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Paris Attacks: Don't Blame These Atrocities on Security Failures
The causes of last week's carnage are political, a blowback from wars in the Middle East
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Did the massacre at Charlie Hebdo succeed, in terms of furthering the interests of extreme jihadi al-Qaeda-type Islamic movements? The incident itself is over with the deaths of the murderers, but the degree of their success will only become clear when we see how far French political leaders are lured into an over-reaction.

It was worrying to see Le Monde’s banner headline: “Le 11 Septembre Français.” First, it simply is not true: there were 2,977 victims of the 9/11 attacks and 17 victims in last week’s shootings in Paris. The shock was far greater in the United States than in France because of the visual impact of aircraft crashing into the twin towers, and their spectacular collapse. It is important to keep a sense of proportion about such atrocities, because the perpetrators, whether linked to Islamic State (Isis), al-Qaeda or freelance jihadis, select targets that will guarantee maximum publicity. “The media is half jihad” is a slogan sometime seen on jihadi websites.

Misleading analogies between 7/1 in France and 9/11 in the US should create a sense of foreboding. The most important victory of Osama bin Laden did not come on the day the 19 mainly Saudi hijackers took command of the planes, but in the months and years which followed as President Bush led the US into wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in which American troops fought Muslims. As the US resorted to rendition, the mistreatment and torture of prisoners, expanded security agencies and limited civil rights for its own people it delegitimised itself and acted as recruiting sergeant for al-Qaeda and its clones. If bin Laden had been hiding in the attic of the White House giving instructions to those in the rest of the building he could not have devised a cocktail of measures more likely to aid his cause.

Somehow the degree of failure of the “war on terror” launched by Bush and supported by Britain has never led to those who launched it being held culpable. Fail it demonstrably did, since in 2001 al-Qaeda had a few hundred activists confined to a few camps and towns in Afghanistan and Iraq. Fourteen years later, after vast expenditure on anti-terrorism by the US and its allies, al-Qaeda-type movements control large areas of Iraq and Syria and dominate the Sunni Arab armed opposition in both countries. Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, based in Yemen, is a growing power as the shock troops of the Sunni community. On the same day as the Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris, some 36 police cadets were killed in the Yemeni capital Sanaa by an al-Qaeda suicide bomber.

Will France make the same mistake the US did, when the Bush administration, the neo-conservatives and state security agencies exploited 9/11 to increase their power and implement their agendas? It could easily happen. Former President Nicolas Sarkozy has already spoken twice about the “war of civilisations” that sounds suspiciously like a French version of Bush’s “war on terror”, which in present circumstances is the sort of demagoguery that will be music to the ears of jihadis. There is already a potential constituency for jihadism among France’s 6 million Muslims, who have been pushed to the margins and see themselves as the victims of old-fashioned racism disguised as a confrontation between progressive secularism and medieval Islamic practices.

War exposes and exacerbates such divisions in any country but France is especially vulnerable, because of the legacy of hatred stemming from the Algerian war of independence. Some of the rhetoric immediately after the Paris massacre included melodramatic slogans such as “France is at war”. Again this echoes President Bush over a decade ago. And, of course, France is not at war, but, while the slogan is untrue as it stands, it does lead the way to an important but little appreciated truth about French security that applies equally to the rest of Europe.

France may not be at war but it is suffering from the effects at a distance of the four wars now raging in the wider Middle East. Three of these – Syria, Libya and Yemen – have started since 2011, and a fourth in Iraq has massively escalated since that time. In addition, there are continuing wars in Afghanistan and Somalia, which means that there six major conflicts in Muslim countries between India and the Tunisian border that provide fertile ground for fanatical Sunni al-Qaeda type groups to take root and flourish.

In the wake of the Paris killings there is much speculation about what links there may have been with foreign jihadis in the shape of Isis or al-Qaeda in Yemen. But this rather misses the point. Attacks on civilians require weapons, ammunition and the ability to use them, but no great level of combat training. What is really driving these attacks in Europe, and will go on doing so, is the collapse of so many Muslim states into violence and anarchy providing an ideal environment for Sunni jihadism to grow. Unsurprisingly, extreme fanatical Sunni jihadis, whom sympathisers might see as “holy warriors” and one Afghan journalist described as “holy fascists”, do well in wartime conditions. The Isis, in particular, relates to the world around it almost solely through acts of violence.

What would be surprising is if this violence from these six wars did not at some point find an echo among Muslim communities in Europe and elsewhere. Given that there are 1.6 billion Muslims, the great majority Sunni, it is surely inevitable that this will happen. It is the strength of this overall motivation that makes further incidents like Charlie Hebdo so difficult to detect and to stop in France, Britain and elsewhere. Plots and conspiracies, orchestrated from abroad or home grown, conducted by well-trained jihadis or by angry young men with kitchen knives, pose threats too numerous and diverse for them all to be prevented.


French intelligence services are now facing criticism for failing to see the threat posed by Chérif and Said Kouachi and Amedy Coulibaly, but this is a little unfair. Intelligence services have vast masses of information about people who might be dangerous because of their ethnic origins, religious beliefs, suspected views or past actions but other than locking them all up – as happened to many in Britain in during the Second World War – identifying those who pose a real danger is extremely difficult. It is only after they have murdered somebody that their potential as a threat looks so obvious.

The failure that has put all the world in danger is at the level of politics rather than security. It was political leaders who got rid of Saddam Hussein in Iraq, Muammar Gaddafi in Libya and have tried to displace Bashar al-Assad in Syria without thinking through the consequences. One can argue about whether or not this was a good thing to do, but the result of these actions has been to open the gates to al-Qaeda, Isis and their clones. From these savage conflicts sparks are bound to fly and start fires in Europe.

(Republished from The Independent by permission of author or representative)
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  1. German_reader says:

    “Fail it demonstrably did, since in 2001 al-Qaeda had a few hundred activists confined to a few camps and towns in Afghanistan and Iraq. ”

    ?? Al-qaeda was in Iraq before the 2003 war? That’s news to me, I thought the overthrow of Saddam’s dictatorship created the conditions for jihadism’s flourishing in Iraq which before didn’t have much of a presence there.

    • Replies: @anders
    , @Edward
    , @Brooklyn Dave
  2. jb says:

    Whatever your preferred remedy might be, can everyone at least agree on one thing: that allowing large numbers of Muslims to settle in Europe has turned out to have been a terrible mistake, one that Europeans will suffer on account of for decades, if not centuries?

    Sadly, I think many Europeans won’t be able to agree on even that, because it would conflict with their civic religion of tolerance and multiculturalism. But for the most part they won’t contradict it either, and claim that Europe is better off as a result of Muslim immigration, because even for the politically correct the disconnect with reality is pretty damn big. Instead, they will simply refuse to allow the thought to cross their minds.

    So I think it would be a useful tactic to rub it in as hard as possible. “So tell me, do you think mass immigration has turned out to be a good idea? Do you think we are better off because of all these Muslims? Yes or no? Come on, I’d like an answer! You do have an answer, don’t you? You have thought about it, haven’t you? Then why can’t you say yes or no? And etc., and etc., and etc…” You might not convert the pious, but I think a lot of fence sitters would take note.

    • Replies: @Rex
    , @bossel
    , @masmanz
  3. Rex says:

    The more terrible mistake is US support for israel, bases in the ME and non stop war/empire. Without those things we wouldn’t face the current situation.

  4. bossel says:

    “Do you think we are better off because of all these Muslims?”
    Actually, in the case of Germany they are better off. The Turkish immigrants over time had quite some positive effects on GDP, pension funds & tax income (& – not to forget – introduction of new food stuff).
    But this has to be seen on country by country basis. In some countries it’s similar to Germany, in others the effects might be much less positive.

  5. Adar. says:

    Cockburn is correct. The British during WW2 locked up many tens of thousand of aliens for the duration and also allegedly SHOT many more besides. Just executed them. NO taking any chances old boy. OH, but for the old days!!

  6. masmanz says:

    First, a large number of French Muslim population is not immigrants. Second, they pose no danger to France and the occasional criminals can be dealt with easily. They pose no more danger than the likes of Anders Behring Breivik of Norway. Is it a mistake to have so many ‘Whites’ in Norway? The immigrants have contributed to the industrial development of many European countries and helped them regain the strength after the loss of manpower in WWII. Treat them as equal and remember they pose no more danger than the rest of the population.

  7. anders says:

    I think they had some operatives in kurdistan, but Saddam hated them and wouldnt tolerate them in areas he controlled.

  8. German_reader says:


    Ah, ok, that makes sense. Thanks for the info.

  9. I like to remind the author and readers that Sept 11 2001 attacks were not done by 19 Muslims from Saudi Arabia and Bin Laden had nothing to do with these attacks on America. During Bill Clinton’s term, Prominent American Jews confronted Clinton with recommendation to destroy 7 middle east countries. Only Iran has yet escaped. What better way to convince Americans to rise up to plunder middle east. USA on 911 has been SELF purposely attacked–just as was France Paris 7/1 and blamed on Muslims. There is zero prove that in each case Muslims were behind the attacks. A driver license found or Atta’s passport Baloney Baloney more baloney.
    Reason so many Muslims from the middle East have settled into Europe– their homelands have been destroyed and worse West white population are childless or one child at the most. .

    • Replies: @Eileen Kuch
  10. Joe Hill says:

    US policies are setting the whole F’ing world on fire and the world’s collective response is “We Are Charlie” then a giant yawn.

    Have we all gone mad?

  11. Edward says:

    There was a small Jihadi presence in the Kurdish autonomous area.

  12. Edward says:

    I was surprised this article did not mention Mali.

  13. dahoit says:

    Has it been definitely ascertained that the hostages were killed by the terrorist?Or the French police response?Same as with Australia,and Sydney,I’ve never heard anything further about that siege.
    Blowback(don’t ever underestimate the Zionists and false flag endeavors either) from terrible Zionist inspired policies,end of story.

  14. @German_reader

    You are truly right. I believe Al Qa’ida / ISIS is largely a creation of Western intelligence. In Afghan-istan, it was the Taliban who was in control–Al Qa’ida and bin Laden were just being hosted.
    They weren’t calling the shots locally. Saddam Hussein wasn’t going to allow a group like Al Qa’ida to
    function in his country. He did allow some renegade old PLO guys who were on the run to live in Iraq, and supported families of suicide bombers against the Israelis–that was it. Now look what we have! France and a lot of Europe has a much more disaffected Muslim population than exists in the US. We are not a ethnic nation state–there is no ethnicity or race as American. We do not have a history of colonialism (imperialism, yes colonialism not exactly) as does France and Britain (and the Dutch to a much lesser extent). Muslims here are free to take part in American society (notice I stay away from the term American Dream). Muslim society is a much more religious society than our western societies, and therefore they turn to religion to solve all their hurts, insults, and feelings of insignificance. I am not saying that Muslims do not suffer bias in Europe, but at the same time Islam is a supremacist faith. It has to be in charge, it has to be top dog. It doesn’t allow criticism and it doesn’t allow insult (not that one should indiscriminately go around willfully insulting religious figures with sexual imagery), but this is also part of the problem the West has it’s head in the sand over.

  15. @George Archers

    Nojojo, you are absolutely correct. The Twin Towers were NOT brought down by crashing passenger airliners in them, but were, by explosive experts (Mossad operatives, perhaps?) who wired the massive steel columns with mighty powerful explosives some hours before the diverse businesses were to open. Apparently, these explosives were timed to go off sometime after 9 AM September 11, when all employees (except for Israelis) were at work.
    Osama bin Laden was receiving dialysis for his failing kidneys well before the 9/11 attacks and died a month after. Therefore, he was in no condition whatsoever to plan such a complicated event. The real perpetrators were Israel’s Mossad, as well as traitors within the USG (Cheney, Rumsfeld, and the Neo-Cons within the gov’t). There’s even talk going around that micro-nukes were used to bring the Twin Towers down; it’s not so far-fetched, either. Just ask any structural engineer if a very large airliner with a tank full of aviation fuel was capable of bringing either Tower down, that engineer would first, laugh it off, then answer that it would be impossible, since the skeletons of the Twin Towers and their massive columns were made of steel, which melts at 2500 degrees F (aviation fuel burns at 575 degrees F).
    I could go on, but it would take at least a booklet, if not a book, to totally debunk the USG version of the story. Besides, there are authors out there who have already done so.

  16. redwood says:

    I wish the msm would quit talking about Charlie Hebdo. People say they insult all religions, not just Islam. Some people were fired for making comments considered to be anti-Semitic. If those comments or cartoons were published and the publishers were murdered, there would be far fewer people in the West sympathizing with them and discussing free speech and expression.

  17. “whether linked to Islamic State (Isis), al-Qaeda or freelance jihadis, ”

    A woefully incomplete list of associates, don’t you think?

    Somewhat lacking in terms of the world’s known largest providers of politically opportune terrorism, DGSE, CIA, Mossad, MI6.

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