“Again and again we are told that terrorism is associated with poverty and the basic, Qur’anic education provided by madrasas. We are told that the men who carry out this work are evil madmen with whom no debate is possible and who, according to Frank Field on last week’s Question Time, ‘aim to wipe us out’. All links with Iraq and Afghanistan are vehemently denied.
“In actual fact, al-Qaida operatives tend to be highly educated and their aims clearly and explicitly political. Bin Laden, in his numerous communiques, has always been completely clear about this. In his first public statement, ‘A declaration of war against the Americans’, issued in 1996, he announced he was fighting US foreign policy in the Middle East and, in particular, American support for the House of Saud and the state of Israel. His aim, he stated, is to unleash a clash of civilisations between Islam and the ‘Zionist crusaders’ of the west, and so provoke an American backlash strong enough to radicalise the Muslim world and topple pro-western governments.
“Bush has fulfilled Bin Laden’s every hope. Through the invasion of secular Ba’athist Iraq, the abuses in Abu Ghraib, the mass murders in Falluja, America – with Britain’s obedient assistance – has turned Iraq into a jihadist playground while alienating all moderate Muslim opinion in the Islamic heartlands and, crucially, in the west. Of course, we must condemn the horrific atrocities these men cause; but condemnation is not enough. Unless we attempt to understand the jihadis, read their statements and honestly analyse what has led these men to blow themselves up, we can never defeat them or even begin to drain the swamp of the grievances in which they continue to flourish.”
William Dalrymple in the Guardian, 20 July 2005