After the recent spate of murders in Manchester, London and Melbourne people are increasingly asking what the past 20 years of the “war on terror” has done besides making the world a more dangerous, divided and fearful place.
After the London Bridge murders, embattled British Prime Minister Theresa May declared that, if elected, she would introduce tougher surveillance laws. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is pushing for tighter parole laws and for police to be given more firearms. US President Donald Trump is chastising Congress for holding up his racist Muslim travel ban while he cosies up to the Saudi regime, a big supporter of various terrorist networks including the Taliban and al-Qaeda.
So, are we becoming too soft on terrorism, as these Western leaders allege? Or are we increasingly seeing their “new” approach to terrorism as mere hype?
After the Manchester attacks, Jeremy Corbyn delivered a widely-circulated speech criticising the Middle East occupations. In it he said: “An informed understanding of the causes of terrorism is an essential part of an effective response that will protect the security of our people; that fights rather than fuels terrorism.”
A YouGov poll taken days later found 53% agreed that British foreign policy had been “at least in part responsible” for terror attacks. The same poll found 55% opposed the intervention in Iraq in 2003, and 44% and 43% said it was wrong to invade Libya and Afghanistan respectively.
Corbyn, an anti-war activist and strong critic of Tony Blair’s support for the Iraq war, used the election campaign to present a diametrically different foreign policy approach. He argued that differences could be sorted out “by discussion and debate” and that “rallies, debates, campaigning in the marketplaces, knocking on doors, listening to people on the streets, at their workplaces and in their homes — all the arts of peaceful persuasion and discussion — are the stuff of our campaigns.”
By contrast Turnbull, May and Trump want to send more occupation troops, set up more domestic surveillance, more internet censorship and have police carry more powerful guns. All of this, we are told, is for our own “protection”.
We may not have a senior figure in the Australian Labor Party with Corbyn’s integrity, but John Menadue, a former advisor to Prime Ministers Gough Whitlam and Malcolm Fraser, did not mince words in a June 5 article titled, “The terrorists are over here because our troops are over there” He said former Coalition Prime Minister John Howard must “shoulder most of the blame for the appalling world-wide consequences, particularly terrorism”.
Menadue did not spare the corporate media either for its slavish support for endless wars: “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 — Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Pakistan and Nigeria. [But the] media never stops to ask how all of this terrorism started in the first place.
“The evidence is overwhelming that 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.”
He then listed 11 points of supporting evidence, including how the West has always been happy to support religious dictators (Saudi Arabia) and how many of the then security advisors now admit that drone strikes and ongoing occupations had increased the terror threat, and the radicalisation of young people.
Menadue argues the West must end its occupation “for the sake of the long-suffering people in the Middle East and for our greater security at home”.
Stop the War Coalition UK agrees: “To destroy Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria by military intervention and not expect that these ruined and abandoned societies would spawn killers and provoke violent responses was always a policy blindness bordering on the perverse.”
We need to set the record straight and demand change.
Twenty-one years after the reactionary Project for the New American Century came up with its plan for US global military dominance and permanent war, the world is clearly a much more dangerous place. The clear and resounding evidence is in: state terrorism by the West feeds Islamic State-type terrorism.
The only way to defeat both is to ramp up our opposition to the wars of terror, stop arms sales and challenge racism and Islamophobia at home. We need to support democratic forces in war zones trying to do the same. This is the only realistic “new” way to counter terrorism.