Paul Anderson, Tribune column, 29 July 2005

First it was George Galloway and the Socialist Workers Party. Then came Robin Cook and Chatham House, then a leak from the Joint Terrorist Analysis Centre — and this week even John Major joined the club.

Yes, they’ve all come to the conclusion that 7/7 was “linked to” the war in Iraq, something the government has spent the past three weeks vigorously denying.

And it seems that most Brits agree with them. A Populus poll for The Times published on Tuesday showed that nearly two-thirds of voters think that Tony Blair’s decision to take Britain to war in Iraq has “increased the risk of terrorist attacks like the ones this month in London”.

All of which has got the cretino-leftist tendency in the anti-war camp very excited. “The stoicism that was largely a media-political construct is already turning into frustration,” wrote John Kampfner, editor of the New Statesman, in the Guardian this week. “Watch it turn into anger as Blair refuses to acknowledge a link between Iraq and terrorism on our streets.”

Well, maybe — but I suspect it won’t work out as Kampfner and others like him expect and want. “Linked to” is one thing; “caused by” quite another. There’s a massive difference between believing the war in Iraq “increased the risks of terrorist attack” and believing it was the main reason the bombers did what they did. And most Brits (some 80 per cent according to a YouGov poll) don’t reckon it was the main reason.

I think they are right. There is no evidence of any direct connection between Iraq and the perpetrators of either 7/7 or the attempted repeat performance a fortnight later.

None of them, as far as we know, ever lived there or had family or friends killed or wounded in the war. As far as we know, the Iraq war could have been a factor in their actions only insofar as they were opposed to or angry about it.

And a decision to commit indiscriminate murder of civilians on the streets of a city does not flow easily (let alone automatically) from this — even if you see the war as an assault by infidels on your religion and your co-religionists.

Millions of people, both Muslims and non-Muslims, were or are angry about Iraq and have never even considered setting off bombs on public transport. (I am one of them.)

Something else is at least as important here as anger at the war, at minimum a belief that random terrorist murder is justifiable in certain circumstances. This could in theory be simply a matter of the bombers adopting a brutal utilitarian calculus related solely to Iraq — “If we let off bombs in London we will kill innocent people but will hasten withdrawal of the west from Iraq, which will result in fewer deaths in the long run” — but somehow I doubt it was as rational as that.

All the evidence suggests that the bombers were fanatical Islamist jihadists, committed to unremitting war by any means possible to secure a worldwide totalitarian Islamist state and convinced that their self-immolation would guarantee them the highest possible status in the afterlife. If we’re looking for the causes of or reasons for the London outrages, we can’t ignore or explain away this vile, narcissistic, fascist ideology.

The rise of jihadist Islamism long predates the Iraq war. And although jihadism has undoubtedly fed upon popular antipathy among Muslims towards what they see as US and British imperialism in league with (or indeed controlled by) the forces of Zionism, it is much more than a response to particular, in principle reversible, western policies.

The jihadists are not just sworn enemies of western intervention in Iraq or Afghanistan or elsewhere. They are also sworn enemies of tolerance, democracy and freedom to act autonomously in every area of everyday life, all of which they consider anti-Islamic.

They want to eliminate secularism, political pluralism and intellectual and sexual freedoms not just in historically Islamic societies but throughout the world. They think they have a God-given right to use any means to achieve their goal and they glory in dying for the cause.

It is wishful thinking to believe they would simply leave us alone if we got out of Iraq and disowned Ariel Sharon. We would still be targets.

So how do we deal with them? There is a superficially simple answer: we should relentlessly expose their ideology for what it is and oppose them wherever we find them, with force if necessary.

The problem is putting this into practice. No one really knows who they are or where they are.

Jihadism is not run by an Islamintern that could be disabled or at least significantly damaged by pin-point military strikes on some HQ in north-west Pakistan. As we have seen in the past three weeks, even in Britain, with its long experience of IRA terrorism, the domestic security state finds it hard to keep tabs on the jihadists. Even the bombers’ families were unaware of their plans.

This means that rooting out jihadism will be a long, slow, frustrating policing process with plenty of setbacks. But there really isn’t any feasible alternative.

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