There was no public transport in London yesterday afternoon. The underground system was closed and the police were advising people not to go near central London. Casualties are in the hundreds and there are many deaths. The first reaction to the rush-hour bombs on the underground was to suggest they were caused by an electricity surge. Then a tourist bus blew up in Russell Square, in the vicinity of the British Museum. It was obvious that this was no ‘electricity surge’ but the return of terror attacks to London.
During the last phase of ‘the troubles’, the IRA targeted mainland Britain: they came close to blowing up Margaret Thatcher and her Cabinet when they bombed the Grand Hotel in Brighton during a Conservative Party Conference. Several months later a missile was fired at 10 Downing Street. London’s financial quarter was also targeted causing immense damage to property. There was no secret as to the identity of the organization that carried out the hits or its demands. And all this happened despite the ‘internment without trial’ and the various Prevention of Terrorism Acts passed by the House of Commons.
The bombers who targeted London on 7 July are anonymous. At the time of writing no statement has been issued, but it is assumed that those who carried out these attacks are groups/individuals linked to al-Qaeda. We simply do not know. Al-Qaeda is not the only terrorist group in existence. It has rivals within the Muslim diaspora. On its web-site today The Economist suggested that “it is not impossible that some anti-capitalist or anti-globalisation group caused the explosions, timing them to coincide with the G8 meeting” but I think that is impossible. There are no currents within the movement for global justice who believe in targeting civilians. It is, therefore, safe to assume that the cause of these bombs is the unstinting support political and military given by New Labour and its Prime Minister to the US wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. One of the many arguments deployed by Ken Livingstone, the Mayor of London, when he appealed to Blair not to support the war in Iraq was prescient:
‘An assault on Iraq will inflame world opinion and jeopardise security and peace everywhere. London, as one of the major world cities, has a great deal to lose from war and a lot to gain from peace, international co-operation and global stability.’
The aim of the bombers may have been to disrupt London while Bush and Blair hosted the G8 Summit in a remote Scottish outpost (or perhaps even as a warning signal to the Olympic Committee), but the majority of Londoners (as the rest of the country) were opposed to the war in Iraq. Tragically, it is they who have suffered the blow and paid the price for the re-election of Blair and a continuation of the war. Or as John Lanchester, a highly regarded English novelist who once admired Blair, recently wrote of New Labour: “As for its attitude to America, that is comparable only to the ‘coital lock’ which makes it impossible to separate dogs during sex.”
Ever since 9/11, I have been arguing that the ‘war against terror’ is immoral and counterproductive. It sanctions the the use of state terror—-bombing raids, tortures, countless civilian deaths in Afghanistan and Iraq—-against Islamo-anarchists whose numbers are small, but whose reach is deadly. The solution then, as now is political, not military. The British ruling elite understood this perfectly well in the case of Ireland. Security measures, anti-terror laws rushed through Parliament, identity cards, a general curtailment of civil liberties of British citizens will not solve the problem. If anything, they will push young Muslims in the direction of a mindless violence.
The real solution lies in immediately ending the occupation of Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine. Just because these three wars are reported sporadically and mean little to the everyday life of most of Europe’s citizens, this does not mean that the anger and bitterness they arouse in the Muslim world and its diasporas is insignificant. Establishment politicians have little purchase with the young and this applies especially strongly in the Arab world. As long as Western politicians wage their wars and their colleagues in the Muslim world watch in silence, young people will be attracted to the groups who carry out random acts of revenge.
At the beginning of the G8 meeting, Tony Blair suggested that ‘poverty was the cause of terrorism’. This was advanced thinking for a reactionary politician like him, but it is not so. The principal cause of this violence is the violence that is being inflicted on the people of the Muslim world. The bombing of innocent people is equally barbaric in Baghdad, Jenin, Kabul as it is in New York, Madrid or London. And unless this is recognized the horrors will continue.