23 May 2013

If foreign policy drove Adebolajo to commit the Woolwich atrocity, why does he know so little about the subject?

For a person claiming that war, foreign policy and what is happening in other lands drove him to his act of terror, Michael Adebolajo, who addressed an onlooker's mobile phone video yesterday after murdering a soldier in Woolwich, seems to know remarkably little about these things.

First,  he 'apologised' for having hacked a person to bits in broad daylight in front of women and children while explaining that women and children in 'our lands' have to see that sort of thing everyday. I'm going to make an assumption here that 'our lands' refers to a country such as Afghanistan which is overwhelmingly Muslim, and has been the focus of a 12 year war involving soldiers such as the one he targeted. Which is odd. For sure, there have been hugely regrettable civilian casualties throughout that war.  But the slicing and dicing of unarmed men in busy streets? Well that's a habit of the Taliban, this murderer's co-ideologists. If he knew anything of 'our lands' he would've known this and perhaps, to say the least, raise the matter in a different way.

Second, he's clear that British involvement in wars in which Muslims have been killed, inspired his actions as direct retribution. Again, I'll assume something here: that he's talking about Iraq and Afghanistan. Well, we pulled out of Iraq four years ago and we're well into draw-down in Afghanistan. British troops are doing less and less and less. 
A similar argument, on a much grander scale, pertains to 9/11. Those attacks were commited at a time when the US was teetering on a return to isolationism under a realist George Bush. Not completely, no. Nor necessarily irrevocably, indeed. But the world pre-9/11 was a lot closer to how Al Qaeda would like it to be than it is now. 9/11 made the neo-cons, not vice-versa.
So to return to Adebolajo, if you were going to get yourself so worked up about UK soldiers in 'our lands', shouldn't you have really done so a bit before now? Again, if he knew anything of these wars, he would know this, and perhaps realise that killing an off-duty soldier in London to make a point about deployed soldiers in Helmand may lack a certain logical consistency - at any time, let alone when you've basically got troops gone or going. OK, maybe the thirst for vengeance is so great that it doesn't matter that we're out of Iraq and nearly out of Afghanistan. History matters. Of course, you may have trouble selecting a cut-off point if that's your view ('what the Romans did to the soil around Carthage on land which was later to be part of the Caliphate is an outrage') but I can basically take your point.
However, you can't just pick and choose. In 1998, for example, NATO went to war in Kosovo specifically to defend an ethnic group that happened to be Muslim. And if Muslims being killed is the source of your rage, could you not have found time for a shout out to Syria? There's a regime, considered un-Islamic by fundamentalists, which has spent the last two years slaughtering Muslims on an industrial scale. This isn't wotaboutery. Consistency and a holisitc view matter when you're going to act so extremely out of such self-proclaimed high principle. If global politics is what supposedly whips you into a bloody frenzy then at least have the decency to establish a perspective that is both, er, global and goes back a bit further than the 10th September 2011. Again, if he knew anything about foreign policy, Adebolajo would've known this, and perhaps act on different matters other than Iraq and Afghanistan (and hopefully, as urged above, in a different way).
Third, why this? If your co-religionists being threatened in Afghanistan is such an unbearable thought, why kill that soldier where you did and when? There are all sorts of ways to contribute to the welfare of Afghans more directly. There are countless NGOs operating there that need money and personnel, for instance. You could even, if you wanted to (and I'm obviously not encouraging or advocating this, but if you wanted to) do insurgency properly and get over there and get trained and join in on the ground, doing that whole eye for an eye thing for real. And so again, if Adebolajo really knew about the war, he would know this and have been able to take a different path, closer to what he claims to care about. Or was it just that actually fighting properly for what you believed in would have meant having to get out of your Stone Island clobber, give up your X-Box, and not talk to girls anymore?
I'm going to go with the latter, actually. That video of Adebolajo was not reminiscent of any jihadist but rather of a narcissistic yet obviously inadequate pub bore or school bully. You know the sort. Kind of bloke who claims that he's never being showed enough 'respect' and who can only lash out when he realises that no one is the slightest bit interested in him.
Of course, foreign policy can be radicalising - personally, I found that Al Qaeda's foreign policy made me look at the world in a decidedly radically different way - but it is a massive leap to go from that to saying that the Western version is responsible for people like the Woolwich murderers acting as they do.
In the same way that they twist their understanding of Islam, they also twist their understanding of 'foreign policy' to justify their violence. Projections of Western power often leave much to be criticised and condemned. But the last decade has not been about a 'War On Muslims' or 'Wars for Oil'. Sure, you can certainly caricature it as such and propagandise around that (in the same way that you can caricature a religion and build prejudice against its adherents) but it will lead you further from understanding the true complexities and being able to address the wrongs in the right way. In this, Islamists have been ably supported by useful idiots in the West itself who share a similar disdain for our politcs and society, and whose knee-jerk reaction to terrorist acts on our streets is to blame ourselves first. They are complicit in promoting the idea that UK foreign policy is so irredeemably destructive that it can only be met with analagous destruction. It is a world view that is almost as simplistic and extreme as those who take the Koran as justification for their hatred. And they therefore share a responsibility for the fanaticism that leads to the sort of violence we saw perpetrated in Woolwich yesterday.

No comments:

Post a Comment