Terrorist acts on British soil have been committed by people revealed to have been not only known but actively supported by British intelligence agencies. They were supported in carrying out acts of violence in other countries, including Libya and Syria, because it was in accordance with UK foreign policy objectives. Those objectives themselves were highly questionable, and the methods still more so. Meanwhile, we have started to learn – and at a bitter cost to those killed or injured, and their friends and families – what goes around comes around. What went around was not fair or deserved in Libya or Syria, and it is cruelly arbitrary for lives to be lost or terribly changed in our country too.
Blowback is, I fear, a word we may find ourselves using increasingly and for some time to come. We should certainly try to get as focused, rational, mature and responsible an approach as possible to the complex problem we face. That would mean raising the level of public and political debate somewhat from what has become usual.
For that reason, a number of us – 62 academics and journalists, including John Pilger – have signed the letter below that has today been sent to the Guardian. In case you don’t get to read it there, it is reproduced below.
Update: Noam Chomsky has added his signature 19 June 2017.
(For more background see also the article on OpenDemocracy by our letter’s lead author Piers Robinson.)
From 9/11 to the London Bridge Attack: Time to Rethink the ‘war on terror’
Today, 16 years since 9/11 ushered in the US-led ‘war on terror’ and with attacks now occurring across Europe and multiple wars across the MENA region, it is time for the West to reflect far more deeply on these matters. Whilst the attacks should be condemned and sympathies expressed for the bereaved, these actions will not address the ways in which terrorism has become interwoven with Western foreign policy.
To date, policy responses involving civil liberty crackdowns, threats to control the internet and repressive measures such as Prevent, which target entire communities, especially Muslim, have not been evidence-based and have, indeed, run counter to advice from experts and the security agencies themselves. Responses to the immediate problem of terrorist acts, such as those witnessed in London and Manchester, need to be much more intelligent and informed.
At the same time, simplistic and politicised representations of ‘Islamic fundamentalist’ terrorism vs. the West are wholly inadequate and are belied by emerging facts. It is now clear that, even as far back as the response to 9/11, the US sought to exploit this event in order to initiate regime operations against countries unconnected to Al Qaeda. The recent Chilcot Report quoted a British Embassy report stating ‘The “regime-change hawks” in Washington are arguing that a coalition … (against international terrorism) could be used to clear up other problems in the region’. The most notable outcome of this exploitation was the catastrophic invasion of Iraq.
More recently, the highly destructive conflicts in Syria and Libya have highlighted powerful inconsistencies regarding Western governments claim to be fighting terrorism. In Syria, the priority of toppling Assad has involved support, intentional or unintentional, for a variety of extremist groups and key allies, including Saudi Arabia and Qatar, which have been implicated in providing support to ISIL and other radical Sunni groups. Indeed, the UK’s relationship with Saudi Arabia based on massive arms deals, and support in that country for ‘Islamist Jihadists’, has now become an election issue in the UK. Regarding Libya, the recent Manchester attacks have triggered remarkable claims regarding the possible relationship between the alleged attacker, Salman Abedi, and British security services and a broader policy of facilitating the movement of extremists between the UK and Libya to help overthrow Qadafi in 2011.
Responding to the dreadful events in London and Manchester requires level-headed policy responses and critical reflection upon the way in which Western governments have become embroiled in exploiting terrorism and even facilitating it. If we are to move beyond the ritualistic cycle of terror attack-condemnation-military response-terror attack, it is time to come to terms with, and bring to an end, Western involvement in terrorism.
John Pilger, Journalist and Documentary Film Maker
Professor Noam Chomsky, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Professor Vian Bakir, University of Bangor
Professor Ruth Blakeley, University of Kent
Professor Oliver Boyd-Barrett, Emeritus Bowling Green State University
Professor Daniel Broudy, Okinawa Christian University
Professor Emanuela C. Del Re, University of Niccolo’ Cusano
Professor John L. Esposito, Georgetown University
Professor Des Freedman, Goldsmiths, University of London
Professor Natalie Fenton, Goldsmiths, University of London
Professor David Ray Griffin, Emeritus, Claremont Graduate University
Professor Penny Green, Queen Mary University London
Professor Tim Hayward, University of Edinburgh
Professor Jenny Hocking, Monash University
Professor Eric Herring, University of Bristol
Professor Tareq Y. Ismael, University of Calgory
Professor Richard Jackson, University of Otago
Professor Jeremy Keenan, Queen Mary University London
Professor Timo Kivimäki, University of Bath
Professor Paul McKeigue, University of Edinburgh
Professor David Miller, University of Bath
Professor Mark Crispin Miller, New York University
Professor Fredrick Ogenga, Rongo University
Professor Julian Petley, Brunel University
Professor David H. Price, Saint Martin’s University
Professor Piers Robinson, University Of Sheffield
Professor Salman Sayyid, University of Leeds
Professor Tamara Sonn, Georgetown University
Professor David Whyte, University of Liverpool
Professor James Winter, University of Windsor, Ontario
Amir Amirani, Producer and Director
Dr Nafeez Ahmed, Anglia Ruskin University
Dr Matthew Alford, University of Bath
Max Blumenthal, Author and Journalist
Dr Emma Briant, University of Sheffield
Remi Brulin, New York University & John Jay College of Criminal Justice
Dr TJ Coles, University of Plymouth
Sarah Earnshaw, Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich
Dr Philip Edwards, Manchester Metropolitan University
Dr Lucy Morgan Edwards, Researcher
Muhammad Feyyaz, University of Management and Technology, Lahore
Dr Ciaran Gillespie, University of Surrey
Stefanie Haueis, Fachseminarleiterin, JGHerder-Gymnasium, Berlin
Dr Mark Hayes, Southampton Solent University
Dr Emma Heywood, Coventry University
Dr Nisha Kapoor, University of York
Dr Paul Lashmar, University of Sussex
Dr Sarah Marusek, University of Johannesburg
Dr. Narzanin Massoumi, University of Bath
Dr Anisa Mustafa, University of Nottingham
Ismail Patel, Friends of Al-Aqsa, Peace in Palestine
Dr Elizabeth Poole, Keele University
Dr Fahid Qurashi, Canterbury Christ Church University
Dr. Piro Rexhepi, Max-Planck-Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity
Cathrin Ruppe, University of Applied Sciences, Münster
Dr Rizwaan Sabir, Liverpool John Moores University
Dr Joshua Shurley, Clovis Community College, California
Dr Katy Sian, University of York
Dr Greg Simons, Uppsala University
Stephanie Weber, Curator of Contemporary Art, Lenbachhaus Munich
Dr Milly Williamson, Brunel University
Dr Kalina Yordanova, Assistance Centre for Torture Survivors
Dr Florian Zollmann, University of Newcastle