You are here

Just don’t call it war

Just don’t call it war

Jihad is Islamic
Date Published: 
Saturday, 16 July, 2005

Boris Johnson says it is time to reassert British values in the face of extremist Islam.

Supporters of the war have retorted that Iraq cannot be said to be a whole and sufficient explanation for the existence of suicidal Islamic cells in the West, and they, too, have a point. The threat from Islamicist nutters preceded 9/11; they bombed the Paris Métro in the 1990s; and it is evident that the threat to British lives pre-dates the Iraq war, when you think that roughly the same number of Britons died in the World Trade Center as died in last week’s bombings. In other words, the Iraq war did not create the problem of murderous Islamic fundamentalists, though the war has unquestionably sharpened the resentments felt by such people in this country, and given them a new pretext. The Iraq war did not introduce the poison into our bloodstream but, yes, the war did help to potentiate that poison. And whatever the defenders of the war may say, it has not solved the problem of Islamic terror, or even come close to providing the beginnings of a solution. You can’t claim to be draining the swamp in the Middle East when the mosquitoes are breeding quite happily in Yorkshire.

The question is what action we take now to solve the problem in our own country, and what language we should use to describe such action. The first step, as we swaddle London and Yorkshire with Police/Do Not Cross tape, is to ban the phrase ‘war on terror’, as repeatedly used by G.W. Bush, most recently on 7 July in Edinburgh, with Blair nodding beside him. There is nothing wrong in principle in waging war on an abstract noun; the British navy successfully waged a war on slavery, by which they meant a war on slavers. But if we continue to say that we are engaged in a war with these people, then we concede several points to the enemy, and set up a series of odious false equivalences.