Are we starting a big ‘War on Terror’ all over again?

After the attacks in Paris, which have rightly caused horror and indignation, president Hollande has resolutely launched his country on the warpath. In so doing he repeats after 14 years what Bush and Blair did after 9/11. We know what that has led to: endless violence and destruction in an ever-expanding war zone and a proportionately more radical jihad against the West. Because that violence and that destruction (not 127 dead as in Paris, or 2,500 as in New York, but many hundreds of thousands and entire countries destroyed) here have NOT cause horror and indignation. 

That is why the war is expanding, because the people who do care what is happening in the Middle East and North Africa, experience the same that I felt as a student when seeing images from Vietnam.

Luckily I had the old council communist Ben Sijes as a teacher at Leiden University and eventually I landed in the Dutch Communist Party which had priorities that had nothing to do with taking up arms. But the youngsters who today see the images on al-Jazeera of the suffering caused by the bombing by the Americans, the French, and now also the Russians, or the images of the daily humiliations the Palestinians have to endure in the territories occupied by Israel, are exposed to different ideological influences. They end up in the sphere-of-influence of Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf states (which incidentally have withdrawn from the coalition against ISIS a few days ago) and they do not heed the call of socialism but of jihad.

There in fact we also have the handle to combat ISIS. Russia Today carried an interview with the journalist, Jürgen Todenhofer, who after six months of negotiations gained access to territories controlled by Islamic State. He travelled around with handlers, among others to the ‘capital’, Raqqa.

Apart from the fact that all Christians and Shia Muslims have been driven out, life has resumed a semblance of normality, Todenhofer reported on his return. The people know that things are dangerous—visiting a girlfriend or taking sleeping pills (forbidden) can land you in jail.

Because Todenhofer encountered fighters from the Caucasus, from Germany, France and Britain, he was able to ask about their motivations. They all came with stories about bad treatment in the countries they had come from. There they were unimportant, here they were told for the first time they were in an important battle, and were promised to be able to fight Americans. They are driven by religious fanaticism and receive a thorough military training by officers from the days of Saddam Hussein.

They can’t return because in Muslim circles they will be considered traitors and risk their lives. But there is also profound disappointment because in contrast to what they were told, there are American or British troops and they only kill other Muslims. Also, the luxury they were told was waiting for them in practice turns out to be spaces without heating and days without food or even water. That is why they ardently hope that their cruel executions will provoke the appearance of American or other Western troops on the battlefield. Russians too are ‘welcome’.

There is ample supply of weapons. From Saudi Arabia and the Gulf monarchies, there is also money with which weapons are bought from the Kurdish Peshmerga or the Free Syrian Army, which is also the source of most ammunition. So Foreign Secretary Koenders may keep secret where the Dutch assistance is going, but ISIS knows where it ends up for them to purchase.

There is no point in bombing according to Todenhofer because ISIS fights with guerrilla tactics, and ground troops will not make a difference either because the jihadists are ready to die but American or other Western military are not.

Once again: War is no solution. To make life difficult for ISIS requires completely different steps according to Todenhofer. Interrupting the supply of weapons, ammunition and money by the Saudi’s and the Gulf monarchies and closing the Turkish-Syrian border. Thirdly, active encouragement of a reconciliation between the Shia and Sunni in Iraq, Syria, and Turkey.

‘To fight ISIS requires an intelligent strategy’, Todenhofer concludes his report. Try to get that into the heads of Hollande and our prime minister, Rutte, and into the mainstream media. They want war.

Kees van der Pijl

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