Tag Archives: Terrorism

Tell Me Lies About Afghanistan

Tell Me Lies About Afghanistan
by Ian Sinclair
Morning Star
15 September 2021

The omissions and distortions that have been made by politicians about Afghanistan over the last few weeks, echoed by much of the media, have been so big and unremitting it’s easy to start questioning one’s own grip on reality. Why are the media giving so much airtime to the politicians and senior military figures responsible for the carnage in Afghanistan? Why is no one pointing out it was the violent Western occupation of the country that fuelled the rise of the Taliban-led resistance? Or that the West worked closely with warlords and human rights abusing militias? That the West backed the “worst crazies” amongst the Mujahideen forces in the 80s?

A recent edition of BBC Radio 4’s Any Questions political debate programme raised the propaganda and dishonesty to stratastrophic levels.

Asked by an audience member if the war in Afghanistan has been a failure, James Heappey, the Minister for the Armed Forces who served in Helmand himself, replied “In the 20 years that have followed [the 9/11 attacks] there have been no international terrorism attacks from Afghanistan into the West, and in that sense it was successful… on the macro level, no international terrorism. That’s success.”

No one, not BBC presenter Chris Mason, the other three guests or any of the audience said anything in response to this disingenuous BS. Frustratingly, fellow panellist Diane Abbott MP, who boldly opposed the UK participation in parliament in 2001, made a similar argument herself:  “If you are going to look at it in narrow security terms, you can point to some success. Osama bin Laden was found and killed and so on”. Note: Bin Laden was killed in Pakistan, not Afghanistan.

Presumably on a list of talking points given to Tory appearing in the media, Prime Minister Boris Johnson made the same point as Heappey in his “address to the nation” on 29 August: “To the families and loved ones of those British troops who gave their all, your suffering and your hardship were not in vain. It was no accident that there has been no terrorist attack launched against Britain or any other Western country from Afghanistan in the last 20 years.”

There are several obvious flaws in this astonishingly deceitful claim.

First, terrorist attacks have taken place in the UK and US that have been inspired by the US-UK invasion and occupation of Afghanistan.

In his martydom video Shehzad Tanweer, one of the suicide bombers who killed 52 people in London on 7 July 2005, said “What you have witnessed now is only the beginning of a string of attacks that will continue and become stronger until you pull your forces out of Afghanistan and Iraq and until you stop your financial and military support to America and Israel”.

Michael Adebolajo was clear why he killed British soldier Lee Rigby in London in 2013, telling a woman who spoke to him: “I killed him because he kills Muslims over there and I am fed up that people kill Muslims in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

And according to the Huffington Post, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, one of the perpetrators of the April 2013 Boston Marathon bombings, “told interrogators that the American wars in Iraq and Afghanistan motivated him and his brother to carry out the attack”.

Second, it is widely understood by intelligence agencies and experts that the West’s military intervention in Afghanistan led to a heightened terrorist threat to the West.

In 2004 the UK’s Home Office and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office co-published a report titled Young Muslims and Extremism. The study concluded that a major driver of “extremism” among young British Muslims was “a perceived ‘double standard’ in the foreign policy of western governments… in particular Britain and the US”. The study elaborated: “the war on terror, and in Iraq and Afghanistan are all seen by a section of British Muslims as having been acts against Islam”.

After Prime Minister David Cameron claimed in 2010 that British troops in Afghanistan made people “safe and secure back home in the UK”, Richard Barrett, a former Director of Global Counter Terrorism Operations at MI6, was scathing: “I’ve never heard such nonsense… I’m quite sure if there were no foreign troops in Afghanistan, there’d be less agitation in Leeds, or wherever, about… what Western intentions are in Afghanistan and Pakistan.”

The establishment Chatham House thinktank came to a similar conclusion, noting in a briefing published just after 7/7 “The UK is at particular risk [from al Qaeda terrorist attacks] because it is the closest ally of the United States” and “has deployed armed forces in the military campaigns to topple the Taleban regime in Afghanistan and in Iraq… 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.”

The final problem with the government’s claim that the war stopped terrorism on the West from Afghanistan is that it’s based on a simplistic understanding of the 11 September 2001 terror attacks – that it was necessary for terrorists to “have a safe haven to plan and launch attacks on America and other civilized nations”, as President George Bush explained in 2006.

In reality we know 9/11 was “conceived and initially planned in Germany, that the training was carried out in the US and that most of the hijackers were Saudi”, as Frank Ledwidge explained in his 2013 book Investment In Blood: The Trust Cost Of Britain’s Afghan War. 7/7, the 2017 Manchester Arena bombing and London Bridge attacks – none of the perpetrators of these atrocities required a “safe haven” to deliver death and destruction in the UK.

Indeed, as foreign policy analyst Micah Zenko argued in his 2015 article The Myth of the Terrorist Safe Haven, “Americans, themselves, have been responsible for 50 percent of plots and attacks against the United States since 9/11, followed by Brits at 21 percent.”

“If anywhere is a safe haven for terrorism against the United States, it is America.” Ditto the UK.

In addition, Western military action in so-called safe havens increases terrorist attacks on Western forces in these countries. Zenko again: “According to the State Department and Global Terrorism Database, of the 335 Americans who have died from terrorism since 9/11, 268, or 80 percent, died within Iraq or Afghanistan — the very places where the United States started wars to prevent or destroy safe havens.”

The government’s focus on the impact of the British war in Afghanistan on terrorism in the West serves a broader purpose: obscuring the real reason for the UK intervention. Ledwidge explains: the UK was involved so heavily in Afghanistan (and Iraq) because of “the perceived necessity of retaining the closest possible links with the US.” This, he notes, “is accepted in private by most politicians and senior soldiers.”

After his staff interviewed over 600 people with firsthand experience of the war, the head of the US government’s Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, told the Washington Post “the American people have constantly been lied to” for 20 years.

The Post’s impressive December 2019 reporting of the $11 million Lessons Learned project was covered by the UK media, but has been quickly forgotten, and hasn’t framed the subsequent political debate and media coverage of the conflict. There has, in short, been no national reckoning in the UK about the Afghan war, no public inquiry. The families and loved ones of the 457 members of the British armed forces who were killed in Afghanistan, and the thousands of civilians who died at the hands of the British military, deserve the to hear the truth.

Follow Ian on Twitter @IanJSinclair.

How does UK foreign policy raise the terror threat in the UK?

How does UK foreign policy raise the terror threat in the UK?
by Ian Sinclair
Morning Star
5 June 2017

We are in the middle of a high stakes propaganda war.

With the Conservative poll lead shrinking by the day, the establishment have been throwing everything it has got at Jeremy Corbyn to put a stop to his increasingly credible bid for Downing Street.

Perhaps sensing the floodgates of the Tory attack machine would be opened after the atrocity in Manchester carried out by Salman Abedi on 22 May 2017, the Labour leader did the smart thing and took control of the narrative himself. “Many experts, including professionals in our intelligence and security services have pointed to the connections between wars our government has supported or fought in other countries, such as Libya, and terrorism here at home”, Corbyn explained when electioneering started up again on 26 May 2017.

Though much of the press didn’t take kindly to this argument, a YouGov poll found 53 percent of people agreed with Corbyn that the wars the UK has supported or fought are partly responsible for terror attacks in the UK (24 percent of people disagreed). However, despite – or perhaps because of – the broad public support for this position, Theresa May and her cabinet have continued to smear Corbyn on the topic by wilfully misrepresenting his argument.

With this in mind, it is worth summarising the three main ways UK foreign policy has increased the terror threat to the UK — a task made even more important in light of the terrorist attack in London on Saturday.

The first is the most simple and direct relationship – UK wars in the Middle East have created a well of anger that has energised and motivated a number of people to carry out terrorist attacks on British soil. “Until we feel security, you will be our targets,” Mohammad Sidique Khan stated in his 7/7 suicide bombing martyrdom video. “Until you stop the bombing, gassing, imprisonment and torture of my people we will not stop this fight. We are at war and I am a soldier. Now you too will taste the reality of this situation.” According to a report in the Independent, the last message left on the WhatsApp messaging service by Khalid Masood, the perpetrator of the 22 March 2017 Westminster attack, “declared that he was waging jihad in revenge against Western military action in Muslim countries in the Middle East.” Similarly, Abedi’s sister told the Wall Street Journal “He saw the explosives America drops on children in Syria, and he wanted revenge”.

These justifications concur with the testimony of the former head of MI5, Baroness Manningham-Buller, who told the Iraq Inquiry in 2010 that the 2003 invasion of Iraq “substantially” increased the terrorist threat to the UK.

Interestingly, those who try to downplay or deny a link between terrorist attacks and UK foreign policy, such as Jonathan Freedland in his recent Guardian piece titled It’s A Delusion To Think This Is All About Our Foreign Policy, focus their attention on this connection alone, thus creating straw man to knock down. The link, as Freedland surely knows, is deeper than this.

The second way UK foreign policy increases the terror threat to the UK was set out by Corbyn in the Channel 4/Sky Battle for Number 10 programme: “We have to have a foreign policy… that doesn’t leave large areas without any effective government… which can become a breeding ground of enormous danger to all of us.” In a video for Novara Media, Dr David Wearing from SOAS, University of London fleshes out this thesis. Islamic State (ISIS) “grew out of and flourished in the chaos created by the 2003 invasion of Iraq”, he argues, before also explaining the UK-backed Saudi bombing in Yemen has created a “chaotic situation” in which Al-Qaeda and ISIS have grown in strength. “ISIS and Al Qaeda they love the chaos created by conflict”, he notes. “That’s where they thrive, that’s where they operate, that’s where they exploit people’s grievances.” Ditto Libya, where the 2011 NATO intervention contributed to “political and economic collapse, inter-militia and inter-tribal warfare, humanitarian and migrant crises, widespread human rights violations, the spread of Gaddafi regime weapons across the region and the growth of ISIL [ISIS]”, according to a 2016 House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee report. And it is not just overt military intervention. In Syria the West has covertly armed rebels and played a little known role in blocking peace negotiations, thus helping to intensify and prolong the conflict, creating the perfect conditions for extremist groups to prosper.

The third connection is largely ignored by Westminster and mainstream commentators: the longstanding diplomatic, military and economic support the UK has given to its close ally Saudi Arabia.

The authoritarian Gulf monarchy – propped up by the UK and US – has “exported more extreme ideology than any other place on earth over the course of the last 30 years”, according to the former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaking in 2013.

Starting in the late 1970s, Saudi Arabia made huge efforts to spread its extremist form of Islam, Wahhabism, across the world. “They took the massive petro dollars they had accumulated and started spreading it, creating these madrassas, or schools, aswell as mosques, importing Imans and teachers and then sending them back home indoctrinated”, Medea Benjamin, author of Kingdom of the Unjust: Behind the US-Saudi Connection, told me last year.

The UK has not been immune to this influence. “It is no secret that Saudi Arabia in particular provides funding to hundreds of mosques in the UK, espousing a very hardline Wahhabist interpretation of Islam”, Tom Brake, the Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesperson, recently wrote to the UK Prime Minister. “It is often in these institutions that British extremism takes root.”

While Corbyn is repeatedly grilled about his relationship with the IRA and Hamas, the fact the Tory Government has been selling billions of pounds of armaments to the biggest exporter of “extreme ideology” on the planet has been swept under the carpet by our so-called fearless fourth estate. A more perfect example of the propaganda function of the media you’ll be hard pressed to find.

Finally, recent reports point to one more example of how UK foreign policy likely heightens the terror threat. “MI5, the UK’s domestic intelligence agency, facilitated the travel of many Islamist Mancunians back to Libya” to fight the Libyan government, according to the Financial Times. The Middle East Eye news website provides more detail, noting British authorities “operated an ‘open door’ policy that allowed Libyan exiles and British-Libyan citizens to join the 2011 uprising that toppled Muammar Gaddafi even though some had been subject to counter-terrorism control orders.” The Financial Times notes that security officials have repeatedly highlighted the dangerous dynamics of the Syrian war – which are also applicable to Libya: “a cohort of young Britons who will be brutalised by the conflict, skilled in the trade and tools of war, connected to transnational networks of fellow fighters by powerful bonds of kinship and shared suffering.”

Of course, UK foreign policy is not the sole cause of the terror threat from radical Islamists. However, UK foreign policy is the one aspect of the problem that we have the most influence on – both as UK-based activists and the British government itself. And while it may not eradicate the threat completely, a foreign policy that does not repeatedly military intervene in the Middle East and prop up dictatorships such as Saudi Arabia would likely significantly reduce the terror threat to the UK. With the UK’s stretched security services reportedly currently investigating 3,000 people in the aftermath of the Manchester attack surely this can only be a good thing?

How to counter those who say “9/11 happened before Iraq!” to dismiss UK foreign policy as an explanation for terrorism

How to counter those who say “9/11 happened before Iraq!” to dismiss UK foreign policy as an explanation for terrorism
by Ian Sinclair
3 July 2015

The first question on BBC Question Time last night was about the recent terrorist atrocity in Tunisia. There was a long discussion involving all the panellists, but here are the key quotes:

Jeremy Corbyn MP, Labour leadership candidate: “You’ve got to think through the policies we’ve been following for the past 15 years in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya. Are they not a contributory factor in the collapse of so much all across the whole region?”

Presenter David Dimbleby then asked Corbyn what he would do about the threat from terrorist groups such as Islamic State.

Jeremy Corbyn: “You recognise that we’ve made some catastrophic mistakes in the bombing that we’ve done in so many other places, and that we’ve encouraged the growth of some of these groups – not intentionally but they’ve been a factor within that. And you develop a foreign policy that supports people and tries to attract them away from the purposes of ISIL.”

Jeremy Hunt MP, Health Secretary: “I have great respect for the integrity that Jeremy – the other Jeremy [Corbyn] – expresses his views, but I disagree with him that this is about foreign policy. 9/11 happened before Iraq, before Afghanistan. Foreign policy is an excuse.”

Jeremy Hunt is, of course, right that “9/11 happened before Iraq, before Afghanistan.” However, by making this argument Hunt is either incredibly ignorant or being incredibly disingenuous.

Western foreign policy and Western intervention in the Middle East didn’t begin on the morning of 11 September 2001. 9/11 didn’t happen in a social, historical and political vacuum. Al-Qaeda and the 19 hijackers didn’t randomly choose the World Trade Center and Pentagon out of all the famous landmarks across the globe. They targeted these symbols of US power for very specific reasons.

Speaking to me about Al-Qaeda in 2011, Michael Scheuer, the head of the CIA unit tracking Osama bin Laden from 1996-1999, explained that not since Vietnamese leader Ho Chi Minh has the US had an enemy who has been so frank about their motivation for fighting. For Scheuer Islamic terrorist attacks on the US have nothing “to do with our freedom, liberty and democracy, but everything to do with US policies and actions in the Muslim world.”

So what reasons did Al-Qaeda give for targeting the United States in 2001? In public statements made in 1996, 1998 and 2002 Al-Qaeda repeat a number of grievances:

  • The US military presence in Saudi Arabia
  • US support for dictatorships in the Middle East
  • US support for the Israeli occupation of Palestine
  • The effects of the US-led United Nations sanctions on Iraq

So, very obviously, the 9/11 terrorist attacks were a direct response to US foreign policy in the Middle East. A foreign policy, it’s important to remember, that was strongly supported by the UK. Those people, such as Hunt, who dismiss attempts to look at Western foreign policy as a reason for why the US and UK are being targeted, thus shutting down debate on the topic, are likely helping to make future terrorist attacks on the US and UK more, not less, likely.

“Why do they hate us?” Nothing to do with Western foreign policy, apparently

“Why do they hate us?” Nothing to do with Western foreign policy, apparently
by Ian Sinclair
2 May 2017 (updated)

‘The jury heard that… as Amess lay dying after being stabbed with “severe” force, Ali had said: “I want him dead. I want every parliament minister who signed up for the bombing of Syria who agreed to the Iraqi war to die.”’ – fatal 15 October 2021 attack on David Amess MP by Ali Harbi Ali (Vikram Dodd, ‘Man accused of murdering David Amess scouted home of Michael Gove, court hears’, Guardian, 21 March 2022)

“As long as you keep bombing other countries this sort of s— is going to keep happening.” – 31 December 2018 Manchester Victoria attacker after being arrested, according to eyewitness (Victoria Ward, Helena Horton and Jack Hardy, ‘Manchester Victoria stabbing: police raid suspect’s home after “terror attack” leaves three injured’, Telegraph, 1 January 2019)

‘There is a lot that is out there that you guys don’t know about. In order to get this message across I came back in person. To let you know, those who are running the country, to give them that message. Leave the Muslim lands, just leave them.’ – police interview with Khalid Ali, who was stopped in Whitehall in April 2017 (‘Taliban bomb-maker Khalid Ali guilty of plotting knife attack in Westminster’, Evening Standard, 26 June 2018)

‘Tell everyone that I love them and that they should struggle against the enemies of Allah with their lives and their property. The Queen and her soldiers will all be in the hellfire. They go to war with Muslims around the world and kill them without any mercy. They are the enemies that Allah tells us to fight.’ – suicide note allegedly written by Mohiussunnath Chowdhury before he attacked police with a samurai sword outside Buckingham Palace (‘Man attacked police with sword near Buckingham Palace, court hears’, Guardian, 18 June 2018)

‘The man accused of the Parsons Green Tube bombing blamed Britain and America for the deaths of his parents in Iraq, the Old Bailey has heard. College lecturer Kayte Cable said Ahmed Hassan told her it was “his duty to hate Britain” because of what happened to his family. The court also heard he believed his father had been killed by US bombing… Ms Cable said she could remember Mr Hassan telling her “his father was blown up and his mother had been shot”. She said he talked about Tony Blair and events in Iraq, adding: “I believe the anger was very clear. He referred to being angry several times.”’ – Ahmed Hassan, who is accused of attempting to set off a bomb on the London underground on 15 September 2017 (‘Parsons Green: Tube bomb accused “blamed West for father’s death”’, BBC News, 12 March 2018)

“Officials said Ullah was radicalized online, and had acted in retaliation for US airstrikes in Syria and elsewhere against the Islamic State” – Akayed Ullah, who tried to set off an explosive device in New York City in December 2017 (Jamiles Lartey, ‘New York bombing suspect reportedly posted Trump “failed to protect” US’, Guardian, 12 December 2017)

“Questioned as to why he thought his brother had carried out the atrocity, Butt answered: ‘Foreign policy,’ adding: ‘We were from the same womb but we were different brothers.'” – brother of Khuram Butt, who on 3 June 2017, along with two others, drove a van into pedestrians on London Bridge and then began stabbing people (Haroon Siddique, ‘London Bridge attacker’s brother says he was monitoring them’, Guardian, 7 June 2019)

“He saw the explosives America drops on children in Syria, and he wanted revenge” – sister of Salman Abedi, who carried out the Manchester attack on 22 May 2017 (Chris Graham, ‘Salman Abedi “wanted revenge” for US air strikes in Syria, Manchester bomber’s sister says’, Telegraph, 25 May 2017)

‘The last message left by the killer Khalid Masood on the WhatsApp messaging service, revealing his motivation for the lethal attack in Westminster, has been uncovered by the security agencies, The Independent has learnt. In the message, sent just minutes before he began the rampage in which five people died and 50 were injured, the 52-year-old Muslim convert had declared that he was waging jihad in revenge against Western military action in Muslim countries in the Middle East.’ – Khalid Masood, killed after carrying out the terrorist attack in Westminster, UK on 22 March 2017 (Kim Sepgupta, ‘Last message left by Westminster attacker Khalid Masood uncovered by security agencies’, Independent, 29 April 2017)

‘In the series of phone calls with the negotiator during the Orlando massacre, Mateen also railed against U.S. airstrikes in Syria and Iraq, saying they were killing women and children. “What am I to do here when my people are getting killed over there. You get what I’m saying?” he said.’ – Omar Mateen, killed after carrying out a terrorist attack on a nightclub in Orlando on 12 June 2016 (‘Transcripts of Orlando shooter’s conversation with police reveal ISIS influence’, Wall Street Journal, 28 September 2016)

‘…police found a letter in Ziamani’s jeans addressed to his “beloved parents”, saying he was a changed person. He wrote of being martyred and going to paradise, and referenced people being raped, tortured and killed in Iraq and Syria. He said he had a duty to help them. In the message, he wrote: “Because I have no means ov gettin there I will wage war against the british government on this soil the british government will have a taste of there own medicine they will be humiliated this is ISIB Islamic State of Ireland and Britain [sic].”’ – Brusthom Ziamani, arrested in August 2014 for planning to behead a British soldier (Press Association, ‘Muslim teenager planned to behead soldiers in London, court hears’, Guardian, 9 February 2015)

‘Muslims are dying daily by British soldiers. This British soldier is an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. By Allah, we swear by the almighty Allah we will never stop fighting you until you leave us alone… you lot are extreme. Do you think when you drop a bomb it picks one person? Or rather your bomb wipes out a whole family. This is the reality… tell them [the UK Government] to bring our troops back so you can all live in peace.’ – Michael Adebolajo speaking immediately after killing British soldier Lee Rigby on 22 May 2013 (‘Lee Rigby trial: jury shown “eye for an eye” video’, Telegraph, 25 November 2014)

‘The two suspects in the Boston bombing that killed three and injured more than 260 were motivated by the US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, officials told the Washington Post. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, “the 19-year-old suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings, has told interrogators that the American wars in Iraq and Afghanistan motivated him and his brother to carry out the attack,” the Post writes, citing “US officials familiar with the interviews.” Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who carried out the 15 April 2013 Boston bombing (‘Boston Bombing Suspects Motivated By Afghanistan, Iraq Wars: Report’, Huffington Post, 24 April 2013)

‘Miss Choudhry told police she wanted “to get revenge for the people of Iraq”, prosecutors said,’ – Roshonara Choudhry, who stabbed Stephen Timms MP in London, 14 May 2010 (‘MP Stephen Timms stabbed “in revenge for Iraq War”‘, BBC News, 1 November 2010)

‘”If the United States does not get out of Iraq, Afghanistan and other countries controlled by Muslims, he said, ‘we will be attacking US”, adding that Americans “only care about their people, but they don’t care about the people elsewhere in the world when they die”… As soon as he was taken into custody May 3 at John F. Kennedy International Airport, onboard a flight to Dubai, the Pakistani-born Shahzad told agents that he was motivated by opposition to US policy in the Muslim world, officials said.’ – Faisal Shahzad, who tried to detonate a car bomb in Times Square, New York City on 1 May 2010 (Jerry Markon, ‘Shahzad pleads guilty in failed Times Square bombing, warns of future attacks’, Washington Post, 22 June 2010)

‘I had an agreement with at least one person to attack the United States in retaliation for US support of Israel and in retaliation of the killing of innocent and civilian Muslim populations in Palestine, especially in the blockade of Gaza, and in retaliation for the killing of innocent and civilian Muslim populations in Yemen, Iraq, Somalia, Afghanistan and beyond, most of them women, children, and noncombatants.’ – Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, aka the ‘underwear bomber’, who attempted to blow himself up on a flight from Amsterdam to Detroit on 25 December 2009 (Detriot Free Press Staff, ‘Transcript: Read Abdulmutallab’s statement on guilty plea’, Detroit Free Press, 12 October 2011)

‘Part of his disenchantment was his deep and public opposition to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, a stance shared by some medical colleagues but shaped for him by a growing religious fervor. The strands of religion and antiwar sentiment seemed to weave together in a PowerPoint presentation he made at Walter Reed in June 2007… For a master’s program in public health, Major Hasan gave another presentation to his environmental health class titled ‘Why The War on Terror is a War on Islam.’’ – Nidal Hasan, who killed thirteen people at Foot Hood, Texas on 5 November 2009 (Scott Shane and James Dao, ‘Investigators Study Tangle of Clues on Fort Hood Suspect’, New York Times, 14 November 2009)

“The plan was to conduct a martyrdom operation in Manhattan. To me it meant I would sacrifice myself to bring attention to what the US military was doing to civilians in Afghanistan” – Najibullah Zazi on why he planned a terrorist attack in New York City in September 2009 (James Bone, ‘Airport bus driver Najibullah Zazi pleads guilty to New York subway bomb plot’, The Times, 23 February 2010)

‘The story of his personal conveyor belt towards political violence starts with one word: Iraq… The destruction of his home country was the catalyst… he says he watched the country implode under sanctions and Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship – and his view of the West began to change… He said he had no doubt a rise in childhood leukaemia was caused by depleted uranium shells, special armour-piercing US ammunition used in the first Gulf War. Abdulla blamed the US and its allies for the deteriorating situation – and he wasn’t standing and applauding when they came again in 2003… “My political views changed dramatically towards the [British] government,” he said. “They shared in murdering my people. It was the British government and American government. Without Blair, Bush couldn’t have invaded Iraq.”’ – Bilal Abdulla, who attempted to detonate a car bomb at Glasgow Airport on 30 June 2007 (Dominic Casciani, ‘Iraqi doctor’s road to radicalism’, BBC News, 16 December 2008)

‘The London bomb plot suspect arrested in Rome has allegedly confessed to Italian interrogators, lifting the lid on the plan to bring a wave of terror to Britain. Anti-terror police in the Italian capital say Osman Hussain has told them that the “bombers” watched videos of British and American troops “exterminating” Iraqi women and children before embarking on the attack on London’s transport network on July 21.’ – Osman Hussain, one of the failed 21 July 2005 suicide bombers (‘Confession lifts lid on London bomb plot’, Scotsman, 30 July 2005)

‘He said the public was responsible for the atrocities perpetuated against his “people” across the world because it supported democratically elected governments who carried them out. “Until we feel security, you will be our targets,” he said. “Until you stop the bombing, gassing, imprisonment and torture of my people we will not stop this fight. We are at war and I am a soldier. Now you too will taste the reality of this situation.”’ Mohammad Sidique Khan, in his 7/7 suicide bomber martyrdom video (‘London bomber video aired on TV’, BBC News, 2 September 2005)

‘The suspect, Amrozi, who was arrested on Wednesday, Maj Gen Made Mangku Pastika, the chief investigator of the multinational police team, said Amrozi described the attack as “revenge because of what Americans have done to Muslims”.’ – Amrozi, who was convicted and executed for his role in the 12 October 2002 Bali bombing (Alex Spillius, ‘Bali bombers were trying to kill Americans’, Telegraph, 9 November 2002)

‘Two days before he boarded United Airlines Flight 63 last December 22, accused Al-Qaeda shoe-bomber Richard Reid wrote what federal prosecutors say was a farewell email to his mother… Prosecutors say that Reid wrote, “The reason for me sending you [a “will”] is so that you can see that I didn’t do this act out of ignorance nor did I do just because I want to die, but rather because I see it as a duty upon me to help remove the oppressive American forces from the Muslim land and that this is the only way for us to do so as we do not have other means to fight them.”’ – Richard Reid, who tried to blow himself up on a transatlantic flight on 22 December 2001 (Elaine Shannon, ‘Did Richard Reid Let Mom Know?’, Time, 23 May 2002)

‘Why are we fighting and opposing you? The answer is very simple… Because you attacked us and continue to attack us… You attacked us in Palestine… which has sunk under military occupation for more than 80 years… You attacked us in Somalia; you supported the Russian atrocities against us in Chechnya, the Indian oppression against us in Kashmir, and the Jewish aggression against us in Lebanon… Under your supervision, consent and orders, the governments of our countries which act as your agents, attack us on a daily basis… You steal our wealth and oil at paltry prices because of you international influence and military threats. This theft is indeed the biggest theft ever witnessed by mankind in the history of the world…Your forces occupy our countries; you spread your military bases throughout them… You have starved the Muslims of Iraq, where children die every day. It is a wonder that more than 1.5 million Iraqi children have died as a result of your sanctions, and you did not show concern. Yet when 3000 of your people died, the entire world rises and has not yet sat down.’ – Osama bin Laden sets out the reasons why the US was attacked on 9/11 (‘Full text: bin Laden’s letter to America, Guardian, 24 November 2002)

‘Law-enforcement officials said yesterday that the suspects in the [1993] World Trade Center bombing mailed a letter around the time of the attack claiming responsibility and attributing the action to deep resentment against United States policy in the Middle East.’ – (Alison Mitchell, ‘Letter explained motive in bombing, official now say’, New York Times, 28 March 1993)

Why do they hate us?

Why do they hate us?
by Ian Sinclair
Morning Star
January 2010

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab’s attempt to blow himself up on Northwest Airlines 253 over Detroit on Christmas Day has generated a stupendous amount of column inches and airtime in the US and British media. While the saturation-level coverage has focused on questions of “who,” “what,” “when,” “where” and “how,” it has categorically failed to ask the most important question of all – why?

Those hoping that the new messiah of the United States would enlighten the ignorant masses were sorely disappointed when the Democratic president could only offer to “communicate clearly to Muslims around the world that … the United States stands with those who seek justice and progress.” Barack Obama then turned the floor over to his top counter-terrorism adviser John Brennan, who made the blindingly obvious and technically true statement that “al-Qaida is an organisation that is dedicated to murder and wanton slaughter of innocents.”

As with much of Obama’s foreign policy, his inability or unwillingness to articulate why the US is the target of so much terrorism has more in common with his universally reviled predecessor than many of his supporters would like to admit. Of course Bush was always far more crass and simplistic than the smooth Harvard graduate. “America was targeted for attack because we’re the brightest beacon for freedom and opportunity in the world,” the then commander-in-chief told the US on September 11 2001.

Just in case anyone is turning their noses up at “those stupid Americans,” we shouldn’t forget that immediately after the July 7 2005 terrorist attacks in London, the BBC reported then home secretary Charles Clarke as saying that “those responsible for such attacks simply wanted to destroy democracy.”

In contrast Michael Scheuer, the man who headed the CIA unit monitoring Osama bin Laden in the 1990s, argues Islamic terrorist attacks on the US have nothing “to do with our freedom, liberty and democracy, but everything to do with US policies and actions in the Muslim world.”

So who should we believe? To begin to answer this question, it seems pertinent to look at the reasons those actually carrying out the terrorism give for their actions.

Although it has since disappeared down the memory hole, in 2004 bin Laden himself directly addressed Bush’s claim that al-Qaida is motivated by a hatred of US freedom and democracy. “Let him tell us why we did not strike Sweden,” the al-Qaida figurehead quipped before stating: “We fought you because we are free and do not accept injustice. We want to restore freedom to our nation.”

What about Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind behind September 11 2001 and the man with the dubious honour of holding the world record for the number of times to undergo waterboarding – 183 times according to the US Justice Department. “By his own account KSM’s [Khalid Sheikh Mohammed] animus toward the United States stemmed not from his experience there as a student, but rather from his violent disagreement with US foreign policy favouring Israel,” noted the official 9/11 Commission report.

Back to Britain. Last September, the International Herald Tribune reported that the jury at the trial of the 2006 plot to blow up 10 transatlantic airliners were shown martyrdom videos prepared by several of the plotters. “A common theme was that they planned to wreak revenge on Britain and the United States for their interference in Muslim countries, especially the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq,” reported the newspaper.

No doubt some readers will be uncomfortable with taking mass-murdering terrorists at their word. But what about testimony from the US government itself?

In 2004 the Pentagon-appointed US Defence Science Board explained: “Muslims do not ‘hate our freedom,’ but rather they hate our policies.” The board elaborated: “The overwhelming majority voice their objections to what they see as one-sided support in favour of Israel and against Palestinian rights, and the longstanding, even increasing support for what Muslims collectively see as tyrannies, most notably Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Pakistan, and the Gulf states.”

As someone paralysed in a 2004 attack by Saudi extremists, one presumes BBC security correspondent Frank Gardner has thought a little bit about this topic. In 2005 he told the Commons foreign affairs committee that “al-Qaida could not give a stuff about what Americans do in America. What they object to is Western military adventures in their heartland, whether it be Afghanistan, Iraq, wherever.”

Robert A Pape, professor of political science at the University of Chicago and director of the Chicago Project on Suicide Terrorism, has written a whole book addressing this question. He concludes that “suicide terrorism is mainly a response to foreign occupation rather than the product of Islamic fundamentalism.”

Returning to the case of Abdulmutallab, a recent Associated Press story noted he was “not overtly extremist,” however he “was open about his sympathies toward the Palestinians and his anger over Israel’s actions in Gaza.” In addition Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula released a video after the attempted attack stating that it was in revenge for two joint US-Yemeni air raids on December 17, supposedly targeting al-Qaida operatives. Yes that’s right, the latest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize personally ordered US air strikes in Yemen, killing 23 children and 17 women, according to local officials.

The enigmatic US novelist Thomas Pynchon once wrote: “If they can get you asking the wrong questions, they don’t have to worry about answers.”

So far the “wrong questions” asked by politicians and the mainstream media have led to the implementation of “the most significant changes to airport security since 2006,” according to the Guardian. “Increased pat-down searches, more sniffer dogs in terminals and a step-up in hand luggage inspections” along with “the introduction of body scanners” has been the British government’s knee-jerk response to Abdulmutallab’s attempted attack.

The problem is that these are technical answers to something that desperately requires a political solution. In fact, by ignoring the inconvenient question of “why,” the chances are that we are actually making future terrorist attacks on the US and Britain more likely.

This is not to suggest that British foreign policy should be decided by the actions of a small group of murderous Islamic extremists. Rather it should radically change because it is immoral, hypocritical and has directly caused hundreds of thousands of deaths, many of them in the Islamic world. Put simply, reversing US and British backing for Israel, withdrawing from Iraq and Afghanistan and ending our Machiavellian support for undemocratic Arab regimes is the right and moral thing to do. A welcome by-product of implementing these sane and humane policies would be a decrease in the hatred directed against the US and British in the Islamic world – and therefore a significantly reduced terrorist threat

Western support for extremists will lead to more terrorist attacks

Western support for extremists will lead to more terrorist attacks
by Ian Sinclair
Morning Star
28 January 2015

Is it safe to come out yet? Can we begin the rational, reasoned debate about the Paris terrorist attacks that is so desperately needed?

The media coverage and discussion over the recent shocking events in France has been predictably hysterical and evidence-free. For Channel 4 News presenter Jon Snow the attack was a “brutal clash of civilisations. Europe’s belief in freedom of expression vs those for whom death is a weapon in defending their beliefs.” The normally sensible Will Self labelled the perpetrators “evil”. New York Times columnist Roger Cohen tweeted “I am shaking with rage at the attack on Charlie Hebdo. It’s an attack on the free world.” His frightening solution? “The entire free world should respond, ruthlessly.” Seeking to go beyond the bile, some have made the very sensible suggestion that the ongoing Western military attacks in Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Pakistan etc. may well have contributed to the radicalisation of the attackers.

Missing from the endless mainstream media coverage is any mention of the awkward fact that, as Noam Chomsky has stated, “traditionally the United States and Britain have by and large strongly supported radical Islamic fundamentalism.” The historian Mark Curtis details the link in his 2010 book ‘Secret Affairs: Britain’s Collusion with Radical Islam’. Citing British support for the “crazies” in Afghanistan in the 1980s and their BFF, the ruthless Saudi regime, Curtis notes “British Governments, both Labour and Conservative, have, in pursuing the so-called ‘national interest’ abroad, colluded for decades with radical Islamic forces, including terrorist organisations.”

It’s important to remember all this is not ancient history. Just as the Western-backed jihad in Afghanistan gave birth to Al-Qaeda, by supporting those who wish to violently overthrow President Assad in Syria, the West has helped to create the jihadi blowback of which Paris may well be only the beginning.

You don’t believe me? Let me explain. The West has been helping to arm the rebels in Syria since before May 2012. With its involvement initially covert and limited, the US gave a wink and a nod to Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey to support the rebels. This use of proxies has continued despite it being clear since at least October 2012 that arms provided by Qatar and Saudi Arabia were going to hardline Islamic jihadists. How clear, you ask? Well, as clear as a New York Times headline stating “Rebel Arms Flow is Said to Benefit Jihadists in Syria”.

The US, the UK and, yes, France, have continued to provide arms and training to the rebels despite experts repeatedly warning of the danger of such a strategy. In September 2012 the Head of the UN monitoring mission in Syria said Western support for the opposition risked prolonging the conflict. Writing in the New York Times in June 2013 two former NATO Secretary-Generals noted “Western military engagement in Syria is likely to provoke further escalation on all sides, deepening the civil war and strengthening the forces of extremism, sectarianism and criminality gaining strength across the country.” Experts from Chatham House, the Royal United Services Institute and the European Council on Foreign Relations all warned that weapons sent in to Syria would likely end up in the hands of jihadists. William Hague, of course, told the BBC Today Programme there was no risk of arms falling into the wrong hands. Who do you think has been proved right? Unsurprisingly, and somewhat ironically, CIA-supplied weapons have been spotted being used by Islamic State to target armoured vehicles the US had supplied to the US-backed Iraqi Government.

You don’t need to be a counter-terrorism expert to realise an increasingly militarised conflict, awash with weapons and populated by a burgeoning number of extremists, with no peaceful end in sight, is exactly the kind of conditions that encourage violent jihadists to travel to Syria. Terrorism analyst Aaron Zelin’s February 2013 warning that “the Syrian conflict is going to be as big, if not bigger, than Afghanistan was in the 1980s in terms of mobilizing jihadi fighters” seems very prescient today. However, it is veteran correspondent Patrick Cockburn who makes the key point about Western responsibility: “The West backed the uprising against President Assad, and still does, and this enabled ISIS to develop, gain military experience and then use it back in Iraq.”

All of this information about our own responsibility for engendering radical, sometimes violent, Islamists is on the public record, having been published in widely read, highly respected newspapers over the last few years. And yet it has effectively been excluded from the on-going debate surrounding the Charlie Hebdo massacre and the terrorist threat to the West. No overt censorship or terrorist intimidation was needed – just professional, career-minded journalists and well-educated commentators arguing feverishly within the narrow bounds of acceptable debate.

Protecting British citizens? UK foreign policy in the Middle East

Protecting British citizens? UK foreign policy in the Middle East
by Ian Sinclair
Morning Star
3 October 2014

Announcing that the terror threat had been increased from “substantial” to “severe”, in August David Cameron said “my first priority as Prime Minister is to make sure we do everything possible to keep our people safe.” The Home Secretary Theresa May echoed Cameron’s pledge, noting “the first and most important duty of government is the protection of British people”.

As with all government statements it’s always good to remember Eduardo Galeano’s maxim that “in general, the words uttered by power are not meant to express its actions, but to disguise them”. With this in mind, it’s worthwhile looking into the Government’s claim that protecting British citizens is their top priority.

Let’s start with the biggest political issue of recent times – the 2003 US-UK invasion of Iraq. According to a September 2003 report from the Intelligence and Security Committee, in February 2003 the Joint Intelligence Committee told the government “al-Qaeda and associated groups continued to represent by far the greatest terrorist threat to Western interests, and that threat would be heightened by military action against Iraq.”

This advice was in line with warnings from many others, ranging from the leaders of the burgeoning UK anti-war movement to Tony Blair’s close friend Hosni Mubarak, who claimed a war would lead to 100 bin Ladens. In January 2003 former Foreign Secretary Douglas Hurd argued an invasion risked “turning the Middle East into an inexhaustible recruiting ground for anti-western terrorism.”

As everyone knows, the Government pushed aside these concerns and marched into Iraq in March 2003. And, as surely as night follows day, the illegal invasion and subsequent bloody occupation massively increased the terror threat to the West, a fact confirmed by the former head of MI5 from 2002-7, Eliza Manningham-Buller. 7/7 and 21/7 was the shocking outcome.

A similar narrative also applies to Afghanistan. Over the last 13 years both Labour and Conservative governments have repeatedly told the public British armed forces are occupying Helmand to keep British streets safe. In contrast, Adam Holloway, Conservative MP, former Grenadier Guards officer and member of the Commons Defence Select Committee, has said “put starkly, our current situation is working against the West’s security interest and is making attacks on the streets of Britain more, not less, likely.” The majority of the public seem to side with Holloway, with a 2009 Mail on Sunday poll finding three-quarters of those questioned did not think fighting in Afghanistan was making British people safer from terrorism. Both the murder of Lee Rigby and the Boston marathon bombing were justified by the Western occupation of Afghanistan.

Turning to the new Iraq War against ISIS, a plethora of experts have warned that US and UK bombing of Iraq (and Syria) will likely lead to more terrorism directed at the West. Professor Robert Pape, Director of the Chicago Project on Security and Terrorism, argued in June 2014 that “Far from hurting the terrorists, re-engaging Iraq (and/or engaging Syria) would put us back on the path of a rising terrorist threat that has taken us over a decade to escape.” By intervening militarily in Iraq “We would be seen – again – as foreign occupiers and become a target for terrorist organizations again.” Richard Barrett, the former Director of Global Counter Terrorism Operations at MI6, concurs, noting that US-UK air strikes in Iraq could “increase the risk” from homegrown terrorists in the West.

The US started bombing Iraq on 8 August and Syria on 23 September (the UK is set to start bombing Iraq any day). The predictable outcome? The Director of the FBI recently told US Congress that support for ISIS increased after US airstrikes began in Iraq. And following the US air strikes in Syria, the radical jihadist rebel group Al-Nusra Front stated the US attacks have “put them on the list of jihadist targets throughout the world”.

Rather than the safety of British citizens being a top priority for the Government, by disregarding repeated expert warnings the government’s own actions prove the threat of terror is actually a low priority for our rulers. Of course, Cameron and Blair aren’t evil Disney villains sitting at home twirling their moustaches thinking about the best way to harm British citizens. But as prime minister they head a government that has geo-political, military and economic interests that, in the final analysis, trump the safety of the British people.

And we can go one further. Rather than protecting UK citizens, we can say with certainty that UK foreign policy in the Middle East in support of these interests actually endangers British citizens by whipping up hatred of the UK.

Ian Sinclair is the author of The March That Shook Blair: An Oral History of 15 February 2003, published by Peace News Press. He Tweets @IanJSinclair