At our conference on global terrorism -attended by Kofi Annan and 34 heads of state- there were two schools of thought on the future of Al Qaida: the optimists, who thought that Al Qaida had been dealt a lethal blow and that it was unlikely that it would strike again in Europe or America; and the pessimists, who thought that more attacks were only around the corner. Now we know: the pessimists won. Today, we have a carnage, dozens dead, hundreds wounded, families and hearts broken. I write this article only after a few hours after the attack, with a lot of the evidence not out yet, but I assume that this was another “friends of Al Qaida” attack “a la Madrid” and that probably terrorists will soon demand that the UK leave Iraq. The question is then, should the UK follow Spain and leave Iraq or not?
The obvious answer would be to say that the UK should not leave. Departing Iraq, the argument goes, would be rewarding terrorists and that is a mistake. In my view however, not leaving, would also be a mistake, that of rewarding George W Bush. Zapatero realized this dilemma, and left Iraq and since then there´s been peace in Spain.
I am horrified at the hundreds of innocent victims of London today, but I am also appalled at the 100,000 estimated civilian deaths that have occured in Iraq as a result of the US led Iraqi invasion. I am horrified at the Fallujah bombings in which hundreds of innocents civilians die and Zarqawi escapes. Placing bombs is horrible, but in my view so is bombing civilian populations. Why should placing bombs be illegal and bombing people from the air shouldn´t be? Who defines the rules of war? If terrorism is the killing of civilians in order to attain political objectives, isn´t the US led invasion of Iraq also “terrorist”. Saddam Hussein was a genocidal dictator now in jail, soon on trial. In that sense the US invasion was a big success. Why not leave Iraq after that? Why continue waging an impossible to win war? Can we really continue to make the case that there would be more death in Iraq if the US and the UK left? Wasn´t inevitable that the enemy would choose to fight in Western territory as they did today? Why give Al Qaida and other terrorist networks reason to do so? Terrorists have no logic commentators argue and frankly I would agree that they don´t if tomorrow there was another March 11th type of attack in Madrid. But since March 11th 2004 there hasn´t been one. And we do know that if there hasn´t been an attack is not because our security forces are so good. Ground transportation is and will always be vulnerable to terrorism. Undeground passengers, bus passengers can´t be searched as airplane passengers, the vulnerability is and will continue to be there. In my view if there hasn´t been an attack in Spain since March 11th is only because of the decision President Zapatero made of withdrawing from Iraq, and I think that at the right time Tony Blair should make the same choice.
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