Theresa May twists Corbyn’s words on Manchester attack to grab a few extra votes
UK Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has had the audacity to utter the unthinkable. In his first campaign speech since the terrorist attack on Manchester Arena, he dared to link Britain’s involvement in foreign wars to terrorism on British soil.
During the 15-minute speech on how Labour would deliver on domestic security in the UK, Corbyn said: “Many experts, including professionals in our intelligence and security services have pointed to the connections between wars our government has supported or fought in other countries, such as Libya, and terrorism here at home.”
It’s no surprise that Corbyn was immediately accused by his critics of politicizing the Manchester attack by drawing a link between terrorism and foreign policy. But the response from Prime Minister Theresa May was perhaps the most sickening and disingenuous of all.
Speaking on the sidelines of the G7 in Taormina, May unashamedly twisted Corbyn’s words and lied blatantly: “Jeremy Corbyn has said that terror attacks in Britain are our own fault,” she said, before going a step further to imply Corbyn had made excuses for the Manchester attacker:
“There can never, ever be an excuse for terrorism. There can be no excuse for what happened in Manchester.”
Let’s just get this clear: Jeremy Corbyn did not say terrorist attacks on British soil are the fault of British people — and he did not make any excuses, nor did he imply any excuses could ever be made, for terrorists who carry out such attacks.
For anyone who actually listened to his speech, there can be no debating this. Corbyn never said any such thing. May simply decided to take his actual words and fashion them into something which she thought might win her a few extra votes in the upcoming general election. Ten days out, with her lead in the polls dramatically sinking, any dig against Corbyn will do — even if she needs to stoop to calling him a terrorist sympathizer.
Corbyn spoke of a nation “united in shock and grief” and of the “unwavering defiance” of the people of Manchester. “Terrorists and their atrocious acts of cruelty and depravity will never divide us and will never prevail,” he said.
Fully anticipating the backlash that would follow his comments on the relationship between terrorism and foreign policy, he made clear that just because the two can be linked “in no way reduces the guilt of those who attack our children. Those terrorists will forever be reviled and implacably held to account for their actions.”
What he did call for was an “informed understanding of the causes of terrorism” as an “essential part of an effective response.” Anyone honest in their interpretation of this quote, cannot imply that Corbyn was “excusing” Salman Abedi for his actions. It is merely a correct assessment that certain policies and actions do fuel terrorism — and the expression of the belief that understanding what fuels it can go some way towards lessening it.
Intellectual dishonesty or sheer stupidity?
It’s difficult to determine whether May is engaging in some serious intellectual dishonesty for the sake of winning votes or whether she genuinely sees no link between aggressive and destabilizing foreign policy and the potential for terrorist blowback at home.
Her words are all the more baffling in this particular case. Moments after accusing Corbyn of making excuses for terrorists, May cites Abedi’s links to Libya and states that his ties to the North African nation “undoubtedly shine a spotlight on this largely ungoverned space on the edge of Europe.”
But what could possibly have happened in recent years that left Libya a failed, chaotic, and ungoverned state that became a hotbed for ISIS terrorists? If you can cast your mind back as far as 2011, you’ll recall NATO’s bombing of that country to overthrow Muammar Gaddafi. You’ll recall also that the UK played an active role in that regime change operation.
Then there’s the latest revelations about the alleged relationship between UK security services and Islamist militants who were living in the UK and who were allowed to travel to Libya to help topple Gaddafi. Salman Abedi’s father just happened to be one of those militants. Abedi himself had spent weeks in Libya before returning to Manchester and carrying out his heinous attack only days later.
As John Wight points out in a recent piece for RT, at the time when the British government was allowing men they suspected of being linked to Al-Qaeda to freely travel to Libya to overthrow the government, Theresa May was the UK’s home secretary. This obviously raises some uncomfortable questions about May’s own knowledge of such a policy. So, perhaps it’s understandable that she’d rather dramatically accuse Corbyn of making excuses for terrorists than admit to the UK’s role in aiding and abetting them.
But, if May would rather not listen to Corbyn, she might be more inclined to listen to Arthur Snell, a former top foreign office counterterrorism official, who told the Financial Times that Libya is “a significant ungoverned space with a significant ISIS presence — and it’s hard not to argue in a fairly direct way that that isn’t due to UK foreign policy actions.”
Distract, distract, distract
What is clear in all of this, is that Corbyn is a distraction. He is an object of rage because he says things you’re not supposed to say; that you’re not supposed to even think.
The furious reaction Corbyn sparked by linking foreign policy to terrorism is insincere. The people, including May, who claim to be angered and dismayed by his comments are not truly angered and dismayed. What they really are is uncomfortable — and so they overcompensate with feigned fury.
They would rather make people feel unpatriotic — uncaring even — than to really allow them to question how something like the Manchester attack could have happened. Corbyn poses a risk because he threatens to upset the apple cart. There is only one acceptable response to a terrorist attack: You tweet the hashtags, you change your profile picture, you express your condolences, you trot out the usual platitudes about loving one another and not letting hate win. Maybe, you even attend a vigil.
But you absolutely are not allowed to ask questions. Asking questions is wrong. Thinking is wrong. If you respond with anything other than the prescribed tearful response, you’re a terrorist sympathizer. You must sit and stew in your confusion until you become numbed and your response becomes routine.
That’s what they want, because it gets them off the hook.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.