An image has surfaced of a bomb with the words “Love from Manchester” written on it, confirmed to be genuine by the Ministry of Defence (although, perhaps because of how outrageous the sentiment seems, it was originally dismissed by many as “fake news”.)
After the appalling tragedy in my hometown of Manchester on Monday night, the photograph sickens me. It utterly disrespects the people of my wonderful city by slapping our name on a missile, an instrument for causing death and destruction, mere days after a terrible loss of life occurred where we live.
The people of Manchester have pulled together in a time of crisis, showing incredible strength in supporting one another, regardless of religion, ethnicity or background. Manchester is grieving. We want healing, not more violence and horror.
The words written on the bomb are an unpleasant example of everything that’s wrong with our current approach to foreign policy and our penchant for funding chaotic conflicts that further destabilise countries and create the conditions ideal for extremism to flourish. It is the very embodiment of “an eye for an eye”, which we all know leaves the whole world blind.
Speaking in central London today, the Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has given voice to something many of us have been privately thinking. The wars that our Government has fought and supported abroad are linked to terrorist incidents at home in Britain. They are not the sole cause, but they are part of the story.
As headlines across the media scream “Corbyn says UK policy caused Manchester attack!”, it’s definitely worth reading his full speech instead. He doesn’t blame our foreign policy for causing these things to happen, perpetrated as they are by violent and unforgivable individuals, but rather addresses the fact that the “war on terror” isn’t working because it isn’t keeping us safe in Britain. What happened at the Manchester Arena this week is proof enough of that.
He said: “The responsibility of government is to minimise that chance [of a terrorist attack], to ensure the police have the resources they need, that our foreign policy reduces rather than increases the threat to this country, and that at home we never surrender the freedoms we have won, and that terrorists are so determined to take away.”
UK foreign policy does not give those who commit acts of terrorism and barbarism an excuse for doing so, but it’s important that we are brave enough to recognise that something is not working in terms of our approach to military involvement abroad.
In the 2010 Chilcot enquiry, Dame Eliza Manningham-Buller, the Director General of M15 from 2002 to 2007, confirmed unequivocally that the invasion of Iraq in 2003 led to a “substantial” increase in the threat of terrorism in Britain. Our involvement in the Iraq war had a direct impact on the number of threats, and forced the security service to request that their budget be doubled.
As an employee of a humanitarian aid charity working in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Palestine, I see the effects of missiles like the one in the photograph every day. I know that Isis holds civilian areas under siege, denying innocent families food, water and basic medical care. These besieged locations are the most difficult to work in, as it’s hard to access those who desperately need aid.
When foreign bombs target Isis-held areas, they often cause a massive loss of life for frightened families who are just trying to survive in a shocking humanitarian situation. No one with any compassion or humanity could take pleasure or satisfaction in seeing children in other countries with their arms and legs blown off, or parents with their little ones dead in their arms, white with dust from collapsed buildings. These are the images that my office receives from conflict zones, many of which have some form of UK and US involvement.
Killing and maiming people abroad will not bring back the Manchester victims. It won’t help the city or the devastated families of those who died to heal or find comfort. It won’t punish the man who committed the atrocity. It’s not guaranteed even to punish those involved in Isis.
Keep your bombs; don’t drop them in my name, and not in the name of Manchester.