Recent Terrorism Articles
Whether Britain acts against ISIL in Syria isn’t about provoking them or if they pose a threat, but whether our actions will be effective and justified. Whatever we decide, we will get attacked by ISIS; it’s their aim and in their interests. The bigger question is whether we should join our international allies against a terror group that has already declared war on us.
If we have to engage with ISIS sooner or later, then we have to evaluate whether this is the right time and we have the right plan. I said earlier that Cameron hadn’t properly made the case, and want to continue evaluating that.
The people who made up their mind ages ago – whether for or against – are the ones I tend to ignore. It’s clear they aren’t interested in the details and are driven more by ideological than operational reasons.
Yesterday, Cameron set out his case for air-strikes against ISIL (over 36 pages) and then Jeremy Corbyn responded with seven questions. Some of those questions are quite important and I find it odd that some in the shadow cabinet have already made up their mind without see Cameron’s response.
Labour’s Dan Jarvis MP also set out five tests for Cameron in an article earlier, but no one has yet published a checklist to see if Cameron passed them.
Cameron’s arguments for action
1) There is now an agreement at the UN Security Council for action against ISIL. The major world powers aren’t divided. This wasn’t the case in the past during Iraq for example.
2) As part of a coalition, we would help other countries in their actions against ISIL too. By staying out we shirk our moral responsibility (more relevant now Germany as joins in).
3) ISIL recognises no borders between Iraq and Syria, so we cannot attack it without being operational in both countries.
4) There is a diplomatic coalition in place – the International Syria Support Group (US, EU, Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and other Arab states) – but there can be no solution until ISIS is degraded, so Assad can also be transitioned out of power and elections can be held.
5) We cannot degrade ISIL’s main fundraising activity – selling oil – without disrupting its operations in Syria. That requires bombing them.
6) If ISIL is the only major alternative to Assad (as he says), then countries like Iran and Russia would rather have him. To get rid of Assad, ISIL has to go first.
7) There are around 70,000 ‘moderate’ Syrian rebels who could fill the vacuum if we degrade ISIL’s capabilities. [This claim seems highly doubtful. The US military has lately backed off making claims about ‘moderate’ non-ISIL rebels].
Cameron’s case against ISIL in Syria, is essentially more a moral one than an operational one. Since Paris, he points out, it looks odd for us to stay out even though ISIL has already declared war on us.
Arguments against action
1) The biggest problem we have against ISIL is that Arab countries, which have more to lose, are happy to sit on the sidelines. The Saudis are focusing on Yemen and Turkey on the Kurds. Even Jordan has scaled down its bombing after the initial burst of anger when its pilot was executed. Without Turkey closing off its borders or Saudi Arabia seriously challenging ISIL ideologically (yeah right), this is going to remain a stalemate for a long time. Perhaps for longer than a decade. Without their help on the ground, ISIL cannot be seriously pushed back in Syria or Iraq.
For this reason, Iraq is already in a stalemate. As the Guardian’s Ewan MacAskill said yesterday: “Pilots [in Iraq] frequently return to base without having fired missiles or dropped bombs, partly they say because of fear of hitting civilians but mainly because after a year there is little left to hit. So what can the UK add? Nothing much that is not already being done by the US, France and other allies.”
2) The only way to make gains against ISIL is through ground troops. But Arab states aren’t willing to do that yet. In Syria, Kurdish groups are likely to stay within their territory. This has forced Cameron to conjure up 70,000 non-ISIL Syrian troops who will apparently take our side. Who controls them? Are they interested in fighting ISIL or (as is more likely) Assad? None of these questions are really answered, so we can assume they aren’t a serious part of the plan.
3) We are essentially hoping that once ISIL is degraded, Russia and Iran can be persuaded to transition Assad out of power. It may work, it may not. What if he says no? We are back in a stalemate again.
4) It’s difficult to tell whether we will succeed in Syria going by our operations in Iraq because Cameron’s details of our success in Iraq runs into… one paragraph.
5) There’s not much of a plan for post-reconstruction settlement either, though I accept can’t play a huge role here.
So… should we or shouldn’t we?
I’ll be honest, both those against bombing ISIL in Syria and those for it are painting it into a bigger deal than it is. ISIL are already very clear about attacking us, and a slight increase in the bombing campaign will force ISIL to change tactics but won’t lose them much territory (without ground troops).
This makes the political considerations a bit more relevant. If Labour MPs vote against action in ISIL, constituents will say: ‘you’ve got a pacifist leader who doesn’t want to protect us if ISIL start shooting in the streets (shoot to kill) and then you vote against bombing them too! Doesn’t look like you care about our security‘.
Their job is to represent voters (who want action against ISIL), not members (who don’t) – and they have to deal with a leader who already looks weak on national security. Taking this into mind I suspect many Labour MPs will vote for action in Syria.
Put it another way. For Labour MPs, there is more upside to joining the international coalition against ISIL than downside. Cameron’s plan is too weak and wishy-washy to do much damage to Syrians or ISIL.
When Islamic State came to notoriety last year, many commentators including myself made assumptions about its plans.
I wrote for Al-Jazeera that it “poses a far greater threat to Muslims than it does to the west” – and this has remained true. I also said its impact on community relations in Europe and the US “could be devastating” – an obvious prediction that is also turning out to be true, sadly.
But I said something else which now doesn’t apply: “Its leaders believe fighting ‘apostates’ is more important than fighting non-Muslims for now. They want to unite the Middle East under their banner before truly turning their sights on the US and Europe.” I wasn’t alone in this assumption: Obama and his team have not engaged ISIS more forcefully also because of the belief that ISIS did not pose an immediate threat to US interests (see this and this).
But following the attack in Paris it’s clear that despite Islamic State’s initial focus on local sectarian wars, its priorities have now changed. The execution of journalist James Foley and aid worker Alan Henning showed it that it gained a lot (attention, supporters and perhaps donations) for going after western targets.
This goes to the heart of why I’ve been arguing with Al-Jazeera’s Mehdi Hasan over this issue. Mehdi wrote that Russian bombs provoked the ISIS attack, and so do western bombs. The implication is that if we stop bombing ISIS, maybe they’ll stop retaliating. That’s two separate arguments there, one about provocation and other about our response.
Keep this in mind: I agree with Mehdi on foreign policy issues far more than I disagree with him. This isn’t a debate about whether western foreign policy is counter-productive or not (it can be, frequently). I should also add that I don’t think he is excusing or justifying ISIS, as some claim.
My problem is that just as the Right try and divert debate about ISIS to immigration and refugees, many on the Left try and divert it to foreign policy. I think Mehdi et al only see world events through the lens of western foreign policy. All this obscures more important issues that we need to debate about tackling ISIS. (I spend 90% of my time criticising the right for their diversion, so I’m allowed to criticise fellow lefties too). And it assumes the world revolves around what we think / do.
Does western foreign policy drive ISIS?
There is little doubt that western foreign policy has enraged some Muslims enough to join terrorist groups, including ISIS. It has served as a recruiting tool for some of them. But this isn’t the whole picture. After all, there are plenty of other minority groups who have grievances against the government (young black men who get stopped and searched or face harassment) – but they don’t kill innocent people in response.
What annoys me about this narrow focus on foreign policy is that it allows Mehdi (and his fellow travellers) to avoid focus on the other factors that attract Muslims to ISIS.
Last week a NY reporter asked a Dutch ISIS fighter why he joined them. He responded:
Ask yourself which other group is implementing the Shariah as complete as possible? Ask yourself which group is fully taking care of the affairs of the people as complete as possible? No other group but the Islamic State, so me joining the Islamic State was just a matter of time, for they are able to govern the people and implement the Shariah on a large scale — protecting the Muslims, their wealth, health and religion.
This isn’t unusual. When the Luton family of 12 left for the Caliphate, their statement said they were now “free from the corruption and oppression of man made law and is governed by the shariah”, and, “That [Muslims, globally] are willingly leaving the so called freedom and democracy that was forced down our throat in the attempt to brainwash Muslims to forget about their powerful and glorious past and now present.”
When the Canadian ISIS fighter Abu Muslim (aka Andre Poulin) spoke to camera about ISIS, he similarly said:
Everyone can contribute something to the Islamic State, as it is obligatory on us … If you have knowledge on how to build roads and houses, you can be of use here.
In fact, read Islamic State’s magazine Dabiq and you see repeated calls for Muslims to make Hijrah (‘migration for the cause of Allah’) and posters like this:
And calls such as:
So do not say to yourself, ‘I will never succeed in my Hijrah.’ Most of those who have tried, have successfully reached the Khilafah. Amongst them are those who travelled by land, sometimes on foot, from country to country, crossing border after border, and Allah brought them safely to the Khilafah.
For ISIS, reaction to western foreign policy isn’t the motivational driver, it doesn’t even seem to be the key driver for its recruits, as much as some wish it to be. It is the call to join the true Khilafah that is driving ISIS propaganda and apparently many of its recruits.
Unless this is challenged in a pretty substantial way, western foreign policy is a bit irrelevant.
Will bombing ISIS provoke them into attacking us?
According to Mehdi Hasan et al, yes it will. But that is the wrong way to look at it.
The key question is: would avoiding any military engagement with ISIS make us safer? The answer is a resounding no, especially if the experience of others is anything to go by.
Ethnic groups that have been attacked by ISIS unprovoked (Yazidis, Hazaras, Turkmen, Shabaks and Christian nuns) – all of which started before the world had even heard about ISIS. Countries attacked by ISIS (or its affiliated groups) unprovoked: Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Lebanon, Nigeria, Bangladesh, Somalia, China and more.
So clearly, the claim that Islamic State’s actions are a reaction to provocation is ignorant. Its own videos repeatedly cite verses from the Qu’ran about killing all infidels.
1) ISIL wants to conquer the world;
2) it kills non-Sunni Muslims indiscriminately;
3) it regards the west as satanic;
4) it gains (attention, notoriety, support) when it attacks western targets.
So how on earth can anyone seriously claim we shouldn’t provoke them, or that we can avoid conflict if we stay out of their way? This is seriously naive.
It’s true that Islamic State’s reasons for attacking people are “multi-causal” (as Murtaza Hussain said on Twitter) – but that is rather irrelevant. Whatever excuse they conjure up for each target (after all, they even justified sexual slavery), we know they seek a battle with western nations. As I’ve pointed out repeatedly, ISIS want western nations to attack with soldiers. What does it matter what reason they give for fighting us?
Mehdi then claimed (on Twitter) his point is simply that ISIS are more likely to attack us (or will do so sooner) if we attack them. This may be true. I don’t think western troops should return to Iraq or Syria for strategic reasons, but air-strikes have so far helped avoid the Yazidis being wiped out and the Kurds in limiting ISIS advances. Should we just sit by and let ISIS commit massacres one after the other in fear of being attacked earlier? That is advocating cowardice.
Will we avert conflict with ISIS if we sit around and do nothing? No. Is it right to sit to do nothing? No.
ISIL’s modus operandi is massive disruption: it doesn’t care who it attacks (it even ridicules the Taliban and Al-Qaida in Dabiq) and its soldiers aren’t afraid of dying. It’s willing to kill innocent people (even Sunni Muslims) in any country without provocation. Arguing about whether our actions make it less or more likely to hit us sooner or later seems like a very stupid debate to have.
“But surely our foreign policy helps ISIS? We need to admit this!”
Let me summarise:
Did the invasion of Iraq create the conditions for ISIS? Yes, it did. But ISIS has “six fathers” – of which the invasion is just one. As Amir Ahmad Nasr wrote, “the mindset that helped birth it has become far-too-common.” And the invasion was 12 years ago, while most fighters have gone over in the last 2 years while America has retreated from the Middle East.
Is western foreign policy helping get ISIS recruits? Yes, I’m sure it is. But a large proportion of its international recruits seem more interested in joining because they think it’s their religious duty and want to help build the Khilafah, than anger over foreign policy.
And should we provoke them? Well it would be a pretty stupid idea to wait until they get more powerful and then fight them.
So in this broad context, it’s pretty naive to just focus on foreign policy, which is what Mehdi Hasan seems to be doing. And if they want to kill us anyway, why shouldn’t we try and impede their advances?
But more importantly, what about other drivers such as the Khilafah ideal? Who will talk about that? What about a debate on why British Muslims are losing the war against ISIS? What should the strategy be in Europe and the Middle East to counter it? The answer to all of this isn’t and cannot just be ‘have a better foreign policy’ or ‘let’s not provoke them’. That is almost as ridiculous as right-wingers who just focus on refugees/immigration/multiculturalism in response to every terror attack.
That ISIS is imperialistic and hell-bent on war should now be beyond dispute. So the debate on how to deal with them is not just about foreign policy (that may be a small component) – but many other issues that are being swept under the carpet while we argue about whether we are provoking them or not.
Imagine this scenario. A white atheist kills a Muslim couple in cold blood. The media speculates endlessly about the “factors” that drove him to kill them: apparently he had a parking dispute with them; they dressed and talked funny; he was lonely and maybe they did something to provoke him? When this actually happened a few weeks ago, called the Chapel Hill shootings, Muslims were rightly horrified at the coverage looked like it was justifying the murders of several innocent people. So what if he liked cats and was polite to people? Why was his wife given so much time on air to defend her husband?
Or take another example. Imagine you’re a white working class kid who lives in a town like Luton. You’ve heard stories of Pakistani-gangs grooming young white girls and that the police is barely doing anything about it. The gangs make your life hell and, on top of that, they go around harassing gays and soldiers and saying they hate this country. They want to shariah law in town, the gangs say. So you join the English Defence League because you see them as the only people standing up against them. Is he a racist? Or is he a boy driven to join extreme groups in response to events around him?
By now you’ll know what I’m getting at, though some people will no doubt claim these are false comparisons. They’re not.
I’m sick of people who try and “contextualise” terrorism on the basis that someone else is to blame for what that person did. But yesterday, CAGE, which calls itself a human rights organisation (yes and Putin is a human rights activist), said the blame for the radicalisation of Mohammed Emwazi (aka Jihadi John) lay solely with the intelligence services.
Of course it did. Because saying anything else would require admitting that he was actually taught by other Muslims to hate non-Sunnis, be ok with the enslaving of Yazidi women, and behead aid workers. CAGE would never admit that. In their world, radicalisation only happens when the police or intelligence services question Muslims. As a caller to BBC radio yesterday put it: “I’m a black man. I’ve been stopped and searched by the Police on numerous occasions for no reason. That doesn’t give me an excuse to murder people.”
There is no doubt in my mind that CAGE were making excuses for a terrorist. Trying to paint him as a victim who was driven to his heinous crimes by security services (who, by the way, only half-heartedly tried to recruit him). And yet, many people who are normally outraged when the national media make excuses for white terrorists or EDL members, were silent yesterday or supporting CAGE, with a few honourable exceptions
Being so angry about foreign policy that you take it out on some innocent aid workers, journalists, local people — makes zero sense.
— Murtaza Hussain (@MazMHussain) February 27, 2015
Let’s be clear about a few things. The security services are not going to stop questioning Muslims who they think are involved in terrorism-related activities. I only wonder why they didn’t have Mohammed Emwazi under heavier surveillance earlier.
Secondly, CAGE did incalculable harm to the cause of people (like me) who think the security services do sometimes overstep the mark and harass people wrongly. If CAGE is their spokesperson then those people are fucked because they won’t elicit any sympathy whatsoever.
The media is inconsistent in how it covers murders by Muslims and non-Muslims – I agree with this. But Muslims can’t complain of bias in the national media and then fail to criticise a group like CAGE who want to “contextualise” how a man like him is driven to extremism (there were exceptions of course)
@sunny_hundal not all Muslims deny it. Some try to stand against the leftists-Islamists camp!
— Nervana Mahmoud (@Nervana_1) February 27, 2015
In fact I asked several times yesterday of the “context” that makes a man want to kill innocent aid workers (who were helping Syrians), and I got no reply. Funny that.
There are usually two kinds of people who like to commentate on foreign policy matters: those who oppose any military ‘intervention’ in the affairs of other countries; and those who have no problems advocating military intervention and will always defend such action.
I happen to be in a third, less media-friendly category of people who thinks military intervention in the affairs of other countries is a possible last resort providing:
– it is carefully judged and isn’t rushed into
– has a clear purpose and exit plan
– the public is adequately explained why such action is necessary and support it in significant numbers
– the plan isn’t to leave the country in a worse state than it was
I accept that this is too nuanced for many people, especially on Twitter… but ¯\_(?)_/¯
Anyway. I also believe it really helps foreign policy debates if politicians admitted when they fucked up. I’m actually still astounded that Tony Blair – and Nick Cohen, by the way – aren’t embarrassed to continue opining on foreign policy affairs and defending the invasion of Iraq. Living in a bubble makes you oblivious, clearly.
Like Iraq, we fucked up in Libya. We should say this so we can learn from it.
I mean, here we have Jonathan Powell, Tony Blair’s former chief of staff who was then appointed by Cameron as the UK envoy, saying: “Libya could, if it goes down this spiral, end up as a failed state.”
WTAF? There is no mention whatsoever of the UK’s hand in deposing Gaddafi (which I supported at the time), and yet doing nothing whatsoever to ensure a transition to democracy. We have screwed up and yet we’re pretending it’s the Libyan people’s fault their country has collapsed into violence. It beggars belief.
This has now become a pattern: we get involved in foreign conflicts and then we absolve ourselves of responsibility if the country collapses without proper institutions being put in place. Libya is in trouble because of us. We should have helped put institutions in place but we were too busy leaving to declare victory.
Aside from the lives lost in Libya, these kind of screw-ups also dampen public enthusiasm for genuinely necessary interventions in places like Syria*. Our own short-sightedness in foreign affairs is costing lives – of others and eventually ours, through blowback.
* PS – I don’t accept Cameron passed the above tests when rushing into Syria over chemical weapons, which is I supported Miliband’s brakes on the process.
If you watch ISIS’s videos you are complicit in its terrorism, says Nesrine Malik at the Guardian.
Sorry, but this is ludicrous for various reasons. I have watched a fair amount of ISIS videos, unapologetically, and here are several reasons to do so.
1) To study what ISIS are doing and understand symbolism of what they’re saying. ISIS videos are carefully constructed pieces of propaganda. If you want to defeat your enemy then you have to know them. This isn’t just a military war but one of ideology, which makes it even more important to understand that ideology and its weaknesses. It also helps when you’re debating with ‘at risk‘ people to counter ISIS propaganda.
2) For work. Someone has to accurately report this shit, no? Someone has to study the video to see what else it reveals, and whether its actually a fake or not. The fact that ISIS have burnt alive a Jordanian pilot is news, whether people like it or not. So someone has to accurately report it, and others will use to build a better picture of ISIS capabilities and people.
3) Most importantly, I don’t want sanitised and tightly controlled images from national news, I want to see gory details and make up my own mind. I want others to have that opportunity to do so too. War is awful and people need to know this.
For too long we’ve had coverage of news events and war from the perspective of news organisations that are are OK with showing sanitised videos released by governments, but don’t want to show pics or videos of atrocities from their own side. YouTube has changed all that and I welcome it. I don’t want to be told by others what I should or should not be watching re: war or conflict. And I certainly do not want the government stepping in and criminalising people for watching videos of external conflicts.
The New York Times has published an extraordinary account of how the two terrorists who burst into Charlie Hebdo’s office became radicalised.
Here are a few thoughts from the article, and more generally, that I think have the potential to change how western security services deal with al-Qaeda inspired terrorism.
1) Al-Qaeda’s methods have changed to Mumbai style attacks.
If more such attacks take place across Western Europe, which seems likely, then I suspect they will be more in the style of Paris and Mumbai than the 7/7 bombings. Smuggling, building and learning about detonating explosives takes time and effort. It can also be a hit and miss. But a terrorist attack using an assault rifle is easier for al-Qaeda inspired jihadists to put together. The weapons are easier to get hold off and the practice required is minimal. Seems obvious to say, but I suspect the security services are worrying less about guys carrying backpacks and more about guys looking at acquiring AK-47s.
2) The security services are over-whelmed
The French secret service have a pretty good reputation but even they didn’t see this coming, though the two perpetrators had previously been under surveillance.
After at least one of the Kouachis traveled to Yemen in 2011, the United States alerted French authorities. But three years of tailing the brothers yielded nothing, and an oversight commission ruled that the surveillance was no longer productive, said Louis Caprioli, the deputy head of France’s domestic antiterrorism unit from 1998 to 2004.
The brothers appeared so nonthreatening that surveillance was dropped in the middle of last year, he said, as hundreds of young Muslims cycled back and forth to Syria for jihad and French authorities shifted priorities.
In other words, the job of tracking Muslims thinking about joining ISIS, or those who already have, or have already returned from Syria (estimated at 250 by ICSR), is over-whelming western security services. That means they’re likely to demand more funding and more spying powers. It also means the rise of ISIS has created a lot more targets and problems.
3) Jailing jihadists doesn’t help
One of the Paris attackers was earlier jailed in 2005 to 20 months in prison for attempting an attack. He was just an inexperienced and scared boy then. But, like numerous other cases, it was in prison that he met his future mentor and one of al-Qaeda’s top operatives.
This presents a dilemma. We can’t lock people up in prison forever, and yet that may be the place they become even more radicalised. We can’t track them easily forever either, since it costs a lot of money and the rise of ISIS has made that much harder. So what do we do?
We need good de-radicalisation programmes, but there hasn’t been a serious push across Europe or the USA to embrace them either. That, I think, is short-sighted. Prisons aren’t helping.
Prison authorities quickly recruited a handful of Muslim chaplains, but jihadist hecklers disrupted their prayers.
“They would ask a religious question, and whatever answer he gave, they would contest it,” the Muslim activist said. They would mockingly toss out questions: What did the imam think about jihad? What about the situation in Palestine? Why wasn’t halal meat served in the prison?
These guys need aggressive de-radicalisation, not some half-hearted attempts.
4) More Muslims will be arrested merely for reading ‘extremist’ material
Also striking in the NYT report is that the French police had been tracking the terrorists, even to the point that they broke up another plot in 2010 involving one of the brothers. But it was thought there wasn’t enough evidence to convict him despite this:
Among the texts recovered on the laptop — which were included in the court documents — was one titled “Operation Sacrifice.” It described a plan of attack that eerily augured the actions he would later take.
“A mujahideen forces his way into the enemy’s base or else a zone where there is a group and fires at point-blank range without having prepared an escape plan,” it said. “The goal is to kill as many of the enemy as possible. The author will very likely die himself.”
And here is the security service chief’s nightmare – the guy they had been tracking and caught would later commit a major attack like the one he had read about. Fingers will be pointed at the French services, and I suspect MI5 here and the FBI will think its better to be safe than sorry from now on.
What do we bicker about, when we bicker about terrorism? More or less everything except terrorism, is my suspicion.
Here are a few of my observations about the responses I’ve seen to the bloodcurdling horror in Woolwich, starting with
1) When a guy who has just beheaded a man while shouting about Allah is shown explaining that he did it because of violence perpetrated by British soldiers in “Our lands”, it’s probably okay to call him a Jihadist or an Islamist terrorist-wannabe.
You’d think this would be uncontroversial, given that beheading-while-shouting-about-God is one of the Jihadi’s favourite pastimes, and that publicly justifying yourself with standard Jihadi boo-hoo can reasonably be described as “Jihadist behaviour”.
I expect it’s possible that these arseholes were crazy* wannabe-Glorious Warriors of God, but we all know that the sole requirement for being a Jihadi is saying that you are one. That is, after all, the whole point of Al-Qaeda and its offshoots – anyone can join in, by declaring that you want to do so.
There are times when a man bloodily decapitates another in the street while shouting Jihadist slogans. At moments like this, a rush to judgement is probably justifiable. If anything, it’s reasons to doubt Jihadomentalist reasoning that may need backing up in this scenario.
2) While it’s certainly true that 99.99% of Muslims are not bloodthirsty Jihadi arseholes, it is also necessary to point out that a sufficiently worrying number are.
It’s great to see how many people are at pains to note that most Muslims are no happier with psycho-murderers than any section of the the UK’s populace.
Nonetheless, I do have to point out that Jihadi arseholes are a conspicuous and alarming problem whose ability to sow hatred and discord is wildly disproportionate to their meagre numbers, and that this has to be discussed with clear eyes and no illusions.
Going apeshit every time anybody mentions the supremacist Islamist theories popular among most who commit these very specific murderous acts isn’t helping the situation, and is probably helping those who want to inflame it.
Yes, there are “media narratives” and people looking to exploit this or that, but neither I nor the public at large are much worried that “the media” are going to set off nailbombs in our cities.
3) When lots of criminals keep telling you their crimes were motivated by (x), then their crimes are more likely to have been motivated by (x) than by whatever theory you have just pulled out of your arse.
We’ve seen this one before – some twatty little gimp stands up in court and says that yes, he committed acts of terrorism because yes, he’s a Soldier of God in a war that encompasses Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan.
I’m aware that Islamism didn’t spring into being fully-formed from nowhere; I’m also aware that it barely needs grievances to justify whatever destruction it wants to commit. I’m also aware that it won’t go away if we would only tickle its ears and give it a saucer of milk.
But when folk insist on continuing to kill themselves and other people and then justifying it by calling it revenge for this or that disastrous foreign policy catastrofuck, they probably mean that they’re angry enough about our foreign policy to kill and die over it.
This is one of the great unsayables, for much of this country’s pundit class. To note it is to attract accusations that you’re saying that you deserve to be killed, and so on. Sadly for fannies of this ilk, this issue is totally impervious to our feelings about it.
Or, in shorter form – just because a man’s statements are highly inconvenient for your personal foreign policy preferences, doesn’t mean they aren’t true.
A longer version of this piece is here.
Prime Minister David Cameron has today written an op-ed for the Daily Telegraph arguing that ‘we need a nuclear deterrent more than ever’.
But rather than making an effective case for Trident it shows how shallow the arguments are, and in fact undermines the entire project.
Cameron’s claims that we need Trident centres around one country. “Last year North Korea unveiled a long-range ballistic missile which it claims can reach the whole of the United States. If this became a reality it would also affect the whole of Europe, including the UK,” he writes. But this seems to be drinking North Korean Kool Aid – accepting their discredited claims at face value.
In reality the dictatorship has a few mid-range (1800 miles) missiles that would cover South Korea, Japan and possibly the US territory of Guam in the Pacific Ocean. But even these missles are untested according to most independent experts. It has test-fired some long-range rockets in the past but they failed. The idea that North Korea has developed an inter-continental ballistic missile, fitted with a nuclear warhead, that could hit the United States is a fantasy worthy of the North Korean propaganda machine. The Prime Minister undermines his entire project by asking us to take this ridiculous claim at face value.
Cameron has clearly timed the piece well. Last night North Korea escalated tensions against the South and the US by moving mid-range missiles to the east coast. It also locked South Korean workers out of a joint factory complex and said it would restart a previously shut-down nuclear reactor.
But this just exposes how ridiculous the situation is. South Korea may have good grounds to argue for a nuclear deterrent, but the UK does not feature in the military considerations. We aren’t even required to play a part. North Korea is clearly a threat but it is not our threat, and it’s highly unlikely to be a threat to the UK in the coming future. Of course, Trident is a long-term project, but it comes with an opportunity cost: resources are diverted to a big unwieldy deterrent rather than smaller, more cost-effective measures to tackle the threats the UK is likely to face.
In other words the Prime Minister is calling to spend billions on our behalf on a weapon for an enemy that isn’t even concerned by us.
How about a focus on the threats we are likely to face in the future?
Furthermore, it’s not even clear why a full nuclear deterrent is needed more than a scaled-down version. The United States is in fact looking to change course in dealing with North Korea after realising that a show of force may have provoked the crisis further. And what does our Prime Minister want? He wants a big show of force in the foolish belief that this will somehow deter North Korea. If they are willing to threaten the United States why would they even care how many nuclear weapons we have?
I’m not a pacifist and neither do I think it’s likely the UK will get anywhere by unilaterally disarming itself. Clearly, multi-lateral treaties to reduce nuclear stockpiles are the way forward. So what kind of a signal would such a full renewal of Trident send to other countries such as India and Pakistan, who refuse to sign the NPT and keep testing nuclear weapons? Why wouldn’t they use the UK as an excuse to continue arming their stockpiles and putting the lives of millions of people at stake.
And lastly, the decision to spend billions more on a remote threat rather than using that money to help people in the UK undermines the claim that ‘there is no money left’. There clearly is – it’s just earmarked for the sorts of vanity projects that Conservatives like rather than for the most vulnerable in our society.
Following the ruling in the legal case related to the refusal of a gay couple to stay in a Bed and Breakfast, Nick Griffin tweeted the address of that couple. Others have discussed Griffin’s latest attempt to get some publicity for the collapsing BNP in terms of the limits of free speech or argued that the response from many on Twitter was overblown. Something that seems to have been overlooked is what a hypocrite Griffin is for tweeting the couple’s address.
In 2008 the BNP’s membership list was stolen and put onto Wikileaks. This prompted understandable anger from BNP members who had not wished for their names and addresses to be published. Personal data had been improperly been made publicly available and so Nick Griffin took to the TV studios to criticise it. He said then that it was a ‘shame’ and complained that publishing the personal information was a ‘nasty piece of intimidation’.
Now Griffin finds himself being rightly condemned for calling for a British Justice team (whatever that is) to create a ‘bit of drama’ at the couple’s house. His justification for the tweets was that ‘they asked for it’ given their use of the legal system to challenge the B&B owners’ refusal to give them a double room. However, whatever you think of the debate over the B&B issue, one thing is clear. Griffin’s tweet of private information and call for a protest outside their house was in the exact same vein as the publication of the BNP’s membership list. With his call for a ‘bit of drama’ at the couple’s house, Griffin’s actions are best described by his own words: a ‘nasty piece of intimidation’.
The New York Times made a poignant and very worrying documentary in 2009 on how the Taliban were ruling parts of Pakistan and had issued a command that all girls should stop attending schools.
The documentary has resurfaced because the NYT then interviewed an 11-yr old Malala (see box) saying she really wanted to go to school and become a doctor.
Malala Yousafzai is now in critical condition and yet the Taliban have vowed to kill her anyway.
A 15-year-old girl who was wounded alongside Ms. Yousafzai described how easily the Taliban had been able to attack the school bus. “A young man in his early 20s approached the bus and asked for Malala,” the girl, Kainat Riaz, said in an interview at her family’s home in Swat. “Then he started firing.”
What frustrates me about all this is that while left-wingers in the US and UK constantly criticise US drone attacks in Pakistan and Afghanistan – there is virtual silence on what to do about the Taliban.
Let me be clear: I think the drone attacks are counter-productive and also end up hitting a lot of innocent people. And they set an awful precedent for other countries to also use them in foreign territory.
But the Taliban always have been and always will be a much greater threat to Pakistanis than the US.
The Taliban aren’t just a threat to Pakistanis but the entire region. Controlling Pakistan would mean controlling its nuclear weapons and outright confrontation and war with India. And I’m not exaggerating either.
So here’s my question: once the US withdraws from Pakistan by 2014 (assuming Obama gets re-elected, rather than Romney) – do we just ignore the Taliban? Because that is what lefties seem to want to do.
Do we ignore that the Taliban want to subjugate and control Pakistan and Afghanistan, through funding from extremists groups in the Middle East. Do we ignore the fact that they want women banned from public life there and deny them even education?
Of course I’m not calling for an invasion of Pakistan to root out the Taliban. But I’m asking: should we ignore them and leave the region at it? What happened to solidarity with the Pakistanis against the Taliban? Do we ignore them until the region blows up into a nuclear stand-off?
We focus on US actions because we can influence them more than Pakistani govt action. But this is the easy way out for two reasons: the US will never be a threat to Pakistanis on a scale like the Taliban. Secondly, it ignores the longer term threat to Pakistanis.
The Taliban were there before 9-11, so the argument that without the drone attacks they would melt away is fatuous.
They are religious extremists and want Pakistanis subjugated to their extremist version of Islam regardless of who the Prime Minister is. The United States did not create them. And they will be there a long time after the United States leaves. What then?
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