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The Chatham argument continues

Following yesterday’s publication of the Chatham House report, which was swiftly followed by mildly ridiculous denials by Tony Blair, Jack Straw, Charles Clarke, and John Reid, an argument is understandably being fought between the media and the government. The government is losing.

Shortly before the London bombings, an intelligence report claimed that

Events in Iraq are continuing to act as motivation and a focus of a range of terrorist-related activity in the UK

So Mr Blair’s denials of this show that he is not accepting what his intelligence sources are telling him. He’d prefer to spin his own version, which doesn’t get him in quite such hot political water.

Now in the face of overwhelming logic, Mr Blair has apparently seen fit to shift his argument slightly.

Of course these terrorists will use Iraq as an excuse as they will Afghanistan. But 9/11 happened before both to those and before then the excuse was US policy.

“They will always have their reasons for acting. We have to be really careful to giving into the perverted and twisted logic to which they argue.”

He said compromising on certain aspects of foreign policy would not make the terrorists go away but would enable them to argue that the UK “was on the run, let’s step it up”.

So he appears to no longer be arguing against the obvious point that attacking Iraq has provided terrorists with another ‘excuse’ for attacking us, and thus provided yet another reason, increasing the risk to the country. The third paragraph of the above quotation also shows very clearly that he’s now admitting that British foreign policy affects the actions of terrorists, something that he’s previously strenuously denied. So that’s quite a significant shift, however subtly he’s tried to make it.

In a slightly pointless exercise, the Guardian has conducted a poll which concluded that two-thirds of Britons believe that there is a link between the invasion of Iraq and the London bombings, and over half believe that Mr Blair bears some responsibility for the bombings. The value of these particular results is not really very clear, but tucked away at the bottom is a much more significant statistic: Support for ID cards has fallen, relative to polls taken both immediately after the bombings, and – crucially – before them. So, even in the face of a terrorist attack on British soil, ID card support is falling. This is particularly significant, because one of the central arguments earlier in Mr Blair’s ID cards campaign was that after any hypothetical terrorist attack, people would be angry that he had not done any more to protect them, and would not be worrying about civil liberties arguments. This has today clearly been proven to be a flawed argument.

All things considered, it would seem that the Chatham House report has played badly for the Prime Minister. But, more frustratingly, it never needed to, if only he’d accepted in the first place that foreign policy affects the terrorism risk. If handled correctly, this admission would have been much less politically damaging than this Chatham House report appears to have been, as the report has essentially made him look pretty stupid, and their handling of the attack as a whole hasn’t really helped their Terrorism policies. But then, it’s very easy to say these things with hindsight, and I’m sure that when trying to deal with a terrorist attack of this nature, life is rather more difficult. Unless, of course, you’ve got a well thought out plan. But this government isn’t really very good at planning for unexpected events, is it? Look at Iraq!

Oh, and just to make you feel extra safe, the leaked report also concluded that

At present, there is not a group with both the current intent and the capability to attack the UK.

Our lives, their hands.

This post was filed under: News and Comment, Politics.

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