Of course, Islamists would take any event and try to twist it to fit their narratives, but Bush’s comments hand them a propaganda coup of vast dimensions. Not only did America go against ‘western values’ by torturing prisoners, but now its former President is crowing about it in the media. Islamist recruiters must be rubbing their hands with glee.
According to George W Bush, who is currently trying to generate publicity for his memoirs, British lives were saved thanks to evidence gathered by ‘waterboarding’ terror suspects. Even if he is right that useful information was gathered using this technique (and former government figures seem to think he is wrong), his attempt to defend ‘waterboarding’ is not only morally dubious, but it could potentially be dangerously counter-productive.
First off, ‘waterboarding’ is torture, and cannot be justified. But we should also understand the way in which Bush’s endorsement of ‘waterboarding’ feeds into an incredibly destructive narrative, thereby undermining the security of Britain and other western countries and making them more likely to suffer terrorist attacks in the future.
Islamist terrorism, of the same kind as the al-Qaeda attacks that Bush claimed to have averted by waterboarding Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, is legitimised in reference to the ideological worldview that ‘Islam’ and ‘the West’ are at war.
In particular, Islamist terrorists are motivated by the belief that ‘the West’ and its values are uniformly corrupt and that the only way to end malign western influence is by creating an expansionist ‘Islamic state’ to unite all Muslims around the world under a single political leadership and enforce on them an interpretation of shari’ah as state law.
This may sound far-fetched, but take the statement made by Faisal Shahzad during his trial for the ‘Times Square bombing’ as an example:
“If I am given a thousand lives, I will sacrifice them all for the sake of Allah fighting this cause, defending our lands, making the word of Allah supreme over any religion or system. We Muslims don’t abide by human-made laws, because they are always corrupt.
“And I had a firsthand experience when on the second day of my arrest I asked for the Miranda. And the FBI denied it to me for two weeks, effecting harm to my kids and family, and I was forced to sign those Mirandas…
“We don’t accept your democracy nor your freedom, because we already have Sharia law and freedom. Furthermore, brace yourselves, because the war with Muslims has just begun”
Shahzad takes his experiences with the FBI and fits them into the Islamist narrative of a perceived war against Islam. In the same way, many Islamists will now be taking Bush’s endorsement of ‘waterboarding’ as further evidence that ‘the West’ is corrupt, that western values are meaningless, Muslims are specifically targetted by ‘the West’, and that the only ‘solution’ is that proposed by Shahzad, using violence to create an ‘Islamic state’.
Of course, Islamists would take any event and try to twist it to fit their narratives, but Bush’s comments hand them a propaganda coup of vast dimensions. Not only did America go against ‘western values’ by torturing prisoners, but now its former President is crowing about it in the media. Islamist recruiters must be rubbing their hands with glee.Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.