Cause and consequence
Guardian" - - Tony Blair appears to be on the brink of a Brechtian moment, in which he will need to dissolve the people who have lost his confidence and elect another.
Certainly, if he claims that anyone who believes there is a connection between the government's foreign policy - above all, Iraq - and the July 7 massacre in London is a "fellow traveller of terrorism", then he has his work cut out. Fully 85% of the public do, according to a Daily Mirror/GMTV poll.
The government's refusal to associate cause and consequence, which would be child-like were it not so obviously self-serving, is sustained only by hysterical warnings against the new evil of "root-causism" from the residual pro-empire liberals.
This attempt to close down debate as to why Britain - London above all - is now fighting the misbegotten "war on terror" on its own streets, is doubly dangerous. Not only does it block the necessary re-evaluation of foreign policy, it also places the onus for preventing any repetition of July 7 on the "Muslim community", which - in a form of collective responsibility - is accused of breeding an "evil ideology" in its midst.
This approach risks reaping a different whirlwind in anti-Muslim attacks, physical and verbal. It also creates the climate in which Brazilians allegedly wearing coats on a hot day can become targets for a shoot-to-kill policy imported from Israel.
"Iraq" is shorthand for describing the problem. As well as the occupation of Iraq, it encompasses the faltering occupation of Afghanistan, the misery of the Palestinians, Guantánamo Bay and the carefully photographed torture at Abu Ghraib and Camp Breadbasket.
The British government bears less responsibility for some of these policies than for others. But if the British ambassador to Washington is briefed by Downing Street that his job is to "get up the arse of the White House and stay there", as has been reported, then it is small surprise that nuances of difference get overlooked.
Of course, al-Qaida and its reactionary ideologists may have broader objectives than ending the occupation of Iraq. But no one is going to bomb Britain because of Chechnya. All roads lead back to the government's uncritical identification with the US neoconservative agenda. The first step in a realignment must be ending the occupation of Iraq. This is not "appeasing terrorism": that would only be the case if the occupation had been wildly popular, and producing results before July 7, and a U-turn was urged as a result of the carnage in London.
In fact, the occupation was wrong, and failing, before July 7 and it is wrong afterwards. It was opposed by most of the people before it began, and by most people most of the time to this day.
The main argument for ending it is not what has happened, or is threatened, in London but what is happening in Iraq daily. Every day is July 7 in occupied Iraq, where Britain has, along with the US, arbitrarily, violently and unlawfully constituted itself the de facto authority.
Whether one talks of 25,000 violent deaths, as claimed by Iraq Occupation Focus, the 39,000 counted by the Swiss-based Graduate Institute of International Studies, or the 100,000 "excess civilian deaths", including nonviolent casualties of occupation, identified by the Lancet, this is a massacre of innocent people that the government apparently believes is a price worth ignoring for its Iraq policy.
Whether these killings are directly attributable to the occupying force, or caused by the terrorism that has flourished on the occupiers' watch along with economic and social chaos, they are the best reason for bringing the troops home. It should be done for the Iraqis, not just for ourselves.
This demand has near-unanimous support among Britain's trade unions. It is the Liberal Democrats' policy. Bringing the troops home no later than Christmas would surely command overwhelming public backing.
Such a move would not necessarily end the threat of terrorism overnight - but it would be right. It would send a signal, not to al-Qaida but to the British people, that a disastrous foreign policy can be changed by means of democratic pressure.
Two million people, including a vast number of British Muslims, took to the streets against the invasion of Iraq. Blair preferred the warmth of the White House's embrace. Ignore the marchers and you risk igniting the murderers. If the alternative to terrorism is democracy, then it is time the people of Britain and Iraq alike were listened to and the occupation ended.
· Andrew Murray <email@example.com> is chair of the Stop the War Coalition and co-author of Stop the War: the story of Britain's biggest mass movement
Copyright: Guardian Newspapers Limited 2005
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