Britain - After the London bombings - no amount of cover-up can conceal Blair's criminal policies

Sep/Oct 2005

That Blair's policy of military aggression in the Middle East would backfire eventually was never a matter of "if". It was always only a matter of "when". To claim that the 7th July bombings had nothing to do with Iraq is to bury one's head in the sand. But in the case of Blair and his ministers this claim is mere cynicism and hypocrisy.

Since 9/11, Blair, acting as Bush's servile junior partner in crime, used and abused the "terrorist threat" as a justification to terrorise whole populations, first in Afghanistan and then in Iraq. US and British forces bombed these populations into submission, killing tens of thousands of men, women and children, who had nothing to do with "terrorism". Then they occupied their countries and proceeded to reshape them according to the needs of the rich powers' world order - that is, with the aim of facilitating the looting of their natural resources and markets by western companies.

Both in Afghanistan and in Iraq, the only result of these military ventures was to generate catastrophic and bloody chaos for the populations, which is still going on today. What is more, the invading forces are still waging an on-going war in both countries, years after "combat" was officially declared to be "over" by the western high commands.

Afghanistan is now run by a government whose real authority depends entirely on the presence of western troops and does not extend beyond a small region around the capital. In the rest of the country, the population is caught between abject poverty due to the destruction of the economy as a result of the war, and the brutality of rival warlords who are engaged in on-going turf battles against one another, with the tacit agreement of western capitals. Meanwhile, an unspoken, but bloody war goes on between western forces and those described by their generals as "the Taleban" - that is, anyone opposing the occupation - as was shown once again, on 9th August, when British bombers were called in to destroy "resistance nests" in the Tora-Bora mountains.

Iraq is an even more catastrophic illustration of Blair's and Bush's criminal policies. The present transitional regime may well have all the fixtures of what London and Washington dare to call "democracy" - at least, for those who choose to forget that it was brought into office by US and British guns and would not remain in place for any length of time without them. But under this regime, the population lives a permanent nightmare.

The country's economy and infrastructure are all but destroyed by three wars and a decade of western sanctions. The so-called "reconstruction" of Iraq has been a cynical farce designed to share out US and British state subsidies between a handful of big western companies, without anything being "reconstructed" on the ground, except military and business infrastructure and even luxury hotels. There are no jobs for the population except, of course, in the western-sponsored Iraqi police and army. Basic necessities remain scarce, if available at all.

Above all, Iraq is torn apart by an on-going civil war between armed factions, whose rivalries have been deliberately whipped up by western authorities, as part of a "divide to rule" policy. And with the latest developments surrounding the draft constitution the situation is unlikely to improve, in this respect, in the near future. Terrorist attacks are daily events in a large part of the country, claiming the lives of dozens of civilians day after day. US and British aircraft and tanks are still busy trying to "pacify" entire regions which escape their control - to no avail, but at great cost to human life. Meanwhile the population is subjected to the rule of armed militias - fundamentalist or otherwise - under the indifferent eye of the occupation authorities who consider these thugs as useful auxiliaries, so long as they help to keep the lid on the population's discontent.

Such is the bloody balance sheet of Blair's and Bush's criminal policies in the Middle East over the past four years. And to this, one should add the brutal repression carried out in Palestine by their favourite regional ally, Sharon, whose eviction of Jewish settlers from the Gaza Strip is merely a way of locking up the Palestinian people in a higher-security jail.

In the run-up to the Iraq war, even Blair's own security advisers had warned that this new invasion was likely to provide new ammunition to the groups advocating terrorist action as a means to fight western domination. And so it did. Blair and Bush became the best recruiting agents that Islamic fundamentalist terrorist groups have ever had across the Middle East in recent history. That this phenomenon should eventually feed back into Europe, as it did, first in Spain and then in Britain, was only a matter of time.

Terrorism is always a weapon against the populations

Payback time finally came on July 7th. And it came in exactly the same barbaric form as Blair's blind bombings of Afghan and Iraqi civilians. The 56 people who died in London had nothing to do with Blair's crimes, nor were they fighting any war. Just as the Afghan and Iraqi civilians who were killed in Kabul, Baghdad or Basra, they died because of Blair's choice to defend the vested interests of Britain's big shareholders in the Middle East.

But they also died because of the deliberate choice made by the bombers themselves. The terrorists did not choose to aim at the rich and powerful, who own everything in this society. Nor did they aim at the state's military machine, or at its institutions, which make decisions in the name of the population, without ever bothering to take public opinion into account.

Instead, by planting bombs in public transport during the morning rush hour, the terrorists chose to cause maximum casualties, suffering and mayhem for working people, and only for them. In so doing they have proved their utter contempt for ordinary people, whom they considered as nothing but dispensable cannon-fodder.

Such contempt for populations is the trademark of terrorism, whether it be the individual terrorism used by political factions, as on July 7th, or the institutional terrorism of the state machineries of the rich powers.

Of course, the July 7th bombers did not have the full might of a modern army and industry at their disposal to destroy entire populations as Blair did. And they chose to die in the course of their attacks, whereas Blair survived his victims, enjoyed happy holidays in Barbados and can soon look forward to a long business career.

But the fact that terrorist methods are used in the name of the weak and the oppressed does not make them any less despicable. Especially when, under the cover of fighting the world's most powerful states, they involve the targeting of their working populations - which are also oppressed by the very same states and their capitalist classes.

Not only are such methods despicable, but they also act against the interests of the poor populations in whose name they are used. Far from reinforcing the cause of the Middle Eastern and Third World populations, these terrorist groups only strengthen the hand of the Western plunderers of the world, by allowing them to whip up fear and hatred among their domestic public.

It was the 9/11 attacks which provided Bush and Blair with an ideal pretext to launch their "war on terrorism", introduce emergency legislation at home and embark on terrorist wars abroad, first against Afghanistan and then against Iraq, despite the opposition of a large section of their domestic public opinion, particularly in Britain. And we can already see today how Blair is trying, once again, to manipulate public opinion by using the London bombings as a pretext to tighten "security" legislation, not just against potential terrorists, but against the entire population.

Above all, the most powerful natural allies of the Afghan and Iraqi populations against their Western torturers are the working classes of the rich countries, which have no interest in endorsing the criminal greed of their own oppressors. By resorting to terrorist methods, the self-proclaimed champions of the oppressed are, in reality, weakening their position, by taking the risk of depriving them of such a vital support.

But then, coming from Islamic fundamentalist currents, whose agenda is to enslave their own populations, by imposing on them a form of social oppression borrowed from the Middle Ages, it is no coincidence. The last thing these groups want is the emergence of an alliance between the Middle Eastern and Western masses against a capitalist world order which keeps generating wars and poverty. In this respect, the Islamic fundamentalists share a common objective with the likes of Blair and Bush.

From "national unity" to a cynical cover-up

After July 7th, and even more so after the failed attacks on July 21th, ministers went out of their way to use these events in order to rally public support behind Blair's policy - not just behind his moves against terrorism at home, but behind his entire policy, including his role in the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq.

There were repeated references celebrating the "spirit of the Blitz" in Britain and everyone's determination not to be "intimidated" by terrorism. And the planned ceremonies for the commemoration of the end of World War II were used as a platform for ministers to vocally reaffirm "everybody's stake" in the "war on terrorism", whether it be in Britain or in Iraq.

As if the working population of this country was supposed to consider itself in the same boat as Blair, his generals and his City masters! As if it had anything in common with the greed for profits of this government's capitalist masters, or anything to gain from its military ventures in Afghanistan, Iraq or any other part of the world!

The fact was, however, that Blair's crude denial that the London bombings had anything to do with his policy in Iraq did not gain much credit from the majority of public opinion, no matter how shaken it was by the attacks. Hence the subsequent barrage of official statements and announcements designed to substantiate both the impression that the government had the situation well under control and the idea that it needed more emergency powers to deal with it.

These contradictory claims were nonsense, of course. First, because no government can effectively prevent individuals who are really determined to commit suicide bombings from doing so, if such individuals exist in the country. And second, because the government demonstrated itself that it did not need any emergency powers, when the four individuals due to stand trial for the failed July 21th bombings were charged without resorting to any of the existing anti-terrorist legislation.

Nevertheless, the same official propaganda kept being churned out day after day. The police top brass were offered plenty of time by TV channels to vent their demands for more resources and a much longer time to detain people in police custody without charge. London's streets and public transport were flooded with heavily-armed police, allegedly to deter would-be terrorists and reassure the public. "Stop and search" procedures reappeared, with their usual blatant racist bias.

However, on 22nd July, this massive show of strength suddenly backfired on the government. Less than 24 hours after the police had issued a triumphant announcement that security forces had shot a "suicide bomber" at Stockwell tube station, the alleged "terrorist" turned out to be a young Brazilian electrician on his way to work, Jean-Charles Menezes, who had nothing whatsoever to do with terrorism. Nevertheless, he was shot dead by a "specialist" army unit on the strength of an unofficial "shoot-to-kill" policy, amateur intelligence and, probably, a good deal of racist prejudice.

The immediate response of the police was to deny any wrongdoing and the government showed its willingness to back them all the way. Sir Ian Blair, the Metropolitan police commissioner, pushed the cynicism as far as to warn that, given the on-going terrorist threat, such "unfortunate events" were bound to happen again!

Over the following weeks, however, leak after leak revealed a long trail of lies which the police and government had used in a deliberate attempt to cover up what amounted to the cold-blooded murder of a young working-class man going about his daily business, whose sole crime was to have lived in the wrong block of flats and to have looked "foreign".

Eventually, by the end of August, the whole affair had been drowned - temporarily, at least - in the usual bureaucratic maze of so-called "independent" enquiries. It will resurface, no doubt and the odds are that a less and less fresh-faced Blair will be judged yet again to have acted on "good faith" by all these "independent" bodies, on the grounds that "he did not know".

However, the murder of Jean-Charles Menezes will remain in the minds of working people, as a testimony to how little they can trust their own lives in the hands of the capitalist state and its rent-to-kill army "specialists". The knowledge that security forces have been operating a "shoot-to-kill" policy for over two years, will be particularly ominous for anyone who remembers the 1970s and 1980s, when such a policy was used against Irish Republicans, claiming the lives of many unarmed activists and innocent bystanders. As to the police's naive boasting that it "learnt" how to "deal with terrorists" from Sharon, it should be even more worrying, given the Israeli army's total failure in tackling suicide bombing, not to mention its well-known habit of shooting into crowds!

Emergency powers back on the table

By now, at least for the time being, the police has suspended its show of strength on London's streets - no doubt, as a result of the Menezes scandal.

However, the main reason for this show of strength was never to give the public any security, let alone to stop terrorist attacks. Rather, it was to maintain an atmosphere of siege which - at least, this is what the government hopes - will help get people used to the idea that restrictions on civil rights are not only necessary, but inevitable.

The so-called "failed" terrorist attacks on 21st July, were a typical example of this cynical manipulation of public opinion. Repeated reports have filtered through from different sources, showing that the "terrorists" were carrying home-made detonators but no explosives, and that, therefore, they could not possibly have intended to inflict any damage on people - which makes their mindless gesture far less dangerous than the 7th July attacks. Nevertheless, no official statement was ever issued to this effect. To all intents and purposes, the public is meant to consider the authors of these attacks as "suicide bombers", just as those responsible for the 7th July attacks.

This fudging of issues was no coincidence, of course. Just as the rest of the government's rhetoric following these terrorist attacks, it was designed to allow ministers to put back onto the agenda the emergency powers that they had failed to secure only a few months before.

Out of the 17 prisoners held without trial in Belmarsh prison (some for more than 3 years), who the government was forced to release last March following a High Court ruling, 7 have already been rearrested. They are now awaiting either extradition on the grounds of abetting terrorism or else due to face trial (although no formal charges have been brought against most of them, so far).

Officially, the government claims it only wants powers to deport individuals suspected of terrorist links. But, if so, why does it also need new legislation ranging from secret trials without jury and restriction orders (effectively imprisoning people in their own homes) to "fast-track" deportation procedures, without any right of appeal on British land? And if judges do not show enough zeal in meeting the government's wishes, says Home Secretary Charles Clarke, they are to be reminded in no uncertain terms that "national security" should come first - meaning before the rights of the accused - in their decisions.

Why all this? As if the already considerable machinery of anti-terrorist and repressive legislation was not enough! Unless, of course, this tightening of the screw has a quite different objective - i.e. to provide the government with a multi-purpose repressive mechanism, which it can use in all kinds of circumstances, including when terrorism is not an issue.

An illustration of this is provided by the way in which the deportation of so-called "failed" asylum seekers has been suddenly stepped up since July, using the "fast-track" procedures already in place. The worn-out demagogic sleight of hand equating asylum seekers to "terrorists" is so convenient for a government bent on pandering to anti-immigrant prejudices, that it could not wait!

Not that these asylum seekers had anything to do with terrorism, of course. Indeed, by a sinister irony, for instance, a number of them have been Iraqi Kurds who fled to Britain after being chased out of their homes by Islamic fundamentalist groups in Northern Iraq. They cannot return to their home towns thanks to the political chaos created there by the British and US invasion. But what do Blair and his ministers care about their fate?

That the emergency powers sought by Blair have a far wider scope than terrorism itself, is also shown by the use of a simple semantical trick - the replacement of the word "terrorist" with the word "extremist" in official statements. What does "extremism" really mean in the government's hidden agenda these days? Where is the dividing line?

In the US, the so-called "Patriot Act" which was adopted in the aftermath of 9/11 specifically as an anti-terrorist measure, contains a number of provisions which are phrased in such a way that they can easily be used against strikers and demonstrators.

Blair's own existing anti-terrorist legislation has been used already against pacifists who were demonstrating outside military bases. Past governments, Labour and Tory, have used their own versions of anti-terrorist legislation to harass and victimise Irish workers in Britain and Northern Ireland.

On the basis of past experience, one can only ask how far this Labour government - and its successors - will stretch the notion of "extremism", if such "anti-extremist" legislation is finally adopted? What will stop them from using this legislation, at some point, against strikers, anti-war protesters or socialist organisations?

This is another reason for the working class not to concede an inch to Blair's "national unity" and the emergency powers that come with it.

Religion, fundamentalism and a rotting system

There is a further reason for Blair to switch to this "anti-extremist" phraseology. The last thing that this government wants is to highlight the role of religion in the London bombings.

Not that Blair is worried that mosque-goers might become the target of racist attacks as a result of July 7th - otherwise he would not have taken the risk of British soldiers being killed in the Afghan and Iraqi wars in the first place.

If Blair prefers to talk about "extremism" rather than Islamic fundamentalism, it is because of his own reliance on reactionary "religious values", both among ethnic minorities and among the most reactionary sections of the electorate as a whole.

As far as ethnic minorities are concerned, this is not a new policy. It goes back a long way, to the early 1980s. In the aftermath of the inner-city riots, Thatcher channelled state funding to so-called "community leaders" carefully selected for their reactionary views, in order to keep the lid on poor inner-city districts, where the majority of the population belonged to ethnic minorities. Quite logically the beneficiaries of this largesse were mostly religious groups. So, for the past two decades, religious institutions of all kinds have developed across the country.

Today, following in the steps of his predecessors, Blair himself is a vocal advocate of channelling state funds towards so-called "independent" schools controlled by minority religions - which is, of course, much easier both financially and politically, than finding the resources and having the political will to provide a state-run system in which all children would have the same free access to education, without being divided and brain-washed by religious "teaching".

As far as the Christian religion is concerned, this policy goes back even further, of course, since this country still lives under a medieval system whereby the Church of England is a state institution, instead of religion being a purely private matter. But Labour's return to office, in 1997, has added a new twist to this situation. Blair gave a new boost to Christian sects of all kinds - from the Church of England to Christian fundamentalist currents - in order to increase Labour's appeal among Middle England bigots. One of the channel used for this has been the government's drive to privatise schools and social services. This is how, for instance, the state has endorsed the teaching of creationism in a number of schools sponsored by millionaire Sir Peter Vardy.

It is a historical fact that all religions generate fundamentalist currents in their midst - that is, currents which aim at mobilising believers around the need to turn the clock back and return to the "true sources" of their creed. This is as true of Christianity as it is true of Islam. In the US, doctors and nurses, who were running family planning and abortion clinics, have been killed in terrorist attacks carried out by Christian fundamentalist groups.

This is why any complacency by the state towards religion - all religions - can always backfire, as it has in the US and as it does now in Britain. When political leaders play with that sort of reactionary demagogy, as Blair and Bush like to do, with their speeches constantly punctuated with prayers and religious references, they are playing with fire.

But, in addition, it is the whole policy of the rich countries which has encouraged the resurgence of fundamentalist religious currents over the past quarter of a century.

In order to reduce the influence of the USSR in the Middle East, the US financed and armed Islamic fundamentalist warlords in Afghanistan in the 1980s, thereby providing the small fundamentalist sects of the Middle East with a logistical base and a training ground for the best of two decades. The grip of the world economic crisis was tightening across the Middle East and aggravated by the looting of the region by western capital and their local ruling auxiliaries. Discontent was growing among the youth, who looked for more radical methods to fight western oppression, all the more so, because the catastrophic situation of the Palestinian people clearly showed that there was nothing to expect from the international institutions of imperialism and their so-called "peace processes".

For the Islamic fundamentalist currents, religion was merely a demagogical instrument designed to mobilise support in their bid to establish their own dictatorships. But their influence was suddenly boosted by a situation of despair created by imperialism across the region. In the absence of any other radical perspective and faced with a rotten system which offered them no future, many Middle Eastern youth were pushed by the rich powers' policies into the arms of these groups. And Blair's and Bush's subsequent policy in Afghanistan and Iraq has only encouraged them in this desperate choice.

The responsibility of the working class movement

A lot has been said and written by those who "wonder" how it was that young men who were born and educated in Britain could turn to Islamic fundamentalism, terrorism and, even, suicide bombing.

There is a huge amount of hypocrisy in this kind of "soul-searching", especially when ministers start talking about "britishness", "citizen's oaths" and similar nationalistic nonsense.

The working class keeps being told by ministers that we are now living in a "global" world and that it should agree to "sacrifices" as a result. But the same people, in the same breath, then tell working people that they should only be concerned with the confines of this little island and disregard the plight of Iraqi or Afghan people when they are slaughtered by British soldiers, acting on behalf of the City. This is pure cynicism! In any case, it is certainly not likely to give Asian youth the sense that they have a future to look forward to in the world of "britishness".

Why is it that Asian or African youth turn to Islamic fundamentalism today? Primarily because there seems to be no radical alternative. In the inter-war period, in fact up to the 1960s, the same youth would probably have turned to one of the powerful communist parties which existed in the Middle East - particularly in Iraq, Iran and Palestine. The policy of these parties was nationalist rather than communist and it was largely dictated by Moscow to serve the interests of the USSR's foreign policy, which had nothing to do with the interests of the world proletariat. But at least these parties were secular and they raised the flag of the class struggle.Having repeatedly betrayed the interests of the masses through their attempts to find accommodation with local capitalists and imperialism, most of these parties finally lost the credit they had won. And they paid dearly for their betrayals by being subjected to the most ruthless repression by the West's ruling allies - such as the Shah of Iran and Saddam Hussein, among others.

But much the same is true in Britain. It is not just the betrayals of the Middle Eastern communist parties which has deprived the youth of any radical alternative. It is also the abject failure of the western parties which claim to represent the working class, to oppose, or even attempt to oppose, the imperialist looting of the world by their own capitalist classes.

Since World War II, how many times has the self-proclaimed mouthpiece of the British working class movement, the Labour party, endorsed military imperialist ventures against Third World populations, when it was not actually a Labour government which took the initiative in these ventures? From the crushing of the Indochinese working class insurrection and the Malaysian insurgency in the postwar period, to Blair's latest wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the list is far too long for the scope of this article.

The truth is, that for decades, the working class of this country has had no party of its own. It has had no party which was prepared to represent its political interests, by fighting the greed of British capital and organising its ranks in order to oppose, without any ambiguity, the looting of the world by British capital and the criminal policies of its trustees in government. It has had no party which has proved prepared to resort to the methods of the class struggle, the only effective methods that the working class has at its disposal, to wage a radical fight against the profiteers.

Had the working class of this country had such a party, a good number of those youth who are now willing to sacrifice their lives for a prayer or a place in "heaven" might be devoting these lives to the building of a new future for society and for themselves - a future free of this rotten capitalist exploitation.

This is why the building of such a party is the most urgent task today, as the only effective way of confronting the rise of reactionary ideas in this society.