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  • Published in Opinion
stop the war demo

Stop bombing Syria demonstration in London, April 2017. Photo: Flickr/Jim Aindow

We need a prime minister who can deliver a meaningful response to terrorism, writes John Westmoreland

The terrorist attacks in Manchester and London have raised many issues. Why were the attacks focussed on totally innocent people? What is driving people who have lived among us to suddenly commit an outrage against us? What can we do to limit the number of future attacks and stop people turning to terrorism?

The main response of ordinary people to these outrages has been immediate and inspirational - offer assistance to the injured and demonstrate to the world that we will not be divided. The demonstrations of compassion and unity are a potent force to deal with terrorism, if it can be harnessed.

But for Theresa May and the right, compassion for the dead has been cynically used as a runway to reaction. May has used the atrocities to justify war, stoke the scapegoating of Muslims and threaten our rights. Surely the disgraceful personal attacks on Jeremy Corbyn are the polar opposite of the unity demanded in Manchester and London?

We need a Prime Minister who can deliver a meaningful response to terrorist attacks, and here are three arguments why Jeremy Corbyn is that Prime Minister:

War and terror

Jeremy Corbyn has consistently argued that war, unless it is a justified defence against aggression, will only lead to a spiral of reaction. He has correctly located British foreign policy as the root cause of terror. War and terror have a symmetry. The attacks on innocent civilians here is a pale shadow of the sufferings inflicted on civilians across the Middle East.

The sanitisation of Britain’s role in Middle Eastern wars by the media has caused huge resentment against the UK. Commenting on the BBC’s reporting of the First Gulf War John Pilger has written:

‘Like two sports commentators, David Dimbleby and the BBC defence correspondent, David Shukman, were almost rapt with enthusiasm. They called for freeze-frames and replays and they highlighted the “action” on screen with computer light-pens.’

The myth that sophisticated weaponry was limiting civilian casualties while only taking out ‘bad guys’ was a massive lie:

‘Military planners hoped the bombing would amplify the economic and psychological impact of international sanctions on Iraqi society. . . They deliberately did great harm to Iraq's ability to support itself as an industrial society which was compounded by United Nations sanctions … the damage to life-support systems in Iraq killed more after the war than direct attacks did during the war’.

The UN sanctions referred to were implemented from London and Washington and led to the deaths of half a million Iraqi children.

Terrorism grew from a cruelly broken country unable to take on the west in military conflict.

There was no Al-Qaida or Isisin Iraq before the US led wars – but there is now. Theresa May is blind to the causes of terror.

We have to admit the truth about British involvement in war and nail the lie of humanitarian intervention peddled by May and the Tories. Human compassion needs to embrace all the victims of war to end the circle of violence. Only Jeremy Corbyn will do that.

Responding to terrorists

Theresa May and the right wing media peddle the myth that Jeremy Corbyn is ‘soft on terrorists’. And May has outrageously suggested that a Corbyn government would encourage terrorist operations in the UK.

This raises a question. Why are the attacks taking place during a general election and playing into the hands of those who want to continue the ‘war on terror’? Surely the terrorists would favour a Corbyn victory?

The truth is that the ‘war on terror’ only makes sense if there is terror. And recruitment to a terrorist organisation is easier when the state joins in with baiting Muslims about the non-existent links between Islam and terrorism.

The ‘war on terror’ emerged from the bowels of the ‘war for democracy’; which was in reality a war for oil and the domination of US capital – a neoliberal war. The fig leaves of ‘anti-terror’ and ‘pro-democracy’ were coined deliberately to justify war against Muslim populations. It was inevitable that the ‘war on terror’ was going to come back to the UK.

This has left us with a circle of reaction. The British establishment has created vicious Islamophobia. It operates surveillance and counter terrorism measures focussed overwhelmingly on Muslims.

Muslims feel attacked and distrusted in the media, at school and college, in their communities and on the streets. The EDL and far-right morons who attack mosques are the children of the ‘war on terror’.

Theresa May’s response to the attacks on Manchester and London is to fight the ‘war on terror’ more vigorously. The state of emergency, the justification of war as ‘patriotic’ and the use of enhanced state power risks ghettoising Muslims. And whereas community leaders will continue to reaffirm their allegiance to British values, victims of state repression may turn to terrorist groups.

The personal history of those involved in terrorist attacks shows the connection to British foreign policy, anti-Muslim racism and low level criminal activity in the context of disintegrating social support through cuts in services.

Ending the cycle of war-racism-terror is a key strategy in responding to the terrorists. Jeremy Corbyn is our only hope on that score.

Leaders and led

The unity and solidarity shown in Manchester and London has been inspiring. Muslim taxi drivers, café owners and doctors worked alongside the emergency services and the general public to help the injured and send the message that the attacks will not divide the community.

Unity and solidarity are our core values and can help end the terrorism inherent in war and reaction. Jeremy Corbyn has said that if justice is not available to all then that must be injustice. Mobilising the millions who agree with him against war and oppression is our best chance of getting peace and justice.

We need a leader whose compassion for the victims of bombs and terror knows no divide based on race, class or religion, nor indeed national borders. We need unity across the UK and the Middle East against the terrorists of all stripes. Every child needs to live in peace and have the prospect of a good life.

We want a leader that can offer a lead here and abroad to end the cycle of war and terror, and the choice between Jeremy Corbyn and Theresa May is a no brainer.

John Westmoreland

John Westmoreland

John is a history teacher and UCU rep. He is an active member of the People's Assembly and writes regularly for Counterfire.

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