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Rape as Strategy: Gaza and London

Thursday, July 24th, 2014

[ by Charles Cameron -- at least three ways of looking at a pair of tweets ]
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If there can be Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird, there are at least three or four ways of looking at these two tweets:

The similarities are eerie, the differences are enormous.

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You could, I suppose, look at it as an Israel to London comparison, although I don’t think that approach would be particularly insightful. Or gang-members vs academics, which might be a little more interesting. I’d suggest, however, that the first way many people will read the comparison above will be as a statement about the Israeli-Palestinian situation: London fades into the background, a professor’s (from my POV intermerate) statement of a seemingly intractable problem gets equated with an actual gangland threat and praxis:

On that reading, the juxtaposition is an indictment of the Israeli side in the current Gaza conflict. And that’s a huge pity, because the professor’s words were specifically not about “what should be done” but about “what it would take” to do the job — in this case, of getting suicide bombers to refrain from killing themselves and others.

So from my POV the second reading, which critiques the first (IMO appropriately) is of a comparison between what in my diagram I’ll call “thought experiment” and “threat, tactic” — the latter word indicating that the threat is one that is carried out in practice, ie in the form of selective, vengeful, punitive rape of the daughters and sisters of enemies:

Here is a little more of the context — note the professor’s disclaimer, “I’m not talking about what we should or shouldn’t do. I’m talking about the facts”:

“The only thing that can deter terrorists, like those who kidnapped the children and killed them, is the knowledge that their sister or their mother will be raped.” This assertion was made by Middle East scholar Dr. Mordechai Kedar of Bar-Ilan University about three weeks ago on an Israel Radio program. “It sounds very bad, but that’s the Middle East,” added Kedar, of Bar-Ilan’s Department of Arabic. [ .. ]

“You have to understand the culture in which we live,” said Kedar. “The only thing that deters [Hamas leaders] is a threat to the connection between their heads and their shoulders.” When presenter Yossi Hadar asked if that “could filter down” the organization’s ranks, Kedar replied: “No, because lower down the considerations are entirely different.

Terrorists like those who kidnapped the children and killed them — the only thing that deters them is if they know that their sister or their mother will be raped in the event that they are caught. What can you do, that’s the culture in which we live.”

When Hadar said, “We can’t take such steps, of course,” Kedar continued: “I’m not talking about what we should or shouldn’t do. I’m talking about the facts. The only thing that deters a suicide bomber is the knowledge that if he pulls the trigger or blows himself up, his sister will be raped. That’s all. That’s the only thing that will bring him back home, in order to preserve his sister’s honor.”

Now, is that a valid disclaimer — or a slippery slope?

Mileages, I fear, will differ greatly on the answers to that question.

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But wait.

What if you’re not a partisan of the Palestinian or Israeli side, but of a humanity long weary of wars but seemingly woven into them by nature and nurture — warp and woof on the loom of history?

What if you’re a woman?

I’m not a woman, and it is only through the promptings of friends like Elizabeth Pearson and Cheryl Rofer that I eventually get around to looking at this particular juxtaposition — and other analytic complexities as appropriate — with an eye to gender differences.

Here the picture may overlay one or both of the previous ones — or obliterate their carefully-drawn distinctions completely. The picture is this:

Wives, of course, too, aunts, nieces — wherever it hurts, whoever the adversary is honor-bound to protect.

And some will say, that’s the nature of war! — and not be entirely wrong.

What a world. And in it, across time, the minds and hearts that gave us the books of Isaiah and Job, the masses of Bach and Beethoven, the Mezquita of Cordoba and the Taj Mahal, Abhinavagupta and Chuang Tzu, Gell-Mann and Francis Crick

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Sources:

  • Guardian: Gangs draw up lists of girls to rape as proxy attacks on rivals
  • Haaretz: Israeli professor’s ‘rape as terror deterrent’ statement draws ire
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    Jihad for Dummies

    Thursday, July 10th, 2014

    [ by Charles Cameron -- as Karl Sharro notes, the Guardian piece "says it all" ]
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    The Guardian article linked in that tweet contains the following para:

    Their path to radicalisation involved inspiration from material from Osama bin Laden’s mentor, Abdullah Azzam, online material, and using the internet to chat with extremists overseas. As part of their preparations they ordered books online from Amazon, including titles such as Islam For Dummies, the Koran For Dummies and Arabic For Dummies.

    Gotcha.

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    Here are two other paras of interest:

    School friends Yusuf Sarwar and Mohammed Ahmed, both 22, pleaded guilty to terrorism offences before their trial could start at Woolwich crown court.

    Police did not know the men had travelled to Syria, where they spent eight months, until one of their mothers contacted detectives in May last year, shortly after the pair had left. She had found a note written by her son saying he had gone to fight and wished to “die as a martyr”.

    My comment here? My own frequent focus is on the importance of religious drivers in contemporary terrorism — and that’s present here too, but as what is distinctly a secondary theme.

    More to the point, the two were “school friends” — supporting Marc Sageman’s contention in Leaderless Jihad and Understanding Terror Networks that bonds of friendship play an important role in recruitment. Also of note, it was once again [this example is from the UK, link is to US data] the support of the Muslim community that gave police the heads up that lead to these arrests.

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    As to wanting to “die as a martyr” — perhaps obtaining a deeper understanding of Islam than Islam for Dummies can present would be advisable first. Ordering a copy of Arabic for Dummies makes sense, perhaps — but Martyrdom for Dummies is strictly for dummies.

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    Sir Richard Dearlove speaks — and the caliphate responds?

    Wednesday, July 9th, 2014

    [ by Charles Cameron -- a nasty piece of news to come across after listening to Dearlove's RUSI speech ]
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    Here is Sir Richard Dearlove, Master of Pembroke College, Cambridge, and former chief of the British Secret Intelligence Service, speaking on Terrorism and National Security: Proportion or Distortion? at the Royal United Services Institute, yesterday:

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    Sir Richard’s thrust was that 9-11 has overshadowed our thinking about intelligence resources, and we (which means the Brits, here, but with wider possible application) should cut back on CT and focus more on Russia, China, and other non-jihad-driven threats. In his view, we have seen CT through the lens of 9-11 as jihadists vs the west, naturally enough, when in facty it is becoming clearer and clearer that the “real” ME issue is the ancient rivalry of Sunni vs Shia.

    However, and notably for my purpose here, he had one qualification to add to that overall assessment:

    In one important respect I need to add a qualification to my argument. I’m surprised that some of the more chilling threats that we did worry about, and should still probably worry about, have not materialized. And I’m of course referring to the possibility of CBRN, chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear attacks. A single successful urban attack using any of these methods would probably have far-reaching consequences. It would represent an escalation that could fundamentally change — in the opposite direction from what I’m saying — how we do counterterrorism, and destroy my argument about proportionality.

    However, with the exception of a possible radiological contamination event, I think that this threat is more latent than actual. The technology bottleneck is a narrow one. Chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons are largely state developed and controlled, and unless an ISIS-type movement were to rest control on aspects of a state program, we should have the means to exercise surveillance and control of that bottleneck.

    This transcript is partially my own work, partially drawn from JustSecurity.org‘s abridged but helpful version.

    **

    That was yesterday, July 7th 2014.

    Today, an AP bulletin caught my eye:

    Iraq says ‘terrorists’ seize chemical weapons site

    UNITED NATIONS (AP) – Iraq has informed the United Nations that the Islamic State extremist group has taken control of a vast former chemical weapons facility northwest of Baghdad where 2,500 chemical rockets filled with the deadly nerve agent sarin or their remnants were stored along with other chemical warfare agents.

    Iraq’s U.N. Ambassador Mohamed Ali Alhakim said in a letter to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon circulated Tuesday that “terrorist” groups entered the Muthanna site June 11 and seized weapons and equipment from the protection force guarding the facility.

    He singled out the capture of bunkers 13 and 41 in the sprawling complex, which according to a 2004 U.N. report also contained the toxic agent sodium cyanide, which is a precursor for the chemical warfare agent tabun, and artillery shells contaminated with mustard gas.

    For obvious reasons, that had a lot of folk concerned. The current version at the same link begins:

    Iraq: ‘Terrorists’ seize ex-chemical weapons site

    UNITED NATIONS (AP) – The Islamic State extremist group has taken control of a vast former chemical weapons facility northwest of Baghdad, where remnants of 2,500 degraded chemical rockets filled decades ago with the deadly nerve agent sarin are stored along with other chemical warfare agents, Iraq said in a letter circulated Tuesday at the United Nations.

    The U.S. government played down the threat from the takeover, saying there are no intact chemical weapons and it would be very difficult, if not impossible, to use the material for military purposes.

    Iraq’s U.N. Ambassador Mohamed Ali Alhakim told U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in a letter that “armed terrorist groups” entered the Muthanna site on June 11, detained officers and soldiers from the protection force guarding the facilities and seized their weapons. The following morning, the project manager spotted the looting of some equipment via the camera surveillance system before the “terrorists” disabled it, he said.

    The Islamic State group, which controls parts of Syria, sent its fighters into neighboring Iraq last month and quickly captured a vast stretch of territory straddling the border between the two countries. Last week, its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, declared the establishment of an Islamic state, or caliphate, in the land the extremists control.

    Alhakim said as a result of the takeover of Muthanna, Iraq is unable “to fulfil its obligations to destroy chemical weapons” because of the deteriorating security situation. He said it would resume its obligations “as soon as the security situation has improved and control of the facility has been regained.”

    Alhakim singled out the capture of bunkers 13 and 41 in the sprawling complex 35 miles (56 kilometers) northwest of Baghdad in the notorious “Sunni Triangle.”

    The last major report by U.N. inspectors on the status of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction program was released about a year after the experts left in March 2003. It states that Bunker 13 contained 2,500 sarin-filled 122-mm chemical rockets produced and filled before 1991, and about 180 tons of sodium cyanide, “a very toxic chemical and a precursor for the warfare agent tabun.”

    The U.N. said the bunker was bombed during the first Gulf War in February 1991, which routed Iraq from Kuwait, and the rockets were “partially destroyed or damaged.”

    It said the sarin munitions were “of poor quality” and “would largely be degraded after years of storage under the conditions existing there.” It said the tabun-filled containers were all treated with decontamination solution and likely no longer contain any agent, but “the residue of this decontamination would contain cyanides, which would still be a hazard.”

    CBRN would be the game-changer…

    And I’m not quite sure yet, whether to feel relieved again or not.

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    Jenan Moussa twitterstreams ISIS rules

    Thursday, June 12th, 2014

    [ by Charles Cameron -- Jenan Moussa is a correspondent for Al Aan TV, tweeting as @jenanmoussa ]
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    Here (in my opinion) is what Twitter is good for, today’s version — Jenan Moussa twitterstreams the “ISIS rules” from Nineveh:

    and:

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    Please note that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi‘s views are no more definitive of Islam than Oliver Cromwell‘s were of Christianity — both, however, were promulgated by force of arms, and both were viewed as appropriate expressions of religious doctrine by their followers.

    Religious violence in support of puritan morality is a complex and vexatious business.

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    On the confounded confusion of religions!

    Wednesday, June 11th, 2014

    [ by Charles Cameron -- Ireland and Israel are more Muslim than Saudi Arabia, while Gandhi was more Christian than Billy Graham -- non-obvious, but arguable? ]
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    **

    The Irish Times yesterday ranked Ireland ‘the most truly Muslim country in the world’:

    The country in the world most faithful to the values of the Koran is Ireland according to an Iranian-born academic at George Washingon University in the US. Next are Denmark, Sweden and the UK.

    In a BBC interview, Hossein Askari, Professor of International Business and International Affairs at George Washington University said a study by himself and colleague Dr Scheherazde S Rehman, also rates Israel (27) as being more compliant with the ideals of the Koran than any predominantly Muslim country.

    If Ireland is Muslim, which I’ve never been entirely sure of, maybe it’s because Gandhi was so very Christian. In 2001, Christianity Today reported a poll of “931 self-designated Christians in Britain” in a piece somewhat titled Survey Silliness:

    NOP Research Group (company slogan: “Knowledge Is Power”) conducted the poll for the religious division of British publisher Hodder & Stoughton. [ ... ]

    The poll asked respondents to rank the Christian qualities of five world figures.

    Undoubtedly to the great relief of her Missionaries of Charity, Mother Teresa won in a landslide of 53 percent. But then the results turn strange: George Carey (the Archbishop of Canterbury) and Mahatma Gandhi tie at 10 percent, singer Cliff Richard snags 6 percent, and evangelist Billy Graham wins only 3 percent.

    I think you may need to be British to appreciate the religious importance of rocker Cliff Richards, and even then it’s not compulsory.

    **

    In any case, all this religious mixology led me to search on Google for Chrislam, which in turn led me to Theodore Shoebat and my next post

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