It’s the Foreign Wars, Stupid

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London and Glasgow: Worse Than a Crime, a Mistake

by Eric Margolis by Eric Margolis

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Pundits and self-appointed experts on Islam are wringing their hands as they try to explain why two Muslim doctors and at least six other medical workers were involved in this week’s failed bombings in London and Glasgow.

It certainly sounds horrific and counter-intuitive. Physicians, trained to heal, turned into would-be mass murders with cars packed full of explosive materials and nails. Since I’m writing a book on why the Muslim world is so angry at the west, let me venture some heretical thoughts.

First, there is nothing sacrosanct about doctors. Behind carefully cultivated veneers of icy detachment, they have the same emotions as ordinary mortals.

The most evil, frightening man I ever met — and I’ve met a lot — was Haiti’s tyrant, "Papa Doc" Duvalier, who was a crusading country doctor before he turned into a Voodoo-crazed despot.

Second, the amateur, would-be killers who staged these bungled attacks were not, as many western pundits claim, unlikely to have been driven by some sort of homicidal perversion native to Islam. An entire cottage industry of publicity-seeking anti-Muslim writers is at work seeking to confirm the increasingly popular prejudice that Islam is a sick, demented, homicidal faith. These pundits are merely licking the hand that pays them.

There is nothing in Islam that advocates homicidal acts or mass killing. In fact, while it’s popular these days to demonize Islam as a violent faith, we should recall that history’s biggest mass murderers, Stalin, Genghis Khan, Mao, and Hitler, were not Muslims. Auschwitz and the gulag did not come from Islam. World wars I and II, the most murderous in history, were begun by Christian nations and Japan.

The two accused doctors now under arrest in Britain, one of whom was Iraqi and the other Jordanian of Palestinian descent, were most likely driven by rage over the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, pure and simple.

Nothing ever excuses killing civilians. Those who stage horrific bombings against Israelis, Europeans, Americans, and fellow Muslim civilians are criminals. Nothing excuses their behavior. But we must understand why it happens and why it will continue. Understanding has nothing to do with condoning.

Britain’s new prime minister, Gordon Brown, responded the right way to the London and Glasgow incidents. Unlike Tony Blair, who raised anti-western attacks to hysterical, apocalyptic levels, declaring civilization in peril, the dour Brown properly characterized the latest outrages as "criminal" acts to be handled by the police.

The two doctors who tried to kill British civilians were most likely motivated by the same ferocious fury as the suicide squads who attacked New York and Washington on 11 Sept 2001.

Their attacks were not the result of some innate sickness in Islam, misreading the Koran, brainwashing, or hatred of western shopping habits. Our governments and media just refuse to face the ugly reality that such attacks are very often a direct reaction to our own violent actions in the Mideast and South Asia.

We can’t expect to go on bombing and shooting up Iraq, or shredding Afghan villages with cluster bombs and 20mm Gatling guns, and not expect violent reaction. The increasing death of civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the ongoing agonies of Palestine, have enraged the Muslim World against the west.

Most Muslims simply complain. But a tiny number, as in Britain, forget rationality, humanity, or common sense and try to strike back at what they believe are the oppressors of the Muslin world.

I was in London two years ago this past weekend when a group of British Muslims bombed the London Underground and a bus. Their motivation, it was subsequently revealed, was revenge against Britain for its invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq.

Such violence is criminal and, worse, to paraphrase Tallyrand, a mistake. They undermine whatever cause the militants are fighting for, making them into criminals with no possible justifiable grievances. In the end, innocent Muslims in Britain and other western nations become victims of these mindless attacks.

But revenge attacks will continue, and even intensify, until the west reassesses its policies in the regions that are generating such anti-western violence.

Intensified police work is needed at home to prevent more attacks. Muslim leaders must keep telling their people that attacks against civilians are immoral and self-defeating.

But western governments have to face the fact that the wars they are waging against the Muslim world are the primary generators of terrorism. In the intelligence business, it’s called blowback.

Blaming every violent incident on the shadowy al-Qaida is a handy excuse for avoiding reality and responsibility. But it won’t change the fact that a good 20% of the world’s population is increasingly enraged at the US, Britain, Australia, and, most lately, Canada. How can we hector the Muslim world to cease its acts of violence when we westerners continue to intensify our own?

Eric Margolis [send him mail], contributing foreign editor for Sun National Media Canada, is the author of War at the Top of the World. See his website.

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