Oscar Reyes in London. We learnt from 9/11 that initial responses to a terror attack tend to confirm existing prejudices rather than force us to raise critical questions. There can be no hesitation in condemning the bombing of innocent civilians. But our condolences and horror at the attacks should not blind us to the dangerous political uses to which they will be put.
The immediate political responses to
today’s abhorrent attacks, which have killed more than 33 people, already show
clearly how the attacks will be used to gain political capital.
At 12 o’clock, Tony Blair claimed
that ‘It is particularly barbaric that this has happened on a day when people
are meeting to try to help the problems of poverty in Africa, and the long term
problems of climate change and the environment.’
An hour later, Blair returned to the podium – this time flanked by G8 leaders – to read a joint statement which echoed his own earlier words, condemning the ‘barbaric attacks’:
‘We will not allow violence to change our societies or our values, nor will we allow it to stop the work of this summit. We will continue our deliberations in the interest of a better world. Here at the summit, the world's leaders are striving to combat world poverty and save and improve human life.’
Over the coming days, we’ll hear a lot more of this. Civilisation versus barbarism, and ‘our values’ aligned with those of the G8. Already we are seeing that the carnage and tragedy of today’s events are being lined up to confer legitimacy on the summit and its outcomes.
Today’s events were abhorrent and should be condemned as such. But shared expressions of condolence can’t be the basis of political unity around policies that feed the climate of terror. It is this political bias– and not the bad faith of our leaders (or still less any supposed conspiracies) – that we should be most wary of.
The loss of innocent lives in London, as in Iraq or Afghanistan, is a symptom of a world that has become more dangerous in recent years. Since September 11 we have been told that there is a ‘war on terror’, which in practice has perpetrated further violence and war rather than tackling the massive political injustices that fuel political resentment.
Against this backdrop, the British government’s use of the G8 to tackle poverty presents itself as a step forward. As Donna Andrews points out in Red Pepper, the Africa Commission’s report on Our Common Interest sought to explicitly connect the agendas on poverty and security, the idea being that ‘we’ need free market interventions in Africa to prevent al-Qaeda from acting here.
Today’s events were shocking, disturbing, horrific – though by no means unique in our troubled world. But there will undoubtedly be attempts to use them to push forward the G8 agenda, to fit them to an ideological script that has already been written, to develop a new ‘global enforcement regime’.
Now more than ever, opponents of this new Washington consensus should be loud and clear in voicing an alternative view.