reasoning or compromising is going to get anywhere. Reflecting on the terrorists' affluent background Geoffrey Wheatcroft succinctly makes this point in the current edition of Prospect: "this was no cry of rage from the wretched of the earth, and the hijackers weren’t radicals or secular nationalists. They were bloodthirsty religious maniacs, who wanted to rule the whole world in the spirit of the Taleban."
Given these circumstances what should we make of those who wish not to fight? For sure there are many different reasons given. Appeasement has a number of attractive features to it. Especially in Europe it is very popular to suggest that all the European countries need to do is hobble the American warmachine and pile on the fury onto Israel and all will be well. It won't work. Al Quaeda and their sorts seek the end of Western civilisation and only their destruction will save us.
The lessons of Munich and appeasement are certainly overused, but the important point is to recall what those lessons are. They are not an injunction to destroy anybody or anything that looks only vaguely dangerous or unpleasant. The real lesson is that when dealing with an enemy we should be cautious that we understand in what broader cultural language that enemy is talking to us. The reason why appeasement failed was because pre-1939 British and French leaders used their own domestic liberal democratic criteria as a basis on which to negotiate with the Nazis; an enterprise that could only fail.
One would surely have hope that Western leaders would have learnt anything from that catastrophe but the way in which the West dealt with Slobodan Milosevic and Saddam Hussein clearly underlines that lesson has not sunk in.
This same sort of blindness is painfully on show again. The sad reality is that Islamofascist terror isn't going to go away by forcing Israeli troops out of the West Bank or by alleviating poverty in sub-Saharan Africa or by the United States ratifying the Kyoto protocol or whatever else tickles you fancy.
Our only option is to fight. To pretend otherwise is political blindness and moral frivolity. The attacks from two years ago, were a call to moral seriousness - it's time we got serious.

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