By David Frum
Attention nervous flyers: Don't think you can escape the terrorists by taking
On July 31, an alert German train conductor spotted an abandoned suitcase on a
regional train as it passed through the city of Dortmund, in western Germany. That
same day a similar suitcase was found near Koblenz, in the German south. The two suitcases
contained bottles of gasoline, propane gas and detonators--a deadly effective
firebomb that could have killed or horribly burned hundreds of travellers. They
were wired to explode at the same time, with at least as much force as the 7/7
bombings in London.
At a press conference yesterday,
German police announced they had identified two suspects in the case: Two men
were photographed by surveillance cameras carrying the suitcases into the
Cologne railway station--the station from which
the Dortmund and Koblenz trains had departed. The suitcases had
been stuffed with clothes to prevent the gasoline bottles from rattling. On
examination, the clothes proved to contain little pieces of paper covered in
With London and
German suitcase bombs raise to three the number of mega-murder plots exposed in
this single summer. Had police been less vigilant or less lucky, we could well
now be mourning the deaths of thousands of American and British air travellers,
Canadian office workers and German commuters.
But let's not get carried
away by relief and enthusiasm.
For even as Western police forces become
more capable, our terrorist enemies become in their way more
Increasingly they are born on native soil. They speak the
language with a local accent--and are protected by all the legal rights of
Three of the 24 British suspects arrested have turned out to
be converts to Islam. Daniel Pipes has long warned that extremist Islam might
replace radical leftism as the default ideology for angry and alienated young
people looking for an alternative to democratic capitalism. Those warnings seem
now to be coming true.
It might have been hoped that the spread of
extremism among Western Muslim communities would jolt those communities into
soul-searching and self-criticism; into a rejection of violence, intolerance and
anti-Semitism. Some suggested that Western Muslim communities would develop a
new democratic Islam that might be re-exported back into the Middle East.
No doubt there are individual Muslims
in the West working hard at these vital tasks even as we ...
speak. But at the same time, it has also become evident that many of the
organized Muslim groups in the West have reacted in exactly the opposite way.
For some of these groups, terror has ceased to be (if it ever was) a community
disgrace--and has come to be seen instead as an exploitable
On Aug. 12, for example, 38 British Muslim groups as well as
three of the four British Muslim MPs published an open letter to Prime Minister
Tony Blair, blaming his government for bringing terrorist attacks upon
"It is our
view that current British government policy risks putting civilians at increased
risk both in the U.K. and abroad. . . . The debacle of
Iraq and now the failure to do more to secure an immediate end to the attacks on
civilians in the Middle East not only increases the risk to ordinary people in
that region, it is also ammunition to extremists who threaten us all." The
letter writers demanded immediate changes to British policy toward both
Iraq and Israel.
(The full text can be
read at http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/4786159.stm.)
Kingdom Home Secretary John Reid brusquely dismissed the letter as dressed-up
extortion. The left-wing newspaper The Observer eloquently
"If young British Muslims are alienated, that is sad and their anger should
be addressed. But anyone whose alienation leads them to want to kill
indiscriminately has crossed a line into psychopathic criminality. Policy cannot
be dictated by the need to placate such people.
"British Muslim leaders
are entitled, along with everybody else, to raise questions about the conduct
and consequences of Mr Blair's foreign policy. But they have a more immediate
responsibility to promote the truth: that Britain is not
the aggressor in a war against Islam; that no such war exists; that there is no
glory in murder dressed as martyrdom and that terrorism is never excused by
bogus accounts of historical victimization."
That is well said, but it is only the beginning of what needs to be said.
There is something more: The willingness of many Muslims in the West to accept
"anger" as a justification for terrorism is itself one of terrorism's most
important and immediate causes.
The success of police in
Germany, London and Toronto offers
real hope that the West is making progress against terrorism in North America
and Europe. But we are making disturbingly
little progress against terrorism's enablers: not just the killers who carry the
bombs, but the larger community that while pretending to condemn them, seeks to
make use of them.
David Frum is a
resident fellow at AEI.