11 September 2004
Europe and Terrorism
Forza Italia Seminar – Gubbio
1. The War of Islamic Terrorism
The main theme of my paper is dictated by the date. But even if 11 September 2001 had never happened, I would still have decided to draw my, and our, attention primarily to the question of terrorism and Europe, because it is such a crucial issue on which our very future depends.
With an attack on the Twin Towers in New York and the Pentagon three years ago, Islamic terrorism, by an act of unprecedented violence, made it clear to the whole world that is was bent on attacking the West and free society. This war, “because it is war that we are talking about, and more specifically ‘jihad’, has been declared and waged in the name of an obscurantist and nihilistic ideology which proclaims Shari’ a – a merger between Koranic law and civil law – extols death and martyrdom, murders people in a barbaric and sacrificial manner, and identifies our own Judeo-Christian tradition, which means primarily Israel, America and Europe, as enemies to be destroyed.
Islamic terrorists have two declared enemies: the West, which in their eyes is debauched and degenerate, and that part of the Muslim world that wishes to live peacefully and trade with the West and that, because in their eyes it colludes with the West, is therefore blameworthy. According to this fanatical view of things, the second enemy is a tool of the first. Because if the leadership of the Islamic and Arab countries were to be beaten, and the Muslim masses were to rise up, they would take up arms and take the holy war to the West.
That attack three years ago was followed by others. New York and Washington had sequels in Madrid, Beslan, Bali, Casablanca, Ankara, several places in Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Jakarta and elsewhere. But events even earlier than these were no less serious simply because they were less newsworthy: in February 1993, there was the attack on the same World Trade Center, in 1998 against the American embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam, and in October 2000 against USS Cole, berthed in the port of Aden.
In short, the holy war against the West has been waged for over 10 years. And all agree that it will continue for a long time to come. But 10 years of terrorism, an unspecified number of attacks and deaths, and a future of insecurity, have not been sufficient for the West which has been divided on virtually every point. It has been divided on its analysis of terrorism, the ways to address it, the war in Iraq, and the postwar period. And all this time terrorism is getting stronger, expanding, and using every means available, including hostage-taking and hostage murder, only to weaken the West. A few days ago, the Al Qaeda second-in-command, Ayman al-Zawahiri, said that America is now in a trap, and the holy war will be won.
This is, naturally, not the case, and will not be the case. But it does raise two questions. First of all, what is the West, and above all Europe, doing in order to keep this scenario at bay? Secondly, and more importantly, why is Europe divided?
2. The sluggish West
In answer to the first question, let us just look at the latest events.After a great deal of controversy regarding the intervention in Iraq and a veto in the United Nations Security Council, a united position was finally reached. Security Council Resolution 1546, which was adopted unanimously, calls on all States to mobilize their forces to help Iraq. Point 15 of the Resolution expressly states that the Council “requests Member States and international and regional organizations to contribute assistance to the multinational force, including military forces, as agreed with the Government of Iraq, to help meet the needs of the Iraqi people for security and stability, humanitarian and reconstruction assistance, and to support the efforts of UNAMI”.
The path it laid out is clear. Establishment of a provisional government by the United Nations, election of a Constituent Assembly by January, drafting of a Constitution, referendum, and general election in 2005.
But what has been the response to this appeal? Virtually nothing. The United Nations civilian mission initially withdrew, and then after the murder of its representative De Mello, it returned with a tiny group of observers. The coalition of the willing remained the same, or was cut down in size, because some countries, like Spain after the Madrid massacre and the Philippines after the killing of hostages, withdrew their troops. In short, the appeal was dead in the water. And the political division remains. Some seek to justify this on the grounds of the lack of security and the violence in Iraq. Others seek to hide behind spurious grounds in order to serve national or hegemonic interests. Some yield to blackmail. And perhaps there are others who simply hope that the reconstruction effort in Iraq will fail.
3. Fearful Europe
But above all, Europe has failed to understand. After all its appeals to the United Nations, when the United Nations did eventually move, Europe did not lift a finger. Resolution 1546 was greeted with a chorus of consent. France hailed the re-establishment of international law. Germany expressed the hope that this would mark the beginning of stabilization in Iraq. The European Council adopted a document expressing support for the Resolution, including “authorization for a multinational force”. The European Commission declared that the Resolution gave a central role to the United Nations which would open up the field for the European Union to take action in Iraq, claiming that the success of the political transition was essential to create multi-party democracy.
Insensitive to the legitimization of the United Nations, to which it had initially so ardently appealed, Europe remained insensitive even to the calls of Iraqi Prime Minister Allawi, who was installed by the United Nations. On 7 June, Allawi placed an appeal in the newspapers for assistance from the international community. On 22 June he asked the Arab leaders’ meeting in Cairo to help Iraq. On 29 July in Jeddah he said, “This is a global war. These are forces of evil acting against us. I ask the leaders of the Islamic countries and the Arab countries to close ranks”. On 30 August, in an interview with an Italian daily newspaper, he once again urged Europe to intervene.
Words that fell on deaf ears. As if it were none of our business, or only the concern of the Americans, or not even the Americans if there is a change of Administration.
But it is our business. Iraq today is the main battlefield for Islamic terrorism. For the terrorists, it is the front on which the holy war is being waged. For the West, it is the frontier of resistance against the holy war. If we lose in Iraq we will abandon the country to fundamentalism, thus delivering its people into the hands of a theocratic dictatorship, destabilizing a whole strategic area and aggravating, rather than resolving, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In short, it would be a bitter, tragic defeat for us and for the whole of the Arab world.
I believe that Europe should react, reject blackmail, and reject the humiliating blandishment – yet another weapon in the hands of the terrorists – of dividing up into the good versus the bad, friends versus foes, moderates versus radicals. We should be demonstrating that we are united among ourselves, and between ourselves and America, in combating terrorism – not only by saying that we reject violence, or voicing our condemnation, disgust and grief, but by taking political measures and concrete action.
I believe that Europe should not pull out of Iraq, but in compliance with the United Nations Resolution which Europe had advocated and adopted, we should present ourselves as one in Iraq. Certainly not to wage war against the country, now that a ruthless dictator has been replaced by a Prime Minister appointed by the United Nations, Europe and the Arab countries, but to help with its reconstruction and to provide assistance, bringing about a transition to freedom. And we must defeat terrorism there, in the field, and not only here in newspaper columns and on television, and through protest marches which, however noble and praiseworthy, are little in comparison with last year’s pacifist demonstrations.
Lastly, I believe that if Europe were to do this, if an ad hoc European Council were to be convened, if it made peacemaking and reconstruction in Iraq a priority in its agenda, and if Europe were to marshal its full diplomatic, economic, cultural and military potential, terrorism would suffer a serious defeat and find it more difficult to expand. Why is it, then, that with the exception of the United Kingdom, Italy, Poland and a few other countries, Europe is not moving?
I believe that it is because Europe harbors one particular conviction and has one particular fear. Europe’s conviction is that peace is a good for which any price is worth paying. But it is a misplaced conviction, for peace is never a gift: it always has to be won, and there are circumstances in history in which peace can only be won at the price of sacrifices. This is a fact that Europe ought to be the first to understand, considering that because of her past monsters, she has spawned two worlds.
The fear – I venture to suggest – is of what is called “a clash of civilizations”. But this is a groundless fear. Let us reflect on this point. We are not soldiers in a war of civilizations, but are the targets of a holy war. We do not have to wage a war; we have to defend ourselves from a war. And as for democracy and the freedoms that we are accused of wishing to export, we are not imposing anything with weapons; we are striving to ensure that those rights which Muslims and Arabs themselves are demanding, and which for us, as for them, are supposed to be universal, can become established worldwide.
Perhaps here lies the solution to the puzzle that is paralyzing the mind and the hand of Europe, regarding this universal claim to the rights, values, and institutions of our liberal, democratic and social civilization. Europe no longer has faith in itself. Europe no longer believes it has an identity of its own to proclaim and defend. The refusal to include any reference to the Christian roots of Europe in the Preamble to the Constitutional Treaty is more serious and symptomatic than people believe. That rejection signifies a lack of faith, a forgetfulness about those progenitors of Europe – classical Greece, Judaism, and Christianity – that were demanding in the past and which, if called up again today, would demand equal determination.
Europe no longer seems to be able to uphold this determination and this self-realization. Neither do practicing Christians in Europe seem to possess it. Infiltrated by cultural relativism, imbued by chance multiculturalism, basking in its prosperity, affected by what the leader of Catalonia Jordi Pujol has called “angelism”, this Europe calls for tolerance, forgetting that tolerance begins with reciprocity. Europe is asking for respect without understanding that the first form of respect is self-respect. It proposes dialogue, but fails to understand that dialogue is not possible if the other party uses weapons in place of arguments.
I believe that the time has come for us all to face the harsh reality: we are living through days of anguish because of the kidnapping in Baghdad of two generous Italian women committed to humanitarian work there. It is such a precious good that, faced with this umpteenth act of terrorist blackmail, the Italian government, all the political forces, all the Italian people and the main leaders of the Muslim communities have set aside their differences and joined forces to demand and work for their liberation. It is equally important for us to reflect and take action to combat terrorism, by closing ranks, and establishing a covenant, an alliance, between the whole of Europe and the whole of the West.