Of course it can be claimed that this study (and others prior to it) does not claim that the Iraq war is the original cause of the general emergence of an Islamist menace, but that it has merely poured oil on the fire, made a difficult situation even worse. This objection, however, leads to the conclusion that the extension of Islamist terror indicated by the report is the product of a Western error; the report would have us think that, if this error had been avoided, the Islamic menace, at worse, would have remained minor or even merely latent, while if the West would respond to dissatisfactions–about Islam’s place in society and the future of the Palestinians–the problem of Islamic terror would be all cleared up.
This might be admitted, except that, for the Islamists, the ‘place of Islam’ in society is the primary place, and the ‘solution of the Palestinian problem’ (if we take the actors at their word) is wiping Israel off the map. These are the motivations of Islam as a political force, for without them that political force ceases to exist–as opposed to Islam’s existence as moral code in the private-sphere, as religion is supposed to be in secular Western societies. Anything which arises, such as a cartoon or a phrase, feeds Islamist political strategy. But the pretence of reactions to social conditions or disrespect is a disguise, because Islamism is not mere petulant sensitivity, it is a positive a project of re-conquest and messianic hope.
Even if this is admitted, one might still insist that it is important to carefully avoid offering the Islamists any pretexts, but this would plunges us into a hopeless and vicious circle. The terrorist massacre Iraqi civilians, and these very massacres make it impossible for the Coalition forces to disengage. Why are these terrorists, allegedly provoked by the war in Iraq, doing exactly what will prolong the presence of Coalition forces, and why does the broadcast of assassinations of innocent victims strengthen, rather than weaken, the appeal of Islamic extremism? Clearly Islamists have no problem with chaos and murder, and just as clearly they do have a problem with emergent Iraqi civil society and its purple-finger zest for democracy.
Another problem is this; while Iraq was not a region dominated by Islamists, Afghanistan was; so why does war in Iraq, where Islam lost nothing (allegedly there was no link between Al Caida and Saddam) inflame Islamic terror while the ongoing war against the disposed Islamist rulers of Afghanistan–according to the study–does not?
Because, one might reply, of Gitmo and Abou Graib. Ok, except that Gitmo and Abou Graib cannot possibly be a problem because of imprisonment or bad treatment as such, since bad treatments were routine and far worse under Saddam, and tens of thousand of Islamists have been murdered by Algerian prison guards. Gitmo and Abou Graib, by highlighting the helplessness of Islam as a political force in the face of Western might, exacerbate the frustration of the Islamist dream to reestablish its mythical glory. That Al Caida dresses up its video assassination victims in orange Gitmo suits may be a crude form of revenge ; in fact it underlines the failure of a politics whose only program is slitting throats, whose only journalism is splashes of blood, and whose cherished Islam is reduced to a drug.
In these dire conditions the reports ready-made error thesis is highly unfortunate, when there is such urgent need to understand how the fundamental motivations of the human will are nourished, primarily, not by bread and butter but by spiritual yearnings. It’s perhaps why president Bush wants now to disclassify this one, for all the open mind, of course….
Article is translated from french by Paul Rhoads