As long as people are dying in Paris, nobody important is dying in Doha or Riyadh… Charles P. Pierce, Esquire
By Doug Porter
News out of Paris dominated the media over the past few days. Shock and horror turned to anger and disgust.
At least 129 people were killed in a coordinated terrorist attack on Friday evening. At least 350 people were wounded, 99 of them in critical condition.
The terrorist group known as the Islamic State has claimed credit, and law enforcement investigators are inclined to agree these attacks were coordinated out of Syria via Belgium.
Seven people killed themselves in the course of the attacks, an eighth attacker is the subject of a massive manhunt. Scores of arrests have been made as police in France and Belgium have raided homes and picked up some of the usual suspects. Belgian national Abdelhamid Abaaoud –who may have already fled to Syria– has been identified as the leader of the group.
And the French are bombing the sh*t out of Syria.
So those are the basic facts. Let’s look around for some analysis beyond the obvious BS.
A Foreign Policy for the Caliphate
Professor Daniel Byman, research director of the Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution, has insights at Slate about how ISIS has evolved to the point of carrying out overseas attacks.
In the last few weeks ISIS has suffered losses on the ground, losing the important Iraqi city of Sinjar to Kurdish forces. Yet it has also been linked to recent mass-casualty suicide attacks in Beirut that killed more than 40 people and probably downed a Russian airliner over Sinai, killing all 224 people aboard. The Lebanon attack fits its traditional model: The attackers struck in Shia-populated areas of Beirut, which is home to the headquarters of the Lebanese Hezbollah, ISIS’s nemesis. But even so the massive nature of the attack is an escalation.
The Sinai attacks were a far more dramatic shift and perhaps a harbinger of the Paris attacks. Sinai showed that the Islamic State or its affiliate organizations were expanding operations outside their traditional theaters of operation to go after international targets—particularly high-profile enemies like Russia. Although civil aviation has long been a focus of terrorist groups, until Sinai ISIS had used other methods to strike its enemies.
There has been a great deal of pushback from international observers over coverage of the Paris attacks versus what happened the day before in Beruit. Two suicide bombers on motorcycles killed 43 and wounded another 240 people.
Remember These Words: Proxy Battle
Here’s Reuters news with some context about Beruit:
Syria’s civil war is increasingly playing out as a proxy battle between regional rivals, including Iran and Saudi Arabia, which supports the rebels. The two foes also back opposing political forces in Lebanon, which suffered its own civil war from 1975 to 1990, and where a political crisis has been brought about by factional and sectarian rivalries.
The blasts occurred almost simultaneously late on Thursday and struck a Shi’ite community center and a nearby bakery in the commercial and residential area of Borj al-Barajneh, security sources said. A closely guarded Hezbollah-run hospital is also nearby.
Lebanese journalist Habib Battah, writing at Al Jazeera, noted the differences in the coverage between Beirut and Paris:
Initial headlines about the killings in France were objectively descriptive, if not sympathetic: “Paris Attacks Kill More Than 100, Border Controls Tightened”according to the New York Times as Reuters proclaimed: “Disbelief, Panic as Militants Cause Carnage in Paris”.
But in Beirut, mere descriptions of the violence and anguish on the streets were not enough. Headlines immediately diluted the massacres with qualifying adjectives that labelled the victims according to their geography and assumed political leadership.
The New York Times announced: “Deadly Blasts Hit Hezbollah stronghold in Southern Beirut,” while Reuters headlined: “Two Suicide Bombers hit Hezbollah bastion in Lebanon.”
Ugly, Stupid Americans (And Others)
Here in the United States, Republican politicians took turns bashing Islam, refugees and President Obama.
Senator Ted Cruz says we should only accept Christian refugees. Jeb! agrees. Senator Lyndsay Graham wants a US invasion of Iraq as soon as possible. Senator Marco Rubio and Ben Carson want to exclude all refugees from Syria. And The Donald wants Syrians already in the country to be deported.
This morning, various governors are following the lead of Alabama’s Robert Bentley in proclaiming that no refugees will allowed in their states.
I have found them yet, but I’m certain we’ll be seeing articles from torture apologists saying we need more spying on Americans and more waterboarding of brown people.
Protests and acts of vandalism have been directed at mosques in France, Canada, and the United States. Video cameras caught a British man pushing a woman wearing a hijab into an oncoming subway train. And the neo-fascists of the internet, aka Gamergate, used a retouched photo of a Sikh to further their aims.
Muslims worldwide have condemned the attacks. A social media campaign launched earlier this year in Britain, #NotInMyName, has gone viral as frustrated followers try to tell the world that ISIS does not represent them.
UPDATE: There are several “insiders view” stories about ISIS circulating. Lydia Wilson’s interview with an ISIS fighter at The Nation is a worthwhile read in that it challenges the idea about the rank and file being primarily motivated by fundamentalism.
There Are Some Sane Voices
Not everybody wants to go to war.
Evergreen State College professor Bret Weinstein published a strong piece at Common Dreams, urging the US not to make the same mistakes made after 9/11.
The 9/11 perpetrators killed about 3,000 people, and did about $13 billion in physical damage to the United States. That’s a lot of harm in absolute terms, but not relative to a nation of 300 million people, with a GDP of almost $15 trillion. It was a massive blow to many families, and to New York City. But to the nation as a whole that level of damage was about as dangerous as a bee sting.
You may find that analogy suspect because bee stings are deadly to those with an allergy. But what kills people is not the sting itself. It is their own massive overreaction to an otherwise tiny threat, that fatally disrupts the functional systems of the body. And that is exactly what terrorists hope to trigger—a muscular and reflexive response on the part of the victim-state that advances the perpetrators’ interests far beyond their own capacity to advance them.
The 9/11 attack was symbolic. It was not designed to cripple us economically or militarily, at least not directly. It was designed to provoke a reaction. The reaction cost more than 6,000 American lives in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and more than $3 trillion in U.S. treasure. The reaction also caused the United States to cripple its own Constitution and radicalize the Muslim world with a reign of terror that has killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqi and Afghani civilians.
Solidarity is Ending All Terrorism
Brooklyn-based writer George Arnett wrote about our unwillingness to confront the conditioning which has allowed us to only view certain people as victims when terror strikes.
I stand with Paris, but I also stand with Syrian refugees whose plight is only worsening due to our shortsightedness and our desire to bundle their lives with the lives of the people from whom they are running, as if anyone blamed German Jews for the Nazi occupation, though they were all German by nationality.
Stand with Paris, but stand with all terrorized peoples, not just those who the media deems worthy. Stand with those on our own soil who are reeling from the effects of oppression and violence. Red white and blue banners and Eiffel Tower vacation selfies are not solidarity. Solidarity is working to lift the people in every corner of the world who suffer under the weight of oppression. Solidarity is ending terrorism on all fronts, whether it’s fueled by racism, capitalism, misogyny, religious extremism, queer/trans antagonism, or classism.
Stand with Paris. But stand for more than that. Stand for the dismantling of regimes and systems which leave people angry and desperate while also funding, arming, and facilitating the terror we claim to hate. Pray for the families of the victims. Send love and light. Honor the dead, but also do more to lift up those who continue to live and suffer through these atrocities while feeling abandoned and ignored.
Remember ‘Proxy War’ From Above?
Finally for those who feel the need to take action against the barbarians of the Middle East, Esquire’s Charles P. Pierce says ‘follow the money:’
It is long past time for the oligarchies of the Gulf states to stop paying protection to the men in the suicide belts. Their societies are stunted and parasitic. The main job of the elites there is to find enough foreign workers to ensla…er…indenture to do all the real work. The example of Qatar and the interesting business plan through which that country is building the facilities for the 2022 World Cup is instructive here. Roughly the same labor-management relationship exists for the people who clean the hotel rooms and who serve the drinks. In Qatar, for people who come from elsewhere to work, passports have been known to disappear into thin air. These are the societies that profit from terrible and tangled web of causation and violence that played out on the streets of Paris. These are the people who buy their safety with the blood of innocents far away.
It’s not like this is any kind of secret. In 2010, thanks to WikiLeaks, we learned that the State Department, under the direction of then-Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, knew full well where the money for foreign terrorism came from. It came from countries and not from a faith. It came from sovereign states and not from an organized religion. It came from politicians and dictators, not from clerics, at least not directly. It was paid to maintain a political and social order, not to promulgate a religious revival or to launch a religious war. Religion was the fuel, the ammonium nitrate and the diesel fuel.Authoritarian oligarchy built the bomb. As long as people are dying in Paris, nobody important is dying in Doha or Riyadh…
…It’s time for this to stop. It’s time to be pitiless against the bankers and against the people who invest in murder to assure their own survival in power. Assets from these states should be frozen, all over the west. Money trails should be followed, wherever they lead. People should go to jail, in every country in the world. It should be done state-to-state. Stop funding the murder of our citizens and you can have your money back. Maybe. If we’re satisfied that you’ll stop doing it. And, it goes without saying, but we’ll say it anyway – not another bullet will be sold to you, let alone advanced warplanes, until this act gets cleaned up to our satisfaction. If that endangers your political position back home, that’s your problem, not ours. You are no longer trusted allies. Complain, and your diplomats will be going home. Complain more loudly, and your diplomats will be investigated and, if necessary, detained. Retaliate, and you do not want to know what will happen, but it will done with cold, reasoned and, yes, pitiless calculation. It will not be a blind punch. You will not see it coming. It will not be an attack on your faith. It will be an attack on how you conduct your business as sovereign states in a world full of sovereign states.
This is one of two editions of The Starting Line column, published on Monday, November 16th.
On This Day: 1952 – In the Peanuts comic strip, Lucy first held a football for Charlie Brown. 1982 – The National Football League Players Association ended a 57-day strike that shortened the season to nine games. The players wanted, but failed to win until many years later, a higher share of gross team revenues. 1998 – The Supreme Court said that union members could file discrimination lawsuits against employers even when labor contracts require arbitration.
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