Gordon: Stop denying the link

IssueJuly - August 2007
Feature by Milan Rai

Once again, Britain is enduring terrorist attacks. Once again, the Prime Minister is denying obvious realities, flying in the face of a near-national consensus.

Now it is Gordon Brown claiming that the attacks in London and Glasgow happened “irrespective of Iraq, irrespective of Afghanistan”. Brown and his ministers are fully aware that this is not the judgement of Britain's counter-terrorism experts.

The police say it

After the 7/7 London bombings, British police involved in counter-terrorism made an intense effort to understand why some Muslims were turning to violence.

They drew up a report, leaked to the Guardian (7 July 2006), which contained this headline over a crucial section: “Foreign policy and Iraq; Iraq HAS had a huge impact.”

The report went on: “What will change them [the jihadists] - gradually - is argument, the removal of justifying causes (Palestine, Iraq), the erosion of perverted beliefs and day-to-day frustrations.”

Intelligence says it

Just weeks before the 7/7 attacks the Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre noted that “events in Iraq are continuing to act as motivation and a focus of a range of terrorist-related activity in the UK”. (Guardian, 20 July 2005)

Before the invasion of Iraq, on 10 February 2003, the top of British intelligence, the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC), reported to Tony Blair: “The JIC assessed that al-Qaida and associated groups continued to represent by far the greatest terrorist threat to Western interests, and that threat would be heightened by military action against Iraq.”

The civil service says it

Earlier, a secret high-level Whitehall review produced a report entitled “Young Muslims and Extremism”. This joint Home Office/Foreign Office investigation with intelligence input identified British foreign policy as a key motive for involvement in terrorism:

”It seems that a particularly strong cause of disillusionment among Muslims, including young Muslims, is a perceived `double standard' in the foreign policy of western governments, in particular Britain and the US...

”The perception is that passive `oppression', as demonstrated in British foreign policy , eg non-action on Kashmir and Chechnya, has given way to `active oppression'.

”The war on terror, and in Iraq and Afghanistan, are all seen by a section of British Muslims as having been acts against Islam.” (Sunday Times, 10 July 2005)

The bombers say it

Two of the 7/7 bombers left behind video statements. Mohammed Sidique Khan said: “Until we feel security, you will be our targets. And until you stop the bombing, gassing, imprisonment and torture of my people we will not stop this fight.”

Shehzad Tanweer said: “What you have witnessed now is only the beginning of a series of attacks, which by the Grace of Allah, will intensify and continue until you pull all of your troops out of Afghanistan and Iraq...

”You will never experience peace until our children in Palestine, our mothers and sisters in Kashmir, our brothers in Afghanistan and Iraq feel peace.”

Official advisers say it

The government's own Muslim task force identified British foreign policy as a cause, and in September 2005 asked for a public inquiry into 7/7 which would examine “the role of foreign policy in radicalising the terrorists.”

The way forward

There is no way to guarantee complete safety from terrorism. But all the evidence suggests that obeying international law and basic morality - beginning with a withdrawal from both Iraq and Afghanistan - would significantly reduce the risk of terrorism in the UK.

If we stop committing terrorism, we will have less reason to fear it.

British common sense

“The British government's foreign policy - especially its support for the invasion of Iraq and refusal to demand an immediate ceasefire by Israel in the recent war against Hezbollah in Lebanon - has significantly increased the risk of terrorist attacks on Britain.” Agree: 73%

”In order to reduce the risk of future terrorist attacks on Britain the government should change its foreign policy - in particular by distancing itself from America, being more critical of Israel and declaring a timetable for withdrawing from Iraq.” Agree: 62%

”Even though there is no justification for terrorism, the British government's foreign policy, especially towards Iraq and the recent attacks on Lebanon by Israel, is anti-Muslim and it is understandable that many Muslims are offended by it.” Agree: 52% (Populus opinion poll for The Times, 1-3 September 2006.) Proportion of people believing the Iraq war was a cause of 7/7:
Guardian poll (July 2005): 64%
Newsnight poll (October 2005): 73%
Daily Mirror poll (July 2005): 85%
(See Milan Rai, 7/7: The London Bombings, Islam and the Iraq War (Pluto Press, 2006), p9.)

US expertise

Michael Scheuer, 22 years in the CIA, headed the CIA's bin Laden task force from 1996-1999.

Scheuer writes: “We in the United States and the West make a mistake when we argue... that bin Laden's attacks are `not aimed at reversing any specific US foreign policy,' or... that bin Laden has `no discrete set of negotiable political demands'.” (Through Our Enemies' Eyes, p256)

Scheuer argues that Osama bin Laden has “clear, focused, limited and widely popular foreign policy goals”, including “the end of US aid to Israel and the ultimate elimination of that state; the removal of US and Western forces from Iraq, Afghanistan, and other Muslim lands; the end of US support for the oppression of Muslims by Russia, China, and India; the end of US protection for repressive, apostate regimes in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Egypt, Jordan, et cetera; and the conservation of the Muslim world's energy resources and their sale at higher prices.”

”Bin Laden is out to drastically alter US and Western policies toward the Islamic world, not necessarily to destroy America, much less its freedoms and liberties. He is a practical warrior, not an apocalyptic terrorist in search of Armageddon.' (Imperial Hubris, pxviii)

”None of the reasons have anything to do with our freedom, liberty and democracy, but have everything to do with US policies and actions in the Muslim world.” (Imperial Hubris, px)