Friday night’s pictures from Paris were a hard watch. They represented everyone’s nightmare. A Friday night out. A nice meal. A few drinks. A beautiful city. And then the crackle of automatic weapons and the descent into the butchery, panic and confusion of the battlefield.
Was it predictable?
Was the reaction predictable?
Utterly and tragically.
President Hollande got himself in front of the screens and promised merciless vengeance and within a matter of hours ten French attack jets spat fire down on a small town in Syria. We were presented with the footage of the ten fast jets hammering up into the darkness of the night. We were informed that they had surgically struck a number of ISIL targets. A recruitment Centre. A training camp. A command centre.
We were expected to buy into the fact that the men in charge of the Islamic State are complete idiots.
I mean come on. Let’s just take a moment here. You order eight guys into the heart of the French capital and sit back and watch their murder and mayhem on the rolling news. Then you front up and release a statement taking full responsibility for what has just gone down.
So what do you do nect? Are you going to leave a bunch of guys making like sitting ducks in a training camp? A recruitment centre? A command post?
President Holland did the usual thing and bombed a bunch of empty buildings to try and convince his people that he was not completely helpless.
Fair enough. Doing nothing would not have been deemed unacceptable.
Yet again we have reacted in the exact way that the bastards in charge of ISIL had intended. And no doubt we will continue to dance to their tune. And let’s not forget the tune they want the Moslem world to hear.
They have a clear message. The West is wall to wall bad. We are unbelievers and infidels. We hate and despise Muslims. The only way forward is to fight back and ISIL are the boys who are doing it.
So how are they about to spin things now? How to they use our reaction to make their point? Well we might as well start with the TV pictures of iconic buildings all across the western world being lit up in the colours of the French flag. It was a touching show of support and solidarity. Something to make us all fee better about ourselves. But ISIL will whisper a different narrative.
Only a matter of weeks ago, ISIL blew over a hundred people into pieces in Ankara, Turkey. Turkey as in one of our strongest NATO allies. Did we get to see London Bridge and the Sydney Opera House lit up in the colours of the Turkish flag?
I don’t think we did.
Similarly, not a single iconic building was lit up in the colours of the Kenyan flag in the wake of the Nairobi shopping centre massacre.
I don’t think we did.
Well we can be sure the boys at the top of ISIL will have the answer. They will point out the fact that we will never light up our buildings for black and brown people.
And of course we will scoff and say such an idea is utterly ridiculous, but our words will fall on deaf ears.
The fact that we give three days of wall to wall coverage when a hundred white European people are massacred by ISIL doesn’t go unnoticed. When a similar number of brown people die at the hands of the same nutters in Baghdad or Karachi or Kabul or Alleppo or Maidugari, they barely warrant 30 seconds of rolling news time.
It doesn’t go unnoticed.
I heard a guy on the radio who had once been in charge of counter terrorism for the Met. He was adamant that it was completely unheard of for a suicide terrorist to go into action with a passport in his pocket. And yet one of the Paris killers did exactly that. Was he just and idiot or was he following orders? Because surprise, surprise the passport told the story of a boat trip to a Greek island and a journey to Paris in the midst of the hundreds of thousands of refugees.
Because of course the way Europeans are treating the refugees is a major problem to ISIL. If we Europeans are so evil and bad, how can it be that the people of Germany and Austria are throwing their doors open to the tide of human misery that is pouring out of Syria.
Well the the long beard boys in black need to change that, right?
So they sent a guy along the well trodden refugee road and told him to keep his passport on him at all times. And now they will sit back and let the tabloid press do the rest of their job for them.
And of course our tabloid press will be more than happy to dance to their tune. How will the poor sods waiting in the November rain on the Croatian border be treated now I wonder?
Usually when huge disasters strike, we draw on the lessons from the way we responded to similar disasters. We accept the value of a learning curve. After all, we are thinking human beings and we are able to evolve.
This logic governs the way we respond to floods or epidemics or hurricanes or earthquakes or famines.
But when it comes to learning how to successfully confront terrorism, we utterly refuse to learn from the past. If anyone took time for a measured look at what we now face, we would learn a lot and we would learn it very quickly.
Start with hard facts.
What is ISIL? They are a guerrilla force which commands a lot of territory. Air power? Zero. Sea power? Zero. Manpower? Between 20,000 and 30,000.
Ranged against them are the armies of the USA, Russia, Syria, Britain, France, Turkey and a bunch of Arab states. Massive air power. Massive sea power. Millions of soldiers. Satellites and drones and and a bottomless pit of cash.
So no contest, surely?
All we need to do is bomb the hell out of them and bring all of our nmassive military superiority to bear. Then it will be an open and shut case.
Maybe before we press the button for yet more bombing, it might be worth taking some time out to see if such a course of action has ever actually worked . Let’s go back seventy years ago and see if we can find any similar examples.
The criteria? Guerrilla forces of over 20,000 with control of territory facing enemies with vastly superior firepower.
1941 – 1944 – Polish and Ukranian Paritisans v. The Wehrmacht. Who won? The partisans.
1941 – 1944 – Serbian Parisans v. The Wehrmact. Who won? The partisans.
1946 – 1953 – The Viet Mihn v. The French Army in Indochina. Who won? The Viet Mihn
1958 – 1962 – FLN v The French Army in Algeria. Who won? The FLN
1963 – 1975 – The NVA and Viet Cong v. The US Army. Who won? The NVA and the Viet Cong.
1980 – 1989 – The Mujahadeen v. The Red Army. Who won? The Mujahadeen.
In every single case the side with all the firepower dropped hundreds of thousand of tonnes bombs and napalm and in every single case the guerrilla army won the war.
Has there been a single case when bombing the hell out of a guerrilla army has ever worked? Maybe once. Chechnya. And the Russians didn’t just bomb Grozny. They absolutely flattened it.
Are we really willing to hold up the smoking ruins of Grozny as good practice?
Nearly fifteen years have now passed since we embarked on our post 9/11 War on Terror. Nobody can accuse us of not having dropped enough bombs. Our governments have purloined hundreds and hundreds of billions of pounds and dollars of our taxes to bomb and bomb and bomb.
And the result?
Paris was the result. Can anyone in their right mind call that a success?
In all of the frenzied coverage, I have yet to hear anyone take a step back and look at what ISIL has done over the last couple of weeks from a military point of view. As far as these guys are concerned, they are at war. Well it must feel that way. They have got half the world raining bombs down on them. Recently things have just got a whole lot worse as Russia and France have joined the 'Bomb ISIL back into the Stone Age' club. Two pretty formidable enemies which huge arsenals of weapons at their disposal. To fight back ISIL dispatched a few guys to Sharm el Sheik to blow up a Russian passenger jet and eight guys to Paris to cause a blood bath.
Probably less than twenty guys and look at the utter fear and chaos they have caused. Despite being completely out gunned and out numbered, they have managed to deliver a pretty compelling message. Bomb us and this is what you will get.
So now we will all bomb them some more and they will draw strength from the hi-tech savagery of our response.
Like night follows day.
And in the end we will lose.
So how can honesty and smartness help us to find a way out of this rolling nightmare?
Who are the men who make the long journey to don the black robes of ISIL? Most are young and they come from countries wrecked by years of war. They come from the cities and towns and villages we have been bombing. They come from countries that have all but fallen apart. They come from places where 80% of young men are unemployed and economic activity has all but ground to a halt. They come from places which are devoid of any semblance of hope. And they ave grown up hard. Really, really hard. They have been brutalised and brain washed. They feel they have nothing to lose because they really DO have nothing to lose. They have grown from dangerous boys into dangerous men in streets filled with rubble and rats.
And they blame us for the bleak emptiness of their lives.
Has this happened before?
It has actually.
Check out Germany in 1945 where barely a building was left standing after years of our thousand bomber raids. Millions of youn German lads faced a desperate future. No houses. No heating. No jobs. Barely any food. And each and every one of them had been brutalised and radicalised by their compulsary years in the Hitler Youth. They had seen family and neighbours and friends blown to smithereens by our Lancaster bombers. In fact, they were primed and perfect to be forged into the same kind of implacable guerrilla force that ISIL has become.
What would have happened if we had simply walked away from the smoking ruin that Germany had become in 1945 and left them to it. Sod off and starve. Serves you right you Kraut bastards.
I guess there would very quickly have been a German version of ISIL and they would have been shooting and bombing us for the last seventy years.
But we didn’t simply walk away. Instead we were smart. We all signed up for the Marshall Plan and poured cash into the bombed out cities. We covered the bills for re-building. And once they started to make stuff again, we bought it. And slowly but surely we turned a brutalised wreck of a country into a staunch ally and friend.
For fifteen long and miserable years we have spend vast amounts of money on bombing and bombing and bombing. Iraq and Syria and Libya and Pakistan and Afghanistan and Sudan and Yemen.
We have3 created a huge wasteland where young men see no hope of anything at all. Is it really so very surprising so many choose to sign on the ISIL dotted line?
Right now we are being forced to listen to a stuck record that has us all dancing to ISIL’s tune. It is all so utterly futile. We know full well that we will lose in the end, but we do it all the same. If only a few of our leaders could find the courage to take own up to the fact that endless bombing never works.
If only our leaders could find the kind of courage Harry S Truman found seventy years ago when he had the vision to see that helping people is a better way that bombing them.
Will it happen?
What do you think?