Labour leader says it’s time to aban­don ‘war on ter­ror’

The Hamilton Spectator - - CANADA & WORLD - GRE­GORY KATZ AND ROB HAR­RIS

LON­DON — Four days af­ter a sui­cide bomb­ing plunged Bri­tain into mourn­ing, po­lit­i­cal cam­paign­ing for a general elec­tion in two weeks re­sumed Fri­day with the main op­po­si­tion leader link­ing acts of ter­ror­ism at home to for­eign wars like the one in Libya.

Labour Party leader Jeremy Cor­byn risked be­ing as­sailed for politi­ciz­ing the Manch­ester Arena at­tack that killed 22 peo­ple by claim­ing that his party would change Bri­tain’s for­eign pol­icy if it takes power af­ter the June 8 vote by aban­don­ing the “war on ter­ror.”

“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,” Cor­byn said in his first speech since Mon­day night’s atroc­ity.

Na­tional cam­paign­ing had been on hold to hon­our the vic­tims of the arena bomb­ing.

Sal­man Abedi, the bomber who struck the Ari­ana Grande con­cert, had strong links to Libya. His par­ents were born and lived there be­fore mov­ing to Bri­tain in the early 1990s. They even­tu­ally re­turned with sev­eral of their six chil­dren, and Abedi trav­elled there to visit his fam­ily on oc­ca­sion.

Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May, who was at­tend­ing a sum­mit of the Group of Seven in Si­cily, of­fered a blis­ter­ing cri­tique of Cor­byn’s po­si­tion when she was asked about it at a news conference.

May said that while she was at the sum­mit ral­ly­ing sup­port for the fight against ter­ror­ism, “Jeremy Cor­byn has said that ter­ror at­tacks in Bri­tain are our own fault, and he has said that just a few days af­ter one of the worst ter­ror at­tacks” in the coun­try’s his­tory.

“There can never, ever, be an ex­cuse for ter­ror­ism,” she said, adding “the choice peo­ple face at the general elec­tion has be­come starker.”

While Cor­byn could alien­ate some vot­ers with his com­ments, he is try­ing to win back the many Labour sup­port­ers who turned away from the party in the af­ter­math of then prime min­is­ter Tony Blair’s de­ci­sion to join the U.S.-led in­va­sion of Iraq in 2003.

Blair’s back­ing of pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush brought more than 1 mil­lion protesters into the streets. When the ra­tio­nale for war failed to pan out be­cause weapons of mass de­struc­tion were not found in Iraq, Blair’s pop­u­lar­ity faded badly af­ter a string of elec­tion vic­to­ries.

When homegrown ter­ror­ists at­tacked Lon­don sub­way and bus lines in 2005, some blamed Bri­tain’s in­volve­ment in the Iraq war. Cor­byn’s speech re­flects the view that Bri­tain’s ac­tions over­seas are at least in part re­spon­si­ble for the in­crease in ex­trem­ist at­tacks.

The Labour Party un­der Cor­byn has con­sis­tently trailed Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May’s Con­ser­va­tives in the polls, but has be­gun to make gains in the last week. It is un­clear how the worst at­tack in Bri­tain in more than a decade will im­pact voter sen­ti­ment.

Grande, mean­while, said that she would re­turn to Manch­ester for a ben­e­fit con­cert to raise money for the vic­tims and their fam­i­lies. The Amer­i­can singer didn’t an­nounce a date for the con­cert.

“Our re­sponse to this vi­o­lence must be to come closer to­gether, to help each other, to love more, to sing louder and to live more kindly and gen­er­ously than we did be­fore,” Grande said in a state­ment.

Nine English res­i­dents were be­ing held on sus­pi­cion of of­fences vi­o­lat­ing the Ter­ror­ism Act. Their ages range from 18 to 44.

Au­thor­i­ties are chas­ing pos­si­ble links be­tween the Abedi and mil­i­tants in Manch­ester, else­where in Europe, and in North Africa and the Mid­dle East.

Abedi, a col­lege dropout who grew up in the Manch­ester area, was known to se­cu­rity ser­vices be­cause of his rad­i­cal views. He re­port­edly was in con­tact with fam­ily mem­bers just be­fore the at­tack.

AN­THONY DEVLIN, GETTY IMAGES

Flow­ers and bal­loons are left in St. Ann’s Square in Manch­ester on Fri­day.

Jeremy Cor­byn

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