Untangling the Paris Attacks

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Let us be clear there will be only one beneficiary from these attacks in Paris and that’s the French Far right. With an election looming in about a month’s time its entirely possible they will now gain control of several French regions….and I won’t want to be a Muslim living in France when that happened (they’ll probably make them wearing little yellow stars or something). And the chances are high that their candidate may even make it onto the 2nd round of voting, a worrying repeat of the 2002 election. Indeed there’s even an outside chance now that the FN could win (although feuding within the party will likely prevent that)….which would probably result in them nuking Mecca or something.

So if getting electing a bunch of neo-nazi bigots to power in France was the intention of these attacks, well mission accomplished. Needless to say its unlikely France will halt its operations in Syria (not that this would matter, its Russia and the US who are doing most of the bombing). Indeed its likely this will intensity efforts. If Hollande or Obama now ordered in ground troops (I doubt they would, but lets suppose) then I doubt there would be too many objections after last night.

And no doubt these attacks will be wrapped up with the current migrant/refugee crisis. While acknowledging that yes there are probably some Wahhabists amongst the refugees, one has to remember the bulk of them are fleeing the Jihadi’s. Unfortunately, real Jihadi’s and Wahhabists don’t have to swim across from Turkey, they just get on a plane and wave their Saudi passport at anyone who asks.

The suggestion, as even the BBC speculated last night, that the weapons used were smuggled in via refugees, carried across a dozen land borders without anyone (fellow refugees or border guards) noticing is absurd. However, inevitably this attack will probably be justification for slamming the door on refugees, legitimate or otherwise. Again hardly a great step forward for Islam.

But why is it that Wahhabists and the far right seem to be natural allies? Well because they both basically want the same thing. Both are essentially anti-progressive Luddite’s. They are frightened by modern technology, globalisation and even curried food or “rock and roll“. Like so many similar groups throughout history, they want to return to a gilded age. However, the problem for both groups is that, this fabled age never existed.

As I’ve discussed before with regard to ISIS, the Islam of the past was very different to Wahhabism of the present. Any Wahhabi who showed up in 10th century Mecca would likely be beaten to death by the locals as a heretic within about 5 minutes. The tradition of wear full length veil’s is of relatively recent origin and historically there was seen as nothing overtly sacrilegious with images of Mohammed. In short the infidel of Islam in those days were lunatic thugs like ISIS and not the Christians and Jews (whom Muslim rulers generally tolerated, so long as they kept to themselves).

As for the far right, any attempt to implement their policies would likely bankrupt France. And while they may reminisce about how wonderful things were before the EU came along with its migrants, they seem to forget how pre-EU many French in rural areas lived below the poverty line, with none of the modern convinces they now enjoy (you know like flush toilets and electricity). Life back then was far from idyllic. It was short, hard and brutal. And anyone who really wants to return to that way of life can do so pretty easily by just emigrating to certain parts of Africa or Asia.

Certainly there is a need to recognise the threat posed by ISIS and its sympathizers. But a measured reaction is what’s needed. Some security measures, some efforts to separate genuine refugees from economic migrants (or worse), preferably with a common EU wide policy, rather than the current game of beggar my neighbour.

Certainly it is true that Muslims need to wake up to the fact that the Wahhabists are trying to take over their religion and drive it down a very dangerous road to ruin. They need to call these people out, as a Wahhabi led world isn’t the sort of place I suspect any of them would want to live in (just look at life under ISIS). And its just a matter of time before these guys piss off someone whose as crazy as them (and they blew up a Russian plane the other week) and he’s crazy enough to hit back with nukes or a ground invasion.

The West’s support for Israel also doesn’t help. Now while nobody is denying Israel’s right to exist, nor her right to self defence. But Israel’s violation of the 1967 border, the attempts of its far right to colonise parts of the West bank and the brutal behaviour of its military is a major sticking point. The West needs to adopt a neutral stance. i.e. call out the Israeli’s as war criminals (and the Palestinian terrorist groups too) impose an arms embargo, if not a full trade embargo on the entire region. And the policy on Iran’s nuclear weapons needs to apply the same standard to Israel.

And least we forget, the whole reason why ISIS exists is because of Middle Eastern oil. There’s lots of dangerous terrorist groups around the world who nobody cares about, because they aren’t sitting on top of oil fields (Taliban anybody? Remember Al-Qaeda? What about the Tamil Tigers or Farc?). I doubt the West would be entangled in the Middle East if it their main industry was dates and tallow. So getting off our addiction to oil is something that needs to be done sooner rather than later.

Egyptian delusions

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Its rare that you find me agreeing with the government on security issues. I tend to take the view that much anti-terrorism “security theatre” often has political motivations (such as the current “snoopers charter”). However, that is not to say there aren’t some crazy people out there who mean us harm, as events at the time of writing in Paris show. And that some reasonable and proportional measures are appropriate in defending against such threats.

So, as for the UK government’s decision to ban flights to Sharm el-Sheikh I’m in full agreement. The Egyptian government are not what one could describe as reliable partners. They are for one very much beholden to what I will refer to as “the camel jockey lobby”, a reference to those Egyptians who hang around tourist traps and try to entice punters into taking camel rides (bit like the fella’s selling jaunting cart rides in Killarney through the gap of Dunloe…rip off merchants!). This is by no means the first time Egypt has faced a security threat, and they have a nasty habit of ignoring or denying such threats exist.

Take for example the case of Egypt Air 990. This plane plunged into the Atlantic off the US coast in 2001. The Americans quickly zeroed in on the actions of relief first officer Gameel Al-Batouti. Shortly after the pilot left him alone on the cockpit (to go to the bathroom) the relief pilot was heard (via black box data) turning off the autopilot, disabling various systems, uttering the words “Tawkalt ala Allah” (I rely on God) before plunging the plane into a dive. When the pilot managed to fight his way through to the cockpit, the relief pilot switched off the aircraft’s engines (rendering any attempt to pull out of the dive impossible).

Despite this overwhelming evidence, the Egyptians steadfastly refused to accept the obvious – that their pilot had deliberately crashed his plane. They concocted theory after theory which could explain away the crash on mechanical factors. The NTSB investigated and then dismissed everyone one of them. While the Americans do accept that the aircraft may have broken up prior to hitting the water, this was more than likely because the pilots had exceeded the aircraft’s flight envelope. Indeed, the very damage on the wreckage was, the NTSB claim, consistent with the sort you’d see if both pilots were imputing opposite control actions (i.e. one pilot trying to crash the plane, the other trying to climb out of danger) in a high speed dive.

To this day, the Egyptians classify this crash as “unexplained mechanical failure”. Some Egyptian tabloids even tried to concoct a conspiracy theory implicating Mossad. And this is by no means a one off. In the wake of the Luxor massacre the Egyptians were very slow to react. They blamed Britain for the attacks (it policy of offering asylum to people they’d tortured) and perhaps predictably, even tried to blame an Israeli conspiracy against them.

Indeed even in 2010, when there was a shark attack off Sharm el-Sheikh, the Egyptians did their best impression of the mayor of Amity, denying any danger….and then blaming the Israeli’s for it (leading to some Israeli bloggers to start posting pictures of sharks wearing Jewish skull caps!).

So with this in mind, you can understand the concerns of the government spooks. They had to accept reports about lax security, put two and two together, while accepting that the Egyptians would be very slow to accept the facts and do anything about it. And when Britain decided to fly people home, the Egyptians got the hump and refused planes permission to land, effectively taking many thousands of tourists hostage for a few days.

Indeed, If you’ve been listening to media reports, you’ll have noticed how they involved the authorities in the West (or Russia) ruling out various mechanical failure possibilities one after the other (engine failure, structural failure, etc.). I suspect that this was because behind the scenes the Egyptians have been concocting theory after theory to try and dance around the more obvious conclusion.

And of course the situation was made worse by the fact it was a Russian plane that was struck. As we all know Putin has been pretending to bomb IS, even though most of their attacks have hit the Free Syrian army. Now even the most pro-Kremlin media source is left with the uncomfortable realisation that all they’ve done is stir up a hornet’s nest and paint a giant target on every Russian in the Middle East. One assumes they are now going to have to actually start bombing IS, meaning they’ll be drawn ever more into a the war in Syria. Even if and when their boy Assad falls from power, they’ll probably still be entangled in Syria.

As for anyone who goes out to places like Egypt or the Middle East as a tourist, I think it has to be accepted that these are not safe countries any more. Yes, you might get a wonderful cheap holiday in the Sun. Yes, its not fair on the people out there, the majority of whom aren’t terrorists. But until Middle eastern states put their house in order, both in terms of dealing with the groups within their borders, but those who sponsor them (read the Saudi’s), these countries will remain unsafe and they have to suffer the economic consequences for that. And the locals need to put pressure on their governments to take appropriate action to deal with these issues and confront the Wahhabists.

Je Suis Charlie?

Not really a lot can be said about this that’s not already been said. How exactly these three Jihadi’s thought, that by killing a bunch of cartoonists, they were striking a blow for Islam (rather than providing the French National Front with some excellent PR material), is difficult to fathom.

However, as the widowed partner of the editor has pointed out, this could have been prevented, had the police or authorities taken the matter a bit more seriously. Furthermore, to all the journalists sticking pencils in the air and saying “Je Suis Charlie”, ya and why was Charlie Hebdo singled out for attack? Because the rest of the journalistic community were too chickshit scared to respond to the death threats against Jyllands-Posten and didn’t join them in re-printing the cartoons of Muhammad. So all this pen waving and sloganeering is really just an empty gesture.

To me the obvious response is a show of solitary. Too give the two fingered salute to these Wahabbists. Every media outlet in the Western world should either post the cartoons of Muhammad from 2005, or perhaps the more recent Muhammad cartoons from Charlie Hebdo.

Of course, I suspect the chances of this are pretty low, already several of the UK media outlets have actually mentioned that they weren’t going to publish the cartoons. Like I said, an empty gesture. One is reminded of the bit from Germany during the 1930’s “first they came for the Jews and I said nothing because I wasn’t Jewish, then they came for the trade unionists and I said nothing because I wasn’t a trade unionists….”

And incidentally, to any Muslims who say they are offended by images of Muhammad, well two points. Firstly, its far from clear that publishing images of Muhammad is actually offensive (or even insulting him), there are many from history, published by Arab scholars (why don’t the Jihadi’s work on a time machine so they can go back and blow up these guys? :))) or more recently from Iran. Also, the gist of why Islam discourages images of the prophet, is because this represents Idolatry. In essence, you’re supposed to be praying to Allah, not to Muhammad (who is merely the messenger). And of course murdering journalists (or blowing up mosques, or murdering Muslim women & children, as Isis regularly get up too) while screaming prayers to Muhammad, is about as insulting and anti-Muslim a thing you can do.

In short, Muslim’s have got bigger fish to fry right now than a few cheese munching cartoonists. As I see it, what’s going on in the world right now is that there has effectively been a Schism within Islam between Saudi Wahhabism and the traditional more tolerant brand of Islam practised by most.

And if of course you are a Wahhabist, and you dislike this western concept of “free speech“, perhaps you should consider immigration to Saudi Arabia. You’ll love it there, no offensive cartoons, no women drivers, women all forced to go around practically wearing a tent (even if it means preventing kids from leaving a burning school because they have no veil on), no free speech…although you might want to keep you’re opinions to yourself…and I mean don’t even type them into anything electronic or share them with friends or relatives…unless you want to disappear into some hole in the desert some night. And keep in mind that while the Saudi authorities like to pay others to launch terrorists attacks abroad, they get a bit stropy if any Jihadi’s bring their work home with them.

The lone gunmen
A more worrying line of debate is to ask the question of who is behind this. While I know they police are chasing two of three suspects, the attackers seem a little too well equipped and the attack a little too well planned for what we normally expect from the amateur wannabe jihadi’s. I’m reminded of how it seems eerily similar to the attacks carried out in the cold war by professional terrorists, such as Abu Nidal or Carlos the Jackal, often acting under the pay of various Middle East regimes.

Take the matter of the weapons used. Needless to say, getting ones hands on a AK-47…or a rocket launcher, ain’t exactly easy in the West, this ain’t Texas! Even in the seedier parts of Paris asking for such weapons is going to get you more than a raised eyebrow in response. There are certainly criminals who will sell such weapons (or so my friends from Liverpool tell me ;D). But they generally wouldn’t sell to Jihadi’s, as terrorists will of course inevitably use such weapons in a way all but guaranteed to draw the attention of the authorities, leading to an awful lot of heat being brought down on our villain, the sort of attention underworld types usually try to avoid (just ask Ched Evans!).

Now, I’m sure you throw enough money at some underworld villain, they’d sell you their first born kid and/or grandmother. However that’s my point. The sort of money and resources they’d need to pull this off, suggests someone was picking up the tab or helped smuggle guns into the country. Which suggests we’re dealing with a bit more than our lone gunmen. And the fact that Charlie Hebdo had published a cartoon of the leader of ISIS just a few hours before the attack does perhaps point the blame in a certain direction. although as always, I’d defer judgement until all the facts are in.

But sufficient to say, its very likely that if it turns out that the leadership of an Arab state (or those protected by such a state) were involved in this incident, then this could well represent an act of war, against not just France, but all its NATO allies. In short, I won’t be surprised if the oil price starts creeping up again soon.

Speaking of which…
And least we forget the only reason why the Saudi’s, a corrupt feudal despotism, is in a position to export terrorism, is because of its other great export – oil. Getting the world off oil, through greater energy conservation, improved public transport (96% of UK’s oil is consumed powered transport), encouraging alternative fuelled vehicles and renewables. This would, in the long term, strike a much harder blow against Whabbism than waving pens in the air…or smart bombing the crap out off some impoverished third world state.