Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Defeating Terrorism

I do not expect to se a final end to terrorism in my lifetime.

But I do believe that terrorism and extremism can and will be defeated.

The last few weeks have been marked by some truly horrible events. It started with indiscriminate bombings in Turkey - and although I have some serious differences with President Erdo─čan, murdering Turkish citizens is a completely wrong and will not solve any problems anyone has in or with Turkey.

Then in quick succession we had the bombings in Brussels, and the reported crucifixion on Good Friday by DA'ESH of a Catholic priest from India who been kidnapped while helping the less fortunate and had never done the so-called "Islamic State" any harm. Finally and perhaps worst of all, a splinter group of the Pakistani Taleban detonated a bomb in a public park, near a children's play area, in Lahore, Pakistan, which killed at least 72 people, many of them children, and injured more than three hundred. The majority of the dead and injured were women and children and, although the villains responsible said they were targeting "Christians celebrating Easter" the majority of victims were actually Muslim.

I make that last point only to demonstrate that the people responsible made no attempt to make their act of mass murder conform even to the sick and twisted explanation they gave, not because I think there is an iota of moral difference between murdering Christian women and children or murdering  Muslim women and children, or murdering any other group of women and children.

Far too many people, including some who ought to know better, have bent over backwards to try to excuse or explain the actions of terrorist, or to justify them in terms of criticism of the West's Foreign policy. Of course the West has made mistakes, and some of those mistakes may have matters worse. But nothing that Pakistan had done could possibly justify or explain in those terms the murder of all those innocent people who were enjoying a day in the park with their families.

We have to recognise that whether it was America on 11th September 2001, London on 7th June 2005, Mumbai in 2008, Paris last year or Ankara, Brussels and Lahore this year, the people responsible are not acting in support of any rational or attainable objective or to rectify a grievance which any reasonable action will resolve: they are acting from a degree of hate, anger and bloodlust which has gone far past the rational and which no concession or compromise will stop.

We have to target the extremists who pervert a great religion, Islam, to support such crimes without making an enemy of all the millions of decent people who follow that religion.

We need to massively improve the way we use and share intelligence - and incidentally that will be true whether Britain is in or out of the European Union.

And where we are up against an enemy who controls territory, we must take it away from them.

On that front at least, DA'ESH (the so-called "Islamic State") is more vulnerable than the group it broke away from, Al Queda. That's because DA'ESH has declared an Islamic "Caliphate" which gives it certain theological advantages but to retain them it has to hold territory.

When we took their territory in Afghanistan away from the Taleban and Al Queda they just went underground, but DA'ESH cannot do that. No territory, no caliphate.

And the simple fact is that they are losing that territory. Most recently Palmyra has been recaptured from DA'ESH by Syrian forces. In the last year the territory controlled by the so-called caliphate in Iraq and Syria has shrunk by about 25%. The Economist magazine records here how DA'ESH is losing ground on their home turf.

As Jim King posted on this blog a short while ago, "Never underestimate a terrorist" must become the maxim of every civilised nation.

But they can, must and will be defeated.

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