George Bush yesterday suffered a blow to his argument that the removal of Saddam Hussein had made Americans safer after he ordered the release of an intelligence report warning the war in Iraq had become a “cause celebre for jihadists”.
“The Iraq conflict has become the ’cause celebre’ for jihadists, breeding a deep resentment of US involvement in the Muslim world. If this trend continues, threats to US interests at home and abroad will become more diverse, leading to increasing attacks worldwide.”
The report, reflecting a consensus of 16 intelligence agencies, acknowledged some US success in disrupting al-Qaida. But it said these gains were outweighed by other factors, fuelling al-Qaida’s spread: anger at corrupt Muslim regimes, anti-US sentiment, and a decentralised leadership that made it harder to penetrate. [The Guardian]
If this comes as a surprise to anyone then, well, they need their heads checked. To Osama Bin Laden and his ilk, the invasion of Iraq was a boon. Actually, George Bush was a boon to them but let’s stick to the matter at hand.
Supporters of the war in Iraq or George Bush are likely to respond in two ways:
1) Saddam Hussain needed to go anyway so the war is still justified.
2) The jihadi movement would have been there anyway despite the war hence it doesn’t matter.
There are also the big nut-jobs who will say the west has been at war with Muslims for 1400 years or so in a clash of civilisations and this is just a continuation of that but let’s leave them aside for now.
Our favourite polemicist Melanie Phillips for example says:
It would be idle to pretend that Iraq has not become a cause to be manipulated for recruitment for the jihad. But that observation doesnâ€™t get you very far. For a start, it does not invalidate the war. The justification for toppling Saddam remains as valid as it ever was: that he was an unconscionable danger to the world because of the axis between his sponsorship of terror, his ambition to lead the Arab world and his intention to develop weapons of mass destruction.
Secondly if wasnâ€™t Iraq something else would have acted as a recruiting sergeant for the jihad. Indeed, something else did: Afghanistan, and before that Bosnia, and always Israel.
This is just wilful ignorance. Even George Bush knew Hussain had nothing to do with 9/11, and it is well known he was an ardent secularist who had nothing to do with Al-Qaeda and their ilk. How exactly did he sponsor ‘terror’ outside his country?
And he may have been deluded but Hussain was in no position to “lead the Arab world” after being humiliated in the ten-year war with Iran and then the first Gulf war. And lastly he may have wanted to develop WMD but he neither had the capability nor the means to. Otherwise we would have found some in Iraq, no?
On the second point, while I accept that the hardcore bunch of religious extremists will use any excuse to justify their hatred, this does not excuse the fact that Iraq, Lebanon and Palestine serve as a cause to increase their influence and recruit more to their cause.
Instead of dealing with a hundred nutters, say, we now have to deal with a thousand because those original hundred have piggybacked on these issues, used the pictures of dying babies and crying mothers to get their bretheren angry, and brainwashed them into believing that a violent response is the only answer. And more keep breeding.
Will Melanie Phillips and her ilk understand or accept this? Looks unlikely.
Now George Bush has royally screwed up in Iraq (a point even Phillips concedes), this has become a fight to death. Both the Americans and their opponents need to win Iraq otherwise their campaigns will be dealt a fatal blow. Hence the former hang on in the country despite a lack of a strategy to improve conditions, and the latter continue to spead violence even during their holy month of Ramazan.
In other words the Iraqi people are getting caught in the cross-fire.
The only way out I can see would be a coordinated military intervention by the other Arab states to stabilise Iraq so the violence does not engulf the whole of the Middle East. That may also give the ME states more confidence in promoting peace in their neighbourhood given they failed so miderably in Darfur.
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Filed in: Middle East