Monday, November 16, 2015

Daily Times Editorial Nov 16, 2015

Bloodbath response The simultaneous attacks at six different locations in Paris by Islamic State (IS) on Friday night reaped a toll of 129 innocent people killed, 116 wounded, of whom 67 are reportedly critical. The worst carnage occurred in the Bataclan concert hall where a musical event was in progress. Eighty-seven young people were slaughtered there by attackers who coldbloodedly fired indiscriminately at the crowd, calmly taking time to reload and finish off people at point blank range before commandos assaulted the hall and rescued dozens of people. Forty people were killed in five other attacks, including a double suicide bombing outside the Stage de France where President Francoise Hollande was watching a football match. The president was immediately whisked away and he has declared a state of emergency, the first in France since World War II. Apart from the concert hall and stadium, cafe terraces were raked with machine-gun fire. President Hollande described it as an act of war by IS on France. It is being called the worst terrorist attack in Europe since the Madrid train bombings of 2004 in which 191 people died. Six of the attackers blew themselves up. A seventh was shot dead by the police. The existence of an eighth gunman could not be confirmed. The whole carnage lasted 40 minutes, with automatic weapons and explosives used indiscriminately to target innocent victims going about their business or just relaxing and having a good time. France's response to the atrocity has been to reimpose border controls to prevent any collaborators of the terrorists escaping, local sports events were suspended, concerts cancelled, the Paris metro, schools, universities and municipal buildings closed. Emergency services were mobilised, police leaves cancelled and 1,500 troops drafted. While hospitals recalled staff to cope with casualties, radio stations warned Parisians to stay home and give shelter to anyone caught out in the streets. President Hollande promised a 'merciless' response, but it is still not clear what that means. IS has called the attacks 'the first of the storm', indicating there may be more attacks inside France and Europe as a whole. The whole world has expressed grief and solidarity against this mindless violence against peaceful innocent citizens. Although there are no words to describe the horror of IS's latest atrocity, the reasons seem obvious. Just as a Russian airliner from Sharm el-Sheikh was reportedly bombed the other day and all passengers killed in retaliation it is surmised for Russia's intervention in Syria against IS, France is now on the receiving end of revenge attacks by IS for the country's role in support of the western aerial strikes campaign against IS in Syria and Iraq. It would perhaps be insensitive to describe in the middle of the tragedy the cost to innocent victims of their government's policy in the Middle East as the chickens coming home to roost, but there is no denying the nexus between the mess created in the Middle East and North Africa by western interventions and the retaliatory revenge attacks being claimed by IS. President Barack Obama was elected on a platform of ending his predecessor George Bush's wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Disappointingly, however, while he has created an even bigger mess in both countries through ill thought through withdrawals, he can also boast of the signal honour of starting two new wars in Libya and Syria, the former leading to the destabilisation of North Africa (the Maghreb) and the latter the wider Middle East. Gaddafi's overthrow in Libya at the hands of western-backed insurgents supported by NATO bombardment has left that country in a parlous civil war and sparked off jihadi conflicts in the Maghreb and even deeper south in black Africa. The Syrian intervention's obsession with overthrowing Bashar al-Assad arguably opened the door to the rise of IS. If George Bush's revenge against al Qaeda for 9/11 could be likened to swatting a fly with a sledgehammer, an endeavour whose 'splat' spread the jihadi affliction far and wide, Obama's interventions into the cauldron of the Middle East and North Africa have exponentially increased the terrorist threat beyond borders. Unless the US abandons its quest to unseat Assad, recognises his objective status as an ally in the fight against IS, dumps its jihadist proxies in Syria (which include the al Qaeda affiliated Al Nusra Front), and persuades its western allies as well as friends in the Middle East and beyond to join ranks against IS and construct a collective global architecture to demolish the hydra of IS, the terrorist international will continue to enjoy the initiative and have ample opportunity to replicate the Paris massacre.

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