"US policy has intensified Muslim hatred"

The Berlin daily newspaper "Berliner Zeitung" published an interview in its Saturday, 22 November edition with Alex Standish, a security expert with "Jane's Intelligence Digest". The following is my translation of the interview.

Berliner Zeitung: Mr. Standish, are we losing the fight against terrorism?

Standish: Yes. Western governments will never be able to prevent the attacks of individual extremists who operate across geographical borders. Not even the Israelis, whose security measures are much tougher, have solved the problem. Nor can you negotiate with groups like Al Qaeda, because their demands completely contradict our ideas. They want the destruction of Western culture. That's no basis for negotiation.

BZ: The British prime minister said that terrorism can be wiped out if we rigorously finish the war in Iraq.

S: Exactly the opposite is the case. Before the war, intelligence agencies had little evidence that Saddam Hussein had ties with Al Qaeda. The situation has worsened due to the war. Since then the country has become a magnet for extremists from the entire region [I suppose Stanish is a believer in the "flypaper" theory - ed.]. Several mistakes have been made since September 11: the criminalization of ordinary Muslims in Western countries, the war in Afghanistan, and the campaign against Iraq. If there is now also polemicization against Iran, in the Muslim view everything points to an imperialistic crusade against Islam. The policy of the US has intensified Muslim hatred - and prepared the breeding ground for recruitment by Al Qaeda.

BZ: Blair and Bush make it seem as if victory is only a question of determination.

S: It shocks me, how little they really know about the situation in the Islamic world. Bush's Islam advisor is not even a Muslim. The US government surrounds itself with West-oriented experts who tell it what it wants to hear. For years they have ignored the development of radical groupings and done business with corrupt states. The two government leaders apparently have no clue how much they are hated among the majority of the population in Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and Syria. Western values are not attractive for many.

BZ: Bush talks about a struggle between fanaticism on the one hand and tolerance on the other.

S: He has not understood that you don't reach Muslims with this language. Instead of condemning the assassins as fanatic criminals, Bush's administration should examine why well educated, westernized young men prefer to die as pilots of death rather than make a career for themselves. Only if we understand what drives terrorists can we make them harmless.

BZ: Do you estimate that London will be a target for attacks?

S: That's only a question of time. For two years, Jane's has received warnings to be taken seriously that Al Qaeda is contemplating "soft targets" like shopping centers or cinemas. If a bomb would explode here during Christmastime, it would have catastrophic consequences - and it would ensure even more hatred. That is Al Qaeda's goal.


Incidentally, in the same issue of the Berliner Zeitung, we get an official Israeli statement on the "clash of civilizations" thesis and the idea of doing something other than lashing blindly and brutally out:

The envoy of the Israeli embassy in Germany, Mordechai Levy, reproached the [German] federal government though for a "dishonest dialogue" with Muslims.

"Whoever denies the 'war of civilizations'
[Zivilisationskrieg] allows oneself a luxury for which he will later pay a heavy price", said Levy in Berlin at a memorial service for the terror victims.
Levy might know something about a "Zivilisationskrieg": after all, his state has been fighting one against the Palestinians for over half a century.

The question is: should the rest of the world rush headlong into something similar in view of the miserable results obtained so far?

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