Monday, November 30, 2015

Terrorism in Paris, Colorado Springs and Libya

For a good overview of the shortcomings of any agreement likely to emerge from the climate conference taking place in Paris this week, what is being called COP21, consult Andreas Malm's "Our Fight for Survival."

One of the items in Malm's essay that jumped out at me was the duplicity of the French government in banning the large climate justice protests but leaving in place the big gatherings for shopping and sporting events:
Although it is not nearly as large or powerful as it needs to be, the climate movement today is a force to be reckoned with, a sprawling tent of groups capable of scoring such victories as pushing Shell out of the Arctic and killing the Keystone XL pipeline. 
It is that force that has now been taken off the streets of Paris. 
Why? Security concerns in the wake of the terror are at most secondary. If the French state wanted to safeguard the demonstrations — thereby guaranteeing the type of freedom for which it claims to be waging war — it could have offered reinforced protection or even searched participants at assembly points (a commonplace in countries truly plagued by terror). 
As Naomi Klein has pointed out, the French state of emergency applies blatant double standards: the Christmas market at Champs Elysées — masses thronging the avenue to do their shopping — retains a green light, as do soccer matches, even though one was an actual target on November 13. The government’s priorities are evident.
COP21 begins today. But yesterday French police clamped down hard on demonstrators, even indulging in house arrests for prominent climate justice activists, as Sewell Chan reports in "France Uses Sweeping Powers to Curb Climate Protests, but Clashes Erupt":
PARIS — The French government is using the sweeping emergency powers it gained after the Paris terrorist attacks to clamp down on any possible disruption to the two-week global climate conference that starts on Monday, limiting public demonstrations, beefing up security and placing two dozen environmental activists under house arrest. 
The efforts to restrict protests — as world leaders arrived to reach an international deal to contain global warming — were not entirely successful; 174 people were taken into custody on Sunday after demonstrators clashed with the police in the historic Place de la République.
The police, in full riot gear, used tear gas and pepper spray to disperse the demonstrators, some of whom grabbed flowers and other remembrances that had been left at a tribute to the 130 people killed in the attacks and hurled them at officers. Some demonstrators chanted: “State of emergency, police state. You can’t take away our right to demonstrate!”

Twenty-four environmental activists were put under house arrest in the past few days, as the French prepared to host the long-anticipated talks.
Juliette Rousseau, the head of Coalition Climat 21, an umbrella group for environmental activists, said the authorities had searched homes and seized computers and other equipment belonging to activists who have no connection to terrorism. 
“There’s clearly an environment to keep activists out,” she said. “The state of emergency is clearly targeting activist movements. This is not justified. These people under house arrest, they don’t have any kind of criminal record.” 
She added: “The impression we have is that there is this conference taking place in a sealed-up space, and meanwhile people in civil society are being asphyxiated.”
This is how it works. Jihadist terrorists, espousing an ideology identical to the West's allies among the Gulf monarchies in the Middle East, are used as bogeymen to justify a crackdown on secular, leftist activists.

It is hard to avoid the conclusion that it is all part of a plan. And if you want to avoid the taint of being labeled a "conspiracy theorist" in arguing that jihadist terrorism is actively supported by the West in order to destabilize targeted states at the same time it enables the expansion of domestic surveillance and police powers, then why not settle on the hypothesis that Western capitalist democracies, operating on a "pay-to-play" scheme as they do, are riven by contradictions, and these contradictions lead to perpetual war and a concomitant loss of liberty.

The irony of Obama assuring the citizenry last Wednesday that there were no credible immediate threats of terrorism to the homeland only to have a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs shot up in a murderous rampage should be quite clear. The U.S. has its own homegrown terrorists; some forms of murderous violence have a quasi-official sanction. The GOP has long had a pact with right-to-life absolutists. Colorado Springs is the direct result of the undercover videos of Planned Parenthood staff discussing the acquisition of fetal tissue with actors hired by the anti-abortion group The Center for Medical Progress. The videos were vetted by Republican Congressmen prior to their public release.

Yes, the U.S. has its own religious fundamentalist terror network. To get a sense how the global jihadist network du jour functions read "ISIS’ Grip on Libyan City Gives It a Fallback Option" by David Kirkpatrick, Ben Hubbard and Eric Schmitt. Islamic State is moving the caliphate to the Mediterranean coast of Libya:
The Islamic State has already established exclusive control of more than 150 miles of Mediterranean coastline near Surt, from the town of Abugrein in the west to Nawfaliya in the east. The militias from the nearby city of Misurata that once vowed to expel the group completely have all retreated. Only a few checkpoints manned by one or two militiamen guard the edge of the Islamic State’s turf, where its fighters come and go as they please.

“A great exodus of the Islamic State leadership in Syria and Iraq is now establishing itself in Libya,” said Omar Adam, 34, the commander of a prominent militia based in Misurata. 
The group in Surt has also begun imposing the parent organization’s harsh version of Islamic law on the city, enforcing veils for all women, banning music and cigarettes, and closing shops during prayers, residents and recent visitors said. The group carried out at least four crucifixions in August. 
Last month the group held its first two public beheadings, killing two men accused of sorcery, according to prison inmates who knew the men and a Surt resident who said he had witnessed the killings.
One comes away from this lengthy piece with the understanding that Islamic State is a mercenary organization with Saudi and Iraqi leadership:
The fighters and guards in Surt all bowed to a Saudi administrator, or “wali,” who had been sent by the Islamic State to preside over the city. (A former Surt City Council member now in exile in Misurata said the Islamic State periodically rotates in new administrators, who typically are from the Persian Gulf.) Whenever drones were heard flying overhead, guards would run to the Saudi, take away his cellphone, and hurry him away to safety, the truck drivers said, suggesting that the Islamic State considered him important enough to be a target of American airstrikes.
Multinational terrorism networks are by definition not indigenous. They usually rely on some form of state sponsorship. Tomorrow we'll look at the recent focus in the Western press on the abhorrent totalitarian nature of the Gulf sheikhdoms that have so much sway in the U.S. and Europe.

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