A response from the Home Office
Back in May I wrote to the Home Office asking for the evidence behind a reported statement that "the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan had no bearing on the level of the security threat in the UK or in the rest of Europe." This in an article in the Independent highlighting a recent European report warning "British foreign policy presented critical dangers for all Europe: "The conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq have a large impact on the security environment of the EU."
After a number of false starts, lost e-mails and clarifications, I received a reply.
When approached by the journalist our spokesman followed the normal procedure and queried the Home Office's press database to see if the Department had been asked a similar question before.
Querying the database yielded a question and answer from the launch of the Government's counter-terrorism strategy, CONTEST. It is this information from the database our spokesman relied on when speaking to the journalist. The information from the database is as follows:
Are you conceding that the Iraq war and UK invasion of Iraq have fuelled extremism?
No. It is the right of every citizen to question UK foreign policy and to have the freedom to debate and disagree. Understand that not everyone agreed with decision to intervene in Iraq. But the UK government did so because of wider issues not because it is a Muslim country. No foreign policy issue justifies terrorism or advocating it.
Must bear in mind that the threat from international terrorism existed before the Iraq war:
- Feb 1993
- World Trade Centre - 6 dead.
- Aug 1998
- bombings of US Embassies in Tanzania and Kenya 224 dead, mostly locals.
- 11 Sept 2001
- World Trade Centre, Pentagon 2992 killed.
- April 2002
- historic synagogue in Tunisia bombed 21 dead including European tourists.
- May 2002
- hotel bombed in Karachi 14 killed.
- Oct 2002
- Bali bombs 202 dead, mostly tourists.
This tells us more about the processes of the Government media machine than it does about evidence based policy making. The press office database is not of answers to questions, but rather points of rebuttal. The aim being to divert the attention of the journalist from the question at hand to the departmental line that 'terrorists have always done bad things'.
The failure of imagination (either in the Government or presumed in the media audience) displayed by the emphasis on the reasoning for going to war, when it is the perception that is pertinent. The perception that the west has been engaged in a war on Muslims is widely held in many parts of the world and within some communities within Britain.
It appears that the original 'answer' dates from 2003, the launch of CONTEST (or at the FCO, 'Protect and Survive' anyone?) By 2006 the head of MI5 acknowledged that British suicide bombers were driven by the perception of a long standing injustices against Muslims.
So what of the 'wider issues' that lead to the Iraq war. JK Galbraith had the most convincing account I have read.