Mayor Ken Livingstone / The Guardian – 2005-08-05 00:54:54
Three Ways To Make Us All Safer
• Support the Police,
• Treat Muslims with Respect and
• Pull Out of Iraq
Mayor Ken Livingstone / The Guardian
LONDON (August 4, 2005) — It is four weeks since bombers indiscriminately killed and maimed ordinary Londoners. Protecting London from terrorists requires the best possible policing — which, in turn, needs the greatest possible flow of information from all communities. It also demands that we shrink the pool of the alienated that bombers draw on by treating all communities as equal parts of British society — not only theoretically, but in reality. And it means withdrawing from Iraq. All are interrelated.
Acceptance that the invasion of Iraq increased the likelihood of a terrorist attack on London now extends far beyond the usual suspects — from Guardian writers to MI5, Douglas Hurd, the Daily Mail, the Spectator, and a majority of the British public.
Jack Straw has also acknowledged this debate. If the invasion of Iraq had been justified, it would be possible to argue that we must bear the sacrifices necessary to achieve a just outcome. However, it is evident that the war in Iraq was not justified. It has made the situation worse. The illusions with which it was launched are collapsing.
The reason the US is not able to stabilise Iraq is related to the same criticalissue that affects policing in Britain: information. Which is simply another way of saying the attitude of the population.
US forces are ineffective because the great bulk of the population will not give them intelligence voluntarily. Therefore elements within the US military are led to resort to ritual humiliation and torture. This does not yield remotely sufficient information. Therefore US forces are led to relatively blind strikes against those opposing them — inevitably killing innocent civilians. This, of course, has the effect of alienating the population further.
The Iraqi people see US policy in practice. Successive US administrations showed no interest in Iraqi democracy — so long as Saddam Hussein gassed Iranians, Kurds or other US opponents he was supplied with weapons and other support. Only when he struck a US ally was he opposed.
After the 2003 invasion, when US troops were deployed to protect the oil ministry while looting gripped Iraq, when key reconstruction contracts were awarded to US companies, Iraqis understood what was in store for them. US forces cannot win over Iraq’s population because the formally stated democratic goals of the forces have nothing to do with the actual policy pursued.
That is also why al-Qaida, previously without a presence in Iraq, now has a strong base there — damaging the fight against international terrorism.
Nevertheless, I want to make the point to some opponents of the war. It is not a policy simply to explain to people: “You are dying because Britain is in Iraq.” The bombers came to kill indiscriminately. As one Londoner put it to me: “I am a Muslim and scared – and my first fear is being blown up.” I supported action against the Iraq war and I support measures to stop Londoners being bombed.
Right now, only the police can stop bombers. Anyone who tries to avoid this is not dealing with what are literally life and death matters. But the police can only be effective if they get community cooperation. Opponents of the war should continue to oppose it. But they also have to say to London’s communities: “Cooperate with the police to catch terrorists” — and explain that the quality of information the police get will be decisively affected by the degree to which communities are treated with respect.
Which leads directly to the question of whether Britain should ban Sheikh Qaradawi – a matter with major consequences for the treatment of Britain’s Muslim community. Last week, Jonathan Freedland honestly reported on these pages that Qaradawi utterly condemned the London bombings.
However, many have suggested that Qaradawi should none the less be banned because he says Palestinian suicide bombing can be justified under Islam in the specific conditions of the Israel-Palestine conflict. I am utterly against both suicide bombings and Israeli killing of civilians – I didn’t oppose capital punishment decade after decade to turn round and say it’s all right when suicide bombers blow people up.
But if supporters of the Palestinians should be banned on the grounds that Palestinians kill civilians, then consistency would require banning Israeli leaders, who have been responsible for killing several times more Palestinian civilians. Someone advocating that both Sharon and Qaradawi be banned would be wrong, but at least they would be consistent.
Consider the consequences of a ban on Qaradawi for relations with the Muslim community. My political record makes clear that I totally disagree with Qaradawi on gay rights and many other questions. Nevertheless, he is one of the world’s most eminent Muslim religious leaders.
It is impossible to say that Britain’s Muslims should be treated with respect but that their religion’s most eminent representatives must be banned. Imagine how the Jewish community, many of whom do not agree with the policies of Israel’s government, would react if Israeli leaders were banned because of military actions that have killed thousands of Palestinian civilians.
Every major British Muslim organisation — even those disagreeing withhim, such as Imaan, the organisation of lesbian and gay Muslims – believes Qaradawi should be admitted. Whatever his individual views, he is seen as a moderate and is fiercely opposed to al-Qaida. Those believing he should be banned give lip service to treating Britain’s Muslim community with respect but in practice deny it. Not only is that wrong itself, but it will increase the number of alienated fanatics.
As only dialogue and negotiation will end this cycle of violence, I favour banning neither Israeli leaders nor Qaradawi. I don’t believe there is any prospect of achieving a lasting peace in the Israel-Palestine conflict until all sides come to terms with the horrors they have perpetrated. The injustice done to the Palestinians does not justify the actions of a suicide bomber. But neither can anything justify the killing of civilians by Israeli forces.
The London bombings, demand clear thinking, not rhetoric. People’s lives depend on the decisions made. These must be for every community to aid the police in preventing attacks; to treat Britain’s Muslim community with respect, both because it is right and to shrink the pools terrorists operate in; and for Britain to withdraw from Iraq.
Ken Livingstone is mayor of London.
You can donate to the London Bombings Relief Charitable Fund over the counter at your nearest bank or post office, by phone on 08705 125 125, or online at: Redcross.org.uk
London Bomber Says Motivated by Iraq War, Not Religion
LONDON, July 31, 2005 (IslamOnline.net & News Agencies) – A would-be London bomber arrested by Italian police has told investigators that he and three fellows were motivated by the Iraq war and not by religious fervor, denying any link to Al-Qaeda network.
“We met each other at a muscle-building class in Notting Hill and Muktar (Said Ibrahim) showed us some DVDs with images of the war in Iraq, especially women and children killed by American and British soldiers,” Osman Hussain, suspected of attempting to blow up commuters in west London on July 21, was quoted as saying by Italy’s La Repubblica newspaper Sunday, July 31.
Hussain said films on the atrocities committed by US and British occupation soldiers in Iraq helped to foster the group’s “political conviction that it is necessary to give a signal, to do something.”
The Italian Interior Ministry confirmed that the quotes from Hussain’s interrogation in La Repubblica were authentic but declined to comment on the source of the leaks, reported the Independent Sunday.
The 27-year-old Ethiopian-born Briton, also known as Isaac Hamdi, was arrested Friday, July 29, after Italian police had tracked his mobile phone number – provided by the British — through France and Italy before his arrival in Rome by train.
His first stage of a preliminary extradition hearing was held Saturday, July 30, but Rome’s Court of Appeal may rule he should remain in Italy as part of an investigation into the killing of an Italian citizen in the 7 July bombings, according to the Independent.
In an obvious retreat from his earlier stance, British Prime Minister Tony Blair acknowledged on July 26 that the Iraq war was being used to recruit terrorists.
An ICM poll for the Guardian found on July 19 that two-thirds of Britons believe the July 7 bombings in were linked to Blair’s support for the US-led invasion of Iraq.
The “ill-considered venture” of invading Iraq has turned into a “mess” fueling attacks around the world and providing Al-Qaeda with sympathizers across the Muslim world, award-winning British reporter Patrick Cockburn wrote in the Independent on July 25.
Climate of Hatred
Hussain denied links to the London bombings that killed 52 people and the four bombers on Thursday, July 7, saying they were surprised by the attacks.
“We have no link with the Pakistanis,” he said. However, his group reportedly took the 7 July carnage as a signal that it should also act.
“We had to do something. We had to react to the climate of hatred and hostility that was created after the 7 July bombs. We were not supposed to kill anyone. That bomb would not have been able to cause victims.” Hussain also denied any link to Al-Qaeda network.
“We never had contacts with the Bin Laden organization. We knew that they existed. We had access to their platforms through the internet, but nothing direct.”
Eritrean-born Ibrahim, a would-be bomber, was arrested in west London on Friday.
He is accused of trying to blow up a Number 26 double-decker bus.
The second, Ramzi Mohammad, is suspected of trying to set off his device in The Oval Underground train station.
A third, 24-year-old Somali-born Yassin Hassan Omar, was detained in a raid in the central city of Birmingham on Wednesday, July 27. He is wanted for the attempted bombing of a Victoria Line train near Warren Street.
The Metropolitan Police released the “girlfriends” of Ibrahim and Mohammad after being arrested Friday heading for London Stansted airport.
The Sunday Mirror quoted a security source as saying the pair were now being treated as witnesses rather than suspects.
Meanwhile, the family of Zambian-held London bombings suspect Haroon Aswat said they feared he may be extradited to face torture in the United States, and criticized Britain’s handling of the situation.
The British national is suspected of links to the July 7 London bombings and is also wanted by US authorities over alleged attempts to set up a terrorist training camp in Bly, Oregon.
In another development, British security sources told the Sunday Times that a third terror cell is planning multiple suicide bomb attacks on London, reported Agence France-Presse (AFP).
The sources said that the terrorists were on the loose and planning further blasts on “soft” targets in the center of the city such as the Underground subway network.
The Times said intelligence of a third cell with access to explosives and plans to hit London with a third wave of attacks sparked Thursday’s unprecedented deployment of 6,000 police officers on the city’s streets.
A member of the Metropolitan Police’s firearms unit which nabbed the suspected bombers Friday told the Sunday Times: “What we did on Friday was just the tip of the iceberg.
“There is some big stuff coming in the next few months. There’s a big network that’s got to be cracked.”
British police were holding Sunday a total of 11 suspects in custody over the two waves of London bomb attacks this month.
All are being held on suspicion of being behind acts of terrorism, or harboring fugitives.
Searches have taken place at 14 addresses in London and two in Birmingham.
The investigations have now generated over 5,300 separate police actions and detectives are examining 8,500 documents and 35,000 closed circuit television tapes.
A bag stuffed with bogus passports, documents and bank cards was found abandoned at London’s Heathrow Airport, Britain’s The News of the World reported Sunday.
The paper called the find a “potential terrorist goldmine” and said anti-terrorist officers were urgently probing the discovery.
The bag was spotted by a taxi driver on a verge near London’s main airport on Thursday. The 19 passports inside were for Pakistani, British, Indian, Nepalese and South African nationals.
The newspaper said pictures of the same men appear on different passports in different names.
Many passports had fake visas in different shades of ink from genuine documents.
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