Howard in denial war is driving terror attacks

Green Left Weekly
July 27, 2005

At a joint press conference with British PM Tony Blair in London on July 21, Australian PM John Howard was asked by an Australian reporter working for the pro-war Murdoch press: "Yesterday an Australian bomb victim of July 7 linked the bombings to Iraq. Does that suggest that the propaganda war against terrorists is also being lost?" In a 459-word answer, Howard denied that the policies of the Australian, British and US governments on Iraq had anything to do with the July 7 London suicide bombings, or with any other acts or threats of terrorism against US, British or Australian nationals.

"Can I remind you that the murder of 88 Australians in Bali took place before the operation in Iraq?", Howard said, adding: "Can I remind you that the very first occasion that [Osama] bin Laden specifically referred to Australia was in the context of Australia's involvement in liberating the people of East Timor?"

After noting that those claiming responsibility for the July 7 suicide bombings said they were retribution for Britain's participation in the US-led invasions and occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq, Howard argued that "all the evidence, as distinct from the suppositions, suggest to me that this is about hatred of a way of life ... and I think we lose sight of the challenge we have if we allow ourselves to see these attacks in the context of particular circumstances, rather than the abuse through a perverted ideology of people and their murder."

Ironically, Howard's argument had been refuted only a few hours earlier by Chicago University professor Richard Pape in an interview aired on ABC TV's 7.30 Report. Pape has conducted a study of 462 suicide terrorists from around the world since 1980.

Based on this study, he rejects the view that suicide terrorism is mainly driven by an "evil ideology" of hatred for the "Western way of life".

Pape pointed out that there is no evidence that most suicide terrorists "hate Western values or that they hate being immersed in Western society. What we have evidence for time and again across the spectrum is that they are deeply angered by [Western governments'] military policies, especially foreign combat troops on territory that they prize and that they believe they have no other means to change those policies".

To support this, he cited the results of a four-volume British Home Office report on attitudes among the 1.6 million Muslims living in Britain. "The Home Office found that 13% of those Muslims believed that suicide attacks against the West were justified. They further found that the central reason for why those 13% believed those suicide attacks were justified was anger over British military policies on the Arabian Peninsula. The link between anger over American, British and [other] Western military forces stationed on the Arabian Peninsula and al Qaeda's ability to recruit suicide terrorists to kill us couldn't be tighter."

The example of East Timor given by Howard accords perfectly with Pape's argument that terrorist attacks by Muslims against US, British and Australian nationals are driven by anger against their governments' military interventions into territories the terrorists see as part of the Muslim world.

Large numbers of Muslims around the world did perceive the Australian military intervention into East Timor in late 1999 as an invasion of "Muslim" Indonesia. They saw the Australian military's intervention to assist the East Timorese attain their nation's independence from Indonesia as an unjustified attack on the territorial integrity of a "Muslim" country.

Why? Because all Australian governments right up until then - including Howard's government - had publicly endorsed the Suharto dictatorship's 1975 invasion and annexation of "Christian" East Timor. It is thus utter hypocrisy for Howard to now claim that his government's pre-1999, pro-Indonesia annexation policy toward East Timor - and its sudden reversal of this policy under the pressure of an Australian public that had long sympathised with the East Timorese - had nothing to do with the motivations of the Bali bombers. l


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