Wednesday, July 27, 2005

ID Cards and the Middle East...

Clearly ID cards wouldn’t have made the slightest bit of difference to avoid the London bombings. Some are trying to come up with usually far fetched scenarios showing that ID cards would somehow make things worse with regards to the London events. But that’s mostly conjecture and speculation.

Mr Blair, shortly after the attacks, claimed there was no link to the war in Iraq. On last week’s “This week”, Michael Portillo strangely and incorrectly echoed him, citing that bombings had occurred elsewhere such as in Istanbul. Portillo must have suffered an uncharacteristic bout of amnesia, by forgetting the Istanbul target was in fact the British Consulate. The bombing of Madrid, early on mistaken for an ETA attack, was later conclusively shown to be a fundamentalist Islamic attack, resulting in the resignation of the Spanish Prime Minister and withdrawal of Spanish troops from Iraq.

Just about every terrorist attack in recent years, from the first failed twin towers bombing (26/02/93), the USS Cole, Kenya, 9/11, Istanbul, Madrid and the recent events in London are linked to the West’s involvement in Afghanistan, the Middle East, the Palestinian/Israeli question and the non-UN supported invasion of Iraq (Gulf War II).

Even the most recent attack in Egypt where the target clearly wasn’t British or American, is linked to the West’s position in the region. Egypt is the only Arab state with close ties to Israel and the largest recipient of American aid in the entire region, apart of course from Israel itself. Because of this it has been the target of probably mostly internal radical Islamic terrorists for years now.

In the short term we can continue to foil a few attacks here and abroad, using blunt instruments like shoot-to-kill and intelligence, but against “clean skin”, home grown terrorist cells, no amount of surveillance, random searches, sniffer dogs etc can be particularly effective. We will be drawn into a protracted “war on Islamic terror” with many, many casualties. Things are likely to get worse before they (may) get better.

In the medium-long term the West needs to clearly rethink its Middle East strategy. Resolving the Iraq situation, however difficult that may be, and extricating ourselves from that part of the world would be a first important step.

Addressing the Palestinian question, this time seriously, is in the medium-long term the only viable solution. A satisfactory settlement for both parties, including an independent Palestinian state, should be one of the main objectives of our Middle East policy.

The alternative? To continue to breed an increasingly large army of irate and blinkered Islamic terrorists, vying for our blood. Unfortunately, these no longer require the umbilical cord to "Al Qaida", making them all the more dangerous and potentially prolific.

I’m not a great lover of conspiracy theory but I can’t help feeling the West actually likes this “outside enemy” situation because it certainly distracts from the many internal problems all of our countries suffer. Bush, for one, wouldn’t have been re-elected without 9/11. It looks like Mr Blair will also postpone passing on his crown, as it appears he’s regarded by the general public as a more suitable PM in times of crisis. What's so reassuring about this prolific and pathological liar is beyond me, but there you are.

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