The ‘Clash of Civilisations’ and the ‘War on Terror’ – Michael Dunn (pdf file)
Since the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the subsequent declaration of a US-led ‘war on terror’, the spectre of a ‘clash of civilizations’ between ‘Islam’ and ‘the West’ has frequently loomed. But what is the relationship between the ‘clash of civilizations’ and the ‘war on terror’ ? The latter is, for many, simply the clash between ‘Islam’ and ‘the West’ that Samuel P Huntington predicted would be an inevitable part of the post-Cold War world. Crucially, this conviction is as true for the leaders of the al-Qaeda network as it is for those Western policymakers who subscribe to Huntington’s theory. This article will attempt to critique the application of ‘clash of civilizations’ theory to the ‘war on terror’, and will then seek to construct a different means of understanding and conceptualising the ‘war’ on terror’. It will posit that the ‘war on terror’ is not in fact a ‘clash of civilizations’, but a conflict between two powerful groups of elites, for whom the ‘clash of civilizations’ is an essential form of discourse.
One of the reasons that the Right hangs on so tenaciously to the term “War on Terror” is that the term gives whatever Bush does the illusion of having an unmerited moral weight; the Right is on a mission, a grand noble cause that preventing and punishing terrorists deserves a grand title. Even the word terrorism itself has taken on a certain awed reverence. Terrorist are nothing more or less then international criminals. They do have a convoluted perverse set of beliefs, but those kinds of motivations are not foreign to a nation that went through a bloody Civil War and has seen the likes of the Oklahoma City bombing by Christian Identity sympathizer Timothy Mcveigh to a myriad of homegrown conservative terrorists. To call fighting terrorism another kind of crime problem, obit complicated gulls the Right because because it robs it of the grandeur and old world machismo of a ‘Clash of Civilizations’. This attitude of ‘us’ versus ‘them’ is part and parcel of the Right’s daily discourse. If a Muslim somewhere in the world jay walks its totted as yet another anecdotal incident that proves that that all Muslims are beyond the law, beyond morality so in conservative pundit Ann Coulter’s words, ” We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity. We weren’t punctilious about locating and punishing only Hitler and his top officers. We carpet-bombed German cities; we killed civilians. That’s war. And this is war.” If its war it relieves the Right of the tedium of differentiating between actual terrorists and innocent Muslims. It is not just M’s Coulter, it is part of the daily framing that ranges all the way from Dick Cheney to the unglued Little Green Footballs.
Sardar and Davies believe that in the ‘war on terror’, “[t]wo factions that intuitively understand each other are ready to engage in apocalyptic battle,” but that, “[i]t is less clear that the rest of American society, the Muslim world or the world in general can intervene to question the policies and change the course of events to moderate a slide into increasing danger and insecurity for everyone, everywhere. “Yet such pessimism is not necessarily warranted. The first step must surely be for us to acknowledge the need for democracy and equality to prevail over the clashing ‘fundamentalisms’ of ‘Jihad’ and ‘McWorld’. After all, Osama bin Laden’s attempts to provoke a ‘clash of civilizations’ have, “turned out to be a spectacular failure.”55 One can find evidence for this in the Iranians who gathered outside of the US embassy in Tehran on the night of 9/11, not to chant anti-US slogans but to offer their sympathies, or to the enduring anti-war movement in the West. These examples are the antitheses to the ‘clash of civilizations’, and are evidence that ordinary individuals – potential victims of the ‘war on terror’ – motivated by their concern for other ordinary individuals, are willing and able to register their opposition to the policies of those in power. ( This was a scholarly article which had number references for the footnotes which I removed for formatting reasons. They are available on the pdf file)
The Right and the true jihadist are engaging in a wish fulfillment and wants to drag the rest of along. Many of us have read something akin to this before and we’ve noted the singular lack of discussion along these lines in the TV media in particular. Our current foreign conflicts have continued in this tiresome and less then enlightened framework of rhetoric for some time and show no signs of abatement. While it has lost some of its luster among the public, many of whom recognize both the genuine national security threats we face and the exploitation by the Right of those threats the ‘Clash’ concept is still a winner in the roots of the Conservative base and the current crop of Republican candidates know who that it is the fired up extreme partisans of their party they must appeal to in order to get the nomination. A large segment of which still ties Iraq with 9-11. Just this past week House Minority Leader John Boehner (R) cried after the Iraq appropriations bill was passed and said,
“After 3,000 of our fellow citizens died at the hands of these terrorists, when are we going to stand up and take them on? When are we going to defeat ’em?” demanded Boehner. “Ladies and gentlemen, let me tell you, if we don’t do it now, and if we don’t have the courage to defeat this enemy, we will long, long regret it. So thank you for the commitment to get the job done today.”
It appears that Boehner is suffering from some confusion about the reason why President Bush dispatched U.S. troops to Iraq.
This week Peter S. Canellos at the Boston Globe notes the series of just plain bizarre statements made by Republicans trying to distinguish themsleves in the race to see who can be the most shrill and disturbingly misinformed, GOP rivals embrace unproven Iraq-9/11 tie
In the May 15 Republican debate in South Carolina, Senator John McCain of Arizona suggested that Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden would “follow us home” from Iraq — a comment some viewers may have taken to mean that bin Laden was in Iraq, which he is not.
Former New York mayor Rudolph Guiliani asserted, in response to a question about Iraq, that “these people want to follow us here and they have followed us here. Fort Dix happened a week ago. ”
However, none of the six people arrested for allegedly plotting to attack soldiers at Fort Dix in New Jersey were from Iraq.
Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney identified numerous groups that he said have “come together” to try to bring down the United States, though specialists say few of the groups Romney cited have worked together and only some have threatened the United States.
The both unfortunate and comically named Republican blog The American Mind writes, Boston Globe Smears GOP, This entry was posted on Sunday, May 27th, 2007 at 5:10 pm and is filed under Media.
Canellos can’t wrap his mind around the fact that “these people” are Islamist terrorists. They have launched attacks on the U.S. from Somalia, Yemen, Afghanistan, and Iraq. They would like nothing more than to come to the U.S. and kill as many as possible.
It’s obvious Peter Canellos can’t comprehend the U.S. is in the midst of a war with a radical, religious-based ideology–Islamism. He probably thinks everything would be hunky dory if the U.S. pulled out of Iraq. Heck, he might even be like Rep. Ron Paul and think the U.S. brought this war onto itself through its foreign policy. That would be fine for a dark corner of the internet; such a smear is unacceptable for a newspaper like the Boston
Here TAM must not reread his posts for clarity or consistency’s of thought. Iraq was probably the most secular country in the middle-east and when Saddam was in power they rejected ties to Bin laden. The 9-11 hijackers as pointed out millions of times were from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Lebanon. Three of those countries are considered American allies and when we haven’t made up plans as far as I know to attack them. Saudi Arabia and Pakistan export more actual terrorist then Iraq ever did. CLARIFYING IRAQ’S TERRORIST RECORD
There is no doubt that Iraq is a state sponsor of terrorism—i.e., a country that provides financial support, safe haven, training, or weapons and explosives to groups or individuals that carry out terrorist attacks. From 1991 thru 2001 there were 4143 international terrorist attacks throughout the world. Saddam Hussein and his regime were implicated in at least 73 of these incidents, which accounted for fewer that two hundred fatalities. ( in other words Iraq-Saddam the front in the war on terror was implicated in 1.77 percent of international terrorist attacks and many of those were against Iran. By comparison American terrorists that we all commonly refer to as just plain old murderers have been far more proficient at killing their fellow Americans – Number of murders across nation rises –
The FBI said there were 308 murders from January to June of this year in New York City, compared with 270 during the same span last year. Philadelphia had 158 murders in the first half of this year — 20 more than in the first half of 2002. Baltimore had 141 (14 more) and Newark, N.J., had 40 (13 more).
Officials in Washington declared a crime emergency this summer during a spate of mostly gang-related violence.
Overall, there were 4.3% more murders in the Northeast part of the country during the first half of 2003 compared with last year. There also were slightly more homicides in the South and West; only the Midwest showed a decrease (-1.9%).
Many major cities outside the Northeast had fewer slayings, the report said. Los Angeles was down by 65; it had 258. Detroit had 156 (28 fewer) and Las Vegas dropped by six, from 70 to 64.
The pint today and for the doreseeable future is many Americans have lost the ability to keep the real threats that face us in proper perspective and to react accordingly.
They’re Rich, They’re Spoiled, They’re Supporting Terrorists
the New York Times editorialized, “with Riyadh’s acquiescence, money and manpower from Saudi Arabia helped create and sustain Osama bin Laden’s terrorist organization.” When one peruses the list of directors of businesses and foundations cited by the US government that allegedly supported Al Qaeda, it reads like a who’s who of Saudi society.
As someone once said the Saudis are bastards, but they’re our bastards. TAM, Bush and the Right would have us all believe that it is perfectly clear who the enemy is and they and only they know how to deal with the problem of terrorism. Yet terrorism has increased under Bush – Spy Agencies Say Iraq War Worsens Terrorism Threat and The Bush Administration’s Data on Global Terrorism in 2005 (pdf)
Today, the State Department issued its annual report on global terrorism, Country Reports on Terrorism 2005. In conjunction with this release, the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) also issued its own Report on Incidents of Terrorism 2005. This Flash Report provides an assessment of the data on which these reports are based. The new data from 2005 shows that the number of reported terrorism incidents has increased exponentially in the three years since the United States invaded Iraq. There were 11,111 terrorist
attacks that caused 14,602 deaths in 2005, compared to 208 terrorist attacks that caused 625 deaths in 2003. This is an increase of over 5,000% in the number of terrorist attacks and over 2,000% in the number of deaths in three years. Officials from the State Department and the NCTC asserted in a briefing yesterday afternoon to
congressional staff that the dramatic increase in terrorism attacks was due to the use of a new methodology and a more rigorous review. These are the same assertions that the Administration made last year, when the 2004 data showed that terrorism attacks had tripled since 2003. Experts consulted prior to the release of the 2005 data urged the Administration to release directly comparable numbers, but the Administration refused to do so.
The Right relentlessly sells us the lemon terrorism is increasing because Bush is confronting terrorism to supposedly eradicate it once and for all. The front of this effort is Iraq. This connection of beliefs and propaganda are never explained and justified by supporting evidence. On the contrary the Right feels that the connections are so self evident that they have gone on for five years floating on unsupported assertions wrapped conveniently in the flag, draining every last drop of blind nationalism they can from the us versus them battle cry. We’re not making progress because of confrontation, we’re not making progress because the Coulters, Victor David Hansens, and Little Greeners are in fact getting part of their wishes granted. We’re killing innocent civilians and leaving behind brothers, cousins and fathers that now have a blood grudge against the U.S. We’re also losing because we’re putting so much in the way of resources into Iraq when we should be working with our allied bastards like Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Egypt, Jordan and Turkey to put more policing efforts into monitoring and catching actual terrorists, and encouraging recipients of huge amounts of American foreign aid like Egypt and Pakistan to improve their human rights records.
I Lost My Son to a War I Oppose. We Were Both Doing Our Duty.
Parents who lose children, whether through accident or illness, inevitably wonder what they could have done to prevent their loss. When my son was killed in Iraq earlier this month at age 27, I found myself pondering my responsibility for his death.
Among the hundreds of messages that my wife and I have received, two bore directly on this question. Both held me personally culpable, insisting that my public opposition to the war had provided aid and comfort to the enemy. Each said that my son’s death came as a direct result of my antiwar writings.
This may seem a vile accusation to lay against a grieving father. But in fact, it has become a staple of American political discourse, repeated endlessly by those keen to allow President Bush a free hand in waging his war. By encouraging “the terrorists,” opponents of the Iraq conflict increase the risk to U.S. troops. Although the First Amendment protects antiwar critics from being tried for treason, it provides no protection for the hardly less serious charge of failing to support the troops — today’s civic equivalent of dereliction of duty.
What exactly is a father’s duty when his son is sent into harm’s way?
Among the many ways to answer that question, mine was this one: As my son was doing his utmost to be a good soldier, I strove to be a good citizen.
“The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew and act anew.” – Abraham Lincoln