So now air passengers will be subjected to the equivalent of a strip search as the futile “war on terror” enters its second decade. The next step, surely, is to get travellers to leave all their clothes in a bag and fly in a bathrobe. This is how absurd the world has become, with no solution in sight.
Gordon Brown’s plan to call an international conference on Yemen – where the Christmas Day bomb-in-the-pants former Nigerian student received his training – and fund a “counter-terrorism unit” in the country won’t make blind bit of difference. Yemen is facing an insurrection in the north and a secessionist movement in the south and the government is widely seen as a stooge of major Western powers.
It is not as if Britain is unaware of what happens in Yemen. The port of Aden was seized by Britain in 1839 and a colony established in the same year. Considered strategically important as an outpost on the Arabian peninsula, Britain brutally resisted independence demands and South Yemen only won its freedom in 1967, uniting with the north in 1990.
Terrorism, whatever its shape or form, is an extreme reaction to injustices, perceived or real. Islamic-inspired individual terrorism is no different in this respect. And, because it plays into the hands of the oppressor by targeting ordinary people, terrorism is profoundly reactionary. The Al Qaeda brand is in its own league, spurning political “solutions” in favour of annihilation of the enemies of its view of Islam, including other Muslims.
Yet they continue to recruit bright students like Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab because the grievances felt by Muslims around the world are deep. Moreover, the injustices are ignored by the major powers whose views are only modernised versions of their imperialist predecessors.
The greatest wrong is undoubtedly visited upon the Palestinians. Here double standards know no bounds. The Gazans hold an election and elect Hamas, so it is boycotted because it refuses to accept the state of Israel. In Afghanistan, meanwhile, the client president is allowed to steal the election because he does what the Americans want.
Israel’s government is contemptuous of the Obama administration’s puny attempts to broker a deal with the Palestinians. Settlement building continues unchecked because the White House will always yield to the Israel lobby and do nothing. The United Nations may condemn war crimes in Gaza, but the US will vote against the report. Gaza will remain blockaded and half starved and the world’s governments turn a blind eye.
Meanwhile, Afghanistan remains occupied by American and British troops. And to add insult to injury, Iran is about to face US-led sanctions for allegedly attempting to build a nuclear bomb while Israel, which has dozens of nuclear weapons, once again escapes scot free.
The governments of the United States, Britain and other major powers are incapable of addressing the causes of modern terrorism and resort to ever more draconian “security” measures which, naturally, work only for a short period and are, therefore, no solution in any meaningful sense.
Yet there is another dimension to the growth of Islamic-inspired terrorism. A few generations ago, many young Muslims would have been drawn into national revolutionary struggles, where political programmes and solutions took precedence over religious outlook. Most if not all of these national movements degenerated over time for a variety of reasons. For example, in place of the revolutionary Nasser in Egypt you have the corrupt and repressive Mubarak, whose government helps the Israelis in their blockade of Gaza.
Radical Islam has in some respects stepped into the vacuum left by the failure of secular nationalism, which in turn was heavily influenced by reactionary Stalinism both locally and internationally. The development of fresh internationalist revolutionary thinking and practice which takes us beyond the discredited regimes of Cairo and London is key to finding a way forward from humanity’s present impasse.