Anti-Christian Terrorism: Blame Bush!?

Andrew Sullivan makes a rather bizarre charge offhandedly: "Who among the neocons would have thought that one of George W. Bush's final legacies would be bringing pogroms, bombings and genocide to Christians in his new zone of freedom?"

Onlookers gather around a damaged car after a bomb exploded in Alexandria

Jeffrey Goldberg laments how little coverage “the terrible attack early on New Year’s Day on a Coptic church in Egypt, in which 21 Christians were killed, and 79 people, mostly Christian, were injured” received.

I can’t really testify about it, since I really don’t watch television news.  It was on the front pages of Google News and YahooNews, so I presume that it got fairly wide coverage.   It’s true, though, that nobody wrote about it here at OTB.  Most likely, this was a combination of it happening on a Saturday/major holiday and the fact that most of us treat violence in the Middle East as something akin to background noise.

But Andrew Sullivan makes a rather bizarre charge offhandedly:  “Who among the neocons would have thought that one of George W. Bush’s final legacies would be bringing pogroms, bombings and genocide to Christians in his new zone of freedom?”   No other post on the blog adds explanation.

One presumes this is a snide allusion that the attacks were somehow an offshoot of the Iraq War or the Global War on Terror writ large. But that’s simply nonsense.

Recall that Ayman al-Zawahiri, the number two man and co-founder of al Qaeda, was head of Egyptian Islamic Jihad from 1991 until merging it into Osama bin Laden’s organization in 1998. Like most of the other groups that would come under the AQ umbrella, its goals were chiefly domestic.

Further, violence against Middle Eastern Christians hardly began with the invasion of Iraq. Nor, for that matter, have the Copts exactly lived in perfect harmony with Egypts Muslims over the years. Wikipedia:

Religious freedom in Egypt is hampered to varying degrees by discriminatory and restrictive government policies. Coptic Christians, being the largest religious minority in Egypt, are also negatively affected. Copts have faced increasing marginalization after the 1952 coup d’état led by Gamal Abdel Nasser. Until recently, Christians were required to obtain presidential approval for even minor repairs in churches. Although the law was eased in 2005 by handing down the authority of approval to the governors, Copts continue to face many obstacles and restrictions in building new churches. These restrictions do not apply for building mosques.[74][75]

The Coptic community has been targeted by hate crimes and physical assaults. The most significant was the 2000-2001 El Kosheh attacks, in which Muslims and Christians were involved in bloody inter-religious clashes following a dispute between a Muslim and a Christian. “Twenty Christians and one Muslim were killed after violence broke out in the town of el-Kosheh, 440 kilometres (275 miles) south of Cairo”.[76] In 2006, one person who was claimed to be both drunk and mad, attacked three churches in Alexandria, left one dead and from 5 to 16 injured, although the attacker was not linked to any organisation.[77][78] In May 2010, The Wall Street Journal reported increasing “waves of mob assaults” by Muslims against Copts, forcing many Christians to flee their homes.[79] Despite frantic calls for help, the police typically arrived after the violence was over.[79] The police also coerced the Copts to accept “reconciliation” with their attackers to avoid prosecuting them, with no Muslims convicted for any of the attacks.[79] In Marsa Matrouh, a mob of 3,000 Muslims attacked the city’s Coptic population, with 400 Copts having to barricade themselves in their church while the mob destroyed 18 homes, 23 shops and 16 cars.[79]

Members of U.S. Congress have expressed concern about “human trafficking” of Coptic women and girls who are victims of abductions, forced conversion to Islam, sexual exploitation and forced marriage to Muslim men.

Indeed, that effort is ongoing.

But all evidence is that the dispute is purely regional, rather than sparked by American policy.  Borzou Daragahi and Amro Hassan for LAT:

The violence lately has taken an ominous turn. In November, the militant group Al Qaeda in Iraq announced that Coptic churches in Egypt would be targeted until two priests’ wives who were allegedly locked up in Coptic monasteries after converting to Islam are freed. Al Qaeda militants in Iraq have also referred to the women in justifying attacks on once-vibrant Christian communities in Baghdad and around Mosul.

Most Middle Eastern countries outside the Arabian Peninsula have sizable Christian communities, including the Maronites in Lebanon, Armenians in Iran and the Orthodox in Syria. But their numbers have shrunk over the last century, experts say. Christians now account for less than 5% of the Middle East’s population, down from 20%.

Authorities worry that Christian communities in relatively safe countries, such as Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Iran, also are shrinking, though driven more by a search for economic opportunities that by fear of violence. They tend to be better educated and more Western-oriented than their Muslim compatriots and often utilize family or religious ties abroad to emigrate.

None of those things are Bush’s fault.

FILED UNDER: Religion, Terrorism, US Politics, World Politics,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. sam says:

    Right. Andrew as just flat silly in that. Radical Muslims in Egypt, a long, long presence there (Sadat’s assassination, attacks on tourists, etc.) certainly need very little in the way of outside impetus to act in crazy ways. The Coptic church as been a target for years.

  2. daveinboca says:

    JJ, I’m a former State Dept Arabist who subsequently went to Desert Storm as a journalist—never got past the Kuwait border, it was over so fast! I then went to Amoco as its Regional Entry-Risk Strategy chief for the Middle East and was in Cairo once a month to monitor the Copt/Muslim warfare mostly in the Upper Nile region. Insaniac Sullivan is bad enough, but presstv blames Mossad—here’s my note to presstv on the now non-responding website:

    “it goes without saying that no Muslim, whatever their political leanings may be, will ever commit such an inhumane act. except in Iraq where several churches in Baghdad and Mosul have been bombed in the last month. What a crock of Islamic terrorist sh*t…! To blame Mossad for the crazed imbecility of fellow Muslims has long been the calling card of the “intelligentsia” or what passes for it, in the Arab World.”

    Needless to say, the “send” button was not responding…!

  3. ponce says:

    “None of those things are Bush’s fault.”

    The fact that Iraq is now a safe haven for international terrorism certainly is Bush’s fault.

    Chalk it up to very predictable “unintended consequences.”

  4. Don L says:

    I thought that Bush’s “religion of Peace” comment might be called the blame by the left, but I guess they don’t want to go there and alienate their compadres.

  5. mike says:

    wow! I did not know that Bush invented radical muslims. I bet he made muslims and arabs hate the jews as well. Wonder if I can travel in his time machine sometime and maybe start a religion that hates recyclers or something.

  6. James Joyner says:

    @ponce

    Iraq is hardly a “safe haven” for terrorists: They’re being killed by the bushel there. A magnet for terrorists, perhaps. Or even a breeding ground. But hardly a safe haven.

  7. MarkedMan says:

    I assumed Sullivan was tangentially referring to Iraq where there has been an escalating series of pogroms against Christians, something that did not happen prior to our invasion.

  8. Fritz Teich says:

    Yes, he is completely right! Allthough NOBODY knows who was behind the latest absurd tragedy in Egypt. A suicide bomber says nothing. It is very easy to find some disturbed Arab and make him do whatever you want, see the FBI. Who is the biggest ennemy of Egypt?

  9. psychologist says:

    This is true because the Bush speech is not good and many money waste in this things .In Bush time many attack in America..

  10. gs says:

    But Andrew Sullivan makes a rather bizarre charge offhandedly: ”Who among the neocons would have thought that one of George W. Bush’s final legacies would be bringing pogroms, bombings and genocide to Christians in his new zone of freedom?” No other post on the blog adds explanation.

    I stopped reading Sullivan years ago and am not about to resume, so the following is pure conjecture: maybe he was referring to Bush’s Second Inaugural Address.

  11. Concerned American says:

    G. W. Bush invaded and occupied two primarily Muslim countries, in the Middle East, who did not IN ANY WAY attack America. The sovereign nations of Afghanistan and Iraq did not attack America. So, please don’t try to argue the point — you will just look stupid.

    It is hardly inconceivable that violence directed towards Christians is Muslim retribution toward America. It would be difficult to prove what motivates a terrorist, but hating Christians is hardly outside of the scope of any reasonable person’s imagination.

    G.W. said “They hate us for our freedom”, when in fact the truth is that they hate us for our naked aggression, both military and economic aggression.