Weak Brits, Tough French
That's the title of an article by Daniel Pipes that I found fascinating. He explains that in Iraq, the Brits have been resolute but not in the war on terror -- where, surprise... France surpasses them by far.
British-based terrorists have carried out operations in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Kenya, Tanzania, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Israel, Morocco, Russia, Spain, and America. Many governments - Jordanian, Egyptian, Moroccan, Spanish, French, and American - have protested London's refusal to shut down its Islamist terrorist infrastructure or extradite wanted operatives. In frustration, Egypt's president Hosni Mubarak publicly denounced Britain for "protecting killers." One American security group has called for Britain to be listed as a terrorism-sponsoring state.
What the hell is the British government thinking? Oh right. That it will make them immune from terror attacks on their land. Sadly, they grossly miscalculated. It's confusing to me how they could be missing the mark so completely. And the consequences of it all breaks my heart for her people.
Counterterrorism specialists disdain the British. Roger Cressey calls London "easily the most important jihadist hub in Western Europe." Steven Simon dismisses the British capital as "the Star Wars bar scene" of Islamic radicals.
Well, that's a visual, isn't it? A scary one at that. But what exactly are the French doing?
While London hosts terrorists, Paris hosts a top-secret counterterrorism center, code-named Alliance Base, the existence of which was recently reported by the Washington Post.
Guess that secret's out. So who's a part of this Alliance Base?
At Alliance Base, six major Western governments have since 2002 shared intelligence and run counterterrorism operations - the latter makes the operation unique.
Wow! Impressive they could keep it secret for that long. So the French are doing some great things to fight Islamists -- that the British government seems to have been avoiding.
More broadly, President Chirac instructed French intelligence agencies just days after September 11, 2001, to share terrorism data with their American counterparts "as if they were your own service." The cooperation is working: A former acting CIA director, John E. McLaughlin, called the bilateral intelligence tie "one of the best in the world." The British may have a "special relationship" with Washington on Iraq, but the French have one with it in the war on terror.
It's a wonder this info didn't leak out earlier -- it might have gone a long way to improving Americans' feelings towards France. France has some of the toughest laws (or should I say lightest?) with regards to terror suspects.
France accords terrorist suspects fewer rights than any other Western state, permitting interrogation without a lawyer, lengthy pre-trial incarcerations, and evidence acquired under dubious circumstances. Were he a terrorism suspect, the author of Al-Qaida's Jihad in Europe, Evan Kohlmann, says he "would least like to be held under" the French system.
Excellent. I like the sound of that. I know the civil liberties police are probably ready to whack me for saying that, but at least they'd be alive to do it.
Pipes goes on to illustrate a major difference in how the Brits and French handle the problem of radical Islam. Tony Blair's own wife defended a young Muslim school girl in her victorious suit to win the right to wear her jilbab (covers the entire body except face and hands) while the French government outlawed the hijab, the Muslim headscarf, incurring the wrath of Islamists worldwide.
In Tehran, protesters shouted "Death to France!" and "Death to Chirac the Zionist!" The Palestinian Authority mufti, Ikrima Sa'id Sabri, declared, "French laws banning the hijab constitute a war against Islam as a religion." The Saudi grand mufti, Abdul Aziz al-Sheikh, called them a human rights infringement. When the "Islamic Army in Iraq" kidnapped two French journalists, it threatened their execution unless the hijab ban was revoked. Paris stood firm.
What lies behind these contrary responses? The British have seemingly lost interest in their heritage while the French hold on to theirs: As the British ban fox hunting, the French ban hijabs. The former embrace multiculturalism, the latter retain a pride in their historic culture. This contrast in matters of identity makes Britain the Western country most vulnerable to the ravages of radical Islam whereas France, for all its political failings, has held onto a sense of self that may yet see it through.
I do have one issue with Pipes' hypothesis. If the French are trying so hard to hold onto their heritage, why are they embracing the idea of the EU? And of course there's still those issues of Chirac being contrary to every position we take in some lame attempt to get out of our shadow. I can't say that I'm completely warmed up to Chirac, but perhaps the ice cube I've had is starting to melt... a tiny bit.