Tag Archives: Al Qaeda

Syria: Could ‘slow and steady’ win the war?

Bombs explode in Syria. Effect on the terrorists: None.

Bombs explode in Syria. Effect on the terrorists: None.

Sorry, but This Writer is not wedded to the idea that carpet-bombing – or even precision-bombing – bits of Syrian desert in the hope that it might contain terrorists will make the United Kingdom any safer from attack.

For one thing, our armed forces have been following this strategy in Iraq for a year and have achieved no tangible result and, for another, bombing the desert will do nothing to prevent terrorist attacks on UK soil that are carried out in the name of Daesh (IS if you prefer).

David Cameron says “our pilots can strike the most difficult targets at rapid pace and with extraordinary precision”, and that’s great for them – but in that case, why are they still flying raids over Iraq after a year? In that context, one wonders why he mentions it.

His naming of technology like “the Brimstone precision missile system”, “RAPTOR” which he claims “has no rival”, and “Reaper drones” is reminiscent of a comedy routine by the late, great Bill Hicks – also in reference to the Middle East.

He said: “Those guys were in hog heaven out there, man. They had a big weapons catalogue opened up.

“‘What’s G12 do, Tommy?’

“‘Says here it destroys everything but the fillings in their teeth. Helps us pay for the war effort.’

“‘Well… pull that one up.’

“‘Pull up G12, please.’

“[BOOM!]

“‘Great! What’s G13 do?'”

You take the point? Even the names of these things are sinister. “Brimstone” is another word for sulphur, associated with Hell and all things demonic. A “raptor” is a bird of prey. The “Grim Reaper” is, of course, death personified.

Those names remind This Writer of the “death’s head” emblems on German army uniforms in World War II, and the Mitchell and Webb sketch in which two German officers discuss them: “Do you think perhaps we are the bad guys?”

It’s a sobering thought, but if we take military action in Syria at this time, we may be creating a situation in which there are no good guys.

There are alternatives to military action – which of course may be run concurrently with attacks on the terrorists’ heartland. Jeremy Corbyn asked, “What co-ordinated action with other United Nations member states has there been under the terms of the resolution to cut off funding, oil revenues and armed supplies from ISIL into the territory it currently holds?”

David Cameron’s response, that “there was a resolution back in February, and we should continue to support all those measures”, is far from reassuring. This Writer was hoping for much more detail.

It seems that – in this respect – the hard work is being left to the hackers.

Note also that Cameron does not acknowledge the value of these alternatives. He wants us all to believe that the choice is between bombing Syria and “doing nothing” – and that’s misleading.

He was also vague about the positive effect that military action would have. The BBC’s Frank Gardner makes it plainer: “This will not lead to the immediate or even imminent demise of so-called Islamic State. It will simply add to the incremental damage being done over time to this proscribed terrorist group by other air forces already bombing in Syria.”

So we are looking at the possibility of military action that drags on and on, draining our country’s economy, with no conclusion in sight. That would be a poor use of our resources.

Remember Al-Qaeda? Remember how Osama Bin Laden was defeated?

It wasn’t on the battlefield; it was at his home, in a compound in Pakistan. A small US force launched the raid, acting on information picked up by intelligence agents. Some say this information was built up over a period of around 10 years; others say it came to them in a one-off tip. It didn’t come as the result of a bombing raid.

That’s why This Writer still says ‘slow and steady’ will win this war – not retaliatory bombing raids, no matter how accurate the missiles may be. The people firing them need to know what they are aiming at – and that requires information.

If British intelligence services really have foiled seven Daesh-inspired terrorist acts in the UK within the last year alone, then there is nothing wrong with our information-gathering powers.

By all means, let us do everything we can to help our allies in their military efforts, but let us also work to maintain the integrity of our own homeland, and to obtain information on the leaders of the terrorists and their whereabouts. Until we have that, let’s keep our powder dry.

There will be a time for Reapers, RAPTOR and Brimstone, but it isn’t today.

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Attack on Corbyn over Bin Laden assassination is hysterical

bin laden ap

For clarity, this is Osama Bin Laden, not Jeremy Corbyn. Some right-wing commentators may not be able to tell the difference.

… In both senses of the word.

It seems that people who should know better have dredged up a comment made by Jeremy Corbyn in 2011 about the death of Osama Bin Laden – that it would have been better if the Al-Qaeda leader had been arrested and put on trial, rather than killed.

Tory Nadhim Zahawi told the BBC: “Osama bin Laden was a terrorist who any sensible human being in the world would want either killed or arrested.” So he agrees with Mr Corbyn that arrest should have been an option.

And Labour’s – Labour’s! – defence spokesman, Kevan Jones, said: “This just shows you how out of touch he is with what most people’s views are.”

Oh, really?

This Writer would have preferred to see Osama Bin Laden arrested and put on trial, and so would Mrs Mike. We may not be representative of the whole of the UK but that’s two-thirds of this household agreeing with Mr Corbyn (the other third is not available for comment) – enough for one to question whether Mr Jones is more out of touch than Mr Corbyn.

Why wasn’t Bin Laden arrested? The US troops who took part in the operation neutralised everybody in the compound, didn’t they? So there was no reason not to take Bin Laden into custody. The fact that he was shot raises questions about whether he might have revealed information that compromised the USA’s – and possibly even the UK’s – standing in the international community. Those questions must go unanswered, leaving suspicion behind.

And isn’t it interesting that Mr Corbyn’s opponents are reduced to digging around for long-buried comments he made, in order to besmirch his reputation.

Would these people like it if we all did that?

Here’s George Osborne, writing in Tory propaganda sheet The Sun: “The new unilateralists of British politics [meaning Corbyn and his supporters] are a threat to our future national security and to our economic security.”

Those are bold words, coming from a man whose policies before the economic crisis threatened our economic security to a much greater extent, by supporting calls for banking to be deregulated further than they already had. The banks later became part of – and fuelled – a massive debt crisis that threatened the global economy. If Osborne had had his way, it would have been much worse.

Perhaps this is why he has persistently claimed – falsely – that the UK’s debt problems were due to overspending by the previous Labour government.

And perhaps that is why he has been a strong supporter of austerity policies that take money from the poor and hand it to the rich – despite the discrediting of the academic studies on which these policies are based, early in the Coalition Parliament.

With that kind of record, why should anyone listen to George Osborne?

Still, this episode offers an opportunity for the rest of us. If Corbyn’s opponents are willing to dig up anything he once said, just to keep a good man from an opportunity to change matters for the better, they won’t mind if the rest of us do the same.

Pick your targets, folks, and start digging up the dirt.

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Terrorism, Islam, and the need to keep the Western world in fear

Laughing at the law-abiding: IS militants at a captured checkpoint in northern Iraq [Image: AFP/Getty].

IS militants, doing exactly what the western powers want them to do, in order to maintain fear of terrorism among (for example) British citizens. [Image: AFP/Getty].

Does anybody else think the reaction to the terror attack on Charlie Hebdo – along with that against ISIS (or whatever they’re calling themselves these days), Al-Qaeda and, for that matter, Russia – has been, at the very least, off-colour?

Terrorists attack the staff of a magazine, claiming to be doing so in the name of Islam (we have no proof that this was their purpose and may never have it), so there’s a huge backlash against Muslims and the same magazine’s next issue – with a cover featuring a poor (yet still offensive) attempt at caricaturing Muhammad himself – sells five million copies; its normal circulation is 60,000.

Here in the UK, David Cameron does his best to use the attack as an excuse for even greater government intrusion into citizens’ privacy, on top of the incursions already enacted by his government.

Is it really about keeping us safe, or is it about keeping us down?

Some have argued that the western military-industrial complex has a vested interest in providing the public with a state-sponsored bogeyman to fear. During the Cold War it was the USSR. Immediately after Soviet Communism (which must not be confused with socialism) collapsed, the west went to war with Saddam Hussein’s Iraq – a regime formerly supported by the USA. Since then we’ve had 911, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, 7/7, Libya, Syria and Islamic State. While this has been going on, the western media seem to be stirring up fear of Putin’s Russia.

Isn’t that only to be expected from a coalition of groups with vested psychological, moral and material interests in the continuous development and maintenance of high levels of weaponry, in preservation of colonial markets and in military-strategic conceptions of internal affairs*?

There is no doubt that the British people are kept safe by the efforts of our security services – it is important that this should not be misunderstood. Many of the threats mentioned a couple of paragraphs above have been real.

But they aren’t anywhere near as serious as certain extremely rich people and organisations want us to think they are. Look at Iraq – Saddam Hussein didn’t have any weapons of mass destruction at all! He was found in a hole, living on ‘fun-size’ Mars bars (if certain writers are to be believed**).

It seems clear that there is a system of control being exercised upon us here. You can see it for yourself, evidenced by the fact that we never seem to find ourselves clear of any threats; there’s always another one on the horizon and it’s always important for us to give up more of our civil liberties in order to fight it – and of course, we pay for all the weapons and ammunition used, with our taxes.

So, looking at this objectively, we should be asking ourselves: Who is the greater threat?

As far as the Islamic extremists are concerned, if we lived in a rational world there would be a strong argument for someone to go and speak to them (under a white flag or whatever it took to be heard) and point out a few important facts: The western military has enough firepower to turn the Middle East into a scorched crater if it wants to do so. The reason it doesn’t is it needs you to be the equivalent of a pantomime villain, to be defeated at regular intervals on the evening news. The West will never defeat you completely, because you’re too useful for making a profit for the arms dealers and for keeping western citizens under control. You are, therefore, nothing but toys. The only way to defeat this strategy is to disengage completely; stop the violence against the west that will never, ever succeed and find better solutions to your problems.

If we lived in a rational world, they would agree.

Wouldn’t you like to live in that world, instead of this?

*As described in Revolution, by Russell Brand. Cheers for looking it up, Russell.

**Cheers again, Russell.

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

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Cameron in Afghanistan was no Lawrence of Arabia

131218afghanistan

How does one mark the passing of Peter O’Toole, if not by watching Lawrence of Arabia? It was his first film role and, some say, his greatest.

I’m sure I cannot be the only one to have drawn comparisons between T.E. Lawrence, as played by the great O’Toole on the silver screen, and David Cameron – who behaved like a tool when he said of British forces in Afghanistan, “Misson accomplished”.

In the film, Lawrence is shunned by his colleagues in the British military because of his unconventional ways, but accepted by the Arabs – firstly because he is able to quote the Koran to them, secondly because he goes out of his way to accomplish feats that seem impossible (like rescuing one of his Arab friends from The Sun’s Anvil) in order to give them hope of military success, and thirdly because he achieves these things for their good, not his own.

David Cameron is a different matter. Unlike Lawrence, he is not an original thinker – or indeed any other kind of leader. He is a follower. British military policy in Afghanistan was not his policy, and he made no effort to take control of it. He has made no effort to understand the admittedly-complicated history and culture of a country that has rightly been described as “troubled”, although few people bother to remember that much of that trouble has been caused by invaders including the British. And if he has gone out of his way, it was to avoid actions of distinction. But he’s happy to take the credit for everything that has been done.

This is why, when Cameron said the mission in Afghanistan will have been accomplished by the time the last British troops leave in 2014, so many commentators jeered.

Cameron is currently saying that the mission was to build up security in Afghanistan, to ensure it cannot become a haven for terrorists again, after our forces leave. This might seem reasonable if it were not merely the latest in a long list of mission statements provided for Afghanistan over the incredible 12 years since we arrived there in 2001.

Others, according to The Guardian, include “removing Al Qaida’s bases, eradicating poppy cultivation, educating girls and helping forge a form of democracy”. While we cannot comment on the first of these, the others either failed abjectly or have become the subjects of fierce controversy. The government of Hamid Karzai has long been criticised as corrupt.

Cameron’s choice of words also creates an unhealthy comparison with Iraq, which fell into chaos for a considerable period after then-US President George W Bush declared “mission accomplished” there.

Even the comedy Prime Minister’s attempt to put the soundbite across to the media seemed hesitant. “The purpose of our mission was always to build an Afghanistan and Afghan security forces that were capable of maintaining a basic level of security so this country never again became a haven for terrorist training camps,” he said.

“That has been the most important part of the mission… The absolute driving part of the mission is the basic level of security so that it doesn’t become a haven for terror. That is the mission, that was the mission and I think we will have accomplished that mission,” he added, unravelling completely by the end. He mentioned security three times, “haven for terror” twice, and the mission no less than six times!

And the experts disagreed. The British ambassador to Kabul from 2010-12, William Paytey, said: “Afghanistan has got a long way to go and it could be many decades before we see real peace there.”

So Cameron cuts a poor figure in comparison with Lawrence – and even, returning to our starting point, in comparison with Peter O’Toole. In his hellraising days, Cameron and his Bullingdon friends used to smash up restaurants; Peter O’Toole and his buddies would have tried to buy them.

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