Posts Tagged ‘Terrorism’

Terrorists: Publish Their Photos or Not?

July 29, 2016


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.


Terror is Just a Train Ride Away

March 22, 2016


22 March 2016


Ever since the attacks in Paris last year, most cities within a train ride have been anticipating another atrocity.

The Belgians caught Salah Abdeslam last Friday. He was part of the Paris attacks. But the second man they wanted, everyone wanted, Najim Laachraoui, the bomb maker slipped through the net. So did the getaway driver in Paris, Mohamed Abrini. The two on the run meant others were free covering them. That meant another attack was “on the clock” – likely.

The security alert in London and other cities is Severe – the counter-terrorism agencies have covered all known bets. But the Belgian authorities have warned at the highest levels that something was about to happen.

This morning it was Zaventem airport. An hour later Maelbeek metro station was hit. Brussels Midi train station was closed. Eurostar from London was terminating at Lille in Northern France. What is special about Lille? Modern terror is just a train ride away.

Sickenly, terror means more than corpses and wounded.

Terrorism also means the bringing to a standstill or diversion of systems we take for granted. So this morning (22 March) flights were cancelled or diverted. Railroads halted. People did not get where they expected to be.

But for most who were not in the airport and not on the metro there are two concerns: am I all right and when can I get to wherever I was heading?

Therefore the greater unlikelihood is the relationship between the Western urbanite and the poor wretches trapped in the origins of terrorism, Iraq, Syria and wherever. A Syrian child observes then plays in the rubble of that morning and a late for conference all expenses paid executive checks the board for the next flight to wherever she or he was supposed to be that afternoon.

We have now a world between the longitudes of the Tigris and Euphrates and the Iberian Peninsular that is fighting for its identity. That is what terrorism is.

Every police and security agency this day in Western Europe (hardly ever Eastern Europe) is running double checks on the terror state of its capital. Terrorists like capitals. They are less obvious and the target is more terror-efficient. Anyone, especially the nervous who avoids the carriage with the guy with a Muslim look and a backpack, who rides any subway knows this.

So if we know all this and more, what now? Now is the test of a counter-terror adage. When a terrorist team strikes they are for 48 hours on the run. When they run they are, if the intelligence report system is in place, vulnerable to capture. Najim Laachraoui and Mohamed Abrini prove some escape the net, especially the Belgian net. The Belgians are particularly bad at counter-terrorism. But the rule is reasonable sound. The terrorist team is vulnerable. But if one goes down another will form. This morning’s terror attack was successful.
Many dead. Many wounded. Many scattered. The best we can think is that more attacks have been prevented than have got through. The worst we can think is that Najim Laachraoui and Mohamed Abrini are still out there. The network that supports them is still out there. For all our habit of “carrying on” we should remind ourselves that the next act of terrorism is rarely more than a train ride away.


Terrorism & War – Looking Good says Colonel Steve

February 26, 2016


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.




New Terrorism Threat to UK? Beware Snake-oil politicians

February 22, 2016


EU Vote & Terrorism: Beware Cameron & Co selling snake-oil politics

The theatre of David Cameron’s assault on the EU is done. A UK referendum will be held on 23 June when the British will vote to stay in the EU or leave.

Mr Cameron’s people are looking for ways of guaranteeing a Yes Vote. So watch for a change of the electoral roll to include 16+ year-olds. Teenage voters will vote to stay in Europe.

If the government does not get its way then another referendum will be held to check that the people knew what they were saying. Corrupt? It is the way of these things.

Meanwhile the texture of the debate is immediately felt. Cameron is saying that anyone who votes No will be jeopardising national security. Terrorists will be aiming a strike on the UK after 23 June if we all vote to quit the EU. The Prime Minister is suggesting that by staying in the EU we are very much part of the Intelligence information supply line that helps UK counter terrorism. Downing Street says that pulling out of the EU will mean that many of the European agencies would not include the UK in that ring.

According to Cameron logic present non-EU states do not get security information and warnings. Rubbish. As for EU protection, ask the French.

Iain Duncan-Smith MP (who wants to quit) says that if we stay terrorists will be aiming a Paris-type strike on the UK after 23 June largely because it would be easier to get into the country. The fact that most radical action is home grown or home based bins that argument. Paris would have happened whatever French membership status of EU.

We imagine Mohammad al-Baghdadi sitting in Daesh council reviewing attack projections based on a referendum result in a country that has trumpeted a major airstrike operation on Daesh but has yet to have had much more than a car-load’s success in spite of using missiles that cost £300,000 a time. It is a bigger story than that and it defies scare tactics from two leading and supposedly trusted members of government.

Both the Cameron and Duncan-Smith camps are blatantly playing on fears. Worse, it takes only a couple of seconds to work out that they are unconvincing. Therefore both Cameron and Duncan-Smith are insulting the intelligence of the electorate. The terrorist threat is real enough. The agencies in most countries are aware of information exchange. The UK in or out of the EU is the second strongest member of NATO and would continue to be even outside the EU and therefore wired into every country with an A1 Intelligence Analysis System.

The vote on 23 June is important enough and the counter-terrorist debate sensitive to the extreme without the people trusted as leaders copying the Trump line in political rhetoric.

Ironically, if there is a Cameron plan to pack the voting by including 16+ year-old teenagers then he should be reminded by his carpet bagging aides that those same young people are not tired out voters. They have sharp brains. They can smell political snake-oil salesman a mile off.

Terrorists Don’t Sign Peace Agreements

December 16, 2015


16th December 2015


There are two things we have to understand about fighting terrorism:

A terrorist does not sign peace agreements

An insurgent wins if he does not lose

Take those two points on board then you can put the grand alliance announced in Riyadh this week in some perspective.

You will also get an idea why American led anti-IS policies have the finger prints of a whole lot of pretty dumb Washington analysts written all over them.

The announcement in Riyadh says this:   34 mainly Muslim nations have agreed to join a Middle East, Asian and African axis to fight terrorism.

The group is largely Sunni.  The three missing states from this agreement -Iran, Syria and Iraq – are largely Shia.

The only significance of the announcement is that Gulf States and others others accept that they must do what they should have done in October 2014 – take it upon themselves to destroy the threats from ISIS instead of waiting for the Americans to do it for them.

The military tone poem coming out of all this is that the Saudis understand what ISIS terrorism is all about but cannot do too much about it and the US-led lot do not understand ISIS and they too cannot do much about it.

Talking to American policy wonks it is sadly clear they do not understand that rebellion is a greater power than ever because the means of making rebellion attractive and successful has never been greater.

Until autumn 2014 and with ISIS advancements the average Arab never believed it was possible to change society into something different.  ISIS said we can and we have.

Moreover most at Riyadh understands what America and her allies like the UK do not understand: an insurgency wins if it does not lose. Unlike state to state warfare, a rebellion can slink away and therefore cannot be beaten.  It can be contained as post-World War II America attempted to contain emerging USSR.  But it need never be beaten as long as the will remains.

The further reason for  doubting coalition understanding of what they are into is their continuing belief in signing agreements. That is a very western way of doing things. Making the other side sign means you have won.  Terrorism has no political signature that obliges those coming later to observe such a signature.

Western nations sign as states. Terrorists have no such structure nor authority.

All this says that whatever the plans of Riyadh, of Washington, of Moscow or of any other state, terrorism cannot be beaten because a signature is not a symbol of having lost.

It is a hard thought to follow, but it is the only one to be understood if ISIS is to be contained, which it will have to be because it has nothing to lose and therefore will for ever win.


ISIS Can Be Beaten – But Not This Week

November 16, 2015


16 November 2015


ISIS is beatable.  It is not a mystical zealotry wielding an Islamist excalibur. It is not invincible.

ISIS is not a supremely organised and state supported military organisation

ISAS is in military terms terrorist organisation that could not withstand a 21st century centrally command-led  onslaught from, say, the United States and the Global Coalition.

ISAS has very little natural support in the Middle East.  Most governments and people of all Islamic persuasion want ISIS put down.

That is the message that the G20 leaders meeting in Turkey should be giving out and then backing that up with all their military and most importantly political resources. They have to agree what they are going after, when they are doing that and those without major military roles should support diplomatically, financially and territorially those that have.

They should be making it clear that today starts new planning to re-establish a joint service military command to destroy ISIS in Iraq and Syria. There will be  subordinate commands to do the same in the ISIS diaspora in Afghanistan, Gaza,  (more powerful by the day), Libya and sub-Saharan Africa.

This is not let’s-get-’em redneck reactionary rhetoric.

Compared with the political and economic authority of the major nations against ISIS and most certainly the military assets of those same powers (ISIS does not have, an air force, a drone capability, satellite intelligence, elint etc) ISIS’s only advantage is that  coalition powers are relying mostly on air attacks and Kurdish ground forces.  Even now an apparent success against ISIS in reality means fast withdrawal having raped and wasted the town they then leave behind the booby traps and images of misery because the locals assume they will return.  This means that something has to come out of Turkey that will lead not only to chasing ISIS out of town but then going in hot pursuit.

But that does not make ISIS unbeatable.

The International Syria Support Group who will be in Turkey insist that ISIS will be turned back and then talks on both sides to bring peace to Syria can proceed.  Maybe.  Maybe not.

The anti-Assad rebels will not agree to an election and anyway you cannot have an election in rubbled homeland.  All the time there is that condition then ISIS will be there until the high table in Turkey or wherever next they meet take a decision to go beyond a handful of nations with bombings and drone attacks.

A single command system with a four star general and five star resources must be established. It should have regional and UN plus domestic legal authority to throw electronic, satellite, human and special forces intelligence systems into locating and then applying the military hardware in unrelenting bitterness and purpose against ISIS. It must too have a follow-on plan what to do in regions where ISIS is defeated and the resentment of its followers festers.

None of this is a job for the week, next week or long weeks after that. Wars do not work that way.  But the near truth is that with all the advantages of scattered and sleeping anonymity ISIS has not been so successful.

If the suicide bombers had got into the Stade de France on Friday, then the dead list would be even more gruesome and the mood and shock nationally depressing.  But the bombers did not get in. There too is the fact that although 132 deaths occurred on Friday, that is not a big number.

That number is killed on a daily basis in the Middle East.  Now we may appreciate that – for the moment.

So put in perspective the Global Coalition with hugely superior intelligence gathering and firepower can defeat ISIS.  Whether or not it has the political will (the Paris atrocity will quickly lose its effect) is another matter.