Sunday 1 October 2006

Bush, Blair, Islam and the War on Terror

Written in response to an editorial in Village Magazine dealing with the background to the terrorist outrages in London, England on 7th July 2005.

Your editorial entitled 'End the War on Islam' was worthy at least for the fact that it addresses an issue absent from most of the official condemnations issued in the aftermath of the London bombings of 7th July. The issue is the need for world leaders to address the Islamic world and bring people of this background and culture into dialogue with the so-called 'western world' and 'western values' which Bush and Blair claim to represent. Sermons about the 'true meaning of Islam' do not suffice in this regard. They don't convince me hence I sincerely doubt that they will convice any Islamic believer in the world today.

It has to be said also that the response of An Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern similarly betrayed an unwillingness to grapple with the overall world context in which events like the London bombings are occurring. Speaking after his meeting with Pope Benedict an Taoiseach seemed phased and struggled to find anything meaningful to say. Yet here is a politician who has had numerous occasions to respond to terrorist atrocities in the course of his career. This is the same politician who led the country in mourning in the aftermath of the Omagh bombing. So why all this reticence to address the issues that are so glaringly obvious? Bertie Ahern must come clean and reveal to the Irish people to what extent we are embroiled in the Bush/Blair agenda and how can we disengage ourselves from it. If the current government is not up to the task then we must do what Spanish people did and find a government that is.

An impression is being created that it is simply enough to de-contextualise the issue of terrorism while condemning it. I seem to recall that during the years of the armed conflict in the north of Ireland invariably the official response to terrorist acts were generally along the lines of unequivocal condemnation of the act itself, followed by appeals to the men and women of violence to refrain from further acts, followed by appeal to the various forces to engage in dialogue that could alleviate the causes of anger and hatred? In short an effort was made to fill the void with politics, hence limiting the sphere in which terrorism and anarchy could operate.
In the world today there is no such effort to engage with the Islamic world in this kind of dialogue. In short there is no political response emanating from the 'war on terrorism' camp. In this respect the response of people like Bush and Blair cannot even be called a response at all. Certainly not of the kind that will heal wounds and divisions. Their response to acts of terrorism is for more attacks, more invasions, more encroachments on peoples' rights in the name of 'security' precautions. And ultimately of course all this will lead to more terrorist attacks.
It might sound defiant urging Londoners to re-invoke the spirit of the Blitz but this is not the same world context to that prevailing in 1940. Moreover Winston Churchill (whom purportedly both Bush and Blair would wish to emulate) didn't confine himself to making speeches - he went out into the world and forged war-time alliances - primarily with Roosevelt and Stalin. As well as defeating the Axis powers it was this alliance which was able to establish the basis for a peaceful settlement of a sort in the post-war context the most important aspect of which was the creation of the United Nations Organisation.

Bush and Blair by contrast have alienated themselves on the international stage and created deep divisions within their own countries. They offer no vision as to what kind of world we will have should their wild adventure defy all odds and succeed. They do not even offer a definition of success. And what in any case is meant by repeated references to 'the British way of life' that the terrorists won't disrupt? Historically for a great many people the British way of life has meant the right to interfere anywhere in the world and plunder the wealth of nations. It is this 'way of life' that has stoked the fire and famed the flames of terrorism.
So how can Bush, Blair and the entire western world respond to the new challenge to create a peaceful world? Clearly they must address the Islamic world directly and re-assure these people that 'the west' does not constitute a threat to their existence. For this to have credibility Bush, Blair et al must renounce their 'war on terrorism' (which you correctly characterise as merely a euphemism for war on the Islamic world); disengage from Iraq, Afghanistan and the entire Middle East respecting the sovereignty of the people of this region including sovereignty over resources they possess such as oil; work constructively for a solution to the Israeli-Palestine conflict; return to the United Nations and work to build and strengthen the UN as the sole authority for use of armed force in resolving disputes between nations and peoples.
A revived and re-invigorated UN could also be the appropriate forum to initiate a campaign for co-ordinated international disarmament - involving not only states but also paramilitary groupings, terrorist cells etc.

Nothing in any of this implies adopting a 'soft' attitude in dealing with the perpetrators of attacks such as that seen in London last week. Justice must prevail in the world. But clearly a consensus is needed whereby Islamic peoples will also become allies in ridding the world of the scourge of terrorism along with other scourges that we have heard much about lately and were discussed at the recent G8 summit.

A lot of this may sound like a bitter pill for some to swallow but what is the alternative if future chaos and destruction is to be avoided?

11th July, 2005

This post represents the complete text of a letter published in Village Magazine (Issue 42, 15-21 July 2005). The letter was in response to an editorial published in the previous issue dealing with the background to the terrorist outrages in London that occurred earlier that month.

Copyright © Oscar Ó Dúgáin, 2005

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