Tendance Coatesy

Left Socialist Blog

On the Fundamentally Flawed Stop the War Coalition Statement on the London Attacks.

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StWC: Deeply Flawed Response to London Atrocities. 

The events on Saturday have left millions deeply saddened.

It is to be welcomed that the Stop the War Coalition (StWC) has responded to the murders with a serious  statement.

Nevertheless, it is deeply flawed. 

Enough is enough: the government must change course.

The Stop the War Coalition is unequivocal in its condemnation of the latest terror attack in London which has left 7 innocent people dead and many more injured. We extend our sympathy to the relatives of the dead and injured.

For those that committed this crime killing was a means to an end. Like the Manchester attack which preceded it, these murders aimed at disrupting the election, at inflaming racial and religious divisions, and at provoking the government into repressive measures. Theresa May and her ministers show every sign of doing exactly what the terrorists hope they will do.

There is a cycle of violence here in which the role of successive governments is a central part. To destroy Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria by military intervention and not expect that these ruined and abandoned societies would spawn killers and provoke violent responses was always a policy blindness bordering on the perverse. And of course, UK military forces remain deployed in all these countries to this very day.

Nor will repression based on religious or racial profiling work. The Prevent programme has not prevented terrorism. Internment in Guantanamo did not work. France has continued to suffer racist attacks despite a State of Emergency that has lasted from 2015 to the present and has seen protests banned and tens of thousands arrested.

We urgently need a serious and in depth discussion of the causes of terrorism, not knee-jerk, populist rhetoric.

What is needed is an end to the failed wars abroad; an end to arms sales to Saudi Arabia, a major international incubator of terrorist ideology; an end to racial and religious profiling which so often ends in the demonisation of Muslims.

This, and only this, will begin to drain the swamp in which the terrorists thrive. Anything else perpetuates a mutually reinforcing cycle of violence.

The difficulties with this statement centre on  the sentence that as a result of Western interventions,  ” ruined and abandoned societies would spawn killers “. The West is to be blame for having sown dragon’s teeth. The dragon is fearful, but its the sowers who are the ones responsible.

But who are the people who aim at inflaming racial and religious hatred and disrupting the election?

Not a word.

Islamic State.

 A genuine debate on these issues has to begin with this: who are the Islamic State and what are their aims?

Daesh, ISIS, the group which has claimed that its supporters carried out the killings is a Salafist jihadi group, as Gilles Kepel has called them (for a discussion of Kepel’s. Le Prophète et Pharaon 1984. and  La Fracture 2016 see here) That is, they are rigorist pietist Islamists who, in distinction to some ‘quietist’ (inward looking) Salafists  are engaged directly in violence to impose Sharia law, an Islamic society, fitted out with a totalitarian state, to impose their views. Daesh is also highly sectarian, in the original religious sense. They are marked not just by their hatred of non-Sunni Muslims but for all Sunnis who do not accept their particular ‘line’ of Quranic literalist  interpretation.

Daesh is only the most notorious Salafist Jihadist organisation. If it is, at present, within a broader mouvance, the leading group, there have been many predecessors and their continue to exist competitors. Amongst the best known early example of Salfist jihadis were the Groupe Islamique Armé  (GIA) which slaughtered  thousands during the 1990s Algerian civil war – a conflict that does not fit at all into the “Western intervention causes Terrorism” pattern. Think about it. Just ask this question: what Western military presence was there during a conflict that cost several hundred thousand lives?

At present part of the GIA forms Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, the first part of whose name, Al-Qaeda leads us to a group which needs no further introduction.

The rise of Jihadi Salafism is not doubt the result of complex conditions. But once formed it has a concrete existence. Its development can outlined, from “Micro-powers” centred around ultra-pious Mosques, attempts to create ‘zones’ where Sharia law becomes part of everyday life, to efforts to capture state authority and the means of repression that guarantee religious ‘law’ and function in the total absence of any form of democracy.

At present the most visible  material form of this Salafist Jihadist  ideology, that is a power, with its military and political presence in Iraq and Syria, is ISIS.

The Islamic State is the proximate cause, the inspirer, if not the commander, of the London bloodbath. Daesh is at present the immediate cause of these attacks.

There are is much more to discuss. Whether, as many people believe, the ground for this totalitarian entity was prepared not just by the civil war in Syria and the US-allied occupation of Iraq, but by the finance of Wahhabist Islamist teaching by Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States (which formally support Al-Nusra in Syria and not ISIS), is open to discussion.

What is not open to debate it that religion not international politics, still less “imperialism” plays the major part in Daesh’s  strategy and actions.

How should we look at this? One false route is to ignore the role of faith and simply dismiss their ideas as a “perversion” of Islam.

In the Way of Strangers  Encounters with the Islamic State |(2017) Grahame Wood observes,

The notion that religious belief is a minor factor in the rise of the Islamic State is belied by the crushing weight of evidence that religion matters deeply to the vast majority of those who have travelled to fight. Not only does it issue mountains of Fatwas and other pious declarations, but also, Wood demonstrates, the Islamic state cannot be understood without a deep immersion in the ideology of Salafism and a variety of Islamic schools. The “simplest explanation” for their roots is that their founders were “extreme Islamists”. As for effort to dismiss their faith basis, those doing so rarely have any knowledge of the clerics and scholars in its ranks.

“Since 2010, tens of thousands of men, women and children have migrated to a theoretic state, under the belief that migration is a sacred obligation and that the state’s leader is the worldly successor of the last and greatest of prophets. If religious scholars see no role for religion in a mass movement like this, they see no role for religion in the world.”

As the Blog you are reading commented,

As one reads The Way of Strangers happy talk about Islam as a “religion of peace” quickly evaporates. The ‘literalist’ Islam of the Islamic, baked by scriptural authority, state sanctions the most severe forms of Hudud punishment, slavery, infamously including sexual captives, and the regulation of all aspects of personal life fused around loathing of the non-licit and the ‘kuffer’. It is obsessed with, The Way of Strangers continues, the takfir¸ the “sport” of declaring those who disagree with them and claim to be Muslims “apostates” under sentence of death. It has genocidal intentions, already put into practice against Yazidis. Wild dreams of a worldwide apocalypse the Islamic state’s followers, to come in decades not months, round off the picture.

Attacks by ISIS inspired, or organised, individuals and groups did not start in Britain.

In 2014 a man opened fire in the Jewish Museum in Brussels, leaving four people dead. On 30 May, Mehdi Nemmouche, who in 2013 had fought for Islamists in the Syrian Civil War  was arrested at a bus station in Marseilles and admitted to the shooting. This was the first incident of a European jihadist committing an act of terrorism after returning from Syria.

Without continuing this list, marked by the heart-rending terrorist murders that have been inflicted in France, Germany, Belgium, Turkey and elsewhere, the common cause is the existence of the Islamic caliphate, Daesh, in Syria and Iraq (Islamic terrorism in Europe (2014–present)

StWC confuses  one of the conditions for the rise of Daesh, military intervention in the Middle East, with the existence of ISIS, the immediate causal force behind these atrocities.

It does not mention explore in any detail the all-important regional and religious and inter-state  aspect to the war in the Middle East, between Iran and its Shia allies and the Saudi backed forces, a division from Syria all the way to Yemen.

It does not mention the Syrian civil war, with its own internal causes, either out of a deliberate wish to avoid its own failure to oppose resolutely the Assad regime or back the only forces consistently fighting against ISIS, the Kurdish armed militias of the YPG, their Arab allies or their  internationalist brigades.

Many will say that this absence is more than “policy blindness”. It is a sign of moral cowardice.

The Statement does not mention the StWC’s leaders (in the groupuscule Counterfire)  own past reactions to terrorism, notably during the massacre at Charlie Hebdo and the Hyper Cacher to ‘explain’ the murders in terms of a ‘blow back’ against the “West”, nor the vile suggestion by people such as George Galloway, Alex Callinicos, Tariq Ali and  Seumas Milne, that Charlie Hebdo “had it coming to them”.

Nor does it even begin a “serious and in depth discussion of the causes of terrorism.”

Let us have one.

The Present Terrorist Wave.

France is perhaps the place where such a discussion has taken place.

Gilles Kepel’s Terreur dans l’Hexagone, Genèse du djihad français,, with Antoine Jardi. 2015) just now out in paperback, traces how Jihadi Salafism gained an audience in France.

In a narrative that closely parallels  Kenan Malik‘s writings the authors portray a generational shift from a Muslim community in which secular anti-racism had an audience (in France, La Marche des Beurs 1983), to the present day inflection of Salafism and religious intolerance  in the banlieue. Social conditions in these quarters are perhaps fertile ground for the religious ideologues.

Does this explain the way they have taken shape?

Kepel’s critic, Olivier Roy, by contrast talks of the “Islamisation of radicalism” and the growth of a nihilistic ‘death cult” (Le Djihad et la mort. 2016). Roy considers that the historical sequence, from SOS-racisme, to increased pious observance,  to present day genocidal Islamism ignores a fundamental break in ideology. Salafism is not ‘one’ thing, a continuum from ultra-orthodox to violence. There is a new dimension: the willingness to kill and die.

Roy asks, “why, for the past 20 years, have terrorists regularly chosen to die? “

Roy has written (Guardian April 2017) of this “youth movement”,

My argument is that violent radicalisation is not the consequence of religious radicalisation, even if it often takes the same paths and borrows the same paradigms. Religious fundamentalism exists, of course, and it poses considerable societal problems, because it rejects values based on individual choice and personal freedom. But it does not necessarily lead to political violence.

The objection that radicals are motivated by the “suffering” experienced by Muslims who were formerly colonised, or victims of racism or any other sort of discrimination, US bombardments, drones, Orientalism, and so on, would imply that the revolt is primarily led by victims. But the relationship between radicals and victims is more imaginary than real.

Those who perpetrate attacks in Europe are not inhabitants of the Gaza Strip, Libya or Afghanistan. They are not necessarily the poorest, the most humiliated or the least integrated. The fact that 25% of jihadis are converts shows that the link between radicals and their “people” is also a largely imaginary construct.

It is less sure that his conclusion will be accepted, but it ought to be debated,

The systematic association with death is one of the keys to understanding today’s radicalisation: the nihilist dimension is central. What seduces and fascinates is the idea of pure revolt. Violence is not a means. It is an end in itself.

How does the StWC propose to deal with Jihadi Salafism, if Roy is to be believed, a death cult? That is a group prepared to kill the ‘kuffer’ the mecreants not just aimed at (as the StWC mind-readers claim), “provoking the government into repressive measures” but because they wish everybody who does not agree with them to submit or be murdered.

They start by asserting that Guantanamo Bay, the French state of Emergency and the Prevent Programme, have had no success.

This may well be the case.

StWC Proposals.

But what does the StWC offer?

Let us untangle their proposals.

  • What is needed is an end to the failed wars abroad.

Clearly this will not affect the armed forces of ISIS nor its blood-thirsty supporters. There is only way one can begin to defeat them, by physical force against their ‘Caliphate’.WHy not back, if the StWC is so reluctant to back the West, with support for the YPG, the Kurdish armed groups?

  •  an end to arms sales to Saudi Arabia, a major international incubator of terrorist ideology

If arms sales are stopped how will this alter the Saudi’s finance of Wahhabist hatred?

  • an end to racial and religious profiling which so often ends in the demonisation of Muslims.

It is hard to take this seriously.

How is not doing something – I had no idea that “profiling” was the cornerstone of anti-terrorist policing in the first place – going to stop terrorism?

The StWC statement offers a paradigm of radicalisation-attack-repression-radicalisation, the “mutually reinforcing cycle of violence”.

Or to put it more simply: the more you repress a radical group the greater its support and radicalisation.

Perhaps instead of not doing things – that is, not repressing – the StWC might consider that that, regardless of what the State or the government does, they could begin by making allies with secularist forces, like the Kurds cited above, and with liberal secular voices in the countries they express such concern about.

They could also make a far more effective reply to Theresa May’s appeal to ‘British values’ by stating support for universal human rights.

 

 

 

 

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Written by Andrew Coates

June 5, 2017 at 12:46 pm

7 Responses

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  1. Andrew Coates

    June 5, 2017 at 4:56 pm

  2. STW, predictably, rehashes the ‘blow back’ explanation for Islamist terrorism: the only “explanation” they are able to countenance, given their wretched politics.

    But the fact that there are real grievances which Islamists use as a way to recruit (or even, conceivably, that it is these grievances which motivate particular individuals to carry out atrocities) tells us absolutely *nothing* about the underlying motivation of their campaign.

    Of course it’s true, up to a point, that terror attacks are connected to Western foreign policy. But this in itself is not an explanation for them. We need to ask why people identify with these organisations – ones that aim to kill ordinary people as a primary purpose and not just ‘collateral damage’ – rather than socialist or nationalist ones. That bombs have dropped on Iraq and Afghanistan (or Syria, or wherever) is not an explanation.

    Islamists are not nationalists in the old sense, but something different – something whose political programme is not concerned with this or that specific grievance but with restoring the Caliphate, instituting sharia law, punishing apostates, and so on.

    Islamic State spelt it out with deadly clarity in July 2016: “The fact is, even if you were to stop bombing us, imprisoning us, torturing us, vilifying us, and usurping our lands, we would continue to hate you because our primary reason for hating you will not cease to exist until you embrace Islam”.

    Which rather makes a nonsense of ‘blow back’, doesn’t it?

    Jim Denham

    June 5, 2017 at 6:51 pm

  3. I agree Jim.

    As people have commented on this post it is open minded about explanations for the rise of Jihadists and ISIS social political and ideological terms.

    Kepler’s political continuum with Salafism, to Roy’s idea that there is some kind specifically modern form of a death cult – both of which note the totalitarian state they project and have tried to create over mountains of corpses – focus on what they *are* not just how they came to be.

    Roy ends his book by saying that there is not the remotest chance that this murderers will succeed in creating a long-lasting state.

    Which leaves open another question: how do we deal with the genociders and their accomplices if they are brought to justice?

    Andrew Coates

    June 6, 2017 at 12:05 pm

  4. Thanks to the French comrades for a very able translation of this text:

    A propos des attentats de Londres du 3 juin 2017. Un article d’Andrew Coates “Sur les erreurs fondamentales de la la Coalition contre la guerre (Stop the War Coalition)

    http://mondialisme.org/spip.php?article2606

    Andrew Coates

    June 7, 2017 at 4:35 pm

  5. The YPG might fight against ISIS, but they also collaborate with Assad, the worst terrorist of them all.

    Dick Gregory

    June 9, 2017 at 9:06 pm

  6. The StWC-aligned leader of the Labour Party, ably assisted by various StWC-aligned staff members, has just defied all the predictions of the Labour right and achieved a remarkable turnaround in his party’s fortunes, without making any significant concessions in his political stance on the West’s wars in the Middle East. This is despite the best efforts of the Daily Mail and Sun to frighten people away from Jeremy Corbyn by making a fuss, among other things, about his StWC connections. Labour’s good showing in such circumstances is not only a serious defeat for Theresa May but also for the assumptions behind Blairism and the so-called decent left. We StWC supporters have been enjoying today very much.

    Francis

    June 9, 2017 at 10:02 pm

  7. During the election campaign I heard absolutely nothing either for or against the StWC, and the name itself would not even be familiar to most members of the Labour Party.

    I very much doubt if the issue had an influence on the election whatsoever, although there are reports in a dramatic decline in self-identified Jewish voters not supporting Labour because of Corbyn’s position on Israel and Palestine, and issue which I do not cover at all.

    I await proof otherwise.

    So your comments aside, there is little prospect of the result being much help in your argument Francis.

    The arguments in this post however stand.

    Andrew Coates

    June 10, 2017 at 3:41 pm


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