The real darkness at the heart of Islamist terror


May 2, 2007

The real darkness at the heart of Islamist terror

Listen to any Radio 4 discussion on what motivates terrorists, and the same consensus is usually reached – it’s foreign policy, stupid. Bush and Blair, Iraq and Afghanistan, the West’s misguided interventions in the Muslim world, that’s what inflames young hearts with righteous anger, an anger which our leaders have allowed to become a killing rage.

Pay attention to the conversation of intellectuals, commentators and many self-proclaimed community leaders and the same message is amplified and elaborated. William Dalrymple warns us that ill-considered interventions provoke those who have hitherto been pious and peace-loving into taking up arms. John Humphrys tells the Prime Minister, as though it were an established fact, that the 7/7 bombings took place “because of Iraq”. The Muslim Council of Britain greeted news of the plot to bomb British tourists out of the sky last summer with an open letter to the Prime Minister asking him to “change our foreign policy”.

The degree of consensus is impressive. What a pity it’s not supported by the facts.

The reporting of the Operation Crevice trial has revealed much more than just the failings of the intelligence and security services. It has also reminded those with eyes to see of the real darkness at the heart of Islamist terror. Were the targets they chose symbols of Western foreign policy adventurism? Or was there another reason for their choosing to fantasise about mass murder in a shopping mall and a nightclub? Why did they choose to single out not our foreign ministry but the Ministry of Sound? And why, when they were enjoying the thought of murder on the dancefloor, did one of their number say, “No one can turn around and say, ‘Oh, they were innocent’, those slags dancing around. Do you understand what I mean?”

Unfortunately, all too many do not understand what Jawab Akbar did mean. Because so many of those who choose to comment on terrorism, its roots, motivations and methods, fail to understand the ideology that drives and justifies these actions. I have explored that ideology, Islamism, in a book, Celsius 7/7, which has just been republished. And in the course of my exploration it became clear that the ideological motivation for the terrorist threat we face is an austere and pitiless twisting of Islam that offers young men redemption through violence, and the opportunity to exalt themselves by purging the world of the impure.

Just as the ardent young followers of Hitler in 1930s Germany were offered membership of an elite, a sense of special self-belief and a tempting opportunity to give vent to their resentments and frustrations through violence against those who were “impure” in racial terms, so today’s Islamist extremists are offered the same bewitching path, with the focus of violence being those who are “impure” in ideological and cultural terms. The impure, the targets for slaughter, we now know, are not just “apostates” who mock Islam, such as Salman Rushdie or the Danish cartoonists, nor are they even the architects of foreign policy adventures – the Bushes and Blairs, Reids and Rumsfelds, they are the clubbers and shoppers of modern Britain – in the eyes of the Islamist killers we are all slags, none of us innocent. That is the ugly, and troubling, truth which there should be no dancing around.

And yet, and yet. Few of those who rush to provide explanations for why these young men act as they do have troubled to study the thoughts and writings of their guides and mentors. The works of the founding fathers of Islamism, such as the Egyptian activist Sayyid Qutb, lay bare an antipathy towards the West, its culture, its freedom, its sexual liberties and the very idea of equality between the sexes. For Qutb and other Islamist thinkers the ideal goal is a world in which every action is governed by submission to an impersonal and unforgiving god. As his fellow Islamist ideologue Abul Ala Mawdudi argued, the goal is “a state [where] no one can regard any field of his affairs as personal and private. The Islamic state bears a kind of resemblance to the Fascist and Communist states”.

And because those who follow Islamism are in thrall to a totalitarian world-view, like Fascism and Communism, the actions of others are always viewed through the skewed perspective of a narrow faith. And so whatever we do, unless it’s in conformity with their extremist vision, is provocative. If we support the right of women to choose what they wear, we are not respected for our tolerance towards all, we are damned for allowing licentiousness. And when it comes to foreign policy, when we choose not to intervene, when we decide that we shan’t get involved, whether in Bosnia, Chechnya or Kashmir, we are not respected for our modesty and restraint on the world stage. We are damned again, for not acting in accordance with Islamist ambitions.

Against this challenge there really is only one appropriate response – a determination to do what we know to be right in defiance of the demands of men and women who exalt in slaughter. If we changed our society to make ourselves less offensive to the extremists that would not be prudent politics. It would be submission.

Man U critics should concede defeat

round this time nearly two years ago the consensus among sporting commentators on the future of Manchester United was as stiflingly conformist as the consensus among terrorist commentators has been on foreign policy. And events have now proved it just as wrong.

For two years ago, when the Glazer family was mounting its takeover bid for Man U the near-universal view was that these Yankee asset-strippers were bringing nothing to Old Trafford but a barrel-load of debt and the inevitable consequence of their arrival would be a fire-sale of gifted players and a lack of adequate investment.

Now that Man U are on course for a Premiership triumph, I haven’t noticed any significant recantation among commentators. But I do hope that, over time, we’ll come to recognise that the commentating consensus, which has been so sceptical of new money and innovation in football, acknowledges that globalisation has been good for our national game.

Children of hype

Belting along the M4 the other day, I saw a massive poster stretched across a tower block advertising the new “Tolkien” novel The Children of Hurin. It’s clear the publishers believe that they’ve unearthed a goldmine. But the key question as to whether or not his book is a success is not how big the ad spend is, but how many people will be happy to be seen with that iconic book cover under their arms, or on their laps, on our buses and in our parks. And my guess is that there won’t be many people this summer who’ll be happy to be seen toting around a volume which will mark them out as The Children of Hype.

Michael Gove is Conservative MP for Surrey Heath.

The Obama campaign: home of the Whopper

The Obama campaign: home of the Whopper

Ed Lasky
Barack Obama has been caught in a whopper over his statement, “Nobody’s suffering more than the Palestinian people.” The Des Moines Register reports,

Last week, NBC News anchor and moderator Brian Williams asked Obama during the first debate of the 2008 Democratic presidential nominating campaign if he stood by the quote about the suffering Palestinians.

Obama replied: “Well, keep in mind what the remark actually, if you have the whole thing, said – what I said is – nobody has suffered more than the Palestinian people from the failure of the Palestinian leadership to recognize Israel, to renounce violence and to get serious about negotiating peace and security for the region.” [emphasis added]

Obama’s answer during the nationally broadcast debate on MSNBC had an audience of roughly 2 million, a far cry from the 40 eastern Iowa Democrats present during the original statement.

Obama did not initially blame Palestinian leaders for the suffering of Palestinians. That came later, after the flak.

Blame was placed the on Palestinian leadership by a spokesman afterwards, and then apparently by Obama himself in the weeks after, as his campaign had to deal with the controversy. So he lied about what he had said in front of the 40 Iowa Democrats.
How cynical is that?

Europe (finally!) gets the War on Terror

Europe (finally!) gets the War on Terror

By James Lewis

Two headline-grabbing signals came from Europe this week, one from Chancellor Angela Merkel in Germany, and the other from Nicolas Sarkozy, the presidential front-runner in France. Both show a new desire to heal the Atlantic alliance, which has been badly strained in the last several years.
The media on both continents naturally blame the Bush Administration for the breach; but there is no doubt that ex-Chancellor Schroeder and outgoing President Jacques Chirac exploited and worsened policy differences for their own political gain. Their aim was to separate Europe from America, in order to build up their own power by way of the European Union. Chirac was scheming to become the first full-term  president of the EU. Schroeder kept his office by scapegoating the Bush Administration. The EU Constitution was supposed to carry it all over the top, and the European Union was supposed to sail into everlasting paradise. Breaking away from America was the key.
Well, it didn’t happen that way.
One signal of new realism in Europe is a public call by the German news magazine Der Spiegel to tone down the over-the-top anti-American cat-calling that has obsessed the German press in recent years. That was followed by two major puff-pieces for Chancellor Merkel’s effort to reconnect with America.
In France, Nicolas Sarkozy has started what he hopes to be his final sprint to the Presidency by criticizing the “1968 generation,” which includes all the recent leaders of the EuroLeft. “1968” refers to the year of student rebellion that brought people like Schroeder and Joschka Fischer to power, just as in the United States the Sixties Left launched Bill and Hillary Clinton.
Both Merkel and Sarkozy are “welfare-state conservatives” rather than ideologically pure socialists. They can see clearly the suicidal limits of the multiculti Left, particularly its support for uncontrollable millions of anti-Western migrants, fresh dependent voters for the welfare state. They also see the looming fiscal limits of the social welfare state, as the Euro Boomer generation retires while a host of poorer nations are joining the European Union. Those nations cannot get the massive handouts that were routinely channeled to France. The money isn’t there. The word “cynical” and “immoral” were used by Sarkozy recently to describe the Boomer Left. Europe’s vacation from reality is reaching its natural limits, and public opinion is sobering up fast.
Most important, Europe can no longer deny the Islamist threat. The War on Terror isn’t just George W. Bush’s private phantasmagoria any more. Nicolas Sarkozy as French Minister of Interior has had to deal with two years of nightly riots by thousands of ethnic Muslim adolescents. The rioters are French citizens and cannot be expelled. They are not devout Muslims, but rather classically alienated young males who are easy prey for jihadist propaganda — just as alienated young men were natural recruits for absolutist ideologies in previous generations. 
Islam, Communism and fascism provide much the same kind of gratification. Islamists view women as either family chattel or whores to be preyed on; there are no free, respectable women in their eyes. So they are imbued with very different values from their middle-class European peers. Smaller versions of the French riots have erupted in the Netherlands, Sweden and Norway. Germans fear a spread of anarchy to their own Muslim population.
The link between terror and nuclear threats is now undeniable. Nobody doubts what Ahmadinejad wants — since he repeats it in public at every opportunity.  London newspapers have reported “dirty nuke” terror plots that were stopped in time. But it is not a comforting bit of news. Even the UK Guardian is beginning to see the writing on the wall.
Europeans are aware of the spread of nuclear technology from Pakistan and North Korea to  Syria, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia. Today Paris is only fifteen minutes away from an Iranian ICBM attack. That threat will not materialize until Iran obtains nukes, but that may be only a matter of time
So the Europeans might not say it out loud, but they finally “get” the War on Terror — six contentious years after the Twin Towers fell. They still hope that a Democrat will be elected in 2008, because they are more comfortable with a European-style socialist in the White House. But given the common threat to civilized countries, they are prepared to work with the US either way. Hillary as president may declare the end of the words “War on Terror” — for PR purposes — but in truth, everybody knows that the anti-jihad struggle must be either won or lost, and the West cannot afford to lose.
Angela Merkel was visibly shocked by Ahmadinejad’s open threats of a nuclear Holocaust against Israel last year.  She has signaled very clearly that Germany takes the Iranian threat very seriously.  While Jacques Chirac still believed that France could buy off Middle East tyrants, Nicolas  Sarkozy seems to be more grounded in reality. Europe, in blissful pursuit of the fantasy of eternal peace and prosperity without having to even pay for its own defenses, may return to realism in Paris and Berlin.
In Russia, Vladimir Putin is happy to sell nuclear power plants to Iran, but he cannot tolerate the rise of a nuclear martyr regime at his southern border. Putin will publicly resist US anti-missile defenses against Iran, but privately he hopes to pressure the West to allow Russia to join missile defenses.  Every advanced nation will need such defenses in the coming decades, and Russia lacks the expensive technological edge to make effective anti-missile systems on its own.
While the Russians are making angry noises about US anti-missile installations in Poland and the Czech Republic, in fact they cannot believe that the West is a real threat to them. NATO never dreamed of invading Russia during its greatest period of weakness, and there is no reason to suppose it would do so today. As Condi Rice just said, the very idea is ludicrous. So Putin wants to bluster and threaten for the best deal he can get. In the end, he sees far greater danger from nuclear jihad than from NATO.
The US would be wise to attempt to bring Russia into the Western defense perimeter, while continuing to pressure Putin to act more responsibly at home and abroad. It will not be easy, but a shared anti-missile defense agreement would be a powerful incentive for better Russian behavior. Russia has always been torn between the West and its long history of Asiatic autocracy. It should be possible to encourage Russian Westernization against a common threat.
Bottom line: We are beginning to see a reconstruction of the Western alliance after a decade of unprecedented propaganda attacks from the European Left. That does not mean that Europe will be subservient to the US as it was in the 1950s and 60s. Europe will try to stay neutral in any nuclear standoff between the US and Iran, even though it also wants to be protected against Iranian blackmail. Ideally, Europe wishes to control America as its own foreign legion; but Americans would be fools not to demand commensurate contributions from the 450 million people of Europe. Today Europe pays less than half of what we do for defense, but they still expect to be protected by us. That is an exploitive and one-sided arrangement. France and Germany must do much more for the common defense.
Chancellor Merkel has signalled her intention to continue pursuing EU unification
The British military are being radically cut back, with the aim of reinvesting UK budgets in a EU-centered military. So the EU will try to continue its massive bureaucratic expansion in the coming decades.
Nevertheless, the fact is that Europeans do not trust themselves to exercise a muscular foreign policy in the Middle East. If German fighter jets bombed Iran or Iraq, ancient European fears of a revived Prussianism or Hitlerism would arise automatically, justified or not. The US can simply do things Germany will not be able to do for the foreseeable future. And nobody trusts the French not to be cynically self-serving. In spite of anti-American rage, therefore, in military affairs Europe reluctantly trusts the US and Britain more than it does itself.
But it does not want to repeat the helpless experience of being caught between two nuclear superpowers, as it was during the Cold War. This is understandable. But technology now seems to promise a solution. The greatest difference from the Cold War is the growing availability of effective strategic defenses. The offensive edge in nuclear warfare is slowly being whittled away. Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) is therefore likely to be superseded by a more normal balance between offense and defense.  Effective defenses make life a lot safer. But it will take adequate expenditures and a lot of realism spread defenses to all of Europe, and the continent must be told to carry its part of that financial and military burden.
The next US Administration will make a great public to-do about reconciliation with the sadly offended Europeans. A Giuliani or a Hillary administration would be wise to engage in a public peace dance with the continent. But we must not be fooled into believing that Europe does not serve itself first. Over the longer term the EU still aims to emerge as an autonomous superpower, in competition with the United States. The European Left is extremely powerful, and it has indoctrinated four successive generations into wanting a United States of Europe. Such ambitions can be carried out in a rational and civilized way, but Europe’s anti-American hysteria should not be indulged. The US has a tendency to overlook verbal slander by our nominal allies. But over the longer term, such “allies” are ambivalent at best, and should not be treated as friends. We should not reward sabotage.
It seems that Europe’s peace-now-and-forever fantasies will be postponed in the coming decades, as the West engages in a more cohesive struggle for survival against nuclear Islamist threats. There is no alternative.
In retrospect, the Bush Administration may look much like the Truman Administration, which first confronted the Stalin challenge in the Cold War. George W. Bush is a conviction politician just as Harry S Truman was. He has taken his stand, and it will have historic impact, just as Truman’s did.
The early years of the War on Terror have been a watershed. Nations around the world have been forced to open their eyes and make their choices. They are doing so now, not because they have been talked into it by George W. Bush, but because they have come to see the same reality he does. Nobody said leadership was going to be easy.
That does not mean that present US policy is going to work without course adjustments.  The Iraq War may turn out to be much like the Korean War, a test of American resolve, and also of the limits of American commitment to an important but remote war. At the end of the Korean War, American forces withdrew from North Korea but not from the South.  Because of that American willingness to hold firm, South Korea grew into a formidable bulwark against Asian Communist expansion, as it remains to this day. China’s new prosperity can be attributed to the democratic capitalist successes of South Korea, Japan, Singapore and Taiwan, all of them dependent upon American support. We cannot predict the outcome in Iraq, but somewhere in the Middle East a defensible line will emerge against jihadist Iran, and perhaps against newer threats.
Europe imports far too much oil from the Gulf to evade the obvious: A vital need for a renewed alliance with the United States against totalitarian aggressors with strategic weapons.
Call it Cold War Two — if we are lucky and keep our wits. But we must expect continental Europe to play a more active and constructive role for its own defense than it did in the last sixty years.
James Lewis blogs at


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