Western Media’s Attempts to Undercut the Struggle against Jihadi Aggression

The first in what I hoe will be many posts from Lazar Berman on articles in the media.

“America’s War without End”

Simon Tisdall, The Guardian. October 23, 2007

Planned US spending on the “global war on terror” is set to rise sharply in the coming year, despite claims from the president, George Bush, that al-Qaida is on the run in Iraq.

A funding request sent to Congress this week seeks $196.4bn (£96bn) for counter-terrorism in 2007-8, $25bn up on this year. The Pentagon’s separate budget request amounts to an additional $481.4bn.

Justifying these whopping increases, Mr Bush repeats a favourite mantra, that “America is safer but not yet safe“, implying that absolute safety is attainable at some point in the future. In a speech this week, his vice-president, Dick Cheney, was franker: he said the US was engaged in an ideological struggle amounting to war without end.

So an ideological struggle is necessarily a war without end? World War II was an ideological struggle, and after much death and hardship, came to an end.

Details of the spending request reveal how the war, by lumping together numerous disparate challenges, is steadily expanding in terms of aims and geography. Iraq and Afghanistan apart, counter-terror funds are earmarked for US allies in Pakistan and Palestine, for de-nuclearising North Korea, and for fighting drug cartels in Mexico and Central America.

Further escalation came this year with the Pentagon’s creation of Africa Command, tasked with tracking down militant Islamists from Somalia to the Maghreb and the Sahel. Mr Cheney says the threat is ubiquitous and pressing. “The extremists in the Middle East … are trying to seize power by force, keep power by intimidation, and build an empire of fear.”

Critics say fear is also being used to keep US citizens and taxpayers in line. Unveiling the updated national strategy for homeland security this month, the White House claimed, without producing new evidence, that al-Qaida was actively trying to infiltrate the US.

“Although we have discovered only a handful of individuals in the US with ties to al-Qaida senior leadership, the group likely will intensify its efforts to place operatives here in the homeland,” the report said. It even warned that Lebanon’s Hizbullah might launch attacks on US territory.

The assessment appeared at odds with statements by US commanders and Pentagon planners that the al-Qaida network had been “significantly degraded” in Iraq and elsewhere. But fearfulness is catching. Sir Ian Blair, the Metropolitan police commissioner, warned Britons this month that the number and scale of terrorist conspiracies and conspirators was increasing, even though fewer cases were actually under investigation.

To Tisdall, any report of increased risk of terror attacks stems from ‘fearfulness’.

Experts in international security law, such as Professor Philip Bobbitt of Columbia law school, deny suggestions the global threat is being exaggerated and conflated for political and geo-strategic ends.

Speaking in London, Prof Bobbitt said three overlapping, truly global wars on terror were being waged. One was the fight against “21st-century, networked terror”; the second was a war to prevent rogue regimes or terror groups obtaining weapons of mass destruction; the third was against genocide and ethnic cleansing, as in Darfur.

But other influential voices in the US and beyond are increasingly questioning both the purpose and the conduct of terrorism policy, suggesting it will not outlive the Bush era.

Syndicated columnist William Pfaff wrote recently that fear generated by the 9/11 attacks had been externalised, with official and rightwing media connivance, “into paranoid fantasy of foreign enemies”. Terrorism had become almost anything the Bush administration said it was.

And in an interview with Guardian America today, the Democratic presidential frontrunner, Hillary Clinton, suggests Mr Bush’s for-us-or-agin-us approach was self-defeating.

“We’ve got to do a better job of clarifying what are the motivations of terrorists,” Ms Clinton said. “I think one of our mistakes has been painting with such a broad brush, which has not been particularly helpful in understanding what it is we were up against.”

Senator Clinton is correct here. We must clarify what the motivations of terrorists are. But when we do, much to Mr. Tisdall’s chagrin, we will be more aware of the danger, not more complacent.

Professor Sir Lawrence Freedman, of King’s College London, said Mr Bush had consistently failed to define what he meant by the “global war on terror”. There were many forms of terrorist, including jihadis, Hamas and the IRA, as well as state terrorism of the kind practised by Stalin or Burma’s generals, he said in a recent discussion.

US presidents were over-fond of declaring war on phenomena such as drugs or poverty, and now terror. “An enemy can surrender but phenomena cannot,” Prof Freedman said. Mr Bush should spend more time “thinking about who we’re fighting and why”.

Very apt. Terrorism is a tactic, Jihadism is the ideology.

In a new book published in the US, Less Safe, Less Free: Why America is Losing the War on Terror, David Cole and Jules Lobel deliver a less forgiving verdict. They argue that Mr Bush’s catch-all, bulldozer approach has increased worldwide hostility to the US and its citizens, dismayed minority communities at home, alienated America’s friends and emboldened its enemies.

While the military gained bumper budgets, the American nation forfeited moral legitimacy, Cole and Lobel say. “The resentment provoked by these measures is the greatest threat to our national security and the most likely source of the next attack.” For that reason, if no other, any Bush successor would have to change tack.


Two big points worth reflecting upon.

1) Moral legitimacy- According to Tisdall and his colleagues, the West only retains moral legitimacy if they are either involved in diplomatic solutions, or, if they must fight, the fighting takes several weeks at most, and is clean and sterile.

2) Cole and Lobel’s argument is a clever one. If the United States is attacked again, they reason, it is because of ‘resentment’ towards Bush’s broad definition of terror and his runaway military spending. This takes the blame off the Islamists and puts it firmly in the lap of the West. But a moment’s reflection on the argument reveals its flaws. In Cole and Lobel’s mind, a Jihadist terrorist will be prompted to attack and kill Americans because he resents how Bush defines terrorism. Or, because he thinks that Bush is over-spending on defense. They and Tisdall ignore, and will always choose to ignore, the overwhelming degree to which the motivation for Jihadi terror comes from the society out of which the terrorists emerge, and not from the actions of the West.

7 Responses to Western Media’s Attempts to Undercut the Struggle against Jihadi Aggression

  1. Michael N says:

    “In Cole and Lobel’s mind, a Jihadist terrorist will be prompted to attack and kill Americans because he resents how Bush defines terrorism. Or, because he thinks that Bush is over-spending on defense.”

    Even if Cole and Lobel are right about the Western causes of jihadist terror, what does that prove? It proves that we need to be ready to make war on people who are so easily driven to murder civilians over what they perceive to be America’s misunderstanding of their religion.

    If what they are telling us is true (and in one sense it is – whatever we do or do not do can be and is used as a pretext by the jihadists/western journalists) and we face people who will kill us over their objection to our attitudes or beliefs, or over our sovereign right to allocate budgets without asking their permission, we need to be armed and ready to fight them. For as long as it takes.

    It’s the recurring islamist joke: if you continue to misrepresent my religion as violent, I’ll cut your throat in the name of my god.

  2. Richard,
    Check your spelling…..

  3. fp says:

    It’s recurring, but hardly a joke (there are no jokes in islam) and neither is there human logic (everything is allah’s will).

    That they say it and the west and the media disregard it even after they do cut throats, now THAT would be a major joke were it not so damn contemptible.


  4. Michael N says:

    fp, The Guardian (what an ironic name!) is utterly reliable in this respect. Welcome to Europe, where we look down on the country that saved us from Nazism and kept us free from Communism, and now wants to fight the ideology that blows us up on our trains and buses in the name of their god. Just smile and bare your neck and you’ll be fine here.

    Americans are fond of reminding us that they saved our asses in the 1940s, and they are absolutely right to do so. They also remind us that they kept Europe safe from totalitarianism during the Cold War, but we are already convincing ourselves that they were fearmongering then – that Communism was relatively benign (and even had a certain anti-materialist studenty chic!) – and they are fearmongering now. I am at a loss to explain our stupidity and arrogance about this.

    The jury is still out on both Brown and Sarkozy, but it seems to me quite possible that France might replace the UK in terms of the ‘special relationship’ within the next decade. The Guardian report discussed above and a thousand others from the Guardian/Independent/BBC are the principle reason why.

    fp is at least partially right: a populace that had been educated rather than merely schooled would not simply swallow the groupthink media line.

  5. fp says:

    it’s all due to the collapse of education and the resulting fall of knowledge and reason. when the new generations did not experience history and are not taught history and the western culture (classics, literature, logic, philosphy), there is no reason why not to believe any crap.

    as to the US, it’s in the initial stages of empire decline. you can already discern decadence, corruption of public and private institutions, obsession with food and entertainment, gladiator fights on tv, the equivalent of slave labor in asia and latin america, overextension abroad and fiscally, deterioration of infrastructure, inability to deal with natural disasters, and the barbarians at the gates.

    it’s over for the west.

  6. fp says:

    let’s see how the west deals with this:

    Muslim prisoners sue for millions after they were offered ham sandwiches for Ramadan

    the only reason such things occur is because the barbarians sense that it’s over for the west. because they would not dare or bother if they thought otherwise.

    just watch these things accumulate.

  7. Michael N says:

    Additionally, when did America last definitively win a war? I mean, a war involving fighting.

    Things don’t look great for the west.

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