[Full links for all statements can be found on the Justice Not Vengeance website www.j-n-v.org]
REALISM AND DENIAL
The suicide bombings in London on 7 July 2005 killed 52 people and injured hundreds more. Evidence emerged soon afterwards that the four young Muslims who carried out the attacks were motivated in large part by their anger over the impact of British foreign policy on Muslims around the world.
This has been confirmed by the video statement of suicide bomber Shehzad Tanweer, released by al-Qaeda on 6 July – discussed below.
Despite this new evidence, the British Government continues to deny that British foreign policy is in any way responsible for the attacks, or for the heightened level of threat from al-Qaeda. The British media continues to distort and censor its news reporting and commentary in support of this line.
On 4 July 2006, Tony Blair re-affirmed his position that to ‘defeat’ al-Qaeda-type terrorism, we must ‘defeat’ ‘a completely false sense of grievance against the West’. The Prime Minister told a Parliamentary committee that Muslims should not say to al-Qaeda sympathisers: ‘Look: we understand why you feel like this and we can sympathise with that but you are wrong to do these things’ – they should say: ‘You are wrong to feel those things’. (Blair’s words, not ours – from the official draft transcript of the Parliamentary Liaison Committee.)
In other words, if you are against terrorism, you should tell British Muslims: ‘You are wrong to be furious about the invasion of Iraq’; ‘You are wrong to be angry about the occupation of Afghanistan’; and ‘You are wrong to rage against the West’s support for the oppression of the Palestinians.’
On the one hand, Blair argues that the young British Muslims who carried out these atrocities were not motivated by their fury and despair over British foreign policy. On the other hand, he says that British Muslims do feel fury and despair about British foreign policy, and they shouldn’t.
TANWEER: IT’S FOREIGN POLICY
Tony Blair’s denial that British foreign policy was a motive for the bombings was flatly contradicted by the video statement of suicide bomber Shehzad Tanweer, released on 6 July, which highlighted the plight of Muslims globally.
In the al-Qaeda video, Tanweer said:
‘To the non-Muslims of Britain, you may have wondered what you have done to deserve this. You are those who have voted in your government, who have in turn and still continue to this day continue to oppress our mothers, children, brothers and sisters from the east to the west in Palestine, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Chechnya. Your government has openly supported the genocide of over 150,000 innocent Muslims in Fallujah.’
(The reference to voting for the Blair Government tends to confirm the suggestion made in my book, 7/7: The London Bombings, Islam and the Iraq War, that the bomb plot started in earnest after, and because of, the re-election of the Blair Government.)
TANWEER: IT’S IRAQ, AFGHANISTAN AND PALESTINE
Tanweer also said: ‘What you have witnessed now is only the beginning of a series of attacks, which by the Grace of Allah, will intensify and continue until you pull all of your troops out of Afghanistan and Iraq.
Until you stop all financial and military support to the U.S. and Israel, and until you release all Muslim prisoners from Belmarsh and your other concentration camps. And know that if you fail to comply with this, then know that this war will never stop and that we are willing to give our lives one hundred times over for the cause of Islam. You will never experience peace until our children in Palestine, our mothers and sisters in Kashmir, our brothers in Afghanistan and Iraq feel peace.’
Note the emphasis on Afghanistan. In trying to deny a connection between the attacks and British foreign policy, Tony Blair said to the Liaison Committee on 4 July, ‘There is a reason why they [al-Qaeda terrorists] were plotting terrorist activities in Spain even after the Spanish had withdrawn their troops from Iraq.’ (Official draft transcript) Yes, there is a reason. It’s because Spain was involved – and continues to be involved – in the occupation of Afghanistan, which is just as important to al-Qaeda jihadists as Iraq or Palestine, as we see from Tanweer’s video statement.
How have the British media responded to the Tanweer video statement? Typically, the Financial Times had a flat headline (page 2): ‘Video of London bomber shown on Arab TV’; and a perceptive, realistic news report (para. 5): ‘Its linkage of the bombings to British foreign policy appears to be a calculated challenge to the government of Tony Blair, who earlier this week urged British Muslims not to excuse extremism by blaiming British military operations abroad.’
Most of the media framed the statement either in relation to the al-Qaeda connection (Independent headline, ‘Bomber’s video shows hand of al-Qaida’, page 5); or the cynical timing of its release (Guardian headline, ‘One year on, a London bomber issues a threat from the dead’, page 1); or the possible impact on people personally affected by the atrocity (Telegraph headline, ‘Suicide bomber’s video won’t frighten us, say July 7 families’, page 1).
The Times was the only newspaper to headline the key element of the video statement: ‘I blame war in Iraq and Afghanistan, 7/7 bomber says in video’ (page 4). However, unlike the FT, The Times did not make any connection to the propaganda of the British Government, and the way in which Tanweer’s statement undermined Blair’s denial.
REPORTED AND SUPPRESSED
Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman point out that media provision of some information about an issue ‘proves absolutely nothing about the adequacy or accuracy of media coverage’:
‘The media do in fact suppress a great deal of information, but even more important is the way they present a particular fact – its placement, tone, and frequency of repetition – and the framework of analysis in which it is placed.’
‘That a careful reader, looking for a fact can sometimes find it, with diligence and a skeptical eye, tells us nothing about whether that fact received the attention and context it deserved, whether it was intelligible to most readers, or whether it was effectively distorted or suppressed.’
It is possible for something to be reported, but effectively distorted or suppressed.
In the case of the reporting of Tanweer’s explicit statement of his own motivations, we have a classic case of this phenomenon. Newspapers often record his words – the attacks continue ‘until you pull your forces out from Afghanistan and Iraq’ – but they do so in a way that suppresses their meaning.
For example, see the Guardian’s front-page story, whose headline ‘One year on, a London bomber issues a threat from the dead’, subhead (‘Al-Qaida release video on eve of 7/7 of Shehzad Tanweer, one of the homegrown terrorists’); and first 7 paragraphs have nothing to do with the foreign policy element, makes no further reference to foreign policy in the 5 paragraphs following the Tanweer quotes in paragraphs 8 and 9.
Typically, the final paragraph is allowed to contain a hint of realism, quoting Mohammed Abdul Baari, Secretary-General of the Muslim Council of Britain: ‘We hope this video serves to end the denial in parts of government about the impact of some of its foreign policies on the radicalisation of a section of Muslim youth, but also the denial in some pockets of the Muslim community that these four Muslim men were responsible for these murderous acts.’
GUARDIAN: POLICE CONFIRM FOREIGN POLICY LINK
What is so striking about the Guardian’s front-page distortion is that it sits alongside another confirmatory front-page story:
‘After the London bombings, British counter-terrorism officials intensified their efforts to understand why some Muslims turned to violence. The document, which has been seen by the Guardian, is the product of that work, and was completed within the past three months before being distributed to senior officers across London. The document says in a headline introducing one section: “Foreign policy and Iraq; Iraq HAS [its emphasis] had a huge impact.” ‘
The report includes the removal of legitimate grievances as part of the anti-terrorist programme: ‘What will change them [the jihadists] – gradually – is argument, the removal of justifying causes (Palestine, Iraq), the erosion of perverted beliefs and day-to-day frustrations.’
This is exactly the argument of my book 7/7: The London Bombings, Islam and the Iraq War, it is exactly the argument anti-war activists and groups have been making for many years now, it is the argument that Tony Blair and George W. Bush have been resisting, and it is the argument that the mainstream media has largely excluded from the debate.
There are concessions to reality even in today’s coverage. See the end of columnist Philip Johnston’s comments in the Telegraph or the muted sentences buried in the middle of the Independent editorial today for typically weak examples. They are minor elements drowned out by the rest of the media chorus.
DOWN THE MEMORY HOLE
Overall, the mass media continue to effectively suppress vital facts, such as the leaked Home Office/Foreign Office report ‘Young Muslims and Extremism’, which said that British foreign policy post-9/11 was a major cause of such ‘extremism’; the Joint Intelligence Committee warning to Tony Blair that invading Iraq would ‘heighten’ the threat from al-Qaeda; the Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre report in June 2005 that ‘Events in Iraq are continuing to act as motivation and a focus of a range of terrorist related activity in the UK’, and so on.
Also omitted are the most credible statement of responsibility, the earlier video from Mohammad Sidique Khan, and the evidence of the bombers’ friends. (See 7/7 for more in-depth material and discussion.)
Without retrieving this information, we cannot find our way forward.
We will certainly not find it by telling young Muslims that they are wrong to feel what they feel about the crimes that we commit, or are party to.
Milan Rai is the author of ‘7/7: The London Bombings, Islam and the Iraq War’ (Pluto Press)
— Justice Not Vengeance www.j-n-v.org