The day after

“London’s day of terror” screams today’s Guardian. We still know very little about yesterday’s brutality in London. For the latest news, see here, here and here. We will hopefully soon learn about those responsible, find them and prosecute. Such indiscriminate killing is totally unacceptable in any civilised society.

A word of caution, however. Commentators like American Andrew Sullivan may be calling for a greater British commitment to the “War on Terror”, but this is exactly the wrong response. Nothing happens in a vacuum, no matter how brutal the actions. Already, some voices of reason are appearing, though, it must be said, they are virtually absent from the Australian media. We must not allow these terrorist acts to be simply condemned as atrocities (which they clearly were) without understanding the wider context in which they occurred. Iraq is central to such analysis.

When a Western nation launches an illegal and brutal war against a Third World nation and inflicts massive casualties, does anyone truly believe that there will not be a terribly high price for such behaviour? This in no way justifies terrorist actions. Far from it. Rather, Iraq has become the rallying cry for individuals who see an arrogant West inflicting their will on defenceless civilians. We are only receiving a terribly small picture of the current situation in Iraq. Read about the bruatality of “our” actions in Iraq and then say yesterday’s London wasn’t inevitable. American and British soldiers frequently use indiscriminate force against Iraqi civilians, killing hundreds. Sound familiar? It’s a sick and twisted logic, but London could be the weapon of the weak trying to make a very big statement.

Former British Minister Robin Cook offers this in today’s Guardian:

“The danger now is that the west’s current response to the terrorist threat compounds that original error. So long as the struggle against terrorism is conceived as a war that can be won by military means, it is doomed to fail. The more the west emphasises confrontation, the more it silences moderate voices in the Muslim world who want to speak up for cooperation. Success will only come from isolating the terrorists and denying them support, funds and recruits, which means focusing more on our common ground with the Muslim world than on what divides us.”

And this from the Nation’s Maria Margaronis:

“It hasn’t come out of the blue – there is no blue for it to come from anymore. It feels more like the other shoe dropping, which brings a kind of relief: Though this was terrible and there may be more to come, everyone knows it could have been much worse. After the lies that took us into war and their long-drawn-out exposure, it won’t be easy for Blair to use the attacks to whip up another crusade – though they will probably speed the government’s identity-card legislation. It’s a cliche, but the British really are a pretty stoic lot. We’ve coped with bombs before, though the IRA generally issued warnings and set them off one at a time. With any luck we’ll meet this with cool heads and sharp eyes–on people carrying suspicious bags, but also on our leaders.”

Let’s ignore the calls for more troops in Iraq or Afghanistan or the inevitable escalation in draconian police powers across the UK. Islam must deal with its militancy. Western citizens must never again allow an illegal war to be launched in their name. Tony Blair says: “When they try to divide our people or weaken our resolve, we will not be divided and our resolve will hold firm.” Blair is in no position to be talking about “weakening our resolve.” To hear the various media commentators over the last 18 hours expressing their support of Blair’s strength in the face of this attack beggars belief. The actions of Blair may well be intimately related to this attack.

May common sense prevail.

UPDATE: The Australian Arabic Council issues strong condemnation of the London attacks but adds this:

“It is also a time for leaders of Western countries to reflect on the fact that the “War on Terror” is being lost. Since the formal declaration of the war we have seen an unprecedented number of major terrorist events – it has been reported that the number of what the US Government considers “significant” attacks grew to about 655 last year, up from the previous record of about 175 in 2003.

“The war on terror must address the root causes of terror – injustice, poverty, disenfranchisement and genuine grievances of many about the militaristic power exerted by Western nations led by the US, Britain and Australia. Policies such as the blind support of Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestine and the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan feed fundamentalism and have established fertile breeding grounds for extremism. It is not unreasonable to assume that Australia, as the prime mover behind the US and Britain, is next in line for an attack on our shores. The Australian government’s unquestioning support of US foreign policy has not made Australia a safer place.

“While terrorism will never succeed, the current strategy in confronting it will also not succeed. We need to break the cycle of violence.”

UPDATE 2: Commentator Mike Marqusee talks sense:

“…Blair has already appeared on television to address the nation, pledging to defend “our values” and “our way of life” against those who would “impose extremism on the world”. He spoke of the unity of “civilised nations” in resisting “terrorism”. While the delivery may be slicker, his “us” vs “them” world-view was indistinguishable from Bush’s. Even by Blair’s standards, it was a performance of nauseating hypocrisy, as he sought to seize the moral high ground in relation to violence and destruction that he himself helped unleash.”

UPDATE 3: Tariq Ali in the Guardian:

“At the beginning of the G8, Blair suggested that “poverty was the cause of terrorism”. It is not so. The principal cause of this violence is the violence being inflicted on the people of the Muslim world. And unless this is recognised, the horrors will continue.”

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