London, Terrorism and Iraq
A Majority of Americans says Iraq War has made them Less Safe
The UK will have two minutes of silence on Thursday in honor of the victims of the the July 7 bombings. We should have it in the United States, as well. If we cannot synchonize with the British timing because of the time differences, we should do it the same time in our time zones (i.e. Thursday at noon or whenever it is scheduled). We bloggers can help spread the word and coordinate the timing. OK?
Dan Murphy of the Christian Science Monitor writes that “Analysts suspect Thursday’s attack in London was motivated by Britain’s role in Iraq,” and quotes interesting comments by Israeli terrorism expert Reuven Paz:
‘ Paz says the frequency with which jihadis in Iraq are willing to justify the killings of civilians and Muslims is a sharp departure from the previous generation weaned on Afghanistan, which was brutal to be sure, but generally had stricter limits on what were seen as legitimate targets. “The Iraqi alumni are going to be more dangerous than the Afghan alumni. They have no limits, no red lines,” he says. ‘
Ahmed Rashid explains that the “New al-Qaeda” is smaller, more loosely organized, and more secretive than the old– and therefore even more dangerous.
Leftwing MPs in Labor are planning to challenge Tony Blair’s policy on Iraq, arguing that the British occupation of the south of that country helped cause the London bombings. They say they are delaying the campaign out of respect for the victims.
Blair himself on Monday took a two-pronged approach to what he said was the likelihood that the July 7 bombings were the work of a radical Muslim group. He addressed moderate British Muslims with praise:
“We were proud of your contribution to Britain before last Thursday. We remain proud of it today,” said Blair in a statement to parliament . . . “Fanaticism is not a state of religion, but a state of mind and we will work with you to make the moderate and true voice of Islam heard as it should be,” he said. “Together we will ensure that, though terrorists can kill, they will never destroy the way of life we share and we value and which we would defend with such strength of belief and conviction.
At the same time, Blair said his government was considering new anti-terrorism laws that would allow a crackdown on Muslim preachers of hatred and would allow better terrorism prevention by law enforcement. The UK does not have a Bill of Rights, and some laws curbing free speech are already pretty Draconian; one fears where legislating about simple speech will go. In the US, the Supreme Court established the “clear and present danger” standard, such that speech can be curbed only if there is a reasonable and imminent danger that it will lead to violence.
A majority of Americans, 54%, now says that the Iraq War has made the United States less safe. This is up from 39 percent in late June before the July 7 attacks. The poll was conducted Thursday through Sunday, so it is clear that large numbers of Americans correctly perceived that the London bombings signalled that a long-term US military occupation of and war in Iraq was clearly not making Westerners safer. The most immediate claim of responsibility for the London bombings, from al-Qaeda in Europe, said that they were “revenge” for “massacres” in Afghanistan and Iraq. Americans could figure this out and also that if London isn’t safe, then neither are US cities.
Only about a third of Americans believe that the US is winning in Iraq, though a lot more think it is a stalemate.
Bush got a slight bounce in the polls from the London attacks. And, he seems likely to pick up support in Congress for extending pernicious elements of the so-called P.A.T.R.I.O.T. act, which seriously erode US civil liberties and attack the Constitution. We have seen this phenomenon in Israel, where Hamas and the Likud Party have danced a macabre tango of death and mayhem all the way to enormous popularity at the ballot box in their respective societies. (This process has devastated the many left-of-center forces on each side committed to peace and co-existence.) At this rate, Bin Laden’s goal of destroying US civil liberties may be within his reach.
While a recognition of the true costs of the bungled Iraq occupation is very welcome, I worry about a swing in opinion that will lead to a precipitate US withdrawal, leaving Iraq in a chaos that will get thousands more Iraqis killed and also hurt the rest of the world.