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Blair Insults The Dead

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    Tony Blair put his own people at risk in the service of a foreign power It is an insult to the dead to deny the link with Iraq By Seumas Milne
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 1, 2005
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      Tony Blair put his own people at risk in the service of a foreign power

      It is an insult to the dead to deny the link with Iraq
      By Seumas Milne

      07/14/05 "The Guardian" - - In the grim days since last week's bombing
      of London, the bulk of Britain's political class and media has
      distinguished itself by a wilful and dangerous refusal to face up to
      reality. Just as it was branded unpatriotic in the US after the 2001
      attacks on New York and Washington to talk about the link with
      American policy in the Middle East, so those who have raised the
      evident connection between the London atrocities and Britain's role in
      Iraq and Afghanistan have been denounced as traitors. And anyone who
      has questioned Tony Blair's echo of George Bush's fateful words on
      September 11 that this was an assault on freedom and our way of life
      has been treated as an apologist for terror.

      But while some allowance could be made in the American case for the
      shock of the attacks, the London bombings were one of the most heavily
      trailed events in modern British history. We have been told repeatedly
      since the prime minister signed up to Bush's war on terror that an
      attack on Britain was a certainty - and have had every opportunity to
      work out why that might be. Throughout the Afghan and Iraq wars, there
      has been a string of authoritative warnings about the certain boost it
      would give to al-Qaida-style terror groups. The only surprise was that
      the attacks were so long coming.
      But when the newly elected Respect MP George Galloway - who might be
      thought to have some locus on the subject, having overturned a
      substantial New Labour majority over Iraq in a London constituency
      with a large Muslim population - declared that Londoners had paid the
      price of a "despicable act" for the government's failure to heed those
      warnings, he was accused by defence minister Adam Ingram of "dipping
      his poisonous tongue in a pool of blood". Yesterday, the Liberal
      Democrat leader Charles Kennedy was in the dock for a far more
      tentative attempt to question this suffocating consensus. Even Ken
      Livingstone, who had himself warned of the danger posed to London by
      an invasion of Iraq, has now claimed the bombings were nothing to do
      with the war - something he clearly does not believe.

      A week on from the London outrage, this official otherworldliness is
      once again in full flood, as ministers and commentators express
      astonishment that cricket-playing British-born Muslims from suburbia
      could have become suicide bombers, while Blair blames an "evil
      ideology". The truth is that no amount of condemnation of evil and
      self-righteous resoluteness will stop terror attacks in the future.
      Respect for the victims of such atrocities is supposed to preclude
      open discussion of their causes in the aftermath - but that is
      precisely when honest debate is most needed.

      The wall of silence in the US after the much greater carnage of 9/11
      allowed the Bush administration to set a course that has been a global
      disaster. And there is little sense in London that the official
      attitude reflects the more uncertain mood on the streets. There is
      every need for the kind of public mourning that will take place in
      London today, along with concerted action to halt the backlash against
      Muslim Britons that claimed its first life in Nottingham at the
      weekend. But it is an insult to the dead to mislead people about the
      crucial factors fuelling this deadly rage in Muslim communities across
      the world.

      The first piece of disinformation long peddled by champions of the
      occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan is that al-Qaida and its
      supporters have no demands that could possibly be met or negotiated
      over; that they are really motivated by a hatred of western freedoms
      and way of life; and that their Islamist ideology aims at global
      domination. The reality was neatly summed up this week in a radio
      exchange between the BBC's political editor, Andrew Marr, and its
      security correspondent, Frank Gardner, who was left disabled by an
      al-Qaida attack in Saudi Arabia last year. Was it the "very diversity,
      that melting pot aspect of London" that Islamist extremists found so
      offensive that they wanted to kill innocent civilians in Britain's
      capital, Marr wondered. "No, it's not that," replied Gardner briskly,
      who is better acquainted with al-Qaida thinking than most. "What they
      find offensive are the policies of western governments and
      specifically the presence of western troops in Muslim lands, notably
      Iraq and Afghanistan."

      The central goal of the al-Qaida-inspired campaign, as its statements
      have regularly spelled out, is the withdrawal of US and other western
      forces from the Arab and Muslim world, an end to support for Israeli
      occupation of Palestinian land and a halt to support for
      oil-lubricated despots throughout the region. Those are also goals
      that unite an overwhelming majority of Muslims in the Middle East and
      elsewhere and give al-Qaida and its allies the chance to recruit and
      operate - in a way that their extreme religious conservatism or dreams
      of restoring the medieval caliphate never would. As even Osama bin
      Laden asked in his US election-timed video: if it was western freedom
      al-Qaida hated, "Why do we not strike Sweden?"

      The second disinformation line peddled by government supporters since
      last week's bombings is that the London attacks had nothing to do with
      Iraq. The Labour MP Tony Wright insisted that such an idea was "not
      only nonsense, but dangerous nonsense". Blair has argued that, since
      the 9/11 attacks predated the Iraq war, outrage at the aggression
      could not have been the trigger. It's perfectly true that Muslim anger
      over Palestine, western-backed dictatorships and the aftermath of the
      1991 war against Iraq - US troops in Arabia and a murderous sanctions
      regime against Iraq - was already intense before 2001 and fuelled
      al-Qaida's campaign in the 1990s. But that was aimed at the US, not
      Britain, which only became a target when Blair backed Bush's war on
      terror. Afghanistan made a terror attack on Britain a likelihood; Iraq
      made it a certainty.

      We can't of course be sure of the exact balance of motivations that
      drove four young suicide bombers to strike last Thursday, but we can
      be certain that the bloodbath unleashed by Bush and Blair in Iraq -
      where a 7/7 takes place every day - was at the very least one of them.
      What they did was not "home grown", but driven by a worldwide anger at
      US-led domination and occupation of Muslim countries.

      The London bombers were to blame for attacks on civilians that are
      neither morally nor politically defensible. But the prime minister -
      who was warned by British intelligence of the risks in the run-up to
      the war - is also responsible for knowingly putting his own people at
      risk in the service of a foreign power. The security crackdowns and
      campaign to uproot an "evil ideology" the government announced
      yesterday will not extinguish the threat. Only a British commitment to
      end its role in the bloody occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan is
      likely to do that.

      Seumas Milne - s.milne @ guardian.co.uk



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