Twelve people have been arrested in London after three attackers killed seven people and injured 48 more on Saturday night. The three attackers were shot dead by police. It’s the third terror attack in the U.K. in three months. British Prime Minister Theresa May has vowed a sweeping review of the nation’s counterterrorism strategy. All of this comes as the country gears up for national parliamentary elections scheduled for this Thursday. Prime Minister May has also called for increased web surveillance so the internet is no longer a “safe space” for terrorists. Meanwhile, President Donald Trump used the London attacks to call for the United States to impose his proposed Muslim travel ban. Here to discuss all of this with Democracy Now! is Guardian columnist Paul Mason.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: British Prime Minister Theresa May has vowed a sweeping review of the nation’s counterterrorism strategy, declaring “enough is enough,” following a terror attack in London Saturday that left seven dead and dozens injured. British police are holding 11 people. Attackers rammed a van into pedestrians on London Bridge and then stabbed people in nearby Borough Market. The three attackers were shot dead by the police. This is a witness to the attack.
WITNESS: It was fear on the streets of London, basically. I’ve not experienced that before. Been there for 12-odd years, basically. I’ve never seen that kind of fear, especially on a night out. And it was horrific to be involved in that kind of situation.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: This is the third terror attack in the U.K. in three months, following the car and knife attack on Westminster Bridge in March, in which five people were killed, and the Manchester bombing less than two weeks ago, in which 22 people were killed. The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for all three of the attacks.
Britain’s national elections are scheduled this Thursday. The Conservative Party and the opposition Labour Party temporarily suspended campaigning for the parliamentary elections out of respect for the victims, while the right-wing U.K. Independence Party said it would continue holding campaign events.
During an interview this morning, Prime Minister May chaired a meeting of the government’s emergency committee Cobra with intelligence and security chiefs and said response to the attacks is ongoing.
PRIME MINISTER THERESA MAY: JTAC—that’s the independent Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre—have confirmed that the national threat level remains at severe. That means that a terrorist attack is highly likely. The police have reported that they have put additional security measures in place to protect the public and provide reassurance, and this includes additional security measures at a number of bridges in London. The police are working hard to establish the identity of all of those who were tragically killed or injured in the event on Saturday night, but it is now clear that, sadly, victims came from a number of nationalities. This was an attack on London and the United Kingdom, but it was also an attack on the free world.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: Prime Minister Theresa May vowed Sunday to conduct a sweeping review of Britain’s counterterrorism strategy, saying “enough is enough.” London’s Mayor Sadiq Khan also spoke out after the attack.
MAYOR SADIQ KHAN: There aren’t words to describe the grief and anger that our city will be feeling today. I’m appalled and furious that these cowardly terrorists would deliberately target innocent Londoners and bystanders enjoying their Saturday night. There can be no justification for the acts of these terrorists. And I’m quite clear: We will never let them win, nor will we allow them to cower our city or Londoners. …
Londoners will see an increased police presence today and over the course of the next few days. No reason to be alarmed. One of the things the police and all of us need to do is make sure we’re as safe as we possibly can be. I’m reassured that we are one of the safest global cities in the world, if not the safest global city in the world. But we always evolve and review ways to make sure that we remain as safe as we possibly can.
AMY GOODMAN: Sadiq Khan is London’s first Muslim mayor. Following his remarks, President Donald Trump took to Twitter to imply the mayor had played down the severity of the attack, tweeting, quote, “At least 7 dead and 48 wounded in terror attack and Mayor of London says there is 'no reason to be alarmed!'” Well, in fact, Khan had been speaking about the increased police presence in the city when he said there was no reason to be alarmed. A spokesman for Khan later dismissed Trump’s comments, responding the mayor, quote, “has more important things to do than respond to Donald Trump’s ill-informed tweet that deliberately takes out of context his remarks urging Londoners not to be alarmed when they saw more police—including armed officers—on the streets.” In contrast to the president, other parts of the U.S. government tweeted more supportive comments. The acting U.S. ambassador to London, Lew Lukens, tweeted, “I commend the strong leadership of the @MayorofLondon as he leads the city forward after this heinous attack.” All of this comes as British Prime Minister May has also called for increased web surveillance so the internet is no longer a, quote, “safe space for terrorists,” unquote.
For more, we go to London, where we’re joined by Paul Mason, columnist for The Guardian. His most recent book, Postcapitalism: A Guide to Our Future.
Paul, welcome back to Democracy Now! Can you first respond to the attacks and then talk about Donald Trump’s attack on Sadiq Khan, the first Muslim mayor of London, as he tries to calm and reassure Londoners?
PAUL MASON: Well, good morning, Amy.
Here in London, I think it’s worth saying we are implacable. We are—we’re standing firm. You know, ordinary British people fought those attackers back with chairs and bottles and whatever they could lay their hands on. Two unarmed British policemen fought them with their bare hands until, only eight minutes after the first emergency call, a squad of armed police went in and shot them dead, eight minutes after the incident started. So we’re pretty clear that we have an immediate response facility to this kind of terror attack, but the worrying thing is that they are increasing—three in the last 70 days, successful ones; five, it’s been revealed today, thwarted. So we’ve got an increased tempo of jihadi attacks on civilians here, ordinary people on the streets of Britain.
And just to situate things, Borough Market is a Saturday night venue for people to go and have fun. It’s a bit like Venice Beach in L.A. It’s like the district below Manhattan Bridge in New York in Brooklyn. It’s that kind of place. It’s full. It’s teeming with people, doing what? Drinking alcohol, wearing as little as possible as spring turns into summer here, men and women having fun together, men and men, women and women. It’s a very liberal place. That’s what those attackers were attacking. And the majority of British people, including the majority of Britain’s 3 million Muslim population, say no to this.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: And, Paul Mason, you’ve pointed out that the number of attacks in the U.K., this was the third that occurred in as many months. What do you think accounts for the fact that ISIS is stepping up its campaign there?
PAUL MASON: Well, we don’t know. We don’t see all the intelligence. But my hunch is this. My hunch is that the—that many Islamist militants and radicals across the world have been inspired by the caliphate of ISIS—that is, the semi-state they set up between Mosul and Raqqa in Syria. Now, the end of that state is soon to come. That’s becoming pretty clear. Now, I think, in other words, the United States, Europe, Britain, most Western democracies have to worry about what happens when the Islamic caliphate, that ISIS wanted to set up and did indeed set up, is finished off and wiped out. What happens? I think—that’s my hunch.
Now, the other problem we have here in Britain, and it’s a real issue—I don’t think it’s going to be solved by any—by blanket travel bans. The real issue is that we have 23,000 people on a list held by our security services who are at risk of becoming dangerous terrorists. That’s a very sobering number. Three thousand are on a watchlist that are being more or less continually under surveillance. And what’s worrying is that the last three successful attacks involved people who were known to our intelligence services but considered not at risk of becoming violent. And we have to ask serious questions about how to deal with that, blame-free questions, because you have to learn from the experience.
But the political blame, especially this morning in Britain, is being laid at the door of the government, because the government cut 20,000 people from the police. That’s about a sixth of the number. They cut 1,300 armed officers—again, a large—it’s a big chunk of the armed contingent of the U.K. police. They cut them while doing what? Going to Libya, destabilizing Libya, pulling out of Libya, bombing Syria, taking part in numerous wars in the Middle East. The question is not the simply “Well, you know, if you attack a Middle Eastern country, expect terror.” That’s facile and simplistic. The question is: If you’re going to take part in global—in a global intervention into countries like Libya, where you create chaos, what happens then? Do you—do you need a better and more well-resourced police force to deal with the potential threat that then comes to you?
We don’t know yet who did the one—the attack on London Bridge. It is known who they are, but the names are not released. So we don’t know what their national background is. But the guy who did the bombing of the Ariana Grande concert in Manchester was a British Libyan, and it turns out his father was one of the fighters that the British had been allowing to travel freely between Britain and Libya because they were anti-Gaddafi.
So you have to join up the anti-terror aspect of policing and intelligence with the foreign policy. And this is what, many people are now concluding, our government just didn’t do. They cut the police force. They dabbled in Middle Eastern politics. And it’s—unfortunately, we’re now paying the price of having a very much reduced capability in terms of what? Community policing. We want our cops to be out there walking around the streets where people live, picking up intelligence. It’s come out this morning, for example, that one of the guys we think did Saturday night’s knife attack had been kicked out of a mosque by that mosque, so the community had done its job. People had reported him to the anti-terror hotline. And then nothing’s happened.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, you know, this is all coming just before the national elections in Britain on Thursday. Prime Minister May’s opponent in the election, Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, raised just this issue you’re talking about, criticizing her role in the ensuring that police maintain public safety. He had previously questioned the wisdom of a shoot-to-kill policy but said on Sunday the police should use whatever force is necessary to save lives.
JEREMY CORBYN: We are ready to consider whatever proposals may be brought forward by the police and security services more effectively to deal with the terrorist threat. If Labour is elected, I will commission a report from the security services on Friday on the changing nature of the terrorist threat. Our priority must be public safety. And I will take whatever action is necessary and effective to protect the security of our people and our country. That includes full authority for the police to use whatever force is necessary to protect and save life, as they did last night, as they did in Westminster in March.
AMY GOODMAN: During his speech on Sunday, Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn also made a scathing reference to President Trump.
JEREMY CORBYN: As London Mayor Sadiq Khan recognized, but which the current occupant of the White House has neither the grace nor the sense to grasp today, whether we are Muslim or Christian, black or white, male or female, gay or straight, we are united by our values, by a determination for a better world and that we can build a better society.
AMY GOODMAN: And so, that brings us back to, Paul Mason, Donald Trump’s tweet against the first Muslim mayor of London and if you think even that weights in for the reason why he attacked Sadiq Khan.
PAUL MASON: There’s not a single person on the right or left of politics who sympathizes with what Trump is doing. The British prime minister, Theresa May, has eventually been forced, this morning, to distance herself and criticize Trump, but she did it very reluctantly. Others are just furious with it, because it seems like Trump has a thing about Sadiq Khan. It seems like the fact that one of the biggest, you know, liberal global cities on Earth has a Muslim mayor seems to annoy Trump every time he thinks about it. But this is beyond a joke, because, you know, we are allies in the war on—in what is sensible about the war on terror, in finding out the terrorists, sharing intelligence and trying to target them and prevent their activities. We’re supposed to be allies. And for Trump to carry on this knee-jerk political attack on a guy he clearly just doesn’t like because the guy is a Muslim, let’s be honest, is just—it’s not helping. It’s not helping.
Now, what else is not helping? Today, you reported earlier in your bulletin, we’ve got this huge diplomatic war breaking out in the Gulf, the very place both our countries have been obsessing about for 20 years. We’ve got Saudi Arabia attacking Qatar, closing its airspace, disrupting the economy of the region. Why? Because Saudi accuses Qatar, this Gulf monarchy, of being—supporting ISIS. The truth is, Saudi Arabia has been pumping out money and resources for extreme Islamism for decades. And so has—to be honest, Qatar has done its bit, as well, supporting the al-Qaeda groups in Syria, and so has Saudi Arabia. But why has this happened now? Because Trump visited Saudi Arabia. Trump gave Saudi Arabia some kind of green light to be much tougher rhetorically on Iran. And what is Saudi saying about Qatar this morning? Well, that Qatar is too soft on Iran. This, again, is Donald Trump meddling in issues and matters he just does not understand.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: Well, I want to go back to Corbyn’s speech on Sunday, because he also referred to Saudi Arabia, calling for, quote, “some difficult conversations” on Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states who he said were fueling extremist ideologies. He also accused the U.K. government, the May government, of, quote, “suppressing a report into the foreign funding of extremist groups.”
JEREMY CORBYN: We do need to have some difficult conversations, starting with Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states who have funded and fueled extremist ideology. It’s no good, Theresa May suppressing a report into the foreign funding of extremist groups. We have to get serious about cutting off their funding to these terror networks, including ISIS here and in the Middle East.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: So that’s Jeremy Corbyn speaking, Labour leader, speaking Sunday night. Now, the elections are just in a matter of days, on Thursday. So, can you talk about what impact you think this attack will have, if any, on the election? And also, explain what this report is that Corbyn says the May government is suppressing.
PAUL MASON: Yeah. Well, we’re all trying not to politicize it. There are lessons to be learned from this attack that are just the technological and operational lessons of how you prevent and deter terrorism. But the fact is that Theresa May has visited Saudi Arabia, has sold arms to Saudi Arabia. And the report that’s been suppressed is a report commissioned by her predecessor, David Cameron, the Conservative prime minister. We are told that it implicates Saudi Arabia in the funding of terrorism. And it is being buried and suppressed, which we think is a bad idea.
Now, your viewers must know that, by Friday, Corbyn could be prime minister. It’s unlikely, because the Conservatives started this election with massive advantage. We have an even more biased press than you in the United States against the left and the Labour Party. But things are changing quite rapidly. And what I can tell your viewers is that if Corbyn is able to form a government on Friday, then the whole game is up for Western backing of these Wahhabi extreme dictators and head removers in Saudi Arabia, because Britain—yeah, sure, we are a country that’s equally implicated, in the long term, in backing that regime and other unjust regimes in the Middle East. And if Corbyn gets into 10 Downing Street, he will stop that as a—you know, day one, hour one, second one. And, of course, that will cause a big problem for Trump. But I think it is time we, in the West, had a long look at what is happening. Sure, Iran, Saudi Arabia’s traditional enemy, is equally a sponsor of terror. It is equally repressive. But we need to be trying to export, as it were, values and restraint and multilateralism into that Gulf region, not, as we in the United Kingdom are doing currently, arming the Saudis so they can bomb Yemen, bomb hospitals, bomb people into starvation.
So Corbyn represents a real change. And if any of your viewers feel like it, have British friends, please encourage them to have no hesitation in changing this government, because we want to do what you need to do. We need to get rid of the kind of dinosaurs of kind of the 20th century view of how one intervenes in the Middle East and, of course, the 20th century view of Islamophobia, which I’m afraid Trump’s—Trump’s comment in that tweet about Sadiq Khan speak volumes subtextually about the Islamophobic nature of Trump’s administration.
AMY GOODMAN: May said, in her speech about cracking down, that the internet has provided a safe haven for terrorists and that big companies that provide internet-based services have been complicit. What do you see coming out of this, Paul?
PAUL MASON: I think, before we say anything else, we have to say that the analysis is correct. You know, we’ve got big companies claiming that they don’t have any interest in the content that they create. If a newspaper carried an advertisement for al-Qaeda or ISIS, that newspaper should be shut down. So, now, the internet, it is said, is ungovernable. That is also not true. It is governable in America, where most of those internet companies are based. I don’t want to see the balkanization of the internet. I don’t want to see increased surveillance. I don’t want to see censorship. And, of course, in America, unlike here, you have your First Amendment rights. But what I think is likely, and May’s comments—I think May will be one of the last people to do this. People I’ve been speaking to in the past couple of weeks are more and more confident that sooner or later in the United States those companies will be faced with a class-action lawsuit which accuses them of facilitating the distribution of terrorist propaganda. Now, they need to wake up and think about how to regulate what is done there more clearly.
And I would also say, in the United States, look, your First Amendment rights are very, very important, precious to you. So is your right to carry arms. Here in the United Kingdom, the only reason we’re not talking about maybe tens or hundreds dead is because those three guys could not put their finger on a 9mm pistol, let alone an assault rifle. They had to use knives, because they can’t get guns. And just bear that lesson in mind, when we think about what both—you know, the constitutional freedoms we all hold dear come at a price.
And how this relates to the internet, of course, is that if—I don’t want to see a big crackdown on freedom of expression and freedom of speech, but we have to work out how we stop people being radicalized online. See, the community those guys came from, it is known, is a place in east London about two or three miles from here called Barking. And that community knew them. That community reported them to the police. But the other community they must have been part of was an online network where people are being recruited. Now, I think we do, as a civil society, need to ask ourselves what powers we give to the state in order to find those networks. I don’t think breaking encryption or banning encryption works, but we need targeted surveillance. And I think, at that level, we do need web companies to start collaborating and cooperating with democratic states, because, otherwise, you just—you create a safe space online where these guys are getting radicalized and getting their orders.
AMY GOODMAN: Paul Mason, we want to thank you very much for being with us. Of course, we’ll continue to cover this issue and many others.
PAUL MASON: Thank you.
AMY GOODMAN: Paul Mason, columnist for The Guardian, filmmaker, based in London. His most recent book, Postcapitalism: A Guide to Our Future. When we come back, President Trump has raised the Muslim ban as a response to what happened in London, so we’ll discuss it. Stay with us.
AMY GOODMAN: “Liar Liar” by Captain SKA. The song is a protest against British Prime Minister Theresa May. It rose to number four on the U.K. Singles Chart last week, even as the BBC refused to broadcast the song and made it unavailable for streaming on the BBC website. This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, with Nermeen Shaikh.