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THAT’S right. The Prime Minister believes that the Iraq war increased the risk of terrorism in Britain.
He is one of several leading Conservatives who have expressed that view — based on the judgement of British intelligence, the police force and the Civil Service.
In July 2005, just days after the July 7 terror attacks that killed 52 people in London, Johnson, then just a back-bench Conservative MP, wrote in the Spectator: “It is difficult to deny that they have a point, the Told-You-So brigade.”
Johnson referred to the Joint Intelligence Committee assessment, five weeks before the 2003 Iraq war, that the threat of al-Qaida terrorism “would be heightened by military action against Iraq.” (The JIC oversees all the intelligence agencies — MI6, MI5, GCHQ and Defence Intelligence — and is the top-level intelligence body advising the prime minister.)
Johnson accepted that the situation in Iraq since the US-led invasion was “very far from ideal” — “and if any anti-Western mullah wanted a text with which to berate Britain and America for their callousness, it is amply provided by Fallujah” — the Iraqi city that had shortly before been demolished by US-led forces — “or the mere fact that Tony Blair cannot even tell you how many Iraqis have been killed since their liberation — only that the number is somewhere between ten and twenty thousand.”
Johnson also accepted that, although terror attacks by “murderous Islamic fundamentalists” had started long before the 2003 Iraq war, “the war has unquestionably sharpened the resentments felt by such people in this country, and given them a new pretext.”
The Prime Minister wrote: “The Iraq war did not introduce the poison into our bloodstream but, yes, the war did help to potentiate that poison.”
According to the Oxford dictionary, “potentiate” is a technical term meaning: “Increase the power, effect, or likelihood of (something, especially a drug or physiological reaction).”
So, according to Johnson, Britain’s participation in the US-led invasion and occupation of Iraq increased the “likelihood” of al-Qaida terror attacks in Britain and/or the damaging “power” and “effect” of al-Qaida terror attacks in Britain.
The Prime Minister is not the only Conservative to have been realistic about the effect of Britain’s aggressive foreign policy.
Ken Clarke launched his campaign to be leader of the Conservative party in September 2005 with a speech about the connection between British foreign policy and domestic terrorism.
Clarke admitted that “the decision by the UK government to become the leading ally of president Bush in the Iraq debacle has made Britain one of the foremost targets for Islamic extremists.”
Also in 2005, we had some foreign-policy realism from former Conservative foreign secretary Douglas Hurd; from former Tory health secretary Stephen Dorrell, and from former Tory chancellor Norman Lamont.
Hurd said: “The likelihood of young Muslims, whether in Britain or elsewhere, being attracted to terrorism was increased by our action in Iraq.
“We attacked a Muslim country on grounds which turned out to be empty. We broke international law. We faced no serious threat from Saddam Hussein and received no authority from the security council. We brought about the deaths of thousands of innocent Iraqis.”
Dorrell accepted that the Iraq war had made Britain more vulnerable to terrorist attack: “Of course that is true. Who do they think they are kidding?”
Lamont also endorsed Ken Clarke’s argument and argued: “Iraq has been this country’s biggest foreign policy disaster since Suez, has made Britain and the world a more dangerous place, and yet has hardly been criticised at all by the Conservative Party.”
These men were not thrown out of the party for their outrageous remarks.
Douglas Hurd, a Conservative peer in 2005, is still a Conservative.
Norman Lamont, also a Conservative peer in 2005, is still a Conservative peer.
Stephen Dorrell remained a Tory MP until 2015.
Ken Clarke, a Tory MP since 1970, was thrown out of the party, but not for saying that the Iraq war had “made Britain one of the foremost targets for Islamic extremists.”
He was thrown out in September for voting against a no-deal Brexit.
Johnson has not suffered any political damage for saying in 2005 that the Iraq war “potentiated” the risk of terrorism in Britain.
One reason for this Conservative outbreak of realism was the solid consensus of opinion in security and intelligence circles that “the issue of British foreign policy and the perception of its negative effect on Muslims globally plays a significant role in creating feelings of anger and impotence amongst especially the younger generation of British Muslims” and “seems to be a key driver behind recruitment by extremist organisations.”
That was how Michael Jay, the top civil servant at the foreign office, summed things up in a letter to another top civil servant in May 2004.
This identified British foreign policy — “a perceived ‘double standard’ in the foreign policy of Western governments, in particular Britain and the US” — as a key motive for involvement in terrorism.
After the July 7 attacks, British counter-terror police carried out a similar investigation, which had a headline over one section: “Foreign policy and Iraq; Iraq HAS had a huge impact.”
All of this is important information in its own right. It’s especially important if there is any criticism of Jeremy Corbyn for his speech after the London Bridge attack.
He rightly said: “The threat of terrorism cannot and should not be reduced to questions of foreign policy alone. But too often the actions of successive governments have fuelled, not reduced that threat.”
Milan Rai is the editor of Peace News and the author of 7/7: The London Bombings, Islam and the Iraq War.
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