William Hague and his government know full well that the successive wars engaged in by Britain have increased terrorism across the Middle East and south Asia
Does William Hague, the British foreign secretary, really believe what he says about the Algerian hostage crisis?
He has expressed scepticisms that the kidnapping and killing of two western gas contractors in Algeria, one of them British, has anything to do with the French military intervention in Mali.
According to Hague, ‘That is a convenient excuse, but usually operations like this take longer to plan.’ He continued ‘whatever excuse is being used by terrorists and murderers who are involved, there is no excuse for such behaviour...This is the cold-blooded murder of people going about their business.’
‘No excuse for such behaviour’ is hardly an admonition that is going to cut much ice with the Islamist militants who are holding 20 foreign hostages including US, Norwegian and Japanese nationals, as well as 150 Algerians. Nor is the accusation of cold blooded murder, given the number of war deaths attributable to the British governments of recent times.
Hague is either a liar or a fool. He and his government know full well that the successive wars engaged in by Britain have had the effect of increasing terrorism across the Middle East and south Asia. It has spread to parts of Africa, with potentially disastrous consequences.
When French president Francois Hollande decided to intervene in Mali, Britain was desperate to be involved. Euroscepticism doesn’t extend to military adventures – far from it. The grounding of one of the two British army transport planes sent to assist the French may be symbolic of the financial and moral bankruptcy of a government which has already conducted three disastrous interventions in 11 years. But involved in military interventions it is determined to be.
This new scramble for Africa, where the old colonial powers of France and Britain try to reassert their control in the resource rich region, looks likely to end in tears very quickly.
When France began its air strikes and invasion in Mali last week the rebels there warned its government that there would be retaliation.
Blowback has come more rapidly than anyone expected.
There is a reason for that. The eleven years of cumulative war has led to immeasurably greater instability. The consequences of the wars have created greater anti western feeling in many countries, leading to the spread of al Qaeda from Afghanistan to Yemen, Somalia, Algeria, Syria and elsewhere.
The unintended consequences of the Iraq war have contributed to this. The overthrow of Saddam Hussein changed the political balance in the region, leading to Iran becoming the dominant power in the Middle East. The covert western intervention in Syria now is aimed at taking out one of Iran’s major allies in the region, and of weakening Hezbollah in Lebanon.
The spread of the wars and instability to Africa is a very dangerous development. The long running civil war in Algeria is being escalated as a result of instability elsewhere. The bombing and regime change in Libya in 2011 impacted on the rest of the region including Mali.
On the day that France invaded Mali, it staged an abortive rescue attempt of a French hostage in Somalia, backed up by the US. It can expect more such crises, and maybe attacks on French soil, while it wages war on Muslim countries abroad and attacks women wearing the hijab at home.
This may be about to get even more serious for the western powers. Europe relies on Algeria for much of its oil and gas, while Niger, bordering rebel held areas of Mali, produces a third of uranium for French nuclear power stations.
Meanwhile the French bombing has not yet been matched by serious French troops engagement on the ground. Already bravado about the mission is becoming more cautious. And in France a poll showed that 64 % thought the Mali operation would make domestic terrorist attacks more likely.
Watch this space.
From Stop the War site
As national convenor of the Stop the War Coalition, Lindsey was a key organiser of the largest demonstration, and one of the largest mass movements, in British history.
Her books include ‘Material Girls: Women, Men and Work’, ‘Sex, Class and Socialism’, ‘A People’s History of London’ (with John Rees) and ‘How a Century of War Changed the Lives of Women’.