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#ParisAttacks: Let's face it, the West has made a mess

Prem Shankar Jha | Updated on: 13 February 2017, 9:13 IST

The attack

  • 132 people were killed in the attacks in Paris on Friday
  • It is clear that the French government did not take even basic security precautions

The failures

  • Western countries turned a blind eye to the brutalities of the ISIS
  • They ended up destablising Syria, the only secular country in the region

As anguished French men and women speak up, it is becoming more and more apparent that despite the massacre at the office of Charlie Hebdo last February, the French government had not taken the basic precautions that have become mandatory even in India.

Speaking to Russia Today, one woman described how restaurants, hotels and cinema houses do not have x-ray screening. More dangerous still is that there is no screening of luggage, let alone of people, entering airport buildings or boarding trains.

Also read - #ParisAttacks: All Muslims I know dislike the Islamic State as much as I do

All that will now, of course, change. But the French government has displayed a monumental complacency about its own invulnerability. This, after all, is the country that took the lead in demonising Muammar Gaddafi in Libya and creating a moral rationale for an unprovoked attack on a sovereign nation, in February 2011.

This is the country that again took the lead, with David Cameron in the UK, in demonising Bashar al-Assad in Syria. They began feeding a civil war in Syria that has destroyed the country and made refugees out of half of its population.

What was Former President Nicolas Sarkozy thinking of when he began the assault on Libya? What was President Hollande thinking of when he made the ouster of Assad the first item on his foreign policy agenda and became an ardent advocate of supplying heavy weapons - a euphemism for surface to air and anti-tank missiles - to a 'Free Syrian army' that was welding seamlessly into Al Qaeda's Syrian affiliate, the Jabhat al Nusra?

And why did the whole of Europe, not to mention the USA, turn a Nelsonian, if not quite blind, eye to the rise, and bestial brutality, of ISIS?

Did they really think that the destruction of entire countries would lead to no repercussions? Did they not realise that in the shattered economies that they had helped to create here would be tens of thousands of young men without work and facing starvation? That they would be prime cannon fodder for recruiters from Saudi Arabia and Qatar who were offering bagfuls of money to join in the jihad against infidel Shia Muslims in Syria?

Did it require the deaths of 132 French men and women for President Hollande to realise that ISIS was attacking the foundations of western civilisation? Was ISIS' murder of more than ten thousand Iraqi and Kurdish, and countless Syrian civilians, and rape of more than 7,000 women and children as sex slaves over the past seventeen months not sufficient evidence? Were its taunting videos of the cutting of the throats of British and American hostages and its mass beheadings and executions of Syrian tribesmen and captured soldiers not sufficient evidence? Or did the deaths of those 'others' not carry the same weight as 'our' deaths?

France took the lead in demonising Assad and feeding a civil war that has destroyed Syria

The truth is that the 132 people did not have to die in Paris. Nor did the tens of thousands of civilians murdered by ISIS. Nor did the 170,000 civilians and 60,000 soldiers who have been killed in Syria. Nor did the 50,000 or so Libyans; nor the countless others who have died of disease, malnutrition, and lack of lifesaving medicines as the world around them has collapsed into rubble and blood.

They have died, their countries have been wasted, and their futures destroyed because the West has deemed it its God-given right to free them from 'brutal' dictators and give them the gift of democracy.

This may sound like, but is not intended to be, anti-Western rhetoric. In the short span of five years a large part of the world has regressed into a barbarism not known since the invasion of Europe by Genghiz Khan. We need to understand how, and why, this has happened. We need to ascribe responsibility. So that we will know what to avoid. But this is the one huge question that the tens of thousands of TV minutes devoted to the carnage in Paris has carefully avoided.

Civil war in Syria

hubris paris attack

Photo: Chesnot/Getty Images

To the extent that it is ever raised , the answer has become a litany of self-exculpation: Bashar al-Assad, like Gaddafi, was killing his own people. This set off a civil war in which the West had no choice but to come down on the side of the oppressed. Because Assad refused to step down, the war got prolonged. His brutal tactics against his own people caused a wave of anger to sweep through the Islamic world. That drew thousands of Jihadis into Syria. The US' continued ambivalence on how far to support them led to a continual radicalisation of the jihad. ISIS was the end product.

This account leaves out every inconvenient fact that does not fit the pre-determined template of Western self-justification. It does not explain why the turmoil of the Arab Spring took only two weeks to spread from Tunisia to Egypt, Jordan, and Yemen but two months to go for there to Syria, and why the first demonstrations took place in a border town adjoining Muslim brotherhood-dominated Jordan and not in the main square of Damascus, like all the rest. It does not explain why the Arab League killed its own report on the origins of the civil war, when it said that it had been fomented, at least in part, by armed groups infiltrated from abroad.

ISIS must not be contained. It must be exterminated like the vermin it is drawing to its fold

It ignored the fact that there was a 16-party Syrian movement for democracy that opposed the militarisation of the conflict and wanted a transition through negotiations with the Assad government.

It ignored the democratisation process that Assad initiated within weeks of the outbreak of conflict. It ignored the conference he held in Damascus in July 2011 where a blueprint for a new constitution was discussed and the referendum and elections based upon the new constitution that were held in February and May 2012.

It has persisted in calling the conflict a sectarian one between Sunnis and Shias, when in reality it has been an onslaught of Salafi Islam, backed by Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait and the UAE, upon the sole remaining secular state in the Arab world. And above all, it has ignored the poisonous role that Israel has played in stoking this conflict in the mistaken impression that it will facilitate a Western attack upon its newly discovered enemy, Iran.

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The truth is that the US and the EU have been led up a garden path by these retrograde regimes into attacking each and every value that they have struggled to establish in their countries and therefore cherish.

ISIS must not be contained. It must be exterminated like the vermin it is drawing to its fold. Today, paradoxically, it is Russia, once the most retrograde country in the world, that is pursuing the only course that can restore peace and reaffirm the values of civilisation: with sustained aerial bombing it is systematically breaking open the road blocks on the arterial roads that lead from the Assad controlled south to Aleppo in the north and Deir-ez-Zor and Raqqa in the north-east, to enable the Syrian army to move forward without fear of getting cut off in its rear.

This is the only army that has the numbers, the training, the battle hardening and the grim determination to do whatever needs to be done to eliminate ISIS. Yet so determined are Western leaders to avoid having to confess that they made a huge mistake in attacking Syria, that even the Western news channels have unanimously drawn a veil of obscurity over the progress of this campaign.

READ MORE - #ParisAttacks: France should learn from US mistakes post 9/11

Muslims are not terrorists. They are as French as me

Finally, a heartening turn of events: Kurdish forces oust ISIS from Sinjar

First published: 18 November 2015, 5:24 IST