War on terror begets more terror

June 10, 2017

We condemn the terror attacks in London and Manchester, but we also need to call out the cynical and dangerous response from those in charge who have one solution — more of the same.

British Conservative Prime Minister Theresa May and US President Donald Trump are using these tragedies to ramp up Islamophobia, expand police powers, weaken civil liberties and strengthen the “war on terror” — the same policies that have failed to stop individuals from carrying out terror attacks.

May’s statement that “things need to change” is meaningless rhetoric given that she wants to the rip up human rights laws to make it easier to deport and detain foreign suspects. Meanwhile, US President Donald Trump has used the tragedies to try to bolster his unpopular Muslim travel ban, which has generated mass opposition on the streets.

Their hypocrisy is stark given the US government’s economic ties to reactionary regimes such as Saudi Arabia — a supporter of terrorist outfits including the Taliban and al-Qaeda. Trump is maintaining US arms sales to Saudi Arabia, which it is using to indiscriminately bomb neighbouring Yemen.

Days before the London Bridge attack, we learned that a British government-funded inquiry into the foreign funding of extremist Islamist groups may never be published due to its “sensitive” contents. That sensitivity would likely relate to its focus on Saudi Arabia, to which May approved $3.5 billion worth of arms exports.

By contrast, British Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn called for a broad public discussion about the role that Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states play in funding and fuelling extremist ideology. He also said that if elected he would halt all weapon sales from Britain to Saudi Arabia.

Corbyn also pointed out that the rise of fundamentalist terrorist forces, such as ISIS and al-Qaeda, are the products of decades of Western intervention and occupation in the Middle East. The leaderships of the US and Britain must bear the brunt of responsibility for that history of imperialist intervention, which continues today.

Australian politicians are using the London bombing and the recent shooting in Brighton, Melbourne, to deepen their fearmongering and scapegoating of Muslims. Despite the corporate media sensationalism linking the 29-year old suspect of the Brighton shooting to ISIS, there is not sufficient evidence to indicate that he was anything but a “lone wolf”, and someone who the authorities already knew about.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said Australians face a “growing threat from Islamist terrorism” and wants tougher parole laws. Not to be outdone, former Prime Minister Tony Abbott wants to give “specialist military commandos” shoot-to-kill powers, an opinion shared by Liberal MP Andrew Hastie. Professional racist Pauline Hanson is demanding the prime minister temporarily ban Muslims from migrating here.

Labor Opposition Leader Bill Shorten was a little more measured in his response to the recent attacks — earning him a smack down from The Australian. Shorten did not immediately rush to blame Islam, instead saying he would wait until he saw the police reports and that to deal with “extremism” we have “got to work out how we prevent it”. Perhaps he was influenced a little by Corbyn? Or perhaps he too realises that people are seeing through the lies and do not accept that civil liberties are under attack, given the likelihood of an individual being killed or wounded from a terrorist attack in Australia is extremely low.

Predictably, the communique after the Australia–United States Ministerial consultations on June 5 was the same well-rehearsed lines: we will take on the terrorists and the US values its “alliance” with Australia.

The new aspect to this meeting of warmongers was its shared hostility to North Korea, which is experimenting with land-to-sea missiles.

Minister for Defence Marise Payne hinted ominously that North Korea would be punished for its “destabilising” behaviour — a hypocritical stance for Australia to have considering its alliance with the US, which is hoarding a massive arsenal of nuclear weapons and regularly participates in testing of high-tech weaponry.

The UN Security Council unanimously adopted a US-drafted resolution on June 2 imposing new targeted sanctions on a handful of North Korean officials and entities. US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson also took aim at China, demanding it rein in North Korea and stop “militarising islands in the South China Sea”.

This is simply more of the same of the failed approach, but extended into Asia. Permanent war is their setting, unless we force them to stop. The failed war on terror policy has not only devastated countries, it is fostering a climate for fundamentalism to grow. We need an end to the US-Australia war alliance.

[Jacob Andrewartha is a member of the Socialist Alliance national executive.]

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