Shamima Begum, MI5/6, terrorism and imperialism


22/02/2019 by socialistfight

By Gerry Downing

The three Bethnal Green schoolgirls at the airport on their way to Syria in 2015

Wikipedia tells us that in 2014, British police arrested Moazzam Begg, who has been interviewed on this case, on charges of terrorist activities during the Syrian civil war. Charges were later withdrawn, and he was released when the prosecution were informed that MI5 had known of, and consented to, his travel to Syria. He had been held in extrajudicial detention as an ‘enemy combatant’ by the US government in Afghanistan and later in the Guantanamo Bay detainment camp, in Cuba, from 2002. Following a “long public outcry” in the UK over the detention of British nationals, in 2004, the UK government intervened on behalf of British citizens who were being detained at Guantanamo Bay. President George W. Bush had Begg released without charge on 25 January 2005, despite Pentagon, CIA, and FBI objections. So, it is not difficult to conclude that for the British state the priority was regime change in Syria and it assisted Da’esh and other ‘rebels’ at various times to achieve this.

On 22 May suicide bomber Salman Abedi detonated a device packed with shrapnel at the end of a concert in the Manchester Arena. He killed 22 people.  Begum told the BBC on 18 February:

“I do feel that is wrong. Innocent people did get killed, It’s one thing to kill a soldier, it’s fine, it’s self-defence. But to kill people like women and children, just like the women and children in Baghuz who are being killed right now unjustly by the bombings. It’s a two-way thing really. This is kind of retaliation. Their justification was that it was retaliation, so I thought that is a fair justification. That was unfair on them … They weren’t fighting anyone. They weren’t causing any harm. But neither was I and neither [were the] other women who are being killed right now back in Baghuz. I didn’t want to be on the news at first. I did hear a lot of people were encouraged to come after, but I wasn’t the one who put myself on the news.”

What was she referring to in Baghuz?

On 11 February:

“At least 16 people, including seven children, have been killed in an airstrike launched by the US-led coalition in a rural region south east of the Syrian city of Deir-ez Zor, Syrian news agency SANA reports. The air raid targeted a residential area on the outskirts of the town of Al-Baghuz in the south-eastern part of Syria, the state news agency said, citing local sources.” [1]

On 12 February SANA reported:

“At least 70 civilians were killed or injured over two days as Kurdish militias advance on an ISIS-held town in eastern Syria. The US-led coalition supports the operation with deadly airstrikes. The offensive was launched on Monday and is touted as an attempt to capture the last remaining territory held by Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) terrorist group on Syria’s border with Iraq. The forces of the Kurd-dominated SDF are being supported by the US-led coalition, which provides air support to the militias on the ground.

Last year the coalition reported targeting mosques in IS-held part in eastern Syria with similar justification. In October, an airstrike hit the prayer house in Al-Susah village, reportedly killing dozens of relatives of militants controlling the city. The coalition insisted it was targeting combatants. In December, a mosque in the town of Hajin was attacked as part of the SDF advancement along the Euphrates.” [2]

22-2-19- HRW (Human Right Watch, an-anti-Assad group) is concerned about possible civilian casualties in Baghuz as the coalition blitzed the pocket with some 600 air strikes in the last month

Now the civilian population of Baghuz is allowed to leave in trucks, although pockets of resistance’ are reported to remain. We cannot discount the possibility that is at least partly because this courageous young woman defended what she saw as the Islamic Ummah.  But the lives of these 70 civilians are not to be at all equated to the 22 Manchester victims in the racist culture of British and global imperialism. In fact, as we have shown, all are victims of this global imperialism, and in far more direct ways than we suspected, as Patrick Cockburn so eloquently demonstrated in May 2018 (below).

In October 2016, Tony Blair, in attempting to pre-empt the findings of the Chilcot inquiry into the Iraq war, in an interview with Fareed Zakaria on CNN, refused to apologise for the war itself but did admit that it was the reason for the rise of ISIS. When asked if he saw any merit in the argument that the Iraq war was to blame for the rise of Islamic State (Isis, Da’esh). “I think there are elements of truth in that,” he said when asked whether the Iraq invasion had been the “principal cause” of the rise of Isis. Of course, you can’t say those of us who removed Saddam in 2003 bear no responsibility for the situation in 2015.” [3]

And also, from The Guardian:

“A senior Isis commander has told The Guardian that without the Camp Bucca facility in southern Iraq, in which he and most of the senior leadership were at one point detained, there would be no Isis today. “It made it all, it built our ideology,” he told the Guardian last December, “We could never have all got together like this in Baghdad, or anywhere else,” he said. “It would have been impossibly dangerous. Here, we were not only safe, but we were only a few hundred metres away from the entire al-Qaida leadership.” [4]

Patrick Cockburn, in an article in The Independent on 25 May 2018, The Manchester bomber was only able to massacre people because of the mistakes (sic!) made by the British government, observed that:

The Manchester Bomber is one of Hillary Clinton’s Libyan “Rebels”
Islamic State fighters landed in Libya back in November of 2014, and began work establishing training camps in the Libyan city of Derna before launching a terror offensive which included an attack on a Libyan hotel, attacks on oil field workers, and the execution of 21 Copts in a graphic video which made international headlines.

“The culpability of the British government and its intelligence agencies in enabling suicide bomber Salman Abedi to blow himself up at a pop concert in Manchester is being masked one year later by the mood of grief and mourning over the death and injury of so many people. This is the Libyan reality which was created by Cameron and Sarkozy, with sceptical support from Barack Obama, the then US president, who famously referred to the Libyan debacle as a “shit show”.

“Libya became a place where the Abedi family, returning from their long exile in Manchester, were able put their militant Islamist beliefs into practice. They absorbed the toxic variant of Islam espoused by the al-Qaeda clones, taking advantage of their military experience honed in the Iraq war, such as how to construct a bomb studded with pieces of metal designed to tear holes in human flesh. The bomb materials were easily available in countries like Britain.

“Salman Abedi was responsible for what he did, but he could not have killed 22 people and maimed another 139 others, half of them children, if the British government had not acted as it did in Libya in 2011. And its responsibility goes well beyond its disastrous policy of joining the Libyan civil war, overthrowing Gaddafi and replacing him with warring tribes and militias.

“Manchester had since the 1990s become a centre for a small but dangerous group of exiled Libyans belonging to anti-Gaddafi groups, such as the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, originally formed by Libyans fighting the communists in Afghanistan. After the invasion of Iraq in 2003, strict measures were taken by MI5 and the police against Libyans thought likely to sympathise with al-Qaeda in Iraq and, later, Isis. They were subject to counter-terrorism control orders monitoring and restricting their movements and often had their passports confiscated.

“But no sooner had Britain joined the war against Gaddafi than these suspected terrorists became useful allies. Their control-orders were lifted, their passports returned, and they were told that the British government had no problem with them going to Libya to fight against Gaddafi. In place of past restrictions, they were allowed to pass to and fro at British airports. Some militants are reported as saying that when they had problems with counter-terrorism police when flying to Libya, the MI5 officers with whom they were in touch were willing to vouch for them and ease their way to the battlefront in Libya, where MI6 was cooperating with Qatar and UAE as financiers of the armed opposition.

“This opportunistic alliance between the British security services and Libyan Salafi-jihadis may explain why Salman Abedi, though by now high up on the list of potential terrorists, was able to fly back to Manchester from Libya unimpeded a few days before he blew himself up.” [5]

If any doubt remains about the dirty tricks the British state gets up to here is a testimony from the Belfast Telegraph 20 February:

Weir made the comments in new documentary Unquiet Graves: The Story Of The Glenanne Gang, which premiered in Belfast on 21 February.

“The plan was to shoot up a school in Belleeks,” he said, which meant the murder of young children and teachers. He said this was intended as retaliation for the Kingsmill massacre of January 1976 in which 10 Protestant workmen were shot dead by the IRA.

“Weir claims the plot came from military intelligence to make the Troubles “spiral out of control” into a full civil war. He said the attack was only called off because even the UVF’s bloodthirsty leadership in Belfast considered it a step too far. The same claims were made in the past by former RUC officer Billy McCaughey, now deceased, who was convicted alongside Weir for the sectarian murder of a chemist in Ahoghill in 1977.” [6]

And this from the Mail Online:

“A former police officer claimed British intelligence was behind a plot to attack a Catholic primary school during the Troubles, a new documentary revealed. Sean Murray directed a programme about the Glenanne Gang which operated in Co Armagh in the 1970s and has been blamed for a series of killings in collusion with rogue members of the security forces. The story focused on a self-confessed member of the murder gang in the feature-length Unquiet Graves: The Story Of The Glenanne Gang.

“Gunmen from the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) ultimately refused to carry out the attack on the school in Belleeks in Co Armagh, the programme makers said. Mr Murray said: “By far, the most chilling part of creating this documentary was speaking to John Weir in South Africa. “As a former member of the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) who admitted to being in the Glenanne gang, his claim that the British military intelligence tried to arrange for loyalist paramilitaries to attack a primary school is shocking.” [7]

The mass-murdering sectarian bigots of the UVF in the Glenanne Gang refused to carry out this proposed massacre of school children and their teachers propose by British intelligence. They only wanted total chaos after the appalling Kingsmill massacre carried out by the IRA, one of the few occasions they did abandon all rational in attacking innocent Protestant civilians.

Shamima Begum’s comment the “Their justification was that it was retaliation, so I thought that is a fair justification” in defence of Da’esh has come in for strong criticism. We know that this was the justification proposed by British intelligence for the proposed murder of young children and teachers in Belleeks primary school; “he said this was intended as retaliation for the Kingsmill massacre in January 1976”. In 1996 Lesley Stahl of CBS News asked Madeleine Albright, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations: “We have heard that half a million children have died. I mean, that’s more children than died in Hiroshima. And, you know, is the price worth it?” She replied: “I think this is a very hard choice, but the price—we think the price is worth it.”  

Liam Neeson: “I went up and down areas with a cosh, hoping I’d be approached by somebody – I’m ashamed to say that – and I did it for maybe a week, hoping some [uses air quotes with fingers] ‘black bastard’ would come out of a pub and have a go at me about something, you know? So that I could kill him.”

Those who now defend Liam Neeson in his intentions to kill a black man, any black man, in retaliation for the rape of a friend, are amongst the foremost who condemn Shamima for her misguided intentions. But hers is the racism of the oppressed, a misguide defensive response and Neeson’s is the racism of the imperialist, oppression ruling class in the US. “If [the victim] had said an Irish, Scot, Brit, I know I would have felt the same way” he says but note he does not include the white US nation, his target audience in that statement. The sexist Neeson characterised the #MeToo movement on Ireland’s The Late Late Show, as a “witch hunt”.

The 9/11 atrocity was in retaliation for US mass murders of Muslims directly themselves and via their proxies in the Middle East and North Africa. Of course, we make no defence of the methods of the 9/11 bombers nor of the appalling methodology of Da’esh, a misogynistic, homophobic death cult.  They are a Sunni sectarians which arose after imperialism pulverised Fallujah in the ‘surge’ of late 2004, when both chemical and radiological weapon. We must take a side with the targets of imperialism when the imperialists use this as a means to make a comeback in the same region. The imperialists are ALWAYS the greater evil in terms of presence on the ground.

All of the forces we block with will collaborate with imperialism when it suits them. Both Assad and Gaddafi benefited from ‘extraordinary rendition’ of their opponents during the Bush/Blair period. We rightly take sides with Assad against the forces ranged against him because of the decisive role of imperialism, and also the sectarian nature of the conflict on the other side. We also defend Shia Islamist-ruled Iran, Assad’s ally, against imperialism.

Alexander Ulyanov, Lenin’s older brother

The mode of operation of imperialism cannot be defeated by individual terrorist methods. Lenin’s older brother Alexander Ulyanov is described by Wikipedia as a “Revolutionary Socialist, Political Activist, Student”. He was a member of the “terrorist faction”, part of the Narodnaya Volya (People’s Will) party, He was one of the authors of the party’s Marxism-influenced program. Acknowledging the working class as the “nucleus of the Socialist Party”, the program affirmed the revolutionary’s initiative of fighting autocracy through terrorism. He was arrested for plotting to assassinate Tsar Alexander III. He was “both the main ideologist of the group as well as the bomb-maker”.

In May 1887, he and his four comrades — Pakhomy Andreyushkin, Vasily Generalov, Vasili Osipanov, and Petr Shevyrev — were hanged at Shlisselburg. Alexander’s execution drove his younger brother Lenin to pursue the Russian revolutionary struggle ever more fervently. Upon hearing of Alexander’s death, Vladimir allegedly said, “I’ll make them pay for this! I swear it”. Retaliation was needed but not with these methods. It should be noted that Lenin was already active in politics prior to his older brother’s arrest. Vladimir admired his older brother; however, he was quite dismissive of his older brother’s political attitude. [8] But he never once condemned his brother; they both wanted the same thing, the revolution, but Lenin repudiated his brother’s method of individual terror, not from any moral consideration but because it was not only ineffective but counterproductive.  Lenin‘s aim was to replace the individual terror of the subjective but backward revolutionists of the Narodnaya Volya with the mass terror of the risen masses led by the Bolsheviks. We know history’s judgement on who was right.

A terrorist is a person with a small bomb. Terrorist states have huge bombs and infinitely superior war machines.  By attempting to replicate their methods anti-imperialist forces sink to the levels of imperialism itself and become the playthings of imperialist intelligence services who exploit their backwardness at times to promote them only to turn on them later when policy and aims change. We need only to take the example of the Irish National Liberation Army (INLA), the military wing of the Irish Republican Socialist Party and the way state forces organised provocations to develop fratricidal conflicts in that group. But the hatred of imperialism that drive them to do these socially oppressive acts to defend their own ranks and the acts of individual terror always alienate what should be the natural allies of all anti-imperialist fighters, the organised working class in their own country and in the metropolitan lands.

We can clearly see from this that imperialism itself is the cause of all conflicts in the Middle East and everywhere else. We have the testimony of Tony Blair himself as proof of this, we have the example the awkward questions asked about Turkey’s foreign minister, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, the case of Moazzam Beg and Patrick Cockburn’s excellent article explaining how the Manchester bomber got away with his crimes under the benign noses of British intelligence. And the evidence of the dirty work of MI6 in Ireland is again exposed before our eyes. And that is why serious socialists must embrace revolutionary theory and not simply seek to modify the un-reformable British state.


[1] Russia Today, 11 February, 16 civilians, including 7 children, killed in US-led coalition air raid in Syria – SANA

[2] Russia Today, 12 February, US-led coalition bombs ‘ex-mosque’ as casualties in Baghuz offensive surge to 70

[3] Nicholas Watt Chief political correspondent The Guardian, 25 Oct 2015 Tony Blair makes qualified apology for Iraq war ahead of Chilcot report, Former British PM admits ‘mistakes’ and conflict’s role in rise of Islamic State but defends armed intervention in 2003

[4] Martin Chulov, The Guardian, 25 Oct 2015, Tony Blair is right: without the Iraq war there would be no Islamic State,

[5] Patrick Cockburn, The Independent on 25 May 2018,  The Manchester bomber was only able to massacre people because of the mistakes made by the British government.

[6]Allan Preston, Belfast Telegraph, 20 February,  British intelligence plotted a massacre at Catholic school, Glenanne Gang man tells film.

[7] PRESS ASSOCIATION, Mail Online, 20 February,  Former police officer claimed British behind plot to attack Catholic school,

[8] From Wikipedia Aleksandr Ulyanov

6 thoughts on “Shamima Begum, MI5/6, terrorism and imperialism

  1. You are right to say that imperialism causes all conflicts. But it’s important to put the imperialists’ warmongering into the context of their doomed global economic system. Its “over-production” crisis crippling monopoly-capitalism with “too much” surplus capital seeking profit and the limited power of consumption of the masses combine to intensify the class war and create the system’s revolutionary proletarian gravediggers.
    As stated in my other comments, it is not Marxist or dialectical to “side with Assad” against imperialism – as you say he is hardly to be trusted. You should argue for “defeat for imperialism” but NO SUPPORT for Assad or any other bourgeois nationalist. As Lenin put it, to “strike together” (when possible) against the main imperialist enemy but “march separately”.
    You are right when you say that the argument is NOT a “moral” one. Marxism has nothing in common with hypocritical petty-bourgeois “morality”. Lenin was for terror, as in the Red Terror, when it was required and could be useful and Leninism also insists that it is wrong to join in with imperialism in “condemning” terror carried out by petty-bourgeois movements fighting imperialism, such as the IRA (see Lenin’s thesis on “Guerrilla warfare” (1905)).
    When fake “left” groups join Western imperialism in “condemning terror” they are effectively SUPPORTING the imperialist warmongering and helping the lying fascist warmongers to target and punish the Third World and Middle Eastern rising by blitzing and bombing.
    If the ideology and leadership of the anti-imperialist fight in the Middle East (eg ISIS) is Islamic fundamentalist and “jihadist” then that is partly the long-time fault of the revisionist-led world communist movement that simply FAILED to fight imperialism for decades, in favour of supporting corrupt bourgeois nationalists (like Arafat, and Assad and his father), rather than building rational, Leninist-trained socialist revolutionary cadres and movements.
    SF is hardly showing any mastery of such dialectical Marxist understanding if it supports Assad and supports the British Labour party, however critically.
    Why not just keep arguing for the defeat of imperialism, and for socialist revolution? “Defeat for imperialism” is a far clearer call because it OPENLY states that Marxists seek the DEFEAT of the US Empire and British imperialist forces in the Middle East and elsewhere.
    Trots and revisionists avoid saying any such thing and uselessly make pacifist calls of “No to war” out of sheer cowardice about facing the storm of anti-communist and British “democratic” abuse from the corrupt and jingoistic elements of the public. And because deep in their petty-bourgeois souls they DO NOT WANT the defeat of British imperialism.


  2. If you are for the defeat of imperialism you cannot counterpose Marxism-Leninist party as an immediate, tactical solution. True, in the long run, imperialism can only be ultimately be defeated by the global working class under revolutionary socialist internationalist leadership. But the defeats suffered by 8imperialism by any third world formation assists the development of anti-imperialism in the working classes of the oppressed nations and strikes blows against the national chauvinism which permeates the working classes of the imperialist countries. That is the essence of my article above. Of course, no political support for Assad and his likes against their own working class and oppressed masses but an anti-imperialist united front against imperialism is surely called for as Lenin and the Revolutionary Comintern espoused in its first four revolutionary congresses.


  3. I posted this on LinkedIn about Begum: Demonising Shamima Begum will do NOTHING to “stop terrorism” in the UK since it is the constant bullying and bombing of the Middle East by Western imperialism that creates the terror response from the region in the first place. Begum is just one of the many young, idealistic jihadist sympathisers who ended up becoming an opponent-victim of the “war on terror”, which is a total lying fraud perpetrated by the US Empire to cover up its need for escalating war to “recover” from global monopoly-capitalist slump crisis. Begum is a WITNESS to the horrors of US and UK bombing of Syria and Iraq, and British imperialism knows that, and FEARS her return to the UK, with media attention, might give a small taste of what it means to live in a Middle East warzone subject to constant bombardment by the fascist Western warmongers. Heaven forbid that anyone in the UK might feel some sympathy for actual opponents of the Western bombing that has killed and maimed MILLIONS of people! Rational Marxism does not support jihadist ideology at all, but is completely for the DEFEAT of all imperialism as the only route to working-class power and the building of peaceful world socialism, where reason prevails. Build Leninism. See


  4. About the SF comment above: I have asked SF many, many times to join with the small forces of Leninism (led by the EPSR group) in denouncing the condemnation of terror by fake “left” groups. Why don’t you do this? After all, the “war on terror” is a total lying fraud, and the real reason the West goes to war is to sort out inter-imperialist crisis and destroy surplus capital clogging up the system.
    Lenin’s inter-state relations are different from PERSPECTIVES for the international working class. So the slogan should be “DEFEAT for imperialism; but no support for Assad (who is a treacherous bourgeois nationalist, EVEN – or especially – when the fighting is raging. Look out where his guns are pointing!).


  5. I agree with condemnation of the war on terror and we have done so countless times. But do read the approach of the revolutionary Comintern on this question.
    The Anti Imperialist United Front is explained in detail there,


  6. What I said above was: “I have asked SF many, many times to join with the small forces of Leninism (led by the EPSR group) in denouncing the condemnation of terror by fake “left” groups. Why don’t you do this?”
    What I meant is the way that the fake “lefts” join with the West in saying that “terrorism in the UK and USA and the West by jihadis has to be condemned” or that “9/11 has to be condemned” or that “Middle East terror is evil” and descend to nasty petty-bourgeois moralising against the Middle East’s and Third World’s response to the US Empire’s blitzkrieg and bombing.
    I was asking SF to think again about that. Anyone who’s progressive should want to throw up every time they hear a so-called “left” declare that “terror against the West is wrong”.
    See Lenin on this. Whenever a “left” joins in the West’s hypocritical garbage “against terror” they are SUPPORTING the West’s torture and bombing of the Middle East and Afghanistan, and helping monopoly-capitalism get away with its “war on terror” scapegoating, because the US Empire is really warmongering to escape global economic crisis and attempt to strengthen its diktat. The poor peoples of the Middle East and Afghanistan, Libya and Serbia (earlier) are just the VICTIMS of US NAZI-Nato blitzkrieg on the pathway to getting far wider fascist warmongering going (threatening WW3). Hardly surprising if they sporadically strike back.
    Denouncing the West’s “war on terror” is EASY. What I meant was denouncing the middle-class fake “lefts” for “condemning terror” – because those moralising “condemnations” simply open the door to more fascist bombing because if a “crime” has been committed then “punishment” is justified.


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