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The West was warned. Now it is paying the price of the 'war on terror'

By Robert Fisk

15 March 2004 "The Independent" 


They had been warned. The Aznars and the Blairs and the Bushes had been
told by those who were their allies - France and Germany and many
others, not to mention the Arabs - that their crusade against al-Qa'ida
could most cruelly rebound upon them. The Madrid bombings are not only a
terrible revenge for Spain's participation in "part two" of the "war on
terror" - the illegal invasion of Iraq - but a cruel and incrementally
more painful attack on civilians by al-Qa'ida.

If America's neo-conservatives believe in the "war of civilisations",
then so does al-Qa'ida: what other effect could the Madrid slaughter
have in the West than to reinforce the notion - however preposterous
historically - that Islam and the West were in conflict? Civilians are
now to die in Europe as brutally as they have died in Bali and Tunisia
and Istanbul and - let us, for a moment, see the world through another
prism - as they have been torn to pieces by our bombs in Afghanistan and
Iraq.

Sources close to Osama bin Laden's organisation are puzzled about the
strange message, supposedly from the attackers, which was printed in the
Arabic language paper Al-Quds al-Arabi. It suggested that the initial
response to Spain's involvement in Iraq was the attack on Italian troops
in Kerbala - if real, it would surely have referred to the killing of
seven Spanish intelligence officers near Hilla. Using a public statement
to order its own "cells" to make more attacks does not show the
desperate discretion which al-Qa'ida normally shows in its
communications.

But the arrests in Spain, the mobile phone calls, the sheer scale of the
train bombings shows an al-Qa'ida as confident and ruthless as ever -
and now resolved to attack in Europe. If the right foot fell in Istanbul
and the left foot fell in Madrid, where, geographically, will the next
right foot fall? We can take out an atlas and a ruler and work it out
for ourselves.

I don't believe this is the Third World War. Nor is it a "war on
terror". Nor is it a "war of civilisations". But our own leaders are
wilfully leading us into a period of appalling suffering because they
will not address the causes of injustice in the Islamic world.
Repeatedly, our leaders were told of the consequences of participation
in America's Iraqi folly. They lied to us. They told us about weapons of
mass destruction that didn't exist, about links between Iraq and 11
September 2001 that didn't exist. Now, trapped in Iraq, we are desperate
to scuttle away, leaving behind us a half-trained force of collaboration
police who will - supposedly - shed their blood for ours.

No, the murderers are the men who plant the bombs. The killers are those
who kill - and that includes our pilots as well as their bombers. We
don't want to kill civilians. But we know that our wars will do that,
and death does not come more pleasantly, less painfully, because the
victims are killed by the supposedly benevolent West rather than the
supposedly cruel East. Now we are beginning to pay the price.

Did it really begin on 11 September 2001? No, it began long before. And
no amount of weasel words, no amount of church warden sincerity can mask
the degree to which we have been taken by our leaders into this insane
conflict.

Copyright: The Independent. UK.

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