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July 31, 2005

It's Occupation, not Islamic Fundamentalism

Italian newspapers are reporting today that the suspect held on suspicion of planting one of the failed July 21 London bombs said he and fellow bombers were motivated by the war in Iraq to carry out the attacks.

Thus coming from the words of one of the alleged bombers himself, suspicions that these attacks were spawned from the UK's involvement in the Iraq occupation are justified.

One man knows more about suicide bombings than any other Americans. Robert Pape, Asosciate Professor at the University on Chicago and author of a book on suicide attacks "Dying to Win," has the world's largest database of suicide bombers and their demographics. His findings indicate that the the most prevalant American perception about suicide attackers and their motivations are way off.

His conclusions, as expressed in an interview by Scott McConnell of the American Conservative on July 18 (below), clear up many of these misperceptions. Here are some, summarized or paraphrased:

(from an interview with Robert Pape, used without permission of the author/interviewer)

- Suicide attacks are largely associated with Islamic fundamentalism, when in fact the leader in the world's suicide bombings are the Tamil Tigers in their conflict with the Buddhists in Sri Lanka. Palestinians learned of the suicide vest from the Tamil Tigers.

- The main objective, in more than 95 percent of all incidents, has had as its central objective to compel a democratic state to withdraw its occupation or military forces from the region considered by the attackers to be their homeland. Not Islamic fundamentalism.

- Because suicide attacks are mainly a response to foreign occupation and not Islamic fundamentalism, the use of heavy military force can only be expected to increase the number of suicide attackers.

- The evidence shows that the presence of American troops clearly trumps the idea of a cultural hatred of the West or the idea of democracy when it comes to the reasons for suicide attackers to act.

- Iraq never had a suicide attack before American troops invaded.

- "If Islamic fundamentalism were the pivotal factor, then we should see some of the largest Islamic fundamentalist countries in the world, like Iran, which has 70 million people-three times the population of Iraq and three times the population of Saudi Arabia-with some of the most active groups in suicide terrorism against the United States. However, there has never been an al-Qaeda suicide terrorist from Iran, and we have no evidence that there are any suicide terrorists in Iraq from Iran." Sudan, too, has an extremely Islamic fundamentalist government but there has never been an al-Quaeda suicide attacker from Sudan.

- Two thirds of the suicide attacks from 1995 to 2004 are from countries where the United States has stationed heavy combat troops since 1990, and not from Islamic fundamentalist countries.

- History shows that once occupying forces withdraw from the homeland territory of attackers, they often stop, and often on a dime.

The Logic of Suicide Terrorism: It's the Occupation, Not the Fundamentalism
By Scott McConnell
American Conservative
July 18, 2005

Last month, Scott McConnell caught up with Associate Professor Robert Pape of the University of Chicago, whose book on suicide terrorism, Dying to Win, is beginning to receive wide notice. Pape has found that the most common American perceptions about who the terrorists are and what motivates them are off by a wide margin. In his office is the world's largest database of information about suicide terrorists, rows and rows of manila folders containing articles and biographical snippets in dozens of languages compiled by Pape and teams of graduate students, a trove of data that has been sorted and analyzed and which underscores the great need for reappraising the Bush administration's current strategy. Below are excerpts from a conversation with the man who knows more about suicide terrorists than any other American.

The American Conservative: Your new book, Dying to Win, has a subtitle: The Logic of Suicide Terrorism. Can you just tell us generally on what the book is based, what kind of research went into it, and what your findings were?

Robert Pape: Over the past two years, I have collected the first complete database of every suicide-terrorist attack around the world from 1980 to early 2004. This research is conducted not only in English but also in native-language sources-Arabic, Hebrew, Russian, and Tamil, and others-so that we can gather information not only from newspapers but also from products from the terrorist community. The terrorists are often quite proud of what they do in their local communities, and they produce albums and all kinds of other information that can be very helpful to understand suicide-terrorist attacks.

This wealth of information creates a new picture about what is motivating suicide terrorism. Islamic fundamentalism is not as closely associated with suicide terrorism as many people think. The world leader in suicide terrorism is a group that you may not be familiar with: the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka.

This is a Marxist group, a completely secular group that draws from the Hindu families of the Tamil regions of the country. They invented the famous suicide vest for their suicide assassination of Rajiv Ghandi in May 1991. The Palestinians got the idea of the suicide vest from the Tamil Tigers.

TAC: So if Islamic fundamentalism is not necessarily a key variable behind these groups, what is?

RP: The central fact is that overwhelmingly suicide-terrorist attacks are not driven by religion as much as they are by a clear strategic objective: to compel modern democracies to withdraw military forces from the territory that the terrorists view as their homeland. From Lebanon to Sri Lanka to Chechnya to Kashmir to the West Bank, every major suicide-terrorist campaign-over 95 percent of all the incidents-has had as its central objective to compel a democratic state to withdraw.

TAC: That would seem to run contrary to a view that one heard during the American election campaign, put forth by people who favor Bush's policy. That is, we need to fight the terrorists over there, so we don't have to fight them here.

RP: Since suicide terrorism is mainly a response to foreign occupation and not Islamic fundamentalism, the use of heavy military force to transform Muslim societies over there, if you would, is only likely to increase the number of suicide terrorists coming at us.

Since 1990, the United States has stationed tens of thousands of ground troops on the Arabian Peninsula, and that is the main mobilization appeal of Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda. People who make the argument that it is a good thing to have them attacking us over there are missing that suicide terrorism is not a supply-limited phenomenon where there are just a few hundred around the world willing to do it because they are religious fanatics. It is a demand-driven phenomenon. That is, it is driven by the presence of foreign forces on the territory that the terrorists view as their homeland. The operation in Iraq has stimulated suicide terrorism and has given suicide terrorism a new lease on life.

TAC: If we were to back up a little bit before the invasion of Iraq to what happened before 9/11, what was the nature of the agitprop that Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda were putting out to attract people?

RP: Osama bin Laden's speeches and sermons run 40 and 50 pages long. They begin by calling tremendous attention to the presence of tens of thousands of American combat forces on the Arabian Peninsula.

In 1996, he went on to say that there was a grand plan by the United
States-that the Americans were going to use combat forces to conquer Iraq, break it into three pieces, give a piece of it to Israel so that Israel could enlarge its country, and then do the same thing to Saudi Arabia. As you can see, we are fulfilling his prediction, which is of tremendous help in his mobilization appeals.

TAC: The fact that we had troops stationed on the Arabian Peninsula was not a very live issue in American debate at all. How many Saudis and other people in the Gulf were conscious of it?

RP: We would like to think that if we could keep a low profile with our troops that it would be okay to station them in foreign countries. The truth is, we did keep a fairly low profile. We did try to keep them away from Saudi society in general, but the key issue with American troops is their actual combat power. Tens of thousands of American combat troops, married with air power, is a tremendously powerful tool.

Now, of course, today we have 150,000 troops on the Arabian Peninsula, and we are more in control of the Arabian Peninsula than ever before.

TAC: If you were to break down causal factors, how much weight would you put on a cultural rejection of the West and how much weight on the presence of American troops on Muslim territory?

RP: The evidence shows that the presence of American troops is clearly the pivotal factor driving suicide terrorism.

If Islamic fundamentalism were the pivotal factor, then we should see some of the largest Islamic fundamentalist countries in the world, like Iran, which has 70 million people-three times the population of Iraq and three times the population of Saudi Arabia-with some of the most active groups in suicide terrorism against the United States. However, there has never been an al-Qaeda suicide terrorist from Iran, and we have no evidence that there are any suicide terrorists in Iraq from Iran.

Sudan is a country of 21 million people. Its government is extremely Islamic fundamentalist. The ideology of Sudan was so congenial to Osama bin Laden that he spent three years in Sudan in the 1990s. Yet there has never been an al-Qaeda suicide terrorist from Sudan.

I have the first complete set of data on every al-Qaeda suicide terrorist from 1995 to early 2004, and they are not from some of the largest Islamic fundamentalist countries in the world. Two thirds are from the countries where the United States has stationed heavy combat troops since 1990.

Another point in this regard is Iraq itself. Before our invasion, Iraq never had a suicide-terrorist attack in its history. Never. Since our invasion, suicide terrorism has been escalating rapidly with 20 attacks in 2003, 48 in 2004, and over 50 in just the first five months of 2005. Every year that the United States has stationed 150,000 combat troops in Iraq, suicide terrorism has doubled.

TAC: So your assessment is that there are more suicide terrorists or
potential suicide terrorists today than there were in March 2003?

RP: I have collected demographic data from around the world on the 462
suicide terrorists since 1980 who completed the mission, actually killed themselves. This information tells us that most are walk-in volunteers. Very few are criminals. Few are actually longtime members of a terrorist group. For most suicide terrorists, their first experience with violence is their very own suicide-terrorist attack.

There is no evidence there were any suicide-terrorist organizations lying in wait in Iraq before our invasion. What is happening is that the suicide terrorists have been produced by the invasion.

TAC: Do we know who is committing suicide terrorism in Iraq? Are they
primarily Iraqis or walk-ins from other countries in the region?

RP: Our best information at the moment is that the Iraqi suicide terrorists are coming from two groups-Iraqi Sunnis and Saudis-the two populations most vulnerable to transformation by the presence of large American combat troops on the Arabian Peninsula. This is perfectly consistent with the strategic logic of suicide terrorism.

TAC: Does al-Qaeda have the capacity to launch attacks on the United States, or are they too tied down in Iraq? Or have they made a strategic decision not to attack the United States, and if so, why?

RP: Al-Qaeda appears to have made a deliberate decision not to attack the United States in the short term. We know this not only from the pattern of their attacks but because we have an actual al-Qaeda planning document found by Norwegian intelligence. The document says that al-Qaeda should not try to attack the continent of the United States in the short term but instead should focus its energies on hitting America's allies in order to try to split the coalition.

What the document then goes on to do is analyze whether they should hit Britain, Poland, or Spain. It concludes that they should hit Spain just before the March 2004 elections because, and I am quoting almost verbatim: Spain could not withstand two, maximum three, blows before withdrawing from the coalition, and then others would fall like dominoes.

That is exactly what happened. Six months after the document was produced, al-Qaeda attacked Spain in Madrid. That caused Spain to withdraw from the coalition. Others have followed. So al-Qaeda certainly has demonstrated the capacity to attack and in fact they have done over 15 suicide-terrorist attacks since 2002, more than all the years before 9/11 combined. Al-Qaeda is not weaker now. Al-Qaeda is stronger.

TAC: What would constitute a victory in the War on Terror or at least an improvement in the American situation?

RP: For us, victory means not sacrificing any of our vital interests while also not having Americans vulnerable to suicide-terrorist attacks. In the case of the Persian Gulf, that means we should pursue a strategy that secures our interest in oil but does not encourage the rise of a new generation of suicide terrorists.

In the 1970s and the 1980s, the United States secured its interest in oil without stationing a single combat soldier on the Arabian Peninsula. Instead, we formed an alliance with Iraq and Saudi Arabia, which we can now do again. We relied on numerous aircraft carriers off the coast of the Arabian Peninsula, and naval air power now is more effective not less. We also built numerous military bases so that we could move large numbers of ground forces to the region quickly if a crisis emerged.

That strategy, called "offshore balancing," worked splendidly against Saddam Hussein in 1990 and is again our best strategy to secure our interest in oil while preventing the rise of more suicide terrorists.

TAC: Osama bin Laden and other al-Qaeda leaders also talked about the
"Crusaders-Zionist alliance," and I wonder if that, even if we weren't in Iraq, would not foster suicide terrorism. Even if the policy had helped bring about a Palestinian state, I don't think that would appease the more hardcore opponents of Israel.

RP: I not only study the patterns of where suicide terrorism has occurred but also where it hasn't occurred. Not every foreign occupation has produced suicide terrorism. Why do some and not others? Here is where religion matters, but not quite in the way most people think. In virtually every instance where an occupation has produced a suicide-terrorist campaign, there has been a religious difference between the occupier and the occupied community. That is true not only in places such as Lebanon and in Iraq today but also in Sri Lanka, where it is the Sinhala Buddhists who are having a dispute with the Hindu Tamils.

When there is a religious difference between the occupier and the occupied, that enables terrorist leaders to demonize the occupier in especially vicious ways. Now, that still requires the occupier to be there. Absent the presence of foreign troops, Osama bin Laden could make his arguments but there wouldn't be much reality behind them. The reason that it is so difficult for us to dispute those arguments is because we really do have tens of thousands of combat soldiers sitting on the Arabian Peninsula.

TAC: Has the next generation of anti-American suicide terrorists already been created? Is it too late to wind this down, even assuming your analysis is correct and we could de-occupy Iraq?

RP: Many people worry that once a large number of suicide terrorists have acted that it is impossible to wind it down. The history of the last 20 years, however, shows the opposite. Once the occupying forces withdraw from the homeland territory of the terrorists, they often stop-and often on a dime.

In Lebanon, for instance, there were 41 suicide-terrorist attacks from 1982 to 1986, and after the U.S. withdrew its forces, France withdrew its forces, and then Israel withdrew to just that six-mile buffer zone of Lebanon, they virtually ceased. They didn't completely stop, but there was no campaign of suicide terrorism. Once Israel withdrew from the vast bulk of Lebanese territory, the suicide terrorists did not follow Israel to Tel Aviv.

This is also the pattern of the second Intifada with the Palestinians. As Israel is at least promising to withdraw from Palestinian-controlled territory (in addition to some other factors), there has been a decline of that ferocious suicide-terrorist campaign. This is just more evidence that withdrawal of military forces really does diminish the ability of the terrorist leaders to recruit more suicide terrorists.

That doesn't mean that the existing suicide terrorists will not want to keep going. I am not saying that Osama bin Laden would turn over a new leaf and suddenly vote for George Bush. There will be a tiny number of people who are still committed to the cause, but the real issue is not whether Osama bin Laden exists. It is whether anybody listens to him. That is what needs to come to an end for Americans to be safe from suicide terrorism.

TAC: There have been many kinds of non-Islamic suicide terrorists, but have there been Christian suicide terrorists?

RP: Not from Christian groups per se, but in Lebanon in the 1980s, of those suicide attackers, only eight were Islamic fundamentalists. Twenty-seven were Communists and Socialists. Three were Christians.

TAC: Has the IRA used suicide terrorism?

RP: The IRA did not. There were IRA members willing to commit suicide-the famous hunger strike was in 1981. What is missing in the IRA case is not the willingness to commit suicide, to kill themselves, but the lack of a suicide-terrorist attack where they try to kill others.

If you look at the pattern of violence in the IRA, almost all of the killing is front-loaded to the 1970s and then trails off rather dramatically as you get through the mid-1980s through the 1990s. There is a good reason for that, which is that the British government, starting in the mid-1980s, began to make numerous concessions to the IRA on the basis of its ordinary violence. In fact, there were secret negotiations in the 1980s, which then led to public negotiations, which then led to the Good Friday Accords. If you look at the pattern of the IRA, this is a case where they actually got virtually everything that they wanted through ordinary violence.

The purpose of a suicide-terrorist attack is not to die. It is the kill, to inflict the maximum number of casualties on the target society in order to compel that target society to put pressure on its government to change policy. If the government is already changing policy, then the whole point of suicide terrorism, at least the way it has been used for the last 25 years, doesn't come up.

TAC: Are you aware of any different strategic decision made by al-Qaeda to change from attacking American troops or ships stationed at or near the Gulf to attacking American civilians in the United States?

RP: I wish I could say yes because that would then make the people reading this a lot more comfortable.

The fact is not only in the case of al-Qaeda, but in suicide-terrorist
campaigns in general, we don't see much evidence that suicide-terrorist groups adhere to a norm of attacking military targets in some circumstances and civilians in others.

In fact, we often see that suicide-terrorist groups routinely attack both civilian and military targets, and often the military targets are off-duty policemen who are unsuspecting. They are not really prepared for battle.

The reasons for the target selection of suicide terrorists appear to be much more based on operational rather than normative criteria. They appear to be looking for the targets where they can maximize the number of casualties.

In the case of the West Bank, for instance, there is a pattern where Hamas and Islamic Jihad use ordinary guerrilla attacks, not suicide attacks, mainly to attack settlers. They use suicide attacks to penetrate into Israel proper. Over 75 percent of all the suicide attacks in the second Intifada were against Israel proper and only 25 percent on the West Bank itself.

TAC: What do you think the chances are of a weapon of mass destruction being used in an American city?

RP: I think it depends not exclusively, but heavily, on how long our combat forces remain in the Persian Gulf. The central motive for anti-American terrorism, suicide terrorism, and catastrophic terrorism is response to foreign occupation, the presence of our troops. The longer our forces stay on the ground in the Arabian Peninsula, the greater the risk of the next 9/11, whether that is a suicide attack, a nuclear attack, or a biological attack.

Posted 03:55 PM | Comments (0)

July 23, 2005

French politicians cry out against a potential American takeover of Danone

It all started with a rumor : is PepsiCo planning a hostile takeover of French dairy giant Danone? Fueled by silence from PepsiCo and a flurry of fiery comments from French politicians, this rumor has snowballed into top news over the past days. The question has quickly turned to one of national identity.

The perspective of France losing one of its emblematic companies opens the door for debate on whether or not the state should do anything in the face of globalization - and perhaps more importantly, in this case, whether it can.

French leaders have leapt to Danone’s defense, citing the impact its loss would have on French jobs and production in other sectors dependent on Danone’s large demand.

Nicolas Sarkozy, Interior Minister and chief of the right-wing UMP party, is quoted in Le Monde as saying that “the public powers [i.e. the state] will have to do everything they can” to block a hostile takeover.

On the left, ex-finance minister Dominique Strauss-Kahn predicted that the French “would react very strongly to what they’ll consider as a direct attack on their identity” and wrote to PepsiCo shareholders warning them of the reactions a takeover could ignite. Laurent Fabius asked president Jacques Chirac to “act urgently so that [Danone] can stay european- and French-based”.

Chirac himself, off on a visit to Madagascar, says he is “vigilant” and “mobilised” against such a course of events.

A few others, however, have been vocal expressing their discontent with politicians interference in the matter. Renaud Dutreil, of the ministry of small and medium-sized businesses, has stated that it is not the role of the state to “involve itself in the affairs of private companies” but that its role should rather be to protect small businesses from the practices of certain bigger ones - which, of course, include Danone. The company, which has in the past delocalised some of its activities, is indeed no newcomer when it comes to the workings of the global market. But now that it may fall its victim, what can France do to keep Danone from American takeover? According to an editorial in Le Monde, not much. But intimidating words on the part of the government aren’t completely fruitless : they’ve proved helpful in past cases, such as bringing together the companies Sanofi and Aventis in the face of a buyout from Swiss company Novartis in 2004, or discouraging Siemens from taking over Alstom in 2003.

Meanwhile, Danone’s stock is soaring. According to one analyst, Gérard Augustin-Normand, president of the Richelieu Finance, the whole rumor could well have been orchestrated by both Danone and state officials as a preemptive strike against any future takeover attempts on Danone or other major French companies. The lack of formal denial from PepsiCo, he claims, could be explained by purely legal reasons, since a statement declaring they aren’t interested in Danone would mean they would not be able to touch the company for 18 months. In an interview for French station TF1, he says that everything in the affair seems “too well orchestrated,” and that Danone and PepsiCo are also poignant symbols : one a pillar of the French economy, the other representative of “everything the French hate” : junk food and American capitalism ...

Posted 06:12 AM | Comments (0)

July 20, 2005

Thanks for the Help

By Frej Jackson

Bush´s 17-hour visit to Denmark on July 5 and 6 proceeded without much turmoil but a few demonstrations encompassing a few thousand Danes, largely ignored in the international media. Some protesters burned the American and the Danish flags because of the Danish participation in the American-led Iraq war. Ironically, these flag-burners will likely receive punishment for burning the American but not the Danish flag, since according to Danish law it is only illegal to burn foreign flags.

International news media primarily depicted Bush´s brief birthday visit as a “thanks for the help” to the Danish Prime Minister, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, as a tribute to the steadfast Danish U.S. backing in Afghanistan and Iraq, writes Politiken.

The visit did not get much international attention and was generally described as an insignificant quick stop-over before Bush´s participation in the G-8 meeting in Scotland. As a case in point, FoxNews even managed to mix up where Bush was: “Bush wants to show the people how much he values the leadership of the Dutch Prime Minister”.

In Denmark, however, the visit received immense attention, and according to subsequently conducted polls Bush´s visit actually made a few Danes slightly more positive towards Bush than before his visit. This illustrates how small nations like Denmark appreciate to be paid attention.

Bush used a press meeting in Denmark to claim that the prisoners in Guantánamo receive fair treatment and good food, and that there is full transparency since Red Cross has access to inspections. However, the Danish President of Red Cross, Joergen Poulsen, afterwards criticized Bush for avoiding the most important criticism by Red Cross: That the Guantánamo detainees are not treated in accordance with the Geneva conventions. By ignoring this important problem, Poulsen believes that Bush is making it easier for dictators and despots all over the globe to ignore international rules about treatment of prisoners of war.

Posted 09:16 PM | Comments (0)

July 15, 2005

How Italy reacts to the terrorist threat

As the first shock for “carnage” (this term was first used by the Sun) is leaving space to reflections, it becomes clear that the relation between the war in Iraq and London bombing is a very frail one. It is true that at the G8, soon after the tragedy, Berlusconi declared “it’s our turn now” and one may therefore think that he referred to his friendship with Bush. Actually in another circumstance Berlusconi mentioned the three B (Bush, Blair, and Berlusconi) as a trilogy under attack.

Still, on the 12th of July, while presenting special safety measures for Parliament’s approval, Italy’s Minister for Inner Affairs, like commentators of the main newspapers (right, left, and center) preferred to state that the one against terrorism is a war and, as any war, it must be prevented and fought with appropriate measures and weapons. He does not intend, however, to inaugurate emergency measures (for instance like France closing its frontiers) which could limit citizen’s personal liberties.

On the same day Corriere della Sera (La Repubblica remains cautious too) maintained the low-profile policy inaugurated by its editor the day after the London bombing.

In fact on the 8th of July with his moderate, far viewing editorial Paolo Mieli preferred to analyze the social, political, economical weakness of the European Union instead of indulging himself on other analysis of whatever nature. In this path comments by Pierluigi Battista e Gianni Riotta on the 12th of July definitely silenced all those who like to see a conspiracy or a secret design (mostly by CIA or some other American Secret Service) behind all terrorist attacks.

Even the radical left by words of its leader, Fausto Bertinotti interviewed by Corriere della Sera on the July 12th seems to have abandoned the idea that this terrorism is a direct response to the war in Iraq. He insists that the war in Iraq may be one of the many causes (poverty, injustice, oppression) which feed terrorism, but he accepts that repressive measures must be taken.

Generally speaking Government and Opposition seem to have come to a more reasonable understanding. Nothing in common with some previous reactions when Bush (and his friends Blair and Berlusconi), Guantanamo and Abu Graib, the war in Afghanistan and Iraq, were considered responsible for the terrorist attacks and kamikaze bombing.

To have an idea of the former analysis one may visit the following sites:
Da Londra a Baghdad, Il Manifesto

Le bombe di Blair, Il Manifesto

Posted 03:47 PM | Comments (0)

July 12, 2005

From Madrid: so close to London

MadridNoTerrorism.jpgOur own pain is too present yet not to shudder in front of the London terrorist attacks. Many Spaniards revived with horror last Thursday the 2004, March 11th Madrid blasts which caused almost 200 deaths and over 1.500 injured. Even days after the London bombings, most Madrilenians rode tubes and buses with uneasiness, closely looking for "suspicious" passengers or abandoned bags.

Indeed analysts have pointed out the many similarities between both terrorists acts, like the target -the public transportation system-, the "modus operandi" and, most important, the country's support to the Iraq war. As many in Spain noted after the bombings, now the countries of the "trio from the Azores", the three leaders that signed the Iraqi invasion act in the Portuguese island of Azores in March 2003, have been targeted.

Spanish terrorist expert Fernando Reinares also notes in an analysis for the Elcano Institute for Strategic Studies this week that Iraq is indeed the framework in which both attacks should be analyzed.

These past days have also shown many differences. While the Madrid attacks took most Spaniards unguarded, Britain was almost sure that it would be "next". Only the “when” and “how” were uncertain. And the London attacks didn't try to influence a change of government, as Blair has just been reelected. As many journalists have pointed out the British premier had - at the time - the public support for the invasion of Iraq, and he didn't try to hide the "Islamic link" or retain information related to the attacks, as the former Spanish president José María Aznar did.

Last but not least, while British opposition leader Michael Howard praised Blair's response to the crisis, in Spain the terrorist attacks led to a confrontation between the Socialist and the Conservative parties that hasn't finished yet.

All in all, at least it seems that Britain won't give the harsh response that the US gave after 9/11 (remember Patriot Act): Tony Blair has already assured that the government doesn't wish a "police state" with fewer individual freedoms. And though it is one of the most "eurosceptic” countries of the European Union, London is not expected to take individual defensive measures -or unilateral attacks- in response to the terrorist acts.

[Picture taken from Agonist.org]

Posted 12:22 PM | Comments (0)

July 10, 2005

Bomb attacks in London : A tribute to Blair’s policy in Iraq.

by Pierre Langlais

Taking a look at some blogs on Newspapers sites give some indications about French’s reaction to 7/7 bomb attacks in London. On the website of L’Express, a weekly, one can find those very different points of view: First, this tough stance along the war of civilizations line:

“We have to bring war in Pakistan inside of the “tribal” zones, in Yemen, in Saudi Arabia. Anywhere islamism is not fought, we must fight. Our civilization is concerned. Our ancestors fought proudly during the crusades. We must follow their example.”

Then this call for unity: “We must stay all united again terrorism: American, British, French, European from all political borders.” And, this accusation:
“ Mr. Bush, thanks for this so peaceful world you built for us. You were right, the world is safer without Saddam Hussein. The truth is that your “surgical” actions created uncontrollable metastases like in London.”

Some media underline the importance of Tony Blair’s position on the war in Iraq. The friendship between the British prime minister and George W. Bush and the presence of British soldiers in Iraq are probably two major reasons why London was chosen by the terrorists, writes L’Humanité, a left wing newspaper who is one of the rare written media to take such a stance (radio columnists are more likely to do so).

“It’s impossible not to talk about Iraq. That seems to be the malediction of a prime minister who finally forgot about the war and followed George W. Bush’s quarrelsome position.”
Writes Bernard Duraud who concludes :
“The choice of London can be explained by the alliance between the United Kingdom and the USA and also by the support given by Blair’s government to Israel. In this context, the British secret services estimated that the British capital was a potential target for terrorists attacks. Iraq: a forgotten war ?”

Another daily, Le Figaro, is giving a balanced point of view, and try to separate the conflict about the war in Iraq and the war against terrorism.
Pierre Rousselin writes:
“On March 11, 2004, Al-Qaida had chosen Madrid and had come to its ends: three days later, José Maria Aznar, allied of George W. Bush, was beaten by José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero which repatriate the Spanish soldiers from Iraq. This time, the terrorists will not obtain such a result. The British public opinion can reproache Tony Blair for having misled her to engage the country in an unpopular war, the attacks will do nothing but reinforce his determination. The British soldiers will remain in Iraq. Nobody can doubt about it.
The explosion of violence in the heart of London had for effect to precipitate Tony Blair in the forefront of the antiterrorist fight. George W Bush itself changed his speech : he places his second mandate under the sign of the fight against tyranny in the world, rather than on his "crusade" against Ben Laden. It is necessary to go further and to find a true political solution in Baghdad, condition without which terrorism will never be overcome. It is an objective which everybody share, whatever the past dissentions on the war in Iraq. Tony Blair has the occasion to weigh on the debate. One must help him.”

Posted 12:15 PM | Comments (0)

July 07, 2005

India's reaction to a U.S. visa denial

NarendraModi-HindustanTimes.jpgA prominent Indian minister was recently denied a US visa on grounds that he violated religious freedom.

The official, Narendra Modi, heads India’s western state of Gujarat, a hub of Hindu-Muslim tension. In 2002 rioters in the state killed more than 1,000 Muslims. The carnage was in retaliation for the torching of a train car carrying Hindu radicals, killing nearly 60 (see this BBC analysis).

Some human rights groups accused Modi of complicity in the anti-Muslim violence.

While Modi, a fringe figure of the Hindu right, is little loved by most Indians, the snub wasn’t received well. Local newspapers ran the visa denial story front page with banner headlines. A current affairs list-serve for Indo-Americans scored more than 100 messages on the incident both angry and adulating. One careless poster called for a renewal of anti-Muslim riots.

The ruling Congress party, arch rival to Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party, protested the decision, while some leading editorialists, better accustomed to demanding Modi’s scalp, pinched their noses and called it unjustified and “simply bad”.

For his part Modi, who was popularly elected, told a news conference that the denial was "an attack on Indian sovereignty."

"Will India also consider what America has done in Iraq when it processes visa applications of Americans coming to India?" he asked.

The snub did one good thing and two bad things. For the good, it condemned religious bigotry and burnished the US record toward Muslims.

But, it also gave Mr. Modi a chance to grandstand.

And most importantly, it hurt nationalist sentiment. The aspiration for global belonging has emerged in the last decade as a dominant force in India, a nuclear power with more degree-holders than the population of France and more English speakers than the US and UK combined.

India is also one of only a handful of countries which still view the US favorably, according to a new Pew Global Attitudes Poll. Even a minor slight from Uncle Sam is received here like a punch in the stomach.

[Photo from the Hindustan Times]

Posted 09:08 AM | Comments (0)

London Bombing

The bombing in London has schocked the world. For ongoing coverage of what it feels like in London right now, in real time, check out the blog of The Guardian newspaper in the UK. Clic here.

Posted 06:54 AM | Comments (0)

July 06, 2005

U.S. versus “G8” : No Change for Climate Change ?

The Group of 8 summit is set to highlight differences
of opinion between the United States and the
remaining 7 nations represented. A highly contentious
issue is on the agenda: climate
change. Britain’s prime minister Tony Blair, who will
preside over the summit, hopes to stimulate efforts by
forming a joint call to action between the nations, of
which the U.S. is the only one left to not have signed
the Kyoto Protocol.
Opinions in the European press have been vastly
pessimistic as to the outcome of the summit,
predicting little hope of seeing the U.S. budge from
its current position. Instead, it seems that a
watered-down version of the text, revised by U.S.
negotiators, will be the only option offered up at the
G8 summit. A version that French president Jacques
Chirac, who had previously threatened to veto any
weakened version, seems nevertheless poised to sign :
“We’ve had difficult negotiations, and it seems that
we are orienting towards an agreement,” he stated on
July 4 to Liberation.

The draft of the G8 joint statement, first divulged to the New York Times on June 18 shows the signs of U.S. pressure
by deleting the introductory
statement “Our world is warming.” Newer versions show
that while President Bush would be ready to state that
“climate change is a reality” and that the problem
must be dealt with through new technologies, U.S.
negotiators have also taken out any mention of the
role of humans in climate change. Bush, in a broadcast
for British TV station ITV, stated that he would
indeed refuse to sign anything that resembles the
Kyoto Protocol.

Will the remaining nations feel that what is left of
the original statement, however weakened, is better
than nothing? will nothing be signed? or will they
instead choose to issue a “G7” statement excluding the
U.S., thereby strengthening the gap between the U.S.
and the rest?

For Denis Delbecq, environmental writer for the French
newspaper Liberation’s online blog, there is no
possibility of a “G7” document excluding the U.S. on
the subject. While Blair, under pressure from French
and German officils, has made threats to that effect,
these, according to analysts in Europe, are empty.
While the outcome is as of yet unclear, what emerges in many
analyses by the European press is that the issue is
yet another one that sets the U.S. at odds with

Posted 07:42 AM | Comments (0)

July 02, 2005

Bush Facing Another Tough Crowd

Tuesday 5th of July, George Bush will pay his first ever visit to Denmark on his fourth trip to Europe during the last 6 months, demonstrating a renewed interest for the European continent.

Bush will celebrate his birthday in Denmark with his good friend and supporter, Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen. But as it was recently the case in the Netherlands, in Denmark Bush is also facing a tough crowd. Only 13 percent of Danes approve of Bush’s foreign policy while 50 percent perceive it negatively, according to a new poll cited in Politiken.

For the last 4 years the Danish right wing government has cooperated very closely with the U.S. administration, and Denmark participated with troops in both Afghanistan and Iraq. The quoted poll shows, however, that only 28 percent consider this close cooperation an advantage for Denmark, whereas 36 percent think it is damaging to “Denmark and Denmark’s recognition in the surrounding world”. Not even among the Prime Minister’s own voters, the Liberals, does a majority approve of the U.S. leaning policy. But this has not yet affected the Danish government’s very U.S. friendly line. The poll indicates that a majority of Danes would prefer a more critical policy towards the Bush administration as suggested by the Social Democrats and other left wing parties. Because of the large frustration with Bush’s foreign policy, demonstrations are expected to take place during his visit in Denmark.

Posted 08:58 PM | Comments (0)