The London Blasts: Media
TWELVE: Tuesday 19 July 2005
Part 2 The Non-Story
(Pakistan) and The Open Question (Chatham House Report)
to Part One
The Alleged Pakistani
>Honest and Undiplomatic
The Chatham House
Report - Reactions
>The FT Editorial -
>The Telegraph - craven
>The Guardian - useful,
>The Times - denial
>The Independent -
The British media are
fixing on the alleged role of Pakistani extremists in the
planning of the London atrocities. The Guardian
- instead of leading on its own poll finding that two-thirds
of Britons believe that the bombings were partly caused
by Britain's foreign policy - joins in with this frenzy
with a front page story entitled 'Pakistan
militants linked to London attacks'.
This story contains the
revealing information that, Shehzad Tanweer, one of the
four London bombers, moved around quite a bit on his famous
three-month trip to Pakistan at the beginning of the year:
'Pakistani officials now
believe that Tanweer "shopped around", visiting
several different radical madrasas. Detectives are also
certain he spent time in Faisalabad, two-and-a-half hours'
drive from Lahore, and a centre for radical Sunni activists.'
' "He visited multiple seminaries.
He didn't take admission in any of them. He stayed there
for a few days and travelled elsewhere. He was establishing
contacts with militants," one source close to the Pakistani
'Experts believe that only two Pakistani
militant groups would have had the expertise and international
resources to assist in an elaborate suicide operation in
Britain - the banned Sunni group Lashkar-e-Taiba and the
Jaish-e-Mohammad (Army of Mohammad). Tanweer is believed
to have stayed at a madrasa run by Lashkar-e-Taiba in Mudrike,
20 miles outside Lahore. Over the weekend, however, the
madrasa denied any connection with him.'
This 'shopping around' behaviour confirms
that the bombers were not radicalized by
their visit to Pakistan, but visited Pakistan because they
were already radicalized.
'Mr Tanweer is suspected to have visited
one or more madrassahs, or religious schools, while he was
in Pakistan. But Pakistani intelligence officials said a
preliminary assessment of his case suggested he did not
gain any expertise on explosives at the schools.'
HONEST AND UNDIPLOMATIC
A view from the Pakistani Ambassador
to the UN is relevant at this point. Speaking to BBC Radio
4 on Sunday 17 July, Munir Akram said:
'It is important not to pin blame on
somebody else when the problem lies internally. Your
policies in the Middle East, your policies in the Islamic
world, that is the problem with your society and that is
where the problem lies as far as this incident is concerned.
'It would be a grave mistake to point
fingers at Pakistan or anybody outside your country.'
'Brainwashing is a long process. You
cannot brainwash somebody instantly, unless he is inclined
to be brainwashed. Rather, it was the years spent in Britain
that transformed them into the UK's first suicide bombers.'
born in Britain, bred there, lived there, were by all accounts
British lads. What motivated British lads to do this? It
is not because their blood was from Pakistan. Whatever angst
they had was a result of living in Britain.'
Mr Akram pointed to failures of 'integration':
'You have to look at ... what
you are doing to the Muslim community and why the Muslim
community is not integrating in British society.'
commented, 'Such outspokenness is unusual in diplomatic
circles, particularly at such a sensitive time. The UN is
a top posting, normally only entrusted to experienced diplomats.'
The alleged Pakistani
connection is a red herring from the real causes of the
tragedy. If the bombers did obtain financing, training or
guidance in Pakistan, it was because they searched it out.
The question is why
they were motivated to search it out.
HOUSE REPORT - REACTIONS
So, what impact has this
spectacularly timely report on war and terrorism from one
of the world's most prestigious foreign policy bodies had
on the British media?
There are two ways of
approaching this: has the media handled the report appropriately?
And, is there anything in the media response which is useful
to the movements for peace and justice?
The answers are No and
THE FINANCIAL TIMES
has a very useful editorial (with qualifications) which
for some strange reason is not listed in the 'editorial
comment' section of their website (11:20 UTC). After observing
that the Chatham House report 'makes a number of unexceptionable
and somewhat after-the-event observations about Iraq,' the
FT goes on to suggest that the war was on Iraq was wrong,
and that it was 'perfectly possible
to anticipate the huge boost invading Iraq would give to
the jihadis, and the strong likelihood it would set off
a sectarian war between Sunni and Shia, that now risks sucking
Iraq's neighbours into a regional civil war':
'To say that then [before
the war on Iraq] and reiterate it now is not, as
Jack Straw, UK foreign secretary, says, to make "excuses
for terrorism". It was and is to try to reach clarity
and consensus on how best to defeat it - especially since
we are pursuing policies
that proliferate it.'
'Research by the Herziliya Centre in
Israel, and a forthcoming US-Saudi study by the Centre for
Strategic and International Studies in Washington, should
dissipate remaining doubts about this. Their analysis
of hundreds of foreign jihadi volunteers for Iraq shows
that virtually none have any prior record of Islamist activism,
let alone terrorism. That looks as though it will
turn out to be the story of the London bombers too.'
'This is a new, previously unknown
generation, publicly celebrated as a "godsend"
by the jihadis. No thanks
to US-UK policy, their savagery, especially against
Iraqi civilians, is producing a backlash in most, but not
all, Muslim countries, according to the US Pew Research
'All policy now should be aimed at
separating the jihadis from the ÂMuslim mainstream
- the necessary precondition for crushing them.'
In other words, withdraw.
(Perhaps we are becoming used to these coded messages by
heads its follow-up story, 'Ministers reject claim that
Iraq war made UK a target', giving a platform for John Reid,
Defence Secretary, and Jack Straw, Foreign Secretary, to
rubbish the report - without any countervailing voices.
follow-up story is, 'Use and abuse of intelligence', by
Richard Norton-Taylor. The article opens by quoting (without
emphasis) the 10 February 2003 warning from the JIC (see
our first Media
Review for details), and all four crucial quotes from
the Chatham House report. Richard Norton-Taylor reveals
that the phrase "war on terror" is unwelcome amongst
the people who are in the front line:
"war on terror" [is] a phrase that makes security
and intelligence agencies and military commanders cringe,
for it suggests that the fight against terrorism can be
won by force of arms.'
is the causes, they say,
that matter. And these include the government's foreign
After this admission of
realism at the heart of the security apparatus, Norton-Taylor
quotes from the July 2002 Downing
Street memo, and a second July 2002 Whitehall memo,
finishing with the Iraq weapons dossier debacle. The article
as a whole is an apologia not only for the intelligence
services, but from them.
In the Times,
an editorial on counter-terrorism does not allude to the
Chatham House report, and David
Aaronovitch feels no need to refer to it in his diatribe
against those who argue that the London bombings were somehow
connected with the war in Iraq.
On the same page, Martin
Samuel does refer to the report, in a right-wing critique
of the war on Iraq (it distracted us from pursuing al Qaeda).
The Chatham House report 'misses the point'. Even if we
hadn't been distracted by Iraq, and carried out all the
policies now being pursued (rightly in Samuel's view), Britain
would still have been at risk of terrorist attack. On the
'our intelligence and
military commitment to Iraq has made us less able to police
that threat, that the threat has grown as a result of the
diversion and that our overstretched foreign policy has
left us playing catch-up. For this reason, the British people
now live in an archetypal builder’s house. It looks
like a bomb’s hit it...'
'Had the West’s
military and security forces concentrated on completing
what was started in eradicating al-Qaeda in Afghanistan
and slicing off its many tentacles around the globe, could
the support network have developed that allowed this to
We must turn back to Richard
Norton-Taylor and his contacts in the intelligence agencies,
and in the military, and their frank admission that what
matters is 'the causes'. Saying that the war on Iraq was
a grave 'tactical error' does nothing to address this fundamental
carries two comments - one editorial, one by columnist Steve
Richards - and no news reporting of the report or its fall-out
The editorial (paid-for
concludes that 'to claim that
the misbegotten invasion of Iraq has not made Britain -
and indeed the world - much less safe from terrorism is
an insult to the intelligence'. It does not quote
from the report at all.
Steve Richards does quote
the least significant relevant section, but does not quote
or even gloss the four key sections identified in yesterday's
A curious stance from
the most anti-war newspaper surveyed. A nail in the coffin
for the report.
All in all, the Chatham
House report is fading from the scene fairly quickly. All
the newspapers have formed a tacit agreement that it should
be laid to rest gently, and left behind.
Without pressure, the
report, and all the other significant reports and damning
facts that have emerged in the past twelve days, will be
effectively erased from history.
They exist in the public
record, but they do not exist in the public mind.
(See our summary of Chomsky's
analysis of the mass media.)
to Part One
JNV welcomes feedback.
This page last updated 19 July 2005