View Full Version : "You don’t get to choose who" (al-Qaeda)

*End Is Forever*
12-07-2005, 11:30:14
'If we don't provoke them, maybe they will leave us alone.' You reckon so? - David Aaronovitch

IT’S BEEN a quite a week for what the historian Brendan Simms once described as “conservative pessimism”. If we left everyone else alone, say the conservative pessimists, then they’d leave us alone. It’s all this doing stuff in the world that leads to trouble. So, don’t give us the Olympics, it’s too expensive and we don’t want it. Don’t spend all that time on bloody Africa, because it’s too complicated and we’ll probably only make things worse. Get out of Iraq as soon as possible and the chances are that we won’t get bombed. Oh (some add) and do we really have to be quite so welcoming to all these foreigners? You want to be active? Join English Heritage and help us in the never-ending business of making the country as much like it was in 1750 as we possibly can.

Let’s just do the bombings first. And forgive me a little scepticism about some of the claims here, not least those made by certain colleagues in the British press. Yesterday I read the categorical “invading Iraq clearly made us a target” from someone who continued, “it diverted our attention and resources from the very people that we should have been fighting — al-Qaeda”, but who just after 9/11 argued that if the US starts bombing Afghanistan, young Muslims will almost certainly rally behind the Taleban and Osama bin Laden in a new jihad. In other words Iraq diverted our resources away from something they shouldn’t have been dedicated to in the first place, because that first thing would lead to a new jihad.

But OK. Inconsistent but not necessarily wrong. The proposition is that we probably wouldn’t have been bombed last Thursday if we hadn’t been in Iraq, and we probably won’t be bombed in the future if we pull out.

I want us to agree one thing first. Someone would have been bombed. The jihadist campaign outside the Middle East first started when the omens for an Israeli-Palestinian settlement looked good, not bad. Then, just under seven years ago bin Laden’s people attacked the US embassies (no Bush back then) in Nairobi and Dar-es-Salaam and killed 225 people, the vast majority of them local Africans. That was before 9/11.

In November 2003, after the invasion of Iraq, 54 people were killed in a series of bombings in Istanbul. We remember the death of the British consul-general, which was described yet again as payback for Iraq. We forget the attacks on the Neve Shalom and Beth Israel synagogues a few days earlier. What exactly was that payback for? Attending bar mitzvahs, perhaps.

In fact a group called the Abu Hafz al-Masri Brigades in claiming responsibility made a series of demands on the Turkish Government, should it wish to avoid future attacks. “Listen to us, you criminal,” the statement began emolliently, “the cars of death will not stop until you concede to our demands . . .”, which included the freeing of unspecified prisoners from Guantanamo and everywhere else and stopping the war against Muslims. Demand No 3, however, was for the Turks to “purify all Islamic land from the filth of the Jews and Americans, including Jerusalem and Kashmir”. Jews out of Kashmir is quite a tall order, since you’d have to find them first.

A year earlier a whole lot of German and French tourists were blown up outside the synagogue in Djerba, Tunisia. A few months later a Spanish restaurant and a Jewish community centre were blown up in Morocco. The chap who did it had been trained by bin Laden in Afghanistan. The radicals have blown up Shia mosques in Pakistan, before, after and during Iraq. They have blown up Iraqi Shias for being apostates. Closer to home, in spring 2003, two boys, one from Derby and one from Hounslow, travelled all the way to Gaza and then to Israel so they could blow the arms off a French waitress in an English bar in Tel Aviv.

What does all this tell us? First, that if they aren’t blowing us up, then they’ll be blowing up someone else. And you don’t get to choose who. Secondly, who or what they blow up is largely a matter of what’s available. Jews anywhere, Americans after that, Shia next and Brits probably a distant fourth. Africans for fun.

On Sunday night’s Panorama it was reported that new jihadis all over Europe are being turned on by snuff videos shot in Iraq. It was suggested that this was evidence for the contention that Iraq was inflaming would-be bombers. But back in 2001, I recall, they were being similarly aroused by material shot in Algeria and during the war against the Russians in Afghanistan. You have to ask about what kind of person sees a film of a hostage being beheaded, and wants to do the same thing. The explanation may be psychological, psychosexual, ideological even, but it doesn’t seem to me to be political. If someone is getting their jollies from fantasising about cutting throats, I don’t think geopolitics is the problem.

Even so, it is possible to argue that the Iraq war might have pushed a few more young men from the video-watching phase to the re-enactment — though it can’t be argued with any certainty. And so, prima facie, you can make out a self-interested case for standing back when New York gets attacked or a few Jews or Shia are exploded in some faraway place.

In fact only yesterday some East Europeans were celebrating the tenth anniversary of just such a bit of bystanding. Over in Bosnia many thousands turned out to mark the massacre of 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men after the fall of Srebrenica to the Bosnian Serbs. Before the ceremony our Foreign Secretary apologised for permitting the worst massacre on the European continent since the Second World War. “It is to the shame of the international community,” said Jack Straw, “that this evil took place under our noses and we did nothing like enough. I bitterly regret this and I am deeply sorry for it.”

Conservative pessimism was the phrase that Simms invented to describe the policies of men like Douglas Hurd, who was then Foreign Secretary, towards Bosnia. The Polish Prime Minister later recalled that: “Any time there was a likelihood of effective action, (Douglas Hurd) intervened to prevent it.” It would make things worse; it was a complex conflict in which all sides were suspect; we should try to ease things through diplomacy. In December 1992 Britain abstained on a UN resolution comparing ethnic cleansing to genocide.

Oh well, that was bad and sad, but Bosnians don’t bomb, and nor do Tutsis. Nasty things happen, but worse occurs when you try to sort things out. Fools rush in, and so on.

No. All through the Hurd and Rifkind years, the years when conservative pessimism was triumphant, the ingredients for al-Qaeda stewed away, emerging here and there in the occasional explosion. When some of the 9/11 bombers met up in Hamburg, one of their teachers was a veteran jihadi. He had fought in Bosnia, where, he said, the West had betrayed the Muslims.

Africa? Iraq? 2012? An international city full of foreigners? Give me liberal optimism any day, with the chance of changing the world. Because, either way, you still get bombed.


12-07-2005, 11:35:57
Nice article.

Interesting he's writing for the Times, he normally writes for the Guardian.

12-07-2005, 11:35:59
hey a darkstar post.

12-07-2005, 12:05:01
I like it.

*End Is Forever*
12-07-2005, 12:05:27
He seems to have written a fair few comment pieces for the Times.

12-07-2005, 12:10:35

This got published in the Guardian instead? (taken from the other thread)

*End Is Forever*
12-07-2005, 12:13:34
Just did a search for Aaronovitch on the Grauniad website. Seems he had a G2 column and then jumped ship. He's written one Grauniad piece since, and a string for the Times

12-07-2005, 12:14:24
Yeah, that must be it. Shame, his G2 column was always good.

Dyl Ulenspiegel
12-07-2005, 13:07:05
"If we don't provoke them, maybe they will leave us alone."

No they won't.

Anything else in that article beyond "shooting yourself in the head is better than doing nothing" ?

12-07-2005, 18:05:06
Originally posted by Dyl Ulenspiegel
"If we don't provoke them, maybe they will leave us alone."

No they won't.

Thanks for repeating the obvious.

12-07-2005, 18:29:32
Hey, that was my job!

12-07-2005, 18:30:29
OBM and numerous other Islamists have repeatedly say they will keep killing people until everyone practices their version of Islam.

Dyl Ulenspiegel
13-07-2005, 08:32:23
Originally posted by fp
Thanks for repeating the obvious.

It's called "summary" here, you dog ass sniffing retard.