I wear two hats when I write this blog of mine. First and foremost, I manage a small charity in a small Scottish town called Dumfries. Ours is a front door that opens onto the darker corners of the crumbling world that is Britain 2015. We hand out 5000 emergency food parcels a year in a town that is home to 50,000 souls. Then, as you can see from all of the book covers above, I am also a thriller writer. If you enjoy the blog, you might just enjoy the books. The link below takes you to the whole library in the Kindle store. They can be had for a couple of quid each.

Monday, January 12, 2015


The recent horrors which played out on the streets of Paris once again demonstrated how our governments seem to do all they can to lose the so called War on Terror only for the people to step up to the plate to save the day.

And once again, the way things played out made it hard to wonder what the real agenda of our leaders really is.

Terrorist organisations come and go, but their strategy never varies a great deal. Any terror campaign is designed to achieve two goals. Firstly and blindingly obviously, the terrorists aim to catch the attention of the world by doing something sufficiently dramatic and brutal as to make it impossible to ignore. Back in the day, the IRA called such events ‘Spectaculars’. Big ticket terror. Terror tailor made for column inches of outrage on every front page in the land.

Is the intention of such acts to create terror? Doubtful. As yet, no group has ever succeeded in scaring people into staying home and cowering underneath their kitchen tables. Whether it is Belfast, Beirut or Baghdad, no amount of bombs have ever been enough to stop people heading out to do their grocery shopping. People don’t scare easily. In fact, the dogged courage people seem to find in the darkest of times never fails to astonish. Look at the way we collectively stuck two fingers up at Hitler during the Blitz. Look at the way the Germans collectively stuck two fingers up at us when we in turn fire bombed Hamburg and Dresden. The suicide bombers in Pakistan and Nigeria would never manage to kill a single shopper if every market place was empty. The fact is that the market places are never empty. People always find a way to make life go on.

The commanders of terror groups know this well enough. Of course they do.

So what is their real intention? Simple.

They want to provoke a reaction. Or more to the point – they want to provoke an over reaction. If things go according to plan, things will play out predictably. The terrorists do something terrible. The leaders of the under attack regime take to the air waves to condemn the terrorists as monsters and cowards and butchers and criminals. And then the men in charge give their security services the green light to get out and about to out-terrorise the terrorists.

At this point, there are a few key things the planners are desperate to see happen. Number one, they hope and pray that the government will tear up the rule book and instigate some sort of mass round up of potential suspects.

Internment without trial.

This is pure undiluted manna from heaven for the bad guys. Thousands of entirely blameless people are tossed into the back of tracks and vans in the wee small hours of the morning. No lawyers and no visitors. A few days of beastliness in cold damp cells where the interrogators discover that 98% of the people who have been arrested know nothing about anything. Then the interned are shipped off to some sort of hastily thrown together camp where they spend a few months getting ever more pissed off. They might not have been remotely ready to join the fight before they were dragged from their beds at four in the morning, but a few months in an internment camp soon changes all of that.

Internment camps are the dream outcome for all terror groups. In the seventies we did the IRA a huge favour by rounding up north of 20,000 men and women and sticking them in the camp at Long Kesh. Many of those who later went on to become the IRA’s most formidable fighters had no intention of ever joining the struggle before being locked up in Long Kesh. But the sheer injustice of the situation soon changed all of that and once they were behind the wire they soon signed on the dotted line. Internment camps provide perfect networking centres for any terror group. People from all over the land are brought into one place and given 24 hours a day in each others company. Contacts are forged and plans are made. Structures and put in place.

I read an interview recently with a senior ISIS commander who could not have been clearer about things. Without a huge leg up from the American army, there would have been no ISIS. Once the US military had 'shocked and awed' its way all the way to downtown Baghdad, they started rounding people up for no particular reason and sending them off to internment camps. The daddy of them all was Camp Bucca which was the size of a small city. 25,000 mainly innocent guys were stuck in dormitories behind the razor wire and basically left to their own devices. Every single ISIS commander got to know one another in Camp Bucca and plans made way back in 2004 have finally come to fruition in 2014.

The ISIS commander couldn’t have been clearer: without Camp Bucca there would have been no Islamic State.

Internment is all well and good for giving future terrorists the opportunity to spend quality time together and to make their plans. However internment on its own is never enough to ensure the terrorists success down the road.

That success comes from the over reaction. The terrorists know full well that the public will hardly love them for slaughtering forty or fifty entirely innocent civilians as they go about their day to day business.


These people are many, many things but they don’t tend to be stupid. What they absolutely rely on is that the government or establishment they are fighting will react with an uncontrolled brutality that is so primordial that the campaign opening market place bombs are soon forgotten.

Here is where the French really should know better, for they more than most have bitter first hand experience of how to lose a War on Terror.

In 1958, the FLN was the group who were fighting the French tooth and nail for the future of Algeria. The FLN wanted Algeria to become an independent country. The French want Algeria to stay a colony.

For a few years the war had been fought out in the countryside where both sides tried to outdo each other in terms of utter beastliness. It was stalemate and the FLN realised it was time to escalate things. They placed a three bombs in shops and caf├ęs filled with French civilians. There were lots of casualties and the world gagged at the horror of it all. Most Algerians gagged at the horror of it all. But then the Government in Paris jumped off the moral high ground like a toddler leaping into a paddling pool on a summer’s day. They sent their notorious Colonial Paratroopers into the Souk and told them to take the gloves off. Well did they ever. The Paras resorted to the kind of torture sessions that the Gestapo would have winced at. Predictably enough the people of Algeria was appalled at the lengths the Para’s went to and the FLN could barely keep up with all the new volunteers.

The result? Utterly predicable. The terrorists won hands down and Algeria duly became independent in 1962.

It has emerged that this was the playbook that Bin Laden followed when he persuaded the leadership of Al Queda to sign off on 9/11. They all realised that the Muslim world would be horrified and disgusted by the sight of two planes killing thousands of people for the crime of getting out of bed and going into work. They knew this just like the FLN knew their three bombs would provoke disgust and outrage. Bin Laden promised his bosses that the utter monstrosity of his attack would provoke the mother of all over reactions. He predicted there would be mobs out on the streets of every western city smashing the faces of any Muslim they could find. He promised there would be pogroms from Baltimore to Bradford. And then the whole of the Muslim world would close ranks. Millions would take up arms to take the fight to the infidel.

Well he certainly got it right in terms of Bush and Blair. They avenged 9/11 with two brutal wars and hundreds of thousands of dead civilians which guaranteed that the next generation of angry young men are primed and ready to sign on the dotted line for ISIS and Al Queda and Boko Haram and Al Shabab.

But it wasn’t enough because the people of the West proved to be so much better than their leaders. There were no pogroms. Communities stuck together. People still called into Mr Patel’s shop on the corner for their milk and cigarettes.

Bin Laden’s big gamble crashed and burned and he was duly cast from the Al Queda fold to life of watching daytime TV and waiting for the bullet.

And so to Paris last week.

What did the planners have in mind? I guess they must have realised that the execution of the journalists and the police woman wouldn’t have done much to help their cause. But that was supposed to have been merely phase one.

The key would be the reaction.

The over reaction.

Would the French fall for it again?

Would they make the age old mistake of turning murdering criminals into heroic martyrs?

Of course they would. They fell for it hook, line and sinker. The Ministers duly took to the screens to call the perpetrators monsters and cowards and turned the whole thing into David against Goliath. Within hours it was 88,000 cops and soldiers armed to the teeth against three guys. The screens were filled with pictures of helicopters and armoured cars and automatic weapons.

All of it for three guys.

And slowly but surely the worm begun to turn. Despite the massive numbers of boots on the ground, it still took them 36 hours to bottle the terrorists up and lock them down.

At this point the planners must have crossed their fingers and prayed for the French to deliver the biggest prize of all. Please, please, please give us martyrs. Because there is nothing better than a martyr for any terror group. The whole thing was set up perfectly. 88,000 against three and the three refuse to surrender. In fact, the three do better than that. The three get the message out that they were ready to lay down their lives for the honour of their Prophet.

At this point the orders from the top should have been absolute. Go to any lengths to take them alive. For God’s sake, don’t give them what they want.

They might have taken a look at the fate of the two nutters who killed Lee Rigby on the streets of London last year. Had we gunned them down, they might have become instant heroes. Instead they now look completely pathetic as they try to wriggle their way out of things by trying to look for loopholes in the law.

Maybe one of the French commanders might have checked out the picture at the top of the page. Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid racing out into a sunny courtyard to shot to pieces by a hundred soldiers of the Mexican Army. Had they been arrested, tried and locked up, would Paul Newman and Robert Redford have taken time out to immortalise them a hundred years later? No chance.

How ironic that on the very day the Paris three were killed we saw the pitiful end of the Abu Hamsa story. This favourite bogeyman of the War on Terror was reduced to looking like a pathetic, snivelling old man as he begged a New York court for leniency. The picture of his tearful pleading would not have persuaded a single angry young man of the Arab street to sign on the dotted line to carry a Kalashnikov all the way to Paradise. Had we sent the SAS to execute him ten years ago, it would have been a completely different story.

Did the French take note? Did they hell. They gave the terrorists exactly what they wanted. They laid on a Butch and Sundance moment for two of them and they executed the third whilst he was unarmed and praying.

They created martyrs. They guaranteed murals of the three of them will soon adorn the gable ends of the Arab street.

So Phase One of the operation ran exactly to plan.

But the key was always going to be Phase Two. Phase Two required bloodshed on the streets as the enraged French public took it out on any Muslim they could find. Surely it would happen this time. It simply had to. Check it out. Marine Le Pen’s National Front were polling at 30% and growing in popularity with every passing day. No way would the French turn the other cheek. Surely!

But once again, where the government failed the people succeeded. Four million of them. They took to the streets to give the terrorists and the government alike a very clear message.

We are better than this.

We refuse to be scared into behaving like monsters.

Because in the end we like Mr Patel. And we like his son Javed who plays right back. And his daughter Fatima who helps out on weekends.

We have no interest in hatred.

We don’t want Terror and we don’t want a War on Terror. It gives me great pleasure to imagine the men who ordered the Paris attacks sitting in some room with the curtains drawn looking miserable as sin at the sight of four million people going out of their way to be nice to each other.

Just imagine how much more miserable they would have been if the authorities had found away to arrest and detain the shooters. They would have known full well that their fighters would have looked a whole lot less impressive in a few months time when they would appear dressed in their Sunday best for the judge.

They had their chance and they duly blew it. The legend of the three guys who faced down 88,000 cops and soldiers without flinching will grow and grow. And maybe in a hundred years the Arab equivalents of Paul Newman and Robert Redford will act out their final charge at the guns for a different kind of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid movie.

Over a half century of terror all around the world it has been proved time and again that the best way to win is to stick to following the rule of law. Arrest, try and prosecute. Instead all too many Governments can't resist the temptation to tear up the rule book and behave worse than the bad guys.

No wonder the same desperate story keeps playing out over and over again.  

1 comment:

  1. Mark, a chilling and hugely insightful view of the bigger picture. Thank you.