Time to review Iraq occupation

  • Letters
  • Monday, 18 Jul 2005

THE London bombings two weeks ago continue to reverberate around the world. Last Friday, two minutes of silence were observed in London and elsewhere to mourn the victims and condemn the terrorist acts.  

Meanwhile, debate intensifies on what the causes are, and what should be done to control such acts of terror. 

In Britain itself, the public was shocked by the revelation that the bombs were set off by four “suicide bombers”, who were all young British citizens, who appeared to be nice and ordinary people living in Leeds.  

Shockingly, it was an 18-year-old schoolboy, with good academic grades, who set off the bomb on the bus. The CCTV footage of him with a knapsack containing the bomb was splashed across newspapers. People had expected the bombers to be revealed as foreign-based terrorists linked to al-Qaeda. 

Prime Minister Tony Blair last week announced a two-pronged approach.  

Firstly, tighten laws to prosecute those preparing or inciting acts of terrorism, to keep out potential terrorists from entering the country, and deport those who incite acts of terrorism.  

Secondly, he urged Muslim leaders in Britain to stand up against the “poisonous and perverted” interpretation of Islam and assist in uprooting the “evil ideology” from the community.  

We can expect not only Britain but also other European countries to tighten security at the border.  

The United States last week announced that travellers face increased security checks, including the collection of all 10 fingerprints from first-time travellers (rather than two prints currently required). 

Many people link the London bombings to Britain’s role in the war and present occupation of Iraq. After all, al-Qaeda leaders have made clear that it would strike in countries that are involved in the Iraqi occupation. 

When trains were bombed in Madrid, killing almost 200 people, a clear link was seen with the Spanish military presence in Iraq. The newly elected president pulled Spain’s troops out of Iraq.  

However, Blair and other British political leaders have projected the position that the bombs had nothing to do with Britain’s role in the Iraq war, saying that terrorism existed even before the Iraq war. Blair said the terrorists were motivated by hatred of the Western way of life and freedom.  

The Prime Minister’s state of denial is easy to understand. He has been unpopular with the public for his decision to go to war, and he does not want to be blamed for the bombings. 

When Britain went to war in Afghanistan and Iraq, the government itself warned about the imminence of an attack, recalled Seumas Milne in an article in The Guardian on July 14.  

Though there is every need for public mourning, “it is an insult to the dead to mislead people about the factors fuelling the deadly rage in Muslim communities across the world,” said Milne. 

He said that al-Qaeda statements have regularly spelled out that their central goal is the withdrawal of US and other forces from the Arab and Muslim world and an end to support for Israeli occupation of Palestinian land. 

The security crackdowns and campaign to uproot an “evil ideology” will not extinguish the threat, concluded Milne.  

Last Thursday night, when the identities of three of the bombers were revealed to be that of young Muslims from Leeds, BBC carried a TV interview with four British Muslim teenagers in Leeds. 

The four condemned the bombings, but said they could understand the anger that motivated the bombers. They themselves were angry with the US- and British-led invasion and occupation of Iraq and the double standard in the support shown towards Israel.  

When asked whether the anger felt by young Muslims would have been enough to cause people to carry out the bombings, they said “yes”.  

The London bombings have sparked a more intense debate on what the root causes of the recent terrorist acts are, and how to solve the problems. 

Though the politicians who led their countries into Iraq may not want to admit it, many people worldwide believe the war and occupation there has been a terrible mistake, as well as a brutal and illegal act. The way they see it, the sooner the occupation ends, the better. 

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