Commentators distinguish between minor terrorist attacks and serious ones. The bombings in London fall into the category of minor attacks that even George Bush and Benjamin Netanyahu can explain: a war of Islam against the West.
On Thursday, the day of the London bombings, a tragic terrorist attack of the serious kind took place - the murder of the Egyptian ambassador in Iraq. A Muslim was murdered by Muslims. Not war against Western culture, but war against an Arab state that is willing to maintain diplomatic relations with Iraq.
Why was it a major terrorist act? Because in this case one has to know the forces at work inside Iraq, try to separate between Shi'ites who support and oppose the government, between Sunnis and Kurds, between organizations affiliated to Abu Musab al-Zarkawi and those still affiliated with the Ba'ath party, and distinguish between Egypt's policy and the policy of other Arab states.
In short, this is a terrorist act that does not enable leaders to get away with sweeping accusations, or to plunge into helplessness and console themselves with the feeling that they belong to the good, enlightened world, to the culture of the West.
The London bombings seem to render the probe for causes and circumstances superfluous. Islam against the West is a good explanation. Like a decree of fate, it provides no answers, certainly not a way to fight terrorism of the Al-Qaida sort. It cultivates a new, distorted but easy to ingest concept: culture terrorism. In this context, is would be advisable to remember that even Al-Qaida is not a genetic outcome of Islam. After all, it fought shoulder to shoulder with the Americans in Afghanistan against the Soviets, and Bin Laden financed the Muslims' protection in Serbia when the Western states refused to do so.
Hence, the accepted logic that a democratic revolution in the Arab and Muslim states could help considerably to isolate terror of the "cultural" - i.e., Islamic - kind. But this rationale ignores the fact that most of the states included in the definition of the "crime circle" are also the poorest countries in the world. Even if Bin Laden is the son of one of the richest Arab states and families in the world, he relies mainly on volunteers and organizations centered in the poor classes. And while the American administration is investing tens of billions of dollars in the war in Iraq, it earmarks a meager few tens of millions to improving the education, health and employment potential in these states. While the G8 took the trouble to invite China, Brazil and India to its Scotland conference, no Arab state received this honor.
The call for a universal war against terror sounds good. It creates a sense of unity of the sons of light against the sons of darkness. Mainly, it imbues the faith that terror could be vanquished by military means alone. Granted, it's easier to bring together representatives of intelligence services, exchange information, examine war tactics and hold joint maneuvers. It's easier to send a few brigades to Afghanistan to cleanse Taliban nests, or run street fights in Fallujah. It is almost impossible to eliminate the poverty.
But between these two extremes there is a huge space for cooperation, which could reduce the support for organizations such as Al-Qaida and increase the chances of foiling its attacks.
Britain's former foreign minister, Robin Cook, reminded us in a sharp article published in the Guardian on Friday, that those sons of light, the West, did not rush to the aid of Muslims in Serbia in "the worst terrorist act in Europe in the past generation;" some 8,000 Muslims were killed. Those sons of light feel intense nausea at the possibility that a Muslim state like Turkey would be part of Europe, and cluck their tongues at genocide in Sudan's Darfur region.
All this does not justify any terror attack, but it attempts to draft a different road map that would lead, at least, to isolating and differentiating terror. It attempts to add other means to the military war against it, not empty slogans about democracy but helpful involvement, a partnership of allies and not of culture enemies.
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