Posts Tagged ‘IS’

Terrorists: Publish Their Photos or Not?

July 29, 2016

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Christopher Lee

29July London

A terrorist slits the throat of a French priest. Newspapers and broadcasters throughout the world publish and show high definition photographs of the murderer and his partner. We know what they look like, their names, ages, something of their history and a nice quote from the knifeman’s mother who says that at heart he was a good boy.

The leading French daily Le Monde has announced (after the Nice terrorism)  that it will not give terrorists publicity and so will not publish their photographs.  The murder of Father Jaques in Normandy confirms that decision according to Le Monde.

The argument at Le Monde is that by publishing photographs the paper is in some way glorifying the terrorism. The terrorist becomes a celebrity.

By taking such a decision Le Monde’s editors have stepped aside from the code of so-called journalistic impartiality. Most societies regard the hounding, capture and even the destruction of terrorism as a role for the military, the intelligence agencies, the policy and the elected politicians.

By banning pictures – in theory starving terrorism of the oxygen of publicity – Le Monde has joined the fight against terrorism or at the very least changed editorial policy in the hope of helping to capture those who killed Father Jaques.

Le Monde’s editor Jerome Fenoglio says “We have to do this for all victims of the criminal organisation known as the ‘Islamic State’.”

The decision of an admired newspaper to publish or not sets it aside from other papers in democratic society. The Turkish government has this past week ordered the shut down three news agencies, 16 television channels, 23 radio stations, 45 daily newspapers, 15 magazines and 29 publishing houses. It is not uncommon for a government to restrict the media in a crisis.  It is very uncommon for a newspaper to impose self-censorship.  Moreover, the Le Monde decision is not a one-off.  There could be more to come because the editorial board recognise IS and other groups are not passing ideologies.

As Fenoglio puts it, “After the Nice Attack, we are publishing no more images of terrorists, perpetrator of killings and massacres, to avoid potential posthumous glorification. Other debates about our practices [as a newspaper] are ongoing.”

What about other news outlets?  Le Monde has not been followed. Le Figaro says it shall wait and see. British papers will publish everything it can other than the act of killing.  Equally, the head of the Quilliam Foundation (a think tank of radicalisation analysts) says it has been a great decision.It reduces the propaganda value of the terrorist.

So what are the practical ambitions and consequences?

It is a purpose of IS to gain publicity from an act of violence. Publicity tells a global audience that IS can do something and is willing to do something and that no one is safe from such acts.  This induces a varying stage of terror – a large part of any terrorist ambition.

Secondly, by running pictures, names and backgrounds of the perpetrators the news outlet may spread among readers further disgust about what had happened but identity of the terrorist suggests a cause rather than an anonymous event of violence.

Withdrawing names etc reduces any possibility of a neutral public understanding of why as opposed to what has happened. In a bizarre sense, no picture no name removes an imagined chance of hero worship.

Yet all this is an argument of times past.

Le Monde’s decision is taken in an internet age where all is revealed and where there are few rules of what is right and wrong to publish.  The importance of the decision of Fenoglio and his editorial board is that a great newspaper is attempting to take part in what is a state venture – the prevention and eventually the destruction of terrorism.  It is not enough to rant in a newspaper editorial. Le Monde in its honourable way is being counted. Very few in these times will have the moral debate with themselves.

 

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Terrorism & War – Looking Good says Colonel Steve

February 26, 2016

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Christopher Lee

27 February 2016. London.

The colonel from the Pentagon looked the part.  Cleaner cut than a saint, with more medal ribbons than a pantomime hero.  He landed in the UK this past week with a word perfect mission.

He had come to to every newspaper and broadcaster that the war on IS (he uses Daesh) is right on schedule and IS/Daesh is taking a beating. He says the US-led coalition is killing terrorists leaders most days. Their bases are taking big hits, the armoured vehicles are been wasted.

Colonel Steve Warren was here to tell us that Daesh was beginning to lose. “We see them in a defensive crouch” he told us. No journalist mentioned that a panther springs from a crouch.

The fact that IS is on a killing high hit and having nauseating fun using beheaded cadavers as road blocks is a side issue for the colonel with a message.  He says we’ve got it wrong.

Who sent the colonel?  Answer: the people who believe that too many media reports from Syria, Iraq, Turkey and Libya are telling a different story.  They are undermining the reports, especially those relayed in Washington, that it is not long now before IS collapses.

About five or six months ago the same US sources were briefing British and French TV and newspaper hacks that ISIS was a second rate bunch of no-hopers that given political guts could be wiped out inside the Christian winter holiday.  The message is dulled. Hence the colonel’s visit. A regional scan shows why. From the Bosphorus to Tripoli via the Gulf there is a tragedy that just a few years back would not have got off the staring block.

The Turks are hitting the Kurds, the Kurds are hitting the Turks.  Sunni and Shia states and peoples are at war face to face or by proxy. The coalition is hymning the Syria ceasefire but the two main teams – IS and Bashar al-Assad are not signatories. IS does not care about a ceasefire.  Assad is bombing rebel backyards and is ready to go the extra 100 meters with I Told You So banners when the ceasefire crumbles. The Russians are happy to help them out.

Across the almost non-existent border in Iraq on Friday about 20 people were killed in a bombing of a Shia mosque (the government is Shia seeking revenge).  Who did it? Surely not IS who is on the run according to the colonel.  Yup.  The very same IS.  Ask the mourners at the Rasul al-Zam mosque.

In Lebanon, Hezbollah are training Houthi rebels to fight in Yemen and the Saudi are looking at target planning into Hezbollah.  Imagine the death toll.  Imagine the knock-on.  Meanwhile the Saudi bombing in Yemen appears as casual as cruelty can be in warfare.   Hitting civilian targets is good terrorist bombing.  It causes confusion and terror.

Before we leave that bit of the dusty world, two pipe bombs were found in Jerusalem at Herod’s Gate. Lots of shooting.  Lots of dying. Also Friday, a prediction that Gaza will be a death bed scene by 2020.  Next door in Egypt, President Sisi is telling his people, do not listen to others.  Just do as I say.

And in Libya, there is a meeting Monday to see if Libya may be split into three. The West recognises one group, detests and will fight the other while everyone will be hit by the third. It is a simple example of bloodbath created when the British, the French and the colonel’s employers go into something blazing saddles without guaranteeing the result they claim to be promising. Other examples? Viet Nam, Iraq and Afghanistan with the dankness of Syrian dead joining the tragic tapestry of failure.

So best the colonel goes home. Best someone who writes the propaganda tours gets to understand that what we call the Middle East is seeking a new identity that is different from the one the West created for it in the 1920s. IS emerged because the Western-led coalition got it wrong.

And, let us hope and those who do these things, let them pray that the crouching IS not about to leap with another Paris.  When a well turned out colonel tells them they are losing, they may just have to prove they are not in the crudest manner.

 

 

 

Iraq, Chilcot, IS – Why Blair Is Still On The Run

October 25, 2015

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26 October 2015

London

If Iraq had not happened I wonder how Tony Blair would have rated today? But it did happen and now Mr Blair is having to explain his case all over again – this time on a CNN TV show.

He says to go into Iraq after Saddam Hussein was the toughest decision he had to make. Wrong Mr Blair.

The then US President George W Bush was already going into Iraq.  Mr Blair went along for the ride to glory being overwhelmed by the aura surrounding true power. He would have enjoyed being a US President.

He says he was sorry that the Intelligence that swung his decision to go get Saddam was not so good.  Wrong Mr Blair.

The Intelligence at all levels was enough to tell us that the military threat was non-existent.  Weapons of Mass Disappearance.

He says if they had not gone after Saddam then Iraq would have become the same as Syria is today. Wrong Mr Blair.

Syrians started the Damascus demos because the Arab Spring was running and Syria joined in and Assad had a second rate security operation.

There was no revolution brewing in the Middle East in 2003 and Saddam ran the tightest Sunni security operation anyone had seen.  Only a dead man walking would have tried a demo in Saddam’s Iraq that year.

He says that just maybe IS or Daesh or ISIS may have emerged because of the war in Iraq.  Wrong Mr Blair.

IS emerged not because there was a war but because the coalition pulled out far too soon leaving a state convulsed by revenge politics and no military and security apparatus capable of identifying extremism.  Above all, IS started in Syria, not Iraq.

So what is this all about? It is about the forthcoming preliminary publication of the Chilcot inquiry set up to  look at the who did what and why of the Iraq war. Mr Blair gave evidence and did a good job.  Others who also gave evidence – but contradicted Mr Blair.  That they gave their evidence in a way to protect there own skins is neither here nor there now. Mr Blair is an easy and not much a moving target.

The point is that Mr Blair has already read the Chilcot paragraphs about himself.  He knows the criticisms and by having his people go through the transcripts (the evidence text is on line for anyone to read) he also knows that the general public impression is that the war was bad news and his part in it is condemned by his own people.  That is not Chilcot’s fault.  Most people believed that anyway.

So Mr Blair is going public with his defence anticipating reaction to Chilcot.  Simple as that. It matters not what Chilcot says. In fact most people will never read it. Anyone left who cares wants the Blair Guilty headlines.  We have had them so many times that except for insiders, Chilcot matters not.

You may think Mr Blair is cutting a sad enough figure; then again you may be among those who say he has become a multi millionaire so what’s the problem.  The truth is somewhat deeper.

It is hard to remember sometimes that Mr Blair was not just Iraq.  For example he made his Party electable and since he left office it has never again been so. Tony Blair’s supreme achievement was not teaming up with George W Bush but being a main figure in bringing about a peace settlement in Northern Ireland. There was a string of successes for PM Blair and but for one thing he could today even be on some one’s list of a future Prime Minister returning to rescue a Party that has descended to almost nothing without him. A grand old man of politics. A world statesman.

Instead? Forever in British eyes: Tony Blair is on the run.

Why MI5 needs MPs to back Cameron demand to bomb IS

September 17, 2015

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17 September 2015. London

Andrew Parker, Director General of the UK Security Service says a terrorist attack on the British Isles from IS is “highly likely”.

Considering the the security state in the UK was SEVERE in January 2015, that suggests nothing has changed.  That threat status comes from the Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre.  In recent times, it has got more right than not.  In these times that is a considerable achievement.

An even greater success is the fact that MI5 has foiled six recent attempts by terrorists to cause tragedy in the UK.  The threat is up about 35% during the past five years. The spread of counter terrorism action is up twice that amount.

It would seem on paper that the UK is holding its own against the terrorist threat. That is an easily corrupted illusion.

Each year a planned major attack is discovered. The rate of planned attacks is increasing. But the resources of MI5, the lead counter terrorism agency in the UK are weaker in practical terms.  Throwing money into the Security Service Budget is all very well but (a) resources really mean trained manpower and a vastly important catch-up programme of intercepting terrorist communications internationally by inner and dark webs to unknown electronics to street level Elint, for example, pay-as-you-go mobiles. Use once and bin is an almost perfectly secure street communicator where the only real hope is to find the contact being called rather than the caller.

Most of all, resources are not instant action solutions. Manpower is an example.  A raw probationary intelligence officer without any Service background can take two years to train to any higher standard than monitoring.  A Service of about 2000 trying to track and monitor say 2700 known radicals is an obvious unbalanced force.

Technically and using all other agencies (the Secret Intelligence Service and GCHQ plus police) the find-track-monitor rate is almost inevitably always a most demanding and often exhausting task. MI5 may never have had a harder role especially as it cannot easily get to the source of the threat, IS in Syria.

The intervention of Andrew Parker (who headed the investigation in the July 2007 London bombings) at this stage suggests an important link to PM David Cameron’s expected Commons Motion asking for Parliamentary support for the UK to join the coalition bombing campaign over Syria.  MI5 want the SI command and planning targets in Syria. That is where the direction for a UK will have full authority.  He would like the UK to go after that specific target rather than using resources to attack Assad troops.

So we can see Parker saying today that Parliament should vote Yes to Syria bombing.

Meanwhile there is a sub-clause to what he had to say: there is a Treasury move to wrap the Intelligence budget in with the Defence Ministry.  Parker wants to make it clear that this is nothing more than paper accounting.  He needs hands on always for his own budget and he needs a much bigger one and especially a technical development budget with GCHQ.

There is a ready source of increased budget for them both: delay Trident update for six years.  Give the money and the resources to the Intelligence people. They need it more than Trident Replacement. MI5 is in excellent hands but this its need to be guaranteed even more trained and technical resources than now they have.  Maybe Mr Corbyn at next PMQs could get Chrissie from Sussex to ask the PM why this should be made so.