The horrific cycle of bitterness, despair and violence that has brought so much destruction in the Middle East has found its way to this country with the slaughter of over 50 innocent people last week.
The thoughts of all of us are with the families of those who died, with those who are wounded and missing, and with all who have been affected by this atrocity.
Tragically, if the British government continues on the course Tony Blair has set, these will not be the only innocent people to suffer.
Even before the news that those responsible for the London bombings were brought up in Britain, there had been a deadly spate of attacks on Muslims – with one man, Kamal Raza Butt, murdered in Nottingham and a series of attacks on mosques.
That there were not more is testament to the climate created by the mass, multiracial anti-war movement. We need to fight for that climate more than ever in the coming days and weeks.
Tony Blair’s government disavows anti-Muslim attacks. But in refusing to acknowledge the disastrous consequences of hitching this country to George Bush’s wars in the Middle East it is creating the circumstances where Muslims in Britain are scapegoated.
How could four ordinary young men from Yorkshire be driven to blow themselves up in London? For Blair and Bush they were barbarians at war with “our civilisation”. For the architects of the disastrous “war on terror” there is no need to explain why bombs go off in London and Baghdad. By denouncing anyone who gives a political explanation for the violence they allow people to blame all the followers of a particular religion – Islam.
But these four young men did not live a life apart in what the government insultingly calls “self segregating” communities. They, like the rest of us, will have seen the pictures from Abu Ghraib. They will have known about Guantanamo Bay, Belmarsh and the secret torture centres the US and its allies have established. They will have seen the images of some of the 100,000 Iraqis killed by the invasion and occupation. They will have seen Bush grinning inanely as he declared “mission accomplished”. They will have seen how most people in Britain opposed the war on Iraq, how that was not reflected by our elected representatives, and how the government was able to get away with lying and taking us into war two years ago.
They will have been at school at the time of the 1991 Gulf War and will have grown up in the years when half a million Iraqi children perished under Western sanctions. They may have learnt something of the decades of injustice in the Middle East, the repeated imperialist interventions, the robbery of the region’s oil wealth, the Western support for corrupt leaders – all of which produced the swamp of bitterness that Osama bin Laden tapped, leading to 9/11.
They will have seen some of the daily images of dead, wounded and humiliated Palestinians. They will have heard British government ministers pledge support for Ariel Sharon’s Israel. And they will have seethed at the double standards.
In this country, they will have witnessed the anti-Muslim backlash after 9/11. They will have seen the record rise in the number of Muslims harassed by the police. They will have heard a government minister tell them that Muslims must get used to being stopped and searched. They will have heard mainstream politicians pandering to the fascist BNP. Then they will have heard the government and the authorities harangue Muslims for “not doing enough to integrate”.
So, like the rest of us, they will have raged. But they will also have despaired. Then they succumbed, like other desperate young people on every continent at different times over the last 150 years, to the disastrous fantasy that they could rid the world of violence by hurling back a portion of it in some act aimed at innocent people.
When people in the Catholic ghettoes of Northern Ireland found their cries for justice ignored and violently repressed in the 1960s, some turned to terrorism.
The repression of ordinary Catholics served merely to prolong the bloodshed for 30 years until there was finally some attempt to address the political causes of the conflict.
The repressive measures the government has introduced and is contemplating now will also bring further grievances, further bitterness that feeds a terrorist reaction.
Every day British troops stay in Iraq the more, in the eyes of millions of people across the world, the people of this country are taken to be implicated in a murderous occupation. By associating this country with the US puppet regime in Iraq, whose police locked ten men in a lorry to boil to death this week, Blair increases the threat to everyone who lives here.
There has to be a dramatic reverse in policy, at home and abroad. Pulling the troops out of Iraq will begin to drain the swamp of bitterness that nurtures terrorism. It will not end the threat of terrorism overnight, but it is the necessary first step. The majority of people in the US have turned against Bush’s war – we must intensify the pressure on the British government to break from him as well.
The anti-war movement has offered hope – to Muslims and non-Muslims – against the cycle of war and despair Bush and Blair have led us into.
Now is the time to speak out at work, college, school, in our communities and at the vigils organised by the Stop the War Coalition. We must send a powerful message against the Islamophobic backlash, against repressive measures at home and for getting the troops out of Iraq.
Stop the War vigil
Sunday 17 July, 2pm, Russell Square, London WC1.
For details of other vigils contact Stop the War. Go to www.stopwar.org.uk or phone 020 7278 6694.
A PDF of this statement can be downloaded from the SWP website