By Duncan McFarlane
Nine years have passed since Tony Blair was first elected Prime Minister of the UK – and five years into the ‘war on terror’ which began on September 11th. Yet once again he has shown that he is still deceiving himself about the causes of the continuing growth of Al Qa’ida and his own responsibility for it.
Giving evidence to the commons liason committee the Prime minister started some sentences well
“The government can't defeat this alone. You've got to defeat the ideas…..”
This is the key point - Al Qa'ida's interpretation of the Koran claims that Muslims can kill non-combatants - whether Muslims or non-Muslim - as part of Jihad. This is a belief opposed by every other sect of Islam - Shia, Sunni, Salafi, Wahabbi and all the others. There is no justification for carrying out attacks which either target non-combatants or which the planners know will kill non-combatants in the Koran or in any decent world view
But even the sentences Blair started well ended badly:
“……… and the completely false sense of grievance against the west……You can't defeat the ideology of extremist Islam by saying we half agree with your grievances but you're wrong to deal with it that way - you have to defeat it entirely.”
British Muslims are supposedly to blame for the July 7th bombings as Blair feels they’re not tackling the minority of extremists. Blair’s decision to involve Britain in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq weren’t mentioned by him as causes of the attack since raising these is meant to be part of the ‘false sense of grievance’..
Blair claims that Muslims must not only tell extremists like Al Qa’ida that their violent methods are wrong (a statement we can all agree with) but that ‘their grievances are false’.
So not only is it the Muslim community – not the most powerful man in the country – who are to be held responsible for preventing terrorism but they must also deny reality by pretending that the Iraq war was not a mistake and no civilians have been or are being killed or tortured by coalition forces as a result of orders given by their superiors.
It’s not only Muslims who have a problem with that version of events. It is not even controversial among most people in Britain to note the obvious – that the July 7th bombings probably wouldn’t have happened if British troops weren’t in Afghanistan and Iraq.
As for Blair’s claim that Muslims have no legitimate grievances that stretches credulity a long way between the continuing war crimes(as described by Amnesty International) committed by Israeli forces in the occupied territories, US and British support for the Israeli government , and British and American troops still occupying Iraq and Afghanistan – and continuing military offensives that kill civilians as often as enemy combatants despite pleas by Hamid Karzai, the President of Afghanistan installed by the Bush administration, to stop.
Amnesty International say torture by coalition forces in Iraq has been widespread and not a few soldiers out of control. Human Rights Watch report that torture is an unofficial policy of the Bush administration.
To quote Amnesty International’s last annual report on Iraq
“Both the US-led Multinational Force (MNF) and Iraqi security forces committed grave human rights violations, including torture and ill-treatment, arbitrary detention without charge or trial, and excessive use of force resulting in civilian deaths. Armed groups fighting against the MNF and the Iraqi government were responsible for grave human rights abuses, including the deliberate killing of thousands of civilians in bomb and other attacks, hostage-taking and torture” In other words the Bush administration and its allies are guilty of killings and human rights abuses – not just their enemies.
When the USAAF killed Al Qa’ida’s ‘number two’ Zarqawi they also killed five other people including a child – and this air strike was a relative success which identified the right target. For every Al Qa’ida or Taliban fighter killed in military strikes and offensives in Iraq and Afghanistan many civilians have been killed when the wrong target is hit or when they are caught between the two sides – and the offensives and air strikes continue.
Since the enemies we’re fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq are heavily outnumbered by opponents with superior technology and air support they have to adopt either guerrilla attacks against military targets or else terrorism against civilians as their strategy. Terrorism against civilians is wrong – all violence – by the occupiers or those opposing them – may be condemned – but guerrilla tactics that only target combatants are not terrorism – they are a form of warfare adopted by a side which couldn’t survive in regular warfare.
This puts our own troops in the unenviable position of being unable to easily distinguish combatants from non-combatants. Even those who attempt to avoid killing civilians may end up killing more civilians than enemy combatants. This , combined with torture and war crimes in which innocent people are deliberately murdered - as at Haditha – lead many Iraqis and Afghans to support taking revenge by any means possible, just as September 11th led Americans to take revenge on Iraqis despite the fact that Iraqis had no involvement in those attacks.
So our troops’ presence in these countries does not combat terrorism – it ends up often being a form of terrorism and it recruits more terrorists than it kills.
Unfortunately Tony Blair can continue to appear ‘sincere’ in his belief that military action in Iraq and Afghanistan is the only option and the morally right choice due to his apparently limitless ability to deceive himself. Nothing is ever really his responsibility. No criticisms of his policies have any validity to him. He rationalises any criticism as being due to a personal vendetta against him. There are , supposedly, no alternative policies proposed by his critics despite the obvious fact that there are many alternative policies proposed by other people – many of which, unlike continuing occupation and offensives in Iraq and Afghanistan, would not strengthen Al Qa’ida.
It is no secret that Muslims aren’t the only ones to have their minority of extremists who rely on violence and refuse to consider alternatives to it – we have them leading governments on both sides of the Atlantic as well.
If Labour and Conservative MPs don’t realise their policies on Iraq and Afghanistan have to change as much because they have failed as because they are morally wrong then they will pay the price of allowing their party leaders to pointlessly throw away the lives of so many of our troops (and Iraqi and Afghan civilians) at the next election.
Stop the War Coalition
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