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Garnier: The global impact of terrorism

Speech at the Interdisciplinary Center of the Institute for Counter-Terrorism, Herzliya, Israel

"In the light of the UK experience of fighting sectarian terrorism and the July 7th attacks on London by home-grown extremists, Edward Garnier QC MP draws on the lessons learnt to argue that the international community must adopt a multi-lateral and multi-layered approach in the fight against global terrorism. He discusses the current debate on the proposed anti-terrorism measures in the UK from a legislative and parliamentary point of view.

I want to begin by thanking the Institute for doing me the honour of asking me to speak to this distinguished audience today, on a subject that is sadly all too topical - terrorism - and to speak about it from a British practical and political perspective.

It is an honour I accepted with due diffidence given the international reputations of this Institute, its academic staff and alumni, and of the participants and speakers who have preceded me in the plenary sessions and workshops that have taken place over the last two days.

All of you here today have vast experience in the academic, legal, diplomatic, police, intelligence and security, military, political and journalistic spheres and you represent expertise gained over many years in many countries across the world.

I apologise to you, Mr President, and to all of you, for my late arrival owing to constituency engagements in England. I profoundly regret missing the opportunity to listen to and to learn from, amongst other distinguished speakers, Mr Dan Kurtzner, Mr Michel Barnier, Mr Silvan Shalom, and General Dan Halutz. I was sorry not to be able to share with you the Memorial Event to mark the terror attacks in and on the United States on 9/11 and to show solidarity with all other victims of terrorism throughout the world.

In the United Kingdom we are no strangers to the horrors of terrorism. We had to cope with terrorist attacks from the IRA in Great Britain and from both sides of the sectarian divide in Northern Ireland for over thirty-seven years.

Countless bombs ranging from the massive devices detonated in London and some of our other major cities; - most recently in Omagh, killing and injuring hundreds, perhaps most famously, the attempt to assassinate Margaret Thatcher and her cabinet in Brighton which left several dead and many maimed and scarred for life, perhaps most impertinently, the mortar attack from a van parked in Whitehall that lobbed a bomb into the garden of 10 Downing Street whilst John Major was chairing a cabinet meeting - as the windows caved in and the room was shattered with shards of glass I gather the Prime Minister said, "I think, gentlemen, we will move to another room," - that's executive decision-making on the hoof for you,

to letter bombs injuring individuals that were exploded on both sides of the Irish Sea.

2,378 civilians, 452 soldiers and 302 police officers were murdered - all as a direct result of terrorist activities connected with the IRA and Loyalist struggle, against each other, and against the British state.

In many other nations around the world terrorism did not start with September 11th.

Long before that major turning point, terrorism had been present and affected not only us in the West but those living in the Middle East, Africa and Asia.

Of course in Israel, you are all too familiar with terrorism pre 11th September 2001. I refer to Dr Boaz Ganor's lecture yesterday. He described himself as an academic who didn't have to make decisions about anti-terrorism policy, he only has to define it and advise politicians. Dr Ganor, of course, is not just an academic and cannot take a disinterested view on the matter. Every citizen of the State of Israel has a real interest in countering terrorism and Institutes like this one exist for a purpose, which is to provide a cool headed analysis of the terrorist threat, to provide advice to people like me, both in Israel and elsewhere.

I would like to express my disappointment regarding the incident with Doron Almog. I find it incomprehensible that a senior general in the army of a democratic state, a state which is an ally of ours, was caused such inconvenience, to put it mildly. Attempts to prosecute senior officers and leaders of democratic states should be condemned.

One further matter of interest from London this week is the news that the Prime Minister is being advised to do away with Holocaust Memorial Day. This is a day which has been recognised since 2001. It's a day that was appointed because it's important. I hope that the Prime Minister will not listen to the advice that he is being given.

Indeed, it is not an exaggeration to say that these three regions have suffered more from terrorism over the past decade than the West. The attacks on the U.S. Embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, on 7August 1998, for example, killed and wounded far more Kenyans and Tanzanians than Americans, the ostensible western target.

Mass bombings like these brutally demonstrate the willingness of terrorists to kill and maim large numbers of people in countries far from the accepted world centres of power, in countries that are not directly involved in the grievances of South Asia and the Middle East.

They also graphically illustrate that the nature of global terrorism is different. The limited reach and relatively confined political objectives of what one might call 'traditional' terrorists, such as those in Northern Ireland, have changed.

The architects of the new threat seek no armistice; they have no territory to defend, no population to answer to and a very large pool of potential recruits.

They are assisted by the tools of globalization, which make it easier for these groups to organize themselves, coordinate their activities, move money, and disseminate their ideas.

The impact of terrorist attacks, such as those we have seen in New York, Washington or Madrid, can hardly be overestimated. There can no longer be any doubt that asymmetric attacks of this kind are a potent weapon in the hands of those who have no regard for human life. They have the power to drive the domestic and international political agenda of the nations affected.

Post 9/11, the whole strategic posture of the United States changed.

After Madrid the incumbent Spanish government was unseated and its successor was elected, at least in part, on a commitment to pull its troops out of Iraq.

And my government is on the verge of introducing new anti-terror legislation which some have already condemned as a danger to fundamental British civil liberties. Already since 1997, ten pieces of legislation connected with the fight against terrorism have been introduced to Parliament; so this is not a new legislative problem.

The case of Al Qa'ida illustrates another dimension of modern global terrorism. The threat does not stem from one person or a hierarchical or coherent organisation. It does not come from a uniformed enemy; a readily identifiable opponent with whom it is possible to negotiate, let alone fight on the field of battle.

The coherence of the threat rather lies in the ideas which drive it. Al Qa'ida is primarily an ideology, not an organisation. It functions like a franchising firm - providing contacts, funding and guidance, (perhaps even some form of quasi-spiritual leadership), to many individual cells all over the world.

In footage broadcast on Al Jazeera and then in the United Kingdom, one of the July 7th bombers, Sadiq Khan, praised "today's heroes like our beloved Sheikh Osama Bin Laden".

This kind of enfranchised terrorism produces enemies who may surface in our midst at any moment. In a particularly chilling development, we in Britain have seen citizens of our own country, born and bred in our neighbourhoods, with the right to vote and to free speech, become terrorists - allying themselves with forces that aim to destroy the fabric of the very society within which they were raised. Just to give you an example of the difficulties we all face, Sadiq Khan was a 30 year old teaching assistant in a Leeds primary school, born in England, who spoke English with a Yorkshire accent. He was one of four young Britons born and bred in my country and they illustrate the problem we face. It is perhaps significant that more British Muslims have attended Madrassas, and been trained there, than have been trained by the British army.

One of the products of this is only too familiar to you. Last night I had a glass of beer at 'Mike's Place', a bar on the seafront of Tel Aviv, the place where two British Muslim suicide bombers a couple of years ago perpetrated a suicide attack. One killed himself and a number of young Israelis and the other was found washed up in the sea off the coast of Tel Aviv

The question that many of us in the United Kingdom have asked in recent weeks is what we have done to draw this fire? Is it too simplistic just to accept the mantra that terrorists hate our way of life, or are jealous of our achievements, or that the intervention in Iraq has been the major trigger?

Behind these explanations lie more complex causes that we must confront openly.

Are we to look for these causes in our communities? Were the July 7th attackers motivated by economic hardship, social grievance, or social exclusion? Or should we look beyond the borders of our country and into the consequences of our foreign policy?

Is there a problem in our relationship with the Muslim community both domestically and internationally? Did the war in Iraq create the danger of Islamic terrorism in our country, or has our decision to become the leading ally of President Bush made Britain a target?

These are the questions to which we must find answers, if we are to avoid or prepare ourselves in effective readiness for future attacks.

We also need to ask what constitutes the appropriate response to the terrorist threat. Although the use of military force may be appropriate and necessary in certain circumstances it must never become the exclusive tool of foreign policy.

And governments must be honest and not attempt to offer easy solutions -because there are none. For example, the language of the "war on terror", widely used to galvanise the American public in the wake of 9/11, for understandable rhetorical reasons at a time of national crisis, had in the wrong ears the potential to be misleading, since it implied that success is purely a question of defeating the enemy militarily - in the words of George Bush, "taking the fight to the terrorists abroad before they can attack us…at home".

It is interesting to note the recent shift in the use of language by senior officials in the Bush administration, who now tend to describe the effort as "a struggle against violent extremism". This is a welcome change, indicating recognition that a more comprehensive, multi-layered and long term approach to combating terrorism is needed.

Indeed, if the colonial experience of Britain and many other countries has taught us anything, it is that military force without political underpinnings and local public support cannot produce stability and prosperity.

In the countries and communities that produce terrorism, we must have a dialogue with those who do not support terrorism, are free from its influence, and find its methods abhorrent.

In Northern Ireland we quickly learnt that not all Catholics were terrorists, and not all Protestants supported the Unionists.

This means political dialogue, economic help, aid and education programmes. Encouraging democratic reform and respect for the rule of law. In so many cases, poverty combined with unemployment creates a social climate in which extremists and various populist and religious sects flourish, which in turn provide some of the recruits for violent groups.

At the same time we must do all we can to address the issues that have become a recruiting tool for terrorists. And we need to address, if not immediately alleviate the concerns that some use to justify supporting and financing violent extremists.

How is this to be achieved in the current atmosphere of animosity and what some would call the "clash of civilizations"? How do we avoid becoming a victim of our own policies, whether they are being implemented domestically or internationally?

The Middle East, in its widest sense, remains a problem that must be resolved; not only in its own right, but because of the poison it spreads throughout the region. The solution - 'two states' - is well worked. The final settlement, however, will only be achieved by dialogue, negotiation, and ultimate consensus. That itself requires a reduction in violence and the establishment of security and confidence on both sides that in turn requires external support, assistance and finance to achieve. Despite new hopes, the deeply mutually suspicious atmosphere will inevitably require facilitation and leadership. We, the British, should stand ready to offer our services. But, I also want to acknowledge the politically courageous steps that Israel has taken recently in Gaza and trust that the withdrawal will leader of a corresponding and timely response from across the border.

Given our large domestic Jewish and Muslim communities it is in our national interest to see a resolution to this problem.

The methods we use to fight terrorism must neither undermine our fundamental belief in the rule of law nor give our adversary new grievances to exploit. Our mistakes in Northern Ireland gave Irish Republicans a propaganda bonanza that they were quick to exploit - not least when fundraising in the United States. I fear that we could be doing the same today. Some of the tactics used in both the United States and the United Kingdom have already alienated a significant percentage of moderate Muslim opinion.

A recent YouGov poll of British Muslims found that 56% said that they could understand why the London suicide bombers had behaved in the way they did.

As both a lawyer and a parliamentarian I find that deeply disturbing. How is it that British-born citizens, of whatever race or religion, can choose to turn against things that they could seek to change through the ballot box?

I am determined that the institutions of my country should sustain and be sustained by the rule of law, and I am equally sure that we do not defend the rule of law successfully by breaking it. But we should not be afraid to use our laws or to amend or update them, be they the criminal laws, our laws on immigration or asylum, or our legitimate powers to expel and exclude non UK citizens.

Within the framework of international law, is it not legitimate to ask whether the doctrine of preemption is an acceptable way of dealing with potential enemies, but who show no sign of attacking us, or immediately threatening our national interest?

Within the same framework, is it not logical to ask whether Guantanamo or Abu Ghraib have not undermined our common values and endeavour, if not in fact, at least at a matter of perception?

Do we risk suspending our normal respect for human rights in the belief that the short term gain justifies violating our most deeply-help values?

In Northern Ireland, (although this was not international terrorism as we know it now) adherence to the rule of law was of paramount importance in laying the basis for a lasting settlement.

Terrorism is abhorrent and urgent measures may be needed to combat it. But to defeat it at a price of destroying our own values would be to debase our cause.

And domestically, is the best response to the threat to rush to introduce draconian powers? I do not believe that the recent London bombs were the product of a deficiency in the law. We all get frustrated by the failure to apprehend the guilty, and a sense of panic and public and media pressure may push the government to rush through legislation. But Governments must be sure that they are not seeking hasty answers, in a 24-hour news agenda world, which demands immediate solutions from overworked ministers.

In addition to redefining the Home Secretary's discretionary powers on deportation and exclusion, the UK government is poised to introduce a Bill to criminalize three forms of behaviour: Acts preparatory to terrorism, incitement to terrorism, and the giving and receiving of terrorist training. These are all areas of the law where change may be needed. But we must be sure that we do not risk interfering with the right to free speech, or using disproportionate means - using a sledgehammer to crack a nut.

Another measure that has been considered, executive detention, has a spurious attraction. It looks decisive, and it is certainly administratively convenient. But, unless carefully policed by the courts, it is liable to cause more problems that those it is intended to solve.

In summary, any legislation that is introduced must be proportionate, properly directed, and rigorously scrutinized before it forms part of the criminal law. I suspect I do not speak for the United Kingdom alone when I say that the law we pass most often in the British Parliament is the law of the unintended consequence.

Internationally, we must develop a structured way of dealing with international terrorism by applying not only military force but a package of economic and diplomatic incentives and approaches to helping those societies where terrorism thrives in order to fight it effectively.

Domestically, we must seek to strike the right balance between taking tough action to prevent the occurrence (or, all too often, reoccurrence) of domestic terrorist attacks, and protecting rights and freedoms intrinsic to the way of life we are seeking to protect.

I believe there are lessons to be learnt from the UK experience of terrorism fighting sectarian terrorism. Peace was only attained through the joint efforts of both British and Irish governments, with international support. Military force was never applied in isolation, but was always part of a larger multi-layered approach. And it will only last if the communities themselves have ownership of both the peace and the future.

But that work cannot be started, it cannot be continued, and it cannot be brought to a successful conclusion without people such as you in this forum, without Institutes such as this, and without democrats having the courage when necessary to say to our opponents; 'Enough. You have had your chance'. "

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