THERE HAS BEEN a lot of debate about the roots of the Paris terrorist attacks. But the immediate cause is plain to see: it is a response to western and Russian bombing of Syria and Iraq. Stopping military intervention and closing Shannon airport to the US military would thus be good steps to take to reduce the threats we face.
Although these solutions are sometimes dismissed as mistaken analysis by “the Left”, the fact is that one doesn’t need to be on the Left or Right to agree with them.
For example, one of the world’s foremost analyst of Islamic violence, Ahmed Rashid—who is certainly not a leftist — states clearly in the wake of the Paris attacks that ISIS “is waging an all-out deliberate war against all those countries that are lining up to fight it”.
This is not “an attempt to take down the western order”, nor is it “a reaction to the evils of western heathens”.
Actions of coalition forces
Plainly, it is “a direct reaction to what is being done to ISIS by coalition forces”. ISIS is trying to force those western countries to pull out of the coalition, but those that will stay “will continue to be targeted by ISIS”.
This explains the recent string of attacks presumably carried out by ISIS, including on a Russian plane, killing 224, two suicide bombings that killed 42 people in a Hezbollah area in Lebanon, and then Paris.
It is easy to connect the dots. Russia is now bombing ISIS and other militant groups; Hezbollah is siding with Assad’s fight against ISIS; and France is a key partner in the US-led coalition against ISIS, which has unleashed no fewer than 8,125 air strikes in Iraq and Syria since the campaign began.
ISIS itself released a statement in the wake of the Paris attacks which stated exactly the same: “France and those who follow it must know that they remain ISIS’s principal targets” because they have decided to “lead a crusade” against ISIS and “hit Muslims in the Caliphate with their planes”, referring to bombing Syria and Iraq.
Interviews with captured ISIS fighters reveal the same thing. A retired American military general who spent two years in Iraq during the US occupation and interviewed prisoners daily recently talked to a captured ISIS fighter who told him “what really motivated him” to join ISIS: “The Americans came”, he said. “They took away Saddam, but they also took away our security… When you came here, the civil war started”.
Typical profile of fighters
The US General said that the fighter “fits the absolutely typical profile… his number-one complaint about the security and against all American forces was the exact same complaint from every single detainee”.
The efforts by commentators to deny the above statements are mind-boggling.
Some simply refuse to admit that there is any connection between western military campaigns in Iraq and Syria and terrorist responses.
Others believe that we are witnessing an attack on western values (Bono said it was an attack on music). But one has to wonder why music in France rather than in countries that don’t attack ISIS?
Still others argue that a lack of education and poverty lead to terrorism. But research has long found that terrorists are “as educated and economically well- off as surrounding populations”. In fact, they are often well educated and from middle class backgrounds.
According to the available information, the ringleader of the Paris attacks, Abdel-Hamid Abu Oud, grew up in a middle class family in Belgium.
Finally, many believe that the cause of the attacks is religion or Islam. Of course, the terrorists are fervently religious, through which they rationalise some of their actions. But it still begs the question of why were the attacks directed at France, Hezbollah and Russia?
Is Ireland a target?
Some radical Muslims have stated that Ireland is a legitimate terrorist target because we allow the US military through Shannon airport. Anjem Choudary, a Muslim preacher based in the UK, recently declared: “You allow the Americans, who are the biggest butchers in the world, to stop at Shannon Airport to refuel and go on kill people in Muslim countries… the Irish government is colluding with them”.
Therefore, in his view, Ireland is a “legitimate target for attack”. Some will beat the war drums and call for bombing ISIS, declaring that we will not be intimidated by terrorists.
Well, that won’t work, and there’s very good research to prove it.
First, invading and bombing countries creates terrorists. ISIS came out of the destruction caused by the Iraq War. Some Iraqi insurgents who later became ISIS leaders were incarcerated in an American prison in Iraq called Camp Bucca for a few years during the occupation, as the Washington Post reported.
Second, the invasion of Iraq increased terrorism worldwide sevenfold, as a New York University study found. Bombing other countries fosters a terrorist response. Even if terrorists are killed, their ideology can’t be killed.
There are a number of steps that should be taken to address the threat posed by terrorists, such as cutting off their funding, much of which comes from western allies in the Gulf like Saudi Arabia. Police actions to find individuals before they act are also useful.
But there are other solutions that must be part of the mix: stop bombing, and close Shannon airport to the US military. To continue with those policies will increase the risks we face.
Julien Mercille is a lecturer at University College Dublin whose research focuses on US foreign policy. You can follow him on Twitter @JulienMercille
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