Tag Archives: terrorism

LONDON IN CRISIS AFTER WAVE OF DISASTERS AND TERRORIST ATTACKS: VEHICLES ARE THE TERRORIST’S WEAPON OF CHOICE

London, one of Europe’s great cities, is in the midst of the sort of crisis not seen since the 7/7 bombings in 2005. Back in March, Islamic terrorist Khalid Masood killed four people and injured 50 others when he drove a car at high speed into pedestrians walking on Westminster bridge near the Houses of Parliament. In that attack, unarmed police officer Keith Palmer was stabbed to death. Masood was shot by police officers.

On June 3, eight people were killed and scores more injured after a van containing three Islamic terrorists smashed into pedestrians on London Bridge. As reported in the Guardian, the terrorists attacked passersby with knives before making their way to the nearby Borough Market area, where they were shot by armed police officers.

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Paris killing

Paris Tragedy: Should We Be Surprised?

Like most everyone with a shred of humanity and decency I am appalled and sickened by the terrorist attacks in paris last night.

At least 127 peaceful law-abiding citizens were murdered in cold blood in the name of religion.  I would love to be sitting here saying that I am shocked or that I can’t believe what has happened.  Sadly neither would be true.

I am sick to death of the killing in the cause of some sort of religious dick swinging contest.  My god is better than your god and I will kill you if you don’t agree.  This kind of religious zealotry has been going on since the crusades and shows no sign of abating anytime soon.

We hear time and again that god is great, god is merciful, ours is the religion of peace.  Our god says we should go out and kill anyone who disagrees.  Why can people not see the irony?

Of course the response from around the world is at first revulsion but less than 12-hours after the attacks we already have a ramping up of the rhetoric.  Already Hollande, Obama and Cameron are promising revenge, declaring the attack as an act of war and promising retribution.  Why can the idiots not see that violence just brings more violence?  Why do they think that killing Arabs, mostly women and children, is the way to end these terrible attacks?

I wish I had the answers, I don’t.  I do know however that bombing, shooting and killing innocents is not the answer.  When will we wake up and end the politics of war?  Perhaps when we put an end to organised religion.

Je Suis Charlie

Charlie Hebdo: I Am Not Charlie And I Make No Apology For That

Earlier this week I sat horrified and appalled by the events that took place in Paris.  The barbaric murder of journalists, Police Officers and innocent bystanders cannot be excused by any sane and rational person and I most certainly do not intend to offer any excuses for the perpetrators of these truly horrific murders.

Today sees a million people come together in Paris in a show of ‘solidarity’, and over the past few days we have seen the hashtag #jesuischarlie go viral in a social media campaign that “Stands up for free speech.”  Politicians around the globe have rightly condemned the attacks and many have made their way to Paris today to support the protests against the killings.  Against this backdrop I and no doubt millions of people around the world are wondering where attacks of this nature leave us.

It isn’t difficult to come up with a huge list of atrocities that have been committed in recent times in the name of Islam.  9/11, 7/7, Peshawar, Madrid,  the list goes on and on.  The rise of Islamic State, the battle for Kobane, the rise of Boko Haram, the kidnap of 276 Schoolgirls, the slaughter of over 2000 people in Baga, Nigeria this week all issues that have us scratching our heads and wondering what to do to combat the threat posed by Islamist terrorism.

We hear much about the ‘War on Terror’ and just today we hear world leaders saying that we must step up our efforts in that direction.  We in the UK today have also heard that more funding must be directed to our secret ‘security services’ and that those organisations must be given still greater powers to spy on their own citizens.  I find this ever increasing erosion of my civil liberties deeply concerning.  I know for a fact that we have Police Officers trained to pick locks to gain access to suspects homes to place listening devices and spy camera’s, I know that tracking devices are attached to suspects cars.  I know that mobile and landline telephones are regularly listened to by Police.  I accept that the Police have to have a warrant before they can place these devices but if this is what is happening in Policing, how much more surveillance are  people subjected to by the secret security services.  As our civil rights are eroded as a response to the ‘War On Terror’ how much freedom will we have to give up in the name of security.  How far do we trust those who spy on us to use the information lawfully and reasonably?  I can only say that after some 29 years as a Police Officer I have no faith that the agents of state will act reasonably.  None!

Getting back to Je Suis Charlie, let me say that I am delighted to see so many turn out to support the families of those who were murdered.  I believe that response is right and proper and it may even provide a crumb of comfort to the families.  What I am less comfortable with is the groundswell that this in some way protects free speech.  I wonder!  Charlie Hebdo is portrayed as a satirical magazine.  Now as I understand it the magazine has attacked Islam, Judaism, the Catholic Church and just about everyone else in recent years.  I accept that as fact without argument.  I saw the argument put forward very forcefully today that this was OK because it attacked everyone equally.  This where my support evaporates.  This magazine has been Racist, Sexist, Anti-Semitic, Islamophobic, Anti-Catholic and insulting to just about  every race or creed.  The question I have to grapple with is this.  Is it acceptable to insult peoples beliefs so long as you insult everyone’s?  Not in my view, that sort of thinking is just bonkers in my opinion.

Of course being rude and insulting people or religion should not carry a death sentence.  It does however mean that I don’t want to be Charlie, thank you very much.  I have had more than enough religious hatred in my life growing up in N. Ireland.  It may be a cliche but hate breeds hate.

Je Suis Charlie

The thing that has been totally absent in the past few days is any meaningful analysis of the root causes of these atrocities.  It seems clear that for some reason young Muslim men, and increasingly young women and children, are all too easily radicalised.  What on earth induces a 10 year old child to strap a bomb to herself and to explode it in a market place killing herself and at least 19 others in Nigeria yesterday.  Perhaps Ironically this incident and the atrocity in Baga, Nigeria where over 2000 have been slaughtered by Boko Haram this week are almost totally unreported in the mainstream media.  This lack of coverage leads me to ponder why the murder of 17 people is more newsworthy than the murder of over 2000.  Is it because it place in Nigeria and the area is deemed too dangerous for journalists, is it because we find it so difficult and sensational that gunmen can walk into an office in a major European city and murder indiscriminately?  Is it because it is closer to home and that journalists see the murder of their colleagues as more important.  I genuinely have no idea.

Image: TOPSHOTS-FRANCE-ATTACKS-CHARLIE-HEBDO-SHOOTING

What does seem clear to me however is the elephant in the room.  That elephant is U.S., Nato & European policy in the Middle East.  There can be little doubt that the implementation of the ‘agreement’ of the formation of the state of Israel and western support for the jewish state caused a huge amount of resentment in many of the Arab States, there have been wars and conflict in the region ever since.  The unrest and radicalisation however seems to have accelerated significantly since the first Gulf War in 1990.  Since that time the terrorism has become the weapon of choice in the region.

Lets be clear, terrorism is the weapon of the weak, particularly of the weak who feel oppressed and aggrieved by stronger oppressors.  The first Gulf war was ostensibly prosecuted to liberate Kuwait after it was invaded by the larger and more powerful Iraq.  The liberation of Kuwait was undoubtably one of the primary objectives but it is widely accepted that Iraq’s actions could not be tolerated because it threatened the west’s oil interests.  Our reliance on oil meant that any action that threatened access to this increasingly rare resource could not be countenanced.  Ever since 1990 our policies in the region have become increasingly confusing with support for regimes seemingly changing on a whim.

What is absolutely beyond a shred of doubt is that the war on terror has cost the lives of hundreds of thousands of people in the Middle East and that the overwhelming majority of those killed are Muslim’s.  It seems to me that the killing of Muslims by Muslims or by coalition forces is either under-reported or not reported at all.  The Stop the War coalition reports on these issues today saying

“The same people responsible for the attacks in Paris are also responsible for much worse attacks on their fellow Muslims in countries like Yemen or Libya. Last week 37 police recruits were killed in a bomb at an academy near near Yemen’s capital city Sanaa, and dozens more injured.”

“Many people hearing about so-called western values ‘freedom’, ‘truth’ and ‘equality’ — now made so much of, following the Charlie Hebdo slaughter — will wonder what values it was that allowed Israel last Summer to bomb Gaza, causing the deaths of thousands of Palestinians. They will wonder about the torture by US forces at Abu Ghraib (cited as one reason for the ‘radicalisation’ of one of the Charlie Hebdo murderers). They will wonder about Guantanamo, extraordinary rendition, torture, and the other consequences of the war on terror that have caused such misery.”

“They must also wonder at the myopia which allows the absolutely correct condemnation of terrorist attacks in France but which seems to regard western bombings, drone attacks and the killing of civilians in occupied countries, as necessary if slightly distasteful activities, justified because they are carried out by nation states, rather than lone individuals.”

The sad fact is that terrorism is bred by oppression.  The oppressed can only attack nation states in a limited way such as we saw in Paris this week.  Charlie Hebdo may have been attacked because of their depiction of the prophet but the willingness of individuals to commit mass murder in this way is driven by something much deeper and much more difficult to understand and resolve.

I fear that the attacks in Paris will serve to stir up more anti Islamic feeling not only in France, where there have been numerous attacks on Muslims since the murders, but also in the UK.  I am certain we will see Nigel Farage and UKIP step up the anti-immigration rhetoric as we move closer to the forthcoming General Election.  We have already seen fascist group ‘Britain First’ step up their racist attacks.

As our political leaders gather in Paris today, along with the millions around the world, to mourn those so brutally murdered, I hope they will take a moment to reflect on how we have come to be where we are.  Our leaders have supported war after war in the middle east since 1990.  Rather than recognising that our reliance on oil puts us in an increasingly vulnerable position and instigating measures to reduce that reliance we seem more than willing to fight wars over what remains.  Reliance on oil cannot continue for ever, it is a finite resource.  Fighting over the last few drops will lead only to further conflict and more killing.

Those same leaders have to recognise that the ‘War on terror’ is a war that cannot be won militarily.  There is no military solution, as the British Army found out in Northern Ireland, you cannot fight an enemy that you cannot see.  Eventually attacks of the kind we saw this week erodes the will to fight and it must be acknowledged that Muslim Terrorists are often much more ruthless that The IRA.  The IRA wanted to walk away from their attacks, the radical Jihadist terrorist is not only prepared to die bringing terror they seem to welcome ‘martyrdom’ with open arms.

In conclusion I will return to my original point about Je Suis Charlie.  I fear that this has little to do with ‘freedom of speech’.  I fear that the solidarity expressed will lead to further demonisation of Muslims and even worse it presents the conditions for an anti-muslim backlash in Europe, something likely to cause yet more radicalisation.  The biggest tribute that could be paid to those who died this week would be for our leaders to begin the process of addressing the root causes that underly Islamic extremism.  For them to begin the process of finding a political solution that sees a fair settlement for all and that removes the sense of injustice and powerlessness that breeds terrorism.  Where that to happen I could then stand proudly and say Je Suis Charlie.

(AP Photo/Thibault Camus)

Ottowa – Another tragedy

Todays Daily prompt is a free write for 10 minutes so here goes.

For the past 24 hours my news feed and television screen have been filled with comments on the awful tragedy that took place in Ottawa Canada yesterday.  The murder of Nathan Cirillo, the second such killing in a couple of days is as senseless as it is futile.  It is yet another tragedy, for Corporal Cirillo’s family, for his unit, for Ottawa, for Canada and of course for every right thinking person on the face of this planet.

Once again this atrocity seems to have been carried out by a so called Muslim extremist.  It does seem that, at least in the media, every act of this sort seems to have been committed by someone who is a radicalised Muslim terrorist.  Whether the media coverage given to these atrocities is an accurate reflection of the facts or not is in many ways immaterial.  What we are constantly fed via our media is the concept that radical Islam is a threat to our way of life and a threat to world peace.

Now I don’t for one second try to play down the tragedy of Cirrilo’s murder, but I wonder how many murders were committed in New York, Washington or Los Angele’s yesterday?  What I do know is that none were reported in the UK media.  It seems that the murder of one soldier by a Muslim extremist is much more newsworthy.  Of course the fact that the gunman entered the Canadian parliament building and was shot dead by the Sgt-at Arms and that elements of the story were captured on video does add considerable drama to the whole thing as does the fact that Ottawa is by-and-large a very peaceful city.

I do wonder if much of the reporting of this and similar incidents isn’t secretly welcomed by the politicians because it allows them to more easily justify their actions in the Middle east.  Canada’s Prime Minister Mr harper was quick to get himself on television to state:

“We will not be intimidated. Canada will never be intimidated”.  “In fact, this will lead us to strengthen our resolve and redouble our efforts… to take all necessary steps to identify and counter threats and keep Canada safe.”

Mr Harper stressed that the perpetrators “will have no safe haven” in Canada.  , but admitted the attacks showed that the country was “not immune to terrorist attacks”.

It seems to me that I have heard those (almost) exact words from the last two american Presidents and the last 3 UK Prime Ministers on numerous occasions over the last decade or so.  The fact remains that terrorists seem to be able to carry out their attacks all too easily and that western policy in the Middle East serves only to further radicalise the people of that region and worryingly this radicalisation seems to be spreading increasingly to our own populations.

Something has to change.  I am neither clever enough nor influential enough to say what needs to change, but things cannot be allowed to continue as they are.

As a final comment spare a thought for the friends and family of Nathan Cirillo and for every family touched by senseless slaughter in the ‘War against terror”

Yes it’s true, the United States really is the greatest country in the world – but in what? – Stop the War Coalition

Wow, I just came across this article and thought it worth sharing.  I think it throws up some really interesting issues.  Check it out and let me know what you think. Yes it’s true, the United States really is the greatest country in the world – but in what? – Stop the War Coalition.

AMERICAN politicians are fond of telling their audiences that the United States is the greatest country in the world. Is there any evidence for this claim?

Well, yes. When it comes to violence and preparations for violence, the United States is, indeed, No. 1.

In 2013, according to a report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, the U.S. government accounted for 37 percent of world military expenditures, putting it far ahead of all other nations. (The two closest competitors, China and Russia, accounted for 11 percent and 5 percent respectively.)

From 2004 to 2013, the United States was also the No. 1 weapons exporter in the world. Moreover, given the U.S. government’s almost continuous series of wars and acts of military intervention since 1941, it seems likely that it surpasses all rivals when it comes to international violence.

This record is paralleled on the domestic front, where the United States has more guns and gun-related deaths than any other country.

study released in late 2013 reported that the United States had 88 guns for every 100 people, and 40 gun-related deaths for every 400,000 people―the most of any of the 27 economically developed countries surveyed. By contrast, in Britain there were 6 guns per 100 people and 1 gun-related death per 400,000 people.

Yet, in a great many other areas, the United States is not No. 1 at all.

Take education.

In late 2013, the Program for International Student Assessment released a report on how 15-year old students from 65 nations performed on its tests. The report showed that U.S. students ranked 17th in reading and 21st in math. An international survey a bit earlier that year by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development found that the ranking was slightly worse for American adults. In 2014, Pearson, a multinational educational services company, placed the United States 20th in the world in “educational attainment”―well behind Poland and the Slovak Republic.

American healthcare and health fare even worse.

In a 2014 study of healthcare (including infant mortality, healthy life expectancy, and mortality from preventable conditions) in 11 advanced industrial countries, the Commonwealth Fund concluded that the United States ranked last among them. According to the World Health Organization, the U.S. healthcare system ranks 30th in the world.

Other studies reach somewhat different conclusions, but all are very unflattering to the United States, as are studies of American health. The United States, for example, has one of the world’s worst cancer rates (the seventh highest), and life expectancy is declining compared to other nations.

An article in the Washington Post in late 2013 reported that the United States ranked 26th among nations in life expectancy, and that the average American lifespan had fallen a year behind the international average.

What about the environment? Specialists at Yale University have developed a highly sophisticated Environmental Performance Index to examine the behavior of nations. In the area of protection of human health from environmental harm, their 2014 index placed the United States 35th in health impacts, 36th in water and sanitation, and 38th in air quality. In the other area studied―protection of ecosystems―the United States ranked 32nd in water resources, 49th in climate and energy, 86th in biodiversity and habitat, 96th in fisheries, 107th in forests, and 109th in agriculture.

These and other areas of interest are dealt with by the Social Progress Index, which was developed by Michael Porter, an eminent professor of business (and a Republican) at Harvard. According to Porter and his team, in 2014 the United States ranked 23rd in access to information and communications, 24th in nutrition and basic medical care, 31st in personal safety, 34th in water and sanitation, 39th in access to basic knowledge, 69th in ecosystem sustainability, and 70th in health and wellness.

The widespread extent of poverty, especially among children, remains a disgrace in one of the world’s wealthiest nations. A 2013 report by the United Nations Children’s Fund noted that, of the 35 economically advanced countries that had been studied, only Rumania had a higher percentage of children living in poverty than did the United States.

Of course, the United States is not locked into these dismal rankings and the sad situation they reveal about the health, education, and welfare of its citizens. It could do much better if its vast wealth, resources, and technology were employed differently than they are at present.

Ultimately, it’s a matter of priorities. When most U.S. government discretionary spending goes for war and preparations for war, it should come as no surprise that the United States emerges No. 1 among nations in its capacity for violence and falls far behind other nations in providing for the well-being of its people.

Americans might want to keep this in mind as their nation embarks upon yet another costly military crusade.

When commenting on WordPress is a bad idea!

I came across a really interesting  and useful piece of advice today.  Unfortunately for me it came about 18 hours too late!  The advice came in the form of a post from Opinionated Man.  The advice “Your audience is not your friend”.

I have been writing this blog for a few months now and for the most part it has been a really positive experience.  I am getting a reasonable number of hits on my site and the numbers of people commenting and following my blog is slowly growing. I have just followed the Writing 101 and Blogging 101 courses as I firmly believe that you can always learn something new and there was always the chance that I would gain a bit of inspiration.  As these courses drew to a close we were encouraged to reach out to other bloggers to help build our networks.

In my reader I searched for topics that interested me and hit upon a post criticising Western Governments for committing funds to rebuild Gaza after what was described as Israel’s ‘Defensive War against Hamas’.  Now most commentators worldwide have roundly condemned Israel’s recent actions and I made what I thought was a balanced and measured comment on the blog. I should have looked a little more deeply before commenting and admittedly I should have known better.  The writer you see identifies themselves as an Israeli activist and the tone of the posts made it unlikely in the extreme that the writer would engage in a conversation that disagreed in any way with the posters views.  As a result I was subjected to a torrent of thinly veiled abuse, accused of being anti-semitic and ill educated.

This was my first negative experience with a member of the WordPress community.  It’s not something I want to repeat :/  I most certainly echo Opinionated Man’s advice.  You should of course reach out to other bloggers, but do check the tone of a blog before commenting on subjects that are controversial and likely to provoke strong reactions. If in doubt either do not comment or be prepared for a bad reaction.

On WordPress as in life you live and learn 🙂