Category: Terrorism (Page 1 of 3)

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When terror hits home

As a student of political science, and as a researcher in intelligence, I am no stranger to the concept, history, and effects of terrorism. It has been widely researched, and in recent years has become a staple in the education of any person with the remotest interest in international affairs. Certainly it is a centerpiece of tertiary education in political sciences. However, being Australian and having been educated in New Zealand, terrorism has always been a remote practice, removed from my everyday life. That changed this week.

I must first admit that I was slightly behind the times when I woke up this morning. As a full time PhD student that also works twenty hours a week and reviews books in her ‘spare time,’ I rarely have enough hours in the day to complete my work AND keep up on current affairs beyond my express area of research. See, my gym session with the trainer this morning was an hour earlier than usual, so I had a little time on my hands afterward; I decided to get a coffee and some breakfast. As is my custom when I have the time to do this, I asked for the paper to read. When it was delivered to me with my glass of orange juice, all I could do was stare.

Terrorist plot foiled, seven arrested, Christmas Day explosions planned. Headlines I’ve seen before, as I’m sure many have. But this time, the plot that was foiled? Was in my city. My home. Several full colour photos dominated the multiple page spread; Flinders St Station, St. Paul’s Cathedral, and Federation Square. I was in two of those places just two days ago, and across the street from the other. Doing my Christmas shopping, glaring at the horse-and-buggies, laughing with my sister. My sister, who it occurred to me this morning, had we been in the wrong place at the wrong time, could have been killed. By terrorists. In AUSTRALIA. In Melbourne. In our home city.

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Where I was on 9/11

Originally published on September 10, 2014 at China.org.cn.

I was in class in middle school when there was an announcement over the loudspeaker that airplanes had struck the World Trade Center towers in New York. The principal used delicate language when addressing the students, but I knew it was an attack. Commercial airline pilots don’t hit skyscrapers by accident. The rest of the day was surreal. Rumors circulated that a hijacked plane was heading towards my hometown, Cleveland, Ohio, but it turned out to be a false alarm. Even after watching the images on TV when I got home from school, the magnitude of the attacks was hard to comprehend.

It was like life stood still for the next week. All news was 9/11 all the time. The National Football League and Major League Baseball canceled all sporting events that week. I went to the Cleveland Browns game the next weekend. I remember the patriotic songs they played all throughout the game. “I’m proud to be an American, where at least I know I’m free…” Lee Greenwood’s song became familiar at sporting events and was inserted into the seventh inning stretch at baseball games. Using the restroom, I could hear the guy next to me saying we were going to get bin Laden.

If seeing 3,000 of our fellow countrymen murdered in broad daylight and landmarks of New York City’s skyline disappeared from the sky wasn’t enough, the rest of the year featured anthrax letters and an attempted shoe bombing by Richard Reid. “Panic” might not be the right word — the threat posed by international terrorist organizations was real — but there were major changes made to people’s lives that seem unnecessary in today’s light. A school field trip to Washington, DC was canceled. Many Americans weren’t traveling anywhere, let alone to the capital.

Now, thirteen years after [now fifteen], the weight of the attacks has been fading for Americans. Much of the public is tired after years of war and tightened security procedures at airports. Yet the attacks left a lasting legacy on American politics and a feeling that will not soon leave. If we needed a reminder that radical theocratic terrorism remains a problem that can’t be ignored, ISIS provided it with their surge through Iraq and the murder of two American journalists and thousands of Syrians and Iraqis.

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Did the Orlando shooter use an AR-15?

A dispute has emerged on the web between conservative bloggers and the press and liberal bloggers over whether the Orlando shooter, who murdered 49 at the gay nightclub Pulse, used an AR-15 or not.

Bombs and Dollars dug into the controversy, and this is what we found:
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Liberals have argued that the attack—the shooting—caused such a high death toll due to the easy availability of high-powered guns, especially those referred to as “assault rifles.” In particular, many outlets are reporting that the shooter used an AR-15, a rifle that is among those Democrats have tried to ban through a failed assault weapons bill.

5.) Did the shooter use an AR-15?

This is perhaps the biggest and most mysterious contention between liberal advocates of gun control and conservative opponents of gun control. After many mass shootings, it is reported that an AR-15 was used, and conservatives write that an AR-15 wasn’t used.

The Washington Post reports that the shooter used an AR-15, the same gun that has also been used in the shootings at San Bernardino, Calif.; Aurora, Colo.; and Newtown, Conn. The gun rights blog Bearing Arms reported, however, that the weapon was a Sig Sauer MCX carbine.

The Sig Saucer’s brochure notes that the MCX carbine has an “AR-15 Type” mag type.
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The Orlando police were also quoted as reporting that a Sig Saucer MCX was found on the shooter’s person, and there was no mention of an AR-15:

He had a Glock 17 handgun purchased on June 5, a Sigsauer MCX assault rifle purchased on June 4 on his person during the shootout, and investigators later found a .38-caliber weapon in his vehicle.

The dispute between what to call the gun could be due to the fact that AR-15 is now, like “kleenex” and “xerox,” a brand name that is used by many as a generic term for a series of similar guns. According to Rolling Stone,

Mateen carried two guns with him Sunday: a 9mm handgun and a .223 caliber AR-15-style semi-automatic rifle. [Editor’s note: Note the use of “-style.”]

The standard magazine for a Glock, like the one Mateen carried, is 15 rounds. The Sig Sauer MCX rifle Mateen used had double that capacity: 30 rounds.

AR stands for “ArmaLite rifle,” after the company the developed the gun for use by the U.S. military in the 1950s. (The military’s version, nearly indistinguishable from the AR-15, is called the M-16.) Today Colt holds the AR-15 trademark, but some 282 manufacturers make their own versions of the gun and its parts, according to a 2014 accounting by AR-15 enthusiasts.

Think Progress, a liberal blog, also referred to the gun in the same way as Rolling Stone: as “an AR-15-style semiautomatic rifle.”

If Congress tries to pass an assault weapons ban, the definition of what specific guns are being banned will be a sticking point, and there will be dispute as to what guns should be classes as such.

The question over the AR-15 is just one of 8 questions Bombs and Dollars looked at in relation to the terrorist attack and what could be done to stop such attacks in the future. Read the whole post here: 8 questions to ask after Orlando attack before demanding new policies.

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8 questions to ask after Orlando attack before demanding new policies

There’s a temptation in American politics to jump to conclusions before all the facts are in and for activists and politicians use tragedies to push for policies that they already support. Even—or perhaps especially—in the wake of the worst mass shooting in American history and the worst terrorist attack since 9/11, the politicization of cold-blooded murder started just about as soon as the initial news reports came in.

This counterproductive reaction is born out of an understandable desire to solve problems but also—less helpfully—by a human tendency to classify things and be blinded by our biases. When a person with a particular political bias hears about an attack, their first response is to think, “Who was the perpetrator? Was he a Christian? Was he a Muslim? He must have been a member of the group that I oppose!”

Even after the perpetrator in this case was found to be a Muslim who had been investigated by the FBI before on suspicions of harboring pro-terrorism sympathies, an ACLU attorney still tried to link it to Christian conservatives simply by virtue of the fact that Christian conservatives oppose gay rights.

“The Christian Right has introduced 200 anti-LGBT bills in the last six months and people blaming Islam for this. No,” Chase Strangio, a staff attorney with ACLU’s LGBT and AIDS Project, tweeted.

This response to immediately try to blame parties that weren’t involved is the same response of some on the left after the Charlie Hebdo attack. What about the Spanish Inquisition?, some asked, and it is just as stupid, as I wrote it was then in this article for The Federalist: “Let’s Blame Christianity For Everything, And Islam For Nothing.”

Needless to say, restrictions on gay marriage can be a form of discrimination and a bad idea on their own merits, but they aren’t the same as murder. And you don’t have to talk about hypothetical Christian terrorism in order to condemn Christian terrorism; earlier this year a Christian terrorist motivated by intense opposition to abortion shot up a Planned Parenthood in Colorado.

Of course, one single incident doesn’t necessarily say anything about the kinds of strategies that should be taken. Only large scale considerations will allow us to arrive at the right solutions. But, nonetheless, if people on both the left and right want to look from this terrible tragedy for solutions to try to decrease the likelihood of similar attacks from happening again, then let us find some answers first as to whether the proposed policies would actually make an impact.

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Friends and family members embrace outside the Orlando Police Headquarters during the investigation of a shooting at the Pulse night club, where as many as 20 people have been injured after a gunman opened fire, in Orlando, Florida, U.S June 12, 2016.  REUTERS/Steve Nesius     TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY      - RTX2FRIO

The Quality of SJW Mercy

When Margaret Thatcher became Prime Minister of the UK she did not attribute her success to feminism. She was not a feminist. Had she been Prime Minister in the 18th century however, she would very likely be hailed by feminists today as one of their own. Dead men and women tell no tales – or reveal inconvenient political alliances.

This might also be said now about the victims of Orlando.

Their still warm corpses being seized upon by a ravenous swam of SJW politicos eager to erase fifty individual identities. Their identities have been subsumed into the LGBT whole, whether or not they were political activists. The mortal terror they faced at the moment of their death is now the property of LGBT community to be invoked at will by anyone with a political axe to grind. Their suffering represents the terror all LGBT people face every day of their lives. Apparently. No reasonable person can disagree. If you do, if your mind strays beyond the limited visible spectrum of acceptable LGBT thought; if you mourn these people as merely humans and not gay martyrs, you are a homophobe.

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Orlando Shooting is Islamist Terrorism

300x300So, what we know so far, the shooter, is Omar Mateen, an Afghan American, registered Democrat, with a known Islamist Jihadist tendency, according to FBI.

This is the largest terrorism since 9/11.

That didn’t stop people peddling their own narrative within minutes of the tragedy, and blaming everyone, except Islamist Jihadists.

This random dude, of all people, must be feeling pretty stupid and embarrassed now. And, if this is who US Army recruits to fight terrorism, no wonder ISIS is winning.

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PODCAST: In case you didn’t have enough hilarity this week, Belgium joins Syria bombing campaign


How will that make any tangible difference in operational outcome, is however, anybody’s guess.

(In the immortal words of William Hague, “oooh scary!”)

Really…Belgium, of all countries suddenly decided to drop a few bombs. I mean, seriously, I am just a humble political scientist, but strictly by the dictates of logic and prudence, shouldn’t that money be better spent on Human Intelligence (HUMINT) gathering inside Belgium? Or Counter Terrorism operations? Or securing borders and improving surveillance and monitoring within Europe? 1448313843772

How much does one laser guided bomb, one mission, one sortie, one refueling cost, compared to CCTV monitoring, or a yearly salary of a beat-Cop or intelligence officer in Molenbeek, Europe’s jihadist breeding ground and capital? Considering the fact that the majority of Euro terrorists are from within Europe, often second generation, disgruntled urban youths, lonely losers, listening to hip hop and smoking pot, and looking for ultra-violence and misogyny, wouldn’t it be logical to monitor and control that, rather than providing them with more narrative of West interfering in the Middle East?

Just this morning, there was report, how migrant flow from Libya is not controlled. The migrants are not even war refugees, widows, elderly, infirm or children from Middle East, but healthy young men looking for jobs from Sub-Saharan Africa. Shouldn’t the money be better spent in stopping that?

I’ve written an entire essay before for War on the Rocks, on how Libya intervention was a mistake and how there are other ways of containing ISIS and stopping mass migration. But nothing really changes as Europe tries the same process of coalition, bombing, and state building, when the strategy should be one of containment and tactical amputation.

On that frustrating note, here’s the podcast.

In the words of David Petraeus, “Tell me how this ends”?

Listen, and share.

 

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Weekly Reading List: So, I got published in War on the Rocks and Nottspolitics

Big week, as I mentioned before, with a couple of major publications coming, other than my regular columns.

To start with, the biggest one till date, my essay on War on the Rocks, where I write a Neo-Realist critique of Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov’s latest revisionist history lesson. And was then called a Neo-Con for some reason, in the comments. But that’s another issue.

The second big one was my guest post at the official blog of the University of Nottingham, Dept of Politics and IR, where I talk about a foreign policy course for Philippines and how it should balance between China and US.

Other than that, here are my weekly columns.

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The future of nuclear security post-Obama: A report on the final Nuclear Security Summit

Absence of Iran and Russia & the Czech complacence.

Approaching the end of his presidential term, Barack Obama convened leaders from over 50 countries for the final Nuclear Security Summit. The March 31-April 1 Washington gathering marks the end of a high-level diplomatic process with roots stretching back to the 2009 Obama´s Prague Summit speech.  In light of contemporary narratives of terrorists´ willingness to hijack unguarded nuclear materials, or target nuclear sites, a wide participation of all vital players became a sine qua non of securing vulnerable substances. The absence of representatives from Russia and Iran casts doubts on the undertaking´s future success.

As a part of his 2009 Prague speech, President Obama articulated his concerns regarding nuclear proliferation and insufficient security of hitherto acquired materials. His address initiated a series of summits aimed at safeguarding existing nuclear supply, including the minimisation of the use of highly enriched uranium (HEU), participation in international organisations, and prevention and detection of illegal trafficking of materials indispensable for the weapon-creation. Recent stagnation and lack of improvement coupled with the 2016 non-participation of key actors in the endeavour not only highlight the flawed architecture of the process, but also contributed to the loss of momentum and might render the previous achievements futile.

Together administering the vast majority of the total global stock, involvement of Russia is an essence for any significant political breakthrough to be achieved. Its absence has been officially blamed on “shortage of mutual cooperation on agenda”; even though the rationale seems to lie in Russia’s desire to demonstrate the deadlock inevitably resulting from the failure to recognize the country´s rejuvenated position in the world.

Regardless of the genuine reason for Russia’s decision to boycott the summit, it will undoubtedly have repercussions capable of stalling, if not outright undermining the progress. Recent comeback of Russia to the leaders’ club and the use of other than hard-power instruments to manipulate system for own benefit manifests the position the country has asserted, as much as its ability to influence and steer the course of events. Similar empty chair crises had in the past served to teach a lesson of no bright prospects of advancement without the absentee.  While the U.S. administration speaks of the missed opportunity for Russia and slipping further into isolation, Obama must be well aware that chances for considerable change in nuclear security domain wane as his term slowly draws to the close, and Russia´s assistance would have enhanced future outlooks.

As Obama declared preceding the gathering, “…we’ll remain vigilant to ensure that Iran fulfils its commitments.” Not inviting Iran to the summit puts the fervor of commitment to the test.

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Brussels Attacks: 2 posts you need to read, regardless of your political ideology

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Slavoj Zizek: In the Wake of Paris Attacks the Left Must Embrace Its Radical Western Roots (Nov, 2015) – Read the full piece here

”  It is a fact that most of the refugees come from a culture that is incompatible with Western European notions of human rights. Tolerance as a solution (mutual respect of each other’s sensitivities) obviously doesn’t work: fundamentalist Muslims find it impossible to bear our blasphemous images and reckless humor, which we consider a part of our freedoms. Western liberals, likewise, find it impossible to bear many practices of Muslim culture…

Did we already forget that the entire idea of Communist emancipation as envisaged by Marx is a thoroughly “Eurocentric” one?

In a gloomy prophecy made before his death, Col. Muammar Gaddafi said: “Now listen you, people of NATO. You’re bombing a wall, which stood in the way of African migration to Europe and in the way of al Qaeda terrorists. This wall was Libya. You’re breaking it. You’re idiots, and you will burn in Hell for thousands of migrants from Africa.” Was he not stating the obvious? “

CeKikDxWIAAjUFoTom Nichols: Terrorists Kill Because They Hate Themselves For Loving The West (Jan, 2016) – Read the full piece here

” Even if we wanted to surrender completely, there’d be no way to do it. Insofar as their demand is to convert to their religion, we can’t meet that demand because, on any given day, they can’t meet it. If the way European jihadis live day to day is “Islam,” and the terrorists want me to convert to that, then all I can say is that I’ll have to stick to Christianity because I’m too old for that much partying.

These young men are fueled by the most intense kind of hatred there is: self-hatred. There is no accommodation with self-hatred. Would-be jihadis lash out at Western society not because they hate it so much, but because they love it so much. They hate us for who we are, and hate themselves for their addiction to a culture and all of its pleasures—sex, drugs, music—they’ve been told are the basest of sins. Too weak to resist the temptations of life among us, they hope that by destroying the source of the sins that tempt them, they will find redemption. “

Je suis Bruxelles

 

 

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