Posts Tagged ‘terrorism’

7/7 five years on

July 7, 2010

There are apparently complaints being made that the Government and Mayor Boris Johnson have not done enough to commemorate the fifth anniversary of the 7/7 bombings.

The Evening Standard is running an extremely critical article with the title ‘London 7/7 victims have been forgotten, say families’.

This makes me wonder whether:

  1. Our crass and insensitive Government, along with a blundering Tory Mayor, plain forgot that the anniversary was coming up and so failed to get anything organised.
  2. The victims’ families did not want any big events, as was suggested in a report, and so the Government respected these wishes.
  3. The authorities don’t want 7/7 getting too much attention since the bombings signalled a major failure on the part of the security services and because there remains a problem of too many British Muslims embracing violent Islamist ideologies.

Our honourable friend in the north.

February 28, 2010

I’m annoyed with Jeremy Corbyn, Labour MP for Islington North, at the mo.

Firstly, he had a letter in this week’s Islington Tribune about the future of the Whittington Hospital in which he pointedly failed to mention his colleague in the very marginal southern seat.

Fine, she’s not from the same wing of the party as Socialist Campaign Group member Corbyn, but surely it wouldn’t have hurt to have mentioned that both of Islington’s Labour MPs want the A&E unit at the Whittington to be retained. Not very comradely.

And secondly, I recently got round to reading the Harry’s Place post ‘Jeremy Corbyn: MP for rioters’.

I’m disappointed that Corbyn thinks it’s a good use of his time to campaign for people who throw bricks at police officers and police horses. I’m disgusted by him talking about “our friends in Hezbollah and Hamas”.

Tch, tch.

Northern Ireland in the news.

January 8, 2010

It is precisely because events like this one are still happening today that I wince whenever I hear someone claim anything along the lines of ‘peace has been brought to Northern Ireland’.

Just because terrorists are no longer able to carry out major campaigns of violence in mainland Britain, it does not mean that politics in Ulster have been pacified. Sometimes I feel as if our London-centric mainstream media forgets this. 

There are still significant numbers of people there who believe they are justified in engaging in political violence when the democratic process does not go their way. It sadly looks like incidents such as the one that occurred earlier today will remain fairly routine for the forseeable future.

The revelations about Iris Robinson, however, have been far from routine.

Last week the gay-bashing, evangelical Christian MP and wife of Northern Ireland’s first minister revealed that she had been battling depression and would be retiring from politics. It then emerged that she had attempted suicide and had had an affair. Soon enough, we were all reading in amazement that Iris Robinson (60) had been playing away from home with a 19 year old. And now it seems like dodgy finances were involved and Mr. Robinson has some uncomfortable questions to answer.

I agree completely with Peter Tatchell on the Robinson revelations:

“I’m sorry for the pain that Iris Robinson has suffered but she’s a hypocrite. Even now, despite her own adultery, she expresses no regret for her harsh, judgemental moralising against gay people. She is sad and two-faced.

It is terrible that Iris Robinson has been driven to attempted suicide and a mental breakdown. I feel very sorry for her. But it is a great pity that this painful experience has not softened her heart towards the suffering of lesbians and gay men.

Even now, she expresses no regret for her harsh, judgemental moralising against gay people. Iris seems as unforgiving as ever. She’s still unrepentant about her homophobia.”

More than most parts of the UK, Northern Ireland is a place where religious fanatics have a strong presence in politics. It’s inevitable that incredible examples of hypocrisy amongst the most powerful and high-profile God-botherers will come to light now and again.

This all reminds me of similar stories from the US, such as when it came out that staunch racial segregationist Strom Thurmond in fact had a black daughter. Or when it was discovered that fundamentalist conservative preacher Ted Haggard had been playing around with male prostitutes and crystal meth.  

Ok, maybe not quite as extreme an example of hypocrisy (Robinson’s lover was a bloke rather than a lady, after all), but still getting there.

The Pantybomber and the middle-class nature of terrorism.

December 28, 2009

The case of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab (nicknamed ‘The Pantybomber’ by wags) has been analysed in various ways.

Some focus on what the development of exploding underwear means for airport security and the travel industry. Others look at the significance of what appears to be Al Qaeda’s ongoing desire to blow things up in American skies. I’m sure there’s a terrorism expert getting excited about this wannabe-suicide bomber coming from Nigeria.

What I find interesting is that Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab and his alleged crime present further evidence that terrorism is an essentially middle-class endeavour. Perhaps even upper-middle-class, if we are going to get specific about it.

Abdulmutallab is an extreme example in that his background is especially wealthy and privileged. Not quite at the same level of spoilt bratness as Osama bin Laden, but getting there. However, research suggests that most recruits to terrorism come from relatively well-off families and are educated to at least degree level, which makes them decisively middle-class.

Of course, it depends on how you define terrorism and class exactly. Definitions need to be taken into account, but let’s not get bogged down in this for now. Trust me – there is a lot of interesting stuff that has been written about the relationship between individual terrorists and social class. 

Victoroff’s review article ‘The Mind of the Terrorist’ has a handy table on page 8 showing the reported demographics of terrorists from the mid 20th to early 21st centuries. Terrorism expert Martha Crenshaw came up with the memorable phrase: “Terrorism is the resort of an elite when conditions are not revolutionary”. Scott Atran looked at the data about suicide bombers in the Middle East and came to the conclusion that, despite the stereotypes made by terrorists’ supporters and opponents, “sucide terrorists are neither poor nor ignorant”.

In conclusion: academics writing about how terrorists tend to be poshos will now be able to use Abdulmutallab as another example supporting their hypothesis.

All or nothing in Afghanistan.

November 4, 2009

The situation:

The primary objective of the UK presence in Afghanistan is apparently to prevent the country from being used as a massive training camp for Islamist terrorists. We are informed that the majority of terrorist plots against the UK have some connection with Afghanistan or the semi-anarchic tribal area of bordering Pakistan – either being planned there or terrorists travelling there for preparation. I have no reason to think this isn’t true.

Adopting that fairly realist outlook on the overriding justification for the Afghan war, it seems to me that we either need to give the conflict ‘all’ or ‘nothing’. 


If we accept that the military campaign in Afghanistan is necessary for ensuring Britain’s security then the government should have no hesitation in ratcheting up the campaign.

The generals have repeatedly stated that their job would be easier with greater resources. Therefore: send more troops, spend more money on equipment, make the defeat of the Taliban the top government priority.

A war that is so clearly needed will be supported by the public. After all, surely the government could easily make the case for prolonging a just and necessary war and for concentrating resources upon securing victory.

229 British troops have died in Afghanistan thus far. Sad and regrettable, but a miniscule number when compared to previous conflicts fought to keep the country safe. If the war is so necessary then the government and the public would be prepared for a much, much higher casualty rate. 


A cost-benefit analysis could lead to a different conclusion. 229 dead servicemen and women outnumber the combined British civilians killed in the 7/7 terrorist attacks (52 ), the 9/11 attacks (67), and the Bali bombings (24). Maintaining the British presence in Afghanistan is clearly going to result in more British deaths – even if a total defeat of the Taliban can be secured (there’s little confidence that this could happen soon).

At what point do we decide that the Afghan mission is costing more British lives than it is saving? Taking into additional account the resources required for fighting the war that could be invested in domestic public services with tangible social benefits, we may conclude that Britain’s national interests could be best served by withdrawing troops from Afghanistan and redistributing funds away from the defence budget.

Yes, Afghanistan would probably have to endure another bloody civil war and the reinstatement of a Taliban regime. Islamist terrorists may find it easier to plan attacks upon the West, or perhaps will lend greater support to the insurgents in Pakistan.

But if our decision-making is primarily guided by British interests then there is still a case to be made for ending the British military presence and abandoning Afghanistan to its fate. Painful as it is to say it, we could even calculate that putting up with a repeat of 7/7 (or several) works out cheaper in terms of lives and resources than maintaining the war.


As the conflict continues the hopes for the Western mission in Afghanistan have become increasingly subdued. The idea of spreading freedom and democracy has been practically abandoned. Even the more modest aim of simply establishing a secure and effective anti-Taliban government (however corrupt and undemocratic it is) is proving difficult.

If we are serious about preventing another Taliban takeover because we genuinely feel this is necessary for protecting British national security then surely we have to give the Afghan campaign everything we’ve got. If, however, we are unwilling to make such sacrifices then there is no point in maintaining the mission upon its present course and instead the government should immediately organise a timetable for withdrawal.

The logic of the suicide bomber and the war in Afghanistan.

September 4, 2009

Tom Harris has a post in which he rails against left-wingers suggesting that our government’s foreign policy brought Islamist terror, i.e. the 7/7 bombings, to Britain.

He calls it a “dishonest, craven and blindingly stupid argument” supported by people who want “to pin the blame for terrorism on the British government, and not on the murdering psychopaths who actually set off the explosives on London’s transport system”.

He also goes on to say “the war in Afghanistan is sadly necessary and the public’s impatience with the mission’s progress can have no bearing on the rights or wrongs of our presence there”.

Tom is being unfair. Only the tin foil hat brigade suggest that 7/7 was carried out by the government. All sane people have to accept that Hasib Hussain, Mohammad Sidique Khan, Germaine Lindsay and Shehzad Tanweer chose to blow themselves up and murder their fellow British citizens on July 7th 2005.

Of course the terrorists should be condemned for this atrocious act. That’s the easy bit. Understanding why people choose to engage in acts of terrorism is more difficult but ultimately more important if we want to prevent similar attacks in the future. Dismissing suicide bombers as psychopaths motivated only by hate and fanaticism is too simplistic.

Terrorism boffin Robert Pape has written of ‘The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism’. Reviewing the history of terrorists blowing themselves up, a tactic pioneered by Hezbollah but also used extensively by the secular Tamil Tigers throughout the 1990s, Pape argues that suicide terrorists are basically motivated by the down-to-earth desire to compel governments (usually democracies) to withdraw from territory the terrorists consider to be part of their homeland.

In their ‘martyrdom’ video the 7/7 bombers ranted against Western culture and presented themselves as religious nutters (as is tradition for Islamist terrorists) but also included clear criticisms of Britain’s foreign policy: the close alliances with the US and Israel, the decision to go war in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the resulting “atrocities” committed against their Muslim “brothers and sisters” across the world.

Counter-terrorism efforts that ignore terrorists’ proclaimed motivations are doomed to fail. In the case of the 7/7 bombers it seems ridiculous to try to insist that British foreign policy had nothing to do with their willingness to launch suicide attacks on London.

Combine Pape’s analysis with the ideological pull of an interpretation of Islam that emphasises violent jihad and obligation to the ummah and it could be said that the 7/7 bombers were indeed motivated by a strategic logic.

As extreme Islamists they had come to consider themselves primarily members of a global Muslim community rather than British citizens. They therefore saw Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine, etc, as part of their Muslim homeland that needed defending from non-Muslims. It’s the same logic that has led to British Muslims travelling to fight in Afghanistan on the side of the Taliban.

To me, it all seems very similar to the crude ‘blood and soil’ ethnonationalist politics of the far-right, which is partly why I think Islamism should be included as a target of anti-fascism. However, Marc Sageman’s brilliant book ‘Leaderless Jihad’ also compares Islamist terrorists to the volunteers of the International Brigades who went to fight in Spain during the civil war. It’s an uncomfortable but insightful characterisation.  

It’s not just anti-war lefties who argue that foreign policy plays a part in triggering terrorism. The Home Office’s 2009 revised strategy on countering the terrorist threat (known as Contest 2) admitted that “conflict” is a cause of radicalisation and terrorist violence. It reads:

“Conflict and the failure of states create grievances which can play a key role in the radicalisation process. Many Muslims as well as non-Muslims believe that the West (notably the US and the UK) has either caused conflict, failure and suffering in the Islamic world or done too little to resolve them. Military intervention in Iraq and Afghanistan (and consequent civilian casualties), perceived Western inaction in Palestine and alleged support for authoritarian Islamic governments have all created controversy and anger”.

The document also predicts that Islamist terrorism is likely to persist because “many of the conflicts and disputes exploited by contemporary terrorist organisations show no signs of early resolution”.

I accept that allowing Afghanistan to return to the control of the Taliban would in all likelihood be beneficial to terrorist organisations that want to target the UK. However, it’s ludicrous to ignore the evidence that the prosecution of the war can itself radicalise Muslims into becoming terrorists. 

If it looks like the military efforts in Afghanistan are doing more to create terrorism than to hinder it, then from the counter-terrorist perspective the war should be ended.

Of course, that’s not the only perspective that needs to be taken into consideration. Our idealistic wish to encourage governance based on human rights in Afghanistan is an argument in favour of continued military presence, though these efforts seem more and more like a tragic farce. The need to undermine an insurgent force that could destabilise Pakistan and its nuclear weapons also stands in the war’s favour, yet military action may be causing more instability than it addresses.

But as things stand it is not clear what is being achieved in Afghanistan or even what the government wants to achieve. It will take more sophisticated arguments than Tom Harris’ to reassure the public that the war is worthwhile.

What does Nick Griffin think about Megrahi’s release?

August 25, 2009

After all, in 1988 (the same year as the Lockerbie bombing) Griffin went to Libya to seek funding for the National Front from Libyan dictator Colonel Gadaffi.

Griffin in Libya.

The BNP have condemned Megrahi’s release. But when will their leader Nick Griffin be issuing a formal statement of regret for the years he spent sucking up to Gadaffi and his terrorist-supporting regime?

7/7 conspiracy madness – Meacher mentalism

July 1, 2009

Further to my last post on this subject, which was inspired by the brilliant BBC2 documentary ‘The Conspiracy Files’,  I remembered that Michael Meacher MP has also had some odd things to say about 7/7.

Meacher wrote a post on his blog a few months ago entitled ‘MI5 and the cover-up over 7/7’. No beating about the bush there then.

He goes on to regurgitate the same lines of enquiry as the other 7/7 conspiracy nuts, asking the ‘unanswered questions’ which were pretty comprehensively answered by last night’s documentary. It would not surprise me if Meacher has watched ‘7/7 Ripple Effect’ whilst humming to himself in agreement.

Meacher has a bit of reputation in this area. He once wrote an article in the Guardian suggesting that the US government allowed 9/11 to take place so that it could have an excuse to launch attacks on other countries to get their oil. He’s also a fan of the theory that Roosevelt knew the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbour was about to take place but deliberately stopped the US fleet from finding out about it. He additionally thinks the war in Kosovo was “actually aimed at the dismemberment of the last centralised state-run economy in Europe”.

I too am finding it hard to believe the official line on things.

I am finding it hard to believe that he was allowed to serve as a minister in our Labour government for so many years.

7/7 conspiracy madness – the ripple effect

June 30, 2009
But thats what the government want you to think...

But that's what the government want you to think...

As tonight’s excellent BBC2 documentary demonstrated, there really isn’t any way to describe the 7/7 conspiracy brigade other than ‘bunch of nutters’.

There is a film available on the internet entitled ‘7/7 Ripple Effect’. Apparently it is quite popular. I had never heard of it. But then again, I don’t go looking for this sort of thing.

Some run-of-the-mill conspiracy geeks can be expected to simply ask pedantic questions about every detail of an event and then take smug self-satisfaction in doubting the ‘official’ line on the matter, as if such an act demonstrates great independence of mind and intellectual superiority over everyone else.  

‘7/7 Ripple Effect’, however, goes so far as to label the London bombings of July 7th 2005 a MI5-Mossad operation and accuses several individuals (who aren’t even connected to the government or security services) of being involved in the mass murder. Some of these people have been receiving death threats from conspiracy loons as a result.