Leading article: Time for the debate we have avoided since last July

Share

This week Britons will mark the anniversary of the bombing of their capital. It will be a solemn moment in the life of the city, even such a city as London, which has endured many outrages in living memory, from the Blitz to the IRA campaigns.

Apart from focussing attention on the agony of the survivors, some of whom are still seek compensation, Friday's events are bound also to raise the question of whether it will happen again.

The Government has acted to pre-empt that concern over the past year, mainly by announcing new law upon law in its "war on terrorism". Right now, the Chancellor, Gordon Brown, is said to be engaged in a fresh attempt to increase detention without trial to 90 days.

Tony Blair, who likes nothing better than to sound tough, has sold this series of restrictions on civil liberties in a cannily populist fashion, marketing them as a common-sense response to irrevocably changed security circumstances, which only a group of fuddy-duddy liberal judges don't appear to understand.

This version of events won't, or shouldn't, wash. As Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee highlighted at the weekend, the Government's much vaunted anti-terror initiatives, backed up by high-profile police raids, have failed to achieve what they set out to do - to diminish the risk to Britain from the al-Qa'ida network. Instead, so the MPs reported, the chances have grown since last year of another attack by al-Qa'ida, whose supporters, the report said, now posed a "serious and brutal threat".

That sobering judgement ought in itself to raise profound questions about whether the Government is going about combating terrorism in the right way. What is more significant, however, is that the committee has directly linked this growing threat to the war in Iraq and the incarceration of suspects in Guantanamo Bay, which it said had undercut the West's moral authority in combating extremists and had handed them invaluable propaganda. It all ought to make the Government sit up and think. Alas, it will probably do no such thing, for the Blair administration has made a point of never admitting the slightest connection between Britain's involvement in Iraq, or its slavish support for US policy in the Middle East, and the radicalisation of Islamic opinion at home. No doubt ministers fear that were they to accept such a link, they would expose themselves to the charge of partial responsibility for the London bombings.

Mr Blair moved to quash any discussion along those lines right at the start, saying just after the July events that it was an "obscenity" even to suggest that concern for Iraq had motivated any of the bombers. The Home Secretary, John Reid, returned to the same theme recently, remarking that none of the bombers mentioned Iraq in their wills or testaments. This has been an effective strategy for ministers, for by suggesting that those who discerned a link between the bombings and Iraq were somehow justifying their actions, they instantly muffled any public debate on those links.

It is to be hoped that the latest MPs' report will help end this year-long silence. It may have protected Mr Blair's flank but it has arguably served the wider public rather less well.

As the death toll from the war rises each week in Iraq, and now also in Afghanistan, it is more apparent than ever that we need a rational discussion on whether our continuing role in these conflicts has, or has not, fuelled Islamic extremism in Britain, enabling preachers of hate to seduce some who otherwise might not have come into their orbit. After Friday's ceremonies are over, that would be the right way to acknowledge this tragic anniversary.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Sustainability Manager

Competitive: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: Scheme Manager (BREEAM)...

Graduate Sustainability Professional

Flexible, depending on experience: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: T...

Programme Director - Conduct Risk - London

£850 - £950 per day: Orgtel: Programme Director - Conduct Risk - Banking - £85...

Project Coordinator/Order Entry, SC Clear

£100 - £110 per day: Orgtel: Project Coordinator/Order Entry Hampshire

Day In a Page

Read Next
Former N-Dubz singer Tulisa Contostavlos gives a statement outside Southwark Crown Court after her trial  

It would be wrong to compare brave Tulisa’s ordeal with phone hacking. It’s much worse than that

Matthew Norman
The Big Society Network was assessed as  

What became of Cameron's Big Society Network?

Oliver Wright
Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
Why do we have blood types?

Are you my type?

All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

Honesty box hotels

Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn