Liz Kendall’s ignorant intervention in the Leicester Mercury has been seared onto my memory (July 7, Mercury). I will never forget her stark reminder to the people of Leicester “that seeing Islamist extremism purely as a reaction to what we [or rather our Government] do is fundamentally mistaken.”
Her bizarre diatribe for “justice” is premised upon a straw man argument; but what else can we expect from a die-hard Blairite? Only Kendall has the nerve to deny that the illegal war upon Iraq waged by the Blair government did nothing to aggravate international tensions.
Of course no one “forces” people to commit acts of terror, but who would seriously argue that murderous wars waged upon foreign countries do not encourage the likelihood of desperate and violent reactions, the rise of terrorism no less?
Kendall tells us that if we concede that the rise of ISIS may be linked to British and American warmongering, this “implies we can somehow opt out of this fight, that if we hide maybe they will leave us alone.” But what is clear is that if we continue to hide from the facts that Tony Blair’s slaughter of more than one million Iraqi people had no connection to the rise of ISIS, then we will be ill-equipped to counter the threat of ISIS. Understanding the origins of violence is not the same as condoning it.
Unequivocal and unqualified condemnation is all that the terrorists linked to 7/7 and the recent Tunisia bloodbath deserve. But the same remains true for our political leaders who created the conditions for the growth of terrorism. The war on Iraq was based upon lies and misinformation, and, more to the point, was opposed by two million people who marched on the streets of London, and millions more who could not be there.
History repeats itself with tragic consequences if we refuse to ignore its lessons. Even Tony Blair’s own Joint Intelligence Committee stated that the terrorist threat “would be heightened by military action against Iraq”.
Kendall states that “the world is not divided into adults who act and children who react.” She continues, “those who pursue the ideology of Isil are not children – they are responsible for their own actions, driven by their own ideology.” Equally, however, the world is not divided into isolated chunks of time: every action has a historical context, and it is ignored at our peril.
The rise and rise of Al-Qa’ida can be traced to the longstanding and bloody US intervention in Afghanistan in the 1980s, where right-wing Islamists had been trained and armed by the CIA. Al-Qa’ida’s war against the west was a product of the subjugation of the Middle East and other regions by western powers for decades, and the appalling treatment of Palestinians by Israel’s rulers, backed by the US.
The humanitarian impulses and values of British citizens are indeed precious, but are routinely ignored by our political leaders. This is but one reason why increasing numbers of people refuse to participate in electoral processes, unless of course they are given a clear progressive anti-austerity alternative. Collectively we can rid our world of the threat of terror attacks, but to do so we must fight against the conditions that breed them: poverty, war, oppression and exploitation.
This letter was sent to the Leicester Mercury mailbox on 7th July. It was published on their letters page on 11th July; significantly their editor cut out the words highlighted in bold (see above).