Monday 27 May 2019

Chill winds of death are a blowback from Middle East

Hayat Boumedienne, the partner of Amedy Coulibaly, who is on the run
Hayat Boumedienne, the partner of Amedy Coulibaly, who is on the run
Hayat Boumeddiene in a CCTV grab on her arrival in Syria
Amedy Coulibaly, shot dead in the siege

Patrick Cockburn

Did the massacre at 'Charlie Hebdo' succeed, in terms of furthering the interests of extreme jihadi al-Qa'ida-type Islamic movements? The incident itself is over with the deaths of the murderers, but the degree of their success will only become clear when we see how far French political leaders are lured into an over-reaction.

It was worrying to see 'Le Monde's' banner headline: "Le 11 Septembre Français." First, it simply is not true: there were 2,977 victims of the 9/11 attacks and 17 victims in last week's shootings in Paris.

The shock was far greater in the United States than in France because of the visual impact of aircraft crashing into the twin towers, and their spectacular collapse.

It is important to keep a sense of proportion about such atrocities, because the perpetrators, whether linked to Islamic State, al-Qa'ida or freelance jihadis, select targets that will guarantee maximum publicity. "The media is half jihad" is a slogan sometime seen on jihadi websites.

Misleading analogies between 7/1 in France and 9/11 in the US should create a sense of foreboding.

The most important victory of Osama bin Laden did not come on the day the 19 mainly Saudi hijackers took command of the planes, but in the months and years that followed as President Bush led the US into wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in which American troops fought Muslims.

As the US resorted to rendition, the mistreatment and torture of prisoners, expanded security agencies and limited civil rights for its own people it delegitimised itself and acted as recruiting sergeant for al-Qa'ida and its clones.

If bin Laden had been hiding in the attic of the White House giving instructions to those in the rest of the building he could not have devised a cocktail of measures more likely to aid his cause.

Somehow the degree of failure of the "war on terror" launched by Bush and supported by Britain has never led to those who launched it being held culpable.

Fail it demonstrably did, since in 2001 al-Qa'ida had a few hundred activists confined to a few camps and towns in Afghanistan and Iraq. Fourteen years later, after vast expenditure on anti-terrorism by the US and its allies, al-Qa'ida-type movements control large areas of Iraq and Syria and dominate the Sunni Arab armed opposition in both countries.

Al-Qa'ida in the Arabian Peninsula, based in Yemen, is a growing power as the shock troops of the Sunni community. On the same day as the Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris, some 36 police cadets were killed in the Yemeni capital Sanaa by an al-Qa'ida suicide bomber.

Will France make the same mistake the US did, when the Bush administration, the neo-conservatives and state security agencies exploited 9/11 to increase their power and implement their agendas? It could easily happen.

Former President Nicolas Sarkozy has already spoken twice about the "war of civilisations" that sounds suspiciously like a French version of Bush's "war on terror", which in present circumstances is the sort of demagoguery that will be music to the ears of jihadis.

There is already a potential constituency for jihadism among France's six million Muslims, who have been pushed to the margins and see themselves as the victims of old-fashioned racism. (©Independent News Service)

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