The roots of terrorism

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Sir: May I, as an expatriate Londoner who lived through the Blitz and am briefly back home, offer an analogy for recent events, without in any way wishing to minimise the pain of the victims or the grief of their families?

The perpetrators of 7/7 are of course terrorists in the dictionary sense, but terror is a method and aims are just as important. To stress the method without a serious acknowledgment of the aims and their reasons is to miss the point. This is what Mr Blair and Mr Bush seem to do.

Imagine parents, when their offspring start breaking the crockery, saying solemnly, "We will defeat tantrumism! We will not allow tantrumism to destroy our family way of life!" - when what they have on their hands are seriously disturbed children who really need attention even though seeking it in destructive ways. Of course discipline is necessary (best left in the present case to the police and the criminal justice system). Otherwise the thing to do is to clean up the mess and get on with it.

This is what the splendid emergency services, and the sensible run of the people, seem to be doing. Political leaders however seem to me to strike just the wrong note. Blair manages to look intimidated even when he says he refuses to be. Bush has been fanning fear ever since 9/11. Neither offers real leadership in the matter of courage, or addresses the root causes of the events with sufficient understanding. Where are Churchill and Roosevelt when we need them?



Leaders cocooned by massive security

Sir: The authorities assure us that they had no prior indication of an attack in London, and the alert level had even been lowered after the general election. Did it not occur to anyone in government that the meeting of the G8 might be an obvious moment for a terrorist attack?

At Gleneagles the G8 leaders surrounded themselves with absurdly overblown security - thousands upon thousands of police complete with horses and dogs, hundreds of vans and CCTV units from all over the country, with road blocks and diversions everywhere - all aimed at the "threat" posed by large numbers of demonstrators who turned out to be mostly peaceful. Anyone who tried and managed to get to Auchterarder last Wednesday can vouch for this. Why are the leaders so scared of us?

In the meantime Londoners were left to face a much more real threat from which the leaders, cocooned in their secluded luxury, were blissfully immune. Their own security clearly has a higher priority than that of the general public.



Sir: I drove into central London with my family, as we do on most Saturdays since the congestion charge does not operate then.

We did not see any police on the streets until we reached the junction of Trafalgar Square and Whitehall. To our dismay, we discovered that Whitehall was cordoned off with concrete barricades. The police presence was massive, with ambulances standing by, clearly in order to protect Downing Street, as if it is not protected enough already.

So much for taking care of "ordinary" Londoners, who would be the likely victims if, God forbid, there was another terrorist attack. We have to settle for Mr Blair banging on about resilience, stoicism and retaining our way of life. His way of life becomes more privileged and unreal by the hour, while his policies cause the rest of us to suffer more danger, loss of freedom and bureaucratic interference.



Offensive nonsense about an Iraq link

Sir: An unfortunate, albeit in the context trivial, follow-on to the terrorist atrocities in London is some of the offensive nonsense to appear in today's Independent letters page (8 July). A common thread here is people twisting the day's events to argue the case for their own hobbyhorses, while ignoring their brutal tragedy.

It may amaze Chris Bennett writing from far away Cornwall to learn that those hardest hit by the attacks are not prospective Muslim immigrants to the UK but the atrocities' many victims, their friends and families, and numerous other people traumatised by what they experienced. There are going to be countless people, many of them doubtless Muslims, whose lives will have been ruined or irretrievably changed for the worse. In other words this is about indiscriminate murder of the vulnerable not theoretical racism against asylum seekers.

On the motives of those who placed the bombs, since we are yet to learn who placed them let alone why, how does Alex Wolfson know such bombs wouldn't have been placed if it was not for the UK's involvement in Bush's various middle eastern adventures? I seem to recall that 9/11 happened before the invasion of Iraq, and doubt whether there is a country anywhere, and certainly not a Muslim country given the violence perpetrated in most of them, that could not be a potential victim of this evil. Again, we are looking at indiscriminate murder here not some legitimate anti Iraq war protest.



Sir: Well, it hasn't taken long. How saddening it is to see so many of your readers' letters mirroring the disgraceful "I told you so" comments from George Galloway. Terrorists around the world will be rubbing their bloodstained hands with glee as they see their acts greeted as some kind of retributive punishment for British foreign policy.

To interpret essentially psychotic and indiscriminate attacks as Britain's punishment for the war in Iraq is not only wrong - look at the attacks visited on countries that have had no involvement in the Iraq war - it shamefully hands power and credence to the attackers themselves. I am thankful that most of my fellow Londoners have the sensitivity and good sense not to use this latest atrocity as vindication for their stance on the war - at least whilst we are still counting the dead.



Sir: Before your correspondents rush to blame the invasion of Iraq for Thursday's atrocities, they might care to consider two things: firstly, 9/11 happened before the Iraq war; and secondly, there would have been no Iraq war if 9/11 hadn't happened.



Sir: "The invasion of Iraq hadn't happened when 9/11 took place" - I have seen this line of reasoning used many times in the last 48 hours to "prove" that the London bombings had nothing to do with our part in the invasion of Iraq.

The United States had been an al-Qa'ida target for many years before 9/11 due to their government's support of Israeli repression of Palestine. Britain was not an al-Qa'ida target at that time. We became a target as soon as we joined hands with the United States on embarking upon an illegal, immoral and hypocritical war in Iraq. Spain did too. Now both Spanish and British innocents have paid the price.



Sir: I am appalled to see innocent civilians killed and maimed in London. Yet this does not make me feel any less critical of the "war on terror" that has been fought in our name in Iraq. I cannot see the tens of dead in London without remembering the thousands of innocent civilians that have died in Fallujah and elsewhere in Iraq.

True, the British and US forces have not deliberately targeted civilians; yet they have bombed Iraqi cities knowing that large numbers of civilians would inevitably be injured and killed. When government ministers say that we are morally superior to the terrorists, I feel extremely uneasy.



Sir: Many commentators described Mr Blair's appearance on Thursday when he learnt of the attacks in London as "devastated" or "anguished". In my opinion he had the look of a guilty man who had just been found out.



Price of sneering at secular Arabs

Sir: Words cannot express one's horror and detestation at the London atrocities. Yet if they are the work of al-Qa'ida (or one of its groupings) it is worth looking at the part played by the British political and professorial classes in boosting the appeal of this devout organisation.

From the 1950s to the 1990s Britain consistently derided and sneered at Arab nationalism, a reasonable patriotism that was secular, accepted the nation state, and was inclusive of non-Muslims. Right-wing politicians and professors ganged up to oppose Arab nationalism, hoping that thereby the ragged remnants of the British Empire would be given a further lease of life. They compared Nasser to Hitler.

Their amazing short-sightedness opened the way for the devout puritanical terror we see today. Their derision encouraged the shift of allegiance to the fundamentalists. They played a part in the blown-apart bus in Woburn Place. I bet they never apologise.



ID cards would help victims' families

Sir: As a citizen of a European country where carrying ID cards is mandatory, I have experience of their usefulness in my daily activities without ever having felt that my liberties have been compromised.

The alarming noises made by civil liberty groups and parts of the media every time the government is looking into introducing ID cards have covered the whole issue in controversy and hysteria.

In the aftermath of the London blasts, the Cypriot and Greek governments tried to verify rumours that some of their citizens that live and work in the UK were among those seriously injured or dead. However, as the Cypriot foreign affairs minister explained in the local media, their efforts have been frustrated by the fact that UK citizens do not carry personal IDs.

ID cards could not stop this atrocity but would help identify those who are unable to identify themselves and spare their loved ones an agonising search.



Baghdad faces the same enemy

Sir: From Baghdad to London, same terrorists, same acts. For two years Baghdad and other Iraqi cities have been subjected to suicide terrorist attacks similar to what took place in London.

Residents, pedestrians and commuters are terrorised and killed at random by a bunch who claim to be "Islamic freedom fighters", deluding themselves that they are in possession of the complete truth while everyone else is infidel.

The war against terror must continue with radical measures to protect our cities and citizens from these mass murderers. Protectors, finances, planners and perpetrators should be pursued day and night to protect the free world Londoners have enjoyed for centuries and we Baghdadis started to enjoy on 9 April 2003.



Beware creating future bombers

Sir: Which group of people should we be more concerned about: the relatively small number of people who have become so radicalised that they just want us to suffer and die, or the huge number of people who might one day become that radicalised if we don't try to address their grievances?

While both are significant, I think that the second group represents a bigger long-term threat to our society. Which is why I get frustrated whenever someone is shouted down for mentioning Palestine or Iraq at times like these, as if radicalised terrorists were simply born that way and there's nothing we can do about it.



Changed way of life

Sir: Britain will be unrecognisable after the Labour government has finished passing laws to stop terrorists changing our country.



Land of the free

Sir: It will be interesting to see if the British people fearfully give up their civil rights as rapidly as we Americans did following 9/11. US citizens have a much greater chance of being executed by their own government than of being killed by terrorists, yet we have meekly given up our privacy rights to the federal government, and have tolerated the establishment of torture camps for people detained without due process. Perhaps the British, more conscious of history, will protect what is left of their liberties. We will soon see.



Lessons from the G8

Sir: The atrocities in London reinforce the importance of the Make Poverty History campaign and the G8 protests. Poverty and injustice create the conditions for terrorism to grow. And even the CIA acknowledges that the invasion of Iraq has increased the danger. We have to keep up the pressure for peace and justice - the only alternative is a downward spiral into a carnival of death.



Sir: Is there not enough common sense among violent G8 protesters to appreciate their diversion of police resources helps terrorists kill some of the people they are marching for?



Terror's successes

Sir: Amid all this talk of not giving in and invoking the spirit of the Blitz, we should perhaps remember that "terrorism" nearly always wins. Post-war, we had Palestine and the Jewish terrorists, one of whom later became Prime Minister of Israel, Kenya and Jomo Kenyatta who later became his country's leader. Rhodesia became Zimbabwe. In Northern Ireland the IRA forced the British government to negotiate with them. If the recent attack had happened before our general election, as in Spain, Tony Blair would have been out on his ear.



Pest control

Sir: Keith Gilmour (Letters, 8 July) claims terrorists are like wasps and should be exterminated. I'm not too sure about the practicalities of applying the Dalek Doctrine to terrorists, but when it comes to wasps, I have always found it a good rule of thumb not to travel halfway round the world to poke the biggest wasps' nest I can find with the biggest stick I can find.