The Iraq war is identified by the dossier as a key cause of young Britons turning to terrorism. The analysis says: “It seems that a particularly strong cause of disillusionment among Muslims, including young Muslims, is a perceived ‘double standard’ in the foreign policy of western governments, in particular Britain and the US.
“The perception is that passive ‘oppression’, as demonstrated in British foreign policy, eg non-action on Kashmir and Chechnya, has given way to ‘active oppression’. The war on terror, and in Iraq and Afghanistan, are all seen by a section of British Muslims as having been acts against Islam.”
And, interestingly, it isn't exclusively a matter of religious belief:
Most of the Al-Qaeda recruits tend to be loners “attracted to university clubs based on ethnicity or religion” because of “disillusionment with their current existence”. British-based terrorists are made up of different ethnic groups, according to the documents.Christiane Amanpour's report for CNN was interrupted by an angry Londoner who called her evaluation of the situation "lies" and declared the deaths in England were due to the war in Iraq. (The CNN video link refuses to open on my computer, but the excerpt is available in the introduction to the story on Democracy Now!'s website, here.)
“They range from foreign nationals now naturalised and resident in the UK, arriving mainly from north Africa and the Middle East, to second and third generation British citizens whose forebears mainly originate from Pakistan or Kashmir.
“In addition . . . a significant number come from liberal, non-religious Muslim backgrounds or (are) only converted to Islam in adulthood. These converts include white British nationals and those of West Indian extraction.”
How serious is this? A BBC analysis notes:
In an interview after the war, [British Home Secretary] Mr Clarke declared: "We have to make sure that the occupation of Iraq is not the basis for recruitment of lots of wild young men into extremist terrorist groups all over the Muslim world."
His comments came after the powerful Foreign Affairs committee of MPs reported in July 2003: "Al-Qaeda's stance on Iraq may encourage some misguided individuals to try to commit terrorist acts."
Former Labour minister Clare Short, who resigned over the war, had told the committee in evidence that the invasion had led to a "very large" number of recruits to the al-Qaeda network.
In February of the following year the same committee reported: "The war in Iraq has possibly made terrorist attacks against British nationals and British interests more likely in the short term."
And it was later revealed that, before the war, the Joint Intelligence Committee had also warned that military action against Iraq might "heighten", rather than reduce, the terrorist threat to western interests.
And the response continues to be: the only answer to violence, is to quench it with greater violence:
What the prime minister believes is that the terrorists had, in effect, already declared war on the west.Perhaps it's time to reconsider that course. Perhaps it's time to realize the biggest problem with the "peace of God." That it does, indeed, pass all understanding.
His actions since then, specifically the war on Iraq, have been designed to avert what he says is his greatest fear - the coming together of weapons of mass destruction and terrorism.
In that, he argues, he is left with no other sensible course of action than to meet the threat head on in the determination to win the war on terror, no matter how long it may take.
Which is precisely its power; and its value.