Two-thirds of Britons believe there is a link between Tony Blair’s decision to invade Iraq and the London bombings despite government claims to the contrary, according to a Guardian/ICM poll published today.

The poll makes it clear that voters believe further attacks in Britain by suicide bombers are also inevitable, with 75% of those responding saying there will be more attacks.

The research suggests the government is losing the battle to persuade people that terrorist attacks on the UK have not been made more likely by the invasion of Iraq.

According to the poll, 33% of Britons think the prime minister bears “a lot” of responsibility for the London bombings and a further 31% “a little”.

Only 28% of voters agree with the government that Iraq and the London bombings are not connected. ~The Guardian

These results can only be a surprise and a scandal to that small group of core Iraq war supporters, mainly found in the political and chattering classes, who seem to feel paranoically vulnerable to even the slightest setback or criticism. Common sense dictated that the bombings were connected in some way to ongoing military campaigns in Iraq as well as in Afghanistan. It is all more predictable that the public would view the attacks in this light when it has been the cardinal talking point from Washington and London that Iraq always had something to do with antiterrorism, even though it manifestly did not. One need hardly be an opponent of one or both wars to see the connection, since it is the most straightforward explanation and the one most consistent with al-Qaeda’s motivations. That means that the Iraq war will have costs beyond the loss of soldiers and the waste of resources. There will also be casualties at home, which in a justified and legitimate modern war might be expected but also something simply to be borne and endured. In a profoundly illegitimate and illegal war, an attack hitting the homefront can only explode the last surviving, but most important, illusory reason given for invading Iraq in the first place: to make America safer. Once that illusion has been dispelled, the Iraq war will stand forth in all its putrid injustice, and perhaps then Americans will see the callousness that allowed them to acquiesce in making someone else’s country their killing fields. This is the truth that the jingoes desperately wish to keep concealed–hence the usual bluster was at full boil in the wake of the London bombings. Only the moral cowards who started and cheered on the Iraq war would feel the need to disassociate their disastrous cause from the predictable and natural consequences of retaliation.

It is as if the jingoes would like us to believe their “fly strip” theory (i.e., fighting terrorists in Iraq rather than fighting them elsewhere), but then forget everything else the administration and its supporters have said, as if everything else we have been told about international terrorism ceases to matter when it comes to the colossal, tragic waste that is the war in Iraq. We were assured for many months, and not incorrectly, that the present antiterrorist campaign against al-Qaeda would not be like any previous war, that there is no “front line” and that it would not follow the pattern of a conventional war. Then, when the jingoes are backed into a corner because of the predictable retaliation that must come from invading another country, they quickly bury all those claims. They fall back upon the enemy’s unreasoning hatred of freedom, or some such nonsense, and expect the public to accept that sort of spin.

If fighting al-Qaeda is unlike any previous conflict, then al-Qaeda is not bound by standard rules of engagement or the conventional tactical need for concentration of forces to overwhelm their enemies by superior mass and firepower. As such, it can launch attacks in a dozen different locations, if it so chooses, to achieve multiple objectives. If the group, or the ideological movement that it represents, has some general overarching Islamist and anti-Western principles guiding it and giving it coherence, it is conceivable that there is a plethora of various local objectives that might be considered as consistent with the larger goal of ousting Western interventionists, deposing their “puppets” and establishing an Islamic state.

The supposed attempt, however fictional and dishonest, to concentrate terrorists in Iraq would inevitably fail even if it were something other than another lame ex post facto justification for unjustly attacking another country, because there is nothing about Iraq that makes it a singularly compelling target for international terrorists to the exclusion of all others. It is Washington and London that need Iraq to be the “central front” or “front line” in a broader antiterrorist campaign, but for al-Qaeda this would be only need to be the most active of many alternative fronts. If the group ever did possess the sort of organisation and reach attributed to it by the administration, the only things that have prevented them from bringing the consequences of the Iraq war to America are lack of opportunities or a desire to hit other targets first.

There is in Iraq the relative ease with which they can target Western soldiers and their supporters, but this hardly would prevent al-Qaeda or any aspiring Islamist group from attacking targets of local interest regardless of their connection to Iraq. (Democracy is neither here nor there (and it certainly isn’t in Iraq)–had we set up a new dictator or restored the Hashemites or any variant of theocracy, the association of that new regime with foreign intervention would have made it and the people in Iraq targets.)

Furthermore, just because al-Qaeda apparently happens to think the Iraq war and its broader mission are linked does not mean that we ought to think similarly about that war and our broader strategy. This would be, in a very real sense, to fight the war they want us to fight and to play by their rules. What we ought to want to accomplish is not becoming some sort of mirror image of the enemy and viewing international relations in a similarly opaque, monolithic way, but determining our own strategy as best suits our capabilities and interests in a way that exploits their weaknesses.

The United States are presently being held hostage in Iraq because our government insists on viewing the conflict increasingly in the enemy’s terms. It is the intent of al-Qaeda to bleed us in Iraq in the hopes of repeating earlier mujahideen successes elsewhere, and we are obliging them by staying there and obliging them still more by fighting exactly the sort of static Second Generation war that cannot defeat them. If the administration were interested in genuinely throwing al-Qaeda off balance and weakening it, it would redeploy out of Iraq and use our resources in a way that does not provide grist for the enemy’s propaganda and political mill.