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August 29, 2005

Politics of Terrorism, Comparative Edition

Tony Blair's unending cycle of Bush-related problems gained a new twist this week with a leaked document from the head of the Foreign Service warning Blair that British policy in Iraq and the Middle East was feeding Islamic radicalism and doing wonders for recruitment. That's not necessarily surprising, one needs only the barest flicker of sentience to intuit that every time we blow up an Iraqi wedding or refuse to disavow permanent bases we give some Islamic extremist that last push towards violence. What is interesting, though, is the cultural difference between the politics of terrorism across the Atlantic and the way it plays out here. To wit:

Blair has consistently denied a link between Britain's participation in the U.S.-led war in Iraq and the July 7 bombings, which killed 52 people, along with the four presumed bombers, and injured 700 others on three London subways and a bus. Blair has said the accused bombers -- all young Muslim men, several of them British citizens -- were motivated by a "perverse" interpretation of Islam and that similar attacks had been happening since long before the Iraq war began.

In America, Bush's whole rationale for war is based on a terrorist attack from four years ago. Instead of trying to lessen our footprint to calm tensions in the region that cultivated our attackers, the current administration has relied on a rhetoric of revenge: they struck, so we'll hit harder. Were we hit again, the Bush administration would likely institute a draft and flood the Middle East with American troops in service of a wholesale destruction and regeneration of the current order.

England, by contrast, seems basically resigned to the reality of terrorism and don't want to do anything that will make it worse. A history of dealing with its illogic and persistence (in the form of the IRA) is probably causal in that. So rather than using the bombings as proof for his involvement in Bush's Middle East project, Blair has to convince the British that they were an unconnected, inevitable act that would've occurred whether or not British boots had landed in Mesopotamia. That, of course, is absurd. At the same time, Bush's connections to 9/11 are boldfaced, smirking lies. And that's what the Iraq War has come to; a losing conflict justified by one participant's revenge fantasy's and the other's feigned naivete.

August 29, 2005 in Terrorism | Permalink


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"Blair has consistently denied a link between Britain's participation in the U.S.-led war in Iraq and the July 7 bombings, which killed 52 people, along with the four presumed bombers, and injured 700 others on three London subways and a bus."

Let's say England had not gone to Iraq, you don't think they would have been bombed? Do you actually believe terrorists are that honorable?

Why was Bali, Indonesia bombed, killing over 200 people?

Why were we attacked on 9/11?

Americans did not ponder on why Japan was justified in attacking Pearl Harbor, America just concentrated on defeating Japan.

Posted by: Captain Toke | Aug 29, 2005 3:01:17 PM

"Americans did not ponder on why Japan was justified in attacking Pearl Harbor, America just concentrated on defeating Japan."

And Germany, and Italy.

Posted by: Captain Toke | Aug 29, 2005 3:41:20 PM

"Let's say England had not gone to Iraq, you don't think they would have been bombed?"

The Brits have been ridiculously Muslim-bombing-free considering their Imperial history in the ME. In general, Muslims (including the terroists) have seen Britain as being the most Muslim-immigrant-friendly of the European countries, especially compared to France and Germany. In a way, leaving the Brits alone has been a boon to the terrorist leaders, since it provides a reasonably safe place to send "Michael" after a bombing. Sans helping Bush, London would have been far down the list of bombable places, simply because it would be like burning down a safe house. In contrast, Indonesia has experienced some rather heated internal conflicts lately; 10 to 1 the Bali bombing was triggered based more on local events than because Step #12,235 of Osama's Big Plan for Global Terror demanded it.

Posted by: Phalamir | Aug 29, 2005 5:13:06 PM

My, my, my...we have a selective memory of recent and not-so-recent history. Clinton was soft on Osama and so bin Laden spared America, no? Look back in history to WW2 and repeat to the British how Neville Chamberlain's appeasement was able to guarantee peace for the Brits.
If you don't confront it earlier, you will pay a heavier price later (in lives). Blair understands it and so now do the Brits.

Posted by: marvls | Aug 29, 2005 5:58:26 PM

Actually, the point of what's going on is that the Brits don't understand it. And Britain, as I've explained before, had been declared a sanctuary. Here's Gilles Kepel:

"On the issue of asylum, London and Paris took positions dimatreically opposed to each other. London, still traumatized by the Salman Rushdie affair, freely gave safe haven to militants from all over the world. Paris, on the other hand, whose political landscape had for some time been distrubed by controversy over the wearing of the veil in state schools, kept its frontiers firmly closed to militants. Thus, in the final years of the twentieth century, Great Britain became the axis around with the small world that had coalesced at Peshawar in the 1980'revolved. In return for this hospitality, the militants declared Britain a sanctuary: no act of terrorism was committed there, and the refugee activists made no attempt to stir up the young Indo-Pakistanis".

You know what's sweet? Knowing what you're talking about.

Posted by: Ezra | Aug 29, 2005 7:14:57 PM

So you think the terrorists are honorable enough to keep their word, that they would not attack England cuz they coddle Islamists?

Why were we attacked on 9/11? I know we were no sanctuary for terrorists, but we weren't in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Was it cuz we support Israel?

What if England had just supported our war effort in Iraq, and not sent troops. Do you think the terrorists would have attacked them?

Maybe the terrorists attacked London cuz it was a high-profile, soft target. After all, it was a haven for Islamic-Fascists terrorists. It is common to see young arab men get on the subway with backpacks.

Why did al Qaeda attack Bali, Indonesia? Indonesia is 88% Muslim!

Nooooo, they wouldn't attack their own or those friendly to them. Terrorists are honorable!

Posted by: Captain Toke | Aug 29, 2005 8:03:07 PM

Tony Blair and John Howard gave a press conference today, and one of the reporters asked Howard whether the London Bombings took place because of England's participation in the Iraq war. Here is his response:

Can I remind you that the murder of 88 Australians in Bali took place before the opertion in Iraq? I remind you that the eleventh of September took place before the operation in Iraq. And I also remind you that the very first occasion that Bin Laden specifically referred to Australia was in the context of liberating the people of East Timor. Are people by implication suggesting that we should not have done that? When a group claimed responsibility on the website for the attacks on the seventh of July, they talked about British policy not just in Iraq, but in Afghanistan. Are people suggesting that we should not be in Afghanistan? When Sergio DeMello was murdered in Iraq; a brave man, a distinguished international diplomat, a person immensely respected for his work in the United Nations - when Al Qaeda gloated about that, they referred specifically to the role that DeMello had carried out in East Timor, because he was the United Nations administrator in East Timor. Now, I don't know the mind of a terrorist, by definition, you can't put yourself in the mind of a successful suicide bomber.
I can only look at objective facts. And the objective facts are as I have cited. The objective evidence is that Australia was a terrorist target well before the operation in Iraq.

Before anyone asks what Australia or East Timor have to do with the London Bombings, I will spell out the point. Terrorists do not need an excuse to attack.

They attacked London cuz they could.

Posted by: Captain Toke | Aug 29, 2005 8:23:34 PM

"England, by contrast, seems basically resigned to the reality of terrorism and don't want to do anything that will make it worse."

Britain, not England.

Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Aug 30, 2005 6:34:51 AM

Britain, not England.

Yeah, England seems to be a dirty word. The PC police won't let you use it. Over here, we can't use "War between the States" even though it is actually more accurate than 'Civil War'.

You must be the 'enforcer' for the Brits.

Posted by: Fred Jones | Aug 30, 2005 8:28:18 AM

"Bush's connections to 9/11 are boldfaced, smirking lies"


Those who try to whitewash Saddam's record don't dispute this evidence; they just ignore it. So let's review the evidence, all of it on the public record for months or years:

* Abdul Rahman Yasin was the only member of the al Qaeda cell that detonated the 1993 World Trade Center bomb to remain at large in the Clinton years. He fled to Iraq. U.S. forces recently discovered a cache of documents in Tikrit, Saddam's hometown, that show that Iraq gave Mr. Yasin both a house and monthly salary.

* Bin Laden met at least eight times with officers of Iraq's Special Security Organization, a secret police agency run by Saddam's son Qusay, and met with officials from Saddam's mukhabarat, its external intelligence service, according to intelligence made public by Secretary of State Colin Powell, who was speaking before the United Nations Security Council on February 6, 2003.

* Sudanese intelligence officials told me that their agents had observed meetings between Iraqi intelligence agents and bin Laden starting in 1994, when bin Laden lived in Khartoum.

* Bin Laden met the director of the Iraqi mukhabarat in 1996 in Khartoum, according to Mr. Powell.

* An al Qaeda operative now held by the U.S. confessed that in the mid-1990s, bin Laden had forged an agreement with Saddam's men to cease all terrorist activities against the Iraqi dictator, Mr. Powell told the United Nations.

* In 1999 the Guardian, a British newspaper, reported that Farouk Hijazi, a senior officer in Iraq's mukhabarat, had journeyed deep into the icy mountains near Kandahar, Afghanistan, in December 1998 to meet with al Qaeda men. Mr. Hijazi is "thought to have offered bin Laden asylum in Iraq," the Guardian reported.

* In October 2000, another Iraqi intelligence operative, Salah Suleiman, was arrested near the Afghan border by Pakistani authorities, according to Jane's Foreign Report, a respected international newsletter. Jane's reported that Suleiman was shuttling between Iraqi intelligence and Ayman al Zawahiri, now al Qaeda's No. 2 man.

(Why are all of those meetings significant? The London Observer reports that FBI investigators cite a captured al Qaeda field manual in Afghanistan, which "emphasizes the value of conducting discussions about pending terrorist attacks face to face, rather than by electronic means.")

* As recently as 2001, Iraq's embassy in Pakistan was used as a "liaison" between the Iraqi dictator and al Qaeda, Mr. Powell told the United Nations.

* Spanish investigators have uncovered documents seized from Yusuf Galan -- who is charged by a Spanish court with being "directly involved with the preparation and planning" of the Sept. 11 attacks -- that show the terrorist was invited to a party at the Iraqi embassy in Madrid. The invitation used his "al Qaeda nom de guerre," London's Independent reports.

* An Iraqi defector to Turkey, known by his cover name as "Abu Mohammed," told Gwynne Roberts of the Sunday Times of London that he saw bin Laden's fighters in camps in Iraq in 1997. At the time, Mohammed was a colonel in Saddam's Fedayeen. He described an encounter at Salman Pak, the training facility southeast of Baghdad. At that vast compound run by Iraqi intelligence, Muslim militants trained to hijack planes with knives -- on a full-size Boeing 707. Col. Mohammed recalls his first visit to Salman Pak this way: "We were met by Colonel Jamil Kamil, the camp manager, and Major Ali Hawas. I noticed that a lot of people were queuing for food. (The major) said to me: 'You'll have nothing to do with these people. They are Osama bin Laden's group and the PKK and Mojahedin-e Khalq.'"

* In 1998, Abbas al-Janabi, a longtime aide to Saddam's son Uday, defected to the West. At the time, he repeatedly told reporters that there was a direct connection between Iraq and al Qaeda.

*The Sunday Times found a Saddam loyalist in a Kurdish prison who claims to have been Dr. Zawahiri's bodyguard during his 1992 visit with Saddam in Baghdad. Dr. Zawahiri was a close associate of bin Laden at the time and was present at the founding of al Qaeda in 1989.

* Following the defeat of the Taliban, almost two dozen bin Laden associates "converged on Baghdad and established a base of operations there," Mr. Powell told the United Nations in February 2003. From their Baghdad base, the secretary said, they supervised the movement of men, materiel and money for al Qaeda's global network.

* In 2001, an al Qaeda member "bragged that the situation in Iraq was 'good,'" according to intelligence made public by Mr. Powell.

* That same year, Saudi Arabian border guards arrested two al Qaeda members entering the kingdom from Iraq.

* Abu Musaab al-Zarqawi oversaw an al Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan, Mr. Powell told the United Nations. His specialty was poisons. Wounded in fighting with U.S. forces, he sought medical treatment in Baghdad in May 2002. When Zarqawi recovered, he restarted a training camp in northern Iraq. Zarqawi's Iraq cell was later tied to the October 2002 murder of Lawrence Foley, an official of the U.S. Agency for International Development, in Amman, Jordan. The captured assassin confessed that he received orders and funds from Zarqawi's cell in Iraq, Mr. Powell said. His accomplice escaped to Iraq.

*Zarqawi met with military chief of al Qaeda, Mohammed Ibrahim Makwai (aka Saif al-Adel) in Iran in February 2003, according to intelligence sources cited by the Washington Post.

* Mohammad Atef, the head of al Qaeda's military wing until the U.S. killed him in Afghanistan in November 2001, told a senior al Qaeda member now in U.S. custody that the terror network needed labs outside of Afghanistan to manufacture chemical weapons, Mr. Powell said. "Where did they go, where did they look?" said the secretary. "They went to Iraq."

* Abu Abdullah al-Iraqi was sent to Iraq by bin Laden to purchase poison gases several times between 1997 and 2000. He called his relationship with Saddam's regime "successful," Mr. Powell told the United Nations.

* Mohamed Mansour Shahab, a smuggler hired by Iraq to transport weapons to bin Laden in Afghanistan, was arrested by anti-Hussein Kurdish forces in May, 2000. He later told his story to American intelligence and a reporter for the New Yorker magazine.

* Documents found among the debris of the Iraqi Intelligence Center show that Baghdad funded the Allied Democratic Forces, a Ugandan terror group led by an Islamist cleric linked to bin Laden. According to a London's Daily Telegraph, the organization offered to recruit "youth to train for the jihad" at a "headquarters for international holy warrior network" to be established in Baghdad.

* Mullah Melan Krekar, ran a terror group (the Ansar al-Islam) linked to both bin Laden and Saddam Hussein. Mr. Krekar admitted to a Kurdish newspaper that he met bin Laden in Afghanistan and other senior al Qaeda officials. His acknowledged meetings with bin Laden go back to 1988. When he organized Ansar al Islam in 2001 to conduct suicide attacks on Americans, "three bin Laden operatives showed up with a gift of $300,000 'to undertake jihad,'" Newsday reported. Mr. Krekar is now in custody in the Netherlands. His group operated in portion of northern Iraq loyal to Saddam Hussein -- and attacked independent Kurdish groups hostile to Saddam. A spokesman for the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan told a United Press International correspondent that Mr. Krekar's group was funded by "Saddam Hussein's regime in Baghdad."

* After October 2001, hundreds of al Qaeda fighters are believed to have holed up in the Ansar al-Islam's strongholds inside northern Iraq.

"You know what's sweet? Knowing what you're talking about."

It sure is. Sweet that is.

Posted by: Captain Toke | Aug 30, 2005 10:42:27 AM

"Yeah, England seems to be a dirty word. The PC police won't let you use it."

You what? It's the wrong bloody word. Tony Blair is prime minister of Britain, not England. Accuracy has nothing to do with PC. It's like saying "Let's say Texas had not gone to Iraq".

Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Aug 30, 2005 11:11:35 AM

He's the PM of the UK. 'Britain' doesn't include Northern Ireland.

Posted by: yoyo | Aug 30, 2005 12:22:11 PM

"Britain"="the UK"=United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland

Ironically enough, the formal term Great Britain excludes NI, whereas the informal Britain does not.

Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Aug 30, 2005 1:05:37 PM

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