Wednesday, 7 July 2010

7/7 - The Elephant in the Room.

"Your democratically elected governments continuously perpetuate atrocities against my people all over the world. And your support of them makes you directly responsible, just as I am directly responsible for protecting and avenging my Muslim brothers and sisters." - Mohammad Sidique Khan

The tragic events of July 7th 2005 are often thought of as the British equivalent to 9/11, it is even commonly referred to as 7/7, which was the first time that British citizens had been targeted by a "home-grown" Islamist terrorist cell. By 2005 the world was almost a few years into the "War on Terror" that had been re-declared by President Bush, the "War on Terrorism" had actually been declared by Reagan for the first time in 1981. Of course, we are led to believe that this is merely coincidence, that we would have been attacked regardless of foreign policy because these Islamists hate freedom itself. Though there is truth in that Islamism is opposed to individual freedom and has demonstrated this consistently. But the ongoing debate over the origins of Muslim extremism and terrorism is often an extension of the "Good Muslim, Bad Muslim" game. The arguments that al-Qaeda is purely a religious fundamentalist phenomenon, assume that Islamist terrorism is totally unconnected to events in the world.

If you have an understanding of the events of the last century in the Middle East, particularly the Arab nationalist rebellions against imperialism and the subsequent foreign "interventions" to seize the region's most valuable resource. The violence which established the state of Israel and has sustained the continuing expansion of that state should also be remembered. The failure of Arab nationalism to deal with these problems created a void, where people once gathered around nationality as a source of unity and meaning that transcended individuality and could liberate them from very real problems. The established nationalist regimes became corrupt, a perfect example being the Egyptian regime, and lost the faith of the masses. The autonomous self-determination and meaning that nationalism once offered had been diminished greatly, by corruption and the dependence of these dictatorships on the US for support.

In the vacuum, that followed this collapse of Arab nationalism, the masses sought a new identity marker which could give them independence and solve the problems of their daily lives. A radically theocratic ideology emerged, which we could be called Islamism, that aimed to bring down the corrupt regimes in the Middle East and replace them with Islamic states. Just like the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, the Islamists wanted to accomplish this by "cleansing" society and go back to a highly nostalgic vision of the past. Of course, this would entail the destruction of all aspects of modern society, as it did in Cambodia to take society back to 'Year Zero', that were not compatible with their vision of a "pure" Islamic state. This is the reason that the Taliban acted to destroy the Buddhist heritage of Afghanistan, as well as the perverse logic behind banning all music, literature and depriving women of an education.

The fact that Kabul was dominated by Islamists for five years is the reason that Afghanistan is considered the fundamentalist country of the Middle East. But it should be remembered that 40 years ago Afghanistan was what is called "Westernised" and had a strong communist movement. The Taliban, one of the most reactionary movements ever to emerge in the Middle East, is a sign of what results from years of brutal war and devastation. During the 1980s, Afghanistan was torn apart by the forces the USSR and the US had "mobilised" as part of a proxy-war. The violent forces that had been mobilised were left to do as they please once the war had ended, this led to unprecedented amount of carnage which left over 50,000 Afghans slain. Today, the forces are known as the Northern Alliance, a thuggish group of opiate war-lords, and are our ally in the war against the Taliban. So it seems rational to conclude that there is a link between the political turmoil of the Middle East and the rise of "Militant Islam".

It just doesn't seem plausible that Islamism and the violence it espouses towards the West is based on merely an opposition to liberalism. Though the crimes and misdeeds of Western governments in the Middle East definitely do not justify acts of terrorism. But this is the very reason that the war in Afghanistan is so immoral to begin with. The US and the UK invaded Afghanistan with the full knowledge that it could lead to the deaths of over 7 million people, from starvation alone, while refusing to negotiate with terrorists as the Taliban offered to extradite Osama bin Laden to the US if the Bush administration would present sufficient evidence of his guilt. We would not accept an invasion of our country, especially not under similar circumstances, which is just the reason we should extend that standard to other countries. The double-standard of these "interventions" is what enrages people, and rightly so.

The Bush doctrine, which Blair was masterfully servile to, led the invasions out of sheer jingoism with aims relating to a convergence of self-interest. The desire for self-preservation, whether real or perceived, among the American people was the enabling factor of the invasion of Iraq. But it was the self-interest of the US government, to gain further dominance in the region and hold-off the rise of the Chinese as a global superpower, that collided with the self-interest of American and British business - namely, energy corporations and the military-industrial complex. As well as the need for the British state to feel as though they had some purpose in the world, even if that purpose is as Uncle Sam's poodle. In retrospect, the amount of propaganda used to whip the populace into a fear-driven frenzy of hawkishness that is truly unbelievable. Mohammad Sidique Khan cited the invasions as reasons for his actions and claimed that the bombings of 7/7 were a way to avenge the deaths of Muslims - by holding the people who elected Tony Blair responsible.

The people killed on 7/7 did not deserve to die, nor did the men and women killed in the attacks on the World Trade Center, but these atrocities are evidence that the methods by which governments around the world, claim to be "fighting" terrorism, are not working. The reason: the so-called "War on Terrorism" is, on the surface, merely "cleaning up" the after-effects of decades of political turmoil and decay in the Middle East. Furthermore, the "War on Terrorism" appears to be merely a vacuous label, that disguises the kind of military aggression that led to the emergence of "Militant Islam" in the first place. Therefore, in order to prevent terrorism, as opposed to merely "clean up" afterwards, we should be acting to limit the use of violence against the Middle East by the West to achieve political goals.

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