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The London Blasts


The London Blasts: Media Review

DAY NINE: 16 July 2005

Back to Part 1

On to Part 3

Part 2 Realism and Denial




Luke Harding of the Guardian talks to Ahsan Siddiqui of the "moderate" Jamia Ashrafia madrassa, who says, 'the reason terrorism exists is because of injustice. If you take away injustice all these problems will disappear.'


In the more "radical" Lahore madrassa, a student speaks out: "If it's been declared that society is at war, and non-Muslims are killing Muslims, then Muslims have the right to kill non-Muslims," said 20-year-old Hafiz Abdul Rehman. "We have the right to defend our brothers if they are being killed, whether it's in Afghanistan, Iraq or Kashmir," he added. Like many in Pakistan, though, Hafiz condemned the London bombings.'




Mundher al-Adhami, an exile from Saddam's Iraq, and a co-founder of Iraq Occupation Focus, has a moving piece in today's Guardian, which includes these words:


Tony Blair talks about "them" hating "our values and our way of life". But I have seen atrocities like last week's London bombings taking place in Iraq over the past two years. Attacks there, as those in London, are not about hating anybody's way of life, but straightforward revenge: revenge for Falluja and al-Qaim - and for Palestine and Afghanistan, which have been subsumed in them.

The pictures of Iraq, Afghanistan or Palestine, with their dust and grime, might be different to the pictures of the London bombs, but they represent a continuity. The war of revenge and collective punishment has arrived in London. And it has its own rationality. Don't give me the nonsense about why do they hate us. They don't.

The response to the neo-colonial adventures in Afghanistan and Iraq should surprise no one. Islamist extremism and terrorism, unknown in Iraq before occupation, now fights side by side with the more measured Iraqi resistance. It responds with callous bombs there, and now in the west.




Clare Short, the former Development Secretary under Tony Blair, has said she has 'no doubt' that the war in Iraq was a factor in the London atrocities, and claims that half of Labour MPs agree with her.


Tomorrow's Sunday Programme on GMTV will carry these comments:


"Of course September 11 2001 happened before Iraq, we all know that."

"But then Iraq happened . . . and America claimed that al-Qaeda was there and we all know that was a lie, and we now know that our own prime minister deceived the country terribly."

"We know there has been horrendous loss of life and suffering and we know that there is anger."


Asked how many Labour backbenchers shared her view, Ms Short replied: "It would be hard for me to give a proportion because I have not talked to every single one and actually the power of patronage and the sort of fear and punitive nature of the whipping in the parliamentary party means collectivity and intelligent discussion is breaking down... but I would say a good half."




The editorial in the FT today - 'Slaughtering civilians is beyond the pale' - has some sensible things to say, amounting to an attack on US military behaviour, as well as a recognition of certain realities about the sources of al Qaeda-type terrorism.


Beginning with a condemnation of the London bombings and the 'obscene cult of death' of Osama bin Laden, and calling for an effort to achieve a global consensus to 'isolate jihadi extremism', the FT goes on to observe that:


'Any such attempt will soon enough run into a wall of Muslim grievance (about Chechnya and Palestine, Kashmir and Iraq), and will force into the open transatlantic and intra-European disagreements about policy towards the Middle East and Muslim world.'


In other words, the insurgency that we face is rooted in US foreign policy in the Middle East, a foreign policy wihch is the subject of transatlantic dispute, and dispute within the European Union.




The FT also calls for an 'ambitious' response: 'The objective should be to get an international consensus, including the leadership of the Muslim and Arab world, which places all attacks on civilians and non-combatants in a war situation beyond the pale' (emphasis added). The lethal clarification follows:


'This is not just a problem for one "side". The US military doctrine of force protection, for example, results in practice in indiscriminate use of devastating firepower to protect American soldiers, causing widespread civilian casualties - probably tens of thousands in Iraq - against which there is no real redress.'


'If we wish to end recourse to so-called asymmetric warfare, we need to restrain the unbridled use of asymmetric power.'


For those unfamiliar with this jargon, 'asymmetric warfare' is a term to describe a grossly unequal military contest, often one between a state and a non-state actor - a group or movement - in which the weaker party uses the weaknesses of its opponent. (For example, the devastation caused on 11 September 2001 was carried out by men who only had box cutters for weapons.)


Translating the FT's phraseology: if we want to end the use of terrorism against the West, then (among other things) we must stop the United States from killing large numbers of civilians (in Iraq and elsewhere) with impunity as a routine matter of troop safety procedure.


Curiously, the FT hedges by observing that, 'There is, nonetheless, a difference to be made here. Only the jihadis are advocating the slaughter of civilians as a legitimate tactic.' This is difficult to credit.


We have yet to hear from the Pentagon, either the civilian leadership or the military command, that the 'US military doctrine of force protection' - in other words, shooting first, as soon as a potential threat is perceived, and long before a gun is waved or a shot is fired - is not a 'legitimate tactic'. The impunity granted to US personnel after such incidents speaks for itself.




Howard Jacobson adds to the literature. Yesterday Gerard Baker of The Times attacked the 'sizeable chunk of serious, influential British opinion, from across the political spectrum, who act in a way that suggests they honestly think this country is the principal author of the bad things that happen to it'. (We discussed his views in the Media Review.)


Today Jacobson goes further (page 36 or paid-access here). Where did the four bombers get their ideology of hatred? 'From us!' While preachers and commanders helped them along the way, 'what we call their disaffection - that miasma of rage and bewilderment and misinformation without which this death cult could never have taken hold of them - is the staple diet of our own left-leaning news media, no more virulent than anything the educated middle classes have been expressing for years, the received wisdom of teachers, students and academics from one end of the country to the other.'


How did the Home Office and the Foreign Office miss this obvious cause of extremism? Why does the 'Young Muslims and Extremism' report not devote a single paragraph to this obviously central driver of alienation and disaffection?




The Guardian observes mildly, 'Confused young men, torn between cultures, are easy prey for preachers of hatred. Britons must bind their own wounds and be more aware of the impact of their government's policies - on Iraq, Palestine etc - on Muslims everywhere.'


While this is a significant pointer in the right direction, this is not an agenda for change or action. It is a handful of wilting flowers, of no significance except as an expression of good intentions that do little good.


Either that, or it is the 'miasma of rage and bewilderment and misinformation' we have been warned about.




JNV welcomes feedback.

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This page last updated 16 July 2005






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