New Age Islam Edit Bureau
28 July 2016
Honour and Deviance
By Nazish Brohi
Erdogan Is to Turkey What Zia ul Haq
Is to Pakistan
By Mushal Zaman
The March of Hate
By Khurram Husain
A Cultural Phenomenon
By Sultan Mehmood
‘Fair Is Foul And Foul Is Fair…’
By Chris Cork
The Wrong Trump!
By Harlan Ullman
When Is Claims Terrorist Attacks,
It’s worth Reading Closely
By Max Bearak
Compiled By New Age Islam Edit Bureau
28 July, 2016
YOU either stay in your sanitised comfort
zone, or you step out and get inured to contempt for women. Some events,
though, still leave an imprint.
Like the time the local administration in
Multan decided to regulate women acting in popular, frequently seedy, theatre
plays. The district government’s monitoring committee issued guidelines on
dance moves and demanded that all actresses named after women in Islamic
history legally change their identities because they were an insult to their
When these women went to register their
protest, they were told to first to do wuzu (ablution) before meeting the
committee because they were paleet (impure) and were about to appear before the
That was over a decade ago. The court case
demanding Qandeel not use ‘Baloch’ as her name because of the disrepute she
brought to the ethnicity shows continuity, though none of the thousands who use
Baloch as a surname took issue with it. That a country that is an avid consumer
of pornography would condemn risqué behaviour in others is not surprising. The
gaze of judgement seldom turns inwards.
The honour code earlier was a governance
Some years ago, Afiya Zia and I co-authored
a paper on honour killings for which playwright/ director Khalid Ahmed
translated Shailendra’s song Kaanton Se Kheench Ke Anchal. Cavorting in
a truck laden with hay, Waheeda Rehman flung out a clay pot, shattered social
conventions and immortalised the song in the Indian movie Guide. But embedded
in the jubilance was the price she was willing to pay. This is the decision
many women across Pakistan have to make when they tear through social
conventions. The Jeenay Ki Tamanna And Marney Ka Iraada is congruent:
the desire to live (as they want) requires the will to die.
Placing women on a continuum of purity and
impurity is a recurring trope across many cultures: the virgin and the harlot,
the home and the street, the pedestal and the brothel. Both ends, however,
exist exclusively for fulfilling male desires. Women deemed impure cannot gain
respectability. The pure ones live their lives in fear of being pushed down to
the other side. There are caveats though. Resort to religion can help make the
disreputable respectable, and class privilege can protect against the label of
The honour code earlier was a governance
code in the absence of state supervision. However, in its current incarnation,
it frees men from responsibility because honour lies not within their own
actions but elsewhere. Like in folk tales across the world, men’s life, soul or
strength was outsourced: the magician’s life in a parrot in a faraway land;
Ravanna’s life placed in a box and given to a hermit before he left for war;
the giant whose heart was in an exotic egg.
Hence in the general perception honour
killing is not aggression but reaction. The perpetrator is recast as the victim
of a moral crime and the killing is an act of the restitution of honour. Some
years ago, I spoke to Hukumdin during the trial hearing of his son, who had
bludgeoned his sister to death. He said of his daughter, “She was like a
suicide bomber. She pursued what she wanted without thinking of anyone else,
and it killed her and destroyed everyone around her in the process.” When I
questioned him about the nebulous ‘it’ that killed her, he answered “Khudi”
There is a change though. Two decades ago,
parliament declared honour crimes a cultural prerogative. Now with the
Prevention of Anti-Women Practices law passed and additions made to the
Pakistan Criminal Code that disable forgiveness for family members, the prime
minister himself has pledged to pass a specific law on honour crimes.
Earlier, the state itself reserved the
right to punish women for sexual transgressions under the Hudood Ordinance. Now
not only can that no longer be invoked, the state has registered itself as a
complainant in some recent cases of women being punished for sexual transgressions.
Previously, women have been killed inside
the court premises while the judges looked on; now people have been sentenced
with the maximum punishment for honour killings. In the past, people have
looked to religion as justification for honour crimes whereas now most
religious authorities condemn such murders. And earlier communities were
unequivocal about their condemnation of women accused of bringing dishonour.
But before burial, henna was applied on Qandeel, which in her home district of
Dera Ghazi Khan is symbolic; it is meant for girls and women who die without
having sinned, free from accusations of wrongdoing.
The earlier mode of collective,
interdependent living made conformity to community standards necessary and
public performances of honour desirable. That mode is finishing. Social
structures are in a fight for survival of the status quo. In the long term, it
won’t work. But in the interim, women’s lives will remain the battleground.
Nazish Brohi is a researcher and consultant in the social sector.
Erdogan is to Turkey what Ziaul Haq is
July 26, 2016
When Recep Tayyip Erdogan recited the
following verses whilst serving as the Mayor of Istanbul back in 1999;
“The mosques are our barracks,
The domes our helmets,
The minarets our bayonets,
And the faithful our soldiers…”
Turkish citizens should have known better
than to vote him in as prime minister for 11 consecutive years, and eventually,
the president of Turkey.
Known to the world of politics since
decades, Erdogan isn’t a stranger to how the political clock ticks. He created
the Justice and Development Party (AKP) in 2001, which raised him to
unprecedented heights. To date, his status within the party remains undefeated,
with no internal rival whatsoever, and no opposition party strong enough to
take on a political giant like Erdogan.
Known as a hero in the municipal history of
Istanbul, he was quick to emulate his past feats. He glorified democracy, made
an earnest effort to prevent corruption (later to be involved in a corruption
case himself), lowered state debt, increased trade and developed
infrastructure. Political pundits termed this period of progression the ‘Silent
A membership in the revered NATO and his
effort to get European Union members to grant Turkish citizens visa free travel
within the Schengen zone further strengthened his role as a political maestro.
One can see why Erdogan gained unparalleled
popularity amongst his people. He was rooting for all the right things.
But just as nearly every man sows the seeds
of his own downfall, Erdogan, too, began setting the stage for his eventual
Seen as a threat to Kemal Ataturk’s secular
policies by many in the judiciary, Erdogan, a ‘patient Islamist,’ enjoys a
solid 12% support of hard-core Islamists and conservative voters. He is known
to promote the Islamisation of education and social behaviour, and is stated to
have said he wants to witness “the growth of a religious generation”. One of his
party members even went to the extent of stating AKP may be foregoing
secularism in order to implement a religious constitution.
This was met with extreme backlash, for
obvious reasons. Promoting Islamisation in a region surrounded by an ISIS
stronghold isn’t the greatest of policies. An attack on a music store in
Istanbul in June 2016 by extremists may have very well been the outcome of
Erdogan’s ever-growing stance on the Islamisation of the Turkish state. What
was more alarming, though, was how protestors rallying against this attack were
dispersed with tear gas and water cannons and a law prohibiting protests was
Echoes of his Islamisation policies were
also witnessed in the outcome of the recent failed coup. Supporters of Erdogan
gathered at Taksim square, chanting ‘Allah o Akbar’, verses were read from the
Holy Quran, appeals from imams at mosques were made in order to garner support
for Erdogan and appeals of execution for the coup plotters reverberated
throughout the square. These scenes were an eerie re-embodiment of Sultan
Suleiman’s reign, where treason was punishable through execution.
An Islamist state may very well also serve
as a breeding ground for ISIS soldiers and attacks, as witnessed in the recent
Istanbul Ataturk Airport – though that doesn’t seem to trouble Erdogan much.
His foremost concern is towards the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK).
Kurds in Turkey have undergone a cultural
genocide, been brutally repressed by successive governments and were made to
forcibly integrate into the state as a minority. Erdogan is known to use the
war against Kurds to selfishly further his presidential agenda, but he is also
aware of the fact that PKK is backed by strongholds in Iraq (Rojava) and the
People’s Protection Units (YPG) in Syria. Therefore, Erdogan cannot afford to
escalate the war against them or even fathom pushing the war beyond his
What he’s more anxious about is the
Independent Syrian Kurdistan party helping Turkish Kurds in plotting a
revolutionary war within his dominion. Seeing how this matter is progressing,
the only panacea to his fear regarding PKK is to sign a peace agreement and
call for a ceasefire.
This option would have seemed plausible to
many, but to Erdogan, it seems to translate into a sign of weakness.
In his rise to absolute power, evident
through his wish to draft a new constitution granting him executive powers, he
has managed to root out any sign of opposition, as seen with the PKK, followed
by the army and the censorship of media and journalism.
In 2012, with the help of Fethullah Gulen,
a former ally and a present arch nemesis, he conducted a witch hunt which
witnessed the removal of army officers, falsely accused of plotting a coup
against the government. It is rumoured Gulen may have set up his loyalists in
place of the sacked officers, and these very same loyalists may have been the
same men who planned the recent coup.
Erdogan’s panic and apprehension towards
the army may have been the outcome of Turkey’s turbulent history with coups, in
1960, 1971, 1980 and 1997.
Meanwhile, Erdogan, slowly, yet steadily,
marched on towards supremacy.
In the past year, he came down hard on news
organisations, taking over one of Turkey’s main newspaper, Zaman, imprisoned
journalists and banned Twitter and YouTube. Freedom, a vital foundation of
democracy, began shrinking and Erodgan’s authoritarian power kept growing.
The recent coup will only feed Erdogan’s
fears and suspicions and will further fortify his resolve to crush any parallel
state wishing and waiting to evolve. A wolf in sheep’s clothing, Erdogan is
waiting to pounce on any sign of rebellion, just as he is currently doing.
Throwing a childlike tantrum, Erdogan has
blamed Gulen and Gulen loyalists for the failed coup, declared a state of
emergency, demanded the American government to extradite Gulen and shut all
institutions linked to Gulen. He ordered the arrests of thousands of judges and
officers. The arrests are in vast numbers, so much so, prisons have run out of
space and lower ranking officers have been imprisoned in schools and
gymnasiums. It seems the failed coup has given Erdogan a blank cheque to
dismiss basic human and democratic rights, something which most countries are
outraged about – especially members of NATO.
Turkey had the right amount of secularism
and was on its path to liberal development; a country which could very well
serve as a role model for most Islamic countries, but Erdogan is adamant on
destroying Turkey’s progressive image. What he needs is a reality check – the
thousands of supporters who came out on the streets in an effort to avert the
coup – were ardent supporters of democracy, not Erdogan.
Erdogan is on a rampage, a colossal beast
no one dares stop.
It is only a matter of time before Erdogan
tumbles off his throne, just like our very own despot, Zia ul Haq. Maybe he
could take a page out of our history books and not repeat the same mistake. But
ominous clouds are hovering above him and we can only wait and watch how
another mighty man will crumble in his quest for absolute authority.
Mushal Zaman is a sub-editor at Tribune.
IT was hard to watch the events of the last
few days without a feeling of dark foreboding. The coup attempt in Turkey was
no ordinary event. Even in a Third World country, it would have been a
spectacular event. How could thousands of military men, including senior
officers, hatch a plot of this magnitude without being discovered? And what
forces has the failed attempt unleashed, as Erdogan goes on a rampage
mercilessly routing out all enemies — perceived and real — emboldened by his
success in surviving the plot while shaken by the sheer breadth and audacity of
The eclipse of the Kemalist old guard in
Turkey has opened the door to a power struggle between two visions of Islamist
rule — the AKP vs the Gulenists.
Meanwhile, the two ramshackle conventions
in America to choose the next presidential candidate were marred by serious
fissures. All but one among former presidents and presidential candidates from
the Republican party stayed away from their party convention in Ohio that
nominated Donald Trump as the party candidate, a strong rebuke to a party that
they feel is no longer theirs. The convention of the Democrats nominated
Hillary Clinton over bitter jeering and under the shadow of the leaked emails
that showed the party’s highest officers conspiring to stymie the candidacy of
This is no longer an election. It is a
battle to rescue America from the monsters of its own creation.
Europe is battling its own ghosts, with
random killings becoming almost a daily occurrence, and claiming more than 100
lives in less than a fortnight. The perpetrators are found in almost all cases
to be young Muslim men with a history of mental disturbance, who have somehow
latched on to the headlines of the moment to infuse their personal anguish with
What is particularly troubling is that one
cannot see any force that stands in the way of the growing right-wing
resurgence around the world.
There may or may not be any geopolitical
context to the actions of the lone wolf attacks being witnessed in Europe. One
thing that comes out from the profile of each of the attackers is that these
are lonely young men, with a troubled past, and lives torn by conflict. This is
not grounds for empathy — after all thousands if not millions of others share
their fate without resorting to such deeds — but it is the closest that we can
come to putting their actions in any kind of geopolitical context.
The actions of these individuals are
fuelling a further rightward shift in European politics. With both Germany and
France — the two countries where the attacks are occurring — due for general
elections next year, there is a strong likelihood that right-wing parties could
come to power.
If this trend keeps up 2017 could be a grim
year indeed. It could see Britain activate Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty and
initiate the process of formal withdrawal from the EU. It could see Trump being
sworn in as president in January, followed by Le Pen in France in spring.
Germany has already seen a 40pc surge in violent crimes with a right-wing
political motive, mostly against immigrants. The prospects of a right-wing,
xenophobic party coming to power in Germany are a bit more remote than in
France, but given the prevailing uncertainties around the future of the EU, the
continuing crisis with migrants and refugees, further terror attacks, the
battle to restart growth, nobody can say how the future will play out there.
Even in our own neighbourhood, India is in
the grips of an extremist-minded government, which is presiding over a brutal
crackdown in held Kashmir, treating the area as “a colonial possession” in the
words of Partha Chatterjee, a Colombia-based historian, while incidents of mob
lynchings of people suspected to be eating or selling beef are growing daily.
It’s hard to see how the juggernaut of Hindutva can be stopped there, given
that it has only grown since the early 1990s, when the Bharatiya Janata Party
formed its first government which didn’t last more than a few days.
What is particularly troubling is that one
cannot see any force that stands in the way of the growing right-wing
resurgence around the world. For a while, it seemed like there was a leftist
revival under way in Latin America during the 2000s, when successive left-wing
parties won the polls and ruled briefly in various countries there. But that
resurgence was at least partially built on the commodity price boom in the
world market, and those governments have all disappeared now leaving behind
little more than a mess.
In Europe too, the rise of Syriza in Greece
or Podemos in Spain was greeted with much anticipation at first but it became
quite clear that neither party could deliver what they have promised.
As hate and xenophobia march across the
world, capturing imaginations at the bottom and power at the top, the only
obstacle standing in their way is an enfeebled common sense in defence of an
embattled status quo. The real change makers now are on the far right. The rest
of us are either spectators, or struggling to find the words with which to
create a position.
A great consensus appears to be
unravelling. It was built on a moral philosophy of individual freedom and
material prosperity as top political and policy objectives. The unravelling has
set the forces of hate and exclusion on the march, since they alone have the
language with which to speak in such chaotic times. There is no coincidence in
the timing of all this, coming in the immediate aftermath of the great
financial crisis of 2008, which swept away the material underpinnings upon
which all political power was built — whether institutional or philosophical.
The battles getting under way in country
after country are only going to gather momentum from here onward because the
old world is dead, and its certitudes and values with it.
Khurram Husain is a member of staff.
July 27, 2016
Qandeel Baloch’s murder by her brother in
Multan for the sake of so-called honour has seen ‘condemnations’ from all
sides. The insinuation seems to be that all are unanimous in their condemnation
of the scourge that is honour killing. However, anyone following their social
media feeds or conversations with their friends and family will soon discover
that this unanimity is an illusion. If we do not admit the ills of our society,
how can we hope to transcend them?
How often have we heard the ‘knockout’
question, “If it was your sister, what would you have done?” Well, how about,
not murdering your sister in cold blood? Or perhaps even more common is to
hear, “It was wrong for her brother to kill her but (insert justification of
This is exactly the problem, that is, we
have a sizable segment of our society which is adamant that Qandeel’s behaviour
made the murder at least partly justified. This point of view is shared not by
selected right-wing politicians or regressive clerics, but society at large.
Even many of our ‘liberals’, while expounding their denunciation of a
bare-faced murder, feel compelled to qualify it.
With these attitudes nurturing, stronger
laws alone will not, cannot, prevent more brothers from joining the ranks of
Waseem, Qandeel’s brother. It is no wonder that we see over a thousand reported
cases of ‘honour’ killings annually.
I write this article primarily for the
future brothers weighing in on whether to pursue the path taken by Waseem. I
assure you, I will try my best not to demonise you but rather appeal to you.
You can of course reject my plea, reject my arguments but do hear me out.
But how, you ask, can a murder of a person
flaunting what society holds dear, be a tragedy? Because honour is an illusory
concept and murder is real.
When I say that honour is a figment of our
imagination, I do not mean to say that the shame felt by you is unreal. As
Usman Mahar, an anthropologist studying South Asian gender norms, recently
pointed out to me, “The way our communities are organised make the shame felt
when a woman violates social norms very real indeed.”
Nevertheless, what I am saying is that when
you juxtapose it with taking a human life, the shame, the honour and the stigma
are all abstract. Our understanding of honour and shame is a product of our
cultural and social evolution. Many don’t even remember this, but years ago in
our culture, feelings of shame and indignation gripped the family if a man went
outside the house without a cap and a stick. Ergo, what is considered shameful
changes over time. Shame and honour are not immutable forces of nature which
require an equilibration; these are quirks of time and place.
But murder is real. By taking Qandeel’s
life, Waseem took away her hopes, her aspirations, the bad she would do, the
good she would do, the roads taken and the roads not taken — all of this was
snatched away from her in an instant.
The murder once and for all put an end to
all that. But for what? For safeguarding and equilibrating the ‘honour’ of the
family. This is the real tragedy — the victory of the unreal over the real.
“Hover through the fog and filthy air.”
Thus spake the witches in the opening scene of Shakespeare’s Macbeth and the
paradox then gets explored in bloody depth throughout the play. The crones make
promises of future greatness, inciting Lady Macbeth to kill Duncan and the
truth of the paradox is revealed in that situations which might appear good
when in reality they are evil or vice-versa — are all around us. People have
the capacity to be good whilst appearing to be evil as well as to be evil
whilst appearing good.
All of which is a roundabout way of trying
to unpack and understand what is happening to the nature of terrorism,
especially in respect of the changes in the terror paradigm being wrought by
Islamic State (IS). Just as they brought to the table the borderless state (the
‘caliphate’) so they have brought do-it-yourself terror. Terror delivered with
the everyday and the mundane, the off-the-shelf terror that can be bought in
your local DIY store in the form of a set of kitchen knives or an axe to chop firewood.
Or hired in the form of a ten-ton truck and then driven into crowds of people.
No need for elaborate plotting, or the acquisition of complex and expensive
equipment or guns, just goes shopping is all.
Radicalisation, that word we all think we
now understand, that comes off the shelf as well, and it does not have to be a
long and intensive process, it can happen within hours or days. And where there
are groups of highly-suggestible people with a powerful sense of victimhood it
is not difficult to envisage the embedding of a sense of righteousness that
finds expression in the carving up of a few people on a train, or the cutting
of the throat of a priest in his own church in front of the congregation with
whom he was celebrating mass.
What is more the IS has delivered a blanket
invitation to embrace the black righteousness. You do not have to have signed
up, been recruited, indoctrinated or shipped off to a desert location for some
exotic firearms-and-munitions training — not at all. All you have to do is
pre-prepare your exit statement, dedicate it to IS in some retrievable format
and the IS will be more than happy to take you as being of their own. They
quickly embraced the two who died on the steps of a church in Rouen… fair is
foul and foul is fair. Just depends on your perspective, really.
But if you really want to go the whole nine
yards and build yourself a back-pack bomb then the essentials are at your very
fingertips. Any one of you reading this online would be able, within minutes if
you are nimble of finger and mind, to gather together a recipe for an explosive
device. Even the bangables themselves can be home-grown, made in the garage.
Buy a couple of kilos of ball-bearings and a simple electronic switch, find
yourself a music festival in, say, southern Germany and there you are. Bits of
Germans all over the landscape and righteous duty duly done.
Again from the viewpoint of IS any
exploitable vulnerability in the human version of carpet bombing is desirable —
like a certain mental instability or illness. Those of unsound mind who also
happen to belong to marginalised minorities are fertile ground, and given the
incidence of mental ill-health in any community, marginal or otherwise, we
should not be surprised to find that some of our freshly disaggregated bombers
have troubles of the mind — known, documented and sometimes treated as well.
Not that that made a scrap of difference, did it?
The playbook of terror is being re-written
before our very eyes, and for those that are used to having their terror
packaged for them by the IRA, or ETA or Boko Haram or any one of the other
franchises that have come and gone over the past fifty or so years, this is not
easy reading. The paradox at the heart of the tragedy of Macbeth has been
parlayed into a gruesome modern manual for the times. Shakespeare would have
understood, of that I am certain.
For many international as well as domestic
observers, the American presidential campaign could be described by the great
Irish wit Oscar Wilde’s bon mot about fox hunting: the indescribable in chase
of the inedible. By the time this piece is printed, the Democratic National
Convention will have started in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania known as “the city
of brotherly love.”
This is ironic. What is missing in action
in US politics has been any sign of “love” and particularly in the campaigns of
both parties. For those readers who missed it, in Cleveland last week, Senator
Ted Cruz turned Judas refusing to endorse Donald Trump and was duly booed off
the stage. And do not expect this backstabbing to change now that the two
candidates will take the gloves off in a match not covered by Marquis of
There is no suspense left to the Democratic
event barring external fireworks or riots. Hillary Clinton has picked Tim Kaine
as her running mate. Kaine is the junior senator from Virginia, and a former
governor of that state as well as a mayor. He is a genuinely nice and
intelligent person who, self-described as boring, is a quintessential public
servant with no rough edges possessing an abundance of common sense. Indeed,
the two men at the bottom of both tickets have qualities many wish were present
in the candidates running for president.
That said, the ensuing 100 or so days until
the November 8 election will prove to be strongly supporting reasons for my
argument that the greatest security threat facing the US and most countries is
failing government. This will be a spectacle if not for the ages surely marking
a low point in American politics.
Last Thursday evening, in 73 or 74 minutes,
Donald J Trump’s valedictory speech masterfully laid out all the reasons why
he, the Republican nominee, is unfit for the presidency. Perhaps he should have
followed the lead of his daughter Ivanka who introduced him. The 34-year-old Ms
Trump, aka Mrs Jared Kushner, combined intellect with poise and charm so much
so that if she had been 35 and eligible for the presidency, she might have
gotten my vote.
The next day, predictably, Trump’s
acceptance speech dominated the front, middle and editorial pages of the
leading US newspapers. The Washington Post headline read, “Trump paints ominous
picture;” The New York Times’ “His tone dark…” And so was the speech. Turning
Ronald Reagan’s “morning in America” on its ear, Trump’s speech should have
been subtitled “the American nightmare.”
Citing wrongly an upshot of killings and
crime at home against both innocent civilians and law enforcement officers,
which cherry picked if not distorted facts, and the dangers and threats posed
by “Islamist terror,” a phrase he repeated often as a slam against President
Barack Obama’s refusal to mate Islam with radical violence, Trump painted a
grim portrait of the condition of Americans’ safety. The same dark views were
also attached to an economically challenged nation in which the middle class
The cause of this domestic economic malaise
was a “rigged” system.
Unlike his wife Melania Trump, whose speech
earlier in the convention was riddled with unacknowledged prose used by
Michelle Obama eight years earlier when her husband was nominated, Trump did
mention Bernie Sanders whose message was redolent with “rigging.” And Trump was
obviously and clumsily trying to woo Democrats and Sanders’ supporters with the
same message of a rigged system admitting that no one knew “better than me
(sic)” about how this rigging worked.
As bad as life was in America, Trump was
even more negative in his assessment of the international situation. Declaring
that he would destroy the Islamic State (IS) “quickly,” as with his other
promises to prevent crime, fix the economy and solve all the pressing problems,
solutions and plans were missing in action. Indeed, his fix for the IS of
having the best intelligence, halting nation building and suspending
immigration from regions of violence until proper vetting could be done was
worse than superficial. It was absurd.
The image was of a blonde, orange-haired
King Canute demanding that the oceans recede unaware that only the
gravitational effects of the moon could accomplish that. But why should science
and fact complicate Mr Trump’s promises? Clearly, they do not.
Trump tried to put the NATO toothpaste he
had squeezed back into the tube after stating earlier that he might disregard
the treaty assurances of Article 5 that “an attack against one was an attack
against all” by recognising that the alliance had taken action over terror. But
the screeches of protests from NATO members were shots fired at least partly
around the world. My emails were filled with reactions of disbelief from former
senior ministers and officials in Europe that Trump could be so detached from
reality and dismissive of real allies.
There are two points to consider. First,
compare the Republican convention today with conventions in 1968, 1972 and
1976. For the first, two Kennedys had been assassinated, and the US was waging
a losing war in Vietnam in which riots wracked the nation. Ditto in 1972,
except the Democratic nominee George McGovern had to dump his vice presidential
running mate Thomas Eagleton after it was revealed he had received electrical
shock treatment for mental illness.
In 1976, the nation had endured losing in
Vietnam; the resignation of the vice president for bribery and the president
over Watergate; the energy crisis and near confrontation with the Soviet Union
over the Arab-Israeli October 1973 War; and an economy that was in tatters.
Is today any worse or more dangerous? The
answer is of course not. People must understand that.
Second and last, as Walter Mondale once
famously asked, “Where is the beef?” Mr Trump? Assertions and guarantees of “I
will” have not been matched with any substantial plans of action to achieve
these lofty and unachievable promises. If the Democrats had a candidate who was
not so distrusted, the election would be a foregone conclusion and possibly the
greatest blowout since 1964 when Lyndon Baines Johnson demolished Barry
Goldwater. Instead, the unachievable is running against the merely
unacceptable. Shame on us!
Harlan Ullman is UPI’s Arnaud de
Borchgrave Distinguished Columnist. He serves as Senior Advisor for Supreme
Allied Commander Europe, the Atlantic Council and Business Executives for
National Security and chairs two private companies. His last book is A Handful of
Bullets: How the Murder of Archduke Franz Ferdinand Still Menaces the Peace.
His next book due out next year is Anatomy of Failure: Why America Loses Wars
When IS Claims Terrorist Attacks, It’s
worth Reading Closely
THE terrorist attacks seem to come one
right after the other, by truck, handgun, axe, assault rifle, machete, bomb and
knife. Each day, a string of news alerts on your phone. Or worse, the sound of
shots fired, or sirens blaring in your city.
In a show of the militant Islamic State
group’s increasing influence, we now await, and even expect, revelations that
the attackers are affiliated with the group. Terrorism in most of the world has
become synonymous with its name.
But in many recent cases, it seems that the
IS’s media apparatus is also waiting for those revelations.
Since the highly coordinated attacks in
Paris last November, most of the attacks that the group eventually claimed were
carried out by individuals who may never have come into direct contact with
operatives in their supposed “caliphate” in northern Iraq and Syria.
These attackers did not give the IS notice
that they would be acting in its name. Instead, some of them self-radicalised
and left recordings behind offering oaths of allegiance.
By reading the language in the IS’s claims
on attacks, one can see which of them were heavily directed, as in Paris and
Brussels, and which were simply inspired by the group’s ideology. There is a
clear difference between claims made after attacks that IS leaders knew about
beforehand, and attacks they didn’t.
In the case of Paris, for instance, highly
detailed press releases were distributed right after the carnage, complete with
videos and pictures. On the other hand, Amaq, the IS’s media arm, claims
responsibility for “inspired” attacks only once it gets credible information of
a link, either from a source of its own or from the news media. The IS does not
always have its own inside source.
“What has evolved is that they are doing
much the same thing that we do as analysts, which is watch these attacks and
try and figure out if it is IS-inspired,” said J. M. Berger, a fellow with
George Washington University’s Program on Extremism and the co-author of ISIS:
The State of Terror.
After a man blew himself up in Ansbach,
Germany on Sunday, it took Amaq 24 hours to claim that the IS inspired the
attack. After a 17-year-old axe-wielding Afghan went on a rampage on a train,
also in Germany, it took nine hours to issue such a claim. After Mohamed
Lahouaiej Bouhlel mowed down dozens in Nice with a truck, it took a full day
and a half.
“For these inspired attacks, it’s important
to know that [the media people in Syria] don’t even know of these guys.
They have nothing to do with them. They
aren’t in contact with them directly,” said Amarnath Amarasingam, a fellow
studying extremism at Dalhousie University in Canada and the co-director of a
study of Western fighters for the Islamic State, based at the University of
Waterloo in Ontario, Canada.
The lag time in claiming an attack reflects
a need to establish a credible link between the attacker and the IS. Many have
lampooned the IS as an organisation keen to claim each and every terrorist
attack around the world, but analysts say it has a vested interest in being
“They’re careful about it. They couch their
terms a bit,” said Berger. “If they can accurately insert themselves into the
narrative around an attack, they win, essentially.”
In other cases, though, it has proved
effective for IS to claim attacks in which the link is far sketchier. For
instance, in the San Bernardino attack last December, the media widely reported
that the couple who carried out the attack had posted an oath of allegiance to
IS on Facebook. Amaq then proclaimed them “soldiers of the caliphate”.
But the FBI never confirmed that the
Facebook post was ever written, and Director James Comey said at the time,
“I’ve seen some reporting on that, and that’s a garble.” San Bernardino
nonetheless gave IS the chance to claim its first “inspired” attack on American
Beyond credibility issues, the hesitance to
immediately claim the attacks like the most recent ones in Germany and France
may also reflect embarrassment the group felt after associating with particular
In the weeks following their attacks, news
reports indicated that the attacker in Nice, Mohamed Bouhlel, and Omar Mateen,
who killed 49 people at an Orlando, Florida, nightclub in June, may have had
sexual relationships with other men.
Mateen and Bouhlel were each embraced by IS
before that became public, and homosexuality is punished through gruesome death
penalties in the “caliphate”.
In cases like those, attackers not vetted
by the IS may still be at worst a double-edged sword for the organisation.
After all, despite bad publicity, IS can
still claim that it inspired those attacks. And the greater the perceived
threat from the group becomes, the more it may stir calls for larger-scale
retaliation or anti-Muslim policies, leading to the radicalisation of others.
Tuesday’s killing of an octogenarian priest
in France yielded a relatively quick claim. Between “directed” and “inspired”
attacks, it seems that this one lies somewhere in the middle of the spectrum.
News reports quickly uncovered one of the
attackers’ attempts last year to travel to Syria. Amaq’s statement called the
men “executors” and “soldiers of the Islamic State”, but more or less acknowledged
that IS had not directed the attack. Instead, as in other “inspired” attacks,
Amaq said the men had responded to a call for attacks to be carried out in
countries participating in the coalition fighting IS in Iraq and Syria.
But it attributed its claim to an “insider
source”, whom Amarasingam said was likely to be someone the attacker was in
touch with during his failed “hijra” to Syria last year. The part-directed,
part-inspired nature of the attack poses a dilemma for law enforcement in the
West: does preventing people from travelling to Syria increase the likelihood
of an attack at home?
“That’s been part of IS’s propaganda,” said
Amarasingam. “You either pack your bags or sharpen your knives. And if you’re
unable to travel here and join the caliphate, either because you can’t afford
it or law enforcement is watching you, you do have another recourse, which is
to defend us wherever you are.”