The London Blasts: Media
14: Thursday 21 July 2005
Bin Laden Truce Offer
Ken Livingstone - Realism
Ken Livingstone - The
The World Domination League
Nothing To Negotiate?
The Bin Laden Truce Offer
London: The Claim Of Responsibility
The Significance Of The
Realism - Adrian Hamilton
For those visiting for
the first time, the background to the comments that follow
lie in our priority
page, and in our first Media
Review. The facts contained in those pages are assumed
in what follows.
THE BIN LADEN
KEN LIVINGSTONE - REALISM
Ken Livingstone, mayor
of London, was asked yesterday
on BBC Radio 4's Today
programme what he thought had motivated the bombers.
"I think you've just
had 80 years of western intervention into predominantly
Arab lands because of the western need for oil. We've propped
up unsavoury governments, we've overthrown ones we didn't
"And I think the particular problem
we have at the moment is that in the 1980s... the Americans
recruited and trained Osama Bin Laden, taught him how to
kill, to make bombs, and set him off to kill the Russians
and drive them out of Afghanistan."
"They didn't give any thought
to the fact that once he'd done that he might turn on his
"If at the end of the First World
War we had done what we promised the Arabs, which was to
let them be free and have their own governments, and kept
out of Arab affairs, and just bought their oil, rather than
feeling we had to control the flow of oil, I suspect this
wouldn't have arisen."
He attacked double standards by Western
nations, such as the initial welcome given when Saddam Hussein
came to power in Iraq. There was also the "running
sore" of the Palestinian/Israeli conflict.
"A lot of young people see the
double standards, they see what happens in Guantanamo
Bay, and they just think that there
isn't a just foreign policy."
Mr Livingstone said he did not just
denounce suicide bombers. He also denounced "those
governments which use indiscriminate slaughter to advance
their foreign policy, as we have occasionally seen with
the Israeli government bombing areas from which a terrorist
group will have come, irrespective of the casualties it
inflicts, women, children and men".
He continued: "Under
foreign occupation and denied the right to vote, denied
the right to run your own affairs, often denied the right
to work for three generations, I suspect that if it had
happened here in England, we would have produced a lot of
suicide bombers ourselves."
Mr Livingstone also criticised parts
of the media for giving too much publicity to certain figures
who were "totally unrepresentative"
of British Muslims.
KEN LIVINGSTONE - THE REACTION
One starting point for this interview
with the Today programme seems to have been a front page
story in the Daily
Telegraph yesterday entitled, 'The men who blame
Britain'. Ken Livingstone was bracketed with Sheikh Omar
Bakri Mohammed, usually described as a "radical cleric"
and spiritual leader of the "extremist" group
al-Muhajiroun, and Anjem Choudary, the British leader of
of London made much the same points, and again highlighted
the West's role in the creation of al Qaeda: "We created
these people. We built them up. We funded them."
has returned to the attack, with Matthew
d'Ancona, deputy editor of the Sunday
Telegraph, launching a savage assault:
The shame of it is that, in the immediate
aftermath of the bombings, Mr Livingstone's performance
was nothing short of magnificent...
At the vigil held in Trafalgar Square
on July 14, Mr Livingstone warmed to his theme. "Those
who came here to kill last Thursday had many goals,"
he said, "but one was that we should turn on each other,
like animals trapped in a cage, and they failed, totally
With tears streaming down his cheeks,
he quoted Pericles, and in homage to John F Kennedy's famous
call - Lass'sie nach Berlin kommen - the mayor declared:
"Let them come to London!" On that day, only the
most churlish would have denied that Mr Livingstone spoke
to, and for, his city.
So it was all the more depressing to
hear him revert to type yesterday as he spouted the fatuous
Left-wing mantras for which he earned his notoriety in the
While claiming that he felt no sympathy
for the suicide bombers and (naturally) that "killing
people is wrong", he resurrected the pernicious old
doctrine of moral equivalence, beloved of the Left in the
Cold War. "I don't just denounce the suicide bombers,"
he said. "I denounce those governments that use indiscriminate
slaughter to advance their foreign policy" - by which
he meant Israel, and, one presumed, America.
So, too, he deployed the whiskery argument
that western imperialism is at the root of all evil...
Is he truly blaming the murder of 56
commuters on the Balfour Declaration, and the 1920 San Remo
And would the mayor be willing to tell
the bereaved relatives of Shahara Islam, the 20-year-old
from Plaistow who was buried on Friday, or of James Adams,
32, from Peterborough, and Monika Suchocka, 23, a Pole who
was living in north London (both of whom were named as among
the dead on Tuesday), that their loved ones would still
be alive if not for the Treaty of Versailles?
This was not the burden of Mr Livingstone's
He said that the history of the last
90 years was the background to what had happened, but that
"the particular problem we have at the moment is that
in the 1980s... the Americans recruited and trained Osama
Bin Laden" and started this insurgency which has now
come back to haunt the West (it's not strictly accurate
that bin Laden himself was recruited, trained or financed
by the CIA, but the movement that he was part of, and which
he draws from certainly did benefit from such generosity).
And the mayor also talked about the
present, about the behaviour of the United States and Britain
in the last few years: "A
lot of young people see the double standards, they see what
happens in Guantanamo Bay, and they just think that there
isn't a just foreign policy."
This kind of realism about the sources
of the London atrocities (Ken Livingstone has of course
condemned the atrocities themselves, and was a prime mover
in the 'London United' events in reaction to the bombings)
is supported by the public (which sees a connection between
the bombings and British foreign policy, as we know from
the Guardian poll)
but is anathema to the government and its supporters.
What about other papers' coverage of
this story? Interestingly, The
Times did not pick up on this story in its paper
edition, but has a piece tucked away on a drop down menu
has a couple of paragraphs tucked away at the end of another
piece. The Independent
ignores it completely, it seems. The FT,
having noted the mayor's views in passing yesterday,
also ignores the matter today.
THE WORLD DOMINATION LEAGUE
Returning to the Telegraph,
Matthew D'Ancona's starting point for his article is Ken
Livingstone's condemnation of the British media for giving
undue attention to the views of tiny groups such as al Mahajiroun,
and figures such as Sheikh Omar Bakri Mohammed (interviewed
on the prestigious Today
programme today). Mr Livingstone ridiculed this as the
equivalent of portraying E.L. Wisty, the mythical founder
of the "World Domination League", as representative
of the views of the English people.
'it was striking yesterday
morning to hear the Mayor of London explicitly invoke the
spirit of [comedian Peter]
Cook's greatest creation, E L Wisty: the self-styled "tadpole
expert", defender of those with "spindly legs"
and founder of the "World Domination League".'
'Alas for Mr Livingstone, his stab
at humour on the Today programme went disastrously wrong.
The mayor's point was that the media should end their fixation
with what he called "the most minority strand amongst
the Muslim community, people whose followers are numbered
in tens, not even hundreds". The militants, he said,
represented mainstream Muslim opinion no more than E L Wisty's
World Domination League "represented the English People"...'
'Mr Livingstone scorned the press for
giving undue prominence to "serial fantasists".'
'Well, where to start? First of all,
the World Domination League had only two members: Wisty
himself and his friend Spotty Muldoon. I think it is a safe
bet to say that more than two British Muslims sympathise
with the analysis put forward by the Islamists pictured
on yesterday's Telegraph
front page (three of them, after all, blew themselves up
on July 7).'
'Second, it seems to me not only reasonable,
but essential, to shine as bright a light as possible on
"minority strands" in Muslim opinion at the moment,
only a fortnight after the adherents of one of those "strands"
killed at least 56 people. The implication of Mr Livingstone's
remarks was that the wicked press is irresponsibly focusing
on a handful of militants - the "few bad apples",
as police spokesmen used to say - when it should be concentrating
on moderate Islamic opinion. To which I can only say: leave
it out, Ken.'
But the point of Ken Livingstone's
remarks was not that a large proportion of British Muslims
aren't equally angry at British foreign policy as the people
quoted. It is that the media focuses on figures whose extreme
views (calling for the establishment of an Islamic state
here in Britain, inciting violence, and so on) have been
by the mainstream Muslim community.
Secondly, when 'shining
as bright a light as possible on "minority strands"
in Muslim opinion", as d'Ancona says, "only a
fortnight after the adherents of one of those "strands"
killed at least 56 people'', and when all kinds of Muslims
- and people of Asian appearance - are being harassed and
attacked by non-Muslims, a responsible newspaper would make
clear the distinction between the "minority strand"
and the majority, rather than deliberately blurring the
NOTHING TO NEGOTIATE?
Thirdly, and most importantly,
when shining this "bright light", honest reporters
and responsible media outlets should make sure it is shining
on all elements of the "minority strand" that
is being confronted.
For example, in the case
of Sheikh Omar Mohammed Bakri, what about this paragraph
in today's Times?
A website controlled by
the sheikh (but no longer accessible, it seems) "attributed
the bombings to al-Qaeda and said
that the British people should accept Osama bin Laden’s
truce offer “otherwise
you will have nobody to blame but yourself for what has
and will most probably happen again”.
We are constantly told
that there is "nobody to negotiate with", that
al Qaeda has "no demands", and that it will "use
any excuse" to engineer the slaughter of innocents.
What about this "truce
offer"? No one reading the British press would be aware
of its possible existence.
It might be that the terms
being offered are unacceptable in a civilized society, in
which case they should be rejected. On the other hand, it
might be that the terms being offered amount to British
foreign policy abiding by international law and refraining
from offering diplomatic, material or military support to
the large-scale oppression of civilians, in which case the
terms should be accepted.
of America carried a report a week ago quoting Saad
al-Faqih, a London-based Saudi dissident who fled to Britain
in 1994, and who the US government has labeled an al Qaeda
financier for allegedly helping Osama bin Laden procure
a satellite phone in 1998.
Mr al-Faqih says he has
no doubt that al-Qaida carried out the London bombings as
part of a strategy to attack U.S. allies. He expects another
statement soon from Osama bin Laden, perhaps to offer another
truce to countries that withdraw their support from the
U.S.-led effort in Iraq:
"I would expect bin Laden to come
again now with another statement reintroducing the truce
offer, or otherwise I would expect maybe another attack
to prove that this offer is not the offer of a weak person
or a weak organization. This offer has to be taken seriously.
Otherwise, Europe has to take the consequences."
THE BIN LADEN TRUCE OFFER
After the Madrid bombings,
bin Laden released a tape in which he made this truce
offer, saying, among other things:
It is known that security
is a pressing necessity for all mankind. We
do not agree that you should monopolise it only for yourselves.
Also, vigilant people do not allow their politicians to
tamper with their security.
Having said this, we would like to inform
you that labelling us and our acts as terrorism is also
a description of you and of your acts. Reaction comes at
the same level as the original action. Our
acts are reaction to your own acts, which are represented
by the destruction and killing of our kinfolk in Afghanistan,
Iraq and Palestine.
The act that horrified the world; that
is, the killing of the old, handicapped [Hamas spiritual
leader] Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, may God have mercy on him,
is sufficient evidence.
We pledge to God that we will punish
America for him, God willing.
Which religion considers your killed
ones innocent and our killed ones worthless? And which
principle considers your blood real blood and our blood
water? Reciprocal treatment is fair and the one who
starts injustice bears greater blame...
...the examining of the developments
that have been taking place, in terms of killings in our
countries and your countries, will make clear an important
fact; namely, that injustice is inflicted on us and on you
by your politicians, who send your sons - although you are
opposed to this - to our countries to kill and be killed.
Therefore, it is in both sides' interest
to curb the plans of those who shed the blood of peoples
for their narrow personal interest and subservience to the
White House gang...
Based on the above, and in order to
deny war merchants a chance and in response to the positive
interaction shown by recent events and opinion polls, which
indicate that most European peoples want peace, I ask honest
people, especially ulema, preachers and merchants, to form
a permanent committee to enlighten European peoples of the
justice of our causes, above all Palestine. They can make
use of the huge potential of the media.
of reconciliation is open for three months of the date of
announcing this statement.
offer a reconciliation initiative to
them, whose essence is our commitment to stopping
operations against every country that commits itself to
not attacking Muslims or interfering in their affairs
- including the US conspiracy on the greater Muslim world.
reconciliation can be renewed once the period signed by
the first government expires and a second government is
formed with the consent of both parties.
The reconciliation will start
with the departure of its last soldier from our country.
The door of reconciliation is
open for three months of the date of announcing this statement.
For those who reject reconciliation
and want war, we are ready.
As for those who want reconciliation,
we have given them a chance. Stop
shedding our blood so as to preserve your blood.
It is in your hands to apply this easy, yet difficult, formula.
You know that the situation
will expand and increase if you delay things.
If this happens, do not blame us - blame
A rational person does not relinquish
his security, money and children to please the liar of the
...The killing of the Russians was after
their invasion of Afghanistan and Chechnya; the killing
of Europeans was after their invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan;
and the killing of Americans on the day of New York [reference
to 11 September] was after their support of the Jews
in Palestine and their invasion of the Arabian Peninsula.
(This is a BBC
Is this a demand for the revival of
the Muslim empire? A demand for sharia law to be instituted
in all Western countries?
Does this fit in with the claim in
the 9/11 Commission Report that, while bin Laden’s
campaign began in reaction to US policies, ‘it quickly
became far deeper’: ‘To the second question
of what America could do, al Qaeda’s answer was that
America should abandon the Middle East, convert to Islam,
and end the immorality and godlessness of its culture...
If the United States did not comply, it would be at war
with the Islamic nation’. (The
9/11 Commission Report, Chapter 2, pp. 50-51)
Or does it fit in with the analysis
of Michael Scheuer, who ran the CIA's bin Laden unit (1996-1999),
who only left the CIA last November, who says that Osama
bin Laden has ‘clear,
focused, limited and widely popular foreign policy goals’,
and that he is out to 'drastically
alter U.S. and Western policies toward the Islamic world,
not necessarily to destroy America, much less its freedoms
and liberties' (Anonymous, Imperial
Hubris, p. xviii)?
LONDON: THE CLAIM OF RESPONSIBILITY
Let us recall in this
context the claim
of responsibility made for the London atrocities on
an al Qaeda-linked website:
In the name of God, the
merciful, the compassionate, may peace be upon the cheerful
one and undaunted fighter, Prophet Muhammad, God's peace
be upon him.
Nation of Islam and Arab nation: Rejoice
for it is time to take revenge against the British Zionist
Crusader government in retaliation
for the massacres Britain is committing in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The heroic mujahideen have carried out a blessed raid in
London. Britain is now burning with fear, terror and panic
in its northern, southern, eastern, and western quarters.
We have repeatedly warned the British
Government and people. We have fulfilled our promise and
carried out our blessed military raid in Britain after our
mujahideen exerted strenuous efforts over a long period
of time to ensure the success of the raid.
We continue to warn the governments
of Denmark and Italy and all the Crusader governments that
they will be punished in the same way
if they do not withdraw their troops from Iraq and Afghanistan.
He who warns is excused.
God says: "You who believe: If
ye will aid (the cause of) Allah, He will aid you, and plant
your feet firmly."
Note that the statement
links the attacks directly to Britain's participation in
the occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan: 'it
is time to take revenge against the British Zionist Crusader
government in retaliation for the massacres Britain is committing
in Iraq and Afghanistan'.
It also offers a menacing
version of the "truce" to Denmark, Italy and other
nations participating in the two occupations: 'We
continue to warn the governments of Denmark and Italy and
all the Crusader governments that they will be punished
in the same way if they do not withdraw their troops from
Iraq and Afghanistan.'
THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE OFFERS
These offers of a "truce"
may be nothing more than a cynical propaganda device designed
to increase support in Muslim communities around the world.
They may be offered only in the sure knowledge that they
will not be accepted.
But until they are explored, we do
not know if they are genuine.
What we do know is that if this conditionality
is ignored, and these offers are erased from the record,
we are faced with an unending confrontation.
More important than the question of
whether or not bin Laden and the leaders of al Qaeda seriously
mean these truce offers, is the issue of grassroots Muslim
opinion. It is clear that the occupations of Afghanistan
and Iraq are major causes of what is referred to as "Muslim
If these occupations were to end, regardless
of the attitude and intentions of the al Qaeda leadership,
the willingness of young people to carry out anti-Western
terrorist attacks (which they regard as justified retaliation)
will be reduced, and the security of people in Britain,
the United States and elsewhere will be correspondingly
increased. The recruiting, financing and logistical support
offered to al Qaeda would drop.
Britain and the United States had no
legal or moral right to invade either Afghanistan or Iraq,
and they have no right to remain in control of those countries'
destinies - despite having the support of elected politicians
in both countries who are little more than captives of US
power. The US military in particular is making the situation
in both countries worse by the day, by its use of indiscriminate
violence, partially documented by Iraq
The US and Britain should withdraw
from both these countries, and, JNV believes, fund efforts
by the UN and unbiased third parties to support local bodies
reconstructing their countries and negotiating a political
transition to a better society. We should do this because
it is the right thing to
do. It is also in the interests of the British and
REALISM - ADRIAN HAMILTON
Adrian Hamilton has a
piece in the Independent
today entitled, 'It's too convenient to blame it all on
religion' (page 31 or paid-access here),
which is worth reading in full:
What do Kenya, Tanzania,
Bali, Saudi Arabia, Morocco and Turkey have in common?
The answer is that they're all part of a litany of countries
where bombings took place before Britain joined the US in
invading Iraq, and are now being learnt, parrot-like, for
every minister to recite when asked about Iraq's connection
to the London bombings.
To which one can only put one’s head in one's hands
and weep. If this is really
what Tony Blair and his government believe, then there is
no hope of their ever understanding what happened.
We all know why they’re doing it. It's political convenience.
It suits Blair to say that the bombs are all down to an
"evil ideology", because that
way you avoid totally any connection with British policy
abroad or at home.
It’s equally convenient for the middle-aged mullahs
meeting the Prime Minister on Tuesday, since blaming all
the violence on radical young clerics enables them to reassert
their authority over their communities and to sweep the
problems into a corner marked "brainwashing of the
young from outside”.
But you can’t divorce religion from politics, belief
Read the ancient historian Josephus on the Jewish revolts
against Roman occupation.
Look today at the manipulation of religion in the violence
at Ayodhya in India or the Christian-Muslim clashes in Nigeria.
Religion has always been as much the effect as the cause
of fervent political feeling.
Nor do you need religion to persuade young people to sacrifice
themselves for a cause, as the history of the Red Brigade
and the Tamil Tigers would show.
Blaming it all on mad mullahs makes it easier to "do
something" in response - close down mosques, refuse
entry to preachers, gather a chorus of rejection from community
leaders - but it doesn't begin to get to the root of the
For a start, to wrap up every bomb in an Islamic land with
the epithet "Muslim extremism" is grossly misleading.
The circumstances of southern Thailand are quite different
from conditions in Palestine or the stirrings in Central
Even in Europe it is quite wrong to lump Moroccan immigrants
in the Netherlands, Kurds in Sweden, Algerians in France
or Turks in Germany with Bangladeshis in London or Pakistanis
in the east Midlands.
They maybe all Muslims,
but their circumstances are specific to themselves, as are
the causes of alienation among their young.
Where a common religion comes into play,and where it becomes
a means of identity, is in the sense that globalised communications
have given the impression
of Muslims everywhere being the victims of injustice and
That assumption (for assumption it is) maybe exaggerated
or heightened by the media which radicalised young British
Muslims watch and read.
But it is not without foundation.
Most of [the]
Muslim “hotspots" are in areas of "occupation"
of Muslim communities by non-Muslims, from Chechnya
through Palestine to Kashmir. Arabs may find it difficult
to accept their own responsibility for their misfortunes,
but it is hard to deny that the Middle East is a mess of
Western making, from the post-First World War carve-up to
the exploitation of oil.
You don't have to be a susceptible youth going to the wrong
mosque to develop a sense of anger and injustice at what
is happening in Palestine and Iraq.
Indeed, al-Qa'ida recruits are usually from a quite different
background to the poor, ill- educated children from the
slums and the rural backwaters educated in the madrassas
If anything, these are more likely to be aroused to violence
against other sects of Islam than against Western targets.
Would it make much difference if all the radical preachers
were silenced, gagged or jailed? Probably
There is a case for clamping down on incendiary speeches
of whatever sort, certainly anything that promotes violence.
But that is not where the impressions which radicalise the
young probably come from.
Would Muslim youth feel so strongly if they were not already
alienated at home? Not easy to decide.
Although much has been made of the middle-class background
of the bombers, such factors have always been true of revolutionary
cadres (think of early communism in Europe and China).
The driving force remains the original alienation of the
individual, for whatever reason, and the general environment
in which it develops.
Would alienated youth still take to the bomb if there weren't
the issues of Palestine and Iraq to inspire their sense
of injustice? Again difficult to weigh precisely.
But opinion poll after opinion poll does suggest that feelings
within British Muslim communities run very strongly on these
If that is so, then it has to be said that the future is
very gloomy indeed.
Look at the latest news from Dagestan and Chechnya, never
mind Gaza and Iraq.
In the Islamic world at large conditions
are getting worse, the causes of outrage greater, and the
more the West trumpets the issue of terror to support repression
the worse it will get.
If Tony Blair really believes what he says, that the task
of government and society now is to engage the Muslim community
in debate and to win its arguments with reason, then one
might ask this: does he think he will engage his audience
better by talking religion and its perversions or
discussing frankly why he went into Iraq and what he intends
to do there now?
You can write to the Independent
or to Adrian
JNV welcomes feedback.
This page last updated 21 July 2005