Political leaders like John Howard, who led us into the war in Iraq, must shoulder most of the blame for the appalling world-wide consequences — particularly terrorism. Yet conservative political leaders today — Howard’s successors — seek every opportunity to exploit the community’s fear of terrorism. Our news media cannot get enough of terrorist attacks in Western countries, while largely ignoring attacks in countries that have had much more serious terrorist violence, such as Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Pakistan and Nigeria. Our media never stops to ask how all of this terrorism started in the first place.
The evidence is overwhelming: the cause of present-day Jihadist terrorism is the calamitous decision of George Bush, Tony Blair and John Howard to invade Iraq in 2003. The media, like John Howard, is in denial about the cause of terrorism. Consider the following:
- The invasion of Iraq created chaos and set loose centuries-old religious, sectarian and tribal disputes. It also created intense enmity against the West in that part of the world.
- Al-Qaeda was established in Pakistan but first appeared in Iraq in 2004 after the invasion and the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. Islamic State (IS) pledged alignment to Al-Qaeda after the Iraq invasion.
- Western governments have deliberately set about destroying secular regimes in Iraq, Libya and now Syria.
- Saudi Arabia has been the great enabler and funder of terrorism in the Middle East. The country is the spiritual home of Wahhabism. It is the country that produced Osama bin Laden and 15 of the 19 9/11 hijackers. It has sent more suicide bombers to Iraq than any other country and has supplied IS with more foreign fighters than any nation other than Tunisia. As Peter Rodger has noted in this blog, Hillary Clinton said in 2014 that Qatar and Saudi Arabia, “are providing clandestine financial and logistic support to IS and other radical groups in the region”. In 2016, she said: “Saudis have exported more extreme ideology than any other place on earth over the course of the last 30 years.” Not surprisingly, the Obama administration acted to prevent the US Congress accessing papers about the role of Saudi Arabia in the 9/11 attacks. Yet, the United States on a vast scale, together with the United Kingdom and us on a minor scale, are supplying military hardware to Saudi Arabia. Together with our allies we are supporting or supplying the greatest promoter and funder of terrorism in the world.
- As Ramesh Thakur has pointed out in this blog, in 2014, the then-British ambassador to Italy, Sir Ivor Roberts, called President George W. Bush “Al-Qaeda’s best recruiting sergeant”. The Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, recently said: “Many experts, including many professionals in our intelligence and security services, have pointed to the connection between wars our government have supported or fought in other countries and terrorism here at home.” Upset that Corbyn exposed her Government’s foreign policies, Theresa May took strong exception. But Corbyn is right.
- Professor Robert Pape of the University of Chicago and author James Feldman surveyed terrorist attacks 2004-09. They found that 87% were due to the stationing of foreign troops in the Middle East.
- In 2016, Australian insurgency expert David Kilcullen said: “After 13 years, thousands of lives and billions of dollars, we are worse off today than before 9/11, with a strategic and more dangerous enemy than ever before.”
- Terrorist recruitment is enhanced by the continual drone attacks in the Middle East which, like terrorist attacks in London, Manchester and Paris, kill civilians and children. Once again, activities of our allies in the Middle East promote terrorism. Our “joint facilities” in Australia support these drone attacks.
- When Russia escalated its military involvement in Syria in 2014, Western leaders warned that this risked fueling extremism. That is just what the West has been doing for many decades.
- In 2014 at the Chilcott Inquiry, Eliza Manningham-Buller, the former head of MI-5, said that the Iraq invasion had “substantially increased the terrorism threat to the UK” by radicalising young people.
- Before his political masters leaned on him, the commissioner of the Australian Federal Police in 2004, Mick Keelty, told the Channel Nine National Sunday program: “The reality is that if there turns out to be Islamic extremists responsible for the train bombing in Spain it is more likely to be linked to the position that Spain and all other allies took on issues such as Iraq.”
The evidence is clear beyond any doubt that the war in Iraq and continual support of Saudi Arabia by the US and its allies are major causes of continued terrorism. We are enablers of terrorism.
The UK has been covertly or overtly involved in military actions in the Middle East for centuries. It should not be surprised at a violent response.
It is impossible to wreak such death and disaster on Muslim lands through overwhelming military power and not be surprised that young, disaffected men respond by terrorising vulnerable foreign communities.
Our media and politicians exploit every opportunity to talk about the dangers of terrorism, but scarcely ever examine the causes of that terrorism and our particular contribution to it.
Will we ever learn?
Extricating ourselves from the Middle East disaster will not be easy. But it must be done for the sake of the long-suffering people in the Middle East and for our greater security at home.
* This article was originally published at John Menadue’s blog, Pearls and Irritations