Islamist terror beyond the middle east

22 Nov

Today I came across a few commentariat exchanges below a soberly laid out (if a tad detached) Grauniad piece by Kenan Malik. That zerohoursuni chap seems reasonable,  well informed and scrupulously polite. Though heavily outvoted by the philistine element, he’s clearly one to watch – though he does need to get a grip on his typing skills.

Sequenced in thematic rather than chronological order. Figures in brackets are number of “likes” at 13:22 today …

1. exliebour to greatapedescendant (51)

When did the US last round up a religious minority, bury all the men and old women in a ditch and take remaining women and girls as swx slaves?

2. zerohoursuni to exliebour (15)

I don’t think they ever did, exliebour. But they did nuke Hiroshima and Nagasaki when it wasn’t militarily necessary. (But a useful essage to Moscow.) Bit naughty, that. And American exceptionalism – some say Empire of Chaos – has, slavishly followed by my own country, been stomping across the middle east for quite some time now. Like arming jihadists in cold war Afghanistan, and creating the mayhem in Iraq without which Isis would have remained a tiny, lunatic sect. And that’s before we dig deeper into history – the ethnic cleansing of Palestine on which Israel is founded, the devil’s pact with Riyadh and propping up of any nasty regime so long as it kept oil and profits flowing west.

Yes, violent Islamism, whether or not “true to Islam”, is a big part of this. Not as big, however, as western policies in the region over the century following the fall of the Ottoman Empire. Those desiring real independence tried all other routes – Nasserite Pan Arabism, Ba’athism, Parliamentarianism and non violent Islamism. I see the calculatedly horrific acts of Isis as a doctrine of homicidal despair that has to be seen in the context of those earlier routes having failed. And who do we have to thank for that?

3. exliebour to zerohoursuni (16)

The foreign policy narrative fails when you look at the global nature of this epidemic. No one is immune. Mali, Mumbai, Nigeria, Thailand…. Switzerland has not been in a war for 100 years but still have issues with extremists.

Japan managed to stop flying suicide missions and build the worlds strongest economy after that war.

4. zerohoursuni to exliebour (6)

I respectfully disagree. It happens that most of the people’s of the middle east are Muslim. While the west’s 100 year exploitation of the region was never an attack on Islam – Washington and London couldn’t give a flying fuck if they were animists or flat earthers so long as profit margins were good – it was easily painted as such, hence easy to join up to other issues presentable as attacks on Islam – Kashmir, Myanmar, Southern Thailand.

I don’t say Islam isn’t a big part of this. It certainly is. It is not, however, the root cause of Isis success. Here’s a parallel I’ve drawn elsewhere: the Khmer Rouge matched Isis for calculated savagery. And the KR, like Isis, was a tiny sect for whom American bombs were a god-sent opportunity to seize power.

5. Happytravelling to zerohoursuni (6)

And how do you see the doctrine of boko Haram, al shabab, aceh, MILF who have flourished in areas outside the Ottoman empire? Certainly money from the post Ottoman dictatorships have influenced some of those groups but I’m not sure it’s had huge impact. Further, the house of Saud and its alliance with Wahhabism was powerful and always there. If Britain etc hasn’t put them in power, that would not necessarily guaranteed a stable and peaceful middle East.

A bit over the top equating American actions, with clear strategic benefit to the US with arbitrary acts of barbarism. Putting the women into sex slavery may put fear into the opposition but no more than the fear of death, surely?

6. zerohoursuni to Happytravelling (1)

Boko Harum etc? One, see my response of a few minutes ago to exliebour. Two, while the examples you cite are outside the middle east, they are certainly not otside the reach of imperialsm and, in most cases, colonilalism too.

“Arbitrary acts of barbarism”? Absolutely not. These are calculated acts by a sophisticated group with a clear strategy vision. I recommend an intelligent Graun piece by Scott Atran, six days ago:

7. farga to Charmant_mais_fou (93)

… they’re waging a war against everyone who doesn’t agree with them – from the heretic Iranians to the communist Kurds, to the Russians, Hindus and Chinese, to the Jews and the Crusaders, and the multitude of false Muslims…..they really are still stuck in the 7th century…….there have been terrible attacks recently in Ankara, Beruit, Mali etc too.

8. zerohoursuni to farga (3)

Stuck in the 7th century? If only! Read Scott Atran’s unusually intelligent Grauniad piece of six days ago:


Discussions below Guardian pieces can get ugly and incoherent rapidly. It’s often hard to tell them from the commentariat of newspapers with lower required reading ages. In part this is because readers of other papers come to the Graun for a spot of trolling; in part because the nature of the medium, with its potential for ‘flaming’, can bring out the worst in us.

In the above exchanges I was pleased to note an unusually civilised tone, which I attribute in large part to the measured calm and respectful tone with which zerohoursuni made his superior arguments.

One other note of interest. The second paragraph of exliebour‘s response (comment 3) to zerohoursuni Japan managed to stop flying suicide missions and build the worlds strongest economy after that war was not picked up on by zerohoursuni. Was this because he (his profile pic radiates appealing masculinity) saw it as off-topic? Perhaps, but we at Steel City Scribblings would have been tempted to respond thus:

One, are you saying the civilian agonies of those terrible events are made worthwhile by the cessation of kamikazi missions? Two, there’s a mass of evidence that US rebuilding of the Japanese and German economies, widely viewed by the American on the street as rewarding the aggressor, was part and parcel of the cold war for which Hiroshima can be seen as the starting gun.

Finally, I agree wholeheartedly with zerohoursuni that Hiroshima and Nagasaki, contrary to popular myth, were not undertaken to end WW2 in the Pacific. (On this I’m obliged to Caroline Domingo. We disagree over the film, Suffragette, but on this and other questions she had me re-examine my thinking and its premises.) Here are the words of battle-hardened and very senior US figures, none of them bleeding heart liberals:

Dwight Eisenhower

[It was] my belief that Japan was already defeated and that dropping the bomb was completely unnecessary … that Japan was seeking some way to surrender with a minimum loss of ‘face’.    Mandate for Change, p380

… the Japanese were ready to surrender and it wasn’t necessary to hit them with that awful thing.    Ike on Ike, Newsweek, 11/11/63

Admiral William Leahy, Chief of Staff to Roosevelt (FD) & Truman

… use of this barbarous weapon at Hiroshima and Nagasaki was of no material assistance in our war against Japan. The Japanese were already defeated and ready to surrender because of the effective sea blockade and the successful bombing with conventional weapons … My own feeling was that in being the first to use [nuclear weapons] we had adopted an ethical standard common to the barbarians of the Dark Ages.   I was there, p441

Herbert Hoover

… the Japanese were prepared to negotiate all the way from February 1945 … up to and before the time the atomic bombs were dropped … if such leads had been followed up, there would have been no occasion to drop [them].   Barton Bernstein in Philip Noble, ed, Judgment at the Smithsonian, p142

General Douglas MacArthur (as recalled by biographer William Manchester)

[When] the Potsdam declaration demanded that Japan surrender unconditionally or face ‘prompt and utter destruction’, MacArthur was appalled. He knew that the Japanese would never renounce their emperor, and that without him an orderly transition to peace would be impossible anyhow, because his people would never submit to Allied occupation unless he ordered it. Ironically, when the surrender did come, it was conditional [on] a continuation of the imperial reign. Had the General’s advice been followed, the resort to atomic weapons at Hiroshima and Nagasaki might have been unnecessary.   William Manchester, American Caesar: Douglas MacArthur 1880-1964, p512

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