Category Archives: Terrorism and Counterrorism

Commentary: Targeting the Enemy and Non-combatants Causalities

One thing is clear in life:  You know your enemy.  At least, you think you are sure. But there are times when you are caught off guard and blind-sided. But that is usually the rare occasion. The next question is obvious: If you know your enemy, are you legally and morally entitled to eliminate that threat before you are attacked?  Or rather, are you legally “or” morally entitled to move forward?

What is also interesting within this sensitive topic is the world’s reaction to preemptive strikes. And that generally follows the useless saying that one person’s freedom fighter is another’s terrorist.  To place that issue permanently aside– it is clear who is a terrorist by the simplest of definition. The moment you attack a civilian target –a bus, a school, a shopping market, a café, a housing project you are, by definition, a terrorist. Period.  But: What if civilians are within the proposed targeted area? The answer to this question was changed in part from the moment I started to write this Commentary to the time of its final edit.

When civilians are within a targeted area, the “rules of war” or “rules of engagement” fall into place. And here, it is easy to turn to the international promulgated rules and treaties. In 1859, a Swiss business man, for reasons unknown, visited wounded soldiers after the Battle of Solferino in the second war for Italian Independence. He was shocked by the physical and medical conditions of the soldiers and, in particular, the lack of medical help on the battle field. The battle itself was horrendous and resulted in thousands upon thousands killed and tens of thousands wounded in only a nine hour battle. In particular, there were scores of reports of dying and wounded soldiers shot or bayonetted while they lie injured on the battle field.  He went home and wrote of his experience of the horrors of war. His book propelled the acceptance of international treaties to provide relief during war and won him the first Nobel Peace prize in 1901.  During the past 70 years, the main victims of all forms of war have been civilians.

In today’s world of horrific air and drone strikes and bombings from miles high in the sky what of those who live in a battle zone and wish to merely survive the violence of war. They are not combatants; they are caught in the colloquial cross-fire of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.  You’ve seen their pictures. And you get angry.

These people are “non-combatants,” and that word is considered a “legal term of art” “in the law of war”. A non-combatant is generally described as a civilian who is not taking a direct part in the hostilities, not aiding the combatants in any form and who is not willing being used as a shield for one of the combatants. These civilians have been recognized as protected since the inception of the First Geneva Convention of 1864. To illustrate the extent to which protection is afforded a “non”-combatant: A pilot or any military aircrew member (a combatant!) whose plane is shot and crippled, and thus forced to parachute to safety, is no longer a combatant and cannot be attacked (shot at) while parachuting to the ground notwithstanding whether the landing area is hostile or not.

The International Humanitarian Law looks to the protection not of combatants but of those civilians caught in the midst of conflict or who are living under the rule of the enemy’s forces. They must be protected against all forms of violence and this means not only by the enemy under which they live but by those attacking the enemy. All care must be in place to protect the innocent civilian within a war zone, who is not aiding the enemy in any form or fashion.  Thus, when we or any other country attacks its enemy, one condition of the armed attack is protection of the civilian population not “engaged” with the enemy.

Hundreds of women and children were killed in west Mosul March 17th. The Americans bombed the area as part of their cooperation with the Iraqi army against the Islamic State. The tragedy did make the headlines. The question then becomes are we—the United States—war criminals?  Not to be callus—“mere” civilian death during combat does not justify that charge. What were the circumstance of the planning and execution of that bombing raid?  Was the bombing “a disproportional response” to what was transpiring on the ground? Did we know of the civilians in the area and how close they were to the targeted area?

The top US commander in Iraq said “there’s a fair chance” that a U.S. airstrike in west Mosul killed civilians on March 17. Evidence also reveals that there were multiple strikes in the area. As I began to write this commentary, an internal U.S. investigation is ongoing to determine why and how the deaths of civilians occurred. More of this in a moment to show the problem with air strikes, however pinpointed they may be with non-combatants in the vicinity. As with Mosul, the residences in the northern Syrian city of Raqqa live in a trapped ISIS environment.  Raqqa is the ISIS de facto capital.  ISIS has laid a belt of land mines circling the city. Inside the city all men have been directed to wear jihad clothing so as to make it almost impossible to determine who is and who is not an ISIS member. In effect, ISIS has created a massive human shield.   How do you target your enemy?

What we do know at this moment –March 31st  — there is an investigation into the March 17th    air attack; and that air surveillance reveals that ISIS was smuggling civilians, sight unseen into buildings within the City, then bait the coalition forces to attack. In this instance, the civilians were not used as traditional shields—equally despicable.   It has been admitted that civilian casualties are “fairly predictable” given the densely populated areas where the ISIS fighters have dug in. One thing has changed as of March 31st.  Last week, it was announced that the American rules of engagement have not been loosening when it comes to accepting the concept of civilian fatalities.  Lt. General Stephen Townsend publicized that the military has not decided to tolerate greater risk of civilian casualties in its airstrikes.  That changed on March 31st at least in the shielding of civilians in Somalia.  President Trump has sign-off the Army to “prosecute targets in a more rapid fashion.”   There must be, the Trump directive describes, a permitted airstrikes if there is “a reasonable certainty” that no civilians will be hurt. This is less stringent than the “near certainty” standard issued by President Barack Obama in 2013 as a Presidential Policy Guidance that is still applied elsewhere. The Obama standard requires high-level, interagency vetting of proposed airstrikes and the target has to pose a direct threat to Americans. Under the Trump guidelines, as described in the press, Somalia would be considered a less-restrictive battlefield and the target chosen would be based upon the target’s “status”  “without any reason” that this particular target would give rise to a direct threat to Americans and  that some civilian bystander deaths would occur even if the attack was proportionate.

And then the conundrum in world politics kicks in. The United States conducts a strike and the world “discusses” the appropriateness of the strike and whether it comports with the accepted norms of warfare and engagement. When Israel targets a terrorist (not a freedom fighter!), the world discusses “war criminals”.  The United States Joint Chief of Staff Martin Dempsey has sent his senior officers to Israel to study the methods to which that country has gone (quoting his words: “extraordinary lengths”) to limit civilian casualties, and yet his strong military approval did not lower the “the level of hostility toward Israel”.   This anti-Israel hostility continues, notwithstanding the openly published Hamas guidelines ordering its members to “operate from within civilian populations…to increase the number of innocent casualties.”  The reason is obvious.  The political conclusions are obvious.

It is difficult to reconcile or accept the loss of civilian lives —those very innocent people that get caught in the center of a military conflict.  It is easy to say: but that is the “cost of war”.  As I mentioned earlier, in the last 70 years the loss of innocent lives in our wars and the wars between other nations has cost unacceptable large number of civilian, non-combatant lives. Shall we, along with the Israelis, continue the strikes against those who would harm us? The “preemptive strike.”  The airstrike against an enemy.  Do we send a drone to eliminate a terrorist or ISIS leader? Do we have a legal right to do so? The answer is clearly: Yes. Is there a moral obligation that prohibits us from engaging in an activity that puts civilians at risk? The answer here is not a simple yes or no. The answer is that as long as we have in place the mechanism that can identify the non- combatant in the strike, that the strike is not over-kill or disproportionate, that we take all reasonable precautions to protect the non-combatant– then we have both a legal and moral right to protect our citizens and those that depend upon us for their lives.

Richard Allan
The Editor

Commentary—Eurabia Revisited: Muslim Surge – Multi-Ethnic vs. Multicultural Society

In 2005, Tony Blankley, a conservative editor at the Washington Times, not the Washington Post, wrote a slim book that caused people to yell: Foul! Discriminatory! Inflammatory! I do not remember if he was a participant on the Sunday morning Mclaughlin Report at the time but I do remember his slight English accent and gracious manner. His political position was very much cutting edge on the far right side of the political spectrum. His book was described as “shocking”. He argued that it was the West’s last chance at survival because the European continent was to become Eurabia.   He argued that the European continent would be overwhelmed by militant Islam, which would pose a greater threat to the United States than Nazi Germany. This, he argued, was the West’s last chance at survival. This was in 2005.

That was eleven years ago. We had lived thru the September 11 2001 attacks –a series of four coordinate attacks by an Islamic terrorist group that killed 2,996 people, injured over 6,000 and caused billions in property damage. Five years prior to the Blankley book, a book published in the Netherlands had claimed that multiculturalism had failed in that country. That author was viciously attacked, called a racist and bigot. It was against this background and with the then surge of Muslims into Europe, that Mr. Blankley envisioned a continent where Muslims outnumber non-Muslims.

What has happened in Europe? This is 2016, and we will take count in 5 days of the 9/11 attack. Is there a Eurabia? Have the Muslims assumed the mantel of ownership in Europe? Clearly the answer is “no” but with a very large warning asterisk. When one meshes a fine article by Abigail Esman for the IPT News and the work of Conrad Hackett, a demographer focusing on religion at Pew Research Center, we see the formation of a very disturbing trend on the European Continent and England. I had a colleague who was fond of saying: Yes, I have a phobia, but that doesn’t mean someone is not trying to kill me.

Phobia based reasoning, people claim, is not a rational method for discourse, but there is a factual trend unfolding before us that is more than disturbing for the present and the future. Let me explain.

In Britain, Poles constitute the largest number of foreign-born residents, and the Brexit referendum to leave the European Union has unleashed a wave of violent xenophobia. But it is the Muslim population in Western Europe and Great Britain that has caused the greatest amount of fear.

In France, Belgium, Germany, the UK and Netherlands there is mounting concern because of the ever increasing Muslim population. Germany and France have the greatest number of Muslims. In approximate numbers, Germany has 4.8 million Muslims or about 5.8 percent of its population. Germany has roughly the same number but constituting 7.5 percent of its population. The UK has 3 million Muslims or 4.8 percent of its population. Last, the Netherlands has only 1 million Muslims but 6 percent of its population.

When viewed as a whole, Europe’s total Muslim population has been increasing steadily and consistently from 4 percent in 1990 to 6% in 2010, and should reach well above 8 percent, because of the extreme violence now in play in the mid-East and the rush of immigration fleeing to Europe. In 2015 alone the number of refugees escaping to Europe pushed to an astounding 1.3 Million people. While in the small and progressive nation, Denmark, the more than 36,000 mostly Muslim asylums seekers who had arrived in the last year has created a backlash. Bo Lidegaard, a prominent Danish historian, as reported in the New York Times, voiced the issue most profoundly:” we are a multi-ethnic society. We are not and should never become a multicultural society.”

These numbers are a haze to digest. But important as they are, they create a troubling picture for the future. The Muslims who have endured extreme hardship and arrive in Europe are younger than all other people in Europe, and thus it is expected they will reproduce at a greater rate than their older European neighbors. In 2011, it was predicted that the world Muslim population will grow twice as fast as non-Muslim s over the next 20 years. They have the highest fertility rate well above replacement levels and, thus, become the fastest growing religion worldwide.

Within the last 15 months I have felt the increased tension while visiting in the UK and France. Taxi drivers, without request, are indicating which streets and cafés were bombed; there is a palpable tension and one feels the quiet sense of possible danger. Since my visit in January of 2015 to London, with a cancelled trip to France because of the bombings, over 275 have been killed at the hands of Islamic terrorists. The youth are racializing and communities across Europe are in the midst of heated discussion regarding the strict control of immigration, reviewing counterterrorism strategies, increased surveillance and tighter control of currency exchange that have provided clandestine help to the potential terrorist.

I have written previously of much needed programs to coordinate intelligence gathering and data within EU partners. And that has come to fruition. Most important, beside the regularly scheduled meetings of the EU partners which I have called for is the present sharing of databases pinpointing not just groups but individuals whose potential for terrorism is demonstrable.

With the intensity of the data and intelligence sharing process we are faced with the concerns for individual privacy and the ability to have sufficient resources to conduct the most crucial aspects of counterterrorism intrusion. There is also the necessity to appreciate the macro picture –considering the effect on the general well-being of the European population with the arrival of thousands of fleeing refugees. “What now that that Europe is close to its limit on accepting refugees,” EU President Donald Tusk (the former president of Poland) said on Sunday, 4 September, as he urged the international community to do more to step up resettlement of those seeking refuge.

Taking the problem one set further, a major consideration in Ms. Esman’s article is how to combat/prevent radicalizing of the non-terrorist persons within the prison populations by the terrorist in the next cell. Equally important in the total fight against terrorism is the aggressive surveillance of those places that advertise themselves as cultural or religious centers but serve yet another purpose. Too many years ago, Steve Emerson of IPT came to my home and showed Yigal Carmon (who was then the advisor to the PM of Israel and now the founder and president of MEMRI) and me the first cut of a documentary he produced that was to be shown on PBS-Television: “A Jihad in America”. You were taken—with the use of hidden cameras– into mosques across America that were openly utilized as recruiting and training grounds for future terrorists. I remember clearly when the video print came to an end, I sat silent and stunned. I could only mutter: Please play it again. I watched it three times before I was able to discuss its content. Today, I would not be shocked.

Looking at Europe from afar, from the safety of my home, what I see is in some quarters is a culture that evokes hate and fear. There is so much more fear in Europe and the UK than in the United States. And the reason is obvious. 9/11 has become a memory to most of us in this Country—almost a symbol with little or no personal pain; the terrorist attacks in Europe are in the present, unrelenting, personal and with no understanding why the locations or the persons chosen to be attacked are determined—other than, in some instances, mere convenience. There is no place to hide. And so the rapid influx into Europe, first gradual and now in torrents, of Muslims bringing their traditions, culture and religion create a sense of being overwhelmed.

There is no Eurabia today and maybe not tomorrow, but there will be a massive change in the complexity of Europe’s character in our lifetime as the flow of large numbers of people rush from the Mid- East to Europe. Some to merely escape violence and they will be content to find peace anywhere. There will be some who will seek to impose their lifestyle on their host nation—and there will be conflict; there will be some who come not to escape violence but to vent through violence their religious hatred toward their host.

It is unfortunate, but the terrorists will, in the short run, outpace their pursuers. It is unfortunate, in the macro world, that the process thru which these refugees must be processed and their acceptance into our community will require enhanced surveillance. This will require the surrender of some of those civil rights we cherish until we find a method that truly balances those rights with providing for our individual safety. Pragmatically that is possible. There is always a price – a price for living in an open multi-cultural society.

Blankley was right. This is the West’s last chance to maintain its heritage—but only if we do deal humanely with those who flee from violence. In the process of recognition we must accept the concepts of religious freedom and deal simultaneously and pragmatically with terrorism –in one integrated bundle. One must understand that these are not separate issues; each forms an important part of the mosaic that will keep the continent European and embracing. France cannot be only for the French and Muslims cannot superimpose their will on the French –their culture or heritage. The EU must be in lock-step, united in one common goal. We, in the United States, learned that lesson when 13 very independent states formed one union, no physical barriers, accepting of diverse religions, no competing tariffs, and one nation-wide set of legal principals — all embedded in what became our Constitution.

Richard Allan

The Editor

 

Commentary: Why Study Madeiran

It is a rainy Saturday afternoon and all my outside chores where put on hold. Time to clean my desk and my computer of saved “stuff”. The mere thought of the process has overwhelmed me.

The mid-East has made the word “nightmare” too mild an adjective. And the headlines take me from the news that there has been the first human head transplant to the announcement that we (our Government) has spent 1 trillion dollars (that’s a lot of zeros) on our homeland security. And as I note to myself that I do not feel any safer by any standard, a family questions pops up. Grandson number 2 is off to college and the question passed around is– should he continue his study of Madeiran as part of his core studies in his first year in college. Most of those polled say: No. Why continue with such a difficult Chinese language. His brother and I say: Yes. I am not sure our reasons are the same.

The Mid-East is a burning inferno with more crossed signals that one could have anticipated. The shifting of allies and the increased intensity of the violence produced by our enemies has created confusion and discouragement simultaneously. Why are we continuing to bother to attempt to change the hearts and minds of people and institutions that are mired in a time-warp in history that cannot be changed by either externally instigated or home inspired civil wars. We cannot impose democracy or regime changes or fight battles with some of those who are motivated by barbaric instinct.

There is yet another layer of conflict, the fight, not merely for control of regional ideologies, but the struggle between the United States and Russia to build powerful buffers for each of its own international self-protection.

With this our sole focus of attention, we miss a greater threat that is blithely and elegantly sailing under the radar and with the tide running in its favor.

Grandson number# 2, I say, continue your studies in Mandarin Chinese because there lies the bomb that is greater than the Mid-East flames. The Mid-East conflict will last another fifty years until all the regional parties will become exhausted and no longer have the ability to pay for the cost of inflicting or being the recipient of violence.

China on the other hand has crumbled its “great wall” of international isolation and seeks to confront the rest of world for what it alone considers its rightful share of this planet. It is not looking for a “hand-out” from the big powers. It ignores them. It has decided unilaterally that it is their prerogative to seize or create (an island out of coral reef) what it believes it is their rightful share of not merely world power and dominance but substantial space on this planet, and has put its military might and its own logic behind that grab.

It all started with the world looking with, and I think I say this accurately, something akin to “what are they trying to do? “ And, parenthetically, there is also a smirk on our faces. If you do not remember the facts, let me refresh your recollection: First if you look at a map of the Philippine islands (there are some 700 that make up the chain) and draw your eye to the West into the lower region of the South China Sea, you will find a slew of small islands and reefs. A reef is a chain of rocks or coral or a ridge of sand at or near the surface of water. In 2014, a rivalry intensified in that area that is best described as a sea of messy territorial claims, with China, Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam disputing the sovereignty of island chains and reefs in the nearby waters.

Then, a little more than 18 months ago, started China’s startling action in a little more than 18 months ago: it has reclaimed –through massive dredging of more than 2,000 acres at three main reefs (reefs!) in the Spratly Island. It unilaterally announced that it had indisputable sovereignty over the reef/islands and its nearby waters—12 nautical miles. With all this in violation of international maritime law, China built a substantial military base with a major runway. And to move fast forward their leaders in Beijing have angrily called the world’s arbitration court process a “farce” for rejecting the legality of its claim to the South China Sea. On top of this, China has three aircraft carriers in either construction or refurbishing placing them at the forefront of its maritime might.

Last, in this very brief summary of China’s surge, is a long article in 20 August WSJ “ China’s Naval Footprint Grows”. I was startled by a map of China’s strategic military port networks from Mozambique, Tanzania, Kenya in Africa, Egypt, Turkey and Greece and moving east to Pakistan and Myanmar (Burma). These ports of call are being built or financed or operated by the Chinese navy for the new Chinese navy, not for tourism. This list does not include those ports visited most frequently by the Chinese navy for rest or refiling, nor those being built in the South China Sea as I described above and are being enhanced.

China has ignored an international court; China has ratcheted its aggressive maritime move to ports far beyond it natural maritime boarders, and most important, China shows no hint of slowing down either its rhetoric or is aggressive military expansion. We fly within what they consider their territorial sovereign boarder in the South China Sea, we send ships pushing the 12 nautical mile claim of control and they warn us and we ignore them. That dance cannot continue.

I dare not think of an Obama line in the sand, especially as he is departing the oval office in 5 months. I dare not think what China may do to exacerbate an already contentious presidential United States election. I dare not think how far China is willing to push the expansion envelope with our main focus not west but east.

I do think my number 2 grandson should continue with his studies in Madeiran for the most obvious of all reasons. China is not our ally, not our partner, not our friend.

Richard Allan,

The Editor

 

 

Commentary–the Fate of Luca

On a day that we have been introduced to Luca—you don’t know Luca? The New York Times tells us that we have been provided with a “surprising specific genetic portrait of the ancestor of all living things…” Its name is Luca. Luca, the living thing that started the ball rolling until we stand tall on two hind legs throwing bombs at each other. That news stopped me dead in my tracts. Not that I am in any fashion a science buff, but that fact –Luca–examined by itself –is startling when juxtaposed to the chaos surrounding us at all levels today.

We are now learning how we started out on this planet-earth at the same moment we are in the process of self-destroying our very being. It is not some massive volcano whose fumes are blocking the sun; nor is it an alien planet that will slam into us and take us back to the time of the extinction of the dinosaurs.

Nineteen are killed and twenty-nine are injured by a man wielding a knife, not at some military installation, but a facility for the disabled In a Tokyo suburb. Long from the center of Paris, a terrorist attacks a village catholic church, takes hostages and kills a priest. And half-way round the world the President of Turkey is moving further and faster in destroying the democratic fiber of his country in the name of restoring order. If that Country were not vital in the multiple wars in Syria and against ISIS, I doubt if we would tolerate his moving the clock back in a part of the world that should be moving forward. This democratically elected president has begun a witch-hunt, a systematic campaign of violence against those who hold a different view from his own. Not only has he arrested thousands accused of having a connection, however tenuous, to the conspiracy to overthrow his non-democratic regime, but he has fired tens of thousands of teachers, bankers police officers, soldiers and others. Now his vile conduct is directed against journalists for possible criminal conduct allegations. That could only mean: to curtail their writing the truth.

Turkey, under his autocratic leadership has moved to crack down on the freedom of expression, and to do that one announces a state of emergency for however long one wants to reign in the usual civil rights of citizens. When one announces a state of emergency one provides an unbound hand to a handpicked government to create whatever legislation its autocratic leader demands. There is no oversight and there is no democracy. This is Turkey today. And more than likely this is Turkey for tomorrow because of its linchpin status in the Mid-East.

Less than ten days ago a young man stormed through a train outside of Wurzburg, Germany. Crying “Allahu Akbar,” (God is greatest) he brandished an axe high into the air, then slashed at the men and women seated around him. Within minutes, the car,” looked like a slaughterhouse.” Then he fled. In a 2007 report from the Council on Foreign Relations it was noted that “security professionals see trains as some of the likeliest targets.”

And to close the circle, the Palestinian Authority President, Mahmoud Abbas has issued a formal request asking his neighboring Arab states to help in the preparation of a lawsuit against the UK over the 1917 Balfour Declaration, which established Britain’s support for a “national home for the Jewish people”. His goal is simple and direct: to delegitimize the State of Israel.

To discuss the possible success of such a move is wasted energy, but it does underscore the hypocrisy of Abbas and those around him who speak for “freedom” and the brutality of those he so violently opposes. His call for the callous attacks on civilians or those teens sleeping in their beds at night is beyond imagination. Beyond imagination because silently, unheard, he wishes the people and, in particular, the health workers of Israel good health and good hunting in their war against cancer. In recent years and until this past week, Omar, Abbas’ brother, traveled not to Iran, not to Syria, not to Egypt, not to the Saudis, not to any other Arab country in the Mid-East, but he traveled on a regular basis to the enemy of his people and his country—Israel. For medical treatment that was never denied to him.

Richard Allan,

The Editor

Comment: Terrorism and Coups

Terrorism and Coups

On the morning of Bastille Day (July 14th) I sat in a meeting with our children and wanted to complain that instead of bottled water on the conference table there should have been champagne in celebration of the French holiday. We are not French; I am a Francophile. By the end of the day the celebration and fireworks turned horrific and deadly — not in Paris but on the idyllic coast of the Mediterranean Sea in Nice. And, days later there was an attempted coup in Turkey. Unlike early commentators, to me this was not unexpected if you had studied the last months of the present regime and its ever increasing curtailment of anything resembling democratic rights and open voices. But more of that later.

These two incidents – terrorism in one country and the violation of civil rights in another– while in some instances are not related, do form a scenario. They provide us with a picture that the world is becoming edgier, angrier and employing extreme violence as a mode of expression. Years ago I would write that I fear for my children. Now I am much more concerned with the life my grandchildren will face. I am not optimistic.

A boyhood friend of mine, and no friend of Obama, believes the President is a failure when it comes to our national security. He asks in an accusatory tone: “Why hasn’t he stopped terrorism? And usually follows that with: you’re the expert; what should we do? In a New York Times op-ed article some days ago, the author, a former F.B.I special agent, writes that when “the Islamic State and Al Qaeda are finally defeated” we can prevent the next attack.

Two thoughts come to mind: Both my friend and the former FBI agent are denying reality, and equally important, ignore history and a world that has changed drastically in the last twenty-five years.

Terrorism has been with us for more than multiple decades, well before any present day mid-East conflicts, civilian revolutions and revolts in multiple countries across the globe and before the “dreaded” creation of the State of Israel. Terrorism and its operations are not new. The only thing that is new is their message, methods of operation and their targets.

Technology and history bring new methods, new goals and objectives and different issues. From the terrorist who initiated the fight against the Russian monarch in 1917 to today, there is a long list of terrorist groups around the world each holding a different banner and ideology.

So let us stop all the finger pointing, hype and chest thumping and false promising and understand the basic fact: No country can stop either the scope or depth of terrorism. Terrorism is a fact of life. To think otherwise is foolish and dangerous. The best we can accomplish is to interdict any attempt at its inception or to blunt its impact. You cannot wish terrorism away. You cannot legislate it away. You cannot bomb it away.

Most of us are locked in a memory curve of the past — attempting to understand the present. And this is true regardless of one’s age. I used a typewriter when I was twenty years old and it took me fifteen hours to fly to Paris; my grandsons use the most advanced forms of communication and fly around the world without thought of distance or time.

Notwithstanding Mr. Trump’s claims, we cannot control what occurs beyond our boarder, even as those events have a direct effect upon our lives. We cannot control the quiet, lonely, angry person who seeks any cause to elevate their psyche; we cannot control the small groups of people within the U.S. who feel the government conspires against their individual rights; we cannot regulate the fear or stupidity of those who need an AK45 to protect their home and, last, we cannot build a wall around our apartment and grow tomatoes in our window boxes to sustain ourselves.

What occurred in Nice was shocking only because it occurred in an unexpected place. But that is where the lone terrorist lived, and his anger evolved. What occurred in Paris earlier in the year was not shocking because that City, as is New York and London, is a natural “target” for any terrorist. By their very nature they invite the terrorist to demonstrate their skills.

What is playing out in Turkey is not unexpected. Not terrorism but because what might have started out as a democratic election process that elected its President he has turned that nation into a budding dictatorship that is stifling all forms of civil rights and dissent. It ceased being a democratic country after its most recent election and after its president began his dismantling of its democratic structures. When it comes to silencing the press, Turkey lands third place after Russia. In the latest move, after the mid-level military coup was brought to heel, the government has arrested 6000 people. You need a stadium to contain that many people and under what conditions?  President Erdogan’s swift roundup of judges and prosecutors (along with nearly 3,000 military plotters) after the failed coup indicated to the EU commissioner reviewing Turkey’s bid to membership that the government had a prepared a roundup list prior to the upheaval.

And the president of Turkey now publically demanded that U.S. merely “handover” a cleric who resides in the United States and, who he “believes” instigated the attempted coup. And Erdogan would like to bring back the death penalty. The failed, poorly executed coup will only lead to greater authoritarian control with the autocratic President Erdogan pushing his nation to a more Islamist position both locally and internationally.

Today, Turkey is an ally of convenience, because we need to have an airbase on its territory as close as possible to launching our air-strikes against ISIS. Our relations with that country will begin to slide toward its negative side with the failed coup. Last evening, one expert told me that he believes Erdogan orchestrated the failed coup to gain greater control of his country in the guise of attempting to protect his country in a state of a national emergency. You can be sure that greater reins will evolve and be imposed with the crushing of the coup and the massive arrest of suspects.

Obama cannot stop “Terrorism”, and Trump cannot seal us off from the rest of the world, because there are persons born within this Country who will commit acts of violence to express their anger. We, as a nation, cannot dictate the rule of law in other sovereign states. We can support the attempt at true democratic rule, we can’t impose it. But we must act honestly. As the Turkish coup initially unfolded, there were American diplomats who referred to Turkey as a democratic country. Clearly, today and the day before the failed coup it was not. And it will not be for the foreseeable future.

The inquiry then facing all sides to this conversation– from the time of the French Revolution until today: Who are we attempting to protect– the state or the individual? And my response is: wrong question! The question is how are we to protect both the state and the individual simultaneously in response to threats and acts of terrorism or infringements upon our individual civil rights. There is a method to balance the integrity of each without the usual cries of “slippery slope” legislation. [Terrorism: Pragmatic International Deterrence and Cooperation. Institute for East-West Security Studies, Occasional Paper Series #19, 1990] The ideas proposed in an important section of that paper are pragmatic and possible. They require only the will of Congress to enact them.

If there is one clear lesson today, and clearly it has not been learned, the death of one violent movement (and this is true in all countries) does not put an end to all violence but often inspires a successor that is more often much deadlier.

Richard Allan

The editor

 

Connected Unsystematic Thoughts

The U.S.-led air campaign against the Islamic State began more than a year ago, and then chaos set in. The confusion on the ground and in the air over Syria is only becoming more of a night- mare, caused in part by too many fingers in one pot with no recognition of each other. Two months after Putin’s physical entry to shore up Assad’s regime, there have been too many close calls in the same air space between the fighters and bombers from Russia and the United States. To add to the confusion and disarray is Turkey’s shooting down a Russian bomber that strayed into Turkish air space. The crises continue with questions concerning the Turkish control of its boarders and ISIS. And now the present outcry: which country bombed a friendly Syrian army base? The first accused was the United States, but forced to reveal its evidence, the American intelligence confirms it was Moscow’s “Blackfire” bombers that killed three soldiers, wounding at least 13 and destroying vehicles and equipment. And yesterday, a Turkish fishing vessel came within 1600 feet of a Russian destroyer playing a dangerous game of “two close to call navigation” with Russian firepower used to make a military point and Turkey said its losing patience with the Russia.

As we flip to the other side of the world, China continues to pile sand and rocks on reefs to build islands to extend its territorial claims further into the South China Sea and to add its military strength to be piled higher on newly created islands. This is not only an attempt to control so much more of free sea lanes of navigation but to cut heavily into the control and power of China’s many neighbors, especially Japan and the United States’ long reach of its naval might. All this adds up to a new strategic imagery: Japan is moving rapidity away from its post WII pacifism, communist Vietnam is purchasing arms from the United States, and the Philippines is inviting the U.S. Navy back to its ports, some twenty-five years after asking them unceremoniously to leave. And even if you have never visited the tiny island nation Singapore, it is not hard to understand why the United States and Singapore have signed an agreement to provide a launching pad for the United States to monitor the South China Sea. Also, as reported, not only has Malaysia called for the United States to work out of its bases, but I am informed that the United States has added to its aircraft force in the area the P-8 Poseidon thereby putting greater spying know-how ability into play to monitor the Chinese adventures and capabilities in that part of the world.

Two items have become clear since my last comments concerning the Iranian Nuclear deal (JCOP). First, Iran is moving internally further in the direction against the “American Enemy” with greater political movement toward the ideological base of its Supreme Leader and non-adherence to the JCPOA , and, second, my mistrust of Iran’s intentions have become more evident. We have just learned that notwithstanding UN Resolution 2231, which was passed just one day after the nuclear accord was signed and which compels Iran to restrain from any work on ballistic missiles for 8 years, on November 21, in breach of that resolution, a missile known as the Ghadr-110, having a range a little over 1200 miles with the capacity of carrying a nuclear warhead, was tested by the Iranians. So much for international agreements, international resolutions, and international oversight and enforcement.

About three months ago I asked one of my grandsons: What’s the Dark Web? Without hesitation he shot back: “Why? Why do you want to know? You shouldn’t go there!” Since the shooting in San Bernadino with the death of 14 and the injury of scores of others, there is talk of encryption (normal text into code) and the Dark Web. It is on the Dark Web that terrorists communicate, utilizing encrypted messages. The Dark Web is a semi-technical term that refers to a collection of websites that, although they are publicly visible/available, the IP address of the servers that run them is hidden. You and I can utilize the Dark Web with any web browser, but it is more than problematical and ultra-challenging to determine who is behind the sites.

On December 8th the French newspaper, Le Monde, reported that France, not nearly recovered from the ISIS attack last month in Paris, may seek to ban the infamous Tor browser, used to namelessly surf the Dark Web. The French Parliament may also ban use of public Wi-Fi during periods of emergency. But, at this writing, Paris seems to be turning away from those options. The UK has launched a dedicated cybercrime unit to tackle the Dark Web, with a particular focus on cracking down on serious criminal rings and child pornography. This very week the FBI has admitted that they can determine who is “speaking” to whom, but cannot crack the encrypted messages, so what it hears is “noise”, without understanding. Of course, only one country has been able to successfully block Tor: China, with its great “other” wall, the firewall.

As reported in the Jerusalem Post, a spokesperson for German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on December 6th that she supports labeling of Israeli settlement products from the disputed territories of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights. Israel had sought Germany’s help in convincing EU member states to reject the implementation of this type of labeling as it has done for many other countries. It refused. So much for a balance, even-handed international policy, and from a person just named TIME’s—Person of the Year in a country synonymous with holocaust.

Each of these random thoughts carries a connecting tissue. The obvious fact being that the United States sits geographically between the conflicts in the east and the west. These conflicts share potentially devastating consequences to its national security not merely abroad but at home, on our own shores. We are also in the midst of a race to the White House in a manner and style never before witnessed, filled with extreme rhetoric and personal vindictive hate. We have seen pictures of foreign parliaments whose member have been moved beyond words to extreme physical conformation. We are not like that; but what have we become?

To live in fear is not acceptable. But to live without care is imprudent and unrealistic. Today, as I write this blog, Americans’ fear of terrorism is as high as immediately after 9/11. Do we cry “ouch “only when we are personally affected? There have so many lessons available to us over the last 75 years, why are we ignoring them and to our peril? What do we teach our children, and why does a grandchild have to become fearful because his grandfather queries about the Dark Web?
Richard Allan
The Editor

“Islam is the Religion of War” – Abu Bakar al-Baghdadi (ISIS)

One Sunday morning, I realized that I was slowly but surely being sucked into a vast spinning ball where the speed and collision of events were beginning to scatter my brain. What I am referring to, obliquely, is the multiple wars and collisions of facts and interests in the Middle East and across a significant span of North Africa. Our Government is not only deeply divided on how to defeat or even contain the major threats of terrorism, but as one commentator said, how mired we have become in this thing called “the war on terrorism”.

Superimposed one upon the other are the volatile issues created by the proposed Iranian Nuclear Agreement before Congress and the violence in the Middle East that has metastasized, creating complex contradictions.

I have never before prefaced any of my writing by stating my avowed political position. Since I have been able to vote in a presidential election, I have voted Democrat. I voted for Obama. Having made that statement, Obama’s nuclear proposal is a disaster for today and tomorrow and for America. I speak seeking to protect nothing beyond the borders of the United States.

Prior to entering politics Obama taught constitutional law; he would be better prepared today if he had studied and taught “contracts”. The art of contract drafting has as one of its first axioms: Don’t create ambiguity in the use of language. To do so will ultimately create conflict.

Certainly, the Iranian nuclear agreement is far from being a joking matter, but at least one person (Jackie Mason) has quipped that New Yorkers” know that in the restaurants of New York, they have an inspection system. You can surprise any restaurant without notice to walk in and inspect them… So we are protected in this city from a bad tuna fish. We’re not protected from a bomb, but we’re protected from a bad quality of a tuna fish.”

My opposition to the Nuclear Agreement is the untenable consequences that flow from it, which are not readily visible, glossed over, and ignored to our peril.

A few examples are:

* There are phrases in the agreement relating to the inspection of important facilities which read: “where necessary, when necessary.” The Administration alleges this means “anytime, anywhere”. That is nonsense, and more important, totally misleading. The Iranian Government can hold off inspection for months after a demand is made. Iranians can begin the long process by asking: “Why is this demand necessary?” Someone said that if the marshal knocks on your door with a search warrant, it means you do not get an invitation to return in two weeks to search for the items in your warrant. “Assurances” between the parties to an agreement are as good as the persons who make them, and it seems that we should have learned by this time that Iran, who seeks our death as it signs the agreement, should not be trusted.  Not now and not tomorrow. Why embrace a person who has a knife in their hands.

* When sanctions are lifted (at the time of complete execution by all the parties), the Agreement will provide Iran with as much as 150 billion dollars in sanctions relief, which will permit Iranian companies (or their hidden middlemen) to have total commercial access to the world. It will become all but impossible to prevent Iran from buying whatever it wants, wherever it wants. Despite a ban on arms shipments to Iran under international sanctions, Russia is proceeding with the sale of their advanced S-300 surface-to-air missiles. This weapons system has the ability to bring down, among other planes, US jet aircraft. A number of significant events signal that Russian and Iran now appear to have closer ties both diplomatically and militarily in the weeks since the announcement of the nuclear accord in Vienna. Keep in mind that Iran supports terrorist groups and proxy forces in Lebanon, Yemen and Iraq. And like its Russian friends, supports the regime of al-Assad’s Syria. There is talk today that the only way “out” for Iraq is partition.

* The question of Syria’s future was nowhere presented in the talks with Iran. And this connects to the previous paragraph. The results are predictable: the flow of fighters, weapons and money fueling the devastating conflict in Syria will only worsen. Iran will now have greater financial resources to protect and help their proxies to gain the advantage on the field of battle. The very groups with whom we are “at war”. It has been announced that Russia has delivered six MiG 31 fighter jets to support al-Assad.

* Since Obama withdrew our entire troop presence from Iraq in 2011, the country has moved further into sectarian fighting. The lifting of sanctions will only escalate that conflict, as arms may readily be purchased and will be freely transmitted to those groups backed by Iran.

* With the lifting of sanctions (at the date of execution of the Agreement) and then a possible “snap back” (on the breach of the terms of the Agreement), those arrangements between Iran and any group or nation executed between those two dates will not be affected.

* Although the President has readily admitted that Iran supplies both Hezbollah and Assad in Syria and Hamas in Gaza, he quite amazingly implies there is nothing the Allies can do about it. It is worth repeating in opposition to accepting the Agreement that we are not faced with only two options: the Agreement or war. Nonsense. Heavier and tighter sanctions would have a crippling effect in Iran and the Iranians are more than aware of their implication.

* Tehran has consistently violated the UN arms embargo and missile sanctions. Iran’s senior nuclear negotiator Abbas Araqchi made crystal clear last month that Tehran had no intention of complying with any arms embargo, saying “Whenever it’s needed to send arms to our allies in the region, we will do so.” And they will have the $150 billion in sanction relief to do just that.

* Most upsetting, and the nation only learning about it after an Associated Press “bomb shell”, was the revealing of the existence of the Parchin Settlement (named after the Iranian military complex, being the home of Iran’s nuclear-weapon and ballistic program). This Settlement was worked out between the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and Iran. The United States and the five other world powers that negotiated the Nuclear Agreement were not a party to this agreement, but were allegedly “briefed” by the IAEA. When confronted by this news, the Obama administration described the document as nothing more than a “routine technical arrangement”. One cannot image that this Settlement is anything but routine when it allows the Iranians (taking into account its own military concerns) to provide the location and photos of suspected sites to the IAEA”. The Iranians have not been known for their honesty, so why now. Congress, under present legislation, enacted this year, must receive all documents entered into between Iran and any third party. Which includes IAEA Settlement. Congress has been provided nothing.

In addition, we have presently enforced United States’ legislation that Iran not be granted any relief until there is “a certification by the President that Iran is no longer a financier and sponsor of terror. That presidential certification has not been satisfied.” During all of this the White House remains silent.

As I previously mentioned, entwined with the Iranian Nuclear Agreement and at the vortex of the Mideast catastrophe are two countries vying for supreme domination for decades to come: Saudi Arabia and Iran. Parenthetically, while neither of the potential winners is a friend Israel, one overtly seeks its total destruction.

Viewed from afar, one sees the principal objectives of Iran and Saudi Arabia: First, Iran seeks to replace the United States’ control and influence in the Sunni world led by Saudi Arabia, second, to bring to fruition the preaching of Ali Khamenei: destroy Israel.

One of the pieces of supporting evidence is the 2015 report of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom which documents that since Hassan Rouhani assumed the office of the president of Iran in mid-August 2013, the number of people from various minority communities who imprisoned has increased. In 2014, it was reported that religious minorities Baha’is, Christian converts and Sunni Muslims, along with dissenting Shi’a Muslims, are deteriorating and face increased harassment. Today’s news brings horrifying pictures of the treatment of Catholics in the region.

On the other side of this hostile equation, Saudi Arabia and Israel will never be “friends” and do not have any diplomatic relations (playing to its constituents) and probably never will. Nevertheless, both countries are allies of the United States in opposition to the expansion of regional influence by the Islamic Republic of Iran.

News reports, not yet confirmed, indicate that behind-the-scenes diplomatic and intelligence cooperation between the Saudis and Israel have taken place. One public gesture was that Israel had offered Iron Dome technology to the Saudis who publically declined the offer. That does not mean the technology will not be transferred.

This layer of conflict is very much straight forward. It becomes more complex as we examine the surrogates of Iran and Saudi Arabia who seek to destroy each other with impunity.

But first simple mathematics: Sunnis outnumber Shias by nine to one. Those are the simple numbers; least we forget there are other smaller numbers of tribes whose allegiance shift with the wind and bribery. Today there are one thousand organized, armed sectarian militants in the region. Well in excess of 100,000 people who form alliances with other similar thinking groups.

The entire picture becomes more complex when one studies the generally accepted map of the region. At first blush, nothing unusual comes to the fore, there are straight lines forming different countries as one would expect to see on any map of the Mid-East. The problem is that those lines do not represent the reality of what is on the ground. The map lines were drawn and then imposed by the super nations of the world after wars and conquests and do not take into consideration the multiple tribes and diverse groups that have resided separate and apart for generations across the region. Today, there is talk of the partition of Iraq.

Over decades, the cost, in lost lives and dislocation to vast numbers of individuals is incalculable in this intractable, ongoing conflict. The cost in dollars is staggering. For example, the U.S. has spent in a very short period of time over $2 billion on the air campaign in Syria and Iraq alone.

I recall reading that the King of Jordan had warned the international community that with America’s toppling of Saddam Hussein (clearly, a bad guy) in Iraq, a void would be predictably created and with that an unappealing opportunity would arise for an Iranian-influenced Shia expansion. His words evaporated into thin air. Then as the voids through the Muslim world were being created by one failing government after another, with civil war and protests one after the another, the voids quickly were filled with transnational Shia forces backed by Iran and by violence.

First thing first: In this arena of not merely political posturing but supporting that posturing with weapons, we have been faced with a lot of double talk. Complicating matters, those groups or tribes who seemed not to play any major role in the ongoing conflict are now involved in in the regional violence as they change sides. This complicates the overall picture; weapons that we had sent to help overthrow Assad are now, because of a shift in alliance, being employed against our interests and troops.

While the West extends nuclear negotiations and agreement with Iran, the Islamic Republic continues to enhance its international terrorism infrastructure through its proxies. Hezbollah has operatives in the Western European states while Hamas maintains its operatives, according to a German intelligence reports.

Turkey, a country with one foot in Europe and one in Asia, is viewed as a stable nation in the area, has recently undergone its own political upheaval. This Muslim nation until recently run by a strong man, who had turned this historically democratic, nonsectarian nation into a Muslim stronghold, had his political base damaged severely in recent elections. Under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan– the Turkish government forcibly opposed Kurdish independence – and at the same moment had been tacitly permissive of ISIS. Erdogan deliberately withheld support from the Kurds, whose troops have been successfully opposing ISIS in the north of Iraq. What changed the dynamic of the regional politics was the political blow to Erdogan following his most recent elections, with the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party entering the Turkish parliament for the first time, thus creating a political crisscrossing of political wires. Erdogan then entered into an agreement with the US and ordered the commencement of vigorous bombing of ISIS strongholds, but, to everybody’s astonishment, also launched bombing Kurdish centers. I guess “duplicitous” is the word for his actions. He now alleges that both the campaigns (US warplanes striking ISIS from Turkish bases and his own jets) are really one fight against the terrorism in “his” region, equating ISIS and the Kurdish centers in the north. Viewed from afar there is no moral or ethical reason for these actions. This has had sever political consequences in Turkey as I write these words: the Turkish prime minister failed to form a coalition government, plunging the country deeper into political uncertainty with the President calling for yet another election. In stepped the voice of ISIS, taking advantage of another political crisis in this region urging Muslims in Turkey to rise up against their “infidel” president and “to capture Istanbul”.

The US is not immune from this sort of ambiguity. We find the US bombing Iran’s enemies in one country and helping to bomb Iran’s allies in another. This Gilbert and Sullivan travesty, played out as Sunni-Shia loathing, can indeed give way to marriages of confusing convenience, all while the world watches as the US debates whether to enter into a Nuclear Agreement with a nation who seeks its destruction.

The Nuclear Agreement discussion in the United States has reached name-calling status, affecting not only our natural allies and those we should engage, but our presidential political election process. The violent conflicts in the Middle-East bring continued killings that are reckless and unnecessary even in wartime. In some instances they are horrific by any standards – beheadings, mustard gas and rape. And the immigrants of all descriptions, of all ages, suffer beyond imagination as they flee their homeland and seek solace by placing their lives in unworthy boats that ply across the Mediterranean only to die at sea or face empty, blank and sometimes hostile stares upon their arrival. The civilized world appears to be in a state of physical paralysis and fills their created void with empty gestures. World leaders are more obsessed with the political implications of their pronouncements than the human implications caused by their inaction.

There is a price to pay for all of this and its cost is “human lives”.

Richard Allan,
The Editor

The Face of Islam

It appears at first glance that we have lately become a nation of protests. Whenever I hit the “enter” key on my computer or turn to the news print or to television, there is, in some part of the nation a protest, and always with the hope that it will be nonviolent.

What appears to be in the forefront today in the United States is those protests “demanding justice” for a slain black person killed by a white officer. What appears to be in vogue today in Western Europe are the protests against the flooding of immigrants into France, German, and England. To those in the United States all the European immigrants are the same. We don’t have an immigration problem that can’t be fixed with rational politicians listening to the vast portion of our population. But that is another article.

One of this nation’s pressing issues is how we cope with extremists. A serious issue that has been silent long enough. Al Qaeda and ISIS and their violent, gruesome, inconceivable evil are paraded over and over again across the top of Africa and the Mideast. And their barbaric acts are shown in great detail in every home in the United States.

The evil they commit in the name of Islam is unspeakable in its raw images.

Our president does not want to talk about Islam, the “religion”, when he condemns the heightened form of terrorism; on the other hand, anti-immigrant groups want to paint an entire religion with the deeds of ISIS; the rest of us voice our concerns by yelling at Congress, writing op-ed pieces or mumbling with our elbows on the bar tops across America.

When all of this began to push my pen, I learned that we have always been a nation of protests and marches on our nation’s capital from the late 1800s until today. There have always been marches for or against something. In 1894, there was a march on Washington to protest unemployment. In 1913, there was women’s suffrage, and in 1925 the KKK marched in support of its activities. In 1948, Rabbis marched to stop the destruction of European Jewry. Think of a topic and there has been either a march or protest in some town or city or calls for mass protest in support or against “something”. Bus caravans are organized; huge numbers of people are organized for trains to carry protesters to Union Station in central Washington.

The Million Man March in 1995, caused untold complaints from the discredited person who organized the march to the petty conflict as to how many persons actually attended. But the March did take place and was seen across the nation. Notwithstanding a fusillade of criticism, it did not stop the marches to end the war in Vietnam, against the Iraq war, against guns and for gay rights. Protests are the voice of a community of like thought.

There is one mass protect or collective outcry that I am waiting for. There is one group of Americans whose voice is silent.   In January, I was in Europe when sixteen people were slain in attacks which were carried out by Islamic extremists. I was in London and felt the public blunted with the announcements of the Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris. Not a sound out of White House, not a sound in America. I still wait for that one crucial march in my own country. In a recent Atlantic article, its author said that ISIS is no mere collection of psychopaths. If not that what are they? They are not as the President initially defined them.

I still wait for that one group in America that truly counts in this fight against extremists in the name of Islam, and they have remained strangely silent. A group of persons who profess to be Americans, who profess to be loyal Americans, who profess to be patriotic Americans. Americans period.

Almost one year ago the Washington Post published an article by Yasmine Bahrani, a professor of journalism at American University in Dubai, she is a native Iraqi who calls herself an American Muslim. She notes in her article that Muslims have marched across London, Paris and other major cities protesting the treatment of Muslims by the Israelis. But there have been no large scale, significant demonstrations –anywhere in the world — by Muslims against the violence committed by ISIS against Christians, Yazidis and other Muslims, especially the beheadings of non-combatant innocents. If Muslims can organize, she wonders, with relative ease as they have demonstrated in their protests against Israel, why not against ISIS? It is not as if they are impotent as a society. Why not in the United States, the home of over six and half million Muslims, a number greater than the entire population of Arizona? A nation that provides them with the democratic process, citizenship, education, health, the ability to vote and grow and in a country that has provided a safe haven. Sure there are instances of bigotry—no group is immune to that fact of life, but as a pragmatist factor, the Muslims are the third largest religion in the United States and prospering. They have the freedom to protest, they have the freedom to march on the White Houses, they have the freedom to vote for the President of the United States, they have the freedom to send their children to school. Why not protest the atrocities of ISIS?

Here and there you do hear an isolated Muslim voice denouncing the violence of Muslim extremism. But that is not the voice of a people.

You do hear the rejoinder that ISIS is not Islam. But that is an excuse not to face reality of who and what is ISIS, what it represents, how it conducts is rhetoric. Professor Bahrani wrote: “Don’t Muslims have a responsibility to speak out more loudly than others? We need the world to see anti-Islamic State marchers taking to the streets with the passion that we saw at the Gaza rallies in London and Paris….To much of the world, the Islamic State, Nigeria’s Boko Haram and other such groups do represent the Muslim community. Today, say the word “Islam” and few think of the glories of our history and culture. Rather, they picture masked men with knives.” Sadly, a poll conducted by the BBC in England found that more than a quarter of British Muslims sympathized with the terrorists who committed the atrocities at Charlie Hebdro in Paris.

Who is the face — who becomes the poster image—of Islam? The key question: Where is the shame and anger within the Muslim population in the United States against ISIS? Where is the communal anger –the million person march –of the Muslims in the United States against the violence of ISIS? When will they standup, with one voice, and condemn ISIS? Their silence is deafening.

Could there be some primal, unrealized connection seeking vindication for some past wrongs? Unhappily, is the answer that there is no anger at these extremists?

There is prompt, vocal and united anger at the reach of Israel. Those protests are large in number, seemingly spontaneous and carry the full banner of the Muslim world and Islam. Is the failure of that Muslim voice allowing ISIS to become the face of Islam?

Richard Allan
The Editor

Who Are These People?

Many years ago, in what I believe was a movie starring the comedian, Bob Hope, and was set in “very old merry England”, there was a depiction of a public square hanging. My recollection is that it was Mr. Hope who was to be hung along with all its and his silly humor. The scene of the hanging showed a raggedly dressed man walking through the crowd that had eagerly come to watch the hanging and who bellowed to the lynching mob: “Get ya programs, get ya programs. Ya can’t tell whose being hung without a program!”

Today, with all the different terrorist groups, each claiming their rightful place in history and touting their violent claims, the throngs of media specialists telling me which groups I should be most fearful of, I feel as if I was back in time as a child watching that Bob Hope movie. Except, this time it’s not funny.

As we move toward the new year of 2015, our thoughts are being forced to focus toward ISIS (or is it ISIL, or IS) and the surrounding world by every media blast. The problematic issue with a great majority of us is our lack of ability to distinguish between the different groups labeled as terrorist’s organizations ( by the news media and governments and experts), and the criticism that we are lumping them all together in a common sack as being equally dangerous and allied. There are many nuances, some important and others not.

The Long War Journal is an incredible daily source of terrorist activity. From its news blogs, written in a direct, uncomplicated manner, it is clear that with the beginning of the Syrian civil war in early 2011, the Islamic State along with other global jihadist groups – have all become allied in one fashion or another. Some look to launch a global caliphate, others to support local rebellions and still others, as with al Qaeda, to attack the West.

For our time-line in understanding what is being flashed before us today, we must understand its current development and “if” there is a reasonably articulate “why”. Obviously, I am focused not at some long past terrorist organizations from the time of the Russian Czarists, but from a more recent time. I have arbitrarily chosen the terrorist attacks against the United States or United States interests abroad and pared them down to the more significant events:

Between1982–1991: Hezbollah kidnapped 30 hostages. Some were killed and others released.

1983–April. The Islamic Jihad in Beirut, Lebanon claimed responsibility for a suicide car-bomb attack that left 17 Americans dead. Then, in that same year, the U.S. embassy was destroyed in a suicide car-bomb attack; 63 dead, including 17 Americans. The Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for that attack. In the latter part of 1983, a Shiite bomber killed 24 marines and in December killed 5 more Americans.

1984–September. In Lebanon once again, a truck bomb exploded outside the U.S. embassy annex, killing 2 U.S. military personal. In December, a Kuwait Airways flight was hijacked and two Americans were killed.

In 1985 — Beirut: An American airliner carrier was hijacked by Hezbollah and a navy diver was executed for the news media coverage. The scene was vividly displayed on television. Then in October, an American citizen confined to a wheelchair was executed on the cruise ship the Achille Lauro. The Italian government permitted the terrorist in that killing to escape capture by American forces. In December, in a bombing linked to Libya, 20 people were executed 5, of them Americans.

1986 April– Athens, Greece- a bomb exploded aboard TWA flight 840 killing 4 Americans and injuring 9. Then in April in West Berlin, the Libyans bombed a disco frequented by U.S. servicemen, killing 2 and injuring hundreds.

1988 December 21– Lockerbie, Scotland: A N.Y. bound Pan-Am Boeing 747 exploded in flight from a terrorist bomb and crashed into a Scottish village, killing all 259 aboard and 11 on the ground. Libya admitted responsibility 15 years later for the “Pan Am bombing.”

1993– February. New York City: A bomb exploded in a basement garage of World Trade Center, killing 6 and injuring at least 1,040 others. Two years later the militant Islamist Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman and nine others were convicted of conspiracy, and in 1998, Ramzi Yousef, the mastermind, was convicted of the bombing. We begin to hear and read more often the phase: “Al-Qaeda involvement is suspected”.

1995– April 19th, Oklahoma City: car bomb exploded outside federal office building, collapsing wall and floors. 168 people were killed, including 19 children and 1 person who died in the rescue effort. This home grown terrorist act, unconnected to the Middle East, was hatched to avenge the Branch Davidian standoff in Waco, Texas. In November, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia: a car bomb exploded at U.S. military headquarters, killing 5 U.S. military servicemen.

1996 June 25th, Dhahran, Saudi Arabia: a truck bomb exploded outside Khobar Towers military complex, killing 19 American servicemen and injuring hundreds of others. 13 Saudis and a Lebanese, all alleged members of Islamic militant group Hezbollah, were indicted for the attack. In August—in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dares Salaam, Tanzania: two bombs exploded almost simultaneously near 2 U.S. embassies, killing 224. Four men connected with al-Qaeda were involved in the incident; two of the terrorists who had received training at al-Qaeda camps inside Afghanistan, were convicted of the killings. A United States federal grand jury indicted 22 men in connection with the attacks, including Osama bin Laden.

2000–October–In Aden, Yemen: U.S. Navy destroyer USS Cole was heavily damaged when a small boat loaded with explosives blew up alongside it. 17 sailors are killed. This attack was linked to Osama bin Laden.

2001- September 11th, New York City, Arlington, Va., and Shanksville, Pa. This horrendous attack was linked to the Islamic al-Qaeda terrorist group.

2002–June, Karachi, Pakistan: bomb explodes outside American consulate in Karachi, Pakistan, killing 12. This too is an al-Qaeda operation.

2003 May, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia: suicide bombers kill 34, including 8 Americans, at housing compounds for Westerners. Again, Al-Qaeda is suspected.

2004 May – Riyadh, Saudi Arabia: terrorists attack the offices of a Saudi oil company in Khobar, Saudi Arabia; the terrorists seized foreign oil workers hostage in a nearby residential compound, leaving 22 people dead including one American. In June, Riyadh: terrorists kidnap and execute an American, Paul Johnson Jr., in Riyadh. Two other Americans and a BBC cameraman were killed by gun attacks. December 6th, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia: terrorists storm the U.S. consulate, killing 5 consulate employees. 4 terrorists were killed by Saudi security.

2005—NovemberAmman, Jordan: suicide bombers hit 3 American hotels, Radisson, Grand Hyatt, and Days Inn, in Amman, Jordan, killing 57. Al-Qaeda claimed responsibility.

2006 September- Damascus, Syria: an attack by four gunmen on the American embassy is foiled.

2007-January- Athens, Greece: the U.S. embassy is fired upon by an anti-tank missile, causing damage but no injuries. December 11, Algeria: more than 60 people are killed, including 11 United Nations staff members, when Al Qaeda terrorists detonate two car bombs near Algeria’s Constitutional Council and the United Nations offices.

2008– May, Iraq: a suicide bomber on a motorcycle kills six U.S. soldiers and wounds 18 others in Tamiya. In June: a suicide bomber kills at least 20 people, including three U.S. Marines, at a meeting between sheiks and Americans in Karmah, a town west of Baghdad. In June, Afghanistan: four American servicemen are killed when a roadside bomb explodes near a U.S. military vehicle.  In July, Afghanistan: nine U.S. soldiers die when Taliban militants attack an American base in Kunar Province. In August, Afghanistan: in a major incident where there were no American casualties, as many as 15 suicide bombers, backed by about 30 militants ,attack a U.S. military base, Camp Salerno, in Bamiyan. In September, Yemen: a car bomb and a rocket strike the U.S. embassy in Yemen, as staff arrived to work, killing 16 people including 4 civilians. At least 25 suspected al-Qaeda militants are arrested for the attack. In November, India: A series of attacks on several of Mumbai’s landmarks and commercial hubs that are popular with Americans and foreign tourists, including at least two five-star hotels, a hospital, a train station, and a cinema. About 300 people are wounded, and nearly 190 people die, including at least 5 Americans. In the midst of the attack, live television brought us pictures of the burning hotels.

2009- February 9. Iraq: a suicide bomber kills four American soldiers and their Iraqi translator near a police checkpoint.

In April 10, Iraq: a suicide attack kills five American soldiers and two Iraqi policemen.  On June 1st Little Rock, Arkansas: Abdulhakim Muhammed, a Muslim convert from Memphis, Tennessee, is charged with shooting two soldiers outside a military recruiting center. One is killed and the other is wounded.

In a January-2010, in a letter to the trial judge hearing his case, Muhammed asked to change his plea from not guilty to guilty. He claimed ties to al-Qaeda and called the shooting a jihadi attack “to fight those who wage war on Islam and Muslims.” December 25: A Nigerian man on a flight from Amsterdam to Detroit attempted to ignite an explosive device hidden in his underwear. The alleged underwear bomber, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, told officials later that he was directed by the terrorist group Al Qaeda. December, Iraq: a suicide bomber kills eight Americans civilians, seven of them CIA agents, at a base in Afghanistan. It’s the deadliest attack against the agency since 9/11. The attacker was reportedly a double agent from Jordan who was acting on behalf of al-Qaeda.

2010– May 1st, New York City: a car bomb is discovered in Times Square, New York City, after smoke is seen coming from a vehicle. Faisal Shahzad pleads guilty to placing the bomb as well as 10 additional terrorism and weapons charges.  May 10th, Jacksonville, Florida: a pipe bomb explodes while 60 Muslims were praying in a mosque. The attack causes no injuries.  October, two packages are found on separate cargo planes. Each package contains a bomb consisting of 300 to 400 grams of plastik and a detonating mechanism. The packages were bound from Yemen to the United States.

2011-January, Spokane, Washington: a pipe bomb is discovered along the route of the Martin Luther King, Jr. memorial march. The bomb, a “viable device”, set up to spray marchers with shrapnel and to cause multiple casualties, is defused without any injuries.

2012—September 11th, Benghazi, Libya: militants armed with antiaircraft weapons and rocket-propelled grenades fire upon the American consulate, killing the U.S. ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens and three other embassy officials. The U.S. believed that Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, a group closely linked to Al Qaeda, planned the attack. This attack is still drawing scrutiny before Congress.

2013–February, Ankara, Turkey: Ecevit Sanli detonates a bomb near a gate at the U.S. Embassy. Turkish officials claim the attack was organized by the Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party. April 15th, Boston, Mass.: multiple bombs explode near the finish line of the Boston Marathon. Two bombs go off as runners finish the race. Three people are killed. One is an eight year old boy. More than 260 people are injured. The first of two suspects, identified as Tamerlan Tsarnaev, age 26, is killed. A suicide vest is found on his body. The other suspect, Dzhokhar A. Tsarnaev, age 19, awaits trial. They had lived in the U.S. for about a decade, but are from an area near Chechnya.

2014– August 19: Members of ISIS behead an American journalist, James Foley, 40, in apparent retaliation for U.S. airstrikes against the group. Foley, who worked for Global Post, went missing in Syria in November 2012. In September–An ISIS militant decapitates another American journalist, Steven Sotloff, 31, who worked for Time and other news outlets. He had been abducted in 2013 in Syria. Then a third beheading was also videotaped for public viewing. A  massive grave is video taped and broadcast during the last week of October.

And then there are those terrorist groups that are off the radar screen for the vast majority of the American population. A Defense Department’s report mentions some of the other al Qaeda-associated groups and others associated with the Taliban. These other groups, are all but unknown by the American public, include the Haqqani Network, Hezb-i-Islami-Gulbuddin and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU). The Haqqani Network is itself part of the Taliban. In addition, the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba “targeted ISAF in Kandahar, Nangarhar, and Kunar Provinces.” The LeT, group which has worked closely with al Qaeda, is responsible for the November 2008 Mumbai attacks (which al Qaeda also assisted in), as well as other attacks inside India and elsewhere.

To round out the groups that require our notice is the CNG (Commander Nazir Group) which, according to the State Department, is “behind numerous attacks against international forces in Afghanistan as well as inside Pakistan.” It is also alleged that this group fought for the Taliban since the late 90s and continues to support al Qaeda. “Since 2006, CNG has run training camps, dispatched suicide bombers, provided safe haven for al Qaeda fighters, and conducted cross-border operations in Afghanistan against the United States and its allies,” the State Department said in a recent press release. “In addition to its attacks against international forces in Afghanistan, CNG is also responsible for assassinations and intimidation operations against civilians in Afghanistan and Pakistan.”

In September 2010, former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates identified these partnerships as an “unholy syndicate.” After a speech at Duke University, Gates said that eastern Afghanistan “is increasingly the host to an unholy syndicate of terrorist groups working together: al Qaeda, the Haqqani network, the Pakistani Taliban, the Afghan Taliban and groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba.”

“A success for one is a success for all,” Gates warned.

Those presently off the radar screen, as noted above and many, many more will eventually come to attack our interests: “A global terrorist group operating out of Sinai is being blamed for injuring two Israeli soldiers patrolling near the Egyptian border. Egyptian authorities say the attack came from Ansar Bait al-Maqdis, which arose from Egypt’s 2011 revolution and seeks to topple President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s government. According to the Jerusalem Post’s Yaakov Lappin, the group has links to the Islamic State terrorist group and “has beheaded a number of Egyptians in recent months, accusing them of being spies for Israel’s Mossad.” (As reported by Memri) For example: Among the multitudes of foreign fighters who have turned the Islamic State into the world’s most dangerous terrorist organization, the Chechens stand out. Most of them have unfamiliar names in the West, such as: Shamil Basayev, Ibn al-Khattab, Abu Hafs al-Hudani, Abu al-Walid, Doku Umarov. Many of these fighters joined the fight in Syria early on, as the uprising began in 2011 and mutated into a chaotic and vicious civil war. In addition, some of the less experienced fighters may have been encouraged to gain battlefield experience in Syria, according to seasoned analysts reporting in that area.

The Taliban is a predominantly Pashtun Islamic fundamentalist group that ruled Afghanistan from 1996 until 2001, when a U.S.-led invasion toppled the regime for providing refuge to al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden. The Taliban then regrouped across the border in Pakistan. The Taliban was formed in the early 1990s by an Afghan faction of mujahedeen and Islamic fighters who had resisted the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. [Remember, we helped them oust the Russians with a massive supply of weapons which were, in time, turned upon us.] The Taliban then imposed its brand of justice as it consolidated territorial control, and granted sanctuary to al-Qaeda. The grant of sanctuary was conditioned upon al-Qaeda not antagonize the United States. Obviously, that did not stop bin Laden, who reneged on their agreement in 1998, when he planned and executed the bombings of U.S. embassies in East Africa. Even after the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center, the Talban rejected U.S. demands that it surrender bin Laden.

Al Qaeda had arrived in Afghanistan from Sudan sometime in the mid-60s. Its membership, it is claimed by some, was not more than 30 fighters. Al Qaeda fighters and its recruits who came to Afghanistan were physically separated from the Taliban fighters, who resented Al Qaeda not merely because of their different philosophical differences– Osama bin Laden insisted that international violent actions against the United States and other countries was crucial to his strategy, while the Taliban opposed such actions. In addition, relationship between Al Qaeda and the Taliban is further complicated by the delicate cultural differences between the two: The Taliban are Afghans, and Al Qaeda are mostly Arab and almost entirely non-Afghan. Most Al Qaeda leaders are older than the young commanders of the Taliban, and many Al Qaeda people are professionals and well educated by western standards. The Taliban, on the other hand, are rural, lacking formal schooling and grew up in places like Kandahar where access to newspapers was absent and radios were only for the privileged few. They were and are cultural worlds apart.

What has evolved is a complicated world of interwoven violent components about which most of us are ignorant, and at the same moment, as they are woven together they seek an independent status and are generally led by charismatic and compelling leaders, each having their own agenda for the future and their own methods to produce and deliver their violence.

Understand that the political and social arena under the microscope for this article – from the west in Tunisia to the east, is in all likelihood far beyond immediate repair. According to some, this part of the world would have to be totally dismantled both geographically and politically, before it could be repaired to something akin to viable intra-state organizations and international normalcy. This geographic area, the Middle East and northern Africa was for too many centuries been under the unyielding yoke of something beyond a mere dictatorship. It has been described by others as “the angry, broken and dysfunctional Middle East. [ed: It is broken far beyond that.] The region is already in the process of melting down for a tsunami of reasons that have nothing to do with the Palestinians.”

Then there we are faced with: IS or is ISIS, or maybe ISIL, or Islamic State or even Daiish? The calling card for this jihadist group is their murdering of dozens of people at any one time, carrying out public executions, public videotaping and broadcasting of beheadings, crucifixions and other inhuman acts that they can conceive. They are not being ignored; they have your utmost attention. They are not a small obscure terrorist group. Well led, well financed, fiercely loyal and focused.

One cannot rely upon common conceptions of who and what constitute the Muslim world. China has more Muslims than Syria, while Russia is home to more Muslims than Jordan and Libya combined. When you focus on the two main sects of the Muslim world, only a small percentage is Shia, while an overwhelming number are Sunni. Most Shias live in just four countries: Iraq, Iran, Pakistan and India. In the United States, the vast majority of Muslims are Sunnis, but it is held that most Muslims in the United States think of themselves as just “Muslims” without any affiliation to either major sect. The state with the highest Muslim population is Illinois.

The idea of the construct of a “Muslim world” began to formulate in 1999, and was the forerunner of a group called “Al-Qaeda in Iraq”. In 2004, the infamous Abu Musab al-Zarqawi formed an al Qaeda splinter group in Iraq. Within two years, al-Zarqawi’s group in Iraq was trying to fuel a sectarian war against the majority Shiite community. In 2006, it joined other Sunni insurgent groups which then consolidated into the ISI. In June 2006, al-Zarqawi was killed in a U.S. strike, and Abu Ayyub al-Masri became his successor and then fell under the leadership of Abu Bakr al Baghdadi. In 2008, its violent methods led to a backlash and temporary decline in its popularity. In April 2013, the group changed its name to the “Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant”. It grew significantly under its leadership, gaining support in Iraq as a result of perceived economic and political discrimination against Iraqi Sunnis. It then established a large presence in Syria.

The CIA estimated, in September 2014, that IS had 20,000–31,500 fighters in Iraq and Syria. It had close links to al-Qaeda until February 2014 when, after an eight-month power struggle, al-Qaeda cut all ties with the group, reportedly for its brutality and “notorious intractability”. ISIS then proclaimed a worldwide caliphate in June of this year, and the group was renamed the Islamic State. In its self-proclaimed status as a caliphate, it claims religious authority over all Muslims worldwide. Its mission to bring Muslim-inhabited regions of the world under its political and social control, beginning with the Levant region, which covers Syria, Jordan, Israel, Palestine, Lebanon, Cyprus and part of southern Turkey.

Meanwhile, as reported on the front pages of the NYT (10.22.14), the undesirable and destructive fallout from what was considered then, as the glorious “Arab Spring”, does not merely continue but escalates. It is now four years since the celebration of the coming of the new birth of democracy across the Middle East and beyond. Now it is clear that the violence has accelerated, and the paths and vision for those who were seeking democracy has deviated to violence and extremism. The extremism of ethnic cleansing has passed the line of barbarism.

What has happened in Tunisia, (where open and free elections have resulted in a non-Islamic government),  a country in the Arab world with the most educated population but that has become an epicenter for the extreme militants to recruit its fighters? Tunisia, as a country, has sent more foreign fighters than any other country to Iraq and Syria to join the extremist group– Islamic State. As a new sovereignty with clear political independence and the freedoms of a democracy that arose with the onset of the Arab Spring, Tunisia has also facilitated and permitted the extreme militants to preach openly and recruit openly, and recruit successfully. How can that be?

The United Nations and Amnesty International have accused the group of grave human rights abuses, and Amnesty International has found it guilty of ethnic cleansing on a “historic scale”. Within the last days of October, the New York Times front pages proclaimed: “Taliban are Rising Again in Afghanistan’s North .…with Rapid Advance.” And “In West, ISIS Finds Women Eager to Enlist.” From the Denver suburbs to north London, women and girls are seeking to join to fight for ISIS or marry an ISIS “warrior”. One wonders what prompts these woman and girls.

I need to conclude with the following, which must be superimposed upon all actions of war or political movements that are propelled by force: In a 1993 report to the United Nations Security Council (during the Bosnian war), ethnic cleansing was defined as “rendering an area ethnically homogenous by using force or intimidation to remove a person of a given group from the area.” To be considered “a crime against humanity,” ethnic cleansing has to be systematic or widespread, carried out against civilians and intentional. To be considered a “war crime”, the situation involving the violence must be defined as war.

Nowhere in Iraq, Syria or the wide path across Africa and the Middle East has there been any “declaration of war”, just horrific, unspeakable violence. It appears to me that “actions” speak louder than creating “labels” and seeking “definitions”. A responsible world, a responsible nation must reply immediately against those who seek domination thru violence, and engage those liable unswervingly and directly with meaningful force –not words that first need to be defined.

Richard Allan,
The Editor

Global Incidents and Commentary

• The Syrian government and its opposition were considering a ceasefire for a religious holiday beginning on October 26. The ceasefire had been proposed by the UN and Arab League envoys. But almost immediately the government indicated that the cease fire would probably fail because it claimed there was unified opposition leadership to sit at the opposite end of the negotiation table. Then today the UN special envoy to Syria said that the government agreed to a ceasefire and that “some” opposition armed groups agreed “on principle”.
• The American Civil Liberties United has filed Freedom of Information requests to gain additional information about the American drone program in addition to learning about the alleged drone killing of an American teenager. The claim is that the program and the killing has been kept under a veil of secrecy that is unnecessary to the national security of the United States.
• A mixed bag: The first half of the story is that while new data recently released by the IEA paints a picture that the US and EU sanctions against Iran have been quite successful and have impacted that nation’s oil industry the collateral effect has been that tanker insurance has been crippling for Iran. In addition, Iran’s national currency has lost 40 percent of its value in the last month. As this Editor learned at a presentation at New York University from a U.S. Under-Secretary of the Treasury, the crippling restriction placed upon Iran’s banking and currency system has prevent Iran’s central bank from operating in the world banking system.
The other portion of the mixed bag is revealed in an article in The Atlantic by Charles Recknagel. “The U.S. and European Union have to be very careful in not shooting themselves in the foot about it (the fiscal sanctions), because the global economy remains quite sensitive right now and quite vulnerable to any kind of immediate price shocks.”
• Reuters reports: “Violence is returning to what has long been the most tranquil region of Afghanistan, where fears of a resurgent Taliban are as stark as the ragged holes left by the bombing of two ancient Buddha statues in cliffs facing the Bamiyan valley. Bamiyan had been seen as the country’s safest province due to its remote location in the central mountains and the opposition of the dominant local tribe, the Hazara, to the Taliban.”
• Inside Politics reports: United States Representative Peter T. King a New York State Republican (Editor’s note: who generally speaks in hyperbole ) and happens to have the press at his command because he is the Chairperson of the House’s Homeland Security Committee announced that al Qaeda is a greater threat now than it was before the terrorist attacks September 11, 2011. He went on to say that this was the consensus of most intelligence experts. Editor’s Note: Two things must be noted: first, the Congressman said “intelligence experts” not the US intelligence government, and second his remarks were broadcast on CNN a day before the second presidential debates. One has the right to wonder aloud.
• Steve Emerson’s blog noted that a senior Muslim Brotherhood official denied that the group’s leader called for a holy jihad against Israel even though “strikingly similar language” remains on their website. All this precedes the arrival in Jerusalem of the newly appointed Ambassador from Egypt to Israel who, when presenting his credentials (after an absence of almost 2 years of any ambassador rank person), alleged that all is well between two old friends and agreements between the two nations will be upheld.
• In an area of the world that we in the West rarely looks at the latest news is that Russian security forces have killed 49 alleged rebels in the North Caucasus region.
• A snap shot of Africa reveals that in Nigeria, Islamist militants have once again launched a deadly attach against that country’s soldiers in the north east. While the Argentinean government has older more that 300 of its sailors to evacuate a ship that had been seized by the authorities[/column]

Commentary: The Indiscriminate Use of the Word Terrorism

The second presidential debates raised the issue –whether intentional or not—of the meaning of the words “terrorism” and “terrorist attack”. Clearly, the President utilized the word “Terrorism” and the counterattack, after the debate in the spin room, was to try to limit its definition. The more important issue today is not that semantic game that took place in the debate but the indiscriminate use of the word “terrorism” in general.

Let me start from an excerpt from the Washington Post: “Americans were shocked to learn that the prime suspects were not foreign terrorists but men from the nation’s heartland. The plot was not hatched in Beirut or Baghdad but possibly in the backwoods of … by a paramilitary cel (The suspects) are products of Middle America.”

These words were written 17 years ago in 1995, by Dale Russakoff and Serge F. Kowalski, both then staff writers for the Washington Post. This long article is chilling more so because it was two Americans with terrifying and unpredictable cunning, who after planning for an extended period of time, heaped violence of horrific proportions on other Americans. Their sheer brutality brought alarming headlines across the entire nation. Some of their victims were adults but many, far too many, were children playing in a day care center when the defendants bombed the Alfred P Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. This was not a hate crime. The targets were neither black nor Hispanics nor “foreign” looking. The defendants were not racists.

The two killers sought and intentionally murdered citizens of not some distant nation but those who were born and lived within their own country. The incident became domestically and internationally known as “The Oklahoma City Bombing”. No prior set of domestic violence in anyone’s recent memory could have predicted or even explained a domestic act of violence as catastrophic as the Oklahoma City bombing. Until that date one could have predicted how the average reader would have defined domestic terrorism. But to create the mental imagery of such an event was unheard of. We were well aware of and thought we understood the nature of international terrorism. Until that time it was an act of violence far from our shores, attributed to people who hated Americans, American interests and ideals. And then, while not directly articulated, the purveyors of that violence “weren’t Americans…they were foreigners”. Domestic violence of the nature of the Oklahoma City bombing—killing of one’s own —-was an anathema and so much more because of what appeared as a normal or accepted relationship between those killed and the killers.

Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols, the two main actors in The Oklahoma City bombing were from middle America—as describe in the Washington Post article– two “kids from the heartland of America” who met in early adulthood, became obsessed with guns and the enemies of the American way of life, as they envisioned both an enemy and what was to them the “American way of life”. Then a historical event occurred that monopolized the headlines for days across America: The firestorm in Waco Texas and the shootout between federal agents and the followers of David Koresh and the Branch Davidians that left 80 dead. Both adults and children. The attack against the Branch Davidians was touted by many as “instigated” by federal officers—the United States Government— thought by many as oppressors who declared war on innocent people and whose self defined individual freedom had been encroached upon not by some foreign entity but the federal government.

That event propelled McVeigh to define who he was and what steps he had to take to defend his country and his sense of individual rights. The question for him was: who was the “wrongdoer” at Waco, and the answer to him was simple and straight forward: The federal government and all it stood for. This conclusion easily fed into his obsession to protect his guns and their use. It is reported that he became enthralled and spelled bound by the Battle of Lexington, which as history has taught us, was the firing of the first shots that began the American Revolution for individual freedom from the tyrannical King of England.

The question then becomes how should we characterize or define McVeigh and Nichols? They were not part of a lynch mob in some southern state, they didn’t ride through some slum of a city with a poor immigrant population and throw handmade gasoline bombs, they weren’t high on some potent drug and shot-up a high school prom that they had been denied access to, they weren’t two malcontents who lost control of their emotions. And, equally important, they didn’t fit into any of the usual slots in our statutory criminal justice system. They were terrorists. They were terrorists who were born and raised in the United States. They did not go to some foreign land to learn the art of violence. They were not financed by any foreign nation, religion or foreign political entity. They did not even envision the total overthrow of the United States Government and its replacement, they were eager to “merely” change its structure and definition to fit a less authoritarian and dominating form. They sought a movement which they believed had to be imposed by force in order to attain their model of what they believed to be the original definition of individual liberty. They were terrorists. Terrorists who were born and raised in the United States, whose target was a “federal” office building filled with “federal” employees.

The problem in the ensuing years, as we became more accustomed to acknowledging the idea that terrorism in all forms exists, was the overuse of the word terrorism. With the least provocation, the word became an euphuism for anything and anyone who frightened us with violent behavior; we were thus “terrorized by terrorists”. In late 2002, what began as a robbery and a murder of three in Louisiana and Alabama and that initially produced no national headlines, culminated in screaming headlines of “terrorism” in Washington, the Nation’s Capital. During a three week period, following the murder in Louisiana and Alabama, people drove in fear in Washington and suburban Virginia. The headlines spoke of fear and terrorism, as random shots rang out, and one at a time, over 21 days, ten people were murdered and at least three others were critically injured by unknown sniper fire.

“Terrorism”, “terrorists” and “terror” were the three main words repeated over and over. All the television networks provided live coverage of each attack, with some broadcasts lasting for hours. The New York Times covered it extensively and as it was discovered later, most of its sensationalized reporting was fabricated to create the aura of a series of terrorist attacks. In truth, it was one man with a teenage accomplice that created the carnage. His aim was to cover his tracks. He had murdered his wife and was now attempting to create a picture that his wife had been a victim of a string of random killings. Did these killings terrorize the inhabitants of the Washington Beltway, and the answer is clearly: Yes. Did the killer attempt to create the aura of terror and fear? And the answer was clearly: Yes. But he was neither a terrorist nor can his acts be described as terrorism.

On August 5, a man walked into a Sikh temple outside Milwaukee and killed six people before he was seriously shot and, thereafter, committed suicide. The first words heard on the news were that there was a terrorist attack at a Sikh temple. It was reported that he thought he was killing Muslims. For hours after the attack and the death of the attacker, the local police, speaking to the worldwide news media, talked of and described the incident as an “act of terrorism”. It was not.

Whether it be the “white warriors”, or a “neo-Nazi white supremacist”, or an “Aryan Nations” member, or an individual connected to the “racial holy war” movement or any generic white supremacist interest group spread across the United States, they are not terrorists…domestic or international. They are racists. Yes, they have committed terrible atrocities by killing scores of people in a day care center or killing a Filipino American postal carrier or in a drive-by shooting in a racial holy war. Or even at a Sikh temple in Milwaukee. These killers were not terrorists, they are racist ideologues.

The word “terrorist”, alongside the misguided phrase “war on terrorism”, superimposed with the careless use of the word “terrorism”, has taken on meanings far beyond, not merely what is necessary, but what is misleading and dangerous for the proper platform to discuss how to approach the definition, interdiction and prosecution of certain acts of violence. There has been a world-wide proliferation of definitions for the word “terrorism”, and much of it depends upon who you represent and where you reside. It depends upon your religious bent and your political and cultural motivation. In addition, we—individually, in the media and by some law enforcement authorities, continually employ the word “terrorism” in a dangerously indiscriminately manner. Probably, what is more clearly understood, or should be, is what the word terrorism does not encompass what that emotional word embraces.

Richard Allan, The Editor