I believe we are at war with Islam. Hezbollah’s recent rocket strikes weren’t just an attack on northern Israel. They were an attack on the West. We need to respond – with vigour. Yet I also have serious concerns about our commanders.

Conservative Party leader David Cameron marked the September 11 anniversary in a very brave way. Britain should drop its “slavish” support for the United States and restore “moral authority” to its foreign policy, he said. He said the West had to be “honest” in assessing British and American failings since 9/11:

Continuing instability in the world, an ever-present threat of terrorism, democracy struggling, often unsuccessfully, to take root in the Middle East, the threat of a nuclear Iran: on any reasonable measure, the challenges are greater today than five years ago.

And we must recognise something else, that the way we have tried to meet these challenges over the past five years has had unintended and worrying consequences. It has fanned the flames of anti-Americanism, both here in Britain and around the world.

Christopher Hitchens is no wimp. But look at what he had to say in the online Wall Street Journal on September 11:

The beginning of wisdom is to recognize that the United States was assaulted for what it really is, and what it understands as the center of modernity, and not for its unworldliness. But here I am, writing that it was “the United States” that was assaulted. And there was the president, and most of the media, speaking about “an attack on America.” True as this was and is, it is not quite the truth. I deliberately declined, for example, an invitation to attend a memorial for the many hundreds of my fellow-Englishmen who had perished in the inferno. I could have done the same if I was Armenian or Zanzibari–more than 80 nationalities could count their dead on that day. It would have been far better if President Bush had characterized the atrocity as an attack on civilization itself, and it would be preferable if we observed the anniversary in the same spirit.

I know Crikey readers will howl at the idea we are at war. It may be unconventional war. Even bleeding hearts must admit we now live in unconventional peace. Hitchens listed some examples of what this state – whatever it may be – involves:

(1) The reopening of a restaurant in Bali, where several dozen Australian holidaymakers and many Indonesian civilians had earlier been torn to shreds. (2) The explosion of a bomb at a Tube station in London which is regularly used by two of my children. (3) The murder of a senior Shiite cleric outside his place of worship in Iraq. (4) The attempt to destroy the Danish economy–and to torch Danish embassies and civilians–as a consequence of the publication of a few caricatures in the Danish press. (5) The murder of the U.N. envoy to Baghdad: a heroic Brazilian named Sergio Vieira de Mello, as vengeance (according to his murderers) for his role in shepherding East Timor to independence. (6) The near-successful attempt to blow up the Indian parliament in New Delhi, and two successful attempts to disrupt the commerce and society of Mumbai. (7) The destruction of the Golden Dome in Samara: a place of aesthetic as well as devotional importance. (8) The bombing of ancient synagogues in Tunisia, Turkey and Morocco. (9) The evisceration in the street of a Dutch filmmaker, Theo van Gogh, and the lethal threats that drove his Somali-born colleague, a duly elected member of the Dutch parliament, into hiding and then exile. (10) The ritual slaughter on video of a Jewish reporter for this newspaper.

But is it exhaustive? I think we’ve got the starters of the most serious Crikey list ever. Contributions, please, to [email protected]

Peter Fray

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