The London Blasts: Media
THREE: 10 July 2005 Part One The
Bombings 'Would Have Happened Anyway'
Blair and his helpers
John Rentoul in the Independent
on Sunday today (page 27), dismisses the idea that
al Qaeda 'is engaged in a military campaign in pursuit of
negotiable objectives.' (John Rentoul's article can be bought
He writes, 'no one thinks that
Blair's hard work on the Israel-Palestine question, or his
rescue of the Muslims of Kosovo from attempted genocide,
makes the slightest difference to Osama bin Laden's nihilist
Rentoul asks, 'So
why should a different policy on Iraq make a decisive change?
The London bombings might not have happened had Britain
not joined the invasion of Iraq, but they, or a similar
attack, might have come anyway, motivated by a slightly
rearranged set of mythic grievances.'
This line of argument
is straight out of the Downing Street PR machine, and has
been heard time and again throughout the last few days.
It flies in the face of the facts.
Tony Blair mounted a truly
audacious version of this line yesterday on BBC Radio 4's
Today programme: 'Take
President Putin, who was passionately opposed to the war
in Iraq and yet suffered Beslan. If you think of Bali and
what happened there. If you think that even after the change
of government in Madrid, the terrorists there were planning
further terrorist acts before they were caught. Remember
that September 11, the reason we went into Afghanistan,
happened before Iraq, before Afghanistan, before any of
these issues, and that was the worst terrorist atrocity
of all.' (Transcript by the Bloomberg
news agency. Listen to the programme here.)
Firstly, the reason for
the assault on the school in Beslan was, as everyone knows,
Russia's brutal campaign against the people of Chechnya.
Economist commented after the school siege, 'The
verified links between Chechen terrorists and al-Qaeda are
few and tenuous... Islamic fundamentalism is borrowed from
abroad; it would attract few sympathisers were it not for
the misery created at home.'
Economist continued: 'Russia's
conflict in Chechnya is home-grown, nurtured in a republic
that has been systematically destroyed in the struggle for
power. Russia has tried to wipe out Chechnya's separatists,
first through direct military force, and more recently through
“Chechenisation”—ie, foisting the problem
on to a local strongman (the latest luckless candidate,
Alu Alkhanov, was put in place in rigged elections only
two weeks ago). But the result has been to breed an anarchy
in which soldiers and separatists alike kidnap and murder
the innocent with impunity.'
The world's pre-eminent
business magazine suggested that the solution might very
well have to include 'extreme
autonomy, possibly leading to properly negotiated independence...
if that is what most Chechens want... Yet
throughout the conflict, Mr Putin has refused to talk to
moderate Chechens. Potential
interlocutors have either turned extreme or lost support.'
One reason Mr Putin has
been able to get away with refusing to negotiate is the
support he has received from people like Tony Blair.
Mr Blair's support for Russia's war has prolonged the tragedy
in Chechnya, and makes more Beslans inevitable.
Mr Blair is using terrorism-resulting-from-Russia's-continuing-occupation-of-Chechnya
as a reason for saying that terrorism-resulting-from-the-British-occupation-of-Iraq-and-Afghanistan
has nothing to do with the occupation of either Iraq or
Turning to the bombing
in Bali, as Dilip
Hiro points out in the Independent
on Sunday today (page 30), 'Most of the  victims
were tourists from Australia, which was one of the four
countries that invaded Iraq in March 2003.' According to
a summary by the BBC,
those who carried out the bombing - of a nightclub used
by foreigners - had been trying to bomb the US Embassy,
but had turned to soft targets because of the level of security
at the Embassy.
True, the bombing took
place on 12 October 2002, five months before the invasion
of Iraq, but it seems hard to see this attack as unconnected
with US (and therefore Australian, and British) foreign
Tony Blair makes much
of the fact that the terrorists behind the Madrid bombings
continued to plot attacks after the election of a government
committed to withdrawing Spanish troops from Iraq. Apart
from the fact that politicians do not always fulfil their
manifesto commitments, there is the point, once again, that
the al Qaeda network is not only concerned with Iraq - it
is also concerned with the occupation of Afghanistan.
After the Madrid terrorists
were cornered and blew themselves up, a video was found
in their flat: 'The alleged bombing
mastermind, Serhane ben Abdelmajid Fakhet, known as "the
Tunisian", is said to be the man seen warning Spain
to get its troops out of Iraq and
you not do this within the space of a week, starting today,
we will continue our jihad (holy war) until martyrdom,"
the statement added.'
So the continuing preparations
for attack actually underline the importance of foreign
policy change as a condition for reducing the motivation
for this kind of terrorism.
The attacks on New York
and Washington were, as Mr Blair says, the worst terrorist
incidents of recent years (if the invasions of Iraq and
Afghanistan are placed, as they perhaps should be, in the
more serious category of 'aggression'). It is true that
those attacks preceded the recent US-UK invasions, and therefore
could not have been caused by them. But the point that Mr
Blair is avoiding is that these invasions have increased
the risk of terrorist attack.
The instigator and planner
of the 11 September attacks, a man known as Khalid Sheikh
Mohammed (KSM), has been interrogated by US intelligence
about the preparation and planning process. The official
US 9/11 Commission report contains the following description
of the genesis of the attacks: 'KSM
reasoned he could best influence U.S. policy by targeting
the country's economy. KSM and [Ramzi] Yousef reportedly
brainstormed together about what drove the U.S. economy.
New York, which KSM considered the economic capital of the
United States, therefore became the primary target.'
(Report, page 153. Chapter 5 can be downloaded from the
The key sentence here
is: 'KSM reasoned he could best
influence U.S. policy by
targeting the country's economy.' The attacks were
about US foreign policy. Bin Laden held the following exchange
with a reporter from al
Jazeera after the attacks:
Bin Laden: 'We
kill the kings of the infidels, kings of the crusaders and
civilian infidels in exchange for those of our children
they kill. This is permissible in Islamic law and logically.'
Al Jazeera: 'So
what you are saying is that this is a type of reciprocal
treatment. They kill our innocents, so we kill their innocents?'
Bin Laden: 'So
we kill their innocents, and I say it is permissible in
Islamic law and logic.'
In 2004, bin Laden made
the following remarks about the origins of 11 September
in a speech: 'I say to you, Allah
knows that it had never occurred to us to strike the towers.
But after it became unbearable and we witnessed the oppression
and tyranny of the American/Israeli coalition against our
people in Palestine and Lebanon, it came to my mind.'
'The events that affected my soul in
a direct way started in 1982 when America permitted the
Israelis to invade Lebanon and the American Sixth Fleet
helped them in that. This bombardment began and many were
killed and injured and others were terrorised and displaced.'
'I couldn't forget those moving scenes,
blood and severed limbs, women and children sprawled everywhere.
Houses destroyed along with their occupants and high rises
demolished over their residents, rockets raining down on
our home without mercy... And the whole world saw and heard
but it didn't respond.'
'In those difficult moments many hard-to-describe
ideas bubbled in my soul, but in the end they produced an
intense feeling of rejection of tyranny, and gave birth
to a strong resolve to punish the oppressors.'
'And as I looked at those demolished
towers in Lebanon, it entered my mind that we should punish
the oppressor in kind and that we should destroy towers
in America in order that they taste some of what we tasted
and so that they be deterred
from killing our women and children...'
also referred to 'the oppressing and embargoing to
death of millions as Bush Sr did in Iraq in the greatest
mass slaughter of children mankind has ever known, and it
means the throwing of millions of pounds of bombs and explosives
at millions of children - also in Iraq - as Bush Jr did,
in order to remove an old agent and replace him with a new
puppet to assist in the pilfering of Iraq's oil and other
He went on,
'So with these images and their like as their background,
the events of September 11th came as a reply to those great
wrongs, should a man be blamed for defending his sanctuary?
Is defending oneself and punishing
the aggressor in kind, objectionable terrorism? If it is
such, then it is unavoidable for us.'
Various commentators have poured scorn
on the idea that the World Trade Centre attacks really had
their origins in 1982. However, there seems little reason
to doubt that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Osama bin Laden and
the al Qaeda network as a whole was and remains sincerely
outraged by the behaviour of the Israeli government, or
the sanctions on Iraq. These are a major part of al Qaeda's
appeal to many Muslims around the world. (See our discussion
of the June 2004 Zogby
International poll of Arab attitudes to US foreign policy.)
The world was outraged
by the 11 September attacks. Serious policy changes by the
US and UK in relation to Israel and Iraq at that time could
have united the world against al Qaeda, and perhaps brought
that particular terrorist campaign to an end. Instead, Mr
Blair chose to add to the grievances that al Qaeda plays
The JIC Warning
Recall that British intelligence
warned precisely of the heightened risk of terrorist attacks
a month before the invasion
In a report assessing
the pre-war intelligence on Iraq's Weapons of Mass Destruction,
the Government's Intelligence and Security Committee referred
in passing to this warning. (The report is a 600kb pdf,
available from the
Cabinet Office.) On 10 February 2003, the Joint Intelligence
Committee reported to the Prime Minister in the following
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.' (p. 34, emphasis
British intelligence told
Tony Blair explicitly and clearly before the war that invading
Iraq would increase the risk of just the kind of bombings
that have taken place in London.
George Galloway MP has
based his own denunciation of the government on this revelation,
which emerged in September 2003, and was highlighted in
a report written by Glen
Rangwala and Dan Plesch for the 'Impeach Blair' campaign.
notes that 'Made by a more mainstream
politician [than Mr Galloway],
this claim could yet cause significant damage.' (page
write in praising the paper for including a reference to
the JIC warning, write to the Observer,
with 'Letter to the Editor' in the subject line, and your
full name and postal address]
The Avoided Point
Rawnsley comments in the Observer
today that, 'Chronology makes
a nonsense of the suggestion that al-Qaeda terrorism is
a creation of the war.' He then goes on to make the
equally cogent, and more relevant point that, 'it
can't be denied convincingly either that Iraq has made London
more of a target for Islamist terrorism.'
JNV welcomes feedback.
This page last updated 10 July 2005