The terrorist attack in Manchester where 22 people, including children, were killed and scores were injured, many critically, provoked an understandable sense of outrage into how and why this could happen. The answer to that question unfortunately has been to repeat the half-truths and stereotypes that have followed each of the terrorist attacks in western cities in recent years.
The fact that all of these terror attacks follow a familiar pattern is not of itself subject to examination, other than at the most superficial level, for example, being perpetrated by “Muslim extremists.”
We were first told that Salman Abedi was an unremarkable 22 year old, the child of refugees from Gadhafi’s Libya, who was born in the UK and somehow, inexplicably, turned himself into a terrorist bomber.
More facts have gradually emerged, although the mainstream media have shown a marked reluctance to follow through the threads that have been exposed. Far from being “unremarkable”, Abedi was in fact “known to the intelligence services,” a phrase that recurs after virtually every terrorist attack, whether in London, Brussels, Berlin, Nice and elsewhere. In each and every case, these terrorists “known to the intelligence services” manage to avoid detection prior to them carrying out their attacks, despite, as was the case with Abedi, multiple warning signs.
It is theoretically possible that the intelligence services of all the western countries are so incompetent that they do not manage to intercept a single terrorist attack. A much darker alternative is more likely, that in fact they are allowed to proceed because their actions serve much larger geopolitical goals.
Support for this hypothesis is strengthened when one looks at Abedi’s actual history, as opposed to the sanitized version presented by the mainstream media. Abedi lived in the Whalley Range area of Manchester, which was a centre of activity in the UK for members of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Force (LIFG), which included Abedi’s own father. Despite being a proscribed organisation in the UK, LIFG was allowed to operate freely. Abedi, as well as other members of LIFG were able to move freely between the UK and Libya on a number of occasions.
Abedi is known to have received terrorist training in Libya and is also thought to have spent time in Syria fighting on behalf of the anti-government forces in that country.
In 2011 when NATO forces attacked Libya and overthrew the government of Gadhafi, among a number of the people they put in power was Abdel Hakim Bel-Haj, a leader of the LIFG, later known as the Libyan Islamic Movement for Change (LIMC). Prior to the overthrow of the Gadhafi government and prior to the passage of UN Security Council Resolution 1973, the ostensible justification for the attack, former UK Special Forces were active in Libya providing training for LIFG terrorist groups.
The LIFG was a direct descendant of the al Qaeda terrorist group formed in Pakistan in the late 1970s to subvert the nationalist and relatively secular government of Afghanistan. Under the code name Operation Cyclone terrorist forces were not only infiltrated into Afghanistan, but also beyond into the Muslim dominant Central Asian republics of the then Soviet Union and China’s similarly Muslim region of Xinjiang in that country’s south west.
Contrary to the mythology of the western media at the time, these Mujihideen were not a response to the Soviet “invasion” of Afghanistan in 1979, but as we now know from books published by the two main architects of the plan, Zbigniew Brzezinski and Robert Gates, were actually began several months prior to the entry of Soviet troops into Afghanistan.
The second overriding element in the pattern is that countries targeted by the United States for regime change in the Middle East and elsewhere were all countries whose leadership was insufficiently compliant with US geopolitical wishes, or worse, showed dangerous signs of independence.
After Afghanistan in 2001 (a refusal to grant pipeline access to US oil companies shipping Caspian gas to the Arabian Sea), Iraq followed in 2003. Saddam’s “crime” was a refusal to grant concessions to US oil companies; a decision to trade its oil in Euros rather than exclusively in US dollars; and the misfortune to be on the Israeli Yinon hit list destined for break up into smaller statelets too weak to challenge Israel.
Libya in 2011 followed a similar pattern with the decision by Gadhafi to move Libya’s oil trading out of US dollars and into a gold backed African dinar.
Syria’s “crime” was also in 2011 to refuse the granting of transit rights for the shipment of Qatari gas to Europe, which was intended by the Americans to be the vehicle for undermining European reliance upon Russian natural gas.
In each case there was a massive propaganda campaign in the western media that preceded the invasion and occupation. In Afghanistan it was the refusal of the Taliban government to hand over Osama bin Laden, a long time CIA asset and the alleged mastermind of the 9/11 attacks in New York and Washington. Involvement in those attacks was something bin Laden consistently denied, unlike today’s ISIS terrorists who claim responsibility for each and every terrorist atrocity whether they are involved or not.
Iraq had the infamous ‘weapons of mass destruction,’ both Gadhafi and Assad were alleged to be “massacring their own people”. That none of these allegations had a shred of credible evidence to support them was a matter of supreme indifference to political leaders in the US, UK and elsewhere. They always have a feeble post-facto justification for their actions.
Unlike the Tokyo and Nuremburg Tribunals that held political leaders of Germany and Japan responsible for waging a war of aggression, the “supreme international crime” today’s political leaders are seemingly immune from accountability for mass murder and the destruction of whole societies.
A third common theme emerging in mainstream accounts of the Manchester atrocity is that this and other attacks are a form of ‘blowback’, a theory developed many years ago by the late Chalmers Johnson in his book of the same name (2004).
This theory has a superficial attractiveness. It would be understandable that countries that enjoyed stability and a relatively high standard of living, and a marked absence of terrorist activity, would be resentful of the destruction of their societies and the theft of their resources. There will always be individuals seeking retaliation in some form. Creating a bomb in one’s garden shed, driving a truck at civilians on a crowded street or simply running amok with a knife are all relatively low cost and brutally effective means of creating mayhem, at least for a limited time in a limited space.
The problem with blowback as an explanatory mechanism is that it almost completely ignores the role of the State as the primary perpetrator of mass violence. To use just one example to illustrate the point. Craig Murray (www.craigmurray.org.uk 27 May 2017) has done just one calculation. Using the lowest possible estimates, he shows that the number of children killed in the Manchester blast have been killed in Iraq every day for the past eight years.
They are in turn only a small fraction of the civilian casualties in the numerous wars that the western powers have waged over the past seventy years.
The final point to emerge is that in the very week of the Manchester bombing US President Trump was in Riyadh clinching a huge arms deal with a country that, after the US itself, is the world’s greatest sponsor of jihadist terror.
Saudi Arabia has for the past two years been waging war on Yemen, reducing that already desperately poor country to the point of total collapse. That war is waged with US and UK political and military support, with nary a word of protest from loyal acolytes of the US such as Australia.
Saudi Arabia also sponsors through its madrassa schools an ideology of terror where the victims of these graduates are just as likely to be fellow Muslims, as seen most recently in Indonesia and the Philippines. It follows the brutal suppression of the Shia majority in Bahrain and significant discrimination against its own sizeable Shia population.
Trump was able to deliver a speech in Riyadh in which, notwithstanding the appalling record of his hosts, lay all the blame for the world’s terrorist troubles on Iran.
Together with his previous rhetoric (as well as that of his rival Hillary Clinton) against the Islamic Republic, the nearest thing to a democratic State in the Middle East, Trump’s latest absurd pronouncements are clearly designed to prepare the ground for an attack.
The US has been waging asymmetrical warfare against Iran via the MEK and other terrorist organisations, sanctions (which it maintains despite the 2015 P+6 agreement) and repeated falsehoods about Iran that are identical in tone and content to the propaganda assaults that preceded the attacks on Iraq, Libya and Syria, at least since the 1953 overthrow of the Mossadegh government by the CIA and their British allies.
There are good grounds to believe that Iran will not be as vulnerable as the previous victims of western regime change ambitions, not least because of the growing strategic, trade and security links with Russia and China. Iran has a highly educated population, and as has been shown in its eight-year war against Saddam’s American backed Iraq, and more recently in Iraq and Syria at the request of their respective sovereign governments, possesses a formidable fighting capability of its own.
Notwithstanding these formidable obstacles to western backed regime change, it would be unwise to rule out an American attack on some pretext. Their track record since World War 2 makes an attack on a false flag basis or simply a massive propaganda war, the most likely option.
The real question posed for the public in the US, Europe, the UK and Australia, after the Manchester atrocity, is how long are they going to permit their governments to perpetuate policies that inevitably create enormous suffering and chaos, or which Abedi style terrorism is but one small example?
James O’Neill, Barrister at Law and geopolitical analyst. He may be contacted at [email protected]