Friday, July 15, 2005

Apologists, Bush, Blair, and the Bombs

After some reflection, here are some thoughts on the bomb attacks in London.

The has been a lot of talk of responsibilty for the attacks. Jarndyce provides an excellent argument that the bombers alone are responsible for their action. I agree with this view but, as I posted in a comment, I feel that there is another aspect to be considered. This is really an attempt to expand on that comment.

The four men who killed at least 51 people in London on 7th July were entirely responsible for the terrible events of that day (ruling out the unlikely possibility that they were coerced). Those who may have encouraged them, aided them, and supplied them with explosives can also be considered responsible, but not directly. These were four men who made their own choices, and, whatever the outside influences, they alone are ultimately responsible for their actions. They carried the explosives onto the underground and onto a bus, and they killed those innocent people who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. There is no doubt that they are absolutely responsible for this vile attack.

After reading the above you're probably thinking that I have let off lightly those who may have encouraged and supported the bombers, and you'd be right. Even though the bombers must take the blame for their own actions, there are others who's actions were part of the series of events which led to this tragedy. I'm sure we all agree that any aid given to the bombers is just as abhorent as the actions of the bombers themselves. They are also responsible for what happened, but that does not imply that the bombers themselves are not responsible. They chose to plant the bombs of their own free will and they are ultimately to blame for what happened. We can still say that the planners/handlers must also bear some responsiblity.

OK, I don't think any of the above is particularly controversial (feel free to disagree though). If we widen the potential influences acting on the bombers, it all gets much more difficult though.

Now I don't know exactly what motivated the bombers and I'll wager that you don't either. Were they fuelled by resentment over the UK's participation in the war in Iraq and the wider "war on terror"? No-one can really say and, given that they're now brown bread, I doubt we'll ever know for sure. All we can really say is that it is a possibilty. For the purposes of this post, lets assume that it was a motivating factor. I know it's a big assumption and acknowledge that this is speculation. For the record, I believe it's entirely plausible.

So, we're assuming that the "war on terror" was a motivating factor in the attacks. Would this make Bush and Blair responsible in any way for the bombings? Obviously they didn't participate directly in the attacks so they cannot be blamed in the way that the bombers can be. They were also not involved in the planning, preparation, or direct encouragement of the attacks so they do not share the responsibility of those who may have. So the answer is no?

Well, I'd argue that this isn't the case. This does not mean that I think Bush and Blair are equally morally responsible for the bombings. It does mean that their actions can be considered a motivating factor in the attack. If, as I do, you believe that the invasion of Iraq and the "war on terror" are themselves morally objectionable, and likely to cause more attacks such as these, then there is a burden of responsibility attached to the responses to these activities. They are not of the same degree, the deliberate intention of the bombers to kill indescriminately make their actions far more "wrong", but a responsibility still exists.

Here's an attempt at an analogy(it's not a strong point of mine but here goes). A man decides in a crisis that he must risk driving at great speed in an urban area in order to get his pregnant wife to hospital quickly (an ambulance would take 15 minutes to arrive). He knows that this is a dangerous activity but as he believes it is a matter of life and death he judges it is for the greater good. His neighbour advises him to wait, warning of the risks he will run if he attempts this journey but he is unconvinced. He sets off. His intentions are admirable but his actions may be unwise. He overtakes a boy racer who, feeling insulted at having been passed, is provoked into a high speed chase. The man is distracted as the boy racer pulls level, losses control, and causes both cars to crash into a crowd on the pavement, killing many, including the man's pregnant wife. So, who is responsible? The boy racer? Yes certainly. He is the direct cause of the accident. His senseless activities have resulted in tragedy. What about the man driving his wife to hospital? His intentions were good but his actions have resulted in many deaths. He must also take some share of the blame. His rash decision to drive dangerously was misjudged and he will certainly feel responsible for what happened. He'd been warned of the dangers but did not listen. He is not directly to blame, the boy racer must bear that burden, but, as he chose to be in the position which caused the accident, he has his own burden to bear. If he survives, there is a very real chance he will face prosecution for his actions. Murderer? No. Partly responsible? Yes, I think so.

I hope that helps explain my position. The terrorists were absolutely responsible for their own brutal and violent activites. But, I would argue that this is consistent with considering the invasion of Iraq and the "war on terror" a contributory factor in what happened on the 7th July. As such, and given that I believe the "war on terror" to be unjustified, heavy handed, provocative, and dangerous I believe the actions of Blair and Bush must be called into question. At it's heart is this question:
Are our leaders protecting us and the rest of the world in the best way possible?
For me the answer is no, and I must therefore conclude that Bush and Blair are also culpable in some sense for last Thursday's attacks. I make no apology for that.

Footnote: Robin Grant has more information on culpability.

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