Red Ken is at it Again.

London Mayor Ken Livingstone believes the West fueled Islamic radicalism with its foreign policy and is thus partly to blame for the terrorist attacks on his city and elsewhere.

London mayor says West fueled Islamic radicalism (Reuters)

Western foreign policy has fueled the Islamist radicalism behind the bomb attacks which killed more than 50 people in London, the British capital’s mayor Ken Livingstone said on Wednesday. Livingstone, who earned the nickname “Red Ken” for his left-wing views, won widespread praise for a defiant response which helped unite London after the bombings. But he has revived his reputation for courting controversy in recent days.

Asked on Wednesday what he thought had motivated the four suspected suicide bombers, Livingstone cited Western policy in the Middle East and early American backing for Osama bin Laden. “A lot of young people see the double standards, they see what happens in (U.S. detention camp) Guantanamo Bay, and they just think that there isn’t a just foreign policy,” he said.


“You’ve just had 80 years of Western intervention into predominantly Arab lands because of a Western need for oil. We’ve propped up unsavory governments, we’ve overthrown ones that we didn’t consider sympathetic,” Livingstone said. “I think the particular problem we have at the moment is that in the 1980s … the Americans recruited and trained Osama bin Laden, taught him how to kill, to make bombs, and set him off to kill the Russians to drive them out of Afghanistan. They didn’t give any thought to the fact that once he’d done that, he might turn on his creators,” he told BBC radio.

A rather nonsensical view. Osama and al Qaeda certainly predated Guantanimo which, after all, was a response to the 9/11 attacks. Further, it’s rather insulting to the jihadists to suggest that they would not have fought their Soviet occupiers absent U.S. assistance. The U.S. certainly made them more capable, although it’s unclear that being supplied with small arms in the 1980s much translates into asymmetric terrorism in the 1990s and beyond.

Prime Minister Tony Blair’s government has insisted the bombings have no link to its foreign policy, particularly its decision to invade Iraq alongside the United States. But an opinion poll this week showed two-thirds of Britons see a connection between the Iraq war and the bombings. A top think tank and a leaked intelligence memo have also suggested the war has made Britain more of a target for terrorists.

I think it’s undeniable that, by taking up a prominent role in the Iraq campaign, the UK became more visible to the Islamists. That it would ultimately happen, though, was inevitable. One can scarcely slide a sheet of paper into the gaps in American vice British foreign policy.

Livingstone has made clear he condemns all killing, including suicide bombing. But is also a long-standing critic of Israeli policies toward the Palestinians. “If you have been under foreign occupation, and denied the right to vote, denied the right to run your own affairs, often denied the right to work, for three generations, I suspect if it had happened here in England, we would have produced a lot of suicide bombers ourselves,” he said on Wednesday.

Israel’s ambassador to London Zvi Heifetz accused the mayor of expressing sympathy for Palestinian militants. “It is outrageous that the same mayor who rightfully condemned the suicide bombing in London as perverted faith’, defends those who, under the same extremist banner, kill Israelis,” he said in a statement.

Quite. But the appeasers of terrorists always put a “but” after “I condemn violence.”

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.