Showing posts with label terrorism. Show all posts
Showing posts with label terrorism. Show all posts

Monday, November 16


The Islamic State does not abide by the Geneva Convention or any other code of conduct for war, adding to the challenge of the fight against terrorists who go after soft targets and behead prisoners of war and civilians.

One CIA estimate puts the Islamic State manpower at 31,500. By comparison, the United Nations estimates "that 7.6 million people are internally displaced" and "more than half of the country’s pre-war population of 23 million is in need of urgent humanitarian assistance, whether they still remain in the country or have escaped across the borders," reports Mercy Corps.

Countries including the United States, Jordan, France and many others target Islamic State sites with air strikes. But air strikes are imprecise. Hitting civilians is inevitable, especially in battling an opponent that lacks a code of conduct.

Reporting for AP, Vivian Salama and Zeina Karam report on the tragic inevitability as described by  Airwars, a group that monitors the war against the Islamic State and tracks civilian casualties.

"The coalition's war against ISIL has inevitably caused civilian casualties, certainly far more than the two deaths Centcom presently admits to," notes [the Airwars website]. " Yet it's also clear that in this same period, many more civilians have been killed by Syrian and Iraqi government forces, by Islamic State and by various rebel and militia groups operating on both sides of the border."

So far, Airwars reports more than 8,000 strikes, estimating 20,000 Islamic State deaths and up to 200 deaths.

Some context: Totals of civilian deaths caused by the Islamic State are notably lacking.

Also, monitoring groups suggest that the Syrian government and Assad regime are responsible for many more deaths than the Islamic State - an estimated 250,000 during the four-year civil war in Syria. "Between January and July [2015], Assad’s military and pro-government militias killed 7,894 people, while the Islamic State killed 1,131, according to the Syrian Network for Human Rights, a monitoring group based in Britain," reports Hugh Naylor for the Washington Post. 

Such casualty counts are likely low, with reports of mass graves found in areas near Sinjar, overtaken by Iraqi Kurdish forces: One is reported to contain 78 women between the ages of 40 and 80 years old and the other had bodies of about 50 men, both likely Yazidis. Authorities anticipate finding other grave sites, reports Nabih Bulos for the Los Angeles Times. 

After the attacks in Paris that killed more than 125 and injured more than 300, the international community will likely join with Russia, and targeting the Islamic State will take priority over removal of Assad as Syria's leader.

At least eight governors in the United States are making moves to block Syrian refugees in Texas, Massachusetts, Indiana, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, Alabama and Michigan, reports Nolan D. McCaskill for Politico. 

Many contend that ground troops are required for thorough defeat of the Islamic State, but citizens throughout the West resist sending their soldiers and expect Muslim nations in the Middle East to defend their territory - though it must be noted that the conflict in Syria is highly complex as the United States supports Kurdish rebels and Turkey, a member of NATO and US ally, targets those same fighters described as successful against the Islamic State. Russia, too, targets rebels who oppose the Assad regime.

An imperfect solution for the Syrian refugee crisis, one grounded in gender and age bias: conduct screenings and open borders for women with children under age 15 and adults older than age 50.A tough for the international community.

Terrorist attacks on civilian targets in Europe, North America and beyond are anticipated, too.  The Islamic State is a disturbing problem global in scale.

"Attacks by Islamic State terrorists in Syria, Iraq and beyond pose consequences for refugees fleeing communities throughout the Middle East and moderate Muslims," YaleGlobal reminds. "Globalization of communications, travel and more ensures that regarding violence, hatred, terrorism as routine for the region with a population of more than 200 million can threaten global security."

Photo of refugees at Budapest Keleti railway station in Hungary, courtesy of Mstyslav Chernov and Wikimedia Commons.

Monday, January 12


Attempts to censor and control minds can be readily found in democracies. After the initial shock of 12 slaughtered at the Charlie Hebdo offices, the controlling types have emerged, brusquely advising entire populaces how to mourn, how to react, how to tame others.

The Telegraph offers two examples.

"The Prime Minister agrees with Sajid Javid, the Culture secretary, that the Muslim community has a 'special burden' and that it is 'lazy and wrong' to say that the Paris attacks have nothing to do with Islam." The argument is that the extremism is a perversion of faith, that tackling extremism requires working closely with the Muslim community.

No mention in the article that a self-identified Muslim man hid victims in a freezer in the related attack on a Kosher grocery market in Paris or that a Muslim police officer was among the victims during the attack on the satirical newspaper. No mention that numerous Muslim leaders and organizations swiftly condemned the crimes.

Then, the same newspaper points out that "US media questions why neither Barack Obama nor top officials attended Paris Charlie Hebdo rally" and notes: "French President Francois Hollande and some 44 foreign dignitaries, including leaders from Germany, Italy, Britain, Turkey, Israel and the Palestinian territories, led up to two million people in what commentators said was the largest crowd in Paris since its liberation from Nazi Germany in 1944." 

Obama and other government leaders have plenty to do in securing communities and workplaces - not simply adding more guards and surveillance, but by being a voice of reason, improving education, being a role model for public discourse, while maintaining the stretched social safety net that provides security for so many families.

Government has much to do. In the meantime, citizens must grapple with the tragedy and knowledge that their communities are never as safe as they once had thought, and be allowed to grieve as they see fit. Pressure on how to think or behave is inappropriate so soon after such a tragedy. Anyone who has witnessed controlling parents can point out that children or other subordinates often  resist such pressures. Pressure does not persuade others to think alike. For families and communities, as suggested by Allure of Deceit, neglect may be more dangerous for encouraging extremism.

How to mourn, whether that's advice for an individual or all members of a religious group, is not the province of political commentators. 

Write to request review copies of Allure of Deceit. 

Photo of 1911 pressure cooker courtesy of Thesupermat and Wikimedia Commons.

Thursday, January 8

Free speech

Terrorism starts at home, so suggests the tale of Fear of Beauty. The petty resentments, the irrationality, the scapegoating and complaints, the displays of anger, the bullying, fear of competition, marginalization, abuse and more.

Police quickly identified the three suspects accused of bursting into the offices of a satirical newspaper in Paris, Charlie Hebdo, and killing 12 with assault rifles. News reports describe them as two brothers and a brother-in-law. The case bears similarities to the bombing of a crowd at the Boston Marathon - with two Tsarnaev brothers named as suspects.

The three in Paris will not slow satire in the West. All they accomplished was to ignite interest in a struggling publication and unite diverse citizens to stand up for freedom of speech and embrace satire and other forms of scrutiny. The killers revealed their fears and have shown that ideas and pens wield power.

The Arab League and Al-Azhar have condemned the murders. Leaders of many organizations recognize, as we have said on this pages before, a faith is unsustainable if it cannot endure such scrutiny and tests.

By evening, the news reported the two brothers in the France killings were orphans.

Saturday, January 5

Internet divide

"Lone-wolf terrorism is the fastest growing form of this new kind of terrorism," Gabriel Weimann, professor of communication, Haifa University, write for YaleGlobal. "A lone wolf is an individual or a small group of individuals who uses traditional terrorist tactics, but who acts without membership in or cooperation with an official or unofficial terrorist organization, cell or group." 

Weimann goes on to explain how counterterrorism teams at all levels of government are scrutinizing internet activity to monitor planning and stop terrorists before they act.

The field of operations is rapidly growing, reports Global Finance as internet use continues to grow, reports Global Finance.

Percentage of individuals using the internet
Selected countries, 2011
International Telecommunication Union

Afghanistan     5%
Bangladesh      5%
China              38%
Denmark        90%
Germany        83%
India               10%
Israel              70%
Pakistan           9%
US                  78%
UK                  82%

About one out of three people on earth are online, reports the International Telecommunication Union, an agency of the United Nations.  About 25 percent of those users are Chinese.

Users include both those who pay for direct access and those who access the internet of libraries, cafes or friends' homes. Growth in internet use is greatest in developing nations. "However, overall people in the developing world remain far behind those in the developed world, with only 25% of them online by the end of the year," notes Global Finance.

And despite the percentages in the table above, Asia has the most internet users, at nearly 45%, reports Internet World Stats. Europe comes in second at 21.5% and North America at 11.4%. Africa has 7% and the Middle East represents 3.7%.

And 70 percent of youth under 25 are not yet online. Those new to the internet come at a time when it's easy for authorities to follow trails, when other users - even corporations and nonprofits - are collecting individual data and developing profiles. The internet is unlike other tools of communication, say, the pen and paper, any can be used to connect or divide. Instead, communications online are more impulsive and have a longer, broader reach. Online, the words and ideas of hate are like a weapon, and those who use the internet for nefarious purposes won't hide for long. As said in Matthew 26:52, those who draw the sword will die by the sword.

Photo of young girls in Afghanistan learning to use computers, courtesy of Kate on OLPCs, Todd Huffman and Wikimedia Commons.

Wednesday, January 2


A reminder from Salman Rushdie, Step Across This Line: Collected Nonfiction 1992-2002:   

"The fundamentalist believes that we believe in nothing. In his world-view, he has his absolute certainties, while we are sunk in sybaritic indulgences. To prove him wrong, we must first know that he is wrong. We must agree on what matters: kissing in public places, bacon sandwiches, disagreement, cutting-edge fashion, literature, generosity, water, a more equitable distribution of the world's resources, movies, music, freedom of thought, beauty, love. These will be our weapons. Not by making war but by the unafraid way we choose to live shall we defeat them.

"How to defeat terrorism? Don't be terrorized. Don't let fear rule your life. Even if you are scared.”  

Thursday, September 13

Media as weapon

By now, protesters around American embassies in Egypt, Libya, Yemen, should realize the film "The Innocence of Muslims" was at best a lame project and at worst a deliberate conspiracy to stir anger at the United States and perhaps even influence the US election.

Reports that there is no film, just a trailer, and that actors report saying one set of words and the actual online release relying the offensive dubbing could point to the latter intent. Early reports that an Israeli was behind the project add to suspicions.

Terrorists know they can draw a comic, make a film, write a story and goad angry protesters and violence. The protests display not devotion, but a willingness to be pawns.

A better, more lasting and targeted revenge? Picking up a pen and drafting poetry, literature and scripts that show the cultural relevance of Islam.

Violence does not show respect for a religion.

And I just came across this from Deepa Kumar, writing for McClatchy: "At the end of the day, the far right in one country has more in common with the far right in other countries than with any other segment of the world's population. The vast majority of ordinary people are sensible and nonviolent."