Paris: You Don’t Want to Read This


You don’t want to read this, and I take no pleasure in writing it, and no one really wants to hear it right now. But I believe it needs to be said.

I join the world in grieving for the dead in Paris. I have grieved for the dead from 9/11 forward — the Australians who died in terror attacks on Bali in 2002, Londoners who died in terror attacks in 2005, the French citizens who died in the Charlie Hebdo attacks in January of this year, the Russians whose plane went down over the Sinai a week or so ago. So many more non-Western deaths barely noticed in the U.S. media. I grieve also for those killed in smaller attacks already smuggled deep into the obscurity of our memory.

Leave the Middle East alone. Stop creating more failed states. Stop throwing away our freedoms at home on falsehoods. Stop disenfranchising the Muslims who live with us. Understand the war, such as it is, is against a set of ideas — religious, anti-western, anti-imperialist — and you cannot bomb an idea.

And so we Tweet hashtags and phrases in high school French and post GIFs to Facebook. We know what to do; we’ve done this before.

But it has to be said, especially looking at the sick repetition of the same story, that despite fourteen plus years of a war on terror, terror seems to be with us as much as ever, maybe even more. It is time to rethink what we have done and are doing.

Since that day in 2001, the one with those terrible sparkling blue skies in New York, we have spied on the world, Americans at home and foreigners abroad, yet no one detected anything that stopped the Paris attacks. We gave up much to that spying and got nothing in return.

Since 2001, the United States has led nations like Britain, France, Australia and others into wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Syria, with drone attacks on people from the Philippines to Pakistan to all parts of Africa. We have little to nothing to show for all that.

Since 2001 the U.S. has expended enormous efforts to kill a handful of men — bin Laden, al-Zarqawi, al-Awlaki, and this weekend, Jihadi John. Others, many without names, were killed outside of media attention, or were tortured to death, or are still rotting in the offshore penal colony of Guantanamo, or the dark hell of the Salt Pit in Afghanistan.

And it has not worked, and Paris this weekend, and the next one somewhere else sometime soon, are the proof.

We gave up many of our freedoms in America to defeat the terrorists. It did not work. We gave the lives of over 4,000 American men and women in Iraq, and thousands more in Afghanistan, to defeat the terrorists, and refuse to ask what they died for. We killed tens of thousands or more in those countries. It did not work. We went to war again in Iraq, and now in Syria, before in Libya, and only created more failed states and ungoverned spaces that provide havens for terrorists and spilled terror like dropped paint across borders. We harass and discriminate against our own Muslim populations and then stand slack-jawed as they become radicalized, and all we do then is blame ISIS for Tweeting.

Note that it is the strategy of Islamic terror to generate a crackdown in France in order to radicalise French Muslims. Hundreds of French citizens have already traveled to Syria to fight with groups including ISIS.

As one of the most intelligent commentators on all this, Bill Johnson, said, terrorism is about killing pawns to affect the king. The attacks in Paris are not about the murder of 150 innocent people. Hell, that many die nearly every day in Iraq and Syria. The true test for France is how they respond to the terror attacks in the long-game — that’s the king in all this. America failed this test post-9/11; yet it does not sound like France understands anything more than America. “We are going to lead a war which will be pitiless,” French president Hollande said outside the Bataclan concert hall, scene of the most bloodshed.

If I had exactly the right strategy, I’d tell you what it is, and I’d try and tell the people in Washington and Paris and everywhere else. But I don’t have the exact thing to do, and I doubt they’d listen to me anyway.

But I do have this: stop what we have been doing for the last 14 years. It has not worked. There is nothing at all to suggest it ever will work. Whack-a-mole is a game, not a plan. Leave the Middle East alone. Stop creating more failed states. Stop throwing away our freedoms at home on falsehoods. Stop disenfranchising the Muslims who live with us. Understand the war, such as it is, is against a set of ideas — religious, anti-western, anti-imperialist — and you cannot bomb an idea. Putting western soldiers on the ground in the MidEast and western planes overhead fans the flames. Vengeance does not and cannot extinguish an idea.

Start with those things and see, even if you won’t give it 14 years to succeed, if things improve. Other than the death tolls scaling up further, I can’t imagine we could be doing anything worse.

Peter Van Buren spent a year in Iraq as a State Department Foreign Service Officer serving as Team Leader for two Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs). Now in Washington, he writes about Iraq and the Middle East at his blog, We Meant Well. His new book is We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People(The American Empire Project, Metropolitan Books).

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  1. The sad thing is, is that I have looked at U.S Operations and I came back with a similar product. Example, Refugees/Migrants have poured into the EU by Libya and North Africa, If the Gaddafi Regime was still there then we might have never had this problem since he kept a lot under a firm grip. The same with Assad in Syria, STOP suppling REBELS and start helping an established Government that we can push to change maybe. Call me Naive but we need to try this and with Russian Action in Syria two of the World’s SUPERPOWERS should be working together to get rid of the same enemies, ISIS and those rebels that we hurt us later.

    • Die Anfang des XX. Jahrhunderts künstlich gezogenen/erzwungenen Grenzen zwischen den bereits zerstörten Staaten Irak, Lybien, Syrien, die seitdem unter ständiger politischen und wirtschaftlichen Beeinflußung standen,
      bis die Region brannte, sind Hauptursachen.
      Folglich sind die Nord-afrikanischen Staaten weggefallen als
      Pufferzone, gegen die massive Völkerwanderung aus dem Inneren Afrikas.
      Es werden 100 Millionen Afrikaner auf dem Fluchtweg sein,
      nur eine Frage von kurzer Zeit.
      Die Gründe sind Wassermangel, Ernähungsprobleme und die frühere Ausbeutung des Kontinents durch die europäischen Großväter. Niemand, aber auch niemand hat nur annähernd – kein Staat, keine Politiker, keine Organisation – sich nachhaltig und ehrlich, humanitär gekümmert. ALLE haben nur ihren Profit gesehen. Jetzt kommt die Quittung mit voller Härte und trifft wiederum Unschuldige.

  2. I agree with your analysis. Hollande acting tough with belligerent words against terror, same old same old. Then again, diplomacy doesn’t sell armament. It seems to me that no matter the circumstances, the solution is always to buy more equipment, weapons etc. Cui bono?

    • The wars will never stop as long as big business control politicians and the biggest business of all is arms manufacturing. It’s time for a new order, time for politicians to represent the people who vote for them, not the lobbyists who pay them.

  3. I’m not familiar with this article. I think that when we stop now, IS will get the idea that their attacks made sense. And that’s wrong. We have to defeat IS to the last man, because they are devils in human bodies.

  4. OK I like how you forget the worst of all the terrorist attacks in the recent times. You don’t even mention the attack on my country. It wasn’t in the EU it wasn’t in the USA it wasn’t in the middle east. So you don’t care. Good going.

  5. Yes we really need to understand this
    It all started with islamic revolution
    What america did he used saddam to suoress and busy iran for 10 years.when saddam comes out of his hand he attacked and assacinated it.this leads to a vaccum filled by ISIS.similar things with libia and seria to but can any one explain why terrorists are attacking INDIA.

    • WHY terrorist attack India – OH, terrorist ISIS (and others) are the tool of ZIONIST Wall Street. Wall street WANT WAR – and INDIA-BRICS-RUSSIA-CHINA MUST BE ATTACKED via proxy. By attacking Syria they attack Russia…. etc.

      Why do ISIS NEVER attack Israel- because they don´t bite the hand that feet them.

  6. With a name like ‘van Buren’, I’m surprised you forgot to mention MH17 which was shot down over the Ukraine, killing mostly Dutch people!

  7. Much like Al Qaeda, the Islamic State (ISIS) is made-in-the-USA, an instrument of terror designed to divide and conquer the oil-rich Middle East and to counter Iran’s growing influence in the region.

    The fact that the United States has a long and torrid history of backing terrorist groups will surprise only those who watch the news and ignore history.

  8. I’ve been saying almost the exact same thing for years to my friends, here in America, and it drowned out by our nation’s lust for blood. A change is strategy and application of wisdom and restraint would limit the profits of the War industries, and they own the leaders of our nation and the media. Is there any hope for the world? If there is, I don’t see it. I am a man of faith, but most who share the name of my faith are calling for vengeance, which makes it clear that we don’t share the same faith. All I feel today is sadness and despair. Violence giving birth to more violence, giving birth to more lies and fear, giving birth to prejudice. The only upside I can see to all of this killing is that the world is overpopulated and this may have some minimal success in lowering the world’s population. The problem is that in this instance, evolution is not getting rid of the weak minded, but increasing their numbers. Our world couldn’t be more insane if was ruled by Charlie Sheen.

  9. I am rather shocked that Peter Van Buren does not grieve for the 2400 odd Palestinians murdered in last years Israeli terror attack on GAZA, or the Palestinians killed in the 2009 assault on Gaza. Judging by the numbers of innocents killed it would seem that one French life is worth more than 18.6 Palestinian lives, probably even more as world leaders hardly bothered to mention the Gaza attacks in the same anguished terms as they are using about Paris.

    • Thank God someone commented in some way upon the true heart of the swath of wars cut by the West from North Africa across the Middle East and into Afghanistan, all populated mostly by muslims. In the middle of all these wars sits the Zionist Entity, a term which once embarrassed me to hear people use, and which I never used myself. But by reading Jewish ‘Israeli’ academic historians of high repute, I came to see what’s so obvious, what I now know I missed only because I had been deluded by my government’s Zionist propaganda: Unless Palestine reverts to the Palestinian people from whom it was taken in 1948 by a cabal of colonial countries who had even less right to the land than the Zionist invaders these countries sponsored, albeit it half-heartedly, there will never be peace in the Middle East. Yes, the oil makes for a massive complicating factor, but Islam will not rest until Palestine is again Palestinian if it takes a thousand years, and the oil will be gone or won’t matter long before that. And yes, I have personal experience in the area. I’ve worked in the Gulf states and have travelled widely in North Africa.

  10. It’s hard to express ideas such as these when emotions are so heightened, good on you for speaking your mind and heart. Years ago, i made a comment in regard to troubled kids and how best to discipline, and while everyone had a negative solution i simply said “or maybe they just need a hug.” The amount of backlash those few words caused was shocking. I couldn’t believe that so many people were so knee-jerk in their reactions. And there’s the major problem, too many knee-jerk reactions, lazy thinking, unwillingness to consider another point of view. It’s a simple thought, people who behave badly, who do bad things, can’t be happy. THere is a serious void in violent individuals and in my logic, i can’t see how reacting to, and treating, such people with violence is ever going to help the overall situation. If you can show love (not tolerance or indifference to their actions, of course) to even the most despicable persons, you just may perhaps effect a positive change in those persons, which, in the least, makes it possible they will also go on to do the same to those who cross their paths. Now i’m not saying we should go around hugging someone strapped to a suicide vest, but if we could get to such a person before they got to that point through love and compassion. If we make people a priority over profit, give them the help they need before they devolve into killers, would that not be worth a try? People don’t just turn to extremism overnight, so there must be a trail or pattern to their behaviour before hand. If we payed more attention to our youth and ensured all people within society are being treated fair and equal, if we diminish the breeding ground for hatred, intolerance, and violence, then we eliminate as much as possible the reasons and conditions for such violence to spread. I don’t know much…all i do know is that eye for an eye never seems to work, and it also mirrors the exact behaviour we are supposedly fighting against.

    • Thank you Dannie! Thank you for putting into words many of the thoughts I have had over the past few days. I only hope that there are many other people who share our views … including influential leaders who control foreign policy and / or resources. I hope they will consider new strategies that engage the heart and strive to provide a new framework where peace can grow.
      Trying to fight fire with fire leaves everyone burned … we need to remove the fuel that has been consistently feeding the fire for the past few decades. We need to replace it with hope, love and opportunity for everyone to live fulfilling and joyful lives. The world has the resources and capability to make this happen … what it needs (especially from those in positions of power) is the willingness to make it happen.
      I don’t know what it will take to cause this critical shift … to cause those who control and wield power – and in some cases feed off of this constant state of fear – to loosen their grip and share in the abundance that could be enjoyed by all, not just a few.
      I don’t know how long it will take for human beings to fairly respect and appreciate ALL OTHER HUMAN BEINGS … to stop dividing and conquering … to start embracing and collaborating.
      I don’t know how long it will take to realize that it is only by caring and sharing that we can truly soften hardened hearts.
      It is those with hardened hearts who destroy and kill … it is those with hardened hearts who turn to violence. We need to soften hearts … to help them hope for a better way that is truly possible, not a bitter deception. We need to soften hearts through compassion and generosity – something that we are all capable of – if only we lived in a world where scarcity and a “survival of the fittest” attitude was not branded on our thought-process from the time we could walk.
      I know that Utopia is not possible … but given the fact that violence begetting violence has proven to be an ineffective strategy in this so-called “War on Terror”, why not try something different? What have we got to lose that isn’t already slipping away if we keep going on the path we’re on?
      To quote the late, great, Martin Luther King Jr.: “Hate begets hate; violence begets violence; toughness begets a greater toughness. We must meet the forces of hate with the power of love… Our aim must never be to defeat or humiliate […] but to win friendship and understanding.

  11. Why are those Isis bastards doing this? If we do nothing then what will happen in the future? Look what has happened over the years like what you just explained and we have fought back and look what they still keep doing so what will happen if we do nothing?? They want an Islamic world which will not happen. They are killing innocent people worldwide for no reason. Bring on world war 3 and kill them all. UKIP

  12. What I read is pretty correct even tho you cannot let people so radicated in their religion, to spread the fear all over the world. I mean that when they see a symbol of another religion, they’d rather destroy it than look at it. They are the first who don’t want to have a pacific relationship with other religion and countries. So the question is always the same. We can’t look at the past and cry and still the terrorism is here. What should people do? Should they let ISIS do what they want? Or bombing them is right?

    The answer is as easy as terrible sometimes, and i really feel lucky I don’t have to take this decision.

  13. What has been done over the last 14 years may well have succeeded in holding back an enormous flood. What evidence do you have that it hasn’t worked, and by what standard do you measure the last 14 years efforts?

  14. So you say that ISIS which trades populations as slaves, uses women and girls as sex slaves, kills homosexuals, destroys past civilisations artworks, beheads journalists and curators, calls Israel and shiites to be wrecked, and so, shall be left alone and deal with its own business ? Perhaps it would have been clever to not have come first, but now, as things like ISIS exists, can we wash our hands ? People has been killed in Europe but we shall not forget people suffers every day in Syria and northern Irak, because of instability we contributed to create, shall we let them alone ? It isn’t when the vase is broken that we can say it isn’t a good idea to play with. It’s our bad, don’t let them alone to repair, hopping everything may be allright.

  15. One thing that could be done is to use all possible means to prevent more US weaponry from flowing into the Middle East — to Israel, to Saudi, to Egypt, and yes, even to ISIS/Daesh. Should be some way to screw up the computers handling bills of lading, payment, etc.

  16. Please save the world from illuminatie all these pour people that needs to be saved ypu guys can do these shut down nucliar electricitie centrals for a start i wanna help but dont know how and i know that there are many people like me that are aware off illuminatie but we dont have the power to take actions against them i have my rules like i dont want no kids that have to work for them i dont want special luxury like a car or a house i just rent please give my some tips to go further with my life thanks from belgium


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