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Thursday, 10 December 2015

Stop Bigging Up Terrorism

There aren’t that many terrorists in the world and they aren’t very successful at killing people. Their successes are concentrated in five countries: Iraq, Nigeria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Syria. Most of those successes are in the context of on-going inter-communal violence. In other words, they arise from the fact that people hate their neighbours more than they hate anyone else. Sunni and Shia; this tribe and that tribe; Muslim and Christian.

Some of the people who get called terrorists clearly aren’t. Right now, we have a man in London charged with attempted murder who is labelled a terrorist because he shouted “This is for Syria” while wielding his knife. But according to his family he is a man with a history of mental illness, specifically paranoia, and though his actions have a “copy cat” character that is true of many mentally ill criminals – they have watched the movie or seen the news and that’s as far as it goes. For this man, Syria just happens to be the movie of the moment.

Terrorist are people who use a specific tactic to create fear and chaos: they murder ordinary people going about their ordinary lives. They may also target political leaders or military personnel in the way that old-style terrorists did, but the signature of modern terrorism is the killing of your neighbours and, if not that, ordinary citizens of a state you are at war with. Sometimes it is even less focussed than that.  When back in 2005 that group with their patronising school teacher leader came down from Up North to bomb the London Underground, it may not have occurred to them that they would inevitably kill Muslims (including foreign tourists) and not just  White Christian Anglo-Saxon Crusaders complicit with Tony Blair’s devastation of Iraq. It's hard to imagine, but maybe they just didn't know that much about London, other than that it was the capital of their Evil Empire.

Everyone talks about the sophistication of ISIS because they know how to use Facebook and Twitter. This is ridiculous. Terror groups recruit from among the disadvantaged and disturbed. Those people may not be very well informed and they may not be very disciplined. That’s why many terrorist cells are broken up before the do anything – their members can’t resist boasting and posting it all on the Internet. When they go shopping for bomb making raw materials they tend to walk into shops and ask for ... bomb making raw materials.

Tony Blair in his recent Pronouncements bigs up the Threat of Islamic Extremism. He would, wouldn't he? 

I am sure there are Islamic Extremists, but there have been for decades. It all got started in Saudi Arabia, a country which has been run on Islamic Extremist lines since the British created it in the 1920s, complete with floggings, stonings and beheadings. But Saudi Arabia is our close friend and ally. Tony Blair as Prime Minister halted an enquiry into corruption in the UK arms industry’s dealings with Saudi Arabia. After 9 / 11 the first plane to leave the USA after the attacks was a jet - authorised by George W – carrying members of the Bin Laden family back to Saudi. The UK and the US over decades have certainly bigged up Saudi Arabia and encouraged its rulers to swagger.

Likewise, when it has suited the US and the UK, they have funded and armed jihadi groups and organisations - just as they funded and armed Saddam Hussein. In Afghanistan, the Taliban grew out of the mujaddin groups funded by the US to fight the Russian occupiers (who were building roads and schools and opening up education and employment to women ...). As recently as 2013, David Cameron asked Parliament to enter the war in Syria against the Assad regime and ... on the side of the jihadis.

Part of the ISIS horror is that, exploiting the weakness and  breakdown of political and social order in Iraq and Syria,  it has attracted to the Middle East hundreds – maybe thousands – of mercenaries excited by the prospect of not only getting wages for killing people but personal sex slaves as a bonus. Those mercenaries, for the most part, are disadvantaged and disturbed young men from poor districts in Belgium, France, Great Britain, Russia and other countries. I think it’s misleading to call this “Radicalisation”. The radicalism is a very thin veneer over a great deal of anger and worse.

And part of the solution to the Middle East problem is for the West to put its own house in better order. France under President Hollande is only the latest French government not to tackle the problem of it disaffected suburbs and its wider problem of youth employment in a state which remains intensely focussed on the needs of  middle-aged  Monsieur Normals. The gunmen who rampaged in Paris recently had all grown up in Belgium and France, speaking French. Thus have things developed since the 9 / 11 hijackers had to make their way from Egypt and Saudi Arabia to New York.

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