The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

Tag: Terrorism

Do Not Ask Western Leadership to Fix Anything

References to Corbyn aside, this is as true as it was when I first published in, Nov 16, 2015. I was going to write a new article on trust in leadership, and I will, but I want to emphasize the basics first.

Why are people calling for Western leaders to “fight terrorism”?

Global deaths from terrorism:

2002: 725

2010: 13,186

2014: 32,727

Those attacks mostly weren’t hitting the West. Now, a tiny fraction are.


Without the US arming and organizing the Afghani Mujahideen in the eighties there is no Al-Qaeda.

Without the US and British invasion of Iraq, there is no ISIS.

Understand this: Widespread global terrorism exists because of the US’s actions specifically and the West’s generally.

Let us turn now to economics. Inequality has been increasing since the 1970s. It has become worse every decade, with only minor reversals. After the financial crisis, it became so bad that more than all the productivity gains in the environment went to the top three percent.

This happened in large part due to various financial, economic, and legislative “reforms.” It was deliberate, in other words. Inequality is a result of deliberate action by US leadership.

Austerity is, likewise, the result of deliberate action by Western elites, generally. They decided to deliberately impoverish their citizens and have done so.

This is not unique to the West. India claims much economic progress, but the average number of calories eaten per capita has gone down over the last thirty years. The average Indian is worse off than they were when India was run on frankly socialist principles.

The leadership classes are chosen for their ability and desire to become leaders. If that overlaps with an ability and desire to make their society good for the majority of the population, that’s great, but in most countries right now, that’s not how or why they are selected.

These people are selected by oligarchs, for oligarchs, and their skillset is pleasing oligarchs. This is done through a system that selects candidates before they get to voters, even primary voters or the equivalent. In most cases, you do not get a choice of a leader who will put ordinary people’s interests first.

To see what happens when someone does slip through, take a look at how UK Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn has been treated by the Press. I have never seen such libelous coverage of a political leader. One UK headline yesterday read “Corbyn and his friends must choose what side they are on” with respect to the Paris attacks.

Here is what Corbyn said, by the way:

“Today, all our thoughts and sympathy are with the people of Paris.

“What took place in the French capital yesterday was horrific and immoral.

“We stand in solidarity with the people of France – as with all victims of terror and violence.

“I have cancelled my engagements today to hold discussions on events in France with shadow cabinet colleagues and be briefed by Downing Street security officials.

“It’s vital at a time of such tragedy and outrage not to be drawn into responses which feed a cycle of violence and hatred.

“We are proud to live in a multicultural and multi-faith society, and we stand for the unity of all communities.”

This is an eminently sane, statesmanlike statement that simply says our response should not make the situation worse, but Corbyn is being vilified for it.

This sort of propaganda works, Corbyn took over the Labour leadership with negative favorability ratings, virtually unheard of. He did so because he had been endlessly smeared by the Press.

Let me blunt. Anyone who wants our leadership to “fix” terrorism has either not been paying attention, is a fool, or is a tool who knows they’ll make it worse but expects to personally benefit in some way.

This situation is similar to the Iraq war in the sense that anyone stupid and immoral enough to invade Iraq could not be expected to run the war in a way which would lead to good results.  One can make a  theoretical case that an invasion of Iraq could have worked out well, but that can’t happen in the real world because no one who would invade Iraq in the first place would be competent or just enough to actually implement improvements.

Note, however, that the Iraq war was an immense profit opportunity and that a great deal of money was funneled to the right people. Again, this is one of our leaders’ core competencies, this is what they do well.

Years ago, Stirling Newberry told me that the job of modern politicians was to wrangle the masses for oligarchs. He was right. That is what they do. They are good at manipulating enough of the population, and they are good at giving money and power to those who already have both.

They are not good at anything else, and expecting them to do anything else is insane.

You do not want Hollande, Obama, and Cameron (let alone Erdogan) trying to fix the Middle East. You do not want the people who report to them trying to do so. You do not want western militaries trying to do so.

At least not if you want a reduction, rather than an increase, in terrorism.

The first rule of holes applies. The first thing you want the leadership to do is stop digging. Other than criminal investigations, you should want them to do nothing. No military action, no legislative changes. Military action hasn’t worked, legislative changes will just be more gutting of civil liberties, and that hasn’t worked either.

This is true of virtually everything. They cannot and will not fix inequality, because their raison d’etre is to create inquality. They cannot fix the financial system or the economy because it exists as it is to increase inequality. They cannot run a war because they were not chosen for that sort of competence.

If you want to fix any problem in the West, or have the West be helpful for fixing any global problem, you need to fix the Western leadership class. That means fixing Western media, education, corporations, etc, etc. The list is long, because they have deliberately broken virtually everything to turn it into an opportunity for a very few people to become richer.

If you are British, you have a decent, honorable man who actually wants to do almost all the right things: Corbyn. Get to work supporting him, however you can. If he goes down, the political class will take it as a lesson that trying to help ordinary people is a really bad idea. (Well, they have already decided this, so work to prove them wrong.)

But, in general, you need to retake control of the system which creates leaders, you need to restructure, bypass, or break the media conglomerates (or all three), and you will need to restructure society from the ground up so that it does not produce either such corrupt leaders or the people who enable them.

This is a goddamn big job. It is far harder than dropping some bombs on the Middle East, or sending in the troops again. But it is an actual solution to a whole series of problems.

In the meantime, don’t ask your leadership to “fix” anything. That’s not what they are there for. Whenever they want to do anything, your default position should be to oppose it–unless you are 100 percent certain it’s in your interest and have done the hard, cold research and thinking to support that conclusion. Sure, sometimes you’ll be wrong, but most of the time you’ll be right, because they are not in power to make your lives better, but to enrich a small class of people and impoverish the majority.

Any knock-on effects, like terrorism, are secondary to them, and even if they had the desire to fix such problems, they cannot–they do not have the ability. They will simply make them worse, even if it was possible they were sincerely trying to do good.

If you live in the West, the great danger to your life, health, and prosperity is your leadership. It is how your society is run. This is cold, hard, and true.

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Remembering 9/11

I was working that day, in an office. Everything ground to a halt, and management gave up and opened an auditorium with a large screen playing the events as they happened.

After it was all clear, I turned to a co-worker and said “Jesus, I hope they don’t attack the wrong people.” He thought the idea was absurd.

Well, we all know how it turned out.

Most of the attackers were Saudi citizens, and it still smells to me like a Saudi operation. Certainly, if any country was going to be attacked, it should have been Saudi Arabia, the source of the poison which has corrupted Islam throughout the world.

As for the US, its soul was always rotten, but after everything Bush Jr. did–his re-election in 2004 was sickening– Americans knew, and enough of them were OK with it.

The US did change after 9/11, however; the Patriot Act was vile, evil, authoritarian, and almost no one voted against it. The war in Iraq was a simple war crime, and every senior person involved in it is guilty of the same crime that most of the Nazis were hung for at Nuremburg. I’d include everyone who voted for the enabling act, myself.

If the 2000 election theft hadn’t happened, 9/11 likely wouldn’t have happened, and even if it had, the aftermath wouldn’t have been as bad. Plus, Gore would have worked on climate change.

It’s all a clusterfuck, and it started with Bush v. Gore and 9/11.

Oh, and Bin Laden won. He got the US to do things that weakened it badly. That’s what he wanted.

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Happiness, Love, and Terrorism

So, we’re seeing more attacks by motorists. (edited since the Japanese attack turned out to not be an attack. Woops.)

Many years ago, decades ago, I used to wonder why people didn’t use cars and trucks directly in terrorist attacks, not just as vehicles for bombs. Automobiles are one of the only things government can’t take away from people, because our entire society is set up to require them.

John Taylor Gatto, amusingly, used the fact that everyone had cars and almost never deliberately hit anyone as proof that people could, basically, be trusted.

That’s breaking down.

Look, this is simple enough. Our lives suck ass. Despite Abe’s manipulated stats, living in Japan is hellish, even if you are in the system. If you aren’t in the system, it’s beyond hellish.

As for most of the West, most people haven’t had a raise in 40 years, and while inflation stats say, “Hey, that’s okay, because wages have slightly exceeded inflation,” that’s BS, especially in the US, where prices for everything you MUST have, like food, medicine, and housing have increased far faster than wages.

The culture has also moved increasingly to a surveillance culture. This isn’t just about government (cameras everywhere) or private companies who try to track everything we do and are pretty successful; it’s about us–with parents, for example, turning into helicopter parents who basically never let their children have unsupervised time without adults around.

And if you do try, well the cops and children’s services will take your children away from you.

In workplaces more and more electronic devices track what workers do minute by minute and in some cases, like Amazon warehouses, by seconds.

Meanwhile, we have an ideology which says that if you have money you deserve to have it, and if you don’t, you don’t deserve to have it. So not only do you get to be poor, you get to feel bad because you weren’t enough of a psychopath to climb the corporate ladder. (Yes, yes, a few people get rich without engaging in psychopathic behaviour. Maybe you’re one of them. You are an exception.)

Back in the 70s and even 80s, which I remember well, there were no security guards in most buildings. Most governments did not have blast barriers. You could just walk into legislatures. This is not an exaggeration.

We have created a hell world, then we wonder why people eventually freak out and do hellish things.

Why they take what little power they have and kill.

Oh yes, they shouldn’t, blah, blah, blah. Why you are in just as bad a place as they are and you haven’t, so they shouldn’t, because you are the measure of all things.

But human nature resides on bell curves. There are always going to be some people at the ends of the curves. Move the center 10 percent over and you get a lot more than a 10 percent increase in violence.

Who doesn’t commit violence?

Happy people who love the people around them and are looking forward to their future. Those people only commit violence when they or their loved ones are attacked, or if their government tells them to (the last one is rarely to their credit).

It isn’t more complicated than that. If you create a dystopian surveillance society, raise prices on things people need faster than wages will provide for and tell people they are bad people for not being successful when your society makes it harder and harder to be successful and worse and worse for those who fail, some of them are going to flip out.

Eventually, enough may lose patience and stop believing they are the ones who suck, and cause a revolution instead.

I just hope they kill the right people when the time comes. Because don’t think they won’t kill.

A reminder to any members of the elite reading this: Those who have more power have more responsibility. Your subjects are largely what you made them. You will eventually reap as you have sowed.

Indeed you are already, but so far most of this violence hasn’t hit you.

Don’t expect that to continue. More flip-outs are going to target people with power as time goes on.

Bank on it.

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The Hilarious Saudi-Canadian Dispute & The Less Hilarious Terrorism Threat From Saudi Arabia

So, the Saudis are very very upset that Canada dared suggest they not violate human rights.

This is the offending tweet:

It started with a bit of fair tit-for-tat: The observation that Canada doesn’t treat its indigenous people well. Totally fair and true.

But then the Saudis, errr, escalated…

The Canadian ambassador to Saudi Arabia was expelled. Fifteen thousand Saudi students in Canadian universities have been ordered to go home and Saudi citizens in Canadian hospitals are being airlifted to non-Canadian hospitals.

Saudi Arabia has also ordered all state related organs holding Canadian securities to dump them, causing a drop in the Canadian dollar.

My reaction to all this is amusement, truly at the laugh-out-loud level.

Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, Mohammad bin Salman, is hilariously incompetent and foolish. He keeps over-reaching. He tried to take out Qatar with an embargo and failed. He’s got an ongoing war with Yemen which is going to turn into a genocide. He’s selling off income-creating state assets to try and turn around the economy, in a step which will actually reduce state income and not improve the economy enough to make a difference.

He locked up a bunch of his relatives and other powerful Saudis, appears to have tortured them (at least one to death), and forced them to pay ransom to be released.

He’s running Saudi Arabia. He’s clearly an extraordinarily dangerous megalomaniac.

And his people threatened Canada with a terrorist attack!

There is no way that tweet can be taken as anything but a threat.

As Magnier says, any terrorist threat, especially by the biggest source of terrorist funding in the world, Saudi Arabia, should be taken seriously.

But…yeah, I’m sorry, fuck bin Salman. He seems to be confused about how much power he actually has. Canada needs nothing from Saudi Arabia. Nothing. We have plenty of our own oil, and that’s the only thing that Saudi Arabia has that matters in the world today.

Money? We have too much foreign money flooding in. Saudi Arabia’s money is a drop in the bucket compared to the Chinese money that has made housing unaffordable in all major Canadian cities.

Our problem isn’t getting foreign money. Our problem is we need to get rid of most of it. And if the Canadian dollar drops some, that’s fine. We export a lot.

As for the terrorist threat, by the leading terrorist country in the world (the US is it’s only competition), well, I do take it seriously. After all, most of the 9/11 attackers were from Saudi Arabia.

What Canada should do is just let it be known that if any attack that even remotely looks related to Saudi Arabia hits Canada, we’ll start supplying Saudi enemies with weapons–all the stuff that the Saudis don’t want them to have.

Oh, and as NATO members, we’ll blame Saudi Arabia, and state that an attack on one is an attack on all.

Saudi Arabia has only one card left that matters, other than terrorism: Selling oil in US dollars. That is it. Once the petro-dollar is broken (and it is going to be because other countries are moving to sell in something other than dollars), the US has no reason to continue supporting them.

Meanwhile, the rise of solar and electric cars means that the last oil boom is probably done, and if not, there’ll only be one more. Bin Salman’s desperate, and desperately stupid moves to try and diversify the economy won’t work: It’s too late and he’s doing it the wrong way.

The Saudi state will run out of money, and when states run out of money? That is when revolutions occur. Running out of money to pay the citizenry off and the enforcers is when it always happens.

Hopefully Bin Salman will be killed cleanly and not tortured, but I suspect a lot of his victims hope he gets a taste of his own medicine.

Saudi Arabia’s problems have almost nothing to do with foreigners making toothless observations about civil rights. Bin Salman should end his idiotic war in Yemen, stop picking foreign fights, then stand down and let someone competent take the reins. It’s the only chance his family has of keeping control of Saudi Arabia.

But, frankly, his family should lose control. Can’t happen soon enough. It’s just sad that so many people will suffer along the way. But that suffering is the responsibility of the Saudi royal family, not some powerless foreigners commenting on women’s rights who anyone with a sense of proportion would simply have ignored.


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The Word Terrorism

This word still means nothing except “violence committed by non-state actors.”

Multiple states routinely target weddings, funerals, and hospitals.

I remain unable to see the difference, except that state actors kill a lot more people.

Oh, and people’s suffering is not less real or worthy of sympathy if they have less or more melanin than you–or are from a different religion or a different culture.

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The Nice Attacks

A truck has plowed into a crowd at a Bastille Day celebration. Reports suggest about 60 casualties.

This is a tragedy.

It is not any more of a tragedy than the US attack on an MSF hospital in Afghanistan.

It is not more of a tragedy than the deliberate targeting of the Iraqi sewage system during the Gulf War.

The blood and pain of people who are not like you is not one whit less important than the blood and pain of people who are like you.

The number of people hurt and killed is important. Less death and pain is preferable to  more death and pain.

Every single person killed or harmed by ISIS is the responsibility of George W. Bush and Tony Blair, along with the governments and militaries who backed them. There is no ISIS without the Iraq war. (It’s unclear if ISIS will claim responsibility, but the point remains that this terrorism is the result of the Iraq war.)

Causality is important when dealing with ethics. The consequences of invading Iraq were forseen by everyone with even the slightest amount of sense. Even the CIA and British intelligence called the consequences correctly.

Until people get their ethical reasoning straight, they will continue to create hellscapes.

I feel great sympathy for those in Nice who have lost someone. I feel no more sympathy for them than for all the Iraqis who have lost someone.

We are either all human, or we aren’t. A world where we aren’t is Hell.

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What Matters Is Character (Terrorism and Rights Edition)

This chart tells you not about terrorism, but about the nature of the people living in and running Western Europe today.

terrorism attacks from 70 from Quartz

So, not even close to peak.

Yet Europeans in the 70s did not get rid of their civil liberties in the way that France, for example, has. They also did not react with the frankly embarrassing pant-wetting fear we have seen. Maybe that’s because, in the 70s, there were still plenty of people around who remembered World War II.

Terrorism is a serious threat to developed nations only because of the way we react to it. We, or our leaders, or both, seem determined to give up liberties and freedom over a danger far less likely to kill any of us than walking across the street.

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Bombing, Air Power, and “Winning” in Syria

Let us speak today of what should be done if someone wanted to actually bring peace to Syria.

First: Airpower not in support of ground troops is largely, though not entirely, worthless. This has been demonstrated over and over again since, and including during, World War II. It does not significantly degrade the your opponent’s fighting ability, and disproportionately harms civilians.

So, if you want to do something even remotely productive or effective in Syria, you need ground troops.

However, foreign ground troops have not been able to bring peace to Iraq or Afghanistan. It’s safe to say that Western ground troops, while good at open field battle, are terrible at creating peace. The reason for that is too long to go into, but let’s not pretend otherwise; there is an extensive track record.

Right now, the French are bombing abandoned buildings in Raqqa (doing nothing of significance).  If they actually tried to bomb ISIS they would kill civilians, a non-productive response to ISIS killing French civilians.

So, air power must be used in support of ground troops. The other consideration, if you want to defeat ISIS, is that you have to support its enemies. This means supporting the Syrian army, Hezbollah, the Kurds, Iran, and Iraqi troops.

Notice that this is essentially the strategy Russia is pursuing.

You also can’t play both, or all sides. Being against Assad and against ISIS, and allied with Turkey, who hates the Kurds and bombs them (when the Kurds are some of the most effective people fighting ISIS) is crazy.

Make an alliance and stick with it.

The West is caught between multiple allies with different interests. The Gulf States, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Israel all want Assad gone, for different reasons.

But Assad wasn’t executing terrorist attacks in France, was he? Nor was he bombing those nations who have supported ISIS and various al-Qaeda affiliates, the people who are sponsoring attacks in the West.

Strategic confusion is the core problem. The West wants to eat its cake and have it too. The people who are fighting ISIS are people the West mostly doesn’t want to support, the people supplying ISIS are mostly people the West regards as allies.

The West is confused. Does it want ISIS (and al-Qaeda) defeated more than it wants to be rid of Assad or not?

This is a choice which must be made. The West can’t have both.

(Nov 18: Article corrected to indicate French bombing empty facilities.)

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