In the wake of the terrorist atrocity in Manchester, which took the lives of twenty-two young people and injured many others, Jeremy Corbyn has stated that there is a ‘link’ between the “wars our government has supported or fought in other countries and terrorism here at home.”
He claims that the Security Services agree with him on this point, and has vowed to change what we do abroad, if he is elected Prime Minister - as we need to be smarter - that the war on terror has failed.
Mr Corbyn’s claim of support from the Security Service, actually comes from what Baroness Manningham-Buller, the former head of MI5, said in 2010 to the Chilcot enquiry into the Iraq war. She said that the war had radicalised “a few among a generation,” and “undoubtedly increased” the level of terrorist threat to the UK.
There are many in the press who are attacking Mr Corbyn, though he isn’t alone in having these thoughts after a terror attack. Indeed, shortly after the July 7th bombing in 2005 which killed fifty two, Boris Johnson, the current Foreign Secretary said:
“Isn't it possible that things like the Iraq war did not create the problem of murderous Islamic fundamentalists, though the war has unquestionably sharpened the resentments felt by such people in this country and given them a new pretext?”
Islamist terrorism has been with us since 1992. The first Al Qaeda attacks were a series of bombings at hotels in Yemen, where the Islamists believed American Soldiers were staying. The bombings killed four Australian tourists. The following year, Islamists tried to topple the World Trade Centre in New York, with a car bomb, killing six. Then in 1998 there was a series of bomb blasts at US embassies in Africa, which took the lives of over two hundred. In 2001 Islamists used planes as weapons and killed nearly three thousand people in the United States. All of this was before the ‘war on terror’ was even a figment of anyone's imagination. And certainly before President George W. Bush first coined the phrase on 20th September 2001.
In the late nineties, there was extensive intelligence about ‘British-Asian youths,’ mainly older teens and young men of Pakistani and Bengali descent, attending military training camps abroad. It was largely ignored because there were, unbelievably, no laws in the UK at the time to prevent it or prosecute people. And the view was, until they become a threat to the United Kingdom, just leave them to it. It was viewed very much as if these young men were going to a Butlins holiday camp for a paintballing vacation - only this Butlins had real guns and taught people how to make bombs that could maim and kill.
Indeed these men were not on holiday. They were being trained as militia, to fight in conflict zones such as Kashmir - where India and Pakistan have been in a perpetual state of war for years.
One of the young men attending the training camps at this time was, Mohammed Siddique Khan, who would go on to lead the 7/7 attack cell in 2005 in London. In the nineties, Khan was already exhibiting a number of very extreme Islamist views.
So, Islamist terrorism predates any of the wars or conflicts of which either Manningham-Butler, Johnson or Corbyn speak of. It has existed and taken the lives of western people since 1992, it's just that we did not experience any Islamist terror attacks in the UK until 2005, yet they were taking place in other parts of the world.
So what of our foreign policies then, perhaps we should take some of the blame for bringing these extremists here, provoking them to show their wrath on our shores?
In March 2017, three men were convicted of a series of robberies in Manchester. Two of the robberies had been in banks. The bank's employees had been threatened with crowbars, axes and machetes.
In one of the robberies, a staff member heard the sound of breaking glass in an upstairs room, she went to investigate and found a man in a balaclava standing by a broken window.
The man grabbed her and then let in another assailant through a fire exit. The pair then went downstairs, and threatened everybody in the branch, before making off with a large quantity of cash.
The police investigation revealed that the security bars on the window had been removed in advance, enabling the man to gain entry through it. This wasn't a spur of the moment thing, it wasn’t an opportunistic crime committed by someone who just happened to be passing the bank, no - just like the other robberies, meticulous planning had gone into it.
Following the convictions of the three men in the bank robberies, which will see them behind bars for at least the next eight years, there wasn’t a single voice blaming the bank’s policies for the robbery. I know this sounds strange, but bear with me here while I explain...
There wasn’t a single person who suggested that the bank's policy of having cash in their vault had somehow been a factor - if the bank didn’t have that policy, then the men wouldn’t have bothered to rob it. Why not have digital money only in the bank?
It sounds absurd doesn’t it? How could it possibly be the banks fault? What if someone suggested that the 2008 banking crash had somehow caused people to become an anti-bank extremist, kind of like the Taliban - a Talibank extremist if you like - would this make the robbers’ actions acceptable, or even be excused altogether? Could the bank’s policies, which led to the 2008 crash, be blamed for the robberies then?
What about if we add in the Payment Protection Insurance (PPI) mis-selling scandal? Surely you would say, “Yeah, okay, they had it coming, it's the bank’s fault”? Pretty much all of us were ripped off by the banks with this one. And then there was the LIBOR fixing, where some banks employees fixed the interbank lending rate which hiked up the costs for everyone, just so that their bonuses were bigger. And of course there was the RBS bank scandal where the bosses lied to the stock market about the company's well-being to sell its shares, and some investors lost everything when it was found the bank was virtually insolvent.
Surely all these things have fanned the flames of the Talibank extremists? All this has caused them to rob and use violence against bank employees?
Maybe there are some that would see these excuses as a reason to break the law, hurt others and terrify people. But not me. I think that those who justify these robberies in that way, are despicable criminal apologists, no better than the robbers themselves.
So when I hear or see people trying to claim that the Manchester Arena terror attack, or the 2005 terror attacks in London, or the 2001 attacks on America, or even the 1992 attacks in Yemen, were the result of western foreign policy in the Middle East, or the invasion of Iraq in 2003, or whatever - you'll understand why I think those people are disgusting terrorist apologists.
There is simply no justification for this behaviour, and the people who seek to find the reason for it are totally missing the point.
What foreign policy did the Yazidis have that caused thousands of them to be murdered or imprisoned as sex slaves by the Islamist fighters of ISIS?
Excuses, excuses, excuses... Like the bank robbers, Salman Abedi had his own personal reasons for doing what he did. Only he and a few others really know the answers to that question. But it certainly can't be blamed on some policy, or war.
Abedi was a sadistic killer, intent on hurting others and writing a name for himself in the history books. Just like Mohammed Siddique Khan before him. Just like the ISIS fighters who are raping Yazidi children in front of their parents before the parents are murdered. So please don't sit there and tell me that Manchester was about the war in Iraq. It wasn't. No more than it was in 2005 when Khan claimed the same thing. No more than those bank robberies were a result of the PPI scandal.