Sunday 15 November 2015

Six smarter ways to stop the terrorists

It is important to fight the real enemy, not an imaginary one
François Hollande declared the attacks on Paris “an act of war that was waged by a terrorist army, a jihadist army, by Daesh [the Islamic State], against France.” The French president (who was at the soccer game outside which bombs were detonated), has promised that France will wage "pitiless war" against those who conceived and executed the attacks.

Now there's two ways to respond to the Paris attacks - an unthinking violent way, and a smart way. Guess which one is in favour? The influential magazine, Foreign Policy, puts it very clearly, it sees  in the streets of Paris an occasion for the ruthless application of hard power.

France has already had one outrage - in the senseless killing of a group of the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists seated around their conference table. The response to that - essentially an attack on free speech - was a new law prohibiting language that the State interpreted as supportive of terrorism. In the days that followed, several hapless French motorists were given life terms in prison for breaching the new rules.

A 34-year-old man who hit a car while drunk, injuring the other driver and goaded the police when they detained him by praising the acts of the Hebdo killers was sentenced to four years in prison. In the following days, according to Cédric Cabut, a French prosecutor, a good hundred people were investigated or charged with making or posting comments that 'supported terrorism'. Of course, the charges were ridiculous. But the principle of 'free speech' the cartoonists had died for was buried further.

And rather than arrest and carefully dissect the mindset of the terrorists, the government organised a spectacular 'shoot out' with them, which left the media satisfied but the nation deprived of an opportunity for a meaningful investigation into the underlying issues.

And now less that a year on, another and indeed worse tragedy, underlines the failure to learn anything from the first one.

The immediate response was to 'close the borders' - a grand slamming shut of the characteristic French shutters  -  to stop terrorists getting in or out. This involved several hundred thousand police and army. But it was entirely irrelevant to a terrorist cell made up largely of European (three were from Brussels!), indeed, French, nationals.

So let me tentatively and in a spirit of solidarity, offer the French authorities some more 'analytical' six ideas on behalf of the ordinary people of France  - not the government or the security forces - who were the chosen targets as well as the victims in both attacks.

1. There is no way to stop small groups of people killing ordinary citizens. You can protect your elites, but cannot protect the vast majority. Thus the real battle is for minds and hearts.
"A 242-ship Navy will not stop one motivated murderous fanatic from emptying the clip of an AK-47 into the windows of a crowded restaurant."

2. It follows from this that the security services must work under and for the people, not on top of and against them, as has always been the case in France. The most egregious example of what happens when the security services operate in isolation from the people came in the Second World War when the gendarmerie rounded up Jews for transportation to the Nazi death camps.

3. Instead of these 'muscular' reasons - immediately proffered again by the French politicians - there should be an intelligent response, both in terms of social policy and in terms of security. Suspicious individuals, of whom for example returned jihadis are an obvious and entirely manageable group, should be individually watched and their activities curtailed. Policies directed against the 60 million French people - such as closing the borders, searching all vehicles etc etc - are not only an abuse of power but a waste of resources.

4. The French State needs to respect citizens of all religious persuasions. It simply won't do, for example, to  impose pork on Muslims (or Jews, or indeed vegetarians) in school canteens, nor is there any rational argument for opposing the wearing of headscarves. Face-obscuring garments I think are in a different category. There is a tendency to seek the erasure of religion today rather than the freedom of religion. At the same time, radical Islam itself seems to advance by encroaching on the laws of a nation. It expands its ‘territory’, where other religions focus on heart.
5. Part of the State's obligations to all its constituent groups is to ensure equality of opportunity - and to actively combat inequality. It is in the swamps of the sprawling suburbs of the cities, that the Hebdo killers festered. Jihadis are by no means explained as simply frustrated workers, but on the other hand, their twisted senses of grievance are fuelled by the extremes they see in life around them.

6. The militarisation of the police and the frequent use of the army by the French State creates inevitably a response, and the people who suffer most, as we have seen now, are the weakest and most defenceless. It is thus shameful to hear the drum beating and the clamouring for more 'resources' from the security services that have so clearly let down their citizens.

Europe needs to think outside the box, not only about war but about peace.  I sense that it needs fundamentally new ideas, even mindsets, and an openness to new ideas without its obsession to preserve what it has, or idolises. 

But there's one other practical step that can be taken. Stop propping up the anti-democratic regimes in the Gulf States. The ones behind 9/11, and many other atrocities worldwide - and now the new horror in Paris.


Thomas O. Scarborough said...

The events in Paris highlight another great shift in our world. Europe has become remote to Southern Africa. It is perhaps the first time it has been this evident. Out for lunch in a café in Cape Town today, I looked over four Sunday newspapers. None of them gave the Paris events a headline. Three had cuts and jumplines to reporting on Paris, yet none of them covered it before page four.

Tessa den Uyl said...

(quote) its obsession to preserve what it has (unquote) is limitless in its brutality towards everything. It can only think for itself and will turn everything into the appearance it wants to see and maintain. Usually the it is difficult to understand what it indicates, but here we know.

Italian newspapers reported "islamic attack" as if Daesh represents Islam? Preferably would be no report at all. This is not a local problem but a world problem. Only in the shade of her wings of power we live. How can we ever escape this reflection when her wings are as large as the globe? The consequences of a monetary system.

docmartincohen said...

Yes, indeed. I was trying to highlight the unfortunate human tendency to go for the wrong explanations - the knee-jerk, 'reptile brain' ones. In this case - we need to stop the foreigners getting in, to be fearful and suspicious of other systems, other religions, other ethnicities. We see all of these reactions emerging again here. But behind the atrocities were European citizens, very much products of Western culture. And, as the final link (recently added) emphasises, manipulating them are the unaccountable secret agencies of the state. In a very real sense, the enemy within Western Society is not poverty or Islam or extremism, but the secret security apparatus.

Unknown said...

Yes, Europe should think outside the box, that is to think about negotiation. Men have war, and so do animals; the difference is that men can negotiate. Without considering the possibility of negotiation, we are conducting an animal war.

docmartincohen said...

"Thinking outside the box' is really important, yes. That said, personally, I don't see this as a 'negotiation' though. I see it in terms of social engineering - to drain the 'swamps' in which both human desperation and maniacal egotism (Schopenhauer ahd a good insight into this! - the ant that eats its own body) can find support.

Sci. Ahmed El-Deeb said...

I think, Martin, that you nailed it right at the heart. No one can dispute the brutality of the situation and the understandable emotional reaction, that might push it well beyond rational interpretations. However, this can be understood about the people, but not the politicians. In my opinion, I believe governments and politicians are using the situation to advance their agenda. The drastic reaction in each incident shows a dormant and pre-existing hatred/agenda. And they do it smartly. When collective pressure is applied on all, the French would be cursing Muslims at each road bottleneck for security checks and vehicle search (Saying to themselves "God curse those terror Muslims who caused this pain to us."). They squeeze the people with the right object of injected hatred - I slap you with a rob of metal, so you grow hating metal. Next day, strikes in the streets calling for expelling all Muslims from France.

Not only this, but joining the crusade of war against terror would have other sexy opportunities for a politician. It gives access to remote operations; in Syria, Iraq...etc. And it gives him a chair on the table with world giants, beside Obama and so, to discuss how they will fight terror.

They don't believe terroristic groups in anything or for any rights except that their claim of belonging to Islam. Whatever they say or claim right to is denied. They say Islam, it's noted. Isn't it funny? Because this is the piece of info. needed to play the card.


Perig Gouanvic said...

Tessa, the italian coverage seems terrible, but let me tell you that, even here in the new Canada we have (the Trudeau's multicultural canada), there are media outlets which basically say, or give voice to those who say, that Islam is fascism is terrorism. This is depressing. Another kind of example. Today, an "Arab killer" was caught by the police. He had threatened to kill one arab a week. Guess what!

Although the police had requested to take down this video, to prevent copy cats and social unrest, our major Berlusconi-style media went against this and published the video -- without any warning or critiical comment!

One thing that goes with point 5. and 4. in this article is that, very pragmatically, laws that alienate the muslims (scarf law, and other such rules), not only cause directly a sense of alienation, but also makes it difficult to take advantage of one of the most successful, time-proven methods in the history of the police : denunciation. I don't have this article right now, it quoted a French judge involved in counter terrorism.

It said -- and this goes well with the popular focus you give, Martin, to your article, that those who alert the police about suspicious behaviours are Muslims; and they do that because it is accepted in the Muslim communities that Muslim can go to the police of the state for help. And the judge said that, year after year, there are less people who alert the police, with lethal consequences.

Perig Gouanvic said...

"In my opinion, I believe governments and politicians are using the situation to advance their agenda. "

Yes, and I believe one is mass surveillance; although U.S. Mass Surveillance Has No Record of Thwarting Large Terror Attacks, Regardless of Snowden Leaks.

Another is to promote an artificial clash of civilization for the benefit of a very tiny colony in the middle east, which has many supporters in the US.

docmartincohen said...

Thanks, Perig and Ahmed. This is really the practical issue - I'm so disappointed to see the French security services being able to produce their new 'shopping list' of high-tech powers, 10 000 new salaries, access to everyone's travel details, etc etc - coupled with attacks on those liberties that would exactly as Perig says in particular, be part of a civil society where the community can act and report potential threats.

It's really disgraceful - and frightening - how 'out of control' the security agencies are. After so many died in Paris, there is not a whisper of a public inquiry into the security failings... The interior minister will not be challenged. Instead the kind of slurs and polarisation you both mention will be redoubled. What can the people do? We are really caught in the middle between two kinds of fanaticism.

docmartincohen said...

ps A straw in the wind? The NYT offers support to Pi...?

Mass Surveillance Isn’t the Answer to Fighting Terrorism
17, 2015

Perig Gouanvic said...

On the same day Glenn Greewald's Intercept published

U.S. Mass Surveillance Has No Record of Thwarting Large Terror Attacks, Regardless of Snowden Leaks
Jenna McLaughlin

Nov. 17 2015

Perig Gouanvic said...

And let me add, concerning the security failings, that things promise to be extremely complicated once people start to enquire about that. The reason : the proof of advanced warning the **same day** exists, but raising this issue is a no-no, because of who warned who.

The picture says it all :

Please use automatic translation for the article per se :

» Des « officiels juifs » prévenus le matin des attentats? Un média israélien censure sa propre info

Maybe you won't be able to access these links; this site is under constant cyber attacks. It takes much longer to load, too, perhaps because it is being consulted by a lot people.

Tessa den Uyl said...

If the cause for a burning house is an excess of gas one would normally close the gas and extinguish the fire.

Tessa den Uyl said...

p.s. meaning one would not invest in more armament, more wars and 'security' but one would start to take care dealing with errors from the past.

Perig Gouanvic said...


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