By Adnan Khan
The last few weeks have seen a spate of terror attacks across Europe. Since the beginning of 2016 Turkey has been on a virtual war footing with numerous terrorist attacks. France and now Belgium have also been on the receiving end of terrorist attacks and both attacks have been given wall-to-wall coverage by the global media, which has confirmed for many, the threat of terror attacks by lone gunmen and suicide bombers. Despite a raft of legislation after each attack and despite many in the west giving up their freedoms in the name of national security, terrorist attacks continue with the recent Belgian attacks being just the latest in a long line. But these latest attacks and the subsequent reaction and response have muddled the real threats to the point that fact and fiction have become blurred. In order to separate politics from terror, some key points need to be understood.
Every attack that takes place is presented as confirmation of the western narrative that its civilisation is under attack and that Muslims in the west, Muslim immigrants and Muslim refugees are a threat who perpetuate all terrorist attacks. Before the facts are known and can even be verified the media in the west point the guilty finger at the Muslim community residing in the west and expect public condemnation of the attacks – before the culprits are even known or ever proven. The media in the west since the French attacks have reached levels not seen since the vilification of the Jews on the eve of the holocaust – the Muslims in the west are now being treated like the Jews were by the Nazi’s. The blanket media coverage given to the attacks is fear mongering and has now reached fever pitch. Torture, snooping on electronic communication, human rights abuses, closed-door trials and holding terrorists indefinitely as well as aggressive assimilation has all be justified due to the perceived threat of terrorism by Muslims, but this is patently blown out of proportion.
One person losing their life is a tragedy, no matter the motive. Neither the loss of life nor the burden on families should be trivialised. However, in the big picture, the number of people killed through gang warfare dwarfs the number killed by al-Qaeda or ISIS— even accounting for the huge number of deaths on 9/11. Yet terrorist attacks continue to generate hysteria that far outweighs their real impact. As one US security analyst highlighted: “Five dead at multiple crime scenes involving street gangs is a bad night in Chicago or Detroit, but it hardly gets noticed in the national and international media. But five dead at multiple crime scenes in which a Muslim gunman is involved becomes immediate fodder for round-the-clock cable news.” Official data from Europol, which is the European Union’s law enforcement agency, who publishes an annual terrorism report, EU Terrorism Situation and Trend Report (TE-SAT), shows that more people die from car accidents, burning fires and lightning strikes than they do in terrorist’s attacks.
[pullquote align=”right” color=”” class=”” cite=”” link=””] Official data from Europol, which is the European Union’s law enforcement agency, who publishes an annual terrorism report – EU Terrorism Situation and Trend Report (TE-SAT), shows that more people die from car accidents, burning fires and lightning strikes than they do in terrorist’s attacks. [/pullquote]
Many dubious personalities are being presented as experts on terrorism and adding to the hysteria. The conveyor belt theory, the strength of ISIS and the global Islamic threat have all been concocted in the labs of think tanks who have dubious sources for funding and are filled with right-wing ideologues who will make their narrative fit the reality irrespective of the real facts. The same think tanks who produce research on the threat of ISIS were the same organisations that justified the invasion of Iraq, which was all built upon dubious evidence. Many of the terror experts given airtime promote discredited theories and promote sensationalist opinions as facts. These experts promote government propaganda as experts when they are anything but. The most prominent terrorism experts in the US and Europe have a really shameful history of incredible error and all sorts of very dubious claims because they’re really just rank and file propagandists.
When terrorist attacks take place they do not originate from thin air, neither are they random, as many a terrorism experts would like us to believe. Taking away the politics from the attacks allows one to look at the details of the attack, which allows one to work out the capabilities of the attackers and the potential perpetrators. The terrorism spectrum has on the high end an entity that conducts attacks and takes and holds territory and governs over it, with multiple resources. At the low end is the requirement for few resources to conduct simple attacks. In between this spectrum is a variety of capabilities from conventional warfare to guerrilla warfare. This spectrum requires a range of capabilities and all attacks, whether lone wolf attacks to attacks by groups such as ISIS require terrorist tradecraft in order to be successful. Groups that operate at the low level cannot marshal the resources necessary to conduct sophisticated attacks as the training they receive is quite basic and is usually restricted to operating a rifle and handling grenades. Sophisticated attacks require training in conducting surveillance, operational security, clandestine communications, traveling under an alias etc. What has been taking place in Europe recently is more armed assaults, where individuals with guns are pointed at a mall or train station and the element of surprise gives them the advantage over the masses gathered there. In these types of attacks, the level of skill required is low – one just needs rudimentary training in operating a gun. In this way, the nature of the attack allows one to determine what was required to conduct it and this allows for working out potential perpetrators.
Terrorism, the use of terror or violence is a tactic utilized by a wide array of individuals, groups and states and something that has existed throughout history. Terrorism did not come into existence on September 11th, 2001. Terror or violence transcends across various fault lines and there is no single creed, ethnicity, political persuasion or nationality with a monopoly on terrorism. Individuals and groups of individuals from almost every conceivable background from late Victorian-era anarchists to tribal clansmen to North Korean intelligence officers — have conducted terrorist attacks. Despite this, western governments have presented terrorism as an existential threat. The people most at risk of terrorism are not in the West but the areas where the West fights its wars and proxy wars. Six of the country’s most at risk — Somalia, Pakistan, Iraq, Afghanistan, Sudan, Yemen — are the sites of Western wars, drone wars or proxy wars. The situation currently is the war on terror produces terror. And western governments exaggerate the threat in order to win acceptance of an unpopular policy. In doing so it demonizes whole communities and ensures that a minority have additional motivation for committing terrorist attacks. This is the very definition of a counter-productive policy.
Ever since 9/11 terms such as ‘transnational plots,’ ‘sleeper cells,’ ‘lone wolfs,’ and ‘transnational jihadists,’ continue to be thrown around, blurring important distinctions and hyping up the threat the west faces. A closer examination of the supposed threats to the west show terrorism, at most, presents a low-level threat and upon further scrutiny, it is the propaganda which is used by government and the media that perpetuates the problem.