Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Quotes of the day 23rd March 2016 - responding to the Brussels attacks

Britain will "stand together" with European neighbours to defeat terrorism said David Cameron after the Brussels attacks.

The Prime Minister said the UK "will do everything we can to help" Belgium, as security was stepped up at key locations and airports including Heathrow and Gatwick in response to the terrorist attacks. He added that:

"These are difficult times, these are appalling terrorists, but we must stand together to do everything we can to stop them and to make sure that although they attack our way of life and attack us because of who we are, we will never let them win."

After chairing a meeting of the Government's COBRA emergency committee to discuss events in Brussels, Mr Cameron said the UK terror threat level would stay at "severe" for now, but could be raised if necessary, and further commented that:

"We face a very real terrorist threat right across the countries of Europe and we have to meet that with everything we have."

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"There is no way any community can make itself immune to terror attacks.

"Since they are random, no protection can defend that community from them. No amount of police work or surveillance, no deployment of armies or navies, let alone of missiles or nuclear weapons, can guard against them. Intelligence and surveillance can go so far, but the bombers and killers will get through any net.

Political terror is as old as war. From the Roman legions to Bomber Command, the instilling of horror in civilian populations has been a standard weapon. “Fighting terrorism” is as meaningless as “fighting guns”.

What is not stupid is seeking to alleviate, or not aggravate, the rage that gives rise to acts of terror, and then to diminish the potency of the incident itself. The first requires a wiser foreign policy than most western nations have shown towards the Muslim world over the past decade. The second is even harder to achieve. It demands patience and restraint in publicising terrorist incidents and in responding to them.
           
The blanket media coverage assured for any act of violence is reckless. The media must “report”, but it need not go berserk in revelling in the violence caused, as it manifestly has done to Islamic State brutality. More serious, the intention of the terrorist is clearly to shut down western society, to show liberal democracy to be a sham and to invoke the persecution of Muslims. Yet that is the invariable response of the security industry to these incidents. Convinced of its potency, it dare not admit there are some things against which it cannot protect us. So when incidents occur it jerks the knee and demands ever more money and ever more power. It must not be given them."

(Simon Jenkins writing in the Guardian here.)

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President François Hollande declared his personal solidarity with the Belgian people, adding that when Brussels was attacked, “it is all of Europe that is hit”.

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"Aujourd'hui nous sommes tous Belge:
Today we are all Belgians.

A century ago Australian soldiers were about to launch into a series of battles in Belgium and France that would see tens of thousands of them die in the so-called Great War of 1914-1918.

Today our connection with Belgium remains as the latest chapter in the Long War against jihadist extremists unfolds on our screens, with dozens killed and many more wounded in obscene acts of violence at Brussels international airport and in the city's metro system.

The connection is palpable as we feel the issues resonate with those in our own society in Australia.

The scale of the terrorist acts are far greater in Brussels than anything we have experienced in recent times in Australia, to be sure, but the incidents point to shared concerns about what this portends and what it means for our multicultural and fragile societies and the security authorities charged with protecting us.

There are a couple of noteworthy factors we need to keep in mind. First, the terrorist acts have been claimed by the so-called Islamic State terror group - Daesh. This is consistent with their acts in Paris late last year, revealing a determination to persist and a canny awareness of where the key vulnerabilities remain in an open society which admittedly has sought to increase its levels of vigilance. Security screening equipment on the inside of the airport could do nothing to prevent the explosions carried out in the part of the building not subject to such screening.

Second, the terrorists' aims need to be clearly understood to help frame the most appropriate response. On this we must be clear: they seek to goad the West into over-reacting domestically through blanket repression and indiscriminate targeting of those that can all too easily be demonised as untrustworthy outsiders.
 
At the same time they strive for those on the margins of society to be inspired by the thrill of the attention, the violence and the millenarian rhetoric to join the movement and perpetuate the violence.

How to respond? The words of the catchy slogan intended for use during London's wartime blitz has resonance for today: we need to "keep calm and carry on". By responding coolly and rationally, and avoiding emotional responses we avoid giving them what they want."

(John Blaxland, senior fellow at the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre at the Australian National University in an excellent article which you can read in full here.)

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"The thoughts and the prayers of the American people are with the people of Belgium."

"We stand in solidarity with them in condemning these outrageous attacks against innocent people."

"This is yet another reminder that the world must unite. We must be together regardless of nationality or race or faith in fighting against the scourge of terrorism."

(President Obama)

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“We are shocked to hear about the terror attacks in Brussels, coming as they did only a few days after the horrific atrocities in Istanbul. I hope the killers are brought to justice and face the full force of the law.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims, families and communities affected.

"As we come to terms with yet another attack on European soil, we must redouble our efforts to work together to defeat terrorism wherever it comes from. These mass murderers want to divide our society and pit people against each other. We must deny them this goal at every conceivable opportunity.”

(Dr Shuja Shafi, Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain, in a statement from the Muslim Council of Britain condemning the attacks in Brussels )

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