The release on Tuesday of the massive Chilcot report — which the New York Times called a “devastating critique of Tony Blair” — not only offers more proof of this causal link, but also reveals that Blair was expressly warned before the invasion that his actions would provoke al Qaeda attacks on the U.K. As my colleague Jon Schwarz reported yesterday, the report’s executive summary quotes Blair confirming he was “aware” of a warning by British intelligence that terrorism would “increase in the event of war, reflecting intensified anti-U.S./anti-Western sentiment in the Muslim world, including among Muslim communities in the West.”
None of this is the slightest bit surprising. Just as the British did, multiple Western intelligence agencies have long recognized (usually in secret) that at the top of the list of terrorism’s causes is the West’s militarism and interference in predominantly Muslim nations — as a 2004 Pentagon-commissioned report specified in listing the causes of terrorism: “American direct intervention in the Muslim world”; our “one-sided support in favor of Israel”; support for Islamic tyrannies in places like Egypt and Saudi Arabia; and, most of all, “the American occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan.” The report concluded: “Muslims do not ‘hate our freedom,’ but rather, they hate our policies.” Countless individuals who carried out or plotted attacks on the West have said the same.
Nobody should need official reports or statements from attackers to confirm what common sense makes clear: If you go around the world for years proclaiming yourself “at war,” bombing and occupying and otherwise interfering in numerous countries for your own ends — as the U.S. and U.K. have been doing for decades, long before 9/11 — some of those who identify with your victims will decide — choose — to retaliate with violence of their own. Even Tony Blair’s own Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott acknowledged this self-evident truth in 2015: “When I hear people talking about how people are radicalized, young Muslims — I’ll tell you how they are radicalized. Every time they watch the television where their families are worried, their kids are being killed or murdered and rockets, you know, firing on all these people, that’s what radicalizes them.”
Recognizing this fact is not — as is often absurdly claimed — a denial of agency. It is the opposite: an affirmation of agency, a recognition of how human beings make choices.