Saturday, July 16, 2005 

Attack on the neutrality of the court system increases.

Families of murder victims to have their say in court:

Relatives of murder victims will be given the right to speak out in open court about the effect of the loss of their loved ones on their lives, under plans to be unveiled by the Department for Constitutional Affairs next week.

They will be allowed to make their speeches, either in person or through their own lawyer, at the hearing which decides the killer's sentence.

The idea, to be outlined in a consultation paper, is part of a programme intended to "rebalance" the criminal justice system more in favour of victims.

At present, ministers believe, there is too much emphasis on defendants' rights and too little on victims' needs.

The plan is not to influence the sentence imposed but to give relatives an opportunity to vent their grief in open court as part of the criminal justice process, rather than outside on the court steps.

Let's keep in mind how this will affect the possibility and length of sentences. There are many doubts over recent murder cases, in particular that of Sion Jenkins, who is now facing a 3rd trial over the murder of his step-daughter, Billie-Jo Jenkins. Would he have even got past the first appeal if his wife and daughters had been allowed to make an emotional speech denouncing him after the first trial which found him guilty in front of the judge? Another case which excited public opinion and which Private Eye have condemned, is that of the conviction of Michael Stone for the murders of Lin and Megan Russell. His latest appeal in January was again denied by three judges. There is no forensic evidence linking him to the murder. He was convicted mainly on the word of another prisoner, Damien Daley, who is known to have perjured himself while giving evidence.

Murder cases are always going to be emotional. Why do we need the victims family to make a speech about how it has effected them? The evidence given in the trial already would allow the judge to gain an insight into their pain. The whole suggestion smacks of further cosying up to the tabloid agenda, who often cry that the courts are in favour of the accused rather than the victim. The whole point of the court system is that it should be neutral in every way, both from the government, the victims and the alleged offender. To position it in any other way is to subvert our whole system of justice.

We need to stop wallowing in self-pity, which seems to have pushed ever forward since the death of Diana in 1997. While we should never hide our emotions, to constantly use them to affect such serious circumstances is something that should be bitterly opposed.

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Questions over 'suicide' attacks and yet more new laws.

The questions over whether the London attacks were suicide bombings or not have not been answered yet. Although this report is from the Daily Moron, not the most reliable source, it's worth quoting:

Why did they buy return train tickets to Luton? Why did they buy pay & display tickets for cars? Why were there no usual shouts of 'Allah Akhbar'? Why were bombs in bags and not on their bodies?

THE London bombers may have been duped into killing themselves so their secrets stayed hidden.

Police and MI5 are probing if the four men were told by their al-Qaida controller they had time to escape after setting off timers. Instead, the devices exploded immediately.

A security source said: "If the bombers lived and were caught they'd probably have cracked. Would their masters have allowed that to happen? We think not."

The evidence is compelling: The terrorists bought return rail tickets, and pay and display car park tickets, before boarding _ a train at Luton for London. None of the men was heard to cry "Allah Akhbar!" - "God is great" - usually screamed by suicide bombers as they detonate their bomb.

Their devices were in large rucksacks which could be easily dumped instead of being strapped to their bodies. They carried wallets containing their driving licences, bank cards and other personal items. Suicide bombers normally strip themselves of identifying material.

Even this hypothesis that they were tricked has problems. If the first three bombs all went off at the same time, as is thought, why did the bus bomber's not? Does this point to the first three being activated by an outsider, possibly by mobile phone, who knew that the bus bomber was not ready to detonate his explosives? The fact that the car at Luton was left with explosives in it has been troubling me. It seems to make very little sense to leave such an obvious lead for the police to find.
If anything, this points to a whole trail of incompetence in the bombers planning.
The fact that newspapers still seem to believe that Osama bin Laden or his deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri order such attacks show they have not yet recognised the autonomous nature of the new extremist groupings. These groups are not a part of al-Qaida, they just share its murderous philosophy, and are if anything, just copying their lead.

On the home front, here's even more news to be cheerful about: 'New anti-terror measures outlaw camp recruits'

A new package of counter-terrorism measures which will be proposed by the government on Monday would outlaw those who provide or attend terrorist training courses in Britain or abroad and make it a criminal offence to describe those who carry out suicide bombings as martyrs.

Evidence that somebody was involved in terrorist training could include the discovery of bomb-making instructions, attempts to acquire certain chemicals and accessing terrorist-related websites.

The bolding is mine. The first is an infringement of free speech. While no one should call these deeply deluded people martyrs, why should such a stupid remark be made illegal? In this country we have dealt with the BNP and its also-rans for decades. We've never felt the need to outlaw them. Why should we now that those who are making those remarks are Muslims instead of Christians?
The second is even wider. We've already had the botched "ricin" plot, which was nothing of the sort, and just plans which would have undoubtedly failed. Just what websites will be classed as "terrorist-related"? We've also already faced the prospect of prisoners not being allowed to see new evidence held against them under terrorism laws, and demonstrators at an arms conference being stopped and searched under the Terrorism Act. How do we know that these new laws won't be a new excuse for further attacks on the internet and individuals who have done nothing wrong or are just exercising their rights? The wider the government puts the boundaries on new laws, the more chance the innocents will be implicated and tried as "terrorists".

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Friday, July 15, 2005 

Don't fuck with the DVLA.

DVLA clerk sacked after sex film:
A DVLA worker whose mobile phone video-clips of herself having sex were sent to her colleagues has been sacked for gross misconduct.

The Swansea-based Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) clerk filmed herself having sex with her boyfriend. The film was then forwarded to staff.

The 23-year-old made the mobile phone film with her boyfriend, while on a romantic hotel break.

It was then texted to staff at the DVLA, eventually reaching nearly 300 people.

I'm not going to name the woman involved, as I'm sure she's embarrassed enough. She didn't have sex with her boyfriend on company time; if anything, it was the workers who were wasting time watching it. So what's the problem? Seems like the DVLA has a problem with consenting people engaging in what is a normal and loving act.

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We whack Iraq we whack Iraq we whack Iraq we whack Iraq etc

One day, two very different reports on Iraq. Military chiefs attack Iraq lawsuits:

The country's most senior military figures yesterday mounted an unprecedented assault on the Ministry of Defence, accusing it of imposing unacceptable legal constraints on British commanders and their soldiers.

A string of former chiefs of staff attacked the ministry for subjecting British soldiers to litigation - including the prospect of being charged with war crimes under the jurisdiction of the international criminal court (ICC) - which, they said, undermined morale and the crucial relationship between commanding officers and their troops in the field.

They sharply criticised the government in a Lords debate prompted by lawsuits relating to incidents involving British soldiers in southern Iraq. They include the murder of Baha Mousa and other Iraqis allegedly maltreated by soldiers of the Queen's Lancashire Regiment in September 2003.

Let's ignore the simple fact that war in Iraq was illegal, and an aggressive attack on an impoverished state weakened by 12 years of sanctions, and just concentrate on what the British army did once it got there. The article mentions the death of Baha Mousa, who died after being held in custody for just two days.

The occupation was six months old in September 2003 and the British-controlled port city was febrile, with sporadic attacks on British forces, when the soldiers raided the Ibn Al Haitham hotel.

They found five assault rifles and two pistols used for hotel security. Unable to locate their quarry, one of the hotel's owners, they took Baha and six colleagues to the British military base.

According to Kifah Taha, 46, a maintenance engineer who was one of the six, beatings started immediately. There was a competition to see which soldier could kickbox a prisoner the furthest, he claimed.

Each prisoner was allegedly given a footballer's name and beaten if he failed to remember it. Freezing water was allegedly poured through hoods placed over their heads.

Baha suffered the most and on the second night he was taken to another room from which Mr Taha said he could hear him moaning

"Blood. There's blood coming from my nose. I'm going to die."

After punches and kicks, Mr Taha's kidneys failed and he nearly died. He and the other five survivors were eventually released without charge.

I don't know about you, but that all sounds entirely reasonable to me. I can't think why they dared to try to prosecute the kind humanitarian soldiers that cared so deeply about these Iraqi men. Even if the above account is inaccurate, there has been no other explanation about Baha Mousa's death. The family was offered the derisory sum of $8,000 in compensation.

The other major incident of abuse of Iraqis was at Camp Breadbasket in southern Iraq, where British soldiers took photos of Iraqis they had supposedly found stealing food from the camp. This was uncovered after one of the soldiers took the wise decision of taking his photos to a 30-minute developing shop. The employees phoned the police.
The soldiers were ordered to 'work the thieves hard', itself a contravention of the Geneva convention. The pictures included 2 Iraqis who were forced to simulate anal sex, whilst giving a thumbs up. In all, they took 22 pictures. To add insult to injury, the sentences passed on those found guilty of this abuse were later cut without it being released to the press. It was only uncovered when the fiancee of one of the offenders told a local newspaper he would be home within the next month.

If the commanders in charge of soldiers in Iraq can't teach them right from wrong, and can't stop them from treating the people with whom they deal in a proper way, we should withdraw from Iraq immediately. The British part of the occupation is not even in the deadly Sunni triangle, it's in the mostly quiet Shia south. The military is not known for its humility, and this attack on the Ministry of Defence, which is actually trying to hold to account some of the breaches of international law which have occurred, should ignore this arrogant attack on it by those who want similar powers to the US and Israeli armies, which act with impunity and ignore or investigate then whitewash incidents. For once, the MoD is doing a service, and once recognised as such, the more chance the army has of winning hearts and minds with its approach.

The other news from Iraq is even more depressing. 'Civilians bear brunt of Iraqi insurgency':

Iraqi civilians and police officers are being killed by insurgents at a rate of more than 800 a month - one an hour, according to new figures released by the interior ministry.

The figures published yesterday show that between August 1 2004 and May 31 2005, 8,175 Iraqis died as a result of insurgent activity.

About 1,500 of those have died since the Shia-led government of Ibrahim al-Jafaari took office on April 28.

8,175. 8,175. 54 have so far been confirmed to have died in the London bombings. That's something of a difference, and I don't recall having any 2 minute silences for them. Note these are official figures. According to, the minimum number of civilians killed since the war is 22,823, with the maximum 25,869. These are compiled from news reports, and not from hospital figures or based on surveys among the public. A study conducted by the Lancet, which was pilloried in the press after it was released, estimated that 100,000 civilians had died since the invasion. Apart from US soldiers, of which 1,581 have died since the invasion, the US famously 'doesn't do body counts'. If the Lancet study is anywhere near correct, and we should keep in mind it was released in October of last year, and so now is out of date, we can tell why.

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Thursday, July 14, 2005 

More video/audio on the Visor Consultants exercise on the tube.

In case you're having doubts about the exercise on the tube last Thursday, here's some more proof:


Radio 5 Live

Thanks to both cryptogon and for these.

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The old five-finger discount.

I've often been suspicious of retailers' almost imaginary made up figures for how much they lose to shoplifters. One study quotes that as a whole they lose £3 billion pounds each year. While these should be taken with more than a grain of salt, seeing as the main research agency counts as clients almost all every big retailer in Britain you can name, the study they released yesterday is certainly interesting.

The study reveals that significantly more men than women are jailed for shoplifting and thefts by staff, and that the offenders are predominantly older, more organised and frequently steal higher-value goods to order.

The research by the Centre for Retail Research (CRR) at Nottingham University also shows that theft by staff, unlike shoplifting, is on the increase in the UK. While staff theft accounts for far fewer losses than theft by shoppers, the sums stolen per offence are higher, averaging £816 for women and £919 for men.

I've often felt that staff theft is a much bigger problem than the stores will ever own up to, and that instead they blame it on the stereotypical Vicky Pollards of this world. While not going all the way to prove this, the study is certainly more eye-opening than the typical rant against shoplifters.

One of the little known facts is that most major stores now operate a civil recovery system. If a person gets caught trying to steal, as well as being reported to the police, they are sent a demand from a very friendly company (warning: link leads to a very ugly flash site) who demands money in compensation, otherwise they will pursue the offender through the courts. In the letter they warn that if they fail to comply then higher costs will inevitably arise. A lot of people would, and do instantly cave in. As the retail research site mentions, the money demanded usually amounts to between £60 and £150.

Let's take a second to just figure all this out. Companies such as Tesco, who last year made a profit of £2 billion and who have reported sales growth of 14.6% in the first quarter of this year are demanding money in recompense from often the most vulnerable in society, those who are stealing to sell items for their drug addiction, to the extremely impoverished, and the mentally ill. We're not talking piffling sums here, we're talking up to £150. That's more than double what the average person on income support in the UK gets a week. This is on top of the charges police may bring against the offender, who faces the possibility of a hefty fine, a community order or jail.

The fact is that a lot of police forces in the country now don't regard shoplifting as a major offence, and they don't bother to haul the majority of first time offenders through the courts. Instead, they usually put them through a course where they attend the police station and meet the managers from a local store, and hear their side of the story. This kind of punishment is of course not good enough for the average Daily Mail reader, or of course the likes of Tesco. Hence, the civil recovery scheme. If the police won't punish the offenders properly, they jolly well will.

The issue of stealing by staff can be linked to the low wages that Tesco and co pay. It's usually just above the minimum wage, which at the moment is £4.85, which is not a living wage. Socialists and others have long campaigned for the wage to be at least made £6, if not higher. The government does seem to be at least going in this direction, with increases made irregularly, usually once every 6 months at the moment.

Civil recovery is regarded as a success. Obviously for the likes of Tesco, whose motto is "every little helps", it certainly does. At the general election, the Liberal Democrats made a call for women to not be sent to jail for shoplifting. It was rejected by Labour. I'd go one further. No one should be sent to jail for shoplifting. All it does is increases the cycle of imprisonment and offence. Imprisonment usually results in the offender losing their home, their job and their friends, if they had any in the first place. With little after prison care provided, you can guess what they do as soon as they are released and the small amount of money they are given runs out. If anything, offenders should be made to work in the stores where they offend and give back to the community. Hell, I'd even be prepared to allow the employers to tag them and search them when they leave work to make sure they don't steal while they are working. At the moment no other solution is working.

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How kind of you Kuwait.

I'm sure that along with the rest of Britain, I'd like to thank the Kuwait Information Centre for taking a full page advert out in today's Grauniad.

It's nice to know that a Middle Eastern country so close to Iraq, and with such a close history to it, is paying attention to what's happening here and not in the country it shares a border with. Looks like they're thanking us for liberating them from Saddam in 1991.

It's also interesting to note that Kuwait only very recently agreed on the suffrage of women, with the vote held in the Kuwati parliament supported by 35 against 23. It's also unclear what conditions will placed on women when they finally get the chance to express their opinion via the ballot box in 2 years time. Among the other Arab states that have democracy, or some form of it, only Saudi Arabia seems to be holding out against the dangerous notion of letting women muddy the policital waters.

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Wednesday, July 13, 2005 


With the revelation that the attacks on London were seemingly suicide bombers, indeed, ones who lived here and were "normal" young men, the soul searching once again goes on. Jonathan Freedland in the Grauniad has called it a challenge to the whole of society. This is typical of a society which cannot understand people taking their own lives, for any reason, or at any time. Recently, the painkiller Coproxomal was withdrawn from the market because of the high number of suicides associated with it, despite it being a prescription only drug. The only time that we often ever deal with suicide is when a bullied child takes their own life, which usually excites the media.

In our meritocracy, with seemingly everything available to anyone who wishes to work for it, with our lattes, i-pods, big brother and consumer bliss, why would anyone want to end their life? Often we can be judged by what happens in our prisons, where we throw the mentally ill, the petty criminals, the different, as well as murderers and others who are a threat to society. In the first 12 days of June, there were 12 suicides in British prisons. That is shocking enough, as is the fact that Britain has the highest prison population in Europe. What is more shocking is the silence that meets these facts. The only voice we often hear is of those who demand that more yobs be locked up.

Japan, well known for having a very high rate of suicide, has recently been dealing with group suicides, usually arranged on chat rooms, where young people agree to meet at a beauty spot and then poison themselves with a charcoal burner. Again, they have responded by clamping down, rather than looking at the reasons behind it. In a society in which suicide has in the past been viewed as noble, you would have expected something different.

Statistics show that 1 in 4 people will suffer from mental illness in their lifetime, and almost everyone knows someone who is either depressed or has some kind of mental health issue. Yet, we still view these topics mostly as taboo. While we can't understand the motives of those who want to die, or who cannot die because of the law, we won't be able to understand those who want to take others with them in the process.
Suicide bombings, have and always will be a means to an end. In our western society, where looks and life and image mean everything, to destroy all those three things is one of the most shocking things that you can do. Self-harm and the like are not usually pleas for attention, they are methods often used to try and live with the misery and pressures of modern life. Suicide bombing is just this on a much larger scale. By taking others with them in a spectacular fashion, they are just trying to make themselves live forever, in another way. When you can't live with yourself in this life, why not take others with you and become an idol forever? At least you won't be around to deal with the fallout and the hate that your image will conjure up. That people are willing to take this step in Britain shouldn't be shocking. We should be shocked that it hasn't happened before.

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Evolution has specifically selected me for extinction.

Another day, another attack on the presumption of innocence by No-Trousers Charlie: Clarke presses for EU fingerprint plan:

The home secretary, Charles Clarke, is to press today's emergency European counter-terrorism summit to adopt a plan to compulsorily fingerprint all EU citizens who already carry identity cards.

I thought we'd already got rid of one bearded extremist as home secretary, but it seems that as the weeks pass we've gained another one. Charles Clarke was at first supposed to be a moderate, not a firebrand like Blunkett, who attacked judges who dared to disagree with his decrees. Clarke was meant to be a skeptic of ID cards, fast becoming Labour's poll tax. Instead he's argued for more clampdowns, especially now that he can take advantage of last Thursday's events.

As more and more fallout starts to appear from the aftermath of these bombings, we seem to have fallen into a state of apathy already. I seriously expect that rolling over and playing dead is going to be the order of the day in parliament for at least a few weeks. The third reading of the bill on the "incitement to religious hatred" went through with very few people even noticing. Even without suicide bombings, which should never be connected to any serious religious message, there are plenty of examples of how religion itself incites hatred among those who are non-believers. As minorities become immune from the slightest criticism for believing in bullshit of the highest order, freedom collapses around us. We're not challenging religion any more. We're giving in to it. The freedom to believe in lies is obviously more important than the freedom to challenge those lies.

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Tuesday, July 12, 2005 

Suicide bombings?

After first saying that there was no evidence that the bombings on the trains were suicide attacks, the police have now seemingly changed their mind. In other developments, explosives have been found in a car in Luton rail station car park.

Wait, what did I just say? That doesn't seem to make much sense, at least on the mainstream level. If these four bombs were all suicide attacks, carried out by four different people, why did they leave explosives in Luton? It doesn't seem like they'd be coming back. Was someone meant to pick these explosives up? Was one of the bombs not going to be a suicide attack, for instance the bomb on the bus that may well have exploded accidentally?
Why also carry information that seemingly identifies you if you're going to blow yourself up? Is this the vanity of a martyr who wants to be identified? Perhaps these questions will be answered. Perhaps they won't. At the moment this whole thing seems to be incomprehensible.

One of the things I most fear is that this is definitely going to lead to a huge clampdown on the internet. Already Big Ears (aka Charles Clarke) has demanded that up to 3 years of data on the details of all the traffic and location where mobile phone calls, emails and text messages are made be kept by service providers, despite the huge cost this will incur and storing space this will require, let alone the fact it'd be nearly impossible to search for relative information.
On the news they are constantly referring to the videos of attacks on soldiers in Iraq and Chechnya, which are meant to be radicalising the youth and easily available at a computer near you. Also of note are the forums which carry the messages of responsibility for bombings or assassinations, although many of these are often rubbish made by armchair activists. It's starting to look like as though we have even darker days ahead than many of us thought.

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Oh sweet jesus.

Noam Chomsky has often said that mainstream newspapers leave the most revelatory or amazing point or fact until the very last paragraph or sentences in their reports. Here's one incredible example of this: Terror cell capable of further attacks;

In a bid to get closer to potential home-grown terrorists, newly recruited police officers are being encouraged to plan a terrorist attack. The course is designed by Hertfordshire police.

Note they're not trying to actually infiltrate a terrorist group, or extremist meetings. They're actually going to plan an attack. They're no longer even being coy about what they're doing. Expect in the next few days that the police will announce they'd like to get dna samples from every child born, as they have done before. They're already establishing such a database by stealth, but in these times, what's the point of being underhand or secretive about it?

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Blitz spirit.

I knew as soon as I woke on Thursday that this navel-gazing would go on for days, if not weeks. It has come to pass. As yet, everyone is still blaming Islamic fundamentalists. Any bombing now is instantly blamed on the invisible but always present spectre of Islam. This is what our friendly cave-dweller always wanted.

Let's just try and forget that we already have something that seems incredibly coincidental coming to the surface. On Thursday morning, a company called Visor Consultants was conducting an exercise on the London underground, at the exact same stations as the bombs exploded, involving simultaneous explosions. Visor itself is based in the heart of London, and boasts on its home page of how many lecturers on risk and business continuity it has on its hands. In the interview the managing director Peter Power did on BBC Radio 5 Live late on Thursday night (note that 5 Live isn't exactly a hotbed of conspiracy theories) he states how this exercise was being performed for a company which he neglects to mention. His reticence on this matter certainly doesn't make this any less disturbing or troublesome. Some links leading to the clip are available here:

Away from the possibility that this was an operation that had nothing whatsoever to do with so-called Islamic extremists, we have the wailing and gnashing of teeth of the victims and relatives of them. Yesterday we had to deal with the nauseating sight of Marie Fatayi-Williams, who decided to wail on a street corner near King's Cross about her missing son. To call it stomach churning would be an understatement. What's worse is the way the media just happened to be passing by at the time to capture this spectacle. The Guardian has it on their front page. It was featured on the BBC 1 O'clock news in the most sycophantic and uncritical stance I have ever seen. This wasn't some crazy woman would couldn't face up to the fact her son had died. This was a person who expressed the feelings of a whole city, who conjured up the true essence of the blitz spirt, who made us all look at ourselves in a different light and feel how thankful we should be that it wasn't us caught up in this tragedy.
It also helped that she was black, and that of course makes us realise that this wasn't just a tragedy directed at the white middle and working class who commute into London every day. Also disgusting was the obviously hastily rushed together Panorama which was shown on Sunday night, which in part followed two of the survivors over the last couple of days. It felt voyeuristic, debasing, especially to see the female survivor so obviously mixed-up and in need of counseling saying how she would fight on against the terrorists and that they would not win, by doing her duty of carrying on with her life. I'm sure that those who carried out the attack will be terrified.

Even more sickening than the way the press is dealing with the aftermath is the way that Labour MPs in particular are attacking the likes of George Galloway for daring to suggest that this attack had anything to do with our participation in the war on Iraq. Tony Wright, who even voted against the war, said that anyone who connected the bombs with Iraq was talking "not only nonsense, but dangerous nonsense." I'm not sure those people are the ones talking nonsense here.

The war on terror continues unabated. A lot of people don't see any connection with what happened in London with what has been going on for two years now in Iraq. On Sunday there was a suicide bombing which killed at least 20 people. There's usually at least one such barbaric attack every day in Baghdad. Do we care? Do we hell. The same people who are coughing up the same old Churchillian statements here can't see anything that might just help explain why this is happening, both here and now.

Even more disgraceful is the way that so little has been, or how so much has been said about how the economy and capitalism are so heavily involved here. Sales of bikes have soared, according to the Grauniad. Oxford Street is supposedly deserted. Forget about the stock market, and how some businesses profited hugely from this human disaster as the FTSE fell and then rose, what really matters is that we get back to normal straight away. Get back to work, says the normally eloquent Ken Livingstone. Business as usual. The business of death will never stop the business of slow death.

To come back to the opening points of Islamic fundamentalism, if this wasn't an op by the government or some lower echelon, this wasn't an attack by people with a religious background. If it was committed by Muslims, it wasn't with any ideology behind it. The problems of Palestine, Iraq and Afghanistan are all there, and needed to be sorted now, but this doesn't excuse the murder committed by people who will point to those as to why they are carrying out the attacks, in the same way that when we attacked Iraq we were doing it based on the lies of weapons of mass destruction and defeating terrorism. These people don't belong to any religion. Muslims need to stop defending themselves and saying they are a religion of peace. We already know, and they don't need to make these excuses for people who are doing these things in the name of Allah. What these people are is not Islamo-fascists, as some people have christened them. They are simply murderers. They are people whose only motive is killing. It's not for a reason. It's because they can, and they will. Until we get over the name calling, the petty nationalism and realise that three of the main religions all originate from the same complete and utter nonsense, we will not get anywhere. Religion is not the problem. It's the fact that people still believe in a higher being that is.

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