London bombings II

By Published On: July 27, 2005Categories: Blog0 Comments on London bombings II

The effects of the bombings in London were brought home again this week when police gunned down an innocent Brazilian in my former local tube station. It sounds like a different London to me. In fact with dark irony it seemed closer to a stereotype of my image of Brazil.

The London I knew didn’t have many armed police, and they didn’t gun down men with little warning. It feels from a distance like the whole of London is twitchy and on edge – a moment away from pulling the trigger.

What disturbs me more though is continuing to see people like Tony Blair denying that there are political reasons for the rise in terrorism. Because this level of denial will only allow the violence to continue.

Of course he is right that the barbaric methods of killing innocent people are without excuse, but we will never stop terrorism unless we do something to tackle its root causes which is our "terrorising" foreign policy in the Middle East. Religious fundamentalism may have a psycopathic power of its own, but its ability to grow and take root in countries like the UK lies with the sense of injustice that many muslims feel about the role of the West in the muslim world. 

I wrote an article for a paper here that I enclose below. It is largely based on a couple of excellent websites which explore this issue further:

As a Londoner living in La Paz, it was shocking reading and seeing images of the bombings that killed 50 people last week in the capital city of the UK. These were stories that I related to Iraq and Afghanistan taking place on streets that I knew too well.

Even more shocking was the revelation yesterday that the bombings were committed by British men from the North of England. Men of my age who could easily have been friends who decided to commit suicide in order to kill as many innocent people as possible.

How could this happen? What would drive young men to act like that? How can we protect ourselves from future attacks?

Not surprisingly, these have been questions whirling around in both my head, and being discussed in the press and by politicians in the UK..

What is disturbing is that the answers that are being given out by and large rarely look at the root causes of the rise in terrorism. Too often, the answers coincide with the interests of those leading the "war against terror," the politicians who refuse to look at their responsibility for a rising backlash against their policies that have terrorized and killed innocent people for many years.

Tony Blair’s speech straight after the bombings was typical. Echoing Bush in the wake of September 11th, the British Prime Minister pitched the attack as a senseless attack in a war of values: "It’s important however that those engaged in terrorism realise that our determination to defend our values and our way of life is greater than their determination to cause death and destruction to innocent people in a desire to impose extremism on the world."

His analysis that those who indulge in terror are without a political agenda, and merely extremists opposed "to our way of life" has been echoed throughout the British press. Philip Johnstone of the Daily Telegraph said: ‘Beyond the extension of the "struggle" worldwide, they have no obvious political aims that anyone can begin to address.’

David Aaronovitch catalogues various killings associated with Al Qaeda and concluded: ‘What does all this tell us? First, that if they aren’t blowing us up, then they’ll be blowing up someone else.’

Meanwhile polls show that one in five people in Britain believe that Islam itself (rather than Islamic fundamentalism) is a major threat to British civilization.

It is understandable that the British government should try and distance the attacks from its foreign policy. After all, it doesn’t want to experience the rejection the Spanish Government under Aznar received by the Spanish public for his backing of the Iraq war that had made Spain such a target.

Blair has been keen to point out that Al Qaeda attacks started before invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan.

However that ignores British foreign policy long before the invasions which has fuelled resentment particularly amongst Muslims who have seen fellow Muslims die. It hides the half a million children who UNICEF believe died in Iraq as a result of UK backed sanctions during the 1990s. It obscures the daily deaths of Palestinians which have taken place over decades as UK-backed Israeli occupation. It ignores the daily terror of occupation of cities like Fallujah where thousands of innocent people have died.

The point is that Al Qaeda’s attacks, barbaric as they are, have very strong political objectives, as they make clear in every statement put out over the Internet. Michael Scheuer, now retired who led the CIA’s bin Laden unit from 1996 to 1999 states: "We in the United States and the West make a mistake when we argue…that bin Laden has "no discrete set of negotiable political demands"

In fact he outlines Bin Laden’s very ‘clear, focused, limited and widely popular foreign policy goals’, which include the end of U.S. aid to Israel and the ultimate elimination of that state, the removal of U.S. and Western forces from Iraq, Afghanistan, and other Muslim lands, the end of U.S. support for the oppression of Muslims by Russia, China, and India, the end of U.S. protection for repressive, apostate regimes in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Egypt, Jordan, etc and the conservation of the Muslim world’s energy resources and their sale at higher prices.’

We may not agree with the demands, but it is dangerous and ultimately highly counter-productive to pretend that they don’t exist.

The bombers, who were born and grew up in Britain, weren’t as Blair suggests trying to "destroy the values we hold dear." They were trying to get public opinion to force Blair to withdraw from Iraq and stop his support for US foreign policy in the Middle East.

Interestingly, the British Government’s own research has shown this as a recently leaked report revealed in which it was stated that the Iraq war had been the single largest cause of growing extremism amongst British muslims.

As former Labour Goverment advisor, David Clark has said: "…everything that has followed the fall of Kabul has been ruinous to the task of winning over moderate Muslim opinion and isolating the terrorists within their own communities….Tens of thousands of innocent Iraqis have been killed by US troops uninterested in distinguishing between combatant and noncombatant, or even counting the dead…Bin Laden can hardly believe his luck…"

My experience of the shock and worry as a result of the bombings in Iraq is something that is felt every day by mothers and families in Iraq and the occupied Palestinian territories.

London has now joined the cities such as Gaza, Fallujah, Grozny here innocent lives have been lost and terror has reigned.

The trouble is that until we make the connection between those places, recognizing that State-backed violence is equally as atrocious as suicide bombings caused by militants, we can never even hope for an end to this War of Terror.


Leave A Comment