Friday, July 08, 2005

The Crusade against Freedom

I had originally commented on the terrorists themselves - I may come back to that.

For now, I'll point out that the attack on London seems to be in the tradition of indiscriminate attacks on the West, or "western" targets elsewhere - such as the Twin Towers massacre in New York, the Bali bombing, and the train bombs in Madrid.

While specific grievances may attract misguided zealots to this murderous campaign, it seems to be bigger than any one cause. The attacks on the west are not "about" Palestine, or Israel, or Iraq - as such. These pretexts just fan the flames of the crusade.

I believe that these terrorists want to demolish the influence of the West, and reconstruct the world as the realm of Islam - and a peculiarly backward-looking, rigid, authoritarian Islam at that. It is, fundamentally, a crusade against freedom. Not just the freedom of the West, but the freedom of all who do not share their twisted version of Islam. If you doubt that, consider the murderous attacks in Iraq on rival sects within Islam, and the commitment to pluralism that the Taliban demonstrated in deliberately destroying ancient statues of Buddha in Afghanistan.

Yesterday terrorists destroyed some trains, one bus, and many lives - they killed and maimed human beings, with hopes and dreams, friends and families - real people, real lives.

There are only two ways they can defeat us: they can force us to submit to the same crazed, narrow version of "Islam" which imprisons them, or they can force us to abandon the freedoms that make our civilisation a place worth living in.

We may need to address injustice - the West has not always acted wisely - but we need to work harder at security too: both individually, and as a society. We may need to consider the tradeoff between individual liberty and safety that is inherent in any society. But we must consider it very carefully - in a democracy, that's our job. Government of the people, by the people, for the people.

Bruce Schneier, who writes thoughtfully in his Crypto-gram Newsletter about security in our computerised world, lists some questions we should always ask when any new security measure is proposed.

  1. What problem does the security measure solve? If we don't know exactly why we're doing it, how can we tell if it works?
  2. How well does the security measure solve the problem?
  3. What other security problems does the measure cause? There are almost always some.
  4. What are the costs of the security measure? Financial, social, etc.
  5. Given the answers to steps two through four, is the security measure worth the costs?
As he puts it, the last step is the easy one, but all too often nobody bothers. It's not enough for a security measure to be effective. We don't have infinite resources. We don't have infinite patience. As a society, we need to do the things that make the most sense

The G8 leaders said, after the explosions: "we will not allow violence to change our society and values."

If on one hand we adopt useless "security" measures in a knee-jerk reaction, or on the other, if we fail to meet the security challenge or if our attempts to address the issues of world poverty, corruption and oppression are derailed, then the terrorists will have won a victory in their crusade against freedom.


Flaming Firegeni said...

I believe that unacceptable as terrorism is, the Al Queda terrorists do have a political agenda clearly articulated by them in the past and completely ignored by the countries addressed. It is a voice that the West does not wish to listen to, dialogue or negotiate with.

As it was pointed out by them, had they been attacking a way of life, freedom and democracy, their target would have been Switzerland and not the USA. The targets have been the nations involved in invasion.

I do believe that the attacks on New York, Madrid and London are about Palestine, Israel and Iraq.

The bombs within Iraq and Afghanistan are tribal conflicts that have always existed and are unleashed the moment a powerful dictator or government is overthrown. Al Queda terrorists have no reason to operate within Iraq (as we have been told). What would be there purpose of expending themselves in Iraq blowing up rival tribal groups within it?

Iraq is suffering a backlash of internal civil conflict that the regime of Saddam Hussein, however evil it might have been, kept under control. The Middle East is tribal, and democracy sits ill within its politics, and certainly the sudden removal of a dictator is a recipe for civil conflict between the suppressed groups.

The Al Queda as a political movement, does have the impact of fundamentalist Islam - which I suspect is being used to fuel enthusiasm for political ends. This is different to saying that it is merely a fundamentalist Islamic movement. Moreover, Islam is not the first to use its faith for political ends and will certainly not be the last.

Christianity has as black - if not a worse record of genocide and murder for the furtherance of its "gospel", during its colonialist expansions as well as its own crusades of the past.

I do not for a moment condone the terrorist acts, but I do suggest that there is a political agenda (albeit corrupted with the incorporation of bigotry and religious fundamentalism) and they are not, as generally perceived, hell bent on attacking Freedom and Democracy.

This is what politicians wish us to believe becuase it justifies their actions against an "enemy" and present itself as "keepers of peace and freedom".

Paul said...

Not sure if I entirely agree, but I'll think about the points you make...

Even though stated aims may not necessarily match real ones (consider WMD and Iraq, after all) I'd still be interested to read the "political agenda clearly articulated by them [Al Queda] in the past". Do you have a link to an English language version?