Paris felt the lash of Islamic terrorism last week – 20 dead, more than a score injured. Journalists at the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo were methodically executed; hostages slaughtered at a Jewish supermarket, a policeman and woman slain amidst the mayhem. Three gunmen laid siege to Western security and freedom of expression – on television – until they were killed.The threat posed by radicalised Muslims could not be more present or clear.
Some 40 world leaders linked arms at the solidarity rally that followed, a thin blue line in the clash of civilisations. Millions of Parisians turned-out in defiance. ‘I am Charlie’ invaded newsrooms everywhere and # Charlie went viral. The media desperately recycled their favourite home videos of extremists to decipher the toxic theology of the ‘Other’. All concluded that Syrian President Bashar Assad had somehow ‘turned’ the jihadis set on him by the West.
There are those who insist the Paris attacks bear the hallmarks of yet another false flag operation intended to sustain a mythical war on terror. As usual these dissenters raise awkward questions. So do research scientists John Mueller and Mark Stewart. They examined the fifty cases of Islamic terrorism up to 2012 in which the US was or was apparently targeted, at home or abroad. They found that in the eleven years since 9/11 no terrorist had been able to detonate even a primitive bomb in the United States.
A total of perhaps 16 people died in these attacks as a result of gunfire. This includes 12 soldiers and a civilian killed by a military psychiatrist at the Fort Hood deployment centre in Texas, a soldier shot at a military recruitment centre in Little Rock, Arkansas and two employees gunned down at the El Al ticket counter in Los Angeles airport.
The first two incidents are described as “lone wolf attacks”, a stereotype of the disgruntled outsider popularised by intelligence agencies, and must therefore be treated with caution. The third was only later considered to be a terror attack. By comparison there were sixty to seventy terrorist incidents, mostly bombings, on U.S. soil every year through the 70s.
The Department of Homeland Security says “terrorists have proven to be relentless, patient, opportunistic, and flexible, learning from experience and modifying tactics and targets to exploit perceived vulnerabilities and avoid observed strengths”. The case studies revealed they were in fact “incompetent, ineffective, unintelligent, idiotic, ignorant, inadequate, unorganised, misguided, muddled, amateurish, dopey, unrealistic, moronic, irrational, and foolish”.
Moreover despite warnings of thousands of Al Qaeda cells there has been a dearth of domestic terrorists. The solution has been to create them. The evidence shows police are getting better at this and operatives embedded in terrorist plots now considerably outnumber would-be terrorists.
Nearly half the cases involved undercover agents grooming the gullible. “The FBI has developed a network of nearly 15,000 spies to infiltrate various communities in an attempt to uncover terrorist plots. However, these moles are actually assisting and encouraging people to commit crimes. Many informants receive cash rewards of up to $100,000 per case.”
Mueller and Stewart found the response to terrorism since 9/11 was massively disproportionate to any danger Al Qaeda presented. To justify the expense the security apparatus would have to foil a major attack almost every day of the year. The government has stoked fear by inventing a new peril -“homegrown terrorism” – and making foiled terror plots even more frightening than those that succeeded.
It’s resulted in internalised anxiety and the startling phenomenon that 35 to 40 percent of Americans still worry about being killed in a terrorist attack although it is one of the least likely ways to die in the US. The response to September 11, the researchers concluded, was overwrought, extraordinarily exaggerated, essentially delusional and likely to be perpetual.