Category: terrorism

Cameron & Hollande increase the risk to our safety

By Daniel Margrain

That the overtly aggressive Western foreign policy of vengeance and the violent rush to bomb takes priority over the more conciliatory approach of attempting diplomacy, is depressing. But to do so in the knowledge that such a policy is both counterproductive and disproportionate is unconscionable. I’m not suggesting that Cameron and Hollande have deliberately set out to provoke terrorist atrocities on the streets of our cities, but their policies in the middle east unquestionably promote and exacerbate them.

It’s inconceivable that the political establishment are unaware that the violence of terrorists and the violence of the state are mutually reinforcing phenomena. So why, in their infinite wisdom, are the political establishment continuing the discredited ‘war on terror’ strategy if not to perpetuate the vicious cycle of death and destruction that the likes of Cameron and Hollande claim they want to eradicate?

Since the onset of the Iraq debacle, war and terrorism has spread exponentially but judging by the hawkish rhetorical flourishes of Cameron and Hollande one might have been led to believe otherwise. Yesterday, both leaders hardened their warmongering rhetoric as though in denial while the rest of the world looked on with incredulity. Even the right wing commentator Peter Hitchens acknowledges that “rhetoric and militancy have not done very much for us in the past. Why should it be different this time?”

The hardening rhetoric must be seen within a context in which the numbers of armed officers in Britain has fallen over the last five years, in addition to the refusal of ministers to rule out further cuts to the British police in general. It seems undeniable that the combination of more bombs allied to increasing austerity, will potentially put the British people at a greater risk from terrorism .

One might reasonably argue that mistakes at the top of government can be made, but to repeat them over and over again, in the hope that the result will be different, is a sign of madness. Fighting a war with bombs against an unidentifiable and highly mobile enemy whose sleeper cells are spread throughout the planet, is akin to arguing that the Hydra can be obliterated in the marshes of Lerna.

Every time the head of one of the principal beasts is decapitated, it mutates and multiplies into a far bigger entity whose tentacles and reach spread among their martyrs’ in ways that our leaders cannot seem to be able to comprehend.

A 14 year long Western war of terror has terrorized the oppressed to the extent that many more want to fight back than was the case prior to the atrocity in New York. The strategy of invasions and regime change has been an unmitigated disaster and yet our leaders’ are apparently oblivious to the fact that the war can never be won by what is effectively a policy of indiscriminate bombing.

Surely, it’s reasonable to surmise that the purpose of such a misguided foreign policy strategy of state violence that has demonstrably failed time and time again, is to maintain the establishments grip on political power thereby ensuring that the aspiration towards the reordering of society along more egalitarian lines are minimized.

A policy that effectively promotes and exacerbates terrorism means that the question of whether such an outcome is the intention of leaders’ like Cameron and Hollande is moot. The fact is the cycle of violence doesn’t stop with the dropping of ‘precision’ bombs on ‘terrorist targets’ whose collateral damage has historically killed more innocents than did the terrorist atrocities in Paris many times over.

It’s a sad and depressing reality that the kinds of barbaric acts witnessed in the French capital have been exploited politically by the establishment in order to justify their retaliatory rhetoric and subsequent violence. This in turn ensures that a system in which the military elite and arms manufacturers who lobby their governments for the purpose of maintaining their exalted financially privileged position, is sustained.

The logical corollary that arises from this mutually beneficial relationship, is that the protection of civilians on the streets of cities like Paris and London are not necessarily a priority for our leaders. This is because the deaths of civilians by terrorism is arguably regarded by the likes of Cameron and Hollande as a political price that’s ‘worth paying’ in the short term, with the view to securing their geo-strategic interests in the longer term.

Any rational analysis shows that acts of terrorism cannot seriously be regarded as an existential threat to the power of the state. The Paris attacks, for example, killed 0.01 per cent of the population of the city. To put it into context, many more people die each year in traffic accidents in France than were killed in the atrocity.

The disproportionate amount of media coverage devoted to Paris reached saturation point in the days that followed, which is partly a reflection of the nature of rolling 24 hour news. Of course geography and cultural affinity played a major part in the decisions of editors to give so much coverage to the drama, but that doesn’t excuse the fact that only a fraction given over to Paris was given to the terrorist atrocity on the Russian airliner which, it must be reiterated, resulted in more deaths.

The wall to wall coverage serves a political purpose which is the promotion of the idea that the suffering of people in places most of us are more readily able to identify with, matter more than those we don’t. This is all part of a media narrative that reports the victims of war and terrorism as though, as John Pilger put it, they are “worthy and unworthy” – the former being innocents killed on ‘our’ side while the latter are those of our official enemies.

This is all part of a much broader media system of propaganda which consistently conflates inappropriate militarism and its symbols with notions of unflinching patriotism. The displaying of national flags plays a very important role in this regard, especially after national tragedies.

For instance, the public were encouraged to adorn the French flag and sing the French national anthem at the England versus France football international at Wembley Stadium a few days after the Paris atrocity as an act of solidarity. But there were no similar calls following the terrorist atrocities in Beirut that happened just a few days before.

The purpose is to try and convince the public to support yet more ineffectual and immoral bombing of innocent people in a far away country in the hope that the people go along with the lie that this strategy has reduced the number of deaths caused by terrorism and is therefore making us safer.

 

The Paris postmortem.

By Daniel Margrain

President Hollande’s declaration yesterday (November 16) that France is on a war footing is an almost seamless continuation of his rhetorical flourishes that followed the Charlie Hebdo attacks in January. This time, though, they have intensified and are clearly intended to give a signal to Syria’s President Assad that he can expect more bombs to be dropped on his country.

Something similar happened after 9-11 when President Bush announced to the American public, and hence the world, that the price to be paid for the deaths of over 3,000 people on American soil would be the spilling of the blood of Islamist terrorists, which of course, turned out to be a euphemism for the deaths of a million Iraqi civilians. Although the countries’ and time-frames are different, the magnitude of the grandstanding rhetoric and the upcoming violent retributive responses are not.

Hollande said that the terrorist attacks were “orchestrated from abroad”. But so too have been the attacks on Syria by NATO over the last four and a half years. The dropping of Western imperialist bombs under the umbrella of a war based on the responsibility to protect doctrine, is far more deadly and destructive than the collateral damage caused by a handful of psychopathic killers and sadists under the epithet, “terrorism”. The intended aim of the latter was to cause a lasting sense of disorientation and fear among the masses while the purpose of the former is the destabilization of a country as the precursor to the eventual domination of an entire region by a Western elite.

The leaders of the great imperial powers whose whirlwind of destruction throughout the middle east has resulted in the debris blowing back into the symbolic and literal foundations of Parisian culture have, in so doing, struck at the heart of enlightened modernity and bohemian excess. A city whose decadent charms could be best discovered by walking it’s streets in the manner of the flaneur is rapidly becoming a pastime that is out of step with these increasingly coarse times.

What the impact of creeping globalization has managed to do to the cultural landscape of the city is to diminish its collective sense of unity and resistance to the vagaries of market forces that typify many other cities. The political consequences that will almost certainly arise from the terrorism witnessed on the streets of Paris will be a further crackdown on civil liberties, growing suspicion of the “other”, a rising tide of chauvinist nationalism, and the implementation of a strategy of divide and rule.

The panic and fear witnessed on the streets of the city shown on the mainstream news channels in the aftermath of the attacks will, I suspect, be an illustration of what is to come in the future. The fear will likely be whipped up by the French mainstream media and leading politician’s who, as the investigative journalist Gearoid O’Colmain has pointed out, will almost certainly focus their campaigns on undermining attempts by dissidents who publicly question the established order.

For all of the fighting talk by Hollande of how the war will be taken to the terrorists and how they cannot hope to succeed with their strategy of violence, is not borne out by the resulting panic that ensued. The uncomfortable truth is the terrorists are winning. We now live in an era of eternal war fought on the absurd premise that a corresponding everlasting peace is just around the corner. This circular illogicality is underpinned by numerous ongoing conflicts which are being fought on unlimited battlefronts on a global scale.

This scenario isn’t lost on the elite 1 per cent who regard the end game as the emergence of a “peace” predicated on continued injustice and the creation of a wilderness starved of hope and aspiration for the remaining 99 per cent. The combination of an Hobbesian world and the kind of future of the science fiction of Huxley and Orwell  is in truth a mark of the present that somehow we have let happen as though having stepped blindfolded and hypnotized into the pages of the novels of their creators’.

The people of the world are caught in the middle in this disaster while the elite look down on the chaos and carnage from their ivory towers and from the luxurious comfort of their gated communities. The connections between the environmental degradation of our planet which is crumbling around us, and the limits of a system predicated on the unsustainable concept of unlimited economic growth and warfare are clear.

The propaganda that the leading politicians and their mouthpieces in the mainstream media present to the public is the notion that state violence is the default position to counter the terrorism of which the chaos and carnage described is implicit. The BBCs political editor Laura Kuenssberg, for example, constantly gives the impression of being baffled about peace over violence.

In a high-profile piece on the BBC’s flagship News at Ten programme on September 30, Kuenssberg featured in an almost comically biased, at times openly scornful, attack on Jeremy Corbyn’s stance on nuclear weapons.  The overall narrative is that violence is the answer to violence which is presented as normal while diplomacy and peace is regarded as radical and “off message”.

Rarely do the media point out the truth that violence against an ideology can never in practice be a winning strategy or that neoliberal socioeconomic fundamentalism is as extreme as its politically-inspired violent offshoot. One of the causes that has laid waste to alienation and radicalism in Paris is the kind of socioeconomic discord that the racially segregated Muslim ghettos at its periphery and its sterile hollowed out core reflect.

What underpins this socioeconomic discord is the history of French imperialism and colonialism. The root cause of the despair and terrorist depravity that the world witnessed last Friday is not located in the bazaars of Damascus or the cafes of Algiers but in the boardrooms and plush offices of metropolitan cities like London, Paris and Washington.

 

War & terrorism differentiated by the power the state has at its disposal

By Daniel Margrain

The twisted ideology of terrorist Mohammed Emwazi (Jihadi John) is as repugnant as it is depraved and inhumane. It’s to the credit of the family members of those individuals Emwazi killed, such as the widow of David Haines, that they stated publicly the preferable course of action would have been to have ensured the killer was brought to trial. This would of course have been the legal and moral approach to have taken. Moreover, it would have emphasized the divide between the democratic process pertaining to justice on the one hand, and the illegal act of extra judicial killing on the other. It’s this principled divide that separates liberal democracies from that of terrorist barbarism.

It was therefore revealing that David Cameron praised the “quick fix” nature of Emwazi’s political assassination, while Jeremy Corbyn agreed with the family members by expressing grave doubts about the government’s policy of extrajudicial killing. Cameron’s subsequent cynical political grandstanding in front of the world’s media was intended to give the false impression that the West are winning the battle against ISIS while simultaneously depicting Corbyn as weak and unpatriotic.

But the reality is that the “patriotism” implied by Cameron’s stance on Ermwazi’s death resulted in the latter’s martyrdom which the terrorist sought from the beginning. Thus the likelihood is that his killing will be a further recruiting agent for ISIS in Syria that the attacks in Paris are an extension of.

As the words from the terrorist statement claiming responsibility for the slaughter in the French capital make clear, the kinds of sadists who gloat about the massacring of people enjoying their warm Friday evening in the bars and cafes of the city are warped individuals who have no moral or ethical scruples about who they kill or how.

But it’s also worth highlighting that among the religious obscurantist language contained in the statement, there are also references to “Crusader’s” which although on the surface is crude, is nevertheless an expression of something that’s fundamentally political in nature. In that sense, the statement is no different from the majority of Bin Laden’s public statements in that it provides secular, not religious rationales for the attacks.

Nowhere in the statement does it justify terrorism against the West as a means of subordinating Western unbelievers to the true faith, but uses the phrase “crusader nations” when describing Germany and France “attended by the imbecile of France (Francois Hollande).” This is the political underpinning to the dirty and inhumane method of terrorism displayed by the psychopathic killers.

The question is, would the killers have used these kinds of methods if they had at their disposal the high-tech operations and “clean” logistical tactics of their French counterparts that preceded the attacks? This includes Hollande’s 2012 arming of Syrian rebels that are in breach of a UN embargo, the emergence of France as the most prominent backer of Syria’s armed opposition, and its direct funding of rebel groups around Aleppo as part of the push to oust the embattled Assad regime. In addition, there is evidence of further French complicity in aiding opposition groups as well as Hollande’s pro-regime change rhetoric here and here, and fighter jet deals here and here.

The fact that the terrorists are unable to compete with the violence that powerful state actors can dish out means that the damage the latter are able to inflict is much more extensive and devastating than anything a suicide bomber can inflict. It is a mistake to think that all the individuals who fight under the ISIS banner are driven exclusively by ideological Islamist motives or that the terrorists represent an existential threat to our way of life.

It’s important to highlight some context in relation to this latter point. Terrible as these attacks were, they killed 0.01% – that’s one in ten thousand – of the population of Paris. There are over 600 murders a year in France. Many more people die every year in traffic accidents in Paris than were killed in this atrocity.

It’s arguably the case that many who ascribe to the ISIS death cult do so because they have, in part, been radicalized as the result of a deep sense of injustice and oppression which is then expressed by a commitment to a religious outlook and way of behaving. I disagree with the view of many of those on the “left” who argue that Islamist terrorism has nothing at all to do with Islam. It’s my contention that those who commit terrorist acts often self identify as Muslims so for them Islam is the issue.

The fact that tolerant Muslims claim that their radical counterparts are not authentic Muslims seems to me to be a canard because both factions will justify their own actions by recourse to their own specific interpretations and cherry picking of their religious book in order, in the case of the latter, to justify secular political grievances. This was the case of what is known of the background of one of the 9/11 hijackers, Mohammed Atta:

“The grievances he loudly and frequently articulated against the United States and the Muslim autocracies that the United States supports were almost entirely secular. Most of those who knew him before 1996 stress not Atta’s religious piety…but his implacable fury at the plight of the poor and the indifference of the rich… He was bitterly angry at the visible juxtaposition, in Cairo, of extravagant and frivolous luxury with mass squalor and hopelessness. Egypt’s elite, in particular, was hypocritical, he believed. They showed a ‘democratic face’ to the West, while displaying complete indifference to the misery of ordinary people at home. They had sold their country to the West for trinkets.”

Just as Emile Henry, the French bomber of the café at the Gare St Lazare more than a century ago, saw bourgeois women and children as “guilty” by association, so there are people suffering from imperialism across the world (and not just Muslims) who see the ordinary inhabitants of the oppressor nation as equally “guilty” by association with what “their” nation is doing. This is a terrible inversion of the argument that says that because Hollande, Cameron and Obama were elected, their actions in unleashing war are legitimate. The terrorist logic is that the population cannot be “innocent” because they voted for these politician’s. This is the politics of despair.

The only “strategy” the West seems to have against the ISIS terrorists which extends beyond the “sticking plaster” approach implied by extrajudicial killing, appears to be to continue to drop more indiscriminate bombs from a great height on the people of Syria creating the kind of collateral damage that the sadists who created the carnage in Paris could only dream of. This is because the West is not fighting a traditional standing army of a recognized state that’s easily identifiable, but a set of well armed, financed and organised collection of individuals who are highly mobile.

Leading Western politicians’ seem to be totally oblivious to the fact that what is supposed to separate our democracies from the tyranny of the terrorists is the concept of the rule of law. Our leaders’ promotion of a policy of bombing Syria “even harder” towards democracy makes us no different in essence from the tactics used by the terrorists we condemn, thus making the concepts of war and terrorism distinguishable from one another only in as much as the former is indicative of state power.