The special relationship has got us into trouble

Has Britain's close alignment with the US made us the prime target for Islamic terrorists? It certainly seems as though our foreign policy is endangering British citizens.

Tony Blair says that al-Qaeda is waging a war against the entire Western world, says Chris Blackhurst in the Evening Standard. "Tony, that's not how it feels." Only Britain and America were targeted in this latest outrage, and that's no coincidence: only Britain has aligned itself so closely with the US that the world deems us Bush's "quasi-international deputy". We and the US have been seen to be spearheading the war in Iraq, committing fully to fighting in Afghanistan and refusing to push for an immediate ceasefire in Lebanon. Lining up with a "universally loathed" global strongman has brought us "hatred, death and destruction". The special relationship has got us into trouble.

The special relationship: has it made us a terror target?

This is nonsense, says The Sunday Telegraph. The extremists aren't motivated by our foreign policy, so there is no point in appeasing them by changing it. Last week's would-be attackers were recruited long before Israel's assault on Lebanon; further attacks were planned on Spain after the government withdrew from Iraq; and the September 11th atrocities were not prompted by US foreign policy. Osama bin Laden has "made it clear" that his key problem with the West is that it does not share his "narrow, sectarian and medieval brand of Islam".

It's no use denying it, says Inayat Bunglawala in The Times: UK foreign policy is endangering us all. One of the 7 July suicide bombers explicitly invoked the war in Iraq in his martyrdom video. It's time the government admitted that going to war in Afghanistan and Iraq has allowed extremists to recruit young Muslims to the cause.

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Both military campaigns were poorly planned and have plunged the countries into instability, says Simon Jenkins in The Sunday Times. So much for the idea that aggressive military intervention would create democratic states to contain militant Islam. Instead, Bush and Blair have fomented militant Islam. "It has been a rerun of the fourth crusade."

The special relationship: Bush's overblown rhetoric

Muslims' fear that the struggle against terrorism is in effect a struggle against Islam "is a paranoid delusion", says Polly Toynbee in The Guardian, but it is being fuelled by Bush's overblown rhetoric. The trouble is that Bush fails to differentiate between al-Qaeda irrationality and the reasonable claims of Palestinians and Iraqis, says Max Hastings, also in The Guardian; any violent opposition to what he deems Western interests forms part of a "single conspiracy".

It's hard to persuade British Muslims that the aims of UK troops in Afghanistan are "infinitely more admirable" than their Israeli counterparts' in Lebanon when Bush is insisting that the two conflicts are fronts in a common struggle. Until we disassociate ourselves from US government policies that Muslims feel are attacking their culture, we will be vulnerable to terror attacks. Yet Blair feels he must keep endorsing Bush's policies in order to restrain him. What would Bush do without Blair's calming influence? "Seize Mecca?"