JOHN MENADUE. The terrorists are over here because our troops are over there.

Political leaders like John Howard, who lead us into the war in Iraq must shoulder most of the blame for the appalling world-wide consequences, particularly terrorism. Yet, conservative political leaders today – John Howard’s successors – seek every opportunity to exploit the community’s fear of terrorism. Our news media cannot get enough of terrorist attacks in Western countries, while largely ignoring attacks in countries that have had much more serious terrorist violence – Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Pakistan and Nigeria. Our media never stops to ask how all of this terrorism started in the first place. 

The evidence is overwhelming that the cause of present-day Jihadist terrorism is the calamitous decision of George Bush, Tony Blair and John Howard to invade Iraq in 2003. The media, like John Howard, is in denial about the cause of terrorism. Look at the evidence.

  • The invasion of Iraq created chaos and set loose centuries old religious, sectarian and tribal disputes. It also created intense enmity against the West in that part of the world;
  • Al Qaeda was established in Pakistan but first appeared in Iraq in 2004 after the invasion and the overthrow of Saddam Hussein.ISIS pledged alignment to Al Qaeda after the Iraq invasion.
  • Western governments have deliberately set about destroying secular regimes in Iraq, Libya and now Syria;
  • The great enabler and funder of terrorism in the Middle East has been Saudi Arabia.   Saudi Arabia is the spiritual home of Wahhabism. It is the country that produced Osama-Bin Laden and 15 of the 19 9/11 hijackers. It has sent more suicide bombers to Iraq than any other country and has supplied ISIS with more foreign fighters than any other country other than Tunisia. As Peter Rodger has noted in this blog, Hilary Clinton said in 2014 that Qatar and Saudi Arabia “Are providing clandestine financial and logistic support to ISIS and other radical groups in the region.” In 2016, she said: “Saudis have exported more extreme ideology than any other place on earth over the course of the last 30 years.” Not surprisingly, the Obama administration acted to prevent the US Congress accessing papers about the role of Saudi Arabia in the 9/11 attacks.
    Yet, the United States on a vast scale, together with the United Kingdom and us on a minor scale, are supplying military hardware to Saudi Arabia. Together with our allies we are supporting or supplying the greatest promoter and funder of terrorism in the world.
  • As Ramesh Thakur has pointed out in this blog, in 2014 the then British Ambassador to Italy, Sir Ivor Roberts, called President George W Bush ‘Al Qaeda’s best recruiting sergeant.’The Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, recently said that: “Many experts, including many professionals in our intelligence and security services have pointed to the connection between wars our government have supported or fought in other countries and terrorism here at home.” Upset that Corbyn exposed her Government’s foreign policies, Theresa May took strong exception. But Corbyn is right.
  • Professor Robert Page of the University of Chicago   and James Feldman surveyed terrorist attacks 2004-09. They found that 87% were due to the stationing of foreign troops in the Middle East.
  • In 2014, Australian insurgency expert, David Kilcullen, said: “After 13 years, thousands of lives and billions of dollars, we are worse off today than before 9/11, with a strategic and more dangerous enemy than ever before.”
  • Terrorist recruitment is enhanced by the continual drone attacks in the Middle East which, like terrorist attacks in London, Manchester and Paris, kill civilians and children. Once again, activities of our allies in the Middle East promote terrorism. Our ‘joint facilities’ in Australia support these drone attacks.
  • When Russia escalated its military involvement in Syria in 2014, Western leaders warned that this risked fuelling extremism. That is just what the West has been doing for many decades.
  • At the Chilcott Inquiry, in 2014, Baroness Manningham-Buller, the former head of MI-5, said that the Iraq invasion had “Substantially increased the terrorism threat to the UK” by radicalising young people.
  • The Chilcot Inquiry also revealed that the  UK Joint Intelligence Committee told the government that if Iraq was invaded then ‘attacks against western interests elsewhere are also likely,especially in the US and UK for maximum impact. The worldwide threat from other Islamist groups and individuals will increase significantly’
  • Before his political masters leaned on him, the Commissioner of the Australian Federal Police in 2004, Mick Keelty, told the Channel Nine National Sunday program: “The reality is that if there turns out to be Islamic extremists responsible for the train bombing in Spain it is more likely to be linked to the position that Spain and all other allies took on issues such as Iraq.”

The evidence is clear beyond any doubt that the war in Iraq and continual support of Saudi Arabia by the US and its allies are major causes of continued terrorism. We are enablers of terrorism.

The UK has been covertly or overtly involved in military actions in the Middle East for centuries. It should not be surprised at a violent response.

It is impossible to wreak such death and disaster on Muslim lands through overwhelming military power and not be surprised that young disaffected men respond by terrorising vulnerable foreign communities.

Our media and politicians exploit every opportunity to talk about the dangers of terrorism, but scarcely ever examine the causes of that terrorism and our particular contribution to it.

Will we ever learn?

Extricating ourselves from the Middle East disaster will not be easy. But it must be done for the sake of the long-suffering people in the Middle East and for our greater security at home.


John Laurence Menadue is the publisher of Pearls & Irritations. He has had a distinguished career both in the private sector and in the Public Service.

This entry was posted in Defence/Security, World Affairs and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

27 Responses to JOHN MENADUE. The terrorists are over here because our troops are over there.

  1. Avatar Bruce Wearne says:

    My friend in the US reads this and writes: I’ve heard reference to U.S. “interference” only once in media discussions here in the United States but have thought of it often. Moreover, McCain’s reaction is over the top. The Russian action, even if it did actually change votes that gave the election to Trump, just messes up that election, not the “foundations of American democracy.” Although half of the eligible voters choose not to vote, almost everyone believes in open elections as part of our system. So the response will be, and already is, to figure out how to tighten up electronic (and other) security to keep such things from happening again. I would say the Trump’s actions are more threatening to our system now than Russian meddling in the last election.

  2. Avatar Julian Cribb says:

    This is a great summary… but one thing is lacking. It is the old journalistic saying “follow the money”.
    I’d like to know the true extent of western arms dealing, the profits earned by defence companies and contractors from all these pointless wars, the ‘terrorism consultancy’ industry, the oil majors and the whole ghastly edifice of wealth generation by conflict for a handful of big corporates and their political tools.
    Without this, I suspect we are missing the true reason for our involvement in the Middle East. It is ALL about money, lots of money, for a handful of people. And they don’t care how many humans get chewed up and spit out in the process – there or here.
    Terrorism has nothing to do with terror. It is a profit-driven western industry.

    • Avatar Dian Tangey says:

      Julian Cribb you are spot with your comments. The West’s involvement in the Middle East has always been about the money. Further the sale of armaments has always been a major source of income for the USA. It is one of the major wealth generators for the wealthy in the USA.
      Afghanistan has fought off the British, Russians, even Alexander the Great what made our politicians think there would be a different outcome when Australia, Britain and the USA tried. Simply put Afghanis just want to run their own country in their own way. We should have kept out of this war. The old saying about those that ignore history go on to make the same jmistakes holds true here

  3. Avatar LittleOil says:

    So why do Muslims attak and kill other Muslims?

  4. Fantastic article John. There are many reasons that I hope Corbyn wins the election but if does Blair will face court over the Invasion of Iraq and Howard will be next.

  5. Avatar Hassan Moussa says:

    Such a refreshing article that pinpoints to the real threat. For as long as the West remains dependent on oil, it will continue to meddle into Middle East politics & wreck havoc on the region. The majority of people in the Middle East look forward to the day when the oil runs out as it remains a reason and source of violence, wars, poverty, treason, corruption, terrorism and external interference.

  6.  Jim Kable above:”And bring home all our troops involved in any way in Afghanistan or in Syria or in Iraq.” Actually Jim it is not as easy as that. Given that more soldiers suicide on return to Australia than die in action there, why not be preventative? Round up those slated to go overseas add the extras based on suicide statistics shoot the correct proportion more than you intend to send and save the hypocrisy.

    • Avatar Jim KABLE says:

      That’s one way of looking at it – but that’s equally included among my reasons in any event for bringing home those troops/service personnel – saving them from the trauma leading to suicide – or the post-traumatic ethical stresses! And spending no more! Thanks for the insight, anyway!

  7. Avatar Willem Hilliger says:

    What will it take? An attack of the recent Kabul truck bomb size in the in the middle of London, for the coalition of the willing to reconsider their sixteen year old Middle East military adventure. Will that truck bomb be the catalyst for the coalition of the willing to just run away like the Americans and Australians did all those years ago in Vietnam. Meanwhile as long as war criminals like George Bush, Tony Blair, and Johnny Howard remain safe and beyond the international law, that’s all that seems to matter.

  8. Avatar Jim Kable says:

    Correct! On all aspects. I am “appalled” at the sad-faced intoning from ignorant politicians at how appalled they are – but are equally oh so delighted to be given the chance to yet again for public consumption be able to string together as many appalling-sounding adjectives and adverbs in their appalled responses to the appalling events in which they and their ilk are totally and appallingly complicit.

    I refuse to be told by these affronted and appalled front-men and women (mostly men) how it is that I must see these acts of terror! I see their response to Trump’s sale of billions of dollars worth of WMD to the Saudies during his recent there – almost immediately followed up by spokespersons for our own weapons industry shouting that Australia should leap onto that sales bandwagon. And then the TrumPence visitor here just a few weeks ago is met by an announcement that we are to send 30 more services personnel to the hell-hole that is Afghanistan.

    That we drop bombs from on high killing innocent civilians in Syria. That we play “friendly” politician visits with the ugly Netanyahu and his ill-treatment of the people of occupied Palestine – that Dutton treats asylum-seekers in the appallingly manner (honest and realistic use of that word in this context) that he does in those gulags on Manus and Nauru – and many of those young people are Muslim (of various sects)! I want a humane makeover from our politicians – turf out the ones playing the “appalled” pronouncements – who wants to know what Alan Joyce or Malcolm Trumble or Bill Shorten thinks – let’s hear from the experts – not only on what the situation or context is – but on how we can get politicians out of the equation and bring back some humanity. And bring home all our troops involved in any way in Afghanistan or in Syria or in Iraq. Set aside restitution payments for the killings, maimings – in our national name – in those countries – and wave a permanent good-bye to US troops from Darwin and dismantle their spy installations. Let’s become our own people again!

  9. Avatar Judith White says:

    Brilliant piece. You’re absolutely right, John, and thank you for having the courage to say it. Corbyn is right, too – how heartening that the assault on him by the Tories and the media has evidently failed to turn war-weary British voters against him.

  10. Avatar Steve Turbit says:

    John, one thing you didn’t mention was the utterly stupid decision to purge the Iraqi military and civil service. Many of Saddam’s best military strategists, out of work, found a very willing employer in ISIS. Invading the country in the first place was bad enough, but I still to this day can’t get over how short-sighted and belligerent this was. It certainly has helped create what we have today.

  11. Avatar Steve Turbit says:

    Spot-on John. Just how many ‘Islamic inspired’ (not accurate, but how to define) terrorist acts were there committed in Western countries before the Iraq debacle? Not many. And when did people like Al-Baghdadi move into Iraq? After debacle.

    Saddam may not have been a nice bloke, but the folly that he had anything to do with Al Qa’eda is ridiculous. If anything, we could have used him to fight the nutbags that now occupy the region.

    What I find incredulous though, is just how indignant and faux offended some people get when anyone states what you have above. And they do it without giving any reasonable, cogent explanation.

    We will not defeat this latest brand of terrorism until our ‘leaders’ face up to some rather uncomfortable facts, quit the bravado, rubbish rhetoric they feed to the general public, start telling them the truth and put into place some decent policies, rather than pandering to populist nonsense.

  12. Avatar michael lacey says:

    Excellent article and yes we reap what we sow!

  13. Avatar Paul Fyfe says:

    But perhaps there is another recent aspect, regarding some of those carrying out suicide missions: see tthe report of research in this article.
    As well as the parallels in the article, there is the rapid escalation of depression and psychological maladies, and I can’t help noticing a spate of parent/child suicide/deaths.

  14. Afghanistan is another example of Western intervention to overthrow a secular government in favour of an Islamist extremist alternative, Al Qaeda. The fact the overthrown regime was pro-Soviet does not make it any less secular.

  15. A much appreciated summary of the actions and reactions for which we are now paying. Just doing the numbers those killed by the interventions of Blair, Bush and Howard (on the pretext of what we now know were lies) many in the west may be terrorized and some dead; but more in the Middle East are dead. Recently there was a fuss in the press about Manchester, London and the Martin Place business while Trump was signing up to sell many billions of dollars worth of armaments to the Saudis. Do the numbers as to the deaths from that deal compared with the three mentioned events.
    And Henry Haszler’s point is well taken. While the fight goes on around Israel and with the backing of the USA they must be much more relaxed.
    We must seem despicable to the peoples of the Middle East whose lives we have monumentally disturbed.

  16. Avatar Henry Haszler says:

    Too right John. I have long thought this and because of the points you make consider Bush, Blair and Howard war criminals. I would love to see some future great lawyer take this on. Trouble is that if Bush was ever indicted in the Hague International Criminal Court the USA could action its law authorising the President to go to war against the Netherlands.

    Don’t believe me, Google Hague Invasion Act.

    And with that f&$kwit Trump the US has a president who might just do it. Then where would Australia sit?

    My only reservation at 100% endorsing your post is that you say nothing about the Israel-Palestine matter. I believe it was one of the burrs under the saddle that got Al-Quaeda going after the USA.

  17. Avatar Geoff Davies says:

    Excellent summary, even if only of the recent history. I would only differ on the difficulty of extricating ourselves. Just get out.

    • Avatar Willem Hilliger says:

      Geoff, you’re right it can be done. After the Tet Offensive in Vietnam war we with the United States leading the way, just ran away.

  18. Avatar Ian Dunlop says:

    Exactly right. Unless this is honestly discussed and acted upon, the problem will just escalate.
    As Gowing and Langdon put it in their “Thinking the Unthinkable” report:
    “A proliferation of ‘unthinkable’ events… has revealed a new fragility at the highest
    levels of corporate and public service leaderships. Their ability to spot, identify and handle unexpected, non-normative events is… perilously inadequate at critical moments… Remarkably, there remains a deep reluctance, or what might be called ‘executive myopia’, to see and contemplate even the possibility that ‘unthinkables’ might happen, let alone how to handle them.”
    And we are certainly not handling them in the Middle East.

  19. Avatar Michael Lang says:

    Centuries of British meddling in the affairs of Middle Eastern and Central Asian countries has but a peripheral role to play in the rise of terrorism this century. That history certainly provides a backdrop for the development of radical values, but without the American led invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq that centuries old backdrop might have remained nothing more than a chapter to be deplored across civilisations.
    Accepting, though, the main thrust of your argument, It should not surprise us that some young Muslims born and raised in the West are so easily reached by Wahabist ideology. The Middle East has been used by Western powers to promote Western interests at the expense of the human rights of its people. The US has been particularly active in subverting democratic culture and assisting the rise of cliques and dictators whose promise was that they would secure American interests. We should not be surprised that some young Muslims see the trashing of their cultural homelands as a cultural catastrophe, and that such a sentiment is fertile ground for Wahabist seed. Perhaps we should be be looking at the reasons so many young Muslims find such a radical message distastful.
    Withdrawing our military forces from Iraq and Afghanistan will not be enough to help the long suffering people of the Middle East. Aid, the promotion of human rights and respectful dialogue must follow. Then again, I’m not holding my breath.

  20. Avatar derrida derider says:

    Terrorist incidents during an election campaign are usually thought to be good for “law and order” parties – scared people vote Tory. But such parties are also, as you point out, precisely those parties most keen to impose their own version of “law and order” on swarthy foreigners.

    But in the UK it seems this is now not so. It looks to me as though the UK voters have finally understood that killing swarthy foreigners tends to make the children of such foreigners into terrorists. And not only UK voters – middle eastern meddling is now a vote loser, not winner, for conservatives everywhere in the west (which has not yet reduced its popularity in western DFATs; they’re an establishment that is always very slow to realise the world has changed).

    Has there ever, in recorded history, been such consistently counterproductive military interventions as that of western countries in the ME since 1915?

  21. Avatar John Snow says:

    I felt I was beginning to choke on the polluted fumes of hypocrisy coming from our political leaders and the mainstream news media in their words on these recent attacks. What a welcome breeze of fresh air is this article.

  22. Avatar Evan Whitton says:

    A v. important piece.

Comments are closed.