Jeremy Corbyn 'justifies' terrorism by linking UK foreign policy to terror attacks, claims Tory security minister

‘No amount of twisted reasoning about foreign policy can be an excuse,’ says Ben Wallace

Lizzie Dearden
Friday 26 May 2017 10:15 BST
Corbyn blames terrorist attacks on UK's foreign wars

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Louise Thomas

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Britain’s security minister has attacked Jeremy Corbyn for helping “justify” terrorism with a speech linking attacks with the UK’s foreign policy.

Ben Wallace said the timing for the Labour leader’s speech days after the Manchester attack was “incredibly disappointing and crass”.

Mr Corbyn said it is the “responsibility” of governments to minimise the risk of further atrocities and recognise the West’s “war on terror” is not working.

“I don’t think the substance of what he’s said is correct at all,” Mr Wallace told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

“The person that caused these deaths this week was the individual and the terrorists who supported him. No one else is to blame for that.”

Mr Wallace, who was appointed to Theresa May’s Cabinet as security minister last year, called on Mr Corbyn to “be clear” on terrorism.

“We have to be unequivocal that no amount of excuses, no amount of twisted reasoning about foreign policy can be an excuse,” he added.

Election campaigning restarts after Manchester attack

“The reality is that these people hate our values – you only have to look at their propaganda to realise that the seeds of the salafist jihadism that this lot are currently pursuing go back way before foreign wars.

“They hate our rule of law, they hate our democracy, they hate equality and the way to see that off is not to feed excuses, not to allow those people who right now our police are trying to find any cause to think, ‘well, I’m slightly justified’. They’re not justified.”

Boris Johnson called the speech “absolutely monstrous”, adding that he found it “absolutely extraordinary and inexplicable in this week of all weeks that there should be any attempt to justify or to legitimate the actions of terrorists in this way”.

Speaking alongside the US Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, Foreign Secretary said: “Now now is not the time to do anything to subtract from the fundamental responsibility of those individuals, that individual in particular, who committed this atrocity and I think it is absolutely monstrous that anybody should seek to do so.”

In what is likely to be seen as a reference to Britain’s military involvement in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as air strikes against Isis – all of which he opposed – Mr Corbyn said Labour would “change what we do abroad” if it won power.

“Many experts, including professionals in our intelligence and security services, have pointed to the connections between wars our government has supported or fought in other countries, such as Libya, and terrorism here at home,” said the Labour leader.

“That assessment in no way reduces the guilt of those who attack our children. Those terrorists will forever be reviled and implacably held to account for their actions.

Salman Abedi killed 22 people in an attack at Manchester Arena
Salman Abedi killed 22 people in an attack at Manchester Arena (Handout)

“But an informed understanding of the causes of terrorism is an essential part of an effective response that will protect the security of our people, that fights rather than fuels terrorism.

“We must be brave enough to admit the ‘war on terror’ is simply not working. We need a smarter way to reduce the threat from countries that nurture terrorists and generate terrorism.”

Mr Corbyn stressed the “responsibility of government is to minimise” the chance of attacks by giving police the resources they need and to ensure “foreign policy reduces rather than increases the threat to this country”.

The comments have sparked widespread condemnation from political opponents including the former Liberal Democrat leader, Lord Ashdown, who said it was “not the time” to start such a charged debate.

“There will be a moment when we will want to look at the policy implications of what has happened, but that should not be in the shadow of these terrible events when the nation should stand together,” he added.

Critics pointed out that terror threats had emerged from countries where there had been varying stages of British intervention, suggesting no direct link.

“OK but which foreign policy causes terrorism?” asked Jonathan Russell, coordinator of the Extremely Together counter-extremism organisation.

“Getting rid of Saddam or not getting rid of Bashar? Being pro-Gaddafi or being anti-Gaddafi?”

The debate comes amid international alarm over the number of civilians being killed and injured by US-led air strikes against Isis in Iraq and Syria, after American forces confirmed the deaths of more than 100 civilians in a strike in Mosul.

There are warnings that coalition bombing in the Middle East is aiding Isis recruitment
There are warnings that coalition bombing in the Middle East is aiding Isis recruitment (Reuters)

Deaths in the Middle East are one of the most effective recruitment strategies employed by Isis and other jihadi groups, feeding into a victimhood narrative painting the West as murderers and oppressors of Muslims.

Isis propaganda channels frequently publish graphic images claiming to show dead and injured civilians, particularly children, after alleged air strikes by the US-led coalition.

A lengthy video released last week featured Russian, French and English-speaking militants calling on followers around the world to avenge their deaths and “honour” with terror attacks.

“Are you incapable of stabbing a kuffar [infidel] with a knife, throwing him off a building or hitting him with a car?” an Isis militant says in the footage, which remains available online.

“Liberate yourselves… show resolve and place your trust in Allah and he will place his faith in you.”

Harry Sarfo, a former Isis militant who grew up in the UK, described how the videos “felt like they’re calling you… but in reality it’s all a lie”.

Speaking to The Independent after being jailed on his return to Germany, he warned that the coalition bombing campaign was helping Isis recruit civilians to its cause.

“It will only give them more recruits, more men and children who will be willing to give their lives because they’ve lost their families in the bombings,” Sarfo said.

The Henry Jackson Society said jihadis use “several different narratives” to further their central desire to implement Sharia law and pointed out that Isis itself has declared it hates the West “first and foremost because you are disbelievers”.

Dr Alan Mendoza, the think tank’s executive director, said: “Isis is quite clear in its public pronouncements that it would attack us regardless of our foreign policy.

“It has used both examples of Western intervention and Western non-intervention for radicalisation purposes.

“Given Isis is so open that the basis of its terrorism is a hatred of our society and belief system, why do we have such trouble believing its own words?”

All political parties have outlined fresh efforts to combat online propaganda ahead of the general election, as investigators continue to probe a suspected terror network behind Manchester bomber Salman Abedi.

Despite supporting the overthrow of Gaddafi in Libya by the UK, which sheltered his family after they fled his regime, he later declared British people to be “infidels” who were “unjust to Arabs”.

Abedi’s attack killed 22 people, including seven children, as they left an Ariana Grande concert at Manchester Arena on Monday.

Isis claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement claiming it aimed to terrorise “infidels ... in response to their transgressions against the lands of the Muslims”.

Police are currently interviewing eight men arrested as part of the investigation, amid searches in the Moss Side area of Manchester.

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