The London Blasts: Media
19: Tuesday 26 July 2005
STRAW CHANGES THE LINE
THE DAWN OF REALISM?
An important development
in the real world on Sunday, that was recorded imperfectly
in the British media yesterday (Monday), was the first major
indication of the British Government wavering in its denial
that the London bombings have any foreign policy connection.
This seems to have been
ignored in the Guardian
and The Times, but was
noted in passing in the FT
and the Independent, and
reported with the headline it deserved in the Telegraph.
(Noticing a pattern yet?)
headline ran thus: 'Straw
changes the line on link to Iraq war'. The first four
'Jack Straw performed
a Government U-turn in the terror crisis yesterday when
he admitted for the first time that London and other parts
of Britain might be at greater risk of attack because of
the Iraq war.'
'The Foreign Secretary dropped the
previous line taken by Tony Blair and his ministers that
the terrorists would have struck anyway, regardless of the
war against Saddam Hussein, in favour of a more equivocal
'Asked on BBC Radio 4's The World This
Weekend if he and the Prime Minister were still maintaining
that the Iraq war had not made Britain more of a target,
Mr Straw said: "It is impossible to say for certain."
Previously, the Prime Minister has drawn attention to al-Qa'eda's
long history of attacks before the Iraq conflict, including
the September 11 2001 aircraft attacks on New York and Washington,
to dismiss claims of a heightened risk.'
'But sources said ministers had become
aware that the line needed to be softened because most members
of the public did not accept that nothing had changed. Mr
Straw's comments come after a recent Guardian/ICM poll claimed
that two thirds of Britons believed there was a link between
the decision to support the war in Iraq and the London bombings.'
BURYING THE STORY
Independent had a piece entitled,
to leave way open for recall of Commons'. After five
paragraphs of that story, we find these two paragraphs:
Senior cabinet ministers
toned down their denials that the war in Iraq was not linked
with the bombing campaign in Britain for the first time
Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary,
who had earlier ruled out any link, conceded on BBC Radio
that a link was possible. He said: "It's impossible
to say for certain. What I do know is that this terrorism
began many years ago ... well before the military action
buried the story even more effectively in a long article
pushes gun laws into spotlight'. After 17 paragraphs
of that story, we come to this:
'The government appeared
to alter its response to criticisms that the war in Iraq
had increased Britain's vulnerability to terrorists.'
'Asked to address such concerns, Mr
Straw told the BBC: "It's impossible to say for certain",
before adding that terrorist atrocities had been committed
before the 2003 Iraq war.'
'However, he struck a markedly different
tone last week when he flatly denied that the war might
have made Britain more of a target. On Wednesday, the foreign
secretary said: "It may be a comfortable thought by
some people to think all this follows the military action
in Iraq. It does not."
' (Emphasis added.)
'Downing Street is likely to be relaxed
about Mr Straw's latest pronouncement. By admitting the
possibility of a link between the war and terrorism, the
foreign secretary may neutralise some rumblings of discontent
on the backbenches. He is also reflecting what, according
to polls, the public believes.'
The Prime Minister's strategy seems
to be to relax the hard line that there is no connection
as a sop to public opinion, and to take the heat off the
The political pressure for withdrawal
from Iraq (but not, curiously, from Afghanistan) mounts
enormously if it is admitted that the London bombers (and
their successors in the future) derive much of their motivation
from the occupation and its brutalities.
The government may be aiming to go
half way towards that admission, but not accept the political
consequences. It could give up the effort to persuade everyone
that 'there is no connection', and fall back to the position
that 'no one really knows, but we cannot reward the terrorists
by withdrawing from Iraq as a response to the bombings'.
This could be quite a successful move.
On the other hand, it might not. What
is striking is that with hardly any articulate expression
in the mass media - apart from demonized or marginalized
voices such as George Galloway, Tariq Ali and so on - the
public has resisted the government and the media's propaganda
onslaught about the causes of the London bombings.
This may mark the return of the submerged
majority who opposed the war on Iraq before it took place,
but who then fell silent once British soldiers were in the
firing line, and then when the occupation was portrayed
as the only alternative to complete social breakdown in
It may be that one of the major motives
for that massive outpouring of mainstream opposition in
the run-up to the invasion - as crystallized on 15 February
2003 - was precisely the fear of these kinds of consequences,
and that fear has risen to the surface again with these
traumatic events in London.
In any event, the government's tactical
change of line is testimony of the power of ordinary people
to resist propaganda, and to affect the course of events.
More dissidence would have more effect on policy.
(Incidentally, we haven't detected
any sign of this story in today's newspapers, despite its
THE NEW AL QAEDA
Last night BBC2 showed
the opening episode of a new series, entitled 'The
New Al-Qaeda'. Focused on the use of the internet, the
episode was entitled 'jihad.com'. Much of it consisted of
a smear campaign against British Muslim Babar Ahmad, who
is being sought for extradition by the United States on
charges of assisting al Qaeda by hosting a supportive website.
Babar Ahmad campaign has made a statement about the
programme, and is urging viewers to write in to the BBC
to complain. They note: 'If Babar has such strong links
with Al-Qaeeda and terrorism, as it has been alleged in
the programme, it beggars belief as to why he was not prosecuted
in this country. He was arrested, fully investigated, then
released without charge in December 2003.'
The programme was almost
completely without merit, increasing irrational fear of
Muslims at a very dangerous time, and including an endorsement
of torture by an American magistrate (which is not challenged).
However, it did close
with a few sensible words from Michael Scheuer, former head
of the bin Laden unit at the CIA (1996-1999) who we quoted
in our first Media
all, it's political issues that fire Muslim anger and fuel
the jihadi internet. Issues like Palestine, Chechnya, Kashmir,
Iraq. Taming the wild west of the internet - were that ever
possible - is only attacking the symptoms and not the underlying
causes of the fury of Muslims like these.'
[Scheuer] 'I think the
Islamists are winning the war hands down, at least in terms
of the United States. Our
politicians - either because they're ignorant or they're
not willing to tell the truth - continue to tell the American
people that this war is aimed at our liberties and our freedoms
and our election system and our quest for gender equality,
when that has really almost nothing to do with it.'
'Until the American pepole
are squared with, and our President - whether Democrat or
Republican - says, "They're
mad at our policies in the Islamic world, and the impact
those policies have", you have to say America
is losing, simply because we haven't taken the measure of
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This page last updated 28 July 2005