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Murder in Woolwich

It was a shocking, abominable murder. But the fear remains that this may not be the action of hatred-obsessed psychopaths, but the beginnings of a long-drawn-out saga of Muslim revenge.

The words that the murderer used have already gone round the world: “we will never stop fighting you. The only reason we have done this is because Muslims are dying every day. This British soldier is an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth”.

It is terrible that this happened on a British street, but that is precisely why this location was chosen. One of the killers added: “in our land our women have to see the same. You people will never be safe. Remove your government. They don’t care about you”.

It’s not only Iraq that he was probably referring to, where between 100,000 to a million died, overwhelmingly civilians, but also the on-going war in Afghanistan and the continuing escalation in drone strikes in Pakistan and Yemen where Bush had launched 60 strikes but Obama already at least 350, where the ‘collateral damage’ in civilian deaths has been huge.

Yesterday’s two killers were not suicide bombers as such, though by waiting until armed police arrived they were accepting the same fate which in many other countries would have been immediately meted out to them. In a provocative book in 2008 titled ‘Dying to Win: the Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism’ Pape, a political science analyst at the University of Chicago who had studied 315 suicide attacks from 1981-2004, concluded that “What nearly all suicide terrorist attacks have in common is a specific secular and strategic goal: to compel modern democracies to withdraw military forces from territory that the terrorists consider to be their homeland. Which means, in the case of al Qaeda and like-minded groups, getting the United States out of the Arabian Peninsula and Iraq”.

What Pape especially emphasised was that attacks which Western news headlines often frame, like those perpetrated by Palestinians or Iraqi insurgents and now on the streets of London, as weapons in a holy war are nothing of the kind. “There is little connection between suicide terrorism and Islamic fundamentalism, or any of the world’s religions”, Pape concludes from his comprehensive evidence.

A similar analysis is offered by Marc Sageman, the forensic psychiatrist who followed his ‘Understanding Terror Networks’ in 2004 with his latest book ‘Leaderless Jihad’. He writes: “It is easy to view terrorists as alien creatures who exist outside normal patterns of social interaction.

But the sobering reality is that they don’t. Sociopaths do not make capable terrorists – they seldom take orders and are rarely willing to sacrifice their lives for a larger goal. Many terrorists on the other hand share qualities with ordinary, law-abiding people: they can be co-operative, goal-orientated and intelligent, even if emotionally wrought.

Often the start of their radicalisation can be traced to a scrupulously moral outrage, not an irrational hatred or base prejudice. Radical Muslims become bombers when the causes of their anger – the Israeli occupation of Palestime, the US invasion of Iraq – come to be perceived as part of a general war against Islam”.

The Woolwich killing is indeed dreadful and utterly wrong, but we would be wise to consider what may have prompted it rather than succumbing to an orgy of counter-revenge if we want to prevent a similar pattern of future killings.


  1. John reid says:

    You don’t know they were awaiting the same gait as suicide bomber they tried to shoot the police when running out, they may have wish to have been shot dead by police to become martyrs ,go down the suicide by police root and get sympathy, no one knows yet, and the July 21st suicide bombers ran off, didn’t want to die, and when were caught not only pleaded not to be shot on arrest, they said it was a prank that went wrong and pleaded not guilty at their trial

    Theses killers are fighting for their lives in hospital, you don’t know if they’re going o plead not guilty at trial, at broad watermark allegedly the killers were going around boasting to the locals afterwards what they’d done, but the locals shielded them, how d’you know because these killers told hat they’d done fter wards they don’t want to be brought to justice,

    The view that foreign policy caused this too, is rubbish.

  2. Tom Blackburn says:

    ‘The view that foreign policy caused this too, is rubbish.’

    Seeing as Lee Rigby’s killers themselves cited British foreign policy as their main motivation, there would appear to be a grain of truth to it actually. It’s frightening how so many people are unwilling to confront this. Pure denialism.

  3. John reid says:

    Tom, I was opposed to foreign policy, my cation was to not give so much money to labour,there’s the difference,they were brainwashed,by people who were in the position of power to brainwash thm to do it,by naive people who don’t know any better,

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