Terrible ironies attend the use of violence for political ends. Despite their ostensible opposition, two warring factions are often united in their fundamental view of the world. Both insist that continued violence is the only realistic option. Both insist the enemy is the incarnation of mindless evil, completely beyond reason. Both reject as treasonous rational analyses indicating their own responsibility for promoting violence and rejecting non-violent alternatives.
In other words, patriotic clichés and rousing rhetoric come at a high price. To the extent that rational thought and compassion for suffering are drowned out, the forces of violence are empowered.
Writing in the immediate aftermath of the atrocities in London, the Guardian’s leader writer recalled the horrors of the Blitz:
This brought to mind a 2001 Guardian editorial written in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks. The editors commented on a speech by Tony Blair:
Answers cannot be found in self-serving rhetoric of this kind. It is not as though outrage at the mass killing of civilians by US-UK governments - regimes absolutely determined to wage war in 2003, with all the risks that entailed for civilians - can be attenuated by patriotic editorials. It is not as if the victims of our violence, and their supporters at home and abroad, are unaware of what is happening.
Writing of Iraq in the Independent, Patrick Cockburn described some of the truth of Western values that urgently needs to be addressed:
The horrors in London were anything but “unprovoked” from the point of view of murderous fanatics who closely identify with the very real victims of Western violence in Afghanistan, Palestine and Iraq. And again, media distortions are powerless to obscure this suffering from these killers; whereas rational understanding at least offers hope of non-violent initiatives to put an end to war, hatred and terror.
In truth there is no contradiction in accepting that our government’s actions merit intense moral outrage, and in also rejecting utterly the actions of those who express their outrage as immoral violence. On the contrary, to turn a blind eye to our own crimes while focusing on the crimes of others is to guarantee more of both.
Bombings In Britain and Iraq
Other ironies are almost too painful to contemplate. The July 7 attacks in London appear to have been the first suicide bombings ever seen in Britain. But before March 2003, there had also never been a suicide bomb attack in Iraq.
That all changed with the catastrophic Bush-Blair invasion. It is estimated that half of the 135 car bomb attacks in Iraq in April were suicide bombings. Major General William Webster, the US officer in charge of Baghdad, reported at the beginning of this month that car bombs in the capital had fallen from twice daily in June to about one a day in July.
That figure has risen dramatically in the last ten days, however. On July 11, a suicide bomber blew himself up in a line of recruits at an Iraqi army recruitment centre in western Baghdad, killing 25 people and wounding 47. On July 12, four civilians died in Kirkuk when a suicide car bomb exploded near the city’s hospital and municipal headquarters. Several of the wounded were hospital employees. On July 13, 26 Iraqi children were killed by a suicide bombing in Baghdad. On July 14, two suicide bombs in Baghdad killed two policemen. On July 15, 10 suicide bombs exploded across Baghdad. On July 16, a bomb killed at least 98 people in Musayyib, south of Baghdad. The Associated Press estimates close to 2,000 Iraqis have died since the Iraqi ‘government’ was formed on April 28.
Writing in the New York Times, novelist Ian McEwan wrote of the London atrocities:
But the British public has not been woken from a pleasant dream - instead, long-held fears have finally been realised.
On February 15, 2003, as many as two million people flooded London to protest the impending Bush-Blair war. They did so in part because they knew that invading Iraq would make them targets for the kind of horror we have seen. According to a YouGov survey that month, 79% of Londoners felt that British involvement in an attack on Iraq “would make a terrorist attack on London more likely“. 5
Also at that time, fully 72% of the British population opposed Britain joining military action against Iraq, without United Nations’ approval.
One year later, a poll showed that three-quarters of Britons continued to feel “more vulnerable” to terrorist attack because of the government’s decision to join military action in Iraq. 6
With his usual mix of deceitful rhetoric and amateur theatricality Blair simply dismissed the largest political demonstration in British history - he knew better.
In Spain, the Aznar government similarly waved away vast and repeated anti-war protests all across the country ahead of the war. A year later, on March 12, 2004, 191 people were killed and 1,800 injured by ten bombs placed on trains at the height of the Madrid rush hour.
In October 2003, Osama bin Laden had warned that Spain would be targeted for backing the Iraq war. The Times reported a senior Al-Qaeda official as declaring:
As with the London bombings, the political stakes were high. David Sharrock explained in the Times:
With remarkable cynicism, the Spanish government instantly blamed the Basque separatist group Eta. Spain’s interior minister, Angel Acebes, said:
Despite the obvious interest of the Spanish government, the threats issued by al Qaeda, and the fact that a van with seven detonators and Arabic language tapes with Koranic verses had been found in the town of Alcala de Henares outside Madrid, politicians, intelligent services and the media rushed to affirm the fraudulent claims of the Spanish government. The Guardian reported how George Bush had offered his condolences:
Leslie Crawford wrote in the Financial Times:
Bowing to the official version of events in their customary manner, the Guardian editors wrote: “the assumption that Eta, or some faction of it, was planning an overwhelming strike on the eve of a general election is reasonable enough”. 11
As undeniable facts made a nonsense of this lie, the media began to hint at the grim implications of the truth. The Daily Telegraph warned:
The Observer reported widely held sentiments across Spain when it quoted one mourner of the Madrid bombings.
A Guardian editorial commented:
Curiously, the media did not decry these rational observations as shameful apologetics for terror.
By contrast, since the London attacks, the suggestion that the same Londoners who opposed Blair’s foreign policy have paid for his actions with their lives, has been met with outrage and denial. In an article entitled ‘The twisted logic of Galloway‘, the Daily Mail reported Respect MP George Galloway‘s reaction to the London attacks:
This was pretty much what our own press had concluded in the aftermath of the Madrid attacks - a conclusion accepted by virtually the entire Spanish population.
In response, Armed Forces Minister Adam Ingram, described Galloway as a “foul mouthed… thug” who was “dipping his poisonous tongue in a pool of blood”. 16
The Sun wrote:
Christopher Hitchens wrote in the Mirror:
Interviewing Galloway on the BBC’s flagship Newsnight programme, presenter Gavin Esler asked in response to Galloway‘s statement:
Esler asked again:
For a third time, Esler asked:
And yet, on the same day, Alan Cowell wrote of the attacks in the New York Times:
A week later, the New York Times reported:
The influential think tank Chatham House, formerly known as the Royal Institute of International Affairs, concludes there is “no doubt” the invasion of Iraq has “given a boost to the al-Qaida network” in “propaganda, recruitment and fundraising”, while providing an ideal targeting and training area for terrorists. “Riding pillion with a powerful ally has proved costly in terms of British and US military lives, Iraqi lives, military expenditure and the damage caused to the counter-terrorism campaign.” 22
It is a remarkable state of affairs when ‘liberal’ media outrage is contradicted even by government dossiers. A 2004 joint Home Office and Foreign Office dossier prepared for Tony Blair — ‘Young Muslims and Extremism’ — identified the Iraq war as a key cause of young Britons turning to terrorism. The analysis stated:
The analysis identified Iraq as a “recruiting sergeant” for extremism [sic].
Earlier, an assessment prepared by the Joint Intelligence Committee five weeks before the invasion of Iraq (February 10, 2003) entitled ‘International Terrorism: War with Iraq,’ had said:
Robert Fisk has provided a rare example of honesty:
Understanding that the costs of wilful blindness are high, the Financial Times essentially echoed Galloway:
The FT, needless to say, has not been described as “wicked“, ”crass“ or “twisted“.
In a display of cynicism that easily rivals Aznar‘s performance, Blair instantly dismissed the idea that the London attacks were linked to British involvement in Iraq. Blair said on July 10:
This was a classic Blair deception. September 11 did happen before the 2003 Iraq war, but it did not happen before the 1991 Iraq war, which devastated the country with the equivalent power of seven Hiroshima-sized bombs. Eric Hoskins, a Canadian doctor and coordinator of a Harvard study team, reported in January 1992 that the allied bombardment “effectively terminated everything vital to human survival in Iraq - electricity, water, sewage systems, agriculture, industry and health care“. 28
And September 11 did not happen before a decade of US-UK sanctions had killed Iraqi civilians in their hundreds of thousands. As Blair must know, Osama bin Laden has been clear about his motives for the September 11 attacks. In a September 19, 2001 appearance on the David Letterman show, ABC journalist John Miller described how bin Laden had told him in an interview that his top three issues were “the US military presence in Saudi Arabia; US support for Israel; and US policy toward Iraq”.
Attacking Iraq yet again in 2003, much less occupying the country, was an act of breathtaking madness for anyone concerned with promoting peace and reducing terror and war.
Behind the impassioned, Churchillian rhetoric, one overwhelming fact is clear - the protection of ordinary people is not, and never has been, the highest priority for elites directing US-UK foreign policy.