Why we lost the battle against terrorism and how we can win it
- 05 Apr 2016
On Tuesday, March 22nd, two attacks plunged Brussels into terror. These attacks came four months after the shock wave that had shaken Paris, fourteen months after the dramas of Charlie Hebdo and the Hypercacher supermarket. Last year, we had already emphasized the need to understand how the daily life of the City of Lights could, within a few hours, be plunged into darkness. This descent to the roots of evil directed us to two key factors. First, the policy of war carried out in the Middle East for over a century. Secondly, the exclusion of young people who come from poor neighbourhoods. What answers has the French government brought to these problems? Will there one day be enough soldiers on the streets of Brussels to protect us from the next attack?
Haggard silhouettes come back up the subway tunnel, making their way in a cloud of smoke. They are escorted by the pale halos of the wall lamps that make the steel rails shine and illuminate the exit. A little girl is crying. This is one of the few signs of life in this desolate scene of night and fog. It recalls by means of pain that human madness traverses time to take other forms. A bomb has exploded in the Brussels metro. A little girl is crying. An hour earlier, two suicide bombers blew themselves up in the departure hall of the airport of Zaventem. Usually, travellers file eagerly on the shiny floor of the terminal toward the gates. On Tuesday, they walked in the rubble with bloody faces. On Tuesday, Brussels stopped bustling for a while. The still provisional toll: 31 dead and 300 wounded.
“It’s a horror,” said President Francois Hollande four months earlier. On Friday, November 13th, World Day of kindness, several terrorist attacks were carried out simultaneously in the heart of Paris. The toll was heavy there too. 129 dead and some 352 injured. The worst attack ever committed in France. These attacks came a few months after those that had decimated the Charlie Hebdo team and the Hypercacher store. At the time, most of reactions were confined to the emotional register. You had the choice to stand firm or be assertive about our Western values faced with obscurantism. Some do not hesitate to combine the two in an astonishing way by calling for a French Patriot Act while holding demonstrations for freedom of expression.
But already in 2015, the attacks could not be reduced to these dimensions alone. To prevent such a tragedy from happening again, it was necessary to situate the attacks in their political, social and historical context. That which our governments have not done.
France has been at war… for a long time!
“You cannot attack us and get nothing in return”, said Amedy Coulibaly, the author of the supermarket slaughter. Must we be blind or deaf not to understand that the violence that befell Brussels and Paris is related to the ongoing violence in the Middle East that has lasted for over a century? Since the British tapped black gold in the southwest of Iran in 1855, this region has never known peace. Never. In Europe, we have no oil, but we have bombers. Believing that the wealth of the Middle East must necessarily belong to them, the West has multiplied the wars, coups and many other atrocities.
“We are at war“, Said Manuel Valls after the November attacks. The Prime Minister repeated it the day after the Brussels attacks. “He’s right, confirmed Bernard-Henri Levy on the set of I-Tele.Today it is total war“. We remember that the Parisian had set the stage for its sensationalist after the killing of Bataclan: “This time, it’s war.” But the war did not start on November 13th, 2015. For a long time, it was played near the borders of France and the Old Continent. As our planes bombed villages in remote mountains, as children apparently different from ours died under the weight of unjust sanctions, as those who died by our weapons were discretely mentioned between two reports on the latest iPhone, the war did not really exist for us. Today it’s difficult not to see the blood. Impossible not to hear the screams.
“We created Al-Qaeda”
France and Belgium have felt the war. The same one that millions of innocent people have faced for so many years. One that is a most favourable breeding ground for the murderous madness of terrorists. What did the French government do after the attacks in January? They persisted in blocking any political solution in Syria, and continued to drop bombs and sow the seeds of mayhem. Some wonder how Daesh could have become, before our eyes, the monster it is. While the former intelligence chief Alain Chouet had announced the logistical death of Al-Qaeda in 2002. Daesh did not come out of nowhere. It is the result of errors of Western policy in the Middle East. The West has always maintained relations, which are at the least ambiguous, with Islamic terrorism.
“We created Al Qaeda,” confessed Hillary Clinton in 2009. In fact, the origins of this organization go back to the late 70s, in Afghanistan. At the time of the Cold War, the United States applied the doctrine of Rollback consisting of driving back and overthrowing governments deemed too close to the Soviet Union. To destabilize Afghanistan, which had close relations with Moscow, the CIA and its Saudi allies financed the insurgency by Islamists, including bin Laden. When Soviet troops crossed the Afghan border to rescue their ally government, Zibgniew Brzezinski, adviser to the White House, welcomed the opportunity “to offer to the Russians their Vietnam War.” Brzezinski was not wrong. The CIA and the Saudis increased their support for Islamist fighters. And the Soviet Union was mired in a protracted conflict that precipitated the fall of the Eastern Bloc.
The excited rebel
A few years later, with strong networks developed through the Afghan war, Bin Laden created Al Qaeda to bite the hand that fed. The turnaround took place during the Gulf War. After the invasion of Kuwait by Saddam Hussein, Iraqi troops were stationed at the gates of Saudi Arabia. Bin Laden proposed to he Saud to raise an army to defend the kingdom. The monarchy refused the offer and called the US for reinforcements. The head of Al-Qaeda could not stomach the insult, watching with rage as GI’s defiled the holy lands of Islam to kill other Muslims. Coming from the Saudi bourgeoisie, Bin Laden also harboured a deep dislike for the feudal monarchy which monopolized all the levers of the economy and that compromised itself through benevolent relationships with Israel and the United States.
Al-Qaeda therefore began to attack Saudi interests, as well as the far away enemy who supported this near enemy, the United States. In 1998, Brzezinski, architect of the Afghan trap, wasinterrogated by the Nouvel Observateur these attacks by terrorists that the CIA had supported earlier. Triumphal response of an advisor to the White House: “What is most important in terms of world history? The Taliban or the collapse of the Soviet empire? Some stirred-up Muslims or the liberation of Central Europe and the end of the Cold War?” Three years later, some excited Islamists destroyed the World Trade Center.
Al-Qaeda’s second life
After the attacks of September 11, George W. Bush attacked Afghanistan, although the Taliban offered to try Bin Laden in an Islamic court. Fourteen years later, Al-Qaeda and its now independent subsidiary, Daesh, are more powerful than ever. Why is this? First, because the military campaigns of Bush, if they initially affected the logistical capabilities of Al Qaeda, in the end created a general chaos favourable to the resurgence of terrorist organizations. Then, despite the trauma of the September 11 attacks, it is clear that the United States and its allies have not given up on using terrorism as a weapon.
Thus, in Libya, NATO did not hesitate to rely on Al Qaeda to topple Muammar Gaddafi. For historical reasons related to the overthrow of King Idris, the authority of the Libyan leader was challenged in the east. Although the region was recognized as a sanctuary for extremists, NATO supported an insurrection. Asked about a possible support of the Atlantic alliance to terrorist groups, Admiral Stavridis tried to sidestep the issue by acknowledging that there were Al Qaeda members in the Libyan opposition, but that they fought in a “personal capacity”. It was in 2011, well before the attacks of Brussels and Paris. And in the euphoria of the spring, the admiral’s assertion did not raise many questions.
Today, it is difficult to hide the reality that some desert preachers have long denounced. Already reinvigorated in Iraq, Al-Qaeda has taken the bull by the horns in Libya with the help of NATO. They hit the jackpot when the United States, France and their local allies decided to overthrow the Syrian government. The anti-Assad coalition has heavy responsibility for the resurgence of terrorism. First, France and Belgium did nothing to prevent their children from going to fill the ranks of armed terrorists in Syria. This was the time when Laurent Fabius said that Al-Nosra was doing a good job. The time when Didier Reynders, Belgian Minister of Foreign Affairs, predicted about the youth who went to fight alongside the FSA: “Maybe we will build them a monument as if they are heros of a revolution.” The time when France went out of it’s way to prevent the Al-Nosra Front from being recognized as a terrorist organization . The time when François Hollande violated the Syrian embargo to supply weapons to the rebels. “We started when we had the certainty that they would go to safe hands” the French president confided. The response of a Middle Eastern intelligence officer quoted by reporter Patrick Cockburn: “[Daesh members] were always very happy when sophisticated weapons were delivered to any anti-Assad group, because they always managed to convince them to give them these arms by threats, force, or money.”
François Hollande could not ignore this reality. In December 2013 again, an arms depot of the Free Syrian Army was plundered by the Islamic Front. “It is certain that these difficulties have not really encouraged us to go further“, commented a French diplomat. And yet, François Hollande continued with the arms shipments. “But no “equipment that could be turned against us” like explosives,” said an anonymous to Le Monde . We see here in this military precaution that France played with fire in Syria. Before receiving a severe backlash in Paris.
Worse yet, the explosion of terrorism is not the collateral damage of a noble struggle to overthrow the Assad dictatorship and prevent the massacre of Syrians. How else to explain that for the triumph of democracy in Syria, France associated with one of the worst dictatorships in the region, Saudi Arabia? Which, toiling to defend the Syrian spring from its fundamentalist swallows, at the same time repressed the Bahraini uprising in a pool of blood. Can we also reasonably prevent the Syrian army from committing massacres by supporting the “good work” of Al-Nosra? France has not supported a noble battle in Syria, but competed in one more war to establish the Western domination of the Middle East. One war too many. By delegating the dirty work to Daesh and Al Qaeda mercenaries, France and its partners have totally lost control of the situation.
The excited rebel, again
Indeed, Daesh is not a puppet of the Western powers. The terrorist organization has its own agenda. NATO and its regional allies have allowed it to thrive while it helped them to meet common goals, but the situation spoiled when after taking Mosul, Daesh advanced its troops towards Iraqi Kurdistan. Haven of profits for US multinationals, the Autonomous Region remains the preserve of the US. To counter the appetite of the Islamist ogre, Obama then put together a coalition, joined by France and Belgium. But Western forces have once again demonstrated their ambiguity when faced with terrorism. Indeed, for nearly a year, France has been content to attack Daesh only in Iraq. And with only a relative effectiveness. This restraint was justified by the desire not to weaken the terrorist organization in Syria so as not to strengthen Assad’s positions. In other words, while Daesh massacred Syrians, it must be maintained. Now that it is attacking Europe, it must be destroyed.
The attacks in January and November bear the scars of the cynicism and unconsciousness of the French government. Their obstinacy to overthrow Assad by interposed terrorists helped to plunge Syria into chaos with the consequences that we know of in France and Belgium. This obstinacy had suffered no inflection after the attacks in January as many experts, both right and left, insisted that dialogue with Assad was needed to escape the Syrian quagmire. A need brought up to date after the November attacks. But soon voices were raised in France. They made the handover toneoconservatives from overseas where they refers without discomfort to Al Qaeda as a more reliable partner than the Syrian President. If the position of the hawks in Washington stumbled on Bataclan candles, the French relay were content to recall that Assad was responsible for all ills, even taking some liberties with the facts.
Thus, on the set of BFM TV, facing the deputy Alain Marsaud who advocates dialogue with Damascus, Caroline Fourest forcefully recalled that Assad was a “butcher responsible for the massacre of 250,000 Syrians“. These figures are from the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Caroline Fourest and was careful to give that detail. Because according to the observatory of the 250,000 victims of the Syrian conflict, the army and militias that support it paid the heaviest price with 90,000 losses. Then come the 80,000 people counted in the ranks of the rebellion. A rebellion dominated by extremists, where one third of the fighters come from abroad. To these are added 70,000 civilian victims of the conflict. Affirming that Assad has killed 250,000 Syrians, is just a lie. A lie of those who have blocked any political solution in Syria for five years.
And it continues. Russian-US negotiations stumble on Assad’s fate. If Moscow suggests letting the Syrians choose their president through elections, Washington insists on cleaning the deck in Damascus. Argument of the Secretary of State John Kerry? Assad channels the frustration of pseudo-jihadists who flock from all over to overthrow him. Remove Assad, and terrorists will drop the weapons. A lie? Effectively. It was not Assad that brought Iraq back to the stone age, destroying the structures of the secular state to the delight of extremists. It was not Assad who opened the borders to takfirists and deployed training camps for their recruits. It is not Assad who provided weapons and money to al-Qaeda fighters. And yet, as the fool criticizes the raped woman for wearing her skirt too short, Kerry asks for Assad to leave in an attempt to counter terrorism.
The legitimacy of the Syrian President certainly does not shine at the top of the Democratic firmament. But in the current situation, a political solution to the terrible war that has torn Syria for five years can not circumvent Assad. “We must first restore the States and the central powers, otherwise Daesh or other groups will prosper,” commented in the columns of Vif / L’Express Fabrice Balanche, visiting scholar at the Washington Institute.”If we try to change powers in societies that are not ready to change, either we replace one dictator with another, or we cause chaos.” From Afghanistan to Syria via Iraq and Libya, all the latest attempts at regime change confirm this analysis. Furthermore, we can question the legitimacy of NATO to designate who should govern these countries.
Everyone congratulates the Saud
Dodging is an art! Tinted with panache, the dodger magnifies the exercise of evasion. Thus, petulance in all its splendour fascinates, as when Muhammad Ali, caught in the ropes of a gala match, escaped twenty-one assaults in less than ten seconds. But the dodge is also synonymous with escape. Thus, it loses all its nobility in cowardly desertion faced with responsibilities. As when the Belgian Foreign Minister Didier Reynders was interviewed by RTBF on our relations with Saudi Arabia, which “plays an important role in supporting radicalism.” Response of the diplomatic chief: “Absolutely, hence the importance of dialogue.”
In reality, Western chancelleries have closed embassies for less. But Saudi Arabia is unavoidable. This is another aspect of the mistakes of our policy in the Middle East, directly linked to the wave of attacks in Paris and Brussels. Feudal monarchy spread all over the world its reactionary view of Islam, Wahhabism, real ideological fuel to terrorist groups like Daesh. Under the eyes of their Western partners, the Saud provide weapons and money to the fanatics. And yet, from Paris to Washington via Brussels, everyone congratulates the Saud.
How the United States chose their “Islamic Pope”
Of course, Saudi Arabia enjoys this remarkable ability of being able to play yo-yo with the price of crude oil. True, the monarchy generously injects its petrodollars in our economies. But the relationship between the Saudis and the West goes much further than that. It is part of history, based on common strategic interests. With first of all the fight against Arab nationalism from the 50s. From Egypt to Libya via Syria or Iraq, the Saudis saw monarchs fall one after the other and were afraid of being next on the list. As for the United States, they could not tolerate this progressive movement, secular and increasingly popular with the masses, for the simple reason that it intended to allow Arabs sovereign control over their wealth. A heresy for multinationals fond of oil!
To counter Arab nationalism, President Eisenhower and his advisers therefore decided to bet on this reactionary state headed by a handful of old Bedouins, Saudi Arabia. According to John Foster Dulles, King Saud was “the only figure in the region with sufficient presence and potential benefits to serve as a counterweight to Nasser.” In his book Thicker than Oil , Rachel Bronson explains how “Washington began to explore the idea that the King Saud can develop a broad religious current through his control of Mecca and Medina. Some in the administration have begun to refer to the King as the Islamic “pope”. ”
Without British support that helped the Saud to create their kingdom and without the support of the United States that made the feudal monarchy the Vatican of Islam, Wahhabism and its retrograde tenets would likely remain confined to a few tents of goat farmers. But erected as a “pope” of the Muslim world and swimming in petrodollars, King Saud was able to fund universities, mosques, publishing houses, television channels and other means that would allow him to spread worldwide the reactionary vision of Wahhabism. To carry out its business, Saudi Arabia will build on the Muslim World League. The European headquarters of this organization shall be in Brussels after King Baudouin has graciously offered the keys of the eastern pavilion Fifty year anniversary.
War on the Shia!
The Saudis have almost got the better of Arab nationalism whose last Iraqi, Syrian and Libyan pockets fall prey to chaos. But it does not take long for the feudal monarchy to appoint a new peril. Just a few years after the death of Nasser and the alignment of Egypt on Western diplomacy, Iran toppled into the enemy camp with the 1979 Islamic revolution. The Shiite threat would provide two significant benefits to Saud. Internally, it still allowed to relegate to the rank of sub-questions the legitimacy of the feudal monarchy. Internationally, the Shiite threat would again meet Saudi Arabia and the West in a common struggle. A fight for which the Saudis were not going to hesitate to mobilize the worst terrorists on sectarian and ideological bases without being secretive with its Western partners.
In 2007, Prince Bandar, former head of Saudi intelligence, explained to the Council on Foreign Relations , a prestigious think tank bringing together the cream of US policy, how it was working to manipulate the fanatics: “We created this movement and we can control it. It’s not that we do not want the Salafis to throw bombs; it all depends on who they throw them at – Hezbollah, Moqtada al-Sadr, Iran and the Syrians if they continue to work with Hezbollah and Iran.” Prince Bandar was completely wrong. He could not control this movement and the Salafists have not dropped bombs only on Shiites.
In March 2014, a few months before the taking of Mosul by Daesh, Prince Bandar was quietly dismissed. An eviction that reminds of that of Prince Turki, head of Saudi intelligence a week before the attacks on the World Trade Center. According to Alain Chouet, former head of the DGSE, Saudi Arabia, like many other intelligence services felt that something was up. The Turki prince had maintained close relations with Bin Laden. So he had to step aside to avoid endangering Saudi Arabia. In fact, after the attacks of September 11, although most terrorists were of Saudi origin, the monarchy was not at all worried by Bush.
For a few oil dollars more
Saudi Arabia’s support for terrorism has long been an open secret. But it has since been publicly acknowledged, including by the Vice President Joe Biden and former general of the US armed forces, Wesley Clark. After the attacks of January 2015 everyone knew that Saudi Arabia was sponsoring terrorism. But what did the French government do after the ceremony of homage to Charlie Hedbo? Hollande pointed to the lair of the devil, the Gulf Cooperation Council which collects together the Sunni oil kingdoms.
“Never had a Western head of state participated as guest of honour at a special summit of the CSG,” remarked Liberation .Had the French president met the principal sponsors of terrorism to bang his fist on the table? Not really. After the killings of Charlie Hebdo magazine and the Hypercacher François Hollande left to negotiate lucrative arms contracts with Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Before attacking Yemen, the Saudis were already among the largest arms importers. Its main supplier, the European Union, was not visibly worried about knowing what these peaceful Saudis would do with so many weapons. In 2015, while the fanatics amused themselves with anti-tank missiles to Syria, Saudi Arabia even rose to the top of list of arms importers. Its main supplier? France. Add that a French-Saudi Committee should soon be creating new agreements. “The important thing is this perspective, this dynamic, this movement ” commented a few months ago the Prime Minister Manuel Valls. In Belgium, the delivery of arms to Saudi Arabia also raised some questions. Response of Paul Magnette , President of the Walloon Region, “We are only a small seller”. Small sales, big consequences. It’s the butterfly effect…
What we do and what we are
“The Islamic State do not attack us for what we do but for what we are. A free, secular, and fun-loving country,” analyzed Caroline Fourest a few days after the attacks of November 13th. Does it remind you of anything? A few days after the September 11 attacks, the neoconservative President George W. Bush declared before Congress: “Why do they hate us? They hate what they see in this room: a democratically elected government. Their leaders are self-appointed. They hate our freedoms: our freedom of religion, our freedom of speech, our right to vote, to come together and express our disagreements.(…) These terrorists kill not merely to end lives, but to disrupt and destroy a way of life.”
The attacks, whether perpetrated in New York or Paris, simply oppose Good to Evil. On one hand, us, the nice, free, secular and bon vivant Westerners. On the other, them, the Islamist villains, led by blind hatred. Here we find the rhetoric of the clash of civilizations, often attributed to Samuel Huntington, but developed much earlier by the historian Bernard Lewis. In 1956, when Nasser was trying to get rid of colonial rule by nationalizing the Suez Canal, Lewis analyzed this highly political and economic conflict in these terms: “The current resentment of Middle Eastern peoples are better understood when we realizes they result, not from conflict between states or nations, but the clash between two civilizations.” For Lewis, Islam “has always looked for support to fight hisenemy: Western democracy. He initially supported the Axis powers (Hitler, Mussolini and fascist Japan) against the Allies and the Communists against the United States: which led to two disasters… ”
So what if, as we have seen, Nasser defended a secular nationalism against which the United States supported the reactionary Islamism of Saud. Forget also that the Egyptian President turned to the Soviet Union after the very Western World Bank had refused him the necessary funds for the construction of the Aswan Dam. The theory of the Orientalist does not bother with objective elements. As Alain Gresh remarked , Lewis made a “strange historian, whose summaries ignore the hard facts, the oil, the exile of the Palestinians, and Western interventions“. And the journalist added: “What is striking in this analysis is its a-historical character and its willingness to clear all Western policies in the region (they hate us, not because of what we do, but because of who we are).”
Caroline Fourest therefore shares the same analytical framework as the theoretician of the Clash of Civilizations. The war in Syria, the collusion of France with terrorist movements, our unwavering support to Saudi Arabia and the coalition against Daesh are totally absent from his radar. Note also that Fourest, invited on all television shows and presented as a progressive, gives us the thesis of a close adviser of the most radical neo-conservatives, both the US and Israel. Indeed, Lewis assisted Benjamin Netanyahu when the latter held the post of Israeli ambassador to the United Nations. In 1998, Lewis also signed, with the founding members of the Project for a New American Century, an open letter calling on Clinton to militarily overthrow Saddam Hussein. Finally, after the September 11 attacks, as they were about to plunge the Middle East into chaos, the Washington hawks greeted the analysis of their valuable advisor. “I am firmly convinced that with men like Bernard Lewis, one of the people who has best studied this part of the world, the firm and strong response of the US to terror and threats contribute greatly to calming things in this part of the world “, declared in 2001 Dick Cheney , then vice president of the United States. A year later, the former deputy secretary of defence, Paul Wolfowitz, went further: “Bernard has taught us to understand the important and complex history of the Middle East and used it to guide us in building a better world for future generations.”
Islam or Islamism?
The clash of civilizations theory is not fond of facts. It will therefore develop an image of Islam removed from time and space. Presented as a monolithic bloc, the Muslim religion carries in itself the seeds of terrorism. But “no amalgams”, is repeated from the left, as from the right. Some, more or less anxious not to stigmatize all Muslims, will thus distinguish between Islam and Islamism. But the definition of that concept is still unclear. Near to Caroline Fourest, Mohamed Siffaoui, the journalist who infiltrated an Al Qaeda cell, proposed in 2004: “Islam is a religion, Islam is an ideology.[…] A fascist ideology that leaves nothing to envy to Nazism, for example.”
But where to draw the line between ideology and religion? “Mohamed Siffaoui quietly economises the delicate analysis of this changing frontier, reporting complex and various factors – religious, but also cultural, political and social – preferring to bludgeon, by way of demonstration, a dichotomy that has the merit of simplicity: one who opposes his own vision of Islam to all who do not share it, whether they are declared opponents or supporters of terrorism,” replies Thomas Deltombe in Imaginary Islam , a remarkable study of media construction of Islamophobia in France.
As much as it would be farfetched to throw in one bag the terrorist Anders Briévik, the Christian Democrat Angela Merkel and the revolutionaries of liberation theology, Islamism has become a catch-all concept, which in the collective imagination, blithely confuses halal canteens, the veil and terrorist attacks. With the backdrop of the terrible threat of Islamization of our Western societies. This scarecrow is waved by the far right. But experts like Lewis and Fourest have the responsibility of stuffing this scarecrow. The first predicted that “Europe could be Islamic by the end of the 21st century.” The second created an incredible tribunal in the Wall Street Journal, where she advocates slightly decreasing our democratic freedoms to protect us from barbarian invasion.
If it was initially to distinguish Islam from its political use, Islamism is also essentialised to be reduced to a monolithic ideology synonymous with fanaticism and even terrorism. Yet, in Jihad made in USA , Mohamed Hassan distinguishes five Islamist currents. It’s all set in different historical and political contexts, with sometimes conflicting interests: 1. traditionalists who, between the 19th and 20th centuries have used religion to fight colonialism in the image of Emir Abdelkader in Algeria or Omar al-Mukhtar in Libya. 2. reactionary Saudi Arabia, which has built Islamic “popes” with the help of the United States. 3. the Muslim Brotherhood, current major policy of Islamization of the Arab countries, but which has passed through different phases throughout history and still today has various trends. 4. Islamo-nationalists who, from Lebanese Hezbollah to Palestinian Hamas, are engaged in a struggle for national liberation. 5. the so-called “jihadists” who have distanced themselves from the Muslim Brotherhood in favour of armed struggle.
An intellectual scam
No more than with concrete facts, the theory of the clash of civilizations does not bother with nuances. It does not explain the events it claims to analyze. If France was attacked for what it is and not for what it does, especially in Syria, how to explain that Switzerland, which shares similar values, has not suffered attacks? Should we also conclude that for Caroline Fourest, Russia, victim of the explosion of the A321 flight, is in the image of France, a country “free, secular and fun-loving”?
So goes the theory of clash of civilizations, proceeding by extreme amalgams and abusive generalizations, as noted researcher and writer Roland De Bodt.”With few exceptions related to complete isolation, any cultural form is not simple; they are always and all composed by assembling disparate cultural elements.[…] The French culture crystallizes not only the cultural contributions of Greek traditions, Celtic and Latin, but also – and to an equally significant and active extent – the cultural contributions of Jewish, Persian, Turkish, Slavic, African, Berber and Arab traditions, etc. (…) Almost no “original” cultural expression is strictly an “original” cultural form; all human cultures are artificially built forms and expressions, that is to say, necessarily hybrid, cross, stratified, borrowed, diverted, appropriated, mixed… “
Preferring to reduce to a single dimension of complex concepts, the theory of the clash of civilizations ignores the objective of building our cultures. Worse, by analyzing our societies through only a religious prism and thus one that is totally biased, it sits with all its lies on the concept of free will. “The shock of civilizations theory posits that belonging to a religion predetermines unilaterally for believers, all moral, civil and political convictions, all actions, all the decisions they will face, says Roland De Bodt. Thus, it recognizes no individual freedom to the followers of different religions. In this, the theory of the clash of civilizations revives the criminal designs of totalitarianisms of the twentieth century. It will be understood that this new model of explanation of the world remains without verifiable proof. Regarded scientifically, it has no value: the main theses of the authors are founded by confusion between cultures and religions by prejudice against different people of the world, their identities and their cultures, by imputing motives – often disparaging – towards the affected communities and their representatives.”
They, are us
The blurry theory of the clash of civilizations would therefore like to make us believe that we nice Westerners, are attacked by the barbarian villains. If the reasoning of the concept plays with concrete facts, it is to mask a harsh reality: they, are us. From the Kouachi brothers to the El Bakraoui brothers through to Salah Abdeslam or Amedy Coulibaly, it is clear that the terrorists who perpetrated the attacks in France and Belgium are not aliens fallen from heaven nor even barbarians from distant lands. These are our children, they grew up with us and show us clearly the weakness of a system. How many young people who have found their place in society and a promising future in a peaceful world would want to put an explosive belt around their waist? Here, the question does not arise. 40% unemployment among the young people of Molenbeek. Here, the social elevator is not working, it is in free fall. Here, the number of people dependent on social assistance has reached a historic summit . Just like the number of billionaires. Here, schools no longer train enlightened minds which could shatter obscurantist sermons. Here, schools sort, relegate, reproduce social inequalities and accustom children to antidepressants . Here, secularism does not put citizens on an equal footing, regardless of their religious affiliation. Here, we are not happy with a secular France or Belgium, we want French and Belgian serfs. Those who do not follow will be second-class citizens. Here, whether you wear the veil or not, you will not have the same rights .Here, one is reluctant to welcome families fleeing the chaos we have sown. Here the world is violent. And this violence is hitting us back in the face. At the terrace of a restaurant in Paris. In a subway station in Brussels.
The military-industrial complex, wanting more
They, are us. The scam of the clash of civilizations would have us believe otherwise. We do not ask questions, we are not really looking for those responsible. This is not the only use of this flawed theory. Since civilizations clashed, the order books of arms dealers have been overflowing. For over forty years, they were fed by the Cold War and the Soviet threat. When the Eastern bloc collapsed in 1991, one would have thought that the production lines would have slowed down the pace. It could even be hoped that they would stop. After all, the enemy was defeated. And George Bush promised us a bright future in his speech on the State of the Union in 1992: “A world once divided into two armed camps now recognizes the pre-eminence of a single superpower: the United States. And considers it without fear. Because the world gives us the power – and the world is right. It trusts us to be fair and measured, to be on the side of respect. It trusts us to do what is right.”
Fair and measured. Really? “Throughout the Cold War, the share of power available to the White House without having to account for it has grown, recalls British historian Perry Anderson.Between the era of Truman and that of Reagan, Presidency staff have multiplied by ten. Members of the National Security Council today – more than two hundred people – are nearly four times as many as in the time of Nixon, Carter and even Bush Senior. The CIA, which has grown exponentially since its inception in 1949 and whose budget has increased more than tenfold since the time of Kennedy – four billion dollars in 1963 and forty-four in 2005, in constant dollars – is in fact a private army at the disposal of the President and the size of which remains a secret.”
The disappearance of the Soviet enemy therefore has not dampened the arms race. The ogre always wanted more. In his farewell speech in 1961, President Eisenhower had already warned against the unjustifiable influence of the military-industrial complex. Since then, the ogre has continued to grow. And no one seems prepared to stop it. “The Cold War ended with a complete triumph of the United States, says Perry Anderson. But the empire created to win the war has not disappeared to return to blend into the liberal ecumene of the ideological vision it was released from. The institutions and achievements, ideologies and reflexes inherited from the fight against communism were a massive historical complex with its own dynamics, which had no need of the Soviet threat to keep going. Special forces in over one hundred countries around the world, a larger military budget than all other great powers combined, infiltration devices, sprawling espionage and surveillance, a specialized staff for national security, and last but not least a set of theorists and analysts whose sole mission was to review, redefine, develop, update the objectives of grand strategy – how to imagine drawing a line under it all and return to the simple principles of 1945?”
It was therefore necessary to justify the ever increasing costs of the military-industrial complex, which, as highlighted Diana Johnstone , needs a constant ideological justification to ensure its domination: “The task is to replace the” communist threat “in distress weighs heavily on the “think tanks” in Washington, privately funded policy institutes that proliferated in the 70s.(…) The military-industrial complex has no proper direction, no philosophy, no moral or ideological value. It is simply there as a monster that desperately needs to be tamed and dismantled by a measure of global public safety. But instead of looking for ways to get rid of it, the organic intellectuals of the system invented tasks for it.”
That’s where our neoconservatives whose overheated brains gave birth to the theory of the clash of civilizations, enter in. Aptly, Roland De Bodt perceives an extensive advertising campaign in favour of the military-industrial complex. ” Infinitely, advertising reconfigures cultural representations that haunt our minds. It corrupts the forms of individual reasoning. It conforms collective cultural needs to the needs of technological development – especially economic development – of the industries in whose services it operates. (…) In this sense, the clash of civilizations is not the unveiling of an inviolable law of the universe, or the natural product of the accumulated history of peoples, nor the result of proven scientific research; the clash of civilizations has been, since the end of World War II, the fulfilment of the most advanced thinking and advertising action in the world.”
The solution, is us!
As recent comments on the Brussels attacks have again demonstrated to us, a fundamental question is all too rarely asked when such attacks occur: why? If by chance, some are trying to respond on TV or at a press conference, the theory of the clash of civilizations has emerged again. The wicked on one side, the good guys on the other. And no objective analysis. They remain steeped in emotion. The shock of civilizations theory plays on our fears to make us accept the war against terrorism without ever bringing its effectiveness into question. And because this conflict whose end is hard to perceive is primarily intended to boost ever more astronomical spending in the military-industrial complex. When that money could be used for other purposes. In Belgium, for example, the government has multiplied trial balloons to cut Social Security. It also plans to release fifteen billion over forty years to buy new fighter jets. To make war, money is not lacking. While these wars are precisely the origin of the attacks in Paris and Brussels. “It is very easy to understand the causes, because the attacks say it very clearly, but we refuse to listen, says Jacques Baud , a former officer of the Swiss intelligence services. The causes are the bombardments the western coalition made in Iraq and Syria. However, no expert mentions this. (…) After the attacks in Madrid in 2004, the new government decided to withdraw from the coalition. Spain is completely out of the terrorist threat and they have had no further attacks since. Their troops in Iraq were even protected by Iraqi militias until they left the territory.”
And yet, our leaders always promise us more war. It is in a Belgium still in national mourning that Prime Minister Charles Michel announced the resumption of the mission of their F-16 against the Islamic State in Iraq, with a possible extension to Syria. War, always war. “A total, global war that is somehow ruthless “in the words of Manuel Valls, who, to the microphone of the BBC , planned to maintain the state of emergency for thirty years if necessary. Having hit rock bottom, our governments invite us to widen it further. Until when? Nobody could want to lose a loved one in an attack. Yet no one is immune. The former head of the anti-terrorism department of State Security, André Jacob, recognized on the platform RTL-TVI, hours after the bombings Brussels: “We must learn to live with the risk of this kind explosions. The multitude of potential jihadists is such that it is impossible to control everyone. Unfortunately, it is said, we might be set for a decade of coexistence with this terrorist threat.” It is therefore necessary to recognize objectively and beyond any ideological divide that war against terrorism launched almost fifteen years ago is conspicuous by its inefficiency. Yet our leaders intend to continue on the same path, the path that has created the conditions for the emergence of terrorism. Chaos in the Middle East, and exclusion in all its forms in Europe.
The battle might seem to be already lost. But that’s to forget that we have the power to change things. Indeed, when the leaders of NATO trigger a war, they strive to present all sorts of pretexts. When our governments dismantle Social Security, they toil to convince us that there is no alternative. And to justify the expense of the military industrial complex, politicians are playing on our fears. If it does not look it at first glance, there is finally some good news. All these efforts to convince public opinion in fact proves that our leaders can not act as they wish, without taking our opinion into account. Instead of running into the wall, we can lead the way. It’s up to us to mobilize to 1. demand real debates on the origins of terrorism, 2. prevent wars in favour of political solutions, 3. bailout education budgets at the expense of the military industrial complex and 4. claim a bigger share of the world’s riches to offer prospects more radiant than austerity. “Struggle and rebellion always involve a certain amount of hope, whereas despair is silent” wrote Baudelaire. If one does not want to indefinitely multiply the minutes of silence for the victims of terrorism, it is time to be heard.
Translated from french by Jenny Bright (Tlaxcala Network)
This article is also available in : French