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The London Blasts


The London Blasts: Media Review

DAY TWO: 9 July 2005 Part 1 This is not 'a war on freedom'

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This is not 'a war on freedom'


David Gardner, in a long and important piece in the FT entitled 'The west's role in Islam's war of ideas', tackles the claim that 'the Islamist perpetrators of that atrocity “hate us for our freedoms”. That they loathe us for our values, for what we are and think rather than anything we do.'


He responds, 'If only that were true.'


Gardner goes on: 'The most important thing to recognise is how the great democratic wave that freed east and central Europe, Latin America and swaths of sub-Saharan Africa over the past two decades [We will leave aside this questionable analysis - JNV] ran into the sands of the Middle East, leaving the Arabs marooned in tyranny. That was in no small part because the US and its main allies shored up local despots in the interests of stability and cheap oil.'


'These tyrants laid waste to the entire spectrum of political expression in their countries, leaving their adversaries no alternative but to fall back on the mosque. That, in turn, suited their purposes, enabling them to blackmail their western patrons: back us, or deal with the mullahs.'


'There is probably no greater single source of rage in the Arab world than this collusion in tyranny and repression – not even the Israel-Palestine conflict, which, furthermore, is manipulated by Arab rulers as an alibi for maintaining their national security states on a spurious war footing.'


'The overwhelming majority of Muslims do not hate us for our freedoms. They do, however, despise these policies and some of the more frustrated among them are thereby prey to the siren songs of the jihadis.'


Gardner quotes opinion poll research from the US Defence Science Board that found high levels of hostility to the US in Arab countries at the same time as large-scale support for democracy, science, education and freedom. (The report 'Strategic Communications' is a 1.75Mb pdf available from the Defence Science Board and is further discussed by JNV here.)


The logical consequences of this analysis are spelled out:


'the jihadis need the story of the last 60 years to continue. They need the US to keep shoring up tyranny and defending the status quo. Of course, democracy alone will not resolve the problems of the Middle East. It will, moreover, often be antithetical to short-term stability, since it is Islamist movements that are emerging as the region’s centre of political gravity.'


'But if the west continues to collude with local despots in denying their peoples freedom, we will lose that war of ideas. The jihadis will enter the Muslim mainstream, and continue their tactics of immolation. The shared values of Islam and the west will wither.'


Quite rightly, Gardner is placing the responsibility for bringing this 'war' to an end on the United States and its allies. It is our participation in and support for injustice which fuels al Qaeda.


This is not a war of 'resentment'


In The Times, Roger Scruton confidently claims that the motive for anti-Western terrorism is 'resentment' of Western 'material and political success': 'Islamic terrorists [sic] bomb the cities of Europe and America because those cities are a symbol of the material and political success of the Western nations, and a rebuke to the political chaos and deep-rooted corruption of the Muslim world. Success breeds resentment, and resentment breeds hate.'


When we turn to the July 2004 Zogby International opinion poll which underpins the Defence Science Board study, a relevant question is asked: 'what is the worst thought that comes to mind when you hear the word America?'


The pollsters found that 'The issue of foreign policy in general and policy towards the Arab people in particular are the items most frequently cited here. Across the board in all six countries foreign policy issues are noted in almost 80% of the responses. The most frequently cited are “unfair Middle East policy,” US responsibility for “murdering Arabs” (principally in Iraq, although US culpability for the suffering of Palestinians is also cited), and what is perceived as the US preoccupation with “Arab oil.” That this is an issue across the board, is worth noting. While it is understandable that this might be a perception in Saudi Arabia and UAE, it comes as a surprise that this is a significant “first thought” that comes to mind in Morocco, Jordan, and Lebanon as well.'


There is no basis, then, for the assertion that Muslims in the Middle East feel hatred towards the US because of its material or political 'success'. Unless, that is, you believe that US material and political 'success' is based on, and synonymous with, murdering Arabs, dominating Arab oil, and bolstering an unfair situation in the Middle East.



JNV welcomes feedback.


Part 2 of Media Review

This page last updated 9 July 2005






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