Lest we forget

We are fast approaching the 5th anniversary of the September 11th attacks on the USA. This evening there was an extraordinary documentary on TV, following one particular group of firefighters in New York on that day; by chance a film crew were making a programme about firefighting, and they were with them all day, at the World Trade Centre, in the streets, and showed everything that happened, as it it happened. It was a truly gripping and horrific piece of TV, and even all this time after and knowing everything we know now, it was shocking. The absolute enormity and scale of what happened, and its unexpectedness, are what came through. It made me feel very strongly that we should never forget the terrible crime that was committed by the terrorists on that day, and we should not allow ourselves to be distracted by the millions of words and opinions that have poured out since from realising that nothing, nothing, could justify what happened. Whatever grievances the Muslim world has, or imagines it has, against the West, they could never make an act of wanton mass murder like that right, and the apologists, the appeasers and the political opportunists who have tried to muddy the waters in the last 5 years are so incredibly misguided, and those who go along with them have terribly short memories. I hope as many people as possible – Muslims in particular – will watch this and other anniversary programmes, and realise that the free world can never submit to this kind of fanaticism, or compromise in any way with it; the war on terror is necessary, and it will go on for years until we defeat the evil, hideous, hateful mentality that drives Islamist aggression. Yes – mistakes have been made, and maybe the long-term strategy needs to be thought out more clearly – but the principle of the thing is clear; an element of the Muslim world has declared war on us, and is carrying it out by all means possible. There is only one answer, and that is to resist, and to defeat the enemy. We have the physical means to do it, but the moral will and determination is in doubt. We must not let that continue. There are many things that can be, and are being, done, in the field of military action and intelligence, but most of all we must start encouraging – enforcing, if necessary – the cultural integration of Muslims in western societies and an end to ghettoism and so-called ‘multiculturalism’; the kind of apologetic cringing and appeasement that has been going on in Britain has got to stop. When I see a Muslim peace movement, and Muslims demonstrating in the streets against the terrorism being carried out in their name, instead of in sympathy with it, then I’ll feel we’re getting somewhere. In the meantime unfortunately the whole Muslim community, including the majority who are clearly not active terrorists or terrorist supporters, but who at the same time implicitly justify the acts of such, are under suspicion. Apologising every time we take action against them is a mistake – it’s seen as weakness and an invitation to demand further special rights; if it was time to get tough after September 11th or July 7th, it’s just as much time to be tough now. When will people finally realise that we are at war, in a war not of our choosing – and you win wars not by being polite and considerate, but by being ruthless.

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8 Responses to Lest we forget

  1. Bernard says:

    Unfortunately, the main response to 9/11 by the US was to invade a country demonstrably uninvolved in Islamic terrorism – and transform it into the main recruiting ground for, and most often-cited grievance by, radicalised young Muslim terrorists from around the world: see Peter Taylor’s upcoming documentary series this month. Bush has squandered the sympathy and goodwill of the world in the five years since the dreadful crime of 9/11. And the fact that history will judge him harshly and his macho posturing in military uniform (a uniform he was in no hurry to wear when his own neck was on the line) will be thought ridiculous by future generations can be little comfort to the families of the tens of thousands of Iraqis killed by Americans soldiers, ‘insurgents’ and terrorists since the invasion.
    Meanwhile we sleep less soundly in our beds because young British Muslims have been so angered by the invasion, and the grotesqueries of Abu Ghraib that they want to become bombers. They are horribly wrong to do so, but it is undeniable that Iraq is a major part of their motivation (as Peter Taylor has discovered by interviewing them and their families.)

  2. lahgbr says:

    Bernard – I understand your point, which is the position taken by the majority of what you might call ‘liberal-left’ opinion in this country. But I think it is based on a misconception. It’s true that the situation in Iraq is enflaming Muslim opinion – but the anti-Western, militant fundamentalist element was already fully enflamed long before Iraq, and indeed long before September 11th. The fact that actions by the West to defend ourselves against the war ‘declared’ against us by Bin Laden and his associates a decade ago may be disliked by Muslims is not a reason not to take them. When defending ourselves against the aggression of the Nazis we did not stop to consider whether we would ‘offend’ their sympathisers. Admittedly, the situation is alarmingly different now, in that there are many millions of Muslims around the world who see their loyalty to Islam, in whatever misguided form, as coming before anything else – incuding their own lives, or the lives of completely inncocent people, including ironically other Muslims. (Incidentally, far the greatest number of Iraqi casualities have been caused by other Iraqis and other Muslims). As for Muslim ‘grievances’ – they go back long before Iraq – even before the Israeli/Palestinian problem (there was strong support amongst Palestinian Arabs for the Nazis in the 30’s, long before the formation of a Jewish state). If it wasn’t Iraq, then it would be Afghanistan, or Chechnya, or any number of other issues. I’m not denying that there are real issues here that need to be dealt with, but the standard Muslim attitude in any such dispute is always belligerent and self-righteous. Did you know that something like 90% of current wars and insurgencies in the world involve Muslims? (According to Huntington’s ‘Clash of Civilisations’ – which I know is not regarded with favour by the liberal-left – but still, it’s an interesting statistic.) I agree with Peter Hitchens that ultimately the problem between the Muslims and the rest of the world is that they are unable to accept the presence on equal terms of non-Muslims in what they regard as ‘Muslim lands’, and they refuse to accept that any other religion, culture or way of life can have parity with Islam. They are ‘right’, and everyone else is ‘wrong’. Theirs is the superior and conclusive way of life – it says so in the Koran. Therefore it is an affront to the Muslim world that they mostly live under corrupt, brutal and inefficient regimes who let down their own people, force them to live in chaos and poverty, and put them in hock to the dreadful western infidel powers and of course ‘the Jews’, to be ‘exploited’ and ‘humiliated’. The resentment and hatred caused by all this is very conveniently channelled against the West. (A while ago I read a fascinating, if depressing, book on conspiracy theory in the Middle East – unfortunately I forget the author. It was mind-boggling – if half of what it said is true, it’s amazing that things aren’t far, far worse by now. It is virtually impossible for us in our world to understand the incredibly distorted views that are common currency in the Muslim and Arab world and which fuel Islamic terrorism.) I’m afraid I believe that traditional Islam is incompatible with liberal democracy, and with the modern world in general; in the past it didn’t matter much as contact was limited; now it’s different, as contact is constant and easy, and thus confrontation between incompatible world-views is much greater. Until there is some sort of Islamic ‘reformation’ there isn’t much hope of any sort of compromise or peaceful co-existence – those very few courageous ‘progressive’ Muslims who dare to suggest this are buried under a hail of abuse and death-threats; the situation is not encouraging.
    As for President Bush. Well – I personally don’t find him a very appealing person (Blair even less so!), but in contradistinction to you I think that essentially their policies on the war on terror are right. Certainly invading Afghanistan and overthrowing the Taliban and closing down the terrorist bases was justified; the current situation is worrying, though, as there seems to be some confusion about whether to commit sufficient force to finish the job or just leave the place to its usual chaos and violence (I favour the latter). Iraq is a more difficult issue. Personally I think that the overthrow of Saddam was justified (if only it had been done in the first Gulf War); the attempt to create a democratic state in the Arab world was essentially a good idea; the fact that it is coming unravelled now doesn’t mean that it was wrong in the first place (don’t forget the operation was originally seen as being about liberating the Iraqis from an appalling dictatorship, and its intention was not the long-term ‘occupation’ of Iraq). Obviously circumstances have run out of control, and there was a serious misjudgement of the degree of resistance from pro-Saddam and Islamic anti-western elements, not to mention the vicious internecine strife between Muslim sects. This is what I mean by saying that ‘mistakes have been made’; I think the Iraq problem is again largely about failing to prepare properly for the post-Saddam situation and failing to commit sufficient troops and resources from the beginning. I personally believe the West needs to develop a different strategy, avoiding long-term involvement in Muslim countries but reserving the right to strike in self-defence; this needs to be balanced by some attempt to encourage ‘moderate’ Muslim opinion (if there is really such a thing), to liberate itself from the teachings of the bearded ‘mullahs’and above all a strategy to deal with alienated Muslims in the West. The latter certainly is a big problem. Part of the problem, I believe, lies in having allowed such enormous communities of Muslims to develop in the first place and through the nonsense of ‘multiculturalism’ to have positively encouraged them to build their own parallel ‘Islamic’ society within a society, along with its appalling medieval attitudes to women, non-Muslims, homosexuals, etc. I don’t pretend it will be easy to deal with this, but a start would be closing down mosques and ‘Islamic’ institutions which preach extremism (something the government said it would do but has run scared of), monitoring the rest, discouraging ‘faith’ schools, strictly applying the law on abuses such as forced marriage, wife-beatings, illegal immigration, etc. Stopping all the cultural cringing of ‘political correctness’ (ie., the police apologising for taking action against suspected terrorists or daring to search a mosque), changing the doctrine of ‘multiculturalism’ to a strong policy of cultural integration, and making it clear that Britain is never going to be an ‘Islamic’ state and that those Muslims who want to live under ‘Islamic’ laws should move to a Muslim country as soon as possible.
    This is a big subject, and I could go on and on. Just to mention Abu Ghraib – no-one could condone the sort of abuse that went on there. But these were a few isolated incidents in the middle of a highly stressful war situation. To Muslims who see them as an indication of the evil of the West I would merely point out that in many, many Muslim countries – including Iraq – such practices, and FAR, FAR worse ones, weew and are a daily occurence that scarcely raises an eyebrow. When a Muslim country like Iran can publicly hang a 16 year-old girl with psychological problems for ‘crimes against chastity’, and when highly-regarded Muslim ‘freedom-fighters’ consider it positively virtuous to torture and mutilate prisoners and hack elderly civilians heads off with blunt carving knives, I hardly think Muslims are justified in using the Abu Ghraib abuses as an excuse to attempt mass murder. But then, as I have said, unfortunately the Muslim world has double standards on this sort of thing – one rule for them, another rule for everybody else.
    I am not naturally a belligerent or nasty person, I think, but there are times when I think it’s necessary to stand up for what you believe in, and defend yourself when attacked, and if that means war, then as George Orwell once said, ‘sometimes war is the lesser evil’. Serious mistakes may have been made, but the principle I think still holds good. If we had not believed this sufficiently in 1939, we would be living under Nazi slavery today; and I believe that militant Islamism is absolutely the equivalent of Nazism and just as much of a threat.The good old liberal-left, pacifist approach (which failed so abysmally in the 30’s, by the way) is hopelessly inadequate to deal with the current situation – we are living in a very different world from before Septembet 11th 2001, and a much more frightening one, but an awful lot of people just haven’t been able to fully realise this yet -and many don’t want to. I hope they wake up soon, and part of my reason for keeping this blog is to try to help them to do so, even though it hardly makes me very popular!

  3. lahgbr says:

    A footnote to the above: I watched the first of the Peter Taylor programmes – it was quite interesting, but it didn’t present anything new. We all knew already that a number of deluded young Muslim men have been incited by fanatical rhetoric and extremist ideology to become ‘jihadis’; and that the war in Iraq is being used to this end. Obviously this is worrying, but it doesn’t change anything, in my opinion. The fact remains that we are faced with a form of militant Islam whose adherents have openly claimed that they intend to ‘conquer the world’ and have the right to kill non-Muslims at will. And they have been doing their best to do just that, and have succeeded, especially in the mass murder of September 11th. It is certainly possible to argue that the war against Saddam was a step too far at the time, but all this programme did was confirm that the one thing the West mustn’t do is cut and run from Iraq now – that would be claimed as a great victory by the extremists and, incidentally, abandon the ordinary people to a type of barbarism in some ways worse than that of Saddam. The one thing that would seriously damage them and reduce their support would be a successful democracy in Iraq, however long it takes to achieve it and however many innocent people the terrorists and religious fanatics murder. In all this it seems people don’t realise that 5 years is a very short time to deal with this situation – just because everything hasn’t been cleared up and sorted out, and there are frightening and terrible things going on that affect us directly as well as remote parts of the world, they suddenly want out. But this is going to go on for decades, and quite possibly worse things even than September 11th and July 7th are going to happen before it’s over. Does that mean we should surrender to the terrorists and fanatics? I for one don’t think so.
    I have an idea for a new, and frankly pretty ruthless, strategy to deal with this situation, but I will leave that until another time.

  4. Bernard says:

    Is the world, is Iraq, is Britain, is my home, a more dangerous place as a result of the invasion of Iraq? Yes, yes, yes, yes.

  5. lahgbr says:

    The world always *was* a dangerous place. Perhaps the one positive aspect of all this could be that people in the west may have to wake up to what the rest of the world is actually like, and be prepared to defend the way of life and privileges they have lazily taken for granted for so long. As for Iraq, specifically – yes, in the short term it has increased the danger, but if the project that is being attempted there, however messily, actually succeeds, then in the long term the danger will be greatly reduced. It would be so tempting for us in the west to be passive, stick our heads in the sand, and just try to enjoy our nice, ‘safe’ way of life – but in the 21st century clearly the rest of the world won’t let us. Either we just surrender to barbarism and chaos, or we take risks doing something about it.

  6. Les Brown says:

    Bernard et. al. have been asleep in the muck for a long time, or his answers would have been “yes, yes, yes, yes,” long before Iraq. Now that they are waking up, they blame the alarm clock for the mess they’re in.

    By the way, good to see you back at the blog again. Your voice is critical.

  7. Bernard says:

    I don’t know what being ‘asleep in the the muck’ means – it doesn’t sound like me – but I see that in his last reply Laurence concedes my point: that the Iraq war has made the world a more dangerous place.

  8. lahgbr says:

    I think Mr. Brown is talking figuratively, and means something like the liberal-left being ‘asleep’ in the mire of self-delusion, etc. I don’t mean this in a personally rude way – it’s just that to the average conservative thinker, the left and the generally left-leaning intelligentsia’ who run our education system and just about everything else seem to have been stuck in the same old ‘mire’ since at least the 1930’s and appeasment, if not before. It gets exasperating how every time the West tries to stand up for its supposed principles, there is a chorus of dismay and criticism from those who think of themselves as ‘enlightened.’ As a confirmed conservative and pessimist (I was a socialist and an optimist in my youth, believe it or not!) I just think the world is a pretty nasty place and one has to deal with it realistically.
    As regards the Iraq war – yes, I suppose I did concede that it has made the world more dangerous – but I would argue, only in the way that, say, fighting the 2nd World War made things more dangerous – when you fight tyranny, bigotry and fanaticism then things get very violent and dangerous, certainly. If we had made a pact with Hitler after the fall of France, as a large body of opinion in Britain wanted, then things would certainly have been a lot more ‘peaceful’ – for us, anyway; but would they have been better?
    I’ve been trying to get round to writing down my thoughts on the current state of strategy in the war on terror, including the mistakes that have undoubtedly been made. I’ll put it here when I have.

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