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by John Brian Shannon | November 15, 2015
Prior to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, there was no identifiable thing as ‘Islamic Terrorism’ – the terminology was unknown
If ‘Islamic Terrorism’ existed anywhere in the world, it had until 1990 been confined to the Soviet/Afghan War which officially ran from December 1979 to February 1989, with the West as willing participants promoting the unconventional warfare that dealt many hard blows to the Soviet Army in Afghanistan.
Of course, we didn’t call it terrorism. And we especially didn’t call it ‘Islamic Terrorism’
The brave ‘Mujahadeen’ of Afghanistan (translated to English means ‘Freedom Fighters’) were the West’s high-value allies in the struggle against the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan — itself a footnote in the monumental Cold War clash between the West and the Soviet Union.
Therefore, we did not refer to our allies the Mujahadeen in anything other than glowing terms and we always couched their actions (no matter how horrific) within the context of the great moral battle against the tyranny of Soviet thought.
The United States CIA, Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency and the Saudi government cooperated daily with the Mujahadeen of Afghanistan. The CIA brought to the table a dazzling array of options, ISI provided deep links to operators within the region, while the Saudis bankrolled the entire operation.
Billions of dollars of guns and ammunition, shoulder-fired missiles, grenades, IED’s and know-how were delivered to the Mujahadeen to fight the Soviet Army in Afghanistan. And because they were ‘our terrorists’ they weren’t known as ‘terrorists’ or ‘Islamic Terrorists’ — but by the handle ‘Mujahadeen’.
‘Our Brave Mujahadeen, the West’s Freedom Fighters!’ (spoken with a patriotic sigh)
Those were the halcyon years of ‘putting it to the Soviets’ and the Mujahadeen were spoken-of in reverent tones throughout America, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia. Every Western Cold Warrior loved the Mujahadeen freedom fighters.
Yet at the end of the Soviet/Afghan War, we suddenly left Afghanistan and Our Brave Mujahadeen, ending the food drops that were necessary to sustain life in the country.
Some 500,000 Afghan Mujahadeen and their families died of starvation because we abandoned them
Eventually, over 1,000,000 Afghani men, women and children perished on account of the slight chance that we would upset the Soviets (by our continuing to drop food and medicine to Afghans) and the Soviets could conceivably renege on their agreement to vacate Afghanistan.
I forgot to mention that one of three people considered by the CIA, the ISI, and the Saudis as one of the most effective Mujahadeen operators, was Osama Bin Laden.
The cessation of the food and medicine drops so enraged Osama Bin Laden that he swore revenge on the West that had abandoned the Afghan families and their warrior Mujahadeen.
We created our own monster
Beginning in 1990, Osama spent billions of dollars creating the so-called Madrasa schools all over Africa, Asia, India, the Middle East, South America and in the former Soviet republics. These schools for the most part guaranteed food and water to the students (but not their families) as well as an anti-Western education. Each student of a Madrasa must be able to (orally and without the help of props) recite the entire Koran from cover to cover before they can graduate from the school. And each student is given a high level of weapons and physical combat training.
Now the monster numbers in the millions
These schools are still pumping out students and while many have moderated their views in recent years, many have become even more hardcore. Each year, millions more students graduate from Madrasas all over the world.
More Madrasa schools are being built as we speak
Soon, over 1 billion kids will have attended Madrasas somewhere in the world. Let me say that plainly, the day is coming that one in seven people alive in the world, will have been educated K-12 in a Madrasa school.
Calling the decision to stop food aid and medical aid to the Mujahadeen and their families a foreign policy disaster, doesn’t come close to describing the incompetence of that fateful decision. The decision virtually created Islamic Terrorism on its own. Or re-created it, depending upon your worldview.
Scholars will tell you that there was some amount of terrorism by Muslims in the 19th century, mostly in the Philippines or other frontier Southeast Asian states. However, two points must emerge when this is being discussed:
- Those Muslims who performed terrorist acts were defending their home territory from invaders — they were not blowing innocent people up in faraway countries.
- There was a definite end to terrorism by Muslims in the 19th century, and there had been few instances of what could be termed, ‘Islamic Terrorism’ since then.
The failure to care for Our Brave Mujahadeen in Afghanistan has changed the world in ways that are not yet apparent. We should tread carefully.
The worst thing that we could do now, is to go stomping into (name any country) and start blowing up innocent people (and the occasional terrorist) just to express our rage at the senseless attacks in Paris
That’s the kind of thinking that got us here in the first place.
Closing the foreign policy lapses which allowed these mind-numbing examples of incompetence to occur, is like closing the barn door years after the horses have bolted from the stables
It’s too late for closing the door. Thanks to our foreign policy incompetence, we’re now in a kind of ‘salvage-what-we-can’ mode where almost any response to Islamic Terrorism will be the ‘wrong response’. And irrationally as usual, that’s where we’re heading.
Using the pretext of the Paris attacks to invade yet another oil-rich Middle Eastern country is not the answer to our problems. That will only result in a million anti-Western Madrasas being built, each school having anywhere from 10 students up to 2000 students.
The answer to Islamic Terrorism, is to build security into our nations without going overboard
- Above all, stop invading or bombing other countries that haven’t declared war on us. (That would be all countries, as no country has declared war on us)
- Everyday citizens in Western countries must be trained to spot unusual activity and feel that they are instantly and thereby empowered to report suspicious activity to police, or agencies such as Homeland Security.
- Once an individual or terrorist group has performed a terrorist attack they must be quickly taken through the legal system with a high degree of transparency and media exposure. If we are trying to portray our nations as great moral and justice leaders, then we should start acting the part. Give these people their day in court, let the media air the terrorist’s ridiculous reasoning for killing innocent people, and let that message be heard around the world. Even the most virulent terrorists don’t want to be seen as ridiculous or uneducated, or having any kind of association with ‘those outed terrorists’ — especially when it is broadcast globally on TV and on the internet.
- Once an individual or terror group has performed a terrorist attack and been killed by police or onlookers, it’s time to move along instead of dragging it out and milking it for all it’s worth — in order to justify invading yet another oil-rich nation. Once the terrorist individuals are dead, they’re dead. Get it? There is no waking them up from death to kill them again and again in a vain attempt to cool our anger. The terrorists killed some innocent people, now the terrorists are dead.
- No more invading other countries to soothe our hurts. The same goes for bombing campaigns. Once those particular terrorists are dead, that’s the end of it.
- Each person on the planet is in contact with or is related to, an average of 250 people. Therefore, using military means to contain this problem won’t work. All we’re doing when we kill one Madrasa-schooled person is to enrage another 250 anti-Western Madrasa-schooled people. When we kill 10,000 Madrasa-schooled people, we enrage another 2.5 million anti-Western Madrasa-schooled people.
- In the future, if we kill 100,000 Madrasa-schooled people, we will enrage 25 million anti-Western Madrasa-schooled people. Care to go for a billion? You getting this?
- Remember, all of them have advanced combat and survival training, on par with any recently enlisted soldier.
- How many enraged and highly-trained anti-Western people do we want visiting or living in our Western cities?
The people of the West need to wake up and realize Western policies created this imbroglio in the first place, and that this situation is already out of control
There’s no way to re-educate the millions of people that have been taught by anti-Western Madrasa schools all over the world since about 1990. Nor is there a way to prevent the millions of kids presently enrolled in those schools from completing their (anti-Western) education.
At this late date, all we can do is try to contain the carnage and use the strengths inherent in democratic nation-states (strong societies, high quality policing and security, the rule of law, human psychology, and the media) to mitigate the terrors that we ourselves have created
And we aren’t even at the beginning, of the beginning, of that path…
That path means proving to the world, and by extension any potential terrorists, that our system of government and our culture works better in practice than the system and culture they’ve been indoctrinated to believe.
If we can’t prove their Madrasa instructors were wrong, they’ll conclude that their Madrasa instructors were right…
by John Brian Shannon | October 1, 2015
All war is brutal. Whether civil war, insurgency, guerrilla war, conventional or nuclear, all are brutal. And in war, no one weapon is worse than another. If you die or are injured by being blown to fragments by artillery, mines, barrel bombs or conventional bombs dropped by aircraft — you’re just as dead or injured as by machine-gun fire.
Too many commentators are trying to make negative political points about the Assad regime by citing Syria’s use of ‘barrel bombs’ — to convince us that those are the ultimate in inhuman and horrific weapons. As if getting killed by a ‘barrel bomb’ is somehow much worse than getting killed by a mine or by machine-gun fire.
Characterizing some bombs as ‘worse’ than other bombs, etc. takes our focus away from the underlying reasons for the conflict and how we might solve it.
What we should be concentrating on is how many innocent people are getting killed or maimed, how many refugees are being created, and how many months will it take to solve the Syrian conflict
And as is always the case, military people are well supported by their organizations and get paid to engage in warfighting, while civilians are (obviously) vastly unprepared to deal with war.
Consequently, many of them do the intelligent thing and leave the conflict region when they are able. This puts huge strain on neighbouring nations as they struggle to accept millions of refugees. Turkey is on track to surpass 2 million by January, 2016 and other nations in the region have accepted hundreds of thousands.
Syria: The Path to Civil War
By using deductive reasoning, we can safely assume the civil war now raging inside Syria is due to the many anti-coalition fighters who fled the 2003-2011 Iraq War, once they realized they couldn’t beat the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq.
Such fighters were then able to live and operate virtually ignored in Syria (and Lebanon) as anti-coalition sentiment was running high in the region in the aftermath of the Shock and Awe invasion due to the Syrian people seeing only the results of, and hearing the accounts of, the Iraq War from fleeing Iraqi civilians.
A similar situation on a smaller scale occurred during the Arab Spring months.
Ergo, both the Iraq War and Arab Spring added to anti-Western sentiments in the region
This created a robust ISIS force practically out of thin air — with tacit support from Syrian citizens and the citizens of other nearby nations.
- Was there an ISIS before the Iraq War? No.
- Was there an ISIS during the Iraq War from 2003-2011? No.
- Was there an ISIS before the Arab Spring of 2010? No.
- Was there an ISIS during the Arab Spring? No.
Therefore, the ISIS entity was born in ‘the Arab Street’ which is the name for the collage of meeting places where Arab peoples meet, sometime after the Iraq War of 2003-2011 and after the 2010 Arab Spring.
Religion has nothing to do with it
Just as religion had nothing to do with WWI, WWII, or any recent war, this isn’t a religious war although various sides will always try to employ religion (the Crusaders, Osama Bin Laden) or the occult (Hitler) to serve their own interests.
We should ignore the cant and focus on clear examples of criminal and terrorist behavior. Murkiness isn’t our ally in the fight against terrorism
Trying to charge a person in court for being too ‘religious’ is impossible — as there is no such criminal charge.
However, if a person kills 25 people in a criminal act (whatever their political or religious views) we can deal with it in the courts in a very clear manner, and it becomes a clearer ‘sell’ to citizens in the court of public opinion — who after all are the ones footing the bill for our military operations in Syria.
Focusing so much attention on such things as the types of bombs employed by any side and by overly focusing on the religious aspect, we remove our focus from the criminality of what ISIS or other fighters are actually doing in Syria, Iraq, and in the Kurdish territories.
(Although it must be said that the Kurds have their own terrorists and they too must be careful when pointing fingers at ISIS, as some Kurds have been at the terrorism game for decades)
I’ll grant you that the Syrian response to ISIS and other groups has been heavy-handed
But no more than Shock and Awe was to rid Iraq of Saddam Hussein.
We the West, created the conditions necessary for the creation of ISIS and other similar groups that left Iraq and the Arab Spring nations for Syria and Lebanon upon realizing they couldn’t match coalition firepower.
Now we are picking away at them piecemeal from the air, while the Russians have partnered with President Bashar Al-Assad to preserve the Syrian government with both the Russians and Syrians taking the fight to any group threatening the peace inside Syria until a sustainable cease-fire can be agreed.
If we attempt to exterminate all the ISIS fighters in Syria (with the Russians helping in regions of the country that we can’t access) we will simply drive ISIS fighters to Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan, Iran, Egypt and into other Arab nations
Which will allow the West to claim that we’ve ‘won’ in Syria — in the same way we claim to have ‘won’ in Iraq.
Does anyone really think, for an instant, that Iraq is better off now than under Saddam Hussein?
It certainly isn’t. If you believe otherwise, I dare you to travel to any Iraqi city and proclaim it loudly in any public square. (And, by the way, it was nice knowing you)
If a massive (Iraq War style invasion) occurred in Syria today, many ISIS fighters would leave Syria, taking their tales to the people of each country in the region thereby gathering evermore pro-ISIS support and congealing centres of power across the MENA region.
Using military power to exterminate ISIS in Iraq and Syria means that we will set up a paradigm of continual ISIS movement and evermore ISIS recruiting in more countries
Therefore, although we can paint an “X” on certain ISIS members or groups, once we begin to ‘win’ against ISIS in Syria, they will just melt away to other nations gathering evermore support in every city they visit. Just as they did during the Iraq War.
That is not the path to victory against ISIS
In the case of highly mobile fighters and an ideology that we ‘enabled’ by attempting to exterminate ISIS in Iraq and Syria, we will simply help to grow the anti-Western sentiment throughout the Middle East.
The only path to solve the ISIS question is to use diplomacy to convince ISIS of the need for an ISIS homeland (a piece of very northwestern Iraq and very northeastern Syria) and that we are willing to help make that happen in exchange for laying down their arms.
ISIS presents a case where the more we fight (an ideology) the more members it will attract. And that is something the world doesn’t need.
Syria: The Wisdom, or Waste, of ‘Boots on the Ground’ in Iraq and Syria | 08/10/14
by John Brian Shannon
President Barack Obama has charted a wise course with regards to the developing terrorist situation in Iraq and Syria, thus far neither committing too much nor too little in an attempt to mitigate the threat posed by ISIS to the U.S.A.
A lack of reaction to the threat might have emboldened the terrorist entity known as ISIS or ISIL, while overreacting may have turned every American voter against the President and his party which would have been incredibly bad timing with midterm elections just weeks ahead.
Rather than veer to either extreme, Obama has pursued a unified effort aiming to build a broad-based coalition to fight ISIS with airpower in Iraq and Syria. And he has succeeded in building that broad-based effort.
It is a mature response to a rising threat which could, conceivably, cause harm to America, someday
So far, the threat from ISIS is 95% ‘smoke’ and 5% ‘fire’ as ISIS seems content with murdering it’s own countrymen and women. It’s true, that could change in the future. But the President must react to what is real and present now — not to ‘sky is falling’ scenarios — that may or may not ever occur.
Addressing ISIS with a measured response and a ramping-up humanitarian aid as Mr. Obama has done has taken much of the wind out of the sails of ISIS, which had been poised to loudly accuse the West of being the biggest bully on the block, of killing huge numbers of civilians in major air campaigns and street-to-street fighting and of wreaking wholesale destruction in the region.
While the President has skillfully charted a middle course, the expected cry of; ‘We need Boots on the Ground to contain and destroy ISIS’ is becoming louder by the week.
The political hawks can barely contain their excitement — imagining all of the additional capability that ‘boots on the ground’ could add to the fight against ISIS in Iraq and in Syria! They could name it; Operation Déjà Vu.
So if all that, is so good; Why didn’t 10-years-worth-of ‘boots on the ground’ work in Iraq?
At the peak of Operation Iraqi Freedom in Iraq, the United States alone had some 356,000 combat troops along with hundreds of warplanes and artillery pieces inside the country. Not to mention a formidable US Navy presence in the Persian Gulf that fired hundreds of Tomahawk missiles into Iraq from positions in the Gulf.
But ten years of combat, $1 trillion dollars, and 4487 deaths/32,223 wounded, didn’t solve the terrorist threat in Iraq. Now it’s worse than ever. The very definition of failure
Yet, the cry of; ‘We need Boots on the Ground in Iraq and Syria to deal with the growing terrorist threat’ persist! What is it with some people? A failed policy, is a failed policy, is a failed policy — and you can shoot the messenger all you want — but at the end of the day it’s still a failed policy!
Raise your hand if you honestly think that yet another 10 years of war, another $1 trillion dollars and another 5000 U.S. troop deaths/32,000 wounded, will solve the ISIS problem for good
If you put up your hand, go turn in your Drivers Licence and your gun permit right now — you are too dumb to drive a car and too dumb to own a gun. You’re not smarter than a 5th-grader! If you need help with any of this ask your kids.
It didn’t work the first time and it won’t work the second time. By the way, it didn’t work in Afghanistan either. There are thousands more terrorists there now too
Out of a handful of bad choices, President Obama has, so far, chosen the least-bad choice. We should give him credit for that.
Continually degrading ISIS capabilities, ramping-up humanitarian aid and dramatically increasing diplomatic and other ‘soft power’ efforts, is the long-term solution to this long-term problem. Increasing awareness and investigation of suspect individuals here in the West is also an important step.
Military power can only solve military problems — and the rise of Islamism is not a military problem.
But we’ve got all of these bombs, we might as well use them!
The problem with that — is that every time you kill 1 person in war, you make 250 new enemies. That’s right, each person on the planet is acquainted with or is related to, 250 other people on average. When you drop a bomb, lob a shell, or fire a few hundred bullets — and thereby kill 100 people — you’ve just made 25,000 new enemies.
If you drop a lot of bombs and kill 100,000 people (regardless if they’re terrorists or innocent casualties) each 1 of them have 250 friends and families — living somewhere in the world — and you’ve just made 25 million new enemies.
That’s the way it is with bombs, shells, and bullets. And friends and family, by the way.
Which is why war — that is, killing people who disagree with you politically — is always a bad idea and should be reserved for the most extreme of emergencies and only in actual cases of self-defence.
By some counts, the original coalition is responsible for the deaths of between 654,965 people (The Lancet) and 1,033,000 people (ORB International) during the Iraq War (all of whom likely had the global average of 250 family and friends each) and we’re scratching our heads here in the West wondering why those bad ‘ol Iraqis and Syrians hate us.
Here’s the math on that:
654,965 X 250 family and friends each = 163,741,250 (using the Lancet’s Iraq War body count total)
1,033,000 X 250 family and friends each = 258,250,000 (using ORB International’s Iraq War body count total)
Why would we want to add to those numbers? Why would we want to get another 4,500 US military members killed? Why would we want to spend another $1 trillion dollars?
What reason is good enough? I’d like to know and so would a lot of people. You can call those people ‘taxpayers’ or ‘voters’ — your choice
We can keep ISIS down to a dull roar via the use of airpower, by negating their anti-Western propaganda effort through enhanced humanitarian aid in the region, and by ‘boxing them in’ to a tiny region of the world via coalition-building in the West and especially with and among the Middle East nations.
We shouldn’t shrink back from prosecuting ISIS criminals in Iraqi or the International Court of Justice
Hey! We’re in the right. They’re acting against their particular nations’ laws, and quite possibly against international law. So, obviously, let’s stay on the right side of Iraqi and Syrian law — and on the right side of international law too! — and use the full force of the law against these illegal actors. Let’s make them feel like criminals, because, well, they are criminals.
The rest of the solution will come via aggressive and innovative diplomacy, by increasing the level and quality of intelligence sharing with Iraq, Syria, and neighbouring countries, as well as promoting the same between Middle East nations.
Soft Power will be the solution to the rising and long-term ISIS problem. Coalition airpower is merely buying us time, so that soft power efforts have time to ramp-up and begin showing some success.
If we can’t do it soon and do it well, all we are doing is wasting our bombs and creating more enemies for ourselves.