Islamic State’s rise is more than cause and effect | Letters

Letters: Mehdi Hasan needs to explain why people are recruited to these organisations – ones that want to blow up ordinary people on their way from work – rather than other ones

Mehdi Hasan’s claim (We accept Russian bombs can provoke a terror backlash. Our bombs can too, 18 November) that it is “verboten in our public discourse” to point to a link between western policy and terrorist attacks is rather undermined by the fact that he is able to make that claim in your pages and the many other national media outlets he writes for. Other commentators in the Guardian, the Independent, the New Statesman and (indeed) the Daily Mail have frequently aired the blowback explanation for terrorism.

But if this is all that is being said, surely it is banal. I suppose there may be some rightwing cranks who think Islamic State has grown among young Muslim people because they are bloodthirsty masochists or some such nonsense. Obviously, Isis and other Islamist terror organisations point to real things in the real world to build a base, or they wouldn’t have one.

And the observation that there are actual grievances to which Islamists point as a way to recruit (or even, conceivably, that it is those grievances that motivate particular individuals to carry out atrocities) tells you absolutely nothing about the political character of the movement to which they are being recruited.

Of course it’s true, up to a point, that the Paris attacks were connected to the French bombing of Isis in Syria. But this in itself is not an explanation for them. So if the intention is to “explain but not excuse”, Mehdi needs to explain why people are recruited to these organisations – ones that want to blow up ordinary people on their way from work – rather than other ones. That bombs have dropped on Syria (or Iraq, Jenin, or wherever) simply is not an explanation.
Jim Denham

• “There is no grievance on earth that can justify the wanton slaughter of innocent men, women and children,” writes Mehdi Hasan. Hamburg 1943? Hiroshima 1945? North Vietnam 1960s? Iraq 2000s? And so on.
Catherine Wykes

• Rafael Behr is wise to argue that MPs, when considering whether or not to vote for military action in Syria, should keep in mind that “analysis of past policy failings is useful if it informs a prescription for what might work instead” (Opinion, 18 November). So where is the Chilcot report when we most need it?
Mick Beeby

• Like everyone in France, I’m truly saddened by what happened in Paris last Friday (La Marseillaise rings out from Wembley as England and France unite in defiance, 18 November). Yet one Libyan friend struck a chord when I asked him last January if he was horrified by the Charlie Hebdo tragedy. He replied no, because in Libya this was a daily event. I took the metro in Paris today to work. It felt like a Sunday. You could find a seat on the train. The streets were almost empty. There was space everywhere. This last series of attacks has definitely rattled the city. I thought of my Libyan friend’s words. Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan… repeatedly deal with terrorism. The only difference between what happened last Friday in Paris is that soon the calm will come back to this city. Soon Parisians’ lives will go back to normal. The same cannot be said for Syrians, Afghans, Libyans… Imagine living through a Bataclan attack every day in Europe with no light at the end of the tunnel. Worse, imagine the world not caring. Imagine that. We need to start spreading our solidarity and support more equally among these countries instead of giving all our attention to France.
Roselaine Pennino

• While CND members are always pleased that its organisation’s symbol is used as a peace image throughout the world (Tower of strength, 17 November) and that the French have incorporated the Eiffel tower into the symbol, here it seems to give a mixed message. As when it was first devised, the symbol represents nuclear disarmament, for which CND still vigorously campaigns, and that the French government has not carried out. They have a huge nuclear arsenal, with up to 240 warheads on their nuclear armed submarines. Yet their politicians, just like the pro-Trident politicians in the UK and in Nato, insist that they maintain nuclear weapons for defence and security. There seems to be a gap in thinking somewhere.
Rae Street
Littleborough, Lancashire

• Islamic State in Syria has a very clear source of oil revenues earning it $1.53m a day that it is using to fund its expansion and weapons purchases.

The big question, I think, for people the world over and especially countries directly involved in Syria is: how are our various political representatives so involved in the industrial/military complex that their missiles seem to conveniently miss the Isis oil pipeline infrastructure – the one thing that could dramatically cripple Isis?
Jonathan Crinion
South Brent, Devon

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