THIS is not the world I have known throughout my life. Warriors and soldiers have always put their lives on the line during armed conflicts and innocents have always been caught up in the crossfire. But nowadays, we are all potential targets of perverted death cults, some supported by states behind the curtain, who think nothing of bombing or mowing down little children.
You would be forgiven for thinking that a new and vicious species has evolved; one that resembles human beings but is without all human emotion. France has suffered eight terrorist incidents since the January 2015 slaughter of Charlie Hebdo employees. The so-called Islamic State has taken ‘credit’ for several attacks but has opportunistically claimed to have been the “inspiration” fuelling Thursday’s attack on foreign tourists and local revellers of all religions and races gathered on Nice’s promenade, the capital of the French Riviera, to celebrate Bastille Day. Its message can be interpreted as an admission it had nothing to do with it but seek to profi t from it anyway.
In many respects, this attack is a game changer. On July 14, a humble truck was the weapon of choice for Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel, a French delivery man of Tunisian origin who succeeded in killing at least 84 people (including ten children) and injuring 202. His name was not on a terrorist watch list and he had only been convicted for minor crimes. Reports suggest he had no religious leanings.
However, since others connected with him have now been arrested the lone wolf theory is beginning to collapse. All the mosques in and around Nice have denied knowing him. His motives and those of many mass killers before him are almost impossible to fathom, Bouhlel is likely to have been supported by a hostile state with the aim of destabilising Europe and weakening France in particular. But why citizens of wealthy First World democracies, where nationals are educated and enjoy civil liberties, embrace terror — as opposed to people in, say, the oppressed people of Syria and Iraq whose passions are liable to erupt out of control — is perplexing.
Unless there is money involved. No intelligence service could have had advanced knowledge although listening to television commentators you would think the cure is heightened intelligence sharing between nations. That might work in some instances but would not have prevented this one. Anyone can get hold of a gun if they are determined enough and hire a lorry without any red fl ags being raised and that is deeply disturbing.
The use of a truck as a killing machine was conceptualised by Hezbollah. “He who drives his truck into the enemy’s military base to blow himself up and become a martyr, he drives in with a hopeful heart, smiling and happy,” said Iran’s lackey Hezbollah’s Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah during an address some years ago, going on to glorify these murderers’ deaths likening them to passing through the door of a hot sauna into a cool, peaceful room. Iran is being rewarded for being the world’s biggest sponsor of terror. It has sleeping cells in many countries and its nuclear pact with the US has done nothing to quell its evil intent towards the western world. Its activities should be placed under a microscope rather than be buried by western intelligence agencies for the sake of national interests.
Eradicating the scourge of terrorism requires a top to bottom strategy rather than the reverse. The solution to getting rid of an ant colony is to destroy the nest and kill the queen. Stamping upon each ant one by one is useless because more and more will be born. In other words, the international community must join hands to cleanse the planet of terrorism’s state sponsors, figureheads, funders and promoters before concentrating on lower tiers.
In truth, certain Western powers have over the decades contributed to the problems we face by colluding with armed radicals and dangerous ideologues when it has suited their purposes. Let us not forget that France gave sanctuary to the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini during his exile from Iran while the BBC — dubbed by Iranians as the Ayatollah BBC — aired his messages. The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and Britain’s intelligence services have supported extremists to thwart the rise of pan-Arabism or to bring down uncooperative leaderships. The murky alliances between the US and its allies with hardened fanatics and militias in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria are well known. You would think the West would have learned that if you play with fire, you will get burned. Geopolitical power plays or economic interests should never trump the sanctity of human life. A nation’s self-interest should never underpin a war or an invasion while the deaths of hundreds of thousands are cavalierly written off as “collateral damage”. Hatred and the desire for revenge is the logical result.
France is a country at war with an invisible enemy, an enemy within. Notably, the mood in the country has shifted from solidarity with the government and security forces to anger. President Francois Hollande’s convoy was booed by a crowd while driving through Nice on Friday and he can expect a political backlash for the inability of his government to protect its citizens. The winner will be the far right wing. President of the conservative party ‘Front National’ Marine Le Pen’s fantasies about moving into the Élysée Palace next summer could materialise.
Republican Presidential Candidate Donald Trump is exploiting the situation. He has announced that the US is “at war” and says “extreme” documentation should prevent people from “terrorist areas” entering America. When such attacks occur he receives a boost in popularity which given his opponent Democratic Hilary Clinton’s slipping approval ratings, could carry him to the White House.
Former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich says Muslims should be tested to see if they believe in Sharia law and if so, they should be deported. Not only would that be unconstitutional and divisive, it would not make anyone safer because most terrorist attacks in the US and Europe have usually been committed by irreligious criminal losers. Unless governments collectively implement a sea change in their current policies to tackle terrorism at source and quit laying out red carpets for its state sponsors, memorials for its victims on every continent will increase and become the new normal. Given the prospect of a Trump White House, a Le Pen Élysée Palace and the wildcard Boris Johnson as Britain’s Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, my fears that wisdom will prevail are higher than my hopes.
By Khalaf Ahmad Al Habtoor UAE Businessman