“...we have to be unequivocal, that no amount of excuses, no amount of twisted reasoning about a foreign policy here, a foreign policy there, can be an excuse. The reality is, these people hate our values.”
-Government Minister, Ben Wallace.
'The “blowback theory”, which blames Islamist terrorism directly on western expeditionary warfare, is both facile and irrelevant in this case. By bombing Libya we did not enrage or radicalise young Muslims such as Abedi: we simply gave them space to operate in.'
-Paul Mason, The Guardian.
Just as the link is undeniable between the perpetrators of 9/11 and the US and Saudi backing for Jihadis fighting the Communists in Afghanistan in the 1980s, so too is the connection between the Manchester bombing and the British Government using Salafi-jihadis from the UK to get rid of Gaddafi.
-Patrick Cockburn, The Independent.After Terror: The Problem with Social Solidarity Rituals and Vigils.
Following the Manchester suicide bomb attack, the usual non-debate about the nature of 'extremism' in British society has started once more. The mass media had a week of wall-to-wall media coverage of the people of Manchester laying flowers, holding vigils and being co-opted into state sanctioned mourning rites
Ever since the death of Princess Diana in a car crash in 1997, the British public has become more a nation of weepers and flower bearers, those wanting to emote together in bizarre pseudo-religious social solidarity rites instead of learning to think. Those who dissent and ask hard questions are regarded as nasty outcasts.
In a way it's the reverse of the jihadi suicide death cult, whereby the crowds bear slogans such as "love not hate", "we are united", "we are not afraid" lies in the way politicians can use grief or shock to distract attention away from their own failings and the need for journalists to ask searching questions about' how it happened.
Brendan O' Neill, in this sense, was absolutely right that the clichéd invocations to 'love not hate' are actually partly a cynical move on behalf of the political and media class designed to promote a fake form of social solidarity that literally crowds out reasoned analysis and then claims it's 'time to move on'.
'It is becoming clear that the top-down promotion of a hollow ‘togetherness’ in response to terrorism is about cultivating passivity. It is about suppressing strong public feeling. It’s about reducing us to a line of mourners whose only job is to weep for our fellow citizens, not ask why they died, or rage against their dying.
The great fear of both officialdom and the media class in the wake of terror attacks is that the volatile masses will turn wild and hateful. This is why every attack is followed by warnings of an ‘Islamophobic backlash’ and heightened policing of speech on Twitter and gatherings in public: because what they fundamentally fear is public passion'
They want us passive, empathetic, upset, not angry, active, questioning. They prefer us as a lonely crowd of dutiful, disconnected mourners rather than a real collective of citizens demanding to know why our fellow citizens died and how we might prevent others from dying. We should stop playing the role they’ve allotted us.However, the only real way to constructively overcome the anger and direct it towards purposive ends is to ask probing questions into the nature of the jihadi terrorist threat and to make plain without obfuscation as to its true nature and where it comes from. The first stage is recognising that it is connected with a variant of Islam.
The Nature of the Islamic State and Connection to British Foreign Policy
The question is why, beyond a fear of the mob and of retaliation, it is the British government is so mealy mouthed at using words such as 'Islamist', 'jihadi' or even 'Islamic' when referring to attacks which are, whether it is liked, or not, very much to do with Islam and the form practised and supported by Saudi Arabia.
This is often assigned to 'political correctness', the idea the government and whole parts of British society are too craven and given to 'appeasement' of 'the threat' and of offending Muslims that they refuse to call it what it is. Apart from the feared backlash against Muslims, the fear is of creating more jihadists 'demonising Islam'.
The patronising behind this assumption is, as O'Neill points out, that entire sections of the British public are considered too simple minded and stupid to work out that it is one specific branch of Wahhabi and Salafi Islamic teachings that radicalise and that not all Muslims hold to this one strand of the Islamic faith.
Indeed, there is a reluctance on the British left to mention 'Islam' and 'terrorism' for reasons of 'community cohesion'. Jeremy Corbyn , the Labour leader, did not once mention 'Islamism' or 'violent jihadism' after the attack. This is just as craven as the British 'conservative' right fearing to do so for very different reasons.
The obvious one is that Saudi Arabia is Britain's ally and a lucrative market for arms deals. This is one reason why, in the desire not to offend, Theresa May refers to Islamic State as 'Daesh' and why Sky News, effectively a conduit for British state propaganda, refers absurdly to the 'so-called Islamic State'. Saudi Arabia is an Islamic state.
Islamic State is the name of Islamic State: it makes a claim best dealt with by analysing if it is true or not and not whether calling it by its actual name is 'offensive'. The real offence is the way the state was created in the first place through a badly conceived plan to overthrow Assad and Saudi support for jihadists in Syria.
British foreign policy, as Peter Hitchens claimed bravely on the BBC's Question Time- much to the chagrin of Justine Greening- is 'made in Riyadh, not London'. Even if an exaggeration, it is essentially true that Britain is fighting terrorism with one hand tied behind its back because its foreign policy empowers jihadists.
The conflation of the jihadi threat and the 'threat' from Iraq back in 2003 was one of the most blackly absurd propaganda claims ever made. Saddam was detested by Bin Laden, so much so that one reason he hated the West was the fact his Afghan-Arab militias were not allowed to join in the fighting against Iraq in 1990.
This was regarded as a betrayal by Bin Laden and Al Qaeda sympathisers because the US alone protected the Islamic State. The presence of US forces and the fact the Saudis seemed dependent on them rather than vice versa incensed Bin Laden and led in the 1990s to the emergence of Al Qaeda in Afghanistan.
It was the invasion of Iraq that first caused the chaos that provided the long awaited opening for Al Qaeda that they had long wanted to spread into the heart of the Middle East. A new branch of Al Qaeda opened up there, because ISI in 2006, split from Bin Laden and later formed a large part of the Syrian rebels over the border in Syria.
After another split, a faction of one Al Qaeda group later felt rich and empowered enough to carve out the new Islamic State from Raqqa by 2014 by re-entering Iraq after US withdrawal in 2011. Islamic State was born. From the Caliphate centred on Raqqa and then Mosul it spread into every failed state or ungoverned space.
With the Manchester attack, focus has been more on returning jihadists from Syria. however, as the sort emerged of Salman Abedi, the focus shifted towards Libya, though when Amber Rudd, Home Secretary was questioned by the BBC's Andrew Marr of May 28 2017, Libya remained not for discussion in public.
Libya, however, is central to the story of how one British Libyan came to murder his compatriots by regarding them as alien and himself and them fated towards death as part of a form of asymmetrical warfare that linked Southern Manchester with vast spaces of jihadi activity from Sub-Saharan Africa through Egypt to Syria and Iraq.
The Nature of "Extremism".
When the story first broke, the next day the British establishment temporarily lost control of their ability to 'shape the narrative' because the NAS in the US is alleged to have leaked the name of the suicide bomber, Salman Abedi, to the US media. This then meant his name was easily linked to long standing British Libyan Islamist networks.
The fury of Amber Rudd with regard the leaks was said to be that it hampered the police investigation. But it's also quite clear that the release of the name would make it increasingly difficult to spin a narrative in which Britain's foreign policy with Libya and Abedi's connections to it would not be in the spotlight.
One problem with linking British foreign policy is, as Patrick Cockburn pointed out in The Independent, is that explanation is confused with justification. In the case of Jeremy Corbyn, merely mentioning the link, in a speech on Friday morning, the May government's functionaries start whipping up phoney outrage against him.
In a bizarre and contorted statement, Ben Wallace attacked Corbyn by stating on a morning TV programme that “we have to be unequivocal, that no amount of excuses, no amount of twisted reasoning about a foreign policy here, a foreign policy there, can be an excuse. The reality is, these people hate our values.”
Wallace trivialises the death and maiming of human beings by a casual reference to foreign policies here and there, maybe everywhere, not providing 'an excuse', as if anyone who connected it in any way might themselves be an 'extremist'. The term 'extremist' serves two power purposes designed to shield the those in power from criticism
The first is that the parameters of what is 'extreme' are set by those in power, a sliding scale of 'values' that can be shifted according to circumstance and political expediency. As 'extremism' is not explicitly linked to the jihadi ideology promoted globally by Britain's ally Saudi Arabia, then it just has to be linked to 'extremists'.
'Extremists' are clearly not the same as 'moderates' as the assumption of an extreme implies jihadists have taken a body of ideas 'too far' or 'to an extreme' that is not acceptable. Yet it could mean there are Islamists who are, by contrast, 'moderates' who are acceptable according to their use value domestically and, indeed, abroad.
Cockburn, cuts through the spin and deflection mechanisms used to project responsibility and guilt on to those who mention the connection, without detracting from the personal responsibility of the suicide bomber or the network that empowered him to murder. Explanation is not to be confused with justification.
When asking the question why, the question also has to be connected to the 'how' of terror.
'Wallace is dismissive of “a foreign policy here, a foreign policy there” having any effect on terrorism, but the foreign policies most in question are those which led to Britain engaging in wars to overthrow Saddam Hussein in Iraq in 2003 and Muammar Gaddafi in Libya in 2011. Both wars succeeded in their aims, but they also led to a collapse of the Iraqi and Libyan states and opened the door to al-Qaeda, Isis and their clones. It should be firmly said that, if Saddam and Gaddafi had not been overthrown, it is unlikely that Salman Abedi would have been in a position to slaughter people in Manchester.'Abedi's family was steeped in jihadism. When the story first broke the BBC's Frank Gardner mentioned the 'connections' between the Abedis and Libyan fighting forces and the intelligence services. Subsequently, these have come further to light reports detail how M15 recruited fighters jihadists to fight Gaddafi in 2011.
This would clearly mean that a foreign policy here is connected to a foreign policy there, the very opposite of what Ben Wallace claimed. Morerover, it would indicate that Wallace knows full well there is a connection or that those feeding him his soundbites and sentences know there is a connection and so political lying is in order
Britain and Libya-History of Plots and Realignments.
More than any recent jihadi terrorist attack, the Manchester Attack has blowback written all over it. As Cockburn points out, several Libyans even had their 'control orders', put on them after the 7/7 bombings, removed in order to send them directly into battle against Gaddafi. Known jihadists had their passports returned.
'Many joined the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group when back in Libya. Belal Younis, a British Libyan, who had been to Libya in 2011, is quoted as saying that he was stopped by police and immigration officials on his return and then interviewed by an MI5 officer who asked him, “Are you willing to go into battle?” Younis says: “When I took time to find an answer he turned and told me the British government have no problem with people fighting against Gaddafi.” It had no problem then, but it certainly has a problem now as it investigates Libyans in Britain and Libya whom it once aided in pursuit of a foreign policy that destroyed Libya and became a danger to Britain. 'Had the British state send jihadists to go to Libya and overthrow Gaddafi, it would not be the first time. In 1996 the Libya Islamic Fighting Group, comprising of returned 'Afghan-Arab' fighters who had fought against the Soviet Union, were called upon to go to Libya and murder the 'mad dog' dictator, thus being used once more as 'assets'.
As the Guardian reported, after the plot failed' A large number fled to the UK, where they were granted asylum on the grounds that as opponents of Gaddafi “our enemy’s enemy is our friend”, and many went to Birmingham and Manchester – home to established Arab communities that had found work in the cities’ engineering industries.'
By 2001, with the 9/11 attacks on New York, it was clear that the policy of having backed jihadists in Afghanistan, now a failed state in which Al Qaeda had nestled-the word in Arabic means 'the base'-had a disastrous potential to backfire when jihadists could plot attacks against 'the far enemy' from out of large wild and ungoverned spaces.
However, it was a full three years until the LIFG was proscribed as a terrorist organisation. The reason was yet another reversal in British foreign policy. Having once aligned behind the Libyan jihadists when they could overthrow Gaddafi, the threat of meeting Saddam's fate in the Iraq War enabled his rehabilitation in the 'war on terror'.
Tony Blair saw an opportunity to have Gaddafi as a new model autocrat, one who could mend his ways, give up his WMDs and, more crucially, give British Petroleum exclusive access to valuable Libyan oil reserves, the aim of the game in the past. Gaddafi lavished oil money on British think tanks and rebranding himself.
Unfortunately, the jihadi opposition, largely based in Eastern Libya around Benghazi and ready to align with those tribes secretly ranged against Gaddafi, was infuriated by this acceptance of a dictator in return for Britain accessing its oil wealth. At the same time, the Gulf States continued to fund jihadi teachings and Sunni militant causes.
What was underestimated, was the long standing hatred in Libya towards the Western Powers for being the colonial powers who, though they were useful idiots in aiding their cause through air power in 2011, did so firmly in the tradition of those Italian planes that had first attacked Libya exactly a century before when launching a colonial conquest.
Clarifying the Nature of Blowback
Blowback does not mean there is necessarily a 'direct' reaction to British foreign policy. In this case it was the decision to align with Qatari funded rebels to overthrow Colonel Gaddafi in 2011. The addition of the word 'theory' does not mean it is a theory, as it remains a fact that the Gulf States backed rebels, many of them jihadists, against Gaddafi.
Blowback tends too much to be portrayed in conspiratorial terms as the explosive consequences of a foreign policy simply blowing up into one's own face instead of having the desired effect 'over there'. But it's best thought of the repatriation of a wave of jihadi violence that was unleashed abroad through networks established 'there' coming 'here'.
Paul Mason is too quick to dismiss the 'theory of blowback' as 'facile and irrelevant' when it is actually more difficult to acknowledge and entirely relevant to the Manchester attack. The details remain sketchy but what is clear 'Salman Abedi’s decision to embrace Isis may have been triggered by his experiences abroad'.
This does not discount the idea Salman Abedi did not drift into jihadi ideas of suicide bombing because of urban anomie and 'alienation' caused by the absence of his father going to and from Libya, despite his significant background in the LIFG, one that it itself should have prevented his easy passage between the UK and Libya.
Ramadan Abedi may be surprised that his son Salman had become an 'uncontrolled jihadist' by his own standards when he proclaimed his 'innocence'. This where Islamic State ideas as opposed to Al Qaeda ones might have took hold. While Salman's voyage to Syria and back was expedited by the free passage via Libya, Syria was crucial.
One reason would have been the appeal of the IS ideological notion that Muslim children are expendable in 'Western' bombing raids to destroy the Caliphate or liberate Iraq and Syria, while Western children are free to enjoy the fruits of a world built upon the suffering and oppression of Muslims and blood their parents never see.
Abedi’s sister, Jomana, told the Wall Street Journal that he was angered by what was going on in Syria. “I think he saw children – Muslim children – dying everywhere, and wanted revenge. He saw the explosives America drops on children in Syria, and he wanted revenge. Whether he got that is between him and God.”
A similar primitive worldview was at work in the 7/7 bombings as 'propaganda of the deed'. Siddique Khan believed his deranged suicide mission was to get British civilian to 'taste the reality' of the carnage and killing that they had unleashed upon innocent Muslim people everywhere as part of a need to level up the blood balance.
The other purpose of the 7/7 bombing was to provoke polarisation between Muslims and others in British society and provoke an overreaction that would breed greater 'alienation' and create a pool of sympathisers with the idea that a 'war here' is part of a 'war there'. This is one way perpetrators of jihadi terror rationalise it.
Ideology plays a role in 'uplifting' the jihadi from the banality of his own psychopathological hatreds into believing he is a foot soldier in a global cause as opposed to a simple minded and semi-educated cretin. In the case of Abedi, he was already 'radicalised' from childhood. IS would have had little problem prepping him.
The idea jihadi terrorism is merely a reflex counter-reaction to 'foreign policy' is one the jihadists themselves make and British politicians regard as the only argument that those citing foreign policy as a factor in terrorism could be making. There is a dark irony in all this that needs to be demystified by a devotion to the truth.
Those making sensational claims that if British wars had not happened, there would be no jihadist threat are indeed indulging facile wish thinking. At best it is simply part of a desire to wish away reality and pretend jihadi Islamist ideologies have no independent power and traction of their own or that terrorism is 'nothing to do with Islam'.
Jihadi terrorism is everything to do with Wahhabi and Salafist strands of Islam as promoted by Britain's closest ally and strategic security partner in the Middle East-Saudi Arabia. The darkest irony of all is that the jihadi ideology of Islamist terrorists is directly a product of Saudi funding of the ideology of global jihad and militia groups.
Hence, whenever there is a jihadi terrorist attack, politicians are mealy mouthed about its actual nature. The Manchester Attack was a jihadi terrorist attack, one connected with an intolerant form of Islam. 'Waffling about 'extremism' or trying to equate threats from the British far right, such as Jo Cox's brutal murderer, are just eyewash.
Global Jihadi Militancy-The Interconnection between the Wars in Libya and Syria.
Nafeez Ahmed, in an interesting article for Insurge Intelligence, writes at length of the long term interconnections between South Manchester, Al Qaeda and their use value as assets that could be redirected towards geopolitical foreign policy goals. It would appear likely these networks were the object of cat and mouse games,
'The British government has so far denied that Abedi was directly connected to a wider network — but he had at one point come to the attention of MI5 as an associate of Isis recruiter Raphael Hostey, killed in a drone strike in Syria in 2016...Shortly before embarking upon his act of mass murder, he had arrived back from a weeks-long trip to Libya (and possibly Syria). It wasn’t his first.
A group ...of Gaddafi dissidents, who were members of the outlawed Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), lived within close proximity to Abedi in Whalley Range… Among them was Abd al-Baset Azzouz, a father-of-four from Manchester, who left Britain to run a terrorist network in Libya overseen by Ayman al-Zawahiri, Osama bin Laden’s successor as leader of al-Qaeda. Azzouz, 48, an expert bomb-maker, was accused of running an al-Qaeda network in eastern Libya.
The Telegraph reported in 2014 that Azzouz had 200 to 300 militants under his control and was an expert in bomb-making.” In NATO’s Libya intervention to topple Ghaddafi, the US and British partnered with the very same al-Qaeda affiliated groups, including LIFG.
In March 2011, Nato-backed Libyan rebel leader Abdel-Hakim al-Hasidi openly admitted that al-Qaeda jihadists who had fought Western troops in Iraq were fighting on the frontlines to topple Ghaddafi. “Members of al-Qaeda are also good Muslims and are fighting the invader,”.
According to former CIA officer Bruce Reidel at the time: “There is no question that al-Qaeda’s Libyan franchise, Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, is a part of the opposition. It has always been [Muammar] Gaddafi’s biggest enemy and its stronghold is Benghazi.”
The head of the US-UK’s favoured post-war regime in Libya in 2011 was a former al-Qaeda leader who in 1997 wrote a glowing letter of support to the mastermind of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. Abedi’s school associate claimed that he had travelled to Libya that very year in 2011, and had returned to the UK completely changed, religiously head-strong.There is not such a wide gap in ideas between Al Qaeda and ISIS. In any case, it has never been official British state policy to align with Al Qaeda. Yet it might have done just that indirectly in intervening militarily to use air power to support rebels on the ground in Libyan cities during the civil war without caring who they empowered.
The next obvious fact backing the blowback concept is that if Britain and the US certainly did not support Al Qaeda directly, it is an established fact that Saudi Arabia and Qatar have both in Syria, where they bankrolled jihadi militias in the Free Syria Army, and in Libya. The idea British government 'knew nothing' is not credible.
For a start it is a fact that Saudi Arabia and Qatar supported the JAN militias in Syria against Assad and that Hillary Clinton was warned that the policy of covertly arming militias could backfire as they fell into the hands of the jihadists who had by early 2013 hijacked the Free Syria army. She ignored it because she had said 'Assad must go'.
That was two years after the original 'Gaddafi must go' policy in Libya, having removed Gaddafi, the consequence was the jihadists had murdered the commander of the Rebel forces and tried to seize control in order to create a version of the Islamic State in Libya. These were the same jihadists the RAF had been supporting in bombing Gaddafi forces.
Mason makes no mention of the role of the Gulf States when analysing the link British foreign policy and domestic jihadi terrorism. He makes the clear point that Theresa May was Home Secretary when MI5 recruited British Libyans to go and fight. Austerity cuts to policing and the security services might have helped cause the Manchester Attack.
Mason is right that the attacks on Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, is an attempt at deflection away from security and intelligence failures-'they took the eye off the ball'. Corbyn was accused viciously yesterday of 'justifying' and 'excusing' terrorism for very meekly suggesting that there were links between foreign policy and terrorism.
If anything, Corbyn was too lame and muted. In making the claim there are links, he failed to specify how and why this was true, thus not capturing public attention enough while not forcing the Conservatives on the defensive. Libya was not referenced directly, nor Syria, though it is clear jihadi movements were supported there by Britain's allies.
Mason supported the Libyan intervention and yet bemoans the inevitable consequences while he postures as being an anti-Establishment radical. There is still no hard evidence that David Cameron's use of air power to 'prevent a massacre' did so. He supported the rebels to show support for Qatar and Saudi Arabia in a policy of 'regime change'.
The usual 'damned if we do, damned if we don't' argument over military intervention to assist 'Muslim' causes is facile and irrelevant. The foreign policy of Britain is determined primarily by the Sunni Gulf States and not by London: Britain is a client state that assist them in realising their geopolitical goals where they coincide.
While Cameron made a choice to intervene militarily, the circumstances within which it was made for him was shaped primarily by Qatar back in 2011. It was assumed that Doha's support for 'democratic forces' meant that by assisting in installing democracies with its help, Britain could win back popular Arab Muslim support for 'our values'.
The idea this opening could ever promise that presupposed that Gulf autocracies could really back democracy abroad when they crushed dissent at home. Qatar and the Saudi had long supported jihadists whose commitment to democracy was shallow or a pose under newly formed groups that had learnt the Western commercial art of rebranding.
Stalwart supporters of former LIFG jihadists included none other than Senator John McCain who refereed to Abdel Belhadj and his fighters as 'courageous' ( unlike the 'cowardly' Manchester bomber ), denied their obvious links to Al Qaeda and extolled them highly as 'Libyan patriots who want to liberate their country'.
Some were mujahedeen vets that fought the Soviet Union in Afghanistan in the 1980s. McCain never stopped seeing everything in Cold War terms of all dissidents under dictatorships or ranged against them necessarily being staunch democratic heroes. The reality is not to get in the way of the simplistic Good vs Evil scenario.
Though it is not considered good form to openly laud jihadists as 'freedom fighters', as Margaret Thatcher did in the 1980s, it is hardly likely Cameron did not have his own worldview shaped by this dualistic way of thinking. The idea was that if Britain was seen as aligning with democrats against dictators, Islamist militancy would be defused.
The reason was the 'war on terror', one Corbyn assumed in his speech 'is failing', was actually dropped in 2009. The emphasis under President Obama was to support democratic processes and accept moderate Islamists in power if they won in elections, as happened, at first in Egypt, after the uprising there ousted Mubarak.
As regards Libya, there was never any evidence that if Gaddafi was overthrown that the state would not collapse completely-as it did-or that Islamists were united in regarding the ballot box rather than bombs and bullets as the way forward. The militias were only united in hatred of Gaddafi and jihadi-salafists were prominent in them.
If there was no plan for what would happen if things went wrong in Libya, then military assistance should not have been given by Britain. The omission by Mason of the role of Qatar in bankrolling rebels, many of whom were former or actual jihadists in the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, invalidates the attempt to make narrow political points.
The question is, of course, about why intelligence allowed the Abedis to slip off the radar after MI5 had recruited British Libyans to go and fight in the uprising. Yet further to this, there is a need to accept that the jihadists affiliated with Al Qaeda were operating in Libya and that the Gulf states were supporting this.
The idea the British national security state had no idea that the rebels on the ground from Benghazi had a large contingent of jihadists amongst them is fantastical. Either they did, in which case the British state turned a blind eye in the wishful hope they could be 'neutralised later, or they did not-in which case they were incompetent.
If the British security services did not know there were Al Qaeda rebels fighting against Gaddafi and that those such as Abedi would potentially be aligned with them, ( Ramadan Abedi had been in the LIFG in the 1990s when he sought asylum in the UK ), then the value of the security cooperation with the Saudis might be challenged.
The weight of the evidence is that the British security state had knowledge of British Libyan connections with Al Qaeda or the potential for them to become radicalised there. They took the risk in 2011, knowing the Gulf States were backing jihadi rebels, because geopolitical and commercial interests trumped domestic security.