Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Futility or Scam?

Western states spend trillions annually, purportedly in order to keep their citizens safe from terrorist attacks.  One might look at events such as what occurred in Paris and suggest that this demonstrates the failure of such efforts.  Another might suggest that the rarity of such attacks represents the success of these state efforts.

So, which is it, or is it something else entirely?  From Spiegel comes “Europe's Jihadists: What the Paris Attacks Tell Us about IS Strategy.”  This story offers an opportunity to examine possible answers to the question.

NB: in this post I am not examining this issue from a libertarian perspective; I am not questioning the official narrative.  My intent is to consider the state’s stated objectives regarding keeping the citizenry secure and the effectiveness of the means and to do this via an examination of the mainstream-accepted storyline.

The Mastermind

The article begins with an examination of Abdelhamid Abaaoud and his activities on the night of the attacks.  He is the suspected leader behind the attacks.  He was directly involved the killing of 39 people at La Belle Équipe, Le Carillon and Le Petit Cambodge.

…something strange happened at 10:28 p.m., a development that only came to the attention of investigators much later.

At 10:14 PM, Abaaoud jumped the turnstile at the Croix de Chavaux Metro station; this was caught on video.  At 10:28 he exited at a metro station near the scene of the atrocities at the Bataclan hall.  He apparently wanted to witness the aftermath of his handiwork.

Investigators later used the geolocation data from his mobile phone to trace his movements that evening. At 12:28 a.m., as anti-terror units were entering the concert hall, the phone was just next to Bataclan.

Before the night of terror, was this Abaaoud unknown to western security and investigative authorities?  Hardly.

In terms of media coverage, Abaaoud had been Belgium's best-known jihadist, and yet he nevertheless managed to travel back and forth between Syria and Europe without raising attention and would ultimately conduct the Paris attacks together with an entire group of other jihadists.

Well, certainly he didn’t use the internet:

Few others have reported as openly on social media about their adventures in Syria as Abaaoud. In Dabiq magazine, an official propaganda organ of Islamic State (IS), he had boasted in January that he could "plan operations" and come and go as he pleased despite the fact that "my name and my picture have been all over the news."

The life of Abdelhamid Abaaoud of Belgium is better documented than almost any other jihadist. In spring 2014, the French journalist Étienne Huver came into possession of photos and videos that had been saved on Abaaoud's mobile phone.

These western states attempt to track everything on everybody yet fail to track specific things about specific bodies, apparently.  They apparently knew more about Abaaoud than any other potential terrorist.  Yet, he pulled it off.

Futility, or a scam?

The Birth of a New State

"Islamic State conceives itself as a state, it acts like a state -- and it employees [SIC] bureaucrats whose jobs do not differ much from those in the West," writes terror expert Neumann. It provides five to seven million people with food, child care, heating oil and electricity and is seeking to be the "perfect welfare state," he says.

Where and how did terrorists learn such state-building techniques? 

Currently, IS counts fighters from more than 90 countries among its ranks. Extremism expert Neumann estimates this figure includes more than 20,000 foreigners who have traveled to Syria and Iraq.

As for screening these foreigners:

Once they arrive on the Turkish side of the border, jihadists are received by smugglers and brought across into Syria. Islamic State then subjects the newcomers to a security check in order to uncover possible spies. In the past, the procedure has often required newcomers to name a contact person within Islamic State.

Michael Flynn, the former head of the US Defense Intelligence Agency, says of Islamic State: "They document everything. These guys are terrific about it. In their recruiting and in interviews, they ask, 'What's your background? Are you good with media? With weapons?' It's this kind of well-structured capability they have that then evolves into a very, very unconventional force."

From whom did these terrorists learn such screening techniques?  When did they learn the value of extensive documentation? 

It seems reasonably settled that many of the leaders of ISIS come from the disbanded Iraqi military, disbanded at the hands of the US government.  A disciplined bunch, rebuilding the state forcibly removed from their control.

Radical Islam Must be Confronted

Radical Islam, or is it just disgruntled young men looking for an outlet?  From a series of videos taken by Abaaoud, with and amongst his “co-religionists”:

The young men from the banlieues were discovering a life that they could never have lived back home. In Syria, they could mostly take what they wanted, justifying it as the confiscation of enemy property. As members of Islamic State, they belonged to those who held power. Others had to obey.

There is little in the videos about religion and faith. Abaaoud seemed more intent on documenting his grand adventure.

They seem to be after what many young, lost men seem to be after – albeit in a more violent setting:

Western recruits belong to the Islamic State elite. They receive privileged treatment and are allotted homes, women and higher salaries.

Sex, money, and adventure; nothing about the obligatory duty of Ṣalāh.

We Have to Fight Them Over There, So They Don’t Come Over Here

It seems Hollande should have ordered bombing runs over Paris neighborhoods, instead of over Syria.

All of those Paris attackers who have been identified spent at least some time in Syria, but they were all citizens of EU countries.  They were radicalized in the societies where they grew up.

Olivier Roy, a French expert on Islamism, writes in Le Monde: "Almost all French radicals belong to one of two categories: They either come from the second generation of immigrants or they are converts." What do the two groups have in common? "They break with their parents, or, to be more precise, with that which their parents represent when it comes to culture and religion."


The west collects trillions of bits of data on virtually every connected individual on earth; yet these terrorists openly use unencrypted social media to communicate.  The west has employed violence over all regions of North Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia for two-hundred years – and exponentially so in the last 25 years, yet many of the radicals are grown in their own back yard.

Are the means employed by western states conducive the achieving the stated ends, or do western states have other ends in mind?  Is it futility or is it a scam?

It seems the answer is self-evident.


  1. My understanding of IS is: When the US was having trouble in the war in Iraq before the Surge, they realized that the Sunni Ruling Class and Intelligentsia had been the State and their displacement left a chaos too big for regular US war to show results.

    I seem to remember the US doing a deal with these Sunnis for a bit of Tacit help from them. For me that was the start of IS. These Sunnis had lost their Iraq-State and are now in the process of trying to create a Sunni Caliphate to replace what they lost.

    One must not underestimate the old Sunni Ruling-class and intelligentsia. They are as smart as anything we have and understand their geography and geopolitics far better than we do.

    As for Terrorism: the US has created a culture of scapegoating everything. Europe too has caught the sickness. Obviously there is money and employment and political mileage in Terrorism. The Main Stream Media are in the game for their own advantage as well. Terrorism sells.

    It is a physical impossibility to anticipate terrorism. London has about (a million?) cameras which achieve very little. Even knowing names and a few facts about some of the main players does not do much good. They are infinitely resourceful and can beat
    Bureaucratic bumblers at will.

    We are creating a monster for ourselves by putting the fear of god into the population, and then promising to protect them. The US kills about (50,000?) a year in auto accidents, and about (250,000?) a year in hospitals but nobody seems to care much about that. Just general "accidents" probably kill about (a million?) a year, yet we are not all walking around with crash-helmets and padded suits "just in case".

    Every time we react like idiots the Terrorists win big time, and the State takes more power away from us. Sure Terrorists may kill a few innocents from time to time (as long as it is not me of course). If we did not give them mileage they would be no more than background noise.

    Terrorism is no more than asymmetric warfare. They can sustain it for as long as the war is necessary. Like all wars, I think that it could be resolved when both sides have had enough.

    I think it was the Third Crusade where Saladin fought the Christians to a standstill, so they decided to make a truce, share Jerusalem, and lived in peace for a long time.

    1. "It is a physical impossibility to anticipate terrorism. London has about (a million?) cameras which achieve very little"

      Are you sure?
      You want to stick with that?

    2. Owyhee cowboy. --- Except for the physical camera-count, yes, I will stick with that.


    3. According to the latest studies, Britain has a staggering 4.2million CCTV cameras - one for every 14 people in the country - and 20 per cent of cameras globally. It has been calculated that each person is caught on camera an average of 300 times daily.
      Use of spy cameras in modern-day Britain is now a chilling mirror image of Orwell's fictional world, created in the post-war Forties in a fourth-floor flat overlooking Canonbury Square in Islington, North London.

      On the wall outside his former residence - flat number 27B - where Orwell lived until his death in 1950, an historical plaque commemorates the anti-authoritarian author. And within 200 yards of the flat, there are 32 CCTV cameras, scanning every move.

      Orwell's view of the tree-filled gardens outside the flat is under 24-hour surveillance from two cameras perched on traffic lights.

      The flat's rear windows are constantly viewed from two more security cameras outside a conference centre in Canonbury Place.

      In a lane, just off the square, close to Orwell's favourite pub, the Compton Arms, a camera at the rear of a car dealership records every person entering or leaving the pub.

      -London Evening Standard

  2. We need to stop calling it "radical Islam". There is nothing "radical" about it. Radical is a tearing down completely and replacing what was with something new, from whole cloth. Violent Islamic fundamentalists are "reactionary"..that is, they harken back to the "way things were before"…probably as far back to the time of Saladin, mentioned by the poster above…their ideal of a golden age. That means western values are very disturbing to them, and they would cleanse such from their ranks. They are very focused in this regard, when one considers the beheadings, stonings, and defenestrations committed in ISIS occupied territories against Xtians, gays, and anyone else who offends them. These are "reactionary" acts, and should be labeled as such.