After Monday night …
… David French wrote:
That sound you hear is the slowly dawning realization that something horrifying is happening, a swelling of screams of panic. And it’s the panic of hundreds and hundreds of young girls (boys too, but the sound of girls’ screams is unmistakable.) Let that sink in. This attack was the virtual equivalent of walking into a middle school auditorium for the express purpose of maiming and mutilating children.
There is no reasoning with this hate. There is no “legitimate grievance” with the West that triggers such violence. It is the product of fanatical devotion to the most evil of all causes, a cause that perversely promises paradise for the slaughter of innocents. There is no way for the West to be “good” enough to appease terrorists. There is no policy short of religious conversion that will cause them to relent. The best deterrent to jihad is the obliteration of jihadists. They thrive on victory, not defeat.
Tonight, sadly, they won a victory, and here’s all you need to know to understand the character of our enemies – they relish the sound of young girls’ screams.
French then wrote:
Make no mistake, there is an emerging bipartisan consensus that a certain amount of terrorism is just the price we have to pay to live the way we want to live. Now, to be clear, very few people will come out and say this explicitly, and national-security establishments do their best — within certain, limited parameters — to stop every single terror attack, but more than 15 years after 9/11 it’s clear that there are prices our societies aren’t willing to pay. And neither our nation nor any of our European allies is willing to pay the price to reduce the terror threat to its pre-9/11 scale.
Consequently, an undetermined number of civilians will die, horribly, at concerts, restaurants, nightclubs, or simply while walking on the sidewalk. It almost certainly won’t be you, of course, but it will be somebody. And they’ll often be kids.
While it’s impossible to predict any given terror attack, there are two laws of terrorism that work together to guarantee that attacks will occur, and they’ll occur with increasing frequency. First, when terrorists are granted safe havens to plan, train, equip, and inspire terror attacks, then they will strike, and they’ll keep striking not just until the safe havens are destroyed but also until the cells and affiliates they’ve established outside their havens are rooted out. Second, when you import immigrants at any real scale from jihadist regions, then you will import the cultural, religious, and political views that incubate jihad. Jihadist ideas flow not from soil but from people, and when you import people you import their ideas.
Let’s look at how these two ideas have worked together in both Europe and America. The map below (from AFP) charts significant terror attacks in Europe (including Turkey). You’ll note a significant increase in activity since 2014, since ISIS stampeded across Syria and into Turkey and established a terrorist caliphate in the heart of the Middle East. There existed a safe haven and a population to inspire back in Europe. The result was entirely predictable:
What about the United States? A similar phenomenon was in play. This Heritage Foundation timeline of terror attacks and plots documents a total of 95 incidents since 9/11. The numbers are revealing. After the implementation of the (now) much-derided Bush strategy, there were a grand total of 27 terror attacks and plots — almost all of them foiled.
After the end of the Bush administration, the numbers skyrocketed, with 68 plots or attacks recorded since. A number of them, including the Fort Hood shooting, the Boston Marathon bombing, the San Bernardino mass murder, and the Orlando nightclub massacre, have been terrifying successful. Indeed, there have been more domestic terror plots and attacks since the rise of ISIS in the summer of 2014 than there were in the entirety of the Bush administration after 9/11. And make no mistake, jihadist terrorists are disproportionately immigrants and children of immigrants.
What did Bush do that was so successful? He not only pressed military offensives in the heart of the Middle East, he fundamentally changed the American approach to immigration and implemented a number of temporary measures that, for example, dramatically decreased refugee admissions and implemented country-specific protective measures that have since been discontinued. And don’t forget, aside from their reckless immigration policies, our European allies weren’t just beneficiaries of the Bush doctrine but also participants in Bush’s military offensives. Our NATO allies have been on the ground in Afghanistan since the war launched in earnest. Britain was a principal partner in Iraq.
Here is the bottom line — since the end of the Bush and Blair administrations, it seems clear that all of the great Western democracies would rather face an increased terror risk than make the sacrifices that have been proven to mitigate the danger. There is little appetite across the entire American political spectrum for an increased ground-combat presence in the Middle East. So the slow-motion war against ISIS continues, and terrorist safe havens remain. In the United States, even Trump’s short-term and modest so-called travel ban has been blocked in court and lacks public support.
If you listen closely, you’ll note that some politicians are actually starting to level with their people. They’re not willing to do what it takes to reduce the terror threat to substantially lower levels, so they’re trying to adjust their populations to the new reality. After the Nice truck attack, the French prime minister said, “The times have changed, and France is going to have to live with terrorism.” German chancellor Angela Merkel also told her people that they have to “live with the danger of terrorism.”
All too many Americans, sadly, still seem to labor under the fiction that they can have it all — tolerant immigration policies, no land wars in Asia, and Muslim allies who finally pick up the slack with the right level of prodding and with appropriately minimal air support. When necessary, we can send in our SEAL Team superheroes to take care of the truly tough tasks.
Well, that’s a strategy, but it’s one that means that every few months we’ll put memorial ribbons up on Facebook and Twitter, express pride in our valiant first responders, and wrap our arms around grieving parents who have to close the casket on their eight-year-old girl. It’s a strategy that expresses pride that we foil most attacks, and it’s one that leads us to hope and pray that the losses remain acceptable.
The Western world knows the price it has to pay to decisively reduce the terror threat. It’s no longer willing to pay that price. It’s no longer willing even to let their militaries truly do the jobs they volunteered to do. So there will be more Manchesters, more Parises, more Nices, and more Orlandos. But that’s what happens when we’re not willing to do what it takes. I hope at least our hashtags can make us feel better about our choice.
Speaking of hashtags, James Woods chronicles a collection and asks:
What is the common denominator here?
Douglas Murray adds:
Even after all these years, all these attacks and all these dead, the West still keeps asking the same question after events like those of Monday night: ‘Who would do such a thing?’ The answer is always the same. Sometimes the culprits are home-grown. Sometimes they are recent arrivals. Sometimes they have been in the West for generations, eat fish and chips and play cricket. Sometimes — like last month’s attacker in Stockholm, or last year’s suicide bomber in Ansbach, Germany — they arrived in Europe just a few months earlier. Sometimes people claim the perpetrator is a lone wolf, unknown to the authorities. More often it turns out (in a term coined by Mark Steyn) to be a known wolf, on the peripheral vision of the security services.
Yet still our society wonders: what would make someone do such a thing? The tone of bafflement is strange — like a society that keeps asking a question, but keeps its fingers lodged firmly in its ears whenever it is given the answer.
Only last month this now traditional national rite was led by no less a figure than the Dean of Westminster, the Very Reverend Dr John Hall. At the beginning of April, Westminster Abbey was the venue for a national act of mourning for the victims of the previous month’s terrorist attack. The Dean used his sermon — at what was billed as ‘a service of hope’ — to announce that Britain was ‘bewildered’ by the actions of Khalid Masood.
‘What could possibly motivate a man,’ asked the Dean, ‘to hire a car and take it from Birmingham to Brighton to London, and then to drive it, fast, at people he had never met, couldn’t possibly know, against whom he had no personal grudge, no reason to hate them and then run at the gates of the Palace of Westminster to cause another death? It seems likely we shall never know.’
Actually, most people could likely make a guess. And had the Dean waited just a few days, he could have joined them. Masood’s final WhatsApp messages, sent to a friend just before he ploughed his car along Westminster Bridge, revealed this Muslim convert was ‘waging jihad’ for Allah. The Dean was hardly going to get back up into his pulpit and say: ‘Apologies. Turns out we do know. It was jihad for Allah.’ The impossibility of that scenario speaks to the deeper disaster — beneath the bodies and the blood — of the state we’ve got into.
For their part, the Islamists are amazingly clear about what they want and the reasons why they act accordingly. You never have to read between the lines. Listen to Jawad Akbar, recorded in the UK in 2004 as he discussed the soft targets he and his al Qaeda-linked cell were planning to hit. The targets included the Ministry of Sound nightclub in London. What was the appeal? As Akbar said to his colleague, Omar Khyam, no one could ‘turn round and say “oh they are innocent, those slags dancing around”.’
It is the same reason why ten years ago next month Bilal Abdullah and Kafeel Ahmed (an NHS doctor and an engineering PhD student respectively) planted a car bomb outside the glass front of the Tiger Tiger club on London’s Haymarket on lady’s night. They then planted another just down the road in the hope that those ‘slags’ fleeing from the first blast would run straight into the second. It is why when Irfan Naseer and his 11-member cell from Birmingham were convicted of plotting mass casualty terror attacks in 2013, one of their targets was — once again — a nightclub area of the city. In familiar tones, Naseer speculated on these places where ‘the kuffar [a derogatory term for non-Muslims], slags and whores go drinking and clubbing’ and ‘have sex like donkeys’.
Where does it come from, this hatred the Islamists hold — as well as everyone else they loathe — for half the human species? Even moderate Muslims hate it when you ask this, but the question is begged before us all. What do people think the burka is? Or the niqab? Or even the headscarf? Why do Muslim societies — however much freedom they give men — always and everywhere restrict the freedom of women? Why are the sharia courts, which legally operate in the UK, set up to prejudice the rights of women? Why do Islamists especially hate women from their faith who raise their voices against the literalists and extremists?
Do people think this stuff comes from thin air? It was always there. Because it’s at the religion’s origins and unlike the women-suspecting stuff in the other monotheisms (mild though they are by comparison), too few people are willing to admit it or reform this hatred, disdain and of course fear of women that is inherent in Islam. It is a constant of Islamic history, along with the Jews, the gays and the ‘wrong type of Muslim’: always and everywhere, the question of women. It’s our own fault because we have been told it so many times. As the Australian cleric Sheik Taj Aldin al-Hilali famously said to 500 worshippers in Sydney in 2006: ‘If you take out uncovered meat and place it outside without cover, and the cats come to eat it, whose fault is it — the cat’s or the uncovered meat’s? The uncovered meat is the problem. If she was in her room, in her home, in her hijab, no problem would have occurred.’ …
Theresa May and other politicians stress we will never give in. And they are right to do so. But beneath the defiance lie deep, and deeply unanswered, questions. Questions which publics across Europe are increasingly dwelling on, but which their political representatives dare not acknowledge.
Exactly a year ago, Greater Manchester Police staged a carefully prepared mock terrorist attack in the city’s shopping centre to test response capabilities. At one stage an actor playing a suicide bomber burst through a doorway and detonated a fake device while shouting ‘Allahu Akbar’ (‘Allah is Greatest’). The intention, obviously, was to make the scenario realistic. But the use of the jihadists’ signature sign-off sent social media into a spin. Soon community spokesmen were complaining on the media. One went on Sky to talk about the need ‘to have a bit of religious and cultural context when they’re doing training like this in a wider setting about the possible implications’.
Assistant Chief Constable Garry Shewan was hauled before the press. ‘On reflection,’ he admitted, ‘we acknowledge that it was unacceptable to use this religious phrase immediately before the mock suicide bombing, which so vocally linked this exercise with Islam. We recognise and apologise for the offence that this has caused.’ Greater Manchester’s police and crime commissioner, Tony Lloyd, followed up: ‘It is frustrating the operation has been marred by the ill-judged, unnecessary and unacceptable decision by organisers to have those playing the parts of terrorists to shout “Allahu Akbar” before setting off their fake bombs. It didn’t add anything to the event, but has the potential to undermine the great community relations we have in Greater Manchester.’ Perhaps when the blood has been cleared from the pavements of Manchester, someone could ask how many lives such excruciating societal stupidity – from pulpit to police force – has saved, or ever will save?
In Piccadilly Gardens, at lunchtime on the day after the attacks, crowds of people listened to a busker play the usual post-massacre playlist: ‘All You Need is Love’ and ‘Everything’s Gonna Be Alright.’ But just like the renditions of ‘Imagine’, the buskers are wrong. We need to do more than imagine. We need more than love. Everything is not all right. We need to address this problem, and start at the roots. Otherwise, our societies will continue to be caught between people who mean what they say and a society which won’t even listen. And so they’ll keep meeting, these two worlds.
On Monday night, Ariana Grande was in her traditional suspenders, singing: ‘Don’t need permission / Made my decision to test my limits / ’Cause it’s my business, God as my witness… / I’m locked and loaded / Completely focused.’ Outside, waiting, was someone who was really focused. It is time we made some effort to focus, too.