Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Charlie Hebdo (1): double standards

Tariq Ramadan on Al Jazeera English, 8.1.2015, says: we must value Arab lives equally  - Syria, Iraq, Gaza ... Quite right. He continues in the same vein in The Guardian (The Paris attackers hijacked Islam but there is no war between Islam and the west, 10.1):
We are reacting emotionally because 12 people were killed in Paris,  but there are hundreds being killed day in,  day out in Syria and Iraq,  and still we send more bombs.
Oh dear,  that last phrase.  Most of the people killed in Syria are by bombs sent by the Assad government , while in Iraq and Syria,  ISIL are carrying out massacres and cold-blooded executions and it is against them that we are sending  bombs.

.Jonathan Freedland writes (Charlie Hebdo: first they came for the cartoonists, then they came for the Jews):
So far there have been mercifully few attempts to make the usual, kneejerk move, insisting that the animating grievance must be western foreign policy. It is hard to draw that conclusion when the targets have been a satirical magazine and a shop selling salt beef and pickles.
It did not take long for that to be done, by none other, perhaps unsurprisingly, than former French Prime Minister, Dominique de Villepin. His views were echoed (again unsurprisingly) by Alain Gresh of Le Monde Diplomatique. This is de Villepin:
The West has created Islamic terrorism and ISIL is the nasty child of the arrogance of the West's policies.
The Western intervention in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Mali has led to an increase in the number of the jihadists  (Inside Story, AJE, 11.1)
De Villepin's views on the 2003 intervention in Iraq are of course well known and often repeated.  There is a strong argument that the action was not justified,  was even counter-productive in terms of the fight against terrorism (or jihadists or violent islamism).  It is a well-worn refrain that "there was no al Qaeda in Iraq before 2003" (though there was some, near the Iranian border,  but probably not with the collusion of the regime).  But it should also not be forgotten that there was no al Qaeda in Syria before,  without any intervention from the West, its people carried out an uprising against a dictator,  which was brutally suppressed.

It is strange, though, that de Villepin lumps in Afghanistan and Mali.  In Afghanistan,  the US intervention in 2001  removed an AQ safe haven.  In Mali,  separatist rebels,  then islamists, took control of the North when government forces collapsed following a military coup.  Most people in towns like Gao and Timbuktu,  mainly non-Tuareg, were unhappy with being under the control of the rebels.  The French intervention (in January 2013) was again entirely justified,  as the rebels were moving into the centre and south of the country.

As for Libya,  no-one could deny that it now does not have an effective government.  But what would de Villepin have preferred?  That we stood by while Gaddafi suppressed the uprising?  That seems to me to be a counsel of despair:  al Qaeda was at a low ebb when the "Arab Spring" seemed to be going well.  There is an argument that is at least equally as strong that it was Western non-intervention in Syria that created the conditions for Al Qaeda in Iraq to come back as ISIL (or "Islamic State") and that tolerance of a military coup in Egypt facilitated the resurgence of jihadis generally.

Cherif Kouachi,  who is said to have been originally radicalised by the US abuses in Abu Ghraib,  interviewed by French TV, after the Charlie Hebdo attack: 
I,  Cherif Kouachi, was sent by al Qaeda in Yemen. ... Did we kill civilians during the two days you've been looking for us.
Interviewer: you killed journalists.
Kouachi:  But did we kill civilians?  Civilians or people during the two days that you looked for us?
Interviewer: Wait,  wait,  Cherif, Cherif,  did you kill this morning? Kouachi:  We are not killers. .. We don't kill women.  We kill no one. .. We are not like you. You are the ones killing [ inaudible] muslims [ or women and children, according to the English subtitles] in Syria,  Iraq and Afghanistan. [..]
Interviewer: But you took revenge there nonetheless,  you killed 12 people. 
Kouachi: Yes,  to take revenge , as you said.  That's it,  because we took revenge.
Amedy Coulibaly did kill a trainee policewoman in Montrouge in the South of Paris,  before killing 4 Jewish people at a kosher supermarket in porte de Vincennes in the east of the city (Coulibaly's partner and Chérif Kouachi's wife had exchanged more than 500 'phone calls the previous year,  French authorities revealed). Elsa Cayat ("Charlie Divan") was among those killed at Charlie Hebdo.  The Kouachis did spare Corinne Rey ("Coco"),  who was about to leave to pick up her daughter from kindergarten,  but threatened her with their guns,  forcing her to enter the security code giving them access to the magazine's offices.

(1) Incidentally,  in case you wondered who the man was on Francois Hollande's right at the rally in Paris on 11.1,  The Guardian provided this useful guide: it's Mali's President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita (elected democratically following that French intervention);  Benjamin Netanyahu is on IBK's right,  Mahmoud Abbas is 3rd from Hollande's left.
And something I've just come across: Coulibaly's family was of Malian origin and there was some speculation that his body might go to Mali for burial.

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