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The Root Cause of Terrorism: "I Want to Kill You"

04/25/2013 12:45 EDT | Updated 06/25/2013 05:12 EDT
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TORONTO, ON - APRIL 22: RCMP investigate at a home on Cherokee Blvd after they uncovered a plot to blow up a Via train enroute to New York, April 21, 2013. Canadian security sources say they have thwarted a terrorism plot and arrested two suspects in Ontario and Quebec. The RCMP announced that they have arrested two suspects and charged them with conspiring to carry out a terrorist attack against a VIA Rail passenger train in Toronto. Two people, Chiheb Esseghaier and Raed Jaser, have been charged. (Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

If truth is the first casualty of war, logic is often the first casualty of terrorism. Especially in the Canadian editorial pages.

A few days ago, National Post columnist Andrew Coyne tweeted a couple of fine columns he wrote in the aftermath of 9/11, highlighting certain smug voices in Canada's left-wing punditsphere who were a little too eager to find sympathetic explanations for the rage of Bin Laden and friends as "bodies still smouldered."

Basically, said Andy, when it came to terrorism, it was mantra among these types that Americans "didn't deserve it, but they did create it" -- what with their wars and unfair trade deals and puppet dictators and 1973 coup against Chile's democratically-elected president Salvador Allende (that seemed to always come up, for some reason) -- which bred a lot of understandable anti-American resentment in third world. So the Yankees were perhaps "not morally blameworthy, as such, but causally responsible" for whatever murderous blowback they incurred.

This belief, the "chickens coming home to roost" thesis, was a predictable shibboleth of America's far-left, since it offered endless opportunities to rehash and rejudge the excesses of America's anti-socialist foreign policies during the Cold War. But its Canadian appeal was equally unsurprising.

After all, from the perspective of a progressive Canadian nationalist -- someone already predisposed to frame Canadian virtues though a compare-and-contrast with American flaws -- the idea that 9/11-style terrorism was a relatively justified response to American troublemaking offered yet another enlightening case study in Canadian moral superiority. You don't see al-Qaeda attacking us, the logic went, because our policies foreign and domestic, our kumbaya embrace of Pearsonian multilateralism and Trudeauvian multiculturalism, are just too durn nice to provoke even the bloodthirstiest foreigner to raise a hand against us.

It was a faddish naiveté that didn't last long.

In 2002 buzzkill Bin Laden himself clarified that Canada was, in fact, his enemy, and in 2006 18 men partial to his way of thinking were apprehended before they could stage a massive, multi-bomb attack that would have slaughtered potentially hundreds of happy little Canadians who never wished the Muslim world anything but goodwill. Documents listing Canadian targets were found in the late Mr. Osama's Abbottabad compound, and now, this week, news that a second plot to kill Canadians has been foiled, this time organized by explicit Bin Ladenists.

Two Mideast migrants with ties to al-Qaeda proper, Chiheb Esseghaier and Raed Jaser, were supposedly in the midst of scheming to explode a Toronto-area passenger train when the Mounties swooped in on Monday. (Living in a country with over 200 mosques having previously failed to deter them.)

Such hate is hysterical. And yet even now, some in this country still cling to the theory of the rational choice terrorist. Mostly in the pages of the Toronto Star.

Take Wednesday's column by noted bigthink bigwig Saeed Selvam. Saeed wants Canada to combat terrorism using techniques that "work," and that means confronting Justin Trudeau's favorite catch phrase -- "the root causes."

"[T]argeting various ethnic communities, declaring war on other countries and conducting an oppressive foreign policy actually undermine peace and security," he warns, so instead let's use "Canadian values to thwart terror" by "enhancing social cohesion" and promoting "a foreign policy that conveys strength through its commitment to peace, and exercises power through its commitment to development."

Uh, no, let's not.

Even assuming America personifies the "oppressive foreign policy" alternative Selvam thinks we need to avoid, America's never actually targeted "ethnic communities" and "declared war on other countries." Even the hated Bush administration made great ostentatious efforts to suck up to Muslims, with Ramadan ceremonies at the White House and endless speeches about how Islam's "teachings are good and peaceful," and the two wars his government began -- whatever their flaws -- were quite objectively not waged "on" the affected countries themselves, but hated dictators and terrorists within them.

And anyway, how does that explain why Canada's in the crosshairs? We're not-doing even harder the things America's already not-doing!

Unless you ask Selvan's Star-buddy Heather Mallick, that is. She used her Wednesday column to vent what's basically a truther-style conspiracy theory regarding (in her mind) the "conveniently" timed arrest of the would-be Toronto bombers, plus a lot of weird nonsense about how our prime minister is the real holy warrior.

The evidence? The Harper government has openly used the phrase "muslim terrorists" to demonize Islam (which it hasn't, at least according to my Googling of the speech databanks of the prime minister, defense minister, and foreign minister) and is giving stimulus money to Christian schools (which is true, just as they also give money to Islamic charitiescommunity centres, and women's groups). Analogies to evil things America does and denunciations of "hard-right ideology," meanwhile, are just prevalent as you'd expect. Moral equivalency lives on.

Admittedly (and thankfully) the views of folks like Heather and Saeed are becoming an increasingly endangered species in the ecosystem of Canadian commentary. Once fashionable notions that death-cult Bin Ladenism is somehow a coherent political movement based around a sensible critique of American ugliness, or one inclined to spare gentle Canada from its reactionary wrath (providing we behave), are nowhere near as ubiquitous as when Andrew Coyne was assembling his rouge's gallery.

It took 11 years and two attempted attacks but the message of terrorism, it seems, is finally getting through.

At some point, "I want to kill you" is simply too hard to misinterpret.

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