Add Barcelona to the ever growing list of Euro cities facing insurgency

Add Barcelona to the ever growing list of Euro cities facing insurgency

The tide of ISIS’s terrorism in Europe broke on January 7, 2015 at Charlie Hebdo and the kosher supermarket. That attack heralded the start of waves of ISIS directed or inspired attacks that have washed over Europe in the years since. On Thursday, August 17, 2017, terror came to Barcelona. We’ve seen this before. A van rammed into crowds on the busiest street in the city, Las Ramblas at 5 pm. It drove through the crowds, apparently swerving and weaving for maximum impact. The driver of the van is responsible for the deaths of 14 people, and of wounding over 100, 14 of whom are in a critical condition. The driver fled the scene on foot and is, at the time of writing, still at large.

Five suspects were then shot dead in Cambrils, a coastal town 75 miles from Barcelona. The working assumption is that they’re part of the same network as the driver. Meanwhile, early on Thursday morning, there was an explosion at a house in Alcanar Platja, where another member of the network blew himself up with his own bomb.

Islamic State has claimed the attack, saying “Terror is filling the crusaders’ hearts in the Land of Andalusia.” Whether they’re really responsible for this, whether they had some sort of control or role as a guiding hand is not yet known. Time will tell, but the effect is the same even if the attackers were only inspired; another vehicular missile driven by a jihadist mowing down innocent bystanders, guilty of heresy in the eyes of those who murdered them.

We can expect many more of these. Britain has 23,000 suspected jihadists. Belgium has 18,884. France has between 1517,000. Germany has 24,400. Spain has 1000. This totals around 82-84,677 potential jihadists in 5 European countries. While we must not give in to fear-mongering and the temptation to paint with too broad a brush when describing diverse communities, we cannot pretend that these numbers represent anything other than a jihadist insurgency in the heart of Europe. This has destroyed the state’s monopoly over the use of military force, which as Max Weber argued, is the crucial element that gives the state legitimacy.

These vehicle attacks are now a trend in Europe that have become worryingly frequent. Instead of the tragedy of the commons, we now have the tragedy of the common place. ISIS is not the first to call for trucks and other forms of vehicular terrorism; Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsular, in their magazine Inspire, gave detailed instructions on how to carry out a vehicular attack. Dabiq, ISIS’s now defunct English language magazine, also gave instructions on vehicular terrorism. Advice included attaching spikes or shards of glass to the front of trucks that were of a certain height and weight in order that they would have maximum physical and psychological impact. From 2010 to 2014, there were attempted car and truck attacks that were either small scale or foiled in the attempt. Nice 2016 saw the first mass casualty attack with over 80 dead. There was then the Berlin Christmas market attack in 2016, and then there have been 6 Islamist attacks using vehicles and one far-right attack so far this year in Europe.

In these attacks over the last two years, we can see the legacy of two strategists that have had huge influence over ISIS’s use of terrorism in Europe. Abu Bakr Naji argued in The Management of Savagery that even though al-Qaeda was militarily weaker than America and the West, it should promote disproportionate fear by utilising particularly brutal and gruesome terrorist and asymmetric warfare tactics. Naji believed Western societies lacked the strength and the resolve to endure the long war. Instead, he argued that jihadists should continually escalate the depravity and savagery of their actions, destroying Western powers’ will to resist. This would allow them to re-establish control over territory, creating safe havens and bases for future terror attacks, by forcing the withdrawal of Western powers from the Middle East because the cost was too high. We can see his legacy in the regions that faced ISIS’s barbaric campaigns of terror and brutality in the Middle East, and in the actions of terrorists in Europe like those in Paris at the Bataclan, who tortured their hostages and executed wheelchair bound concert attendees.

The other strategist who has had a significant impact on ISIS’s terrorism in Europe is Abu Musab al-Suri. He argued that the American response to 9/11 was overwhelming, had been severely underestimated, and that Al-Qaeda would never be able to regain the freedom that the Taliban had provided. He felt vindicated by the response to 9/11, a response he had always feared. The global jihadist movement had to embrace this new reality, and adapt their terror tactics accordingly. Al-Suri had began advocating a more decentralised approach in the early 90s. He argued that formal hierarchies and structured organisation did not suit the jihadist cause. He was advocating this in the context of militant groups being rounded up in Egypt, Libya and Algeria, as a result of their members congregating in large hierarchical organisations.

The most important influence on al-Suri was Hafez al-Assad’s brutal repression to the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood’s uprising in the 1970’s and 80’s, which impressed upon him the need for smaller decentralised cells which could wage a form of low-intensity asymmetric insurgency warfare, chewing away at the resolve and the will to resist of the local populations. After 9/11, al-Suri’s thoughts came together into a coherent theory, articulated in his 2004 book The Global Islamic Resistance Call. As al-Suri wrote, “The jihad of individual or cell terrorism, using the methods of urban or rural guerrilla warfare, is fundamental for exhausting the enemy and causing him to collapse and withdraw.” He found the justification for these indiscriminate attacks on civilians in the Quranic verse 8:60, which states that “And prepare against them whatever you are able of power and of steeds of war by which you may terrify the enemy of Allah and your enemy and others besides them.” He used this verse in his interpretation to argue that “terrorism is a religious duty, and assassination is a Prophetic tradition”.

This is the “army of one” doctrine. The idea is as simple as it is fiendishly clever and horrifyingly effective. Individuals are empowered to carry out deadly and destructive attacks without an overriding command-and-control hierarchy, giving rise to what Marc Sageman dubs “leaderless networks.” Having no overarching hierarchy makes this form of terrorism much more difficult to counteract and prevent. The reality is this: the origins of Europe’s current Islamist terrorist threat were born in Afghanistan’s mountains more than ten years ago. ISIS, with its utopian, apocalyptic message and ideology that is based on an extreme medievalist interpretation of Islam, is drawing on a rich tradition of jihadi strategy and using it to brutal effect.

In the wake of another terror attack, will we now wake up to the threat and its origins? Or will we allow these attacks to continue, and allow the publics of Europe to continue to bleed and die in the streets?

Re-posted from Bombs and Dollars 

Was Trump’s Warsaw Speech really that controversial?

Was Trump’s Warsaw Speech really that controversial?

Donald Trump made his first major foreign speech on Thursday, July 6, at the memorial to the Warsaw Uprising in Warsaw, Poland. He was surprisingly clear, coherent, and projected conviction and belief in the words he uttered.

I don’t agree with Trump on everything and believe that his personal conduct leaves much to be desired and does not give due respect and reverence to the office he holds. However, the reaction to this speech was disproportionate to what was actually said and reveals the ulterior motives of those making the point.

After the usual diplomatic flim-flam thanking the Polish dignitaries and saying how much he loved to be in Poland, a country placed at the centre of the European continent and witness to some of its defining historical moments, trials and tribulations, he got down to his speech. It was a long one, and the transcript is available here.

Trump however gave a realistic picture of the threats facing the Western world today. He talked about a variety of geopolitical security issues, from radical Islamist terrorism, to cybersecurity issues, to a commitment to Article 5 of NATO, to Russian meddling in the Ukraine.

Of course, because he didn’t spout the same platitudes about ‘hope and change’ and say everything would be fine if we just hold hands and sing ‘Imagine’. That led the predictable circles in the media to weep and wail about how dark it was, how lacking in hope, how deprived of optimistic visions of the future.

They proclaimed that he had regressed to his ‘American Carnage’ rhetoric seen in his inauguration speech. Sorry, the world isn’t a pretty place and there are people who would be quite happy to see the West enfeebled, in retreat and in eventual ruin. Facing up to that, with a degree of honest realism, is now beyond the pale. Maybe that’s why we’re in such bad shape.

After this, Trump really plunged into the heart of his message. And of course, the commentary classes went crazy. The New Republic and Vox.com called it an ‘alt-right’ speech based in xenophobic nativism speckled with a dusting of white grievance. (Compare Trump’s speech with that of Kennedy in 1961)

Eric Foner of Columbia University said on BBC’s Newsnight that Trump’s speech repeated the idea that Trump was espousing white nationalism and alt-right xenophobic nativism. According to him, saying that Europe and the West are based on Judeo-Christian values is basically white pride.

I’m sure those who also subscribe to Judeo-Christian values who aren’t white, like Middle Eastern Coptic Christians and Israelis are thrilled at this incredibly solipsistic and narcissistic display of privilege on the part of some well-to-do academic. 

He also implied that James Burnham, an ex-Trotskyist turned conservative writer was far-right because of the popularity of some of his works among Trump supporters. Finally, he claimed that Trump’s warnings about ‘creeping bureaucracy’ were redolent with far-right panic over the deep-state.

Maybe if he’d actually listened properly, or read the speech, Foner might have realised that Trump was warning against the weight of big government on individual liberty, so casting those who aim for smaller government as also beyond the pale. Messiah College History Professor John Fea tweeted “The West will never be broken.’ We will defend ‘civilization.’ Trump’s speech in Poland has [Steve] Bannon written all over it.“

These are just several examples of the reaction among the commentary class, who basically broke Trump’s speech down to their old stand-by of “fascism!” They don’t realise that their overuse of hyperbolic language concerning Trump’s rhetoric is simply turning people off to their white noise levels of hysteria and angst regarding some opinions they don’t agree with from a man they can’t control, who speaks his mind (often to the worse rather than better) and who doesn’t need them anymore, who doesn’t need their benediction as a member of their club.

They fail to realise that by continuing with their screeching about the impending fascist takeover, about Trump stirring up violence against journalists by tweeting a meme, about Trump supporters being the most violent (Antifa, anyone?), about the whole right of politics being beyond the pale of political and civil society, that they are driving the polarisation of America, and of the wider West. Leaders like Roosevelt and Reagan would now be beyond the pale for making very similar points. I mean Churchill even talked about defending “Christian civilisation” before the Battle of Britain. The horror.

Meanwhile, Trump explicitly said that new arrivals would be welcome and that those who would not be welcome are those who would wish to do us harm and destroy us. In other words, Islamist terrorists. That doesn’t sound tyrannical to me, that sounds like prudent control of a nation’s borders.

If and when something comes along that really is tyrannical in nature, what then? No-one will listen to them, because they will have worn out their tactics of offense, and their quivers will be empty should the situation arise where there really is a risk of something truly totalitarian in nature.

The fact that Trump’s focus on family, freedom, country and God, on the ideas brought to fruition at great sacrifice over millennia that made the West great, such as individual liberty, property rights, freedom of speech, equality before the law, all of which allow these people to have and express the opinions they do, and also the fact that that nation states have a right to be sovereign and have defined and defended borders, all of that is inherently bigoted and all that can be said is that defending these values and ideas is a sign of inherent bigotry.

The alternative is apparently to oppose these values because they are now Trump’s values, so even worse than they already were due to their growth in a part of the world that has never done anything good and has only got to where it is by oppressing everyone else. If you’re a liberal and you support Western civilisation that is built on the aforementioned values, then you’re a white nationalist. Even if you’re a person of colour.

Even if you’re a Never Trumper like Bill Kristol, who also commended the speech or George W. Bush’s speechwriter who called it one of the best presidential speeches given abroad in his lifetime.

Standing up for Western values does not make one alt-right, and to say it does only drives us further apart, cutting us further off from one another and inflaming the each side’s view of the other, risking further violence seen on the ideological extremes.

There can be serious questions about Trump himself, and rightly so. But the fact that Trump said that Poland and the West could be saved, and could go into the future with its head held high if we rediscover our roots and values, who we are, and from that draw the will to survive and prosper, isn’t and shouldn’t be controversial.

Re-posted from Bombs and Dollars

Political Peter Pans: The Millennial Generation and Fairy Tale Politics

Political Peter Pans: The Millennial Generation and Fairy Tale Politics

 

In the most recent edition of the Spectator, Lara Prendergast penned a column describing how the millennial generation’s political views have been moulded by the world of Harry Potter. Having seen how my generation has evolved politically, how they vote, how they approach political life in the way it intersects (sorry) with culture, the depiction of the millennials as the Potter Politicals is apt.

One only has to see how the millennials view the world to see how much they’ve been influenced by the world of Harry Potter and his fellow wizarding denizens. They view it with a similar Manichaean lens, with the world divided into comforting black and white, good and evil, nasty and nice. Ergo, Labour under Corbyn is nice and the Tories under May are nasty.

This worldview helps explain why millennials are so committed to rooting out social injustice and inequality wherever they find it, believing that they are like Dumbledore’s Army, bravely resisting and fighting back against the oppression and victimisation practised by those who don’t conform to their way of thinking, in Britain and in America.

The irony is that in their own way, the millennials have become as intolerant of dissident voices and opinions as those they view as bigoted; Theresa May is now viewed as Dolores Umbrage by many. But then again, if we are to use the Potterverse as a metaphor for real life, Umbrage would better describe the campus censors, who go around college campuses castigating and policing those who hold different opinions to themselves and thereby creating an environment that is no longer conducive to free thought and enquiry, and which actively seeks to kill it off if it deviates from the accepted Left-wing narrative due to words now being elevated to the same level as actions; words are now violence, hence unsafe, hence the need for ideological safe spaces.

I suspect that J.K. Rowling wouldn’t be happy to hear of her creation being co-opted by someone who doesn’t exactly share her worldview or the worldview she portrayed in her books. Another example of this is given by anti-Islamist extremist campaigner Maajid Nawaz. He calls the unwillingness to name the ideology of Islamist extremism due to fear of giving offence the “Voldemort Effect” because Islamism becomes the ideology that must not be named due to the fact that it admits that Jihadi terrorism has something to do with Islam. Not naming the ideology only increases the levels of hysteria around it, as it did in the books regarding Voldemort.

Apparently, when Nawaz told Rowling of his use of one of her literary devices in passing she wasn’t overly pleased. One suspects that’s because she’s in the “nothing to do with Islam” crowd, and is uncomfortable with her creation that displays an extremely fixed view of what good and evil is being used in this way, which suggests she falls into the trap, as Nick Cohen puts its, of being unable to comprehend that even brown-skinned people can behave in fascistic ways rather than always being the victims.

Given her own political views, it is hard not to see the bad guys in Harry Potter as magical right-wing and conservative caricatures, with all the emphasis on blood (racial) purity, purging the Muggles (unclean, not of the race), excessive order and hierarchy (tools of oppression designed). It’s a neat trick and serves only to reinforce the “us and them” narrative between those on the political Left and Right.

The real problem with how Harry Potter has influenced the political worldview of my generation is that it displays a lack of realism in how they view reality. Everything is black and white, good and evil, and can be solved by make-believe, wishful thinking and magical actions. The faith (and it is almost a sort of religious faith) placed in Jeremy Corbyn (and Bernie Sanders), now seen as some sort of Dumbledore, to deliver on his promises to bring about fairness and equality rests on the naive belief that socialism, a morally and economically bankrupt ideology, works or is even a good idea. The fact that socialism is tied with Nazism for the most murderous ideology in the history of mankind seems to have passed many millennials by.

This faith in magical thinking, displayed by the application of the Potterverse to real world politics, and the belief in the power of bankrupt ideologies to act as a sort of redemptive moral force together with a government that acts like a replacement parent, arguably displays the real political immaturity of these political Peter Pans. Their reliance on fairy tale political beliefs shows that they haven’t come to terms with the fact that life, both socially and politically, involves trade-offs between bad and less bad options. There is never a solution that will make all the problems vanish in a puff of smoke, and some people will always be disappointed.

The goal of politics should be instead to provide a basis that allows the full flowering of the individual as a sacrosanct being of inherent value, and whose prerogative in life it is to pursue life, liberty and happiness to the best of their ability. And yet this worldview does not mean that we should view society as made up of atomised economic widgets. Community, a sense of belonging and deep-seated love and affection, of oikophilia as Roger Scruton puts it, for those around you, whether it be your family, neighbours, village, town, city or nation, is also vital.

However, there is a difference between communitarianism and collectivism. Communitarianism revolves around a degree of freedom of association and choice, whereas collectivism, as instantiated in the most recent wave of Left-wing group identity politics, removes this freedom to choose. In collectivist identity politics, everyone is divided up by their basic biological, racial or sexual characteristics, and must associate and behave accordingly with a pre-defined group. Being part of a community means that while you are part of a bigger whole, there is room for manoeuvre in how you conduct your life; in a collectivist identity group, there is no room and everyone must behave in accordance with their in-group.

The Potterverse has, I would argue, helped feed into the mentality that has given rise to the “us and them” phenomenon present in Left-wing identitarianism that is rampant on campuses today, and which punishes those who stray from the narrative. It has further helped divide people by playing into the resistance narrative currently on display in America, and to a lesser extent in Britain. It has also fostered and played into an unrealistic view of the world, where problems can be solved by magical thinking and sweeping programmes designed to end inequality and bring fairness. The fact that the policies millennials favour will bring neither and will only serve to grow inequality and unfairness doesn’t seem to be on their radar.

The political Peter Pans of the millennial generation need to leave behind their fantasies about life and politics and the warm embrace of the comforting world of childish dreams. They need to abandon their longing for magical solutions to their problems, and they need to start thinking about ways in which they can find solutions to their own issues. If they cannot sort their own lives out, maybe they should have the humility that comes with maturity to realise that they’re not prepared to sort the rest of the world out, either.

 

Upon a Windswept Shore: The Falklands War 35 Years On

Upon a Windswept Shore: The Falklands War 35 Years On

It was 35 years ago. Margaret Thatcher was in power, but only precariously so. The country was fractious, and the economy was still struggling to emerge from the subterranean depths it had plunged to in the 1970’s. A war on the far side of the world was fought and won, against all the odds, and showed the world that Britain would not sit idly by as its sovereign territory was invaded by a belligerent dictatorship.

The first signs of trouble came on March 31, 1982, when news came of Argentinian naval vessels fast approaching the few rocky and windblown islands at the bottom of the world, 8,000 miles away from the UK. The islands were home at the time to around 1,500 people who considered themselves British.

This move by the Argentines came at a bad time. Britain was still weak after the disaster of the 1970’s when even the USSR didn’t want to buy our goods because they were so poorly made. As a result of this, the armed forces, and particularly the navy, had faced budget cuts and was untested since the 1950’s. A victory was not inevitable or even looked possible. The task before Thatcher’s government and the armed forces, in purely logistical terms, let alone in military capability, was immense.

Thatcher had to wage a two-front campaign, both within her own cabinet in order to determine Britain’s response, and also against America, whose interests in the region ran counter to Britain’s. If she had made a mess of either situation, the circumstances would have been extremely severe. However, the way Thatcher managed the crisis mirrors the performance of the soldiers, sailors and airmen who fought; they rose to the task, drew a line in the sand and refused to accede to the thuggish behaviour of a dictatorial totalitarian regime.

The cabinet and members of the Foreign Office were already resigned to defeat, showing the prevailing idea from the 70’s of Britain being a nation in decline and that they were just there to manage it. Admiral and First Sea Lord Henry Leach forced his way into the meeting in the House of Commons in his full uniform, showing that at times like this symbols of authority such as this are needed to galvanise people into action. He was emphatic: “I can put together a task force of destroyers, landing craft, support vessels… It can be ready to leave in 48 hours.”

This forthright plan of action was the spark that lit Thatcher’s will to action, kindling in her a belief that it could be done. Despite the instability within her inner circle following the invasion, Thatcher assembled a team that served her well during the crisis.

America, as mentioned, had interests counter to Britain’s in the area. There was a lack of clarity surrounding the situation from Washington, and Secretary of State Alexander Haig did not help matters with his poorly handled attempts of trying to persuade Thatcher to sue for peace on terms that she saw as ‘conditional surrender’. The Americans in this instance were not helpful to Britain, and in reality only served to make a difficult and worrying situation more challenging than it already was. Francis Pym, Thatcher’s Foreign Secretary, made matters worse by siding with Haig. Luckily, the rest of the cabinet sided with Thatcher, but it was another obstacle that she could have done without.

The House of Commons voted in approval of the formation of the task force on April 3, with Admiral Sir John Fieldhouse in command. The task force consisted of several groups, the largest focused around the aircraft carriers HMS Hermes and HMS Invincible. In mid-April, the task force left for the Falklands, along with a large number of tankers and cargo ships to supply the fleet while it operated far across the oceans. In total, 127 ships served in the task force. This included 43 warships, 22 Royal Fleet Auxiliaries, as well as 62 merchant vessels.

The first clash came at sea, with the sinking of the ARA General Belgrano by the HMS Conqueror, followed by the retaliatory sinking of the HMS Sheffield by an Exocet missile fired from an Argentine jet. So far, 323 Argentine dead, 20 British. On May 21, 4,000 British troops were landed on the Falklands at San Carlos Water on the north-west Coast of East Falkland by amphibious craft. Over the following week, the ships supporting the landing were hard hit by Argentine air force fighters. HMS Ardent (May 22), Antelope (May 24) and Coventry (May 25) were sunk, along with MV Atlantic Conveyor.

Brigadier Julian Thompson advanced his men south, in his plan to secure the western side of the island before moving on Port Stanley to the east. On May 27-28, Lieutenant Colonel Herbert Jones led 600 men and soundly defeated over 1,000 Argentines around Darwin and Goose Green, forcing them to surrender. Jones was killed leading a critical charge from the front and later received the Victoria Cross posthumously. A few days after, British commandos defeated Argentine commandos on Mount Kent. In early June, another 5,000 British troops arrived to reinforce the men already in the fight, with command shifting Major General Jeremy Moore. While some of these troops were disembarking at Bluff Cove and Fitzroy, their transports, RFA Sir Tristram and RFA Sir Galahad, were attacked, leaving 56 killed.

After reinforcing his position, Moore launched the assault on Port Stanley. British troops launched coordinated assaults on the high ground surrounding the town on the night of June 11. After hard fighting, they succeeded captured their objectives. The attacks continued two nights later, and the British took the town’s last natural lines of defence at Wireless Ridge and Mount Tumbledown. Surrounded on land and blockaded at sea, the Argentine commander, General Mario Menéndez, realising the hopelessness of the situation surrendered his 9,800 men on June 14, effectively bringing an end to the conflict.

The Falkland Islands are harsh outcrops in the southern Atlantic. There wasn’t much there back then, apart from sheep and some people. That wasn’t the point. The point was that these islands were British; their people were British and wished to remain so. And indeed, still do, by around 99%.

The war showed that Britain was not in a state of managed decline if only it had the will and the spirit to fight for something more. It was able to protect its own when others with malevolence in their hearts wished to do us and ours harm. The war showed that Britain was prepared to fight for this and that some two-bit dictator wouldn’t succeed in his vain attempt at gaining military glory.

On those rocky outcrops far away in the cold southern ocean, Britain refused to back down and fought back. Her troops acquitted themselves admirably and with great courage, showing that they were a force to be reckoned with. In ordering the creation of the task force and the retaking of the Falklands, Margaret Thatcher showed that she also had the strength of character and spirit to choose the way of war, despite the difficulties, despite the risks, despite the self-defeating apathy of those around her. She did it because it was the right thing to do.

Whether Britain could do the same today, 35 years on, with the diminished state our armed forces are in, and the lack of leadership from all political parties is another thing entirely.

Re-posted from Bombs and Dollars

London Burning: Latest terror attack is “Fourth Gen Warfare”

At 10:30 pm on Saturday June 3, London witnessed the latest in a string of jihadi terror attacks that have so far hit Afghanistan, Iraq, and Manchester. ISIS has also taken over the town of Marawi in the southern Philippines, showing that as its central state is rolled back inch by inch it has the potential to expand elsewhere.

The attack on London Bridge saw 7 people killed by being run over by a white van or stabbed by the three terrorists who then went on a stabbing rampage that ended in Borough Market. British armed police arrived on the scene in 8 minutes from the time of the alert, where they shot all 3 men dead, who were wearing what turned out to be fake suicide vests.

The attacks struck at another landmark in the capital of the West’s home to parliamentary democracy; London Bridge is a landmark with deep historical significance, and to launch an attack on it was an attempt to reach the same level of psychological impact as that on Westminster Bridge back in March. Borough Market is a popular tourist and local attraction, and is always full of people. If the attackers had managed to obtain AK-47’s or another similar firearm, or indeed if they’d actually had real suicide vests, the death toll could have been catastrophic. As it was, the country is grateful that they only had a vehicular missile and blades to finish the job. That is what we’ve come to in the West.

What we are seeing is, as Maajid Nawaz and others have described, a full blown global jihadist insurgency. The jihadists have taken their campaign of terror beyond mere terrorism and have elevated it to the levels of highly decentralised, insurgent, Fourth-Generation warfare.

Through the communications networks of the internet they are able to coordinate and contact each other constantly and at speed. If they use anonymising software like VPN’s or Tor, or particularly Telegram, a private messaging service with end to end encryption that is extremely difficult to monitor or hack into, then they can reduce their visibility online, making them harder to track.

This makes it easier to create what Marc Sageman calls ‘leaderless networks’, where groups of jihadists can operate at a level of autonomy and without the need for a central command hierarchy dictating their every move that has never before been seen, and is a boon for the terrorists while proving a nightmare for our security services and governments.

Added to this, recruitment to the insurgency is facilitated by the easy dissemination of radical Islamist propaganda and ideological material via the internet: through jihadi websites and forums, through oil rich Saudi-funded Salafi organisations who spread their puritanical form of Islam to millions in the West through the use of their own websites, YouTube and other video sharing platforms, and through satellite TV channels that host hate preachers who regularly call for the genocide of Jews, other non-Muslims, and “heretical” Muslims. This gives ideological fuel to those who wish to access it, both online and through the network of Saudi affiliated Salafi and Deobandi mosques that have proliferated across the country; the Didsbury Mosque where Salman Abedi worshipped hosted preachers who called for Sharia Law and the destruction of the West.

As Kenan Malik and Nawaz argue, this has been going on for decades and stretches back to the 1980’s if not earlier. Thanks to the politics of multiculturalism instantiated in the 80’s, there has been a growth in communalism in the UK with each minority group progressively cutting its ties with mainstream society, reverting to cultural norms that might best be left in the middle-ages, while being represented by self-elected speakers who often have ties with organisations who represent the most extreme views present within those communities. This particularly pertains to the Muslim community in Britain, where although not all Muslims buy into this radical form of Islam, many in the younger generation certainly do.

A recent example of how this communalism backfires comes in two forms: the head of the government’s Prevent counter-extremism strategy in Manchester, Samiya Butt has posted a message supporting an “Islamophobia Awareness Month” project led by Muslim Engagement and Development (Mend), an organisation that has shown support for extreme Islamist positions and has been accused of including ISIS imagery in its campaign posts. The director of engagement for Mend, Azad Ali, has publicly expressed support for killing British soldiers and called Anwar Al-Awlaki one of his favorite speakers. In order to avoid confusion, an official in charge of the government run counter-extremism scheme is herself affiliated with an extremist Islamist organisation. And this in the city where the Manchester bomber lived and who attended Salford University whose official policy is to boycott Prevent.

This situation is replicated across the country with Muslim organisations falling prey to the Salafi Islamist ideology that is pumped around the world using Saudi oil money. Seen in this light, the fact that the number of potential jihadis in Britain that are on the security services’ radar stands at 23,000 is perhaps no longer inexplicable, even while remaining a shockingly high number. By the way, 3,000 of that number apparently pose a high risk, while the rest pose a ‘residual’ risk. Salman Abedi, the Manchester bomber, was a “residual” risk.

This is what we in the West and around the world are dealing with. We are facing a motivated foe which has the means to communicate with each other; the means to operate in a diffuse, decentralised manner with a lack of hierarchy and who operate in small units and sub-networks that makes it harder to get a grip on them; the means to obtain funds to further their campaign against those they deem the infidel; who are able to manipulate the media and online platforms to wage psychological warfare against us; who carry out genocidal attacks on civilians (the Yazidis and Middle-Eastern Christians) in order to further terrify while desensitising us and who attack significant landmarks and public areas and populations to further affect us psychologically, economically and politically.

The Salafi-Jihadists have been waging Fourth-Generation warfare against us for the better part of 25 years. We have not understood their motives that are based in parts of the texts; we have not understood their strategy in trying create a division between Muslims and the West in order to advance their goal of creating a new caliphate, and we have not understood their tactics for bringing this about.

We need to wake up and educate ourselves fast. We have been at war for decades and we haven’t even known it. If we do not wake up, London and the rest of the world will continue to burn.

Re-posted from Bombs and Dollars

The British Bataclan and Western Passivity

On Monday May 22, an Islamist jihadist blew himself up at the Manchester Arena, at the end of an Ariana Grande concert. He killed 22 people, mostly young teenagers, one only eight years old. Most of the concert attendees were teenage girls, who the bomber may have seen as a legitimate target because of their femininity–the same way Islamists pour acid on women. Police and counter-terrorism operations are still ongoing as of this writing, while the terror threat has been raised to critical and there are now soldiers on Britain’s streets.

Given my dissertation focuses on ISIS-inspired Islamist terror attacks in Europe 2015-16 it now looks more relevant than ever, and not in a good way.

Theresa May’s speech after the attack was mostly good, but she didn’t name the ideology of Islamism. As a result, she risks falling into the same trap as Obama in not naming the ideology behind these attacks. She risks handing the narrative to those who will use it for their own malevolent ends by insisting that it’s the fault of all Muslims.

Andy Burnham, mayor of Manchester (and a long-time critic of the present government’s counter-terrorism policy), said that the bomber was a terrorist, not a Muslim. As Haras Rafiq of the Quilliam counter-extremism think-tank said, who does Andy Burnham think he is to decide who is and isn’t a Muslim? It is yet another example of a politician not having the spine to face up to what is happening and where it comes from.

Burnham also belittled those on BBC Question Time who called out the ideology of Islamism and called for the Muslim community to do more by portraying them as unserious and not “real” Muslims.

Meanwhile, in response to Morrisey posting his thoughts about the attack and Western leaders’ failure to do anything substantive about it, the Guardian argued that those who blame the lack of recognition of Islamism as the driving force of these attacks on political correctness were using the same arguments as those on the far-right. Given Maajid Nawaz, also of Quilliam, made this exact point, he is now, according to this logic, supposedly considered far-right.

Adding a note of farce to the tragedy of Monday night, Channel 4 news interviewed members of the Manchester Muslim community, who were the usual self-appointed representatives of the Muslim community and obviously spoke for every member of that monolithic bloc. One of those interviewed was a burka-clad woman who had a top on which spelt out the word ‘Love’ with the different letters represented by guns, switchblades and a grenade. The video was then taken down when this was pointed out before returning. Channel 4 said it had “investigate[d]” and found, in its words:

“We are now satisfied that the intention of that image is to subvert weaponry and is an anti-violence protest t-shirt.

The image was made famous in 2013 when the singer Jennifer Hudson was pictured wearing a very similar design, which spelled out the word “love” in guns and other weapons. She told fans “it’s time to turn all of that into this LOVE”.

“As a Muslim, this evil disgusts me; it cannot be the “new normal.”” – Haras Rafiq

Staying on the subject of the media response, which reflected the response of many politicians, many outlets and pundits took on the passive, fatalistic and naively lethargic attitude of the Independent newspaper, which ran the headline that said that the only way to respond to this attack was to keep going as normal. This spoke to a feeling among many in the cultural and political elites that there was nothing to be done, that nothing could be said about the atrocity beyond some platitudes about the undoubted bravery of emergency services and law enforcement while insisting that love would solve everything and that our diversity shouldn’t be allowed to be riven by divisions resulting from the attack.

While solidarity is important, the overwhelming feeling that showed through in all the utterances from the supine media and politicians was that there was nothing to be done, this is the new normal, and if we don’t cause offence by talking about substantive issues and keep as quiet as possible in the hope the terrorists will stop killing us, is frankly no longer good enough. As Haras Rafiq said, platitudes are no longer enough. We don’t want to live in a country where this is accepted as the new normal with little resistance.

What is needed now more than ever is an honest and open discussion about what drives this ideology, including the fact, the deeply uncomfortable fact that there are passages in the texts that specifically call for violent action against non-believers. This will not happen by cleaving to the same old platitudes, playing identity politics and slamming anyone who stick their heads up to speak uncomfortable truths.

This textual basis is what these people, even if they’re newly converted to the jihadist cause, base their actions on and use to give them “moral” legitimacy.

The counter-extremism think-tank Quilliam and other individuals are working to try to reform the religion of Islam so that these passages which undeniably exist are somehow negated. But the first step is to admit to the name of the ideology of Islamism, that it has something to do with Islam while not representative of all Muslims, and that the only way we will defeat this jihadist insurgency is by dealing with the philosophical and theological roots of the ideology.

We will not do this by passively accepting these attacks as the new normal and carrying on with our lives like everything is fine.

The only way we will win is by grasping the thorns of the painful discussions we need to have and accept that causing offence is not an acceptable reason for not having this discussion.

If we can’t even do this, then these attacks will continue, divisions will deepen and more people will die.

Re-posted from Bombs and Dollars

On Disability and Individualism

On Disability and Individualism

Disclaimer: I do not claim to speak for every physically disabled person. I do not “represent” the disabled community. This is my opinion, which I think may fall on sympathetic ears within the disabled community. Nor, in the arguments laid out below do I apply it to every able bodied person and their view of disability and disabled people.

 

Some time ago I read Bret Easton Ellis’s long but insightful “In the Reign of the Gay Magical Elves” where he argues that the attitude shown by the identitarian Left towards gay men like himself is arguably both condescending and infantilizing, with many advocacy groups reinforcing this by punishing those who stray off the ideological reservation.

I’m not gay so I can’t totally relate to everything Ellis describes in his piece. However, the sense that a body of organisations and affiliated notables who supposedly have my best interests at heart, all the while proclaiming the acceptable narrative of what a disabled person is and what they should do, be, say and think – and the fact that I’m against this collectivisation – is something I do have in common with Ellis.

In conjunction with this, the Paralympics in Rio also revealed the tendency to collectivise disabled people into a monolithic bloc, which doesn’t actually help the individuals within that group of “disabled people”. Now, I support the idea of the Paralympics and think it’s good that disabled people get to compete in a sport at the highest level they can, in other words, they are given equality of opportunity.

Yes, it’s right and good that these people, who have been given a bad hand in the game of life whether through birth or fate, should be celebrated for their amazing achievements against odds that normal athletes don’t have to deal with. However, I’m also ambivalent about what the Paralympics represent to some members of the general public. It is to be hoped that large numbers of those who watched the Paralympics did because they wanted to see high-level athleticism, with the disabilities of the participants an incidental fact. And yet I fear that it could also be argued that watching the Paralympics and showing support for the athletes is a way for some able people to salve their consciences about their attitudes to disability, the fact that perhaps they only notice the UK is full of disabled people every four years. What better way to do this than to watch a load of “brave” athletes (Channel 4’s “superhumans”) breaking boundaries on the track, in the pool or on the water?

Sometimes it feels as though events like the Paralympic Games are an excuse for some “normal” people to not only remember that disabled people exist without feeling guilty for their previous lack of acknowledgement of disabled people as individuals, but to take it as an opportunity to celebrate the sanctity of the Sainted Super Disabled, to be masochistically reminded only of “Tolerance” and to “Feel Good About Ourselves” when viewing these disabled athletes as symbols for all disabled people, rather than viewing each one based on his or her individual character and merits. This attitude also pertains to the treatment of disabled people as endowed with inborn virtue for merely existing as disabled people.

I mean, God help the disabled man of woman who doesn’t want to conform to this idealised collectivist idea some people have of what being disabled means. What about those who don’t want to be representatives of the disabled class? Who don’t want to teach with their supposed inborn moral clarity and insight? Who don’t feel like an inherently moral authority before which all able bodied people must prostrate themselves in supplication, the altar upon which they can exorcise their guilt for being who they are and dissociate themselves from who they were in relation to their attitude towards disability?

I hate to break it to you, but suffering oppression, adversity or misfortune in life, whether being born disabled or becoming so later in life, for example, does not make you inherently noble, just as being in poverty doesn’t imbue you with goodness. Your base characteristics do not decide your moral status; it’s what you do with that, how you choose to act because or in spite of your apparent limitations, how you bear the suffering of existence, that really defines your moral character.

In my opinion, those who sanctify disabled people (again, it is hoped that this is a minority) by portraying them as more inherently good, noble and dignified than able-bodied people do so because they arguably use the disabled person’s physical deformity as a psychological expression of their own emotional and spiritual deformities and deficiencies. By having this exterior deformity, disabled people are arguably assumed to be almost holy in their spiritual, mental and emotional purity. They are therefore worthy at the same time, of veneration, and of exploitation under the guise of support for the redemption of the able-bodied person’s soul.

I would argue that this is why disabled people are held up as paragons of virtue: some able people need us to fit this image so they can find redemption for their own deficiencies which they see represented in physical form by our disabilities. It’s a classic case of psychological projection that reduces disabled people to cyphers for some able peoples’ personal characterological deficiencies, and the treatment of disabled people as inherently virtuous allows the able bodied person to dissociate from past and present character flaws.

This might explain the reaction the depiction of a less than perfect disabled individual in the entertainment sphere in recent years, in the character of Will Traynor in the smash-hit book and movie Me Before You, about a man who’s run over and paralysed, and ends with him choosing to commit suicide at a Dignitas type clinic in Switzerland. Now, I don’t agree with the ending but thought it was an interesting take on a disabled character that opened up the possibility for dialogue around extremely emotive and complex questions like the issue of quality of life, and how much agency a disabled person can have.

But of course, because the film didn’t depict Will as some sort of morally superior being, it went off the ideological reservation for what is an acceptable depiction of disability, with many disability rights campaigners and other activists panning it for its nihilistic take on living with a disability. In other words, as soon as a story came along that depicted a disabled person as a flawed individual, like the rest of us, the disabled community was up in arms about it not being perfect and upbeat enough.

Well, I would argue that actually both the book and the film were a refreshing change to the usual view of disabled people as an almost holy symbol that serves to save some able peoples’ sense of guilt. This was a portrayal of a disabled individual’s life that didn’t shy away from the tougher aspects of what it entailed and didn’t pull any punches over what it actually meant.

The character of Will Traynor himself, disability aside, is also interesting. To start with, he was a horrible, self-centred, egocentric, arrogant, surly, rude, ungrateful and sometimes malicious man. Further from the Sainted Super Disabled, one could not get.

As such, I found it refreshing to see a disabled man who behaved more like many people might if they were in the same situation, which is not as well as they might hope because none of us is inherently good.

Did the campaigners and activists not see that this film might actually bring people closer together through the potential for dialogue? Did they not see that there was a possibility that a more realistic view of a messy flawed, individual who happened to be disabled might mean some members of the general public who went to see the film might leave with a more realistic impression of how disabled people might actually behave, rather than continuing on with their cozy fantasy of the Sainted Super Disabled? It does not appear so.

The reaction to this film and the issues around the Paralympics I discussed earlier will never be entirely mitigated. In the end, the best thing that everyone can do is to treat each disabled person as an individual. Acting and being treated like an individual is more attractive to me than being a member of a collective identity that is the be-all and end-all of my existence, from which there is no escape.

This is why I am a conservative; the values of individual liberty and freedom that conservatism enshrines as its core principles are the only way that people as thinking individuals can achieve their full potential. As Shelby Steele says, “Only human initiative is transformative, and it is an eternal arrogance of the Left to assume that government can somehow engineer or inspire or manipulate transformation. You cannot help people who have not already taken initiative—meaning total responsibility for their future. And it takes very little to help those who have actually taken such responsibility.”

Incidentally, this is also why I am a supporter of free speech, and despite the identitarians now running riot in our universities; my body is in chains. I can only experience freedom using my mind. To limit my speech, as the identitarians do on our campuses, strips me of my only recourse to freedom; not only is my body in chains but so too, in their world, is my mind.

The response to disability, like all other challenges that life can throw at you, is to show the initiative needed to take up the freedom that we enjoy in the West in any small way you can, in spite of the challenges being disabled places before you. The new reality of this freedom can be disconcerting and can leave one feeling resentful at the weight of the burden that freedom places on your shoulders; the requirement of freedom that you show greater responsibility, discipline and sacrifice. In the end, a truly meaningful life is only possible if you have the freedom to pursue that life as you see fit in accordance with the law.

In the end, this shows greater respect for disabled people as individuals. I find conservatism, more than the politics of today’s Left, offers the simple fairness of true freedom in which both individual success and failure are always possible, a fairness grounded in an ideal of unbiased level-headed interaction between people. This does not mean that I think there is no place for some sort of safety net for disabled people, or that there are not huge challenges that disabled people face every day, both in dealing with their condition and in facing the many societal challenges that still face them. But it is only in this kind of fairness there is respect for disabled people as individuals who could be competitive with others once any residual discrimination is removed and they are allowed to compete and given the tools they need to perform to their full potential, taking into account any limitations they may have.

Indeed, I would argue that this course of action is the only route to disabled people feeling some sense of having transcended their often painful physical reality. This is the same for everyone, but for those of us whose physical existence is chained by disability, this is of the utmost importance.

To conclude, I’ll leave off with another quote from Shelby Steele: “only the impartiality of true freedom—uncontaminated by group preferences and governmental paternalism—[will] provide exactly the right incentives to do precisely this”.