A memo, supposedly prepared by ‘senior Downing Street officials’ has been leaked to the Sunday Telegraph (though Downing Street deny it was written by their people, they’re apparently not contesting its existence). This, on the Telegraph’s account,
admits that, in an ideal world, “the Muslim would not perceive the UK and its foreign policies as hostile” – effectively accepting the argument that Britain’s military action in Iraq and Afghanistan has served as a recruiting sergeant for Islamist terrorist groups.
I don’t know if there’s a typo and they meant to say ‘the Muslim world’ or something, or if ‘senior Downing street officials’ really do talk about ‘the Muslim’ (bit touchy, don’tcha know; sound chap, nevertheless, particularly when led by British officers). I do know, because I know someone who was there, that at a meeting at Downing Street between senior civil servants and law enforcement officials held in 1993 to discuss the Russian mafia and suchlike, the Downing Street chaps referred throughout to the ‘Soviet Union’ and the ‘Warsaw Pact’, so nothing would surprise me; as he said, ‘but I thought the reason we were having this meeting was that don’t exist any more.’
Anyway, Downing Street are very upset at what most of us would regard as statement of the blindingly obvious; it would be bloody surpising if these groups didn’t try to capitalise on the fact we’re gone and invaded Afghanistan and Iraq (particularly the latter). Doesn’t necessarily mean we shouldn’t have gone ahead and invaded, of course, but, as Peter Taylor told the House of Commons Select Committee on Foreign Affairs a couple of months ago,
Iraq is the single most important recruiting tool that they have, there is no question about it, and when the Prime Minister made that remark about “It has got nothing to do with Iraq; they will think of any excuse”, I was surprised because the Prime Minister has a very fine record on countering “terrorism and political violence”, and I was surprised to hear him say that kind of remark about Iraq, which is patently not true, in my view anyway.
His colleague, Professor Paul Wilkinson, expressed similar views in his written evidence (paragraph 10);
One of the most significant developments in the evolution of Al Qaeda since 2003 has been the way the movement has exploited the allied invasion and occupation of Iraq. Whatever view one may take on the decision to invade Iraq it is simply ignoring reality to deny that the invasion and occupation have been a big boost for Al Qaeda and a setback for the coalition against terrorism. The invasion was a propaganda gift to Al Qaeda because they could portray it as an unprovoked imperialistic attack on a Muslim land. Al Qaeda poses as the defender of Muslim lands and people everywhere. They used this as a recruiting sergeant and as an opportunity for fund raising for their global jihad. Moreover the conflict provided a rich concentration of US and other western military and civilian targets in a country which the militants could enter all too easily across virtually uncontrolled borders
What’s Downing Street’s reaction to this memo?
A spokesman said: “We recognise that people have used Iraq as an excuse for terrorist activity but clearly plenty of terrorist activity against the UK and its citizens has pre-dated that. Any remaining deployments of the British armed forces should be seen as contributing to international stability and security
“Right around the world there are plenty of examples of al-Qaeda and al-Qaeda-style attacks that happened well before 2003.”
What do they not understand about the concept ‘exacerbate‘, for God’s sake? Maybe they could use this line of argument to deflect criticism the next time there’s a fuss about MMR or other hospital-related diseases; ‘We’re very sorrry about your wife’s death, but you must remember she was poorly when she went into hospital…’
BBC NEWS | Politics | Iraq war ‘fuelling UK terrorism Or, to quote further from Professor Wilkinson’s evidence (paragraph 7), what do they find odd about the view that
The Al Qaeda network’s supply of well-trained and experienced terrorist operatives has been enormously increased as a result of the field experience provided in the Iraq conflict. Foreign terrorists who have been involved with the Al Qaeda Jihad in Mesopotamia led by the Jordanian Abu Musab al-Zarqawi [he was writing in October 2005], are now able to return to their countries of origin, including the EU member states, battle hardened and with skills acquired and honed in Iraq. It is also noteworthy that in recent weeks we have seen tactics methods copied from the terrorist campaign in Iraq being used in Afghanistan by Taleban and Al Qaeda-linked groups and their Afghan warlord allies to attack.
Mind you, the rest of the memo does seem a trifle odd; apparently
It demands a “significant reduction in the number and intensity of the regional conflicts that fuel terror activity”.
After a decade, Iraq must have “stable central and local government, accepted by all sectarian groups”. Afghanistan must be “stable, democratic, with all territory under central government control”.
Israel must have “secure borders” and live in “peaceful co-existence” with its Arab neighbours, while Iran must have a “representative, tolerant government … no nuclear weapons” and “no sponsorship of terrorism”.
Well, yes. That would be most agreeable, wouldn’t it? Maybe by then we’ll have discovered a cures for cancer and Altzheimer’s and we can refuse to give them to countries that don’t behave….but…..
Technorati tags: Iraq, Blair, Leaked Memo