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Terrorism in Western Europe and links with events in South-West Asia and North Africa – Three views

Terrorism in Western Europe and links with events in the South-West Asia (The Middle East) and North Africa – Three views following the Manchester Arena Bombing on 22nd May, 2017:

1. John Morris

The Peace Party looks in horror at the tragic events like the Westminster Bridge Car Killings and the Manchester Arena Bombing with the loss of 22 young lives. We have deep sympathy for, and grieve for, all who have died or suffered terrible injuries and mental trauma and especially families and friends.

We learn that the perpetrators of these crimes have come from families which originated in countries in North Africa and South-West Asia (“The Middle East”) and who probably, nominally at least are followers of the Muslim Faith. We wonder why such criminals have acquired such hatred that they feel they need to kill fellow human beings with such violence and then appear happy to die themselves.

We have heard that a few followers of Islam believe mistakenly that it is their duty to kill members of other faiths, referring to them as “infidels” (literally “lacking faith”) regarding them as continuing the “Crusades” of centuries ago and that when they themselves die (perhaps committing suicide) as a result of the killing they will go to heaven.

We know that the true teachings of Islam regard all human life as sacred – that life is to be nurtured and revered.

We know also that the UK has joined with other nations in military actions and wars in Libya, Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Kuwait. We know that all these countries have been supplying large quantities of petroleum and natural gas to many of the industrial nations of the “West” and that those nations have felt that it was necessary to have regimes in those petroleum-supplying countries that were friendly towards them.

Where regimes turned unfriendly, those “western” nations felt it necessary to interfere and try to change the regime back to a friendly one. That inevitably led to those military actions and wars. We have thus seen the consequences of them vividly displayed on our TV screens over so many years – death and destruction of homelands as well as the displacing of millions of people within their own countries and creating refugees. We have seen the terrible sights of people fleeing the violence in their hope of reaching somewhere peaceful to live and work and raise their families. We have also seen the cruelty and heartlessness of nations, including the United Kingdom, in rejecting millions of those people seeking asylum.

It is clear to the Peace Party that we are, in effect, in a state of – admittedly – low level war. The UK and others are on the one “side” and the “Islamists” (“ISIS”/Dae-esh/Al Qaeida) on the other. We’ve seen the war planes and air attacks in some of the countries of South-West Asia; now we are seeing the guns on the streets of Guildford and Britain. It is WAR.

We wonder why the UK government and others are apparently turning their faces against such an interpretation of events.
Were the Peace Party to be installed in government tomorrow, it would

a. Find out, describe and publish the actions of previous UK governments that have led to us being in the current war situation;
b. Suspecting that we know and understand the results of such study, the government would order the immediate withdrawal of all parts of the military from South-West Asia, weapons as well as personnel;
c. Apologise to all sections of the communities in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria for the death and destruction that the UK has contributed to over the years;
d. Promise to pay a full and fair share for the re-building of towns, villages and infrastructure damaged or destroyed;
e. Cease all trade in armaments between the UK and any nation in South-West Asia, paying compensation for broken contracts;
f. Open the doors of the UK to ALL who seek its peacefulness and tranquillity;

Carrying on “as normal” in the UK is just NOT good enough – at all. We owe it to the victims of the war and their families – on both sides – to see those who have the power getting to grips with the causes and consequences of that war.

At the end of the day, when the killing stops, what usually happens is the parties to the dispute sit down round a table and talk to one another to seek healing and transformation, peace and reconciliation. There is no other way out whether it is a lasting settlement or not. There are always people, representatives on all sides who have contacts and route-ways to communicate with the leaders of the feuders.
2. Professor Paul Rogers (Open Democracy Website)

From: https://www.opendemocracy.net/paul-rogers/wrongs-of-counter-violence

“A few months before the 7/7 attacks in London in July 2005, and in the wake of the Madrid bombings, I went to a meeting that the Bishop of Bradford had convened to try and think through how a multi-confessional city like Bradford might respond if there was a similar attack in the UK. He brought together representatives from the local mosques, the police, the Council, the youth service and community groups, and I think this might have been one of the factors that helped maintain a degree of calm and resilience in the city when the 7/7 attacks came. Remembering this was part of what prompted me to write the following piece for open Democracy in January, which was republished on 23 March in the light of the attack in Westminster.

Following last night’s terrible attack at the Manchester Arena, it may be helpful to look at the original column again. Now that we are in middle of a very fractious general election campaign it may be that the final few paragraphs, especially the last one, are particularly salient.”

Paul Rogers 23 May 2017

Another 7/7-type attack in the United Kingdom is likely. In the aftermath, it will be essential to respond carefully with responses that seek to explain the wider context.
In London, the inquest has opened into the deaths of thirty British beach tourists in Sousse, Tunisia in June 2015. Eight others were killed in the ISIS-facilitated attack. Many questions remain over the warnings given and the levels of security offered.

The assault, as well as causing great grief to family and friends, had a substantial national impact. Yet this was less than the bombings of London’s transport network on 7 July 2007, when fifty-two people were killed on a bus and three underground trains. (The four perpetrators also died). It remains the defining event for Britain in relation to political violence, closely connected to the Iraq war although this was strenuously denied by the Blair government at the time.

This “disconnect” has remained a feature of British attitudes to al-Qaida, ISIS and other extreme Islamist groups, even if some people pointed out at the time that the loss of life on “7/7” was no higher than the daily loss of life in Iraq.

Now, nearly twelve years later, the war goes on with a similar disconnect – there is simply no appreciation that Britain is an integral part of a major war that started thirty months ago, in August 2014. It may take the form of a sustained air-assault using strike-aircraft and armed-drones, but its intensity is simply unrecorded in the establishment media. This is a straightforward example of “remote warfare” conducted outside of public debate.

Thus, when another attack within Britain on the scale of 7/7 happens, there will be little understanding of the general motivations of those responsible. People will naturally react with horror, asking – why us? Politicians and analysts will find it very difficult even to try and explain the connection between what is happening “there” and “here”.

The straightforward yet uncomfortable answer is that Britain is at war – so what else can be expected? It may be a war that gets little attention, there may be virtually no parliamentary debate on its conduct, but it is a war nonetheless.

There are several factors which underpin this approach.

The post-9/11 western-led wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya have left three countries as failed or failing states, killed several hundred thousand people and displaced millions. This causes persistent anger and bitterness right across the Middle East and beyond. While the Syrian civil war started as the repression of dissent by an insecure and repressive regime, it has evolved into a much more complex “double proxy war” which regional rulers and the wider international community have failed to address. This adds to the animosity.

The situation in Iraq is particularly grievous, given that it was the United States and its coalition partners that started the conflict and also gave rise directly to the evolution of ISIS. The Iraq Body Count project estimates the direct civilian death-toll since 2003 at more than 169,000. After a relative decline over 2009-13, an upsurge in the past three years has seen 53,000 lose their lives through violence.

Since the air-war started in August 2014 the Pentagon calculates that over 30,000 targets have been attacked with more than 60,000 missiles and bombs, and 50,000 ISIS supporters have been killed. But there is abundant evidence that western forces have directly killed many civilians. AirWars reports that:
“As ISIL was forced to retreat in both Iraq and Syria, the year [2016] saw a dramatic jump in reported civilian deaths from Coalition airstrikes. A total of between 2,932 and 4,041 non-combatant fatalities are alleged for 2016, stemming from 445 separate claimed Coalition-caused incidents in both Iraq and Syria.”

ISIS, Jabhat Fateh al-Sham (JFS), and other groups have no air-defence capabilities yet are determined to continue the war, seeing themselves as guardians of Islam under attack by the “crusader” forces of the west. At a time of retreat they will be even more determined than ever to take the war to the enemy, whether by the sustained encouragement and even facilitation of individual attacks such as Berlin or Nice, or more organised attacks such as in Paris and Brussels.

The aims of these groups are threefold:

* Retribution via straightforward paramilitary actions, responding especially to the current reversals in Iraq.

* Demonstrating to the wider world, especially across the Middle East, that they remain a force to be reckoned with.

* Inciting as much anti-Muslim bigotry and hatred as possible in the target countries.
In the last of these they are greatly aided by the attitudes of Trump, Le Pen, Wilders, UKIP and other western political phenomena, especially the incitement of fear of refugees which reached its height in Britain in the closing days of the Brexit campaign.

A repeat 7/7–level attack in Britain is probable, although when and how is impossible to say. Again, it will not be easy to respond. But in trying to do so, two factors need to be born in mind.

First, the aim of ISIS and others will be to incite hatred. Any tendency to encourage that is doing the work of ISIS. This can and should be said repeatedly.

Second, the links between the attack and the ongoing war in Iraq and Syria must be made. That Britain is still at war after fifteen years suggests that some rethinking is required.

Politicians who make these points will face immediate accusations of appeasement, not least in the media. But however difficult the case, it needs to be made if the tide of war is to be turned.
3. Jeff Bolam

I wish I really and truly could guide us all out of the serious problems confronting us. If the politicians sincerely and honestly put their heads together instead of doing stuff like leaving the EU then that would be a good start but oh no intransigence rules. The belief that those awful Muslims are evil and we are right is a real stumbling block.

We (and others in other countries) have got to discover what is so greatly upsetting people who turn to bombing to supposedly solve their grievances. The ‘ terrorists’ (remember Nelson Mandela was a terrorist – a.k.a. freedom fighter) must be incredibly angry and full of hate to engage in brutal, senseless killing of children. This is the lowest of the low.

But there are almost always identifiable causes and effects or even sets of circumstances that crystallise out, possibly spontaneously. These can present definite clues to explain what ignites the fire of violence.

We always have to ask what have we, and others, done to drive people to be so heartless and cruel. There are absolutely no prospects of the violent activities leading to healing of the deep divides there are between people; we are in a war with other groups. There is no path out of the present situation: it is totally futile to continue as before.

But what the U.K does in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria and many other countries is also totally futile. We are also the ‘bad guys’ as well as the other protagonists.

At the end of the day, when the killing stops, what usually happens is the parties to the dispute sit down round a table and talk to one another to seek healing and transformation, peace and reconciliation. There is no other way out whether it is a lasting settlement or not. There are always people, representatives on all sides who have contacts and route-ways to communicate with the leaders of the feuders.

War, fighting and conflict are always possible but so is peaceful co-existence. It has to be: violence, terror, bombing are carefully thought out strategies not by madmen but by people with very different values, outlook, religion understanding etc. We see others at times as evil: they are NOT evil only men who are greatly mistaken on all sides.

Why is war being waged on a number of countries? The only way out is to offer radical solutions – understanding the background, the history, the deep-seated grievances, motives and so on. Solutions are there for the finding to bad ways of thinking, acting and being. And we need politicians who will honestly confront them and find new ways of looking at and handling the problems.

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