Magazine article The Spectator

Just Don't Call It War

Magazine article The Spectator

Just Don't Call It War

Article excerpt

If we were Israelis, we would by now be doing a standard thing to that white semi-detached pebbledash house at 51 Colwyn Road, Beeston. Having given due warning, we would dispatch an American-built ground-assault helicopter and blow the place to bits. Then we would send in bulldozers to scrape over the remains, and we would do the same to all the other houses in the area thought to have been the temporary or permanent addresses of the suicide bombers and their families.

After decades of deranged attacks the Israelis have come to the conclusion that this is the best way to deter Palestinian families from nurturing these vipers in their bosoms, and also the best way of explaining to the death-hungry narcissists that they may get the 72 black-eyed virgins of scripture, but their family gets the bulldozer.

No doubt there are some people in Britain - I can think of at least one Daily Mail columnist - who would approve of such tactics; but we are not Israelis, and we are novices not just at dealing with suicide bombers, but with suicide bombers as British as the fish-and-chip shops in which they grew up. They were born in our NHS, these killers. They were coddled by our welfare state, they were fed on our butties and our Spangles, they played cricket on our glum and bemerded streets. They were washed by the rains and blessed by the suns of home. They have in their houses (or, perhaps, scattered in fragments at four London Transport crime scenes) documents in which Her Britannic Majesty's Principal Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs requests and requires that the bearer be given all the deference and precedence that is the due of a British national.

They were not metics, or the second-class citizens of the Occupied Territories. We cannot build a wall against them, or erect turnstiles on the way into London, foul-smelling pissoirs of the kind that connect the West Bank and Israel. So we have to focus - in the way that only this kind of slaughter can make us focus - on what we should do now to stop people like them hating us so much that they want to kill us. Something so scorched these fools in their young male psyches that they were prepared - in at least one case - to leave wife and child, and to take their own lives and the lives of dozens of other Britons.

In groping to understand, the pundits and the politicians have clutched first at Iraq, and the idea that this is 'blowback', the inevitable punishment for Britain's part in the Pentagon's fiasco. George Galloway began it in Parliament; he was followed by Sir Max Hastings, with the Lib Dems limping in the rear. It is difficult to deny that they have a point, the Told-You-So brigade. As the Butler report revealed, the Joint Intelligence Committee assessment in 2003 was that a war in Iraq would increase the terror threat to Britain. Anyone who has been to Iraq since the war would agree that the position is very far from ideal; and if any anti-Western mullah wanted a text with which to berate Britain and America for their callousness, it is amply provided by Fallujah, or the mere fact that Tony Blair cannot even tell you how many Iraqis have been killed since their liberation - only that the number is somewhere between ten and twenty thousand.

Supporters of the war have retorted that Iraq cannot be said to be a whole and sufficient explanation for the existence of suicidal Islamic cells in the West, and they, too, have a point. The threat from Islamicist nutters preceded 9/11; they bombed the Paris Métro in the 1990s; and it is evident that the threat to British lives pre-dates the Iraq war, when you think that roughly the same number of Britons died in the World Trade Center as died in last week's bombings.

In other words, the Iraq war did not create the problem of murderous Islamic fundamentalists, though the war has unquestionably sharpened the resentments felt by such people in this country, and given them a new pretext. …

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