The charge - Whatever the criminality of the terrorists, Western policies generated the terrorism or at least contributed to it. Consequently, the policies should be changed.
This is the conclusion drawn by several world leaders on the bombings in Madrid last month.
Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, Spanish Prime Minister-elect: "The war in Iraq was a disaster, the occupation of Iraq is a disaster …Wars such as that which have occurred in Iraq only allow hatred, violence and terror to proliferate."
Romano Prodi, European Commission President: "It is clear that using force is not the answer to resolving the conflict with terrorists. We must remember that it has been a year since the war in Iraq started. Terrorism is infinitely more powerful than a year ago."
And in Australia, Mark Latham: "We can't …reverse any of the decisions that were made prior to the war in Iraq…The important thing is not to repeat any of the mistakes that came out of the war on Iraq."
This is a classic confusion of cause with occasion, the equivalent of arguing that a skimpily clad woman caused herself to be raped. If only she had dressed differently, so the argument goes, all would have been well.
But a policy make-over would do none of the things Messrs Zapatero, Prodi and Latham suggest and the record shows it. Islamist terrorism has struck far and wide with consummate disregard for the policies of particular governments on Iraq and with special attention devoted to non-Muslims.
Indonesia (October 2002) Saudi Arabia (November 2003) and Turkey (December 2003) were all bombed despite varying degrees of opposition to the Iraq war. If Islamists have targeted countries opposed to the war, then it stands to reason that the risk to Australia and other U.S. allies is independent of this commitment.
The common denominator is not the Iraq war, but the precise character of the each state and its connection to the Muslim world.
Turkey's protracted exercise in timidity on the Iraq war, and its refusal to allow coalition troops to enter Iraq from the North, did not purchase it immunity to Islamist violence. Islamists abhor the secular Muslim republic created on the ruins of the Ottoman caliphate by Kemal Ataturk, the policies of the current Turkish government were obviously considered irrelevant.
Saudi Arabia is in no small measure responsible for the dissemination of Islamist doctrine and the munificent funding of its violent practitioners. But for the purists, it has fouled the nest, not least with the American alliance that has entailed an American military presence in land deemed off-limits to infidels - who are invariably the principal targets of bombs going off in Riyadh.
Westerners and the Buddhist locals who service their tourism were the targets in Bali. And it is of course perfectly true that Australians were specifically of interest to the mass murderers. But the Bali massacre occurred before last year's Iraqi campaign. The only mention Bin Laden made of Australia prior to September 11 had nothing to do with Iraq, nor even Australian friendship with Israel - two matters that perpetually galvanized the anti-war camp. Rather, Islamists see in Australia's eminently anti-imperialist, progressive intervention in East Timor the capital offence of detaching a territory from the control of a Muslim state.
As for Spain itself, Islamists have held a specific grievance well before September 11, and Bin Laden is not alone among them in having mentioned it: namely, the unpardonable conquest of Andalusia from Muslims some five hundred years earlier!
In short, something rather larger than specific national policies will have to change to induce a halt to Islamist terrorism - namely, governments, societies and freedoms.
If specific Western policies did not generate the terrorism, then it is a low level of statesmanship that offers the seductive illusion that there are easy methods to step out of the firing line - a change of policy here, a military withdrawal there - such as Zapatero has now promised in respect of the 1,300 Spanish servicemen in Iraq.
With Zapatero's decision, far more than U.S.-led efforts to stabilize Iraq are now endangered. Paradoxically, before the Madrid bombings, U.S. allies on Iraq were in little more danger than other Western countries. But the change of government and policy in Spain invites Islamists to conclude, not unreasonably, that a timely atrocity can shake the resolve of nations fighting terrorism. And it should be remembered that Spain did not participate in the war itself, it merely sent troops to assist in the occupation when the war was over.
How strange that those who once insisted that there was no connection between Saddam Hussein and Al-Qaeda are now assuring us that the Madrid bombings prove the very opposite. Their consistency lies in antipathy to the Iraq commitment, not fidelity to logic.
Out of both idealism and self-interest, Australia should stay the course in Iraq and Mr Latham should think twice about falling in line behind Messrs Zapatero and Prodi.
Dr. Daniel Mandel is associate director of the Middle East Forum in Philadelphia and a fellow in History at Melbourne University.