I believe (based on extensive previous evidence) that Burkina Faso would not be getting attacked by Al Qaeda were it not for France’s selfish decision in 2014 to deploy counterterrorism troops to the country indefinitely (and to put them up regularly at the hotel that was attacked on Friday). Burkina Faso is extremely poor and fragile, but it’s working hard to secure its fledgling democracy. Burkina Faso doesn’t bother anyone or get involved in these matters, but France used its influence to meddle and endanger everyone there. This is spreading terror, not containing it.
Following a report by German intelligence on the threat posed by Saudi terror financing and religious propaganda networks – a report disavowed by Chancellor Merkel – Germany’s Vice Chancellor, of the junior coalition partner Social Democratic Party, offered some public thoughts.
The Telegraph (UK):
Sigmar Gabriel said that the Saudi regime is funding extremist mosques and communities that pose a danger to public security.
“We have to make clear to the Saudis that the time of looking away is over,” Mr Gabriel told Bild am Sonntag newspaper in an interview.
“Wahhabi mosques all over the world are financed by Saudi Arabia. Many Islamists who are a threat to public safety come from these communities in Germany.”
The allegation that Saudi Arabia has funded mosques with links to Islamist terrorism in the West is not new. But it is highly unusual for a Western leader to speak out so directly against the West’s key Arab ally.
His full statement wasn’t unqualified either…unfortunately. The Kingdom continues to get a special pass vastly misaligned with the scale of its involvement in global destabilization today.
Previously on this topic:
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In times of crisis, we are made to feel we should scrutinise our government’s actions less closely, when surely that’s when we should pay closest attention. There’s a feeling that after an atrocity history and context become less relevant, when surely these are actually the worst times for a society to go on psychopathic autopilot. Our attitudes are fostered by a society built on ideas of dominance, where the solution to crises are force and action, rather than reflection and compromise.
If that sounds unbearably drippy, just humour me for a second and imagine a country where the response to Paris involved an urgent debate about how to make public spaces safer and marginalised groups less vulnerable to radicalisation. Do you honestly feel safer with a debate centred around when we can turn some desert town 3,000 miles away into a sheet of glass? Of course, it’s not as if the west hasn’t learned any lessons from Iraq and Afghanistan. This time round, no one’s said out loud that we’re going to win.
This essay originally appeared in The Globalist.
Nothing can ever justify or excuse an act of terrorism against civilians. But that does not absolve us from truly comprehending the links between the foreign and military policy approaches pursued by Western governments and the reactions this generates.
The aftermath of a terrorist attack is an especially difficult time to ask difficult questions about strategy. But just as the United States has faced a lot of (justified) criticism for refusing to acknowledge the direct linkages between misguided interventions and blowback incidents, we cannot apply a different yardstick to France.
Watch for the warmongers
This is all the more critical as, in the wake of the events in Paris, there are those pundits and policymakers who are trying to let slip the dogs of war or beat the drums by defining the scourge of “radical Islam” and “homegrown terrorism” as the root of all evil.
If we should have learned one thing by now, it is that tough talk is not the same as serious, strategic policymaking. It is irresponsible to undertake foreign policies without accurately representing to the public the likely risks to them that it will create.
As we assess the future approach, we must also take account of the role that Western governments have played in creating this catastrophe.
This applies especially to all those who glibly claim that ISIS “cannot be contained; it must be defeated,” as Hillary Clinton has just done.
Such an argument conveniently overlooks the fact that it was the U.S. government that inadvertently gave rise to this movement. Its decades of invasions and unpopular interference in the region ultimately culminated in the Pandora’s box war of choice in Iraq. Out of, and in reaction to, these policies grew al Qaeda and ISIS.
The advocates of such a strategy must also explain what can possibly be accomplished by responding with yet more force in an already war-torn region.
An eye for an eye strategy, while sounding principled, makes the whole world blind to the pitfalls such an approach has been triggering.
The French example
France can actually serve as Exhibit A of the pitfalls of a more “muscular” approach. The cruel attacks in Paris are demonstrably reactive in nature.
The unfortunate reality no one wants to discuss at the moment is that France’s Presidents Nicolas Sarkozy (2007-2012) and François Hollande (2012-present) have pushed the envelope for modern France on maintaining a highly aggressive and forcible military presence in majority Muslim countries.
Not since perhaps the Algerian War has France meddled with, sent troops to or bombed so many predominantly Muslim regions in such a short span.
President Sarkozy led regime change in Libya by air campaign in 2011 at the nadir of his domestic popularity. We know what that resulted in. He did it for oil and whatever it was that Iraq War apologist Bernard-Henry Lévy promised him would transpire.
But his successor, President Hollande, went way, way farther — claiming, almost George W. Bush style, that he was fighting ‘them’ over there to protect France from terrorist attacks at home. This approach painted a much bigger target on France’s back.
The Hollande record is this: First, he invaded Mali in January 2013, after it collapsed as part of fallout from the Libya meltdown. He did so purportedly to stop terrorism and prevent the creation of a terrorism launching pad near Europe (despite Libya being much closer and truly festering).
In December 2013, he then invaded Central African Republic to ‘save’ Christians from Muslim militias that had already been disbanded. (It did not help that French troops now implicated in widespread child abuse stood by as Christian militias mutilated Muslim civilians’ corpses in front of them.)
In May 2014, Hollande announced a large, permanent rapid strike force deployment to five “Sahel-Sahara” West African nations, all of which were majority or plurality Muslim. He sent jets to bomb Iraq in September 2014. Finally, a year later in September 2015 he sent jets to bomb Syria.
It is difficult to understand Hollande’s declaration that the November 2015 Paris attacks are an “act of war” by ISIS, in view of the reality that France has already been at war with ISIS for more than a year.
Note, too, that the United States was barely involved in half of those misguided efforts.
Whether or not it can match U.S. capacity, France is no longer a junior partner or even hapless “sidekick” to the United States’ mayhem. In that sense, Hollande has gone much further than Tony Blair ever did during the Iraq War episode. Blair restrained himself to just being a sidekick.
France under Hollande has turned itself into an active cyclone by pursuing a militarized foreign policy – a strategy that may prove self-defeating. Read more
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Gareth Porter explains how the U.S. is about to be forced by its own allies to accept certain anti-democratic terrorist groups over other anti-democratic terrorist groups in Syria, unless it (sensibly) revises its policy there quite dramatically:
British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond has revealed that the next phase [of the Vienna talks] will turn on bargaining among the international sponsors of anti-Assad groups about who would be allowed to join a new government.
Those decisions, in turn, would depend on which of the groups are deemed by the foreign sponsors of those very groups to be “terrorists” and which are deemed acceptable.
As Hammond acknowledges, the Saudis are certainly not going to agree to call Ahrar al-Sham or other extremist jihadist groups allied with it – or perhaps even al-Nusra – “terrorists”.
They may have to give up al-Nusra Front, which has expressed support for the Islamic State terrorist assault on Paris. But they rest they are likely to continue to back.
Unless Obama is prepared to face a rupture in the U.S. alliance with the Sunni Gulf Sheikdoms over the issue, the result will be that the same anti-democratic groups committed to overthrowing the remnants of the old order by force will be invited by the United States and its Gulf allies to take key positions in the post-Assad government.
Yesterday we spent the day hearing from governors and other politicians, in both parties, lie about the terrorism “risks” of refugees being settled in their states.
It’s an exaggerated concern fomented by cynics and people utterly unfamiliar with the screening process. If terrorists want to attack the US they will seek alternate entry (e.g. illegal entry or various visas with less screening) or they are already here. They aren’t coming through the refugee screening process which barely lets anyone in as it is and requires extremely intensive interviews.
I knew all of that well before this latest controversy based on what I had already spent months researching for The Globalist.
It is very difficult, as this new Huffington Post article explains, to become a refugee in the United States and the vetting is detailed. There are basic identity checks and biometrics, then there are in-person interviews in the staging-area countries, then there are health tests, then there is verification of biographical information, database cross-checks, and if you are approved there is supervision and guidance by the government upon resettlement. It’s a very long process.
The odds of a random jihadist making it through that process without breaking or being caught are basically nil, which is why they would find a different way to get here, if they really wanted to.
A guest essay by Georgia. Republished with permission.
When 9/11 happened I was nine. Our parents told us what had happened but nobody bothered to explain it in terms a child could understand. We knew that some people flew a plane into a building, we knew that lots of people in a place called New York had died, and that was bad, and we knew that it had something to do with a place called Afghanistan. Nobody tried to explain that terrorism’s main goal is to spread fear among the people beyond the immediate victims of the attack, that it hopes to provoke a backlash so severe from the attacked society and government that more sympathy is generated for the terrorist’s cause. Nobody tried to explain what Islam was, what an Arab was, what a Pashtun was. Nobody tried to explain how an entire people are not responsible for the acts of their government, or the acts of a small group of people within their borders. And nobody tried to explain that terrorism has no religion, that the hijackers had as much claim to the Qur’an as the KKK has to the crosses they set on fire. I really think I could have comprehended all that at age nine, if someone had tried to find the words to explain it to me.
The adults in our lives failed us morally at that moment. We absorbed the racism and fear that was filtering down to us in an odd distorted form from the media, from the things we overheard grown-ups saying. We became mini-jingoists, parroting words we didn’t understand, and not one person, not even in the bluest of blue states, Massachusetts, had the moral courage to set us straight. I remember a friend of mine saying that when he grew up he wanted to “blow up Afghanistan,” and my father making an uncomfortable face and sort of dithering before delivering a lukewarm disapproval and changing the subject. I believe that my generation’s soul still bears the marks of that moral failing, and the world is a much worse place because of it.
Now I am an adult, and there are a lot of children in my life who are around the same age as I was back in 2001. I don’t know how much they will be hearing about what has happened in Paris, and I don’t know exactly how I am going to respond to the questions they have. But I do know that I am going to go into school on Monday with a determination not to repeat the silence, the cowardice, the atavistic nationalism that failed my generation. I would ask that my friends, especially those who interact with children, but even those who do not, make a conscious choice to spread love and understanding this week. Educate yourself with the facts, assuage the fears of those around you, stand up to racism, and do not be silent. Let’s get it right this time.