| Britain’s wars fuel terror. Denying it only feeds Islamophobia!

Britain’s wars fuel terror. Denying it only feeds Islamophobia ~ The Guardian.

Eight years on, nothing has been learned. In the week since a British soldier was horrifically stabbed to death by London jihadists on the streets of Woolwich, it’s July 2005 all over again. David Cameron immediately rushed to set up a task force and vowed to ban “hate clerics”. Now the home secretary wants to outlaw “nonviolent extremist” organisations, censor broadcasters and websites and revive plans to put the whole country’s phone and web records under surveillance.

“Kneejerk” barely does it justice. As for the impact on Muslims, the backlash has if anything been worse than in 2005, when 52 Londoners were killed by suicide bombers. As the police and a BBC reporter described the alleged killers as of “Muslim appearance” (in other words, non-white), Islamophobic attacks spiked across the country. In the first five days 10 mosques were attacked, culminating in a triple petrol bombing in Grimsby.

As politicians and the media congratulated themselves that Britain was “calmly carrying on as usual”, it won’t have felt like that to the Muslim woman who had her veil ripped off and was knocked unconscious in Bolton. Nor, presumably, to the family of 75-year-old Mohammed Saleem, stabbed to death in Birmingham in what had all the hallmarks of an Islamophobic attack last month – or, for that matter, the nearly two-thirds of the population who think there will be a “clash of civilisations” between white Britons and Muslims, up 9% since the Woolwich atrocity.

One key change since 2005 is the rise of the violently anti-Muslim English Defence League, given a new lease of life by Woolwich. More than 40% of Islamophobic incidents recorded by the Muslim organisation Faith Matters last year were linked to the EDL or other far-right groups. “It makes me feel I don’t belong here”, one Muslim community leader quotes his teenage son as telling him this week.

But almost nobody in public life mentions the war. The reason cited by the alleged Woolwich killers – the role of British troops in Afghanistan, Iraq and the war on terror – has been mostly brushed aside as unseemly to discuss. Echoing his predecessors, the prime minister insisted the Woolwich killing was “an attack on the British way of life”. London mayor Boris Johnson declared there could be “no question” of blaming British foreign policy or “what British troops do in operations abroad”.

Instead, the problem is once again said to be “Islamism”, regardless of the string of democratic Islamist governments elected from Turkey to Tunisia. Or the focus is on the “mistakes” of MI5, as if any amount of spooking could detect the determination of an enraged takfiri killer to exact revenge with kitchen knives and meat cleavers. Whatever the focus, even to mention the western wars that drive these attacks is deemed to justify them.

That is, of course, absurd. Targeting a soldier who fought in Afghanistan might not be terrorism in the sense of an indiscriminate attack on civilians. But the random butchery of an unarmed man far from the conflict by disconnected individuals who have nonviolent political alternatives is clearly unjustifiable in any significant religious or political tradition.

The fact that the US declared the war on terror to be a war without national borders and routinely targets unarmed or unidentified victims has fatally blurred those boundaries. The grisly, intimate killing of Lee Rigby was the absolute antithesis of high technology drone attacks. But both embody the degradation of the human spirit.

There can be no surprise, however, that such attacks take place. It’s not just opponents of the war on terror who predicted from the start that it would fuel terrorism not fight it. The intelligence services on both sides of the Atlantic did the same. The perpetrators of one attack after another, from London 2005 to Boston 2013, say they’re carrying them out in retaliation for the vastly larger scale US and British killing in the Muslim world.

It’s true that all kinds of personal factors and experiences help create the mentality to carry out such attacks. But as Abdul Haqq Baker – head of the south London “counter-radicalisation” outfit Street – puts it, the tipping point that has turned people to violence has been shown again and again to be episodes in the war on terror.

There is already some evidence that torture of one of the Woolwich suspects in Kenya – after which MI5 tried to recruit him – may have been such a catalyst. Azad Ali, a Muslim community activist who has advised the Metropolitan police, says there has been a pattern of official abuse of British Muslim activists in Arab countries, apparently using British-supplied intelligence, who are then pressed to work for the British security services when they return home.

What is indisputable is that there were no jihadist attacks in Britain before 9/11, itself claimed as a response to US support for Arab dictatorships, Israeli occupation and murderous sanctions on Iraq. Wars supposedly fought to keep Britain safe have been shown to do the exact opposite.

Given the bloodshed, torture, mass incarceration and destruction that US-British occupation has inflicted on Afghanistan and Iraq, and the civilian slaughter inflicted in the drone war from Pakistan to Yemen, the only surprise is that there haven’t been more terror attacks.

Three years ago WikiLeaks gave a glimpse of the routine killing of Afghan civilians by British troops – as did the jailing for 18 months of a grenadier guardsman for stabbing an Afghan boy who asked him for chocolate. Now Britain is preparing to supply weapons directly to the Islamist-dominated rebels in Syria. But at home ministers want to use their “Prevent strategy” to freeze out still further nonviolent Islamist groups that have been most effective at isolating those drawn to violence.

Denial of the role of US-British wars, occupations and interventions in the Muslim world in fuelling terror attacks at home helps to get politicians off the hook. But it also plays into the hands of those blaming multiculturalism and migration, feeding racism and Islamophobia in the process. The wars should be ended because they are wrong and a failure – but also because they fuel terrorism and divide communities.

Those who carried out last week’s killing are of course responsible for what they did. But those who have sent British troops to wage war in the Arab and Muslim world for more than a decade must share culpability.
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| It’s time to bury not just Thatcher – but Thatcherism!

It’s time to bury not just Thatcher – but Thatcherism ~ The Guardian.

She didn’t save Britain or turn the economy round. We need to break with her failed model to escape its baleful consequences.

They have only themselves to blame. Protests were always likely at any official sendoff for the most socially destructive prime minister in modern British history. But by turning Margaret Thatcher’s funeral into a state-funded Tory jamboree, puffed up with pomp and bombast, David Cameron and his acolytes have made them a certainty – and fuelled a political backlash into the bargain.

As the bishop of Grantham, Thatcher’s home town, put it, spending £10m of public money to “glorify” her legacy in the month benefits are slashed and tax cuts handed to the rich is “asking for trouble”. What’s planned today isn’t a national commemoration, but a military-backed party spectacle.

It’s a state funeral in all but name, laid on for none of the last seven prime ministers. Nothing of the kind has been seen since the death of Winston Churchill, who really did unite the country for a time against the mortal threat from Nazi Germany. Thatcher did the opposite, of course, though every effort will be made today to milk her short but bloody colonial conflict in the south Atlantic for all its jingoistic worth.

It’s hardly a surprise that 60% of the population oppose the public subsidy, or that Buckingham Palace is alarmed at the funeral’s regal dimensions. Now the decision to silence Big Ben has tipped the whole saga into the realm of offensive absurdity.

There’s been much talk about a need for dignity and respect. But the prospect of the leader of a class war government being treated like a respected head of state is itself an insult to the half of Britain that recoils from her memory and the millions of people whose communities were devastated by her policies.

From the moment the former prime minister died there has been a determined drive by the Tories and their media allies to rewrite history and rehabilitate a deeply damaged brand. For a few days of fawning wall-to-wall coverage it seemed like that might be working, as happened in the US after Ronald Reagan’s death in 2004.

But a week on, it’s clear the revisionists have overplayed their hand. Anger and revulsion keep bursting into the open. Simply raising her record reminds people of the price paid for unrelenting deregulation, privatisation and tax handouts to the rich; why she was so unpopular across Britain when she was in power; and the striking similarity with what’s being done by today’s Tory-led coalition.

So there’s been no polling bounce for Cameron, even as he claimed that Thatcher “saved our country”. And while people recognise her strength, polls show clear opposition to many of her flagship policies, including privatisation (only a quarter think it’s delivered a better service). Most don’t believe she “put the ‘Great’ back into Great Britain” at all, her economic policies are seen to have done “more harm than good”, and her legacy is regarded as one of division and inequality.

Which is what the facts show. Far from saving Britain, Thatcher’s government delivered rampant inequality, social breakdown, disastrous financial deregulation, pulverising deindustrialisation and mass unemployment. A North Sea oil bonanza was frittered away on tax cuts for the wealthy and a swollen benefits bill as public services were run down, child poverty escalated and social mobility ground to a halt.

But for all that, her apologists insist, Thatcher did what was necessary to turn Britain’s economy round. But she didn’t. Growth during the 1980s, at 2.4%, was exactly the same as during the turbulent 1970s and lower again in the post-Thatcher 1990s, at 2.2% — while in the corporatist 1960s it averaged over 3%.

And despite claims of a Thatcher “productivity miracle”, productivity growth was also higher in the 60s (and it’s gone into reverse under Cameron). What her government did do was redistribute growth from the poor to the rich, driving up profits and slashing employees’ share of national income through her assault on trade unions. That’s why it felt like a boom in better-off Britain, as the top rate of tax was more than halved, while real incomes fell for the poorest 40% in her first decade in power.

You only have to rehearse what Thatcher’s government unleashed a generation ago to recognise the continuity with what’s been happening ever since: first under John Major, then under New Labour, and now under Cameron: privatisation, liberalisation, low taxes for the wealthy and rising inequality. Thatcher was Britain’s first woman prime minister, but her policies hit women hardest, just as Cameron’s are doing today, while Tony Blair says he saw his job as “to build on some of the things she had done rather than reverse them”.

But Thatcherism was only an early variant (following her friend GeneralPinochet, the Chilean dictator) of what became the neoliberal capitalism adopted or imposed across the world for the next generation. And it’s that model which imploded in the crash of 2008. As even the free-market Economist conceded last week, while demanding “more Thatcherism, not less”, her reforms could be said to have “sowed the seeds” of the current crisis.

Like other true believers, the magazine’s editors fret that the pendulum is now swinging away from the neoliberal model. So does Blair, who remains locked in the politics of the boom years and whose comfort zone remains attacking his own party. So he’s launched a coded assault on Labour’s leader, Ed Miliband, for supposedly thinking a crisis caused by under-regulated markets will lead to a shift to the left.

There’s certainly no automatic basis for such a shift. As history shows, the right can also take advantage of economic breakdowns – and often has. But more than 20 years after Thatcher was forced out of office, the evidence is that most British people remain stubbornly resistant to her individualistic small-state philosophy, believing for example that it’s the government’s job to redistribute income across the spectrum and guarantee a decent minimum income for all.

And crucially, the economic model that underpinned the policies of Thatcher and her successors is broken. As the Labour frontbencher Jon Trickett arguedthis week, we need a “rupture” with the “existing economic settlement” – the Thatcher settlement. That’s the challenge of the politics of our time, not only in Britain. As we remember blighted lives and communities today, it’s time not just to bury Thatcher, but Thatcherism itself.

Link to video: Margaret Thatcher’s coffin arrives at Westminster

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RIP Thatcher