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We are at war with hatred, fanaticism and despair

The Spectator, January 5, 2008

When will we ever learn? The murder of Benazir Bhutto should finally
convince us that we are in the midst of a crucial international war to stop
Islamist terrorists destroying all that is best in our imperfect world.

Bernard-Henri L�vy, the French philosopher, points out that with Benazir
Bhutto, they killed 'a spectacularly visible woman' who, whatever her flaws
as a political leader, was astonishingly brave in fighting, uncovered,
unveiled, for politics 'and refusing the curse that, according to the new
fascists [the jihadists], floats over the human face of women'.

L�vy suggests that Benazir's name should now become another password 'for
those who still believe that the good genius of Enlightenment will win out
over the evil genius of fanaticism and crime'. But the Enlightenment will
be lost unless we all realise that we have to fight for it.

First of all we have to give up the luxury of pretending that the war with
Islamism is our fault. It is not. It is a deadly serious attempt by
reactionary theocrats, Sunni and Shia, to enslave as much of the world as
possible. It is powerful - it has the resources of a rich state, Iran,
behind its Shia arm, and oil wealth gushes into the coffers of its Sunni

'The war on terror' may not be the best of phrases, but it is a reasonable
shorthand. Islamist terrorist murderers don't kill decent and brave people
because of mistakes made by President Bush or Tony Blair or President
Musharraf or anyone else. They do so to destroy the chance of millions of
Muslims and 'infidels' all over the world to live decent lives.

Secondly, the murder of Bhutto should also demonstrate - yet again - that
this war is not the fault of the Israelis. The Islamists did not kill
Benazir Bhutto because of concern about the West Bank. They killed her
because they feared her power to give the Pakistani people more than the
Islamists want them to have, and because they seek to push Pakistan into
total chaos and unlimited carnage.

Third, Iraq is not the cause of this war - it is part of it. Remember one
of the first terrible suicide murders committed in Iraq: in August 2003
al-Qa'eda killed Sergio Vieira de Mello, one of the UN's most gifted
officials, and many of his colleagues. De Mello was Kofi Annan's special
representative in Iraq and, like Annan, was opposed to the US war effort
there. But al-Qa'eda denounced Annan as 'America's criminal slave' and
abused de Mello as 'diseased'. They hated him in particular because he had
helped Christian East Timor win independence from Muslim Indonesia - a
heinous crime to al-Qa'eda.

Last month al-Qa'eda bombed a UN building in Algiers because, like de
Mello, it was symbolic of the decent world which the Islamists want to
destroy. Eleven UN officials were killed at once. And so it goes on.

The murder of Bhutto, the murder of UN officials, the countless murders of
innocent Iraqis, the murder of Lebanese who fight for their democracy, the
murder of commuters in Madrid and London are all part of the same war
against people and life. They are all part of the same deadly global
ideology of hatred and despair. These assaults will not end if we retreat -
from Afghanistan, from Iraq or anywhere else. Weakness will cause the
terrorists to redouble their efforts.

Maysoon al-Damluji, a brave Iraqi woman who returned from London exile
after the overthrow of Saddam to help build a decent society, put it well
recently. 'Both al-Qa'eda and Iran are working to create the most dangerous
culture that humanity has ever known,' she said. 'It is based on hatred and
ignorance and manifests itself through suppressing all kinds of freedoms,
especially on women. If, God forbid, the American forces withdrew, mayhem
would strike Iraq; it would spill out to the entire region and no country
in the Middle East would be spared.' She is right. And not just for the
Middle East.