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July 07, 2005


Nur al-Cubicle

I remember former French Foreign Minister Védrine's editorial following IX-XI. In it he said the US was wounded and would likley attack Afghanistan. He said that other nations should not stand in the way but instead occupy themselves with the necessary steps towards making the future safer.

Védrine urged a meeting of minds between the EU and Islamic moderates to counter attempts to drive things toward the "clash of civilizations". He said the EU was the better interlocator because the Arab world would not trust the United States.

If the London tragedy is a reaction against this kind of successful rapprochement, it is, in a perverse way, positive news.


Well, it looks like from the US at least it's a return to 9/11 type circle-the-wagons thinking. See the editorials and Op Eds in the NYTimes today. Tom Friedman goes on about how this is a Muslim problem and the Muslim global "village" needs to take care of it, speak out more strongly against terror, all the usual cliches. Peter Bergen argues that it's a problem of Muslim migrants to Britain, who are young and poor and easily seduced by Bin Laden, and of course, echoes the constant American complaint about lax European visa laws. It's all about "the barbarians are coming." Al Jazeera's coverage yesterday jumped quickly to "what is this going to mean for Muslims living in Europe?" and boy, were they right.


Do you think the world also needs "Western" "moderates", or shoud "moderation" only come from the "Islamic" side?


Odd, the condemnation in region seems damn nigh universal.

Well, leave it to the Man.

This aside, noting that this is a problem connected to Musliim immigrants and poverty in Europe does not strike me as controversial - it's a fact.

Regarding French posturing in this area, amusing. They should look to their own relations first.


t - I think that extremists on both sides are natural allies. Both want to prevent an accomodation between non-extremists on both sides.... and violence is very good at marginalizing or radicalizing those "moderates."

So yes, moderates are needed on both sides. That's why it's so important for the US and the West to get things right this time.

No Preference

Knowing little about the bigger picture, I thought that Juan Cole's thoughts about the possible psychological motivations of the bombers sound quite canny:

these people don’t do these bombings for immediate political purposes. Sacred terror has a lot to do with symbology. They’re like big theatrical events. As I said, they couldn’t even operate in Cairo; they would be arrested. So they feel very powerless. All the powers in the world are against them, and they feel very sure God is with them. What do you do if you’re a tiny fringe who is completely right and indeed only if your plan succeeds is the world saved? And you’re opposed by all of these massive states and powers? One of the things they’re doing is giving themselves heart.

Nur al-Cubicle

Wow! I found a powerful opinion piece on the "decisive moment" in today's Corriere della Sera by Franco Venturini which I'd like to share (translated from Italian). If I'm reading Venturini correctly, the US must sacrifice whatever national interests which drove it into Iraq and "get real" about terrorism. Quit the claims that Iraq is the "main front" and join with all our allies in formulating and implementing a reality-based strategy.

The half-hearted unity of the G-8

The powerful men at Gleneagles chose to view the spectacle from afar, dedicating the conference to misery in Africa and to atmospheric pollution, but the carnage in London rained on the first session of the G8 with scientific precision, reminding them of their ineluctable and urgent task: the War on Terror. When an angry and emotional Blair went on TV to offer the assurance that violence would not change British values and would be defeated, behind him stood George Bush and Jacques Chirac.

And next to Bush stood Hu Jintao with Indian leader Singh and Brazilian President Lula. All of them, members of G8 and invited guests, Europeans and Americans, prosperous Westerners and developing nations, conveyed their unity against terrorism by their presence and with their facial expressions, which never before had seemed so firm and solemn. The decision to continue the conference in order to avoid any display of weakness to the terrorists was merely a logical corollary to their unity, and today, at the conclusion of the conference, there will be further testaments to firm determination.

But behind the solid line of defense against a common enemy by the G8 team, behind the collaboration among intelligence services, once hardly "allied", behind the coordination between teams of prosecutors, does unity really exist against international terrorism? Certainly that unity was real following the September 11 sledgehammer and the campaign against the Taliban. Then a period of division occurred with the controversy over the Iraq war and differing perceptions of the terrorist menace on both sides of the Atlantic. Then there came the definitive demonstration of shared vulnerability to terrorism with the Madrid bombings, followed by London. But has the recognition of the shared vulnerability translated into a common strategy of response? Paradoxically, behind the solid wall of defense shown yesterday by the G8 team there is evidence to the contrary. The United States and Great Britain continue to believe that the War on Terror must be fought in Iraq. Italy and Japan are not belligerents in Iraq but they contribute in different ways to the Anglo-American effort.

France, Germany, Canada and Russia (and we could throw in China) are not present with their troops in Iraq and were against armed intervention. If it is true that the most pivotal battle against terrorism is being fought in and around Baghdad, as George Bush loves to repeat, then the least one can say is that the political solidarity shown yesterday in Gleneagles does not correspond to any convergence of analysis or threat estimation among the G8 nations.

To be precise, it is the CIA and the British Institute for Strategic Studies which are reporting with much concern how Iraq and Afghanistan are being transformed into new and ample production lines for anti-Western terrorism. And how the number of Jihadists, trained in the school of the shadowy al-Zarqawi and ready to return and operate in Europe, is growing.

It is time to hope that together with these expert revelations that the London bombings will force the G8 into an informal reexamination of its anti-terrorist strategy. An examination able to translate itself into a more credible operational strategy than that presented yesterday, a more precise analysis of the causes and aims of terrorism, beginning with Islamist networks, and a greater awareness of the present emergency, which cannot be sacrificed to personal preference or even to national interests. We’ve seen the alternative, which Londoners faced yesterday.

Nur al-Cubicle

It looks so far like the reaction is a perverse competition between major world capitals and small Midwestern towns over who's going to be next on the terror hit list with Berlusconi pimpin' big-time --"They are after the three B's! And I'm one!"-- and Home Secretary Clarke suggesting a repeat.

Hello? Is that it for the "decisive moment" discourse?


Living through the bombs and living in Bethnal Green, one of the most Muslim parts of London, I've founds it quite hard to know what to make of the bombings. But some of the things Juan Cole has said about the discourse of the statement that was released strike a chord - that rather than an al-Qa'eda thing, the attack was perpetrated by people with a more secular, pan-Arab, and, dare I say it, leftist interpretation of international politics than the typical salafi. I honestly get the feeling that this was something that, whilst it drew upon the Madrid bombings for inspiration, was very much a homegrown affair.

Which would of course imply some kind of commentary on Muslims in Britain. That's the thing, though - here, from what I can tell, there is a very blurry overlap between leftism, with its obsession with the Palestine question and Zionism and imperialism, and revolutionary (I use the word advisedly) Muslim discourse. For many young people, white or Asian, revolutionary ideology is quite attractive and suicide bombings in occupied Palestine are completely justified because of the power assymetries - and if you follow that line of argument it's not that large a leap to blowing up people more locally.

It's an awkward one, like I said, that I'm still grappling with.


yin: Beyond asking what provoked people in your constituency voted for Galloway, which is an irrelevant question, yet one I'd be interested in the answer to...

That's an interesting hypothesis, and one I'll have to consider.

So, is all the pointing towards AQ a desperate attempt by the government not to come to the conclusion that, I imagine, would make them and lots of other Brits squirm? IE, the "enemy within" hypothesis?

Or...? I'm trying to get at what you're thinking.


The government was originally quite circumspect in its use of terminology but has now adopted the line that the bombings have 'all the hallmarks of al-Qa'eda' - which is interesting, because it's more nuanced that saying it *was* al-Qa'eda, which is what I suspect Mr Bush would have said in the same situation.

Press reports are suggesting that the police are beginning to suspect that the bombings were carried out by British Muslims with some level of technical/financial/inspirational guidance from an experienced mujahid.

My greatest worry is precisely that this information, used wrongly, could be used to promote a 'fifth column'/'enemy within' discourse vilifying the Asian community in London.

The thing being that the kind of discourse that justified the bombings is not that far removed from common left-leaning discourses in the UK - discourses repeated by people froma variety of ethnic groups - which tend to see a certain level of political violence as tolerable if it is in the name of some kind of 'resistance'.

The tropes are the same old ones that crop up on the far left everywhere - suicide bombings being the cry of the oppressed Palestinian rather than a means to kill people and radicalise the population; the insurgency in Iraq being a noble, patriotic resistance rather than the acts of deeply fragmented/factional armed groupings using violence to pursue concrete political aims vis-a-vis both the Coalition and each other.

But yeah, to bring it back to Bethnal Green and Galloway - basically that's the kind of political discourse you get round this neck of the woods, from people of all creeds and colours, so Galloway with his old-school leftist rhetoric fitted in rather neatly with the general sentiment around here that the Iraq invasion in particular and Western policy towards Muslims in general was the expression of deep-seated Zionist/imperialist tendencies.

Sorry, that wasn't the most coherent answer to your question. I guess the point I'm trying to make is that the discourses in the UK that can be distorted to justify this kind of action are not uniquely Asian/Muslim, but that it was most likely British citizens that carried it out.


Yin: It was an answer, nonetheless, which is the most I coulda hoped for.

Thank you.

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