Terror Strikes Sydney

As the world knows now, terror has struck Australia’s shores like a lighting bolt. As Australians woke up yesterday, most likely nobody could have predicted what would happen or could expect that by 10am the entire country’s attention would be focused on a hostage situation in Sydney.

What we know so far is fragmented and at times contradictory. However, from what we can gather, at 9:45am an unknown man entered the Lindt Cafe in Sydney’s Martin Place and took over 20 people hostage. The first images that emerged were of two terrified women holding a black Islamic Shahada flag up against the window.

1418601847601It was initially reported, incorrectly, that this was the flag of the Islamic State. Nevertheless, the presence of this flag at the beginning of the hostage crisis stamped the event with overtones of an Islamist extremist attack.

For most of the day, there were no developments in the hostage case. Police acted swiftly and sealed off most of downtown Sydney, with the news and social media lighting up as people sought out and traded what information they could find. The information was incomplete, inconsistent, and sometimes completely false. Then at mid afternoon we saw the dramatic images of at first 3 people and then later another 2 escaping from the cafe and running into the arms of police. For many, the defining image of the siege was a cafe employee running into the arms of a heavily armed tactical response officer

039905-ee7b8d36-8421-11e4-b7a3-5366c32c384aA hostage runs towards a police officer outside Lindt cafe, where other hostages are being held, in Martin Place in central Sydne

As night fell though, the siege appeared to settle down, as the hostage taker reportedly released a number of demands. These have not been confirmed by police, but have been reported to include the provision of an Islamic State flag to the hostage taker, along with the demand to talk to the Prime Minister.

What we know at this stage is that just after 2am, police seemed to storm the building. Witnesses report explosions plus several volleys of gunfire. Hostages then started streaming out of the building, some assisted by police. The confrontation ended with 3 dead, including the hostage taker, and a number injured, including a police officer who was shot in the attack.

It is far too early to speculate about what happened. There will be an immense media beat-up in the next few weeks and months, and the Police and security services will conduct their own investigation.

From what we can surmise so far though, police could have entered the building based on an imminent threat to the hostage’s safety. In hostage situations like this, the strategy employed by police is usually to wait out the hostage taker while the threat to the hostages is minimized. During this time hostage negotiators will attempt to contact the assailant and understand the situation more fully. There is often a dialogue back to forth. The best solution is for the hostage taker to reach some agreement with police and release some or all of the hostages. It is suggested that the exit of the 5 hostages earlier in the day could have been a negotiated release by police, though it is unclear if their escaped or were released.

Police will move in on a hostage taker if there is the belief that there is clear and present danger to the hostages, or if there is an open opportunity to defuse the situation quickly and safely. While we don’t know what sparked the attack, the gunman inside could have acted in a hostile manner towards the hostages or gave police reason to believe he was about to do so. This seems likely, as police had been content to wait out the siege for almost 16 hours previously, before moving in.

From watching the video of the live assault, at first one can hear a muffled shot, perhaps from inside the cafe. Police at this stage started to push into the building, leading to another single shot, followed shortly by a volley of shots as police opened fire. At around the 16 – 18 second mark the police seem to have thrown up to 4 flashbang like devices into the building, followed by bright flashes of light before they make entry and hostages are rescued from the building.

As expected the confrontation was over in seconds. My initial belief, based on the very limited amount of data which is available, is that the hostage taker could have fired a shot (the initial shot heard) which then sparked the police storming the cafe. It is hard to know what could have happened however, as the footage is not have a great quality, and down not show any other angles. More details will emerge shortly, and I will attempt to analyze these as they come to light.

Expect more shortly, and our thoughts and prayers go out to those affected by this terrible attack.

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Obama Obama, We Love Osama! The True nature of the Muslim Riots

Today, Sydney Australia was rocked by violent protests as Muslim demonstrators surged through the streets holding signs saying “Behead Those Who Insult the Prophet Muhammad”, and carrying the flag of the Jihadists. Hundreds of protesters battled with police, hurling rocks at them, and injuring at least six officers. The crowd also vandalized property, and assaulted some individuals in the street. Police ended up gassing the crowd and using dogs to disperse the rioters, who vowed to return in greater numbers.

The reason given for the violence was the perceived insult to Islam by the trailer to the film made in America The Innocence of Muslims. Although not even confirmed as legitimate, the film has sparked uprisings around the world, with the most tragic moment being the assault on the American embassy in Libya and the murder of the American ambassador to Libya.

However, let us not fall into the trap of thinking these protests are in any way a legitimate expression of anger against this film. Let us not look at Sydney and claim that the violence was in any way, shape, or form a justified response to oppression. The vast majority of these rioters have never lived under oppression, have never been persecuted for their faith, and have lived in a free and democratic country which has been well known for their policy of openness to immigration and multiculturalism.

This violence is another outbreak of what Samuel Harrington termed the “Clash of Civilizations”. The Muslim world believes, rightly or wrongly, that the West has declared war against them, and against Islam in particular. The Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have been painted as a crusade against Islam. This picture has not been helped by ill advised comments by the previous American administration.

In response to this, the Muslim culture has risen up against the West. They will fight back with everything they can against America and it’s allies, including Australia. The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are only a symbol of the festering conflict between East and West; between Christian and Muslim. Groups such as Al Qaeda have been very open in appealing to the religious nature of this war, and they are absolutely correct. This is a fight, not against a government or a geopolitical ideology. It is a fight against a way of life. It is a fight against a culture.

America has been taught time and time again that to the Muslim people, a term I will use in a general sense, it is always seen as a target, no matter if they are allied to them or not. Americans feel hurt and angry that they are attacked in Iraq and Afghanistan after removing despotic regimes from power. They are confused why Libyans slaughter their ambassador after they freed their country. They do not understand why Muslims world wide are attacking their embassies due to an obscure film that the American administration had nothing to do with, and have not supported in any way.

The fact is, the film is meaningless. It is not the cause of this hatred. It is merely an excuse to carry on a campaign of hatred and terror against the West. No matter now much the West has done for these people. No matter now free the country in which they live, to the Muslim community, they will seize control of the nation and impose their own law on the people. And then they will have their revenge for perceived years of oppression in their homelands. Thus, radicals such as Ibrahim Siddiq-Conlon in Australia call for Sharia law openly, and state that only a Muslim government of Australia would be legitimate. Siddiq-Conlon is right when he states

“One day Australia will live under sharia; it’s inevitable,” he said. “If they (Australians) don’t accept it, that’s not our problem. We hope, and our objective is to have a peaceful transition, but when you look at history that has never been the case. There’s always been a fight. It is inevitable that one day there will be a struggle for Islam in Australia.”

http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/nation/pm-go-and-let-the-muslims-take-over/story-e6frg6nf-1225991362018

Later, this charming individual goes on to state that he hates democracy, and calls for the hatred of the worship of any other religion than Islam.

To radicals like Siddiq Conlon, the battle on the streets of Sydney is far more than an isolated outburst against a video. It is a culture war. They are not in Australia to assimilate, they are in Australia to attack the country, the culture, the people, and to take over.

Australians, good natured, trusting, and blissfully ignorant until recently of the affairs of the world, are shocked and stunned by these attacks. While Australians have the reputation of being racist, and indeed can be, they have no idea of how to respond to an attack on their very way of life by people they feel they have given refuge and shelter to.

The protesters in Sydney are not only attacking a culture, they are expressing open support for terrorist organisations such as Al Qaeda. In a chant on the street, Muslim men in Sydney shouted “Obama! Obama! We Love Osama!”. In another photo, protesters are holding a flag similar to those used by Al Qaeda.

Until Australia, America, and the UK realize that they cannot negotiate, cannot give in, and cannot placate such hatred, the clash between Muslim and Australian, American, or Briton will become more and more frequent. Immigration from largely Muslim homelands to Australia and Europe especially has created concern among the local population, who feel intimidated by actions such as what happened in Sydney today. In response, increased racism and violence in return occurs, resulting in greater ill will between the two cultures, and thus strengthening a cycle of violence.

However, in a message to Muslims in Australia, I would say: I do not hate you. I sympathize with some of your grievances, however this is not the way to go about addressing them. I do not wish you out of my country. I welcome you to Australia, as long as you abide by Australian law and live as a law abiding citizen.

However, if you attempt to destroy the freedoms I enjoy here, and which are freely offered to you. If you attempt to cause harm or violence to me, my country, or my people, this attempt will be resisted, and I will work to restrict your ability to carry out such attacks. Attacks against this country will result in a blowback to your interests by Australians. If you wish to find freedom in this country, respect the laws of the country, and the country will respect you.

Your actions today in Sydney, and elsewhere around the world, are reprehensible. They show many of you for what you truely are. If you hate this country, if you hate our way of life, if you hate the West so much, I understand that your views will be more warmly received in Libya, Sudan, Egypt, Syria, or Iraq. Please take your views back to these places or others where they will be received.

If a Clash of Civilizations occurs, the West must understand what is at stake, and what must be done to win in this war. Tolerance must exist. Hatred towards Muslims, the Muslim religion, or towards the community in general makes us as bad as the protesters. Our response must be both respectful, but firm. Such behaviour as this should not be allowed, and must be met with swift justice. Not injustice, not vigilantism, but justice through the policing, intelligence, and legal systems of this country.

To Muslims in Australia, remember: What image you give to Australians now, will determine how you are treated by this country.

Fool me once, shame on you, Fool me twice…

There is the old saying, fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. As a former manager once told me, “I am quite happy for you to make mistakes; that means you’re being active and learning. But if you make the same mistake again, you have learnt nothing from the first”.

On a geopolitical level, the Western nations seem to have made mistakes again and again, and yet are constantly surprised and amazed at the predictable result. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, the US and the UK found themselves again on the front lines of the Cold War. The Place, Afghanistan. The Enemy, Russia, and the Communist backed government of Afghanistan. In the 1980s, the Americans flooded Afghanistan with sophisticated weapons, including MANPAD systems, explosives, and small arms. Along with the arms came money. Millions of dollars were poured into the country through the ISI in Pakistan, all for the purpose of “liberating” the country. Americans such as Charlie Wilson and the Right Wing Christian movement pushed vigorously for increased support to the Afghan Mujahedeen.

Along with weapons and money can support in the form of a public image campaign. American and British movies, from Rambo to James Bond, all portrayed a heroic struggle by a simple yet courageous people against a brutal government.

Support came also, from all over the world. Arab and Muslim fighters flocked to Afghanistan, where they enlisted in the call to Jihad against the infidel Soviets. Along with the droves of fighters came a wealthy Saudi Arabian man who dreamed of using his talents, his money, his connections, and his whole life to advancing the cause of Islam. His name of Usama Bin Laden. Usama, and many others like him, found their true calling in life in the fires of the Afghan resistance against the Soviets. CIA and SAS units were eager to arm and train anybody who would fight against the Soviets. Along with these arms came valuable training in explosives, assassination, sophisticated weapons systems, and other black arts. These lessons were learnt all to well by the young Muslim recruits, who then used them to great effect against the Soviets.

 

Bin Laden in Afghanistan 1980s

The Americans were successful. Through their proxy armies, they had defeated the Soviet Union, turning Afghanistan into a Russian Vietnam. Indeed, the defeat, and the expense incurred, was instrumental in bringing down an increasingly weak USSR some years later.

Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and Deputy Direction of the CIA Richard Kerr

But as the victory celebrations died down, warlords such as Hekmatyar, Massoud, and other individuals realized that they now had to govern a power vacuum. It is said that nature abhors a vacuum, but politics and power do so even more. The weapons and training which had driven out the Soviets now were turned on each other, as the warlords fell to fighting each other for power.

In this vacuum arose a new power. Hailing from the religious schools on the Afghan border with Pakistan, and fired with religious zeal from the Whabbist schools of thought in Saudi Arabia, the Taliban swept into Afghanistan from the east, capturing Kabul, and controlling most of the country except for the northern areas held by Massoud and the Northern Alliance.
Having no love for the West, the Taliban imposed a strict view of Sharia upon the whole country, plunging the country back into the Dark Ages.

Others, though, had a more globalist view of the Jihad they had just won. Men like Bin Laden, Khalim, Basayev, Khattab, and al-Zawahiri were veterans of this war, which imbued them with the confidence to take on the West. After all, they had defeated one Superpower. Why not another one? When Bin Laden formed Al Qaeda in the 1990s in response to what he saw as American aggression towards Muslims and a desecration of Islam, he had a large source of recruits to choose from. Men who had fought with him in Afghanistan found themselves with a set of skills which could be very easily turned against their former benefactors, the United States. The Jihadists built up their experience and skills in Africa, in Afghanistan in support of the Taliban, in Pakistan, in Chechnya, in Palestine, in the Balkans, and in the Philippines. The view of Bin Laden was to leverage the contacts he had made in Afghanistan into a worldwide network to bring the fight to the West. Bin Laden came full circle when he returned to Afghanistan with Al Qaeda. Safe in the country, he established training facilities, to which a new generation of aspiring young men who sought the glories of Jihad flocked.

The reason we have discussed this history is that it bears very serious lessons for American foreign policy today, which are being very quickly forgotten by the current Administration. The Neo Conservative idea under President Bush was that if America only removed dictatorial regimes from power in the Middle East, other regimes would fall like dominos, creating a wave of freedom across the region. America put this theory to the test in Iraq, with a far less than satisfactory result. Rather than embracing freedom and democracy and the American way, Iraqis first turned against the American invaders and then against each other. More than any place on earth, the Middle East cannot have a political vacuum present without some group attempting to fill it. In Iraq, the Americans soon found that they lacked both the support and the political know-how to even consider filling the political vacuum they had created with the destruction of the regime of Saddam Hussein.

As a result, Al Qaeda moved in force into Iraq, carrying on both attacks against American forces, and then against Shiite Muslims in the country. Iran responded by filling the power vacuum with Shiite supporters such as the Madhi Army. These two groups brought Iraq into the verge of Civil War, before the Sunni backed Al Qaeda was pushed out of the country.

America should have learned valuable lessons from both Afghanistan and Iraq. Regime change in the Middle East is often the prelude to anarchy, violence, and greater bloodshed. And dictatorial regimes can be seen as being far superior to the violence which follows their demise. American styled Democracy does not take root easily in the Middle East, as has been seen in Iraq, Afghanistan, Egypt, Syria, and Libya.

Instead, the current American strategy is still to support and fight for regime change. In the case of Libya, this was successful, and a military campaign ousted Gadhafi from power, leading to his death and the formation of a new government. Around the same time, Mubarak fell from power in Egypt, bringing in new “democratic” elections.

The Arab Spring was touted by pundits, activists, and neoconservatives as being an amazing example of “People Power” rising up against oppressive regimes and overcoming them through willpower and the might of the population. It was seen as being a new wave of freedom and democracy in the Middle East. Very few voices, in the days of Libya’s revolution, sought to criticize the movements in Egypt, Bahrain, Libya, Tunisia, Syria, and Yemen. After all, were not the governments in question corrupt, violent, and despotic? Isn’t the rule by the people the best kind of government?

American writers, bloggers, political scientists, and activists were not the only ones watching and rejoicing at the Arab Spring. Al Qaeda was watching events very carefully also. With the death of Usama Bin Laden, and on the run worldwide, Al Qaeda was in dire need of another safe haven, where they could regroup and plan their comeback. The Arab Spring gave them exactly this. It was a movement which posed serious threats to the secular, despotic governments who had so often waged war against them. In every country which has seen regime change, or attempted regime change, the Governments have waged an often brutal war against Al Qaeda and other jihadist groups. Libya, Egypt, and Syria had all sought to destroy their influence and power. And with these governments now crumbling, Al Qaeda saw the creation of more political vacuums. And as we have seen before, whenever there is a vacuum, the Jihadists are quick to try and take advantage of the opportunity.

In a four part series, we will discuss the impact of Al Qaeda and other extremist groups on the Arab Spring, their current successes in Libya, Syria, and Egypt, and the bleak future it poses for the region as they have seized power. Al Qaeda is back with a safe haven. It now has another battle to fight, it now has another source of recruits for their war, and another battle ground to test their skills in. And ironically, they are now fighting on the same side as an often well meaning but hopelessly ignorant America.

 

Lessons from the Omani Conflict – Winning Hearts and Minds

Modern theorists and practitioners of counterinsurgency theory have developed a list of characteristics of insurgencies which will impact on either the success or failure of an insurgency movement. While all of these drivers and attributes of an insurgency will be present in almost all cases in varying degrees, this essay seeks to analyse the Omani Insurgency in the 1970s by the characteristics of popular support, sanctuary and external support, and weapons.

The conflict in Oman existed from the 1950s until the 1970s, even as the contestants and insurgents changed and reformed their form and goals constantly. Even though early insurgencies ended in failure, the oppressive and corrupt rule of Sultan Sa’id Bin Taymur resulted in discontent across the country, especially in the region of Dhofar in South Oman

Dhofar had long been considered the personal property of the Sultan, and was his place of residence year round, even though the government capital was in Muscat, 500 miles to the northeast

The Sultan sought to keep Oman closed off from the rest of the world, banning all forms of modern or Western technology or thought. Any who left the country for education were forbidden to return. The Sultan refused to invest in Oman’s infrastructure, creating a nation without functioning hospitals, schools, communications, or civic services

In this environment, an underground resistance movement began in Dhofar in the early 1960s. Influenced by Arab Nationalism, and seeking reforms in government, they began a small scale resistance campaign based in Salalah, the provincial capital. In 1965, Iranian forces intercepted and arrested armed Dhofari rebels in a ship attempting to enter the country. The intelligence gained from this group aided the Sultan’s forces in cracking down on the resistance in Salalah, forcing remaining resistance fighters to flee into the mountainous Jebel of Dhofar. From their new sanctuary, they formed the Dhofar Liberation Front (DLF) with the express purpose of establishing a separate Dhofari state.

Popular Support:

Originally, popular support in Dhofar was on the side of the insurgency. Initially, the DLF were committed to establishing an independent state which would end the hated rule of the Sultan, and thus achieved fairly wide popular support. The Suntan’s counterinsurgency also alienated the general population with crude tactics such as cordon and search programs, indiscriminate airstrikes and shelling, and collective punishments for communities expected as being rebel supporters. In a Government report in 1970, the military described the counterinsurgency campaign as being a purely military campaign, with no attempts to win hearts and minds, no amnesty agreements, no civil projects, and no police or intelligence support to the military.

After the DLF merged into the left wing PFLOAG, the insurgents received external funding and weapons provided from a number of Communist countries, and sanctuary across the border in Yemen. Due to this, the insurgents were on the verge of possibly overthrowing Salalah, the last remaining bastion of the Sultan’s support in Dhofar.

In 1970, Sultan Saíd Bin Taymur was overthrown in a bloodless coup by his son, Sayyid Qabus bin Said. Qabus, Sandhurst educated, had been placed under arrest by his father upon his return to Oman, but with British support and backing easily wrested control of the country from his increasingly besieged father.

Once in control, Qabus embarked on a rapid policy of openness and modernization in a five pronged strategy which illustrated his understanding of the whole of government approach to the counterinsurgency campaign. His plan included a rapid development of the country through the increase of civic services, especially in the Dhofari regions. Also, he offered a general amnesty to all insurgents who surrendered and embarked on a diplomatic campaign to isolate the rebels and their supporters in Yemen from other Arab nations.

These popular reforms went far in gaining support from the local population for the government position. Civic development teams would enter communities and provide medical and schooling care, as well as veterinary attention for the farm animals owned by the primarily farming based population

The British especially embarked on a propaganda campaign to win the hearts and minds of the Muslim based population. By playing upon religious sentiment, the general population was led to reject the Communist insurgents as atheists and infidels.

In return, the rebels responded against the population supporting the government with harsh attacks, further losing public support.

Translation: “The Hand of God Smashes Communism”

At the end of the campaign, both internal and external support for the insurgency had dried up. This is primarily due to the success of the new Omani government in winning the hearts and minds of the disaffected population.

Some authors, such as Thompson, believe that the attempt by the Rebels to force the general population to renounce Allah was the greatest alienation between them and the population. Once the Communists resorted to torture in order to attack the Muslim faith held by most of the population, their attempts at gaining popular support would always meet a measure of resistance.

External Support:

Externally, the DLF received little support initially. Egypt and Saudi Arabia provided advice, however the real external support started in 1968 from the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen (PDRY). Using the PDRY as a base, other communist countries, or leftist leaning regimes, such as China, Libya, Iraq, Cuba, and the USSR funnelled through weapons and equipment over the Yemeni border. In addition, a small contingent of Yemeni troops supported the rebels in their operation.

This influx of equipment and weaponry evened the odds initially, and put the PFLOAG on the offensive against the Sultan’s forces. Before the arrival of support and equipment, the DLF’s tactics consisted primarily of ambushes and small raids. The better armed PFLOAG was able to level the playing field, and given similar numbers would often defeat the Sultan’s forces in engagements.

From the Government’s side however, Sultan Qabus relied heavily on British forces, particularly the SAS counter insurgency forces who were able to organize an effective counter insurgency campaign against the rebels. By building on the failure of the PFLOAG to gain popular support, they formed effective tribal units to hunt down the insurgents holed up in the Jebel. The British also provided heavy weapons and equipment such as helicopters and armoured personal carriers to the Sultan.

Sultan Qabus also worked strongly to bring Oman into the Arab league and isolate the PFLOAG and the PDFY from Arab support. On a military front, the British forces cut off the outside support to the rebels through use of the Hornbeam Line, which intercepted shipments of arms from Yemen, thus denying outside support to the rebels.

Weapons:

As discussed previously, the PFLOAG became a decisive force through external support by leftist movements who provided the rebels with modern Soviet arms. These included AK-47 Kalashnikovs, 60mm and 81mm mortars, Rocket Propelled Grenades, 122mm Katyusha rockets, and SA-7 anti-aircraft missiles. The primarily smuggling route for these weapons was over the Yemeni border by camel trains into the Jebel.

Armed to this extent, the insurgents became more than a match both in firepower and numbers against the government troops. In contrast, the government soldiers were armed with inadequate uniforms and gear, no heavy weapons, and with WWI and WWII rifles and Bren guns.

After the change of government to Sultan Qabus, the tide of the insurgency turned in favour of the government forces. Rebel supply lines were targeted, cutting them off from outside support. Additionally, the amnesty program put in place by Said was remarkably effective in encouraging the surrender of insurgents. As public support turned more and more against the insurgency, the last remaining members fled across the border into Yemen in 1976, effectively ending the insurgency.

In conclusion, the deciding factor in the Omani Insurgency was the hearts and minds of the Dhofari people. Initially, the public support for the insurgency guaranteed them early victories. However, as the insurgents failed to follow up on their opportunity, and indeed drove the general public away from them through acts of terror, support was gained by the government forces, ultimately resulting in a failed insurgency.


[1] Peterson JE, “The Experience of British Counter-Insurgency Campaigns and Implications for Iraq”, Arabian Peninsula Background Note No APBN-009

[2] McKeown J, 1981, “Britain and Oman: The Dhofar War and It’s Significance”, University of Cambridge

Ladwig W, 2008, “Supporting Allies in Insurgency: Britain and the Dhofar Rebellion”, Small Wars and Insurgencies, Vol 19, No 1, March 2008

White Jim, 2008, “Oman 1965 – 1976”, Small Wars Journal Online Publication, 2008

Fine W, 2010, “Winning the Hearts and Minds in Counterinsurgency: The British Approach in Malaya and Oman and the US in Iraq and Afghanistan”, University of Kansas 2010

Thompson, L, 1996, “Ragged War: The Story of Unconventional and Counter-Revolutionary Warfare”, Arms and Armour Press, London, UK

When Robin Hood Turns Evil

You all remember Robin Hood right? Fictional English character who was maligned by Mel Brooks and recently played by Russell Crowe?

Yes, This One.

Mythical or not, Robin Hood represented to many the quintessential struggle between the weak and powerful, between the rich and the poor. In reality, far from being a dashing figure supporting the poor by stealing from the rich with a smile, Robin Hood, if he even existed, was nothing more than a thieving ruffian, not too dissimilar from a guy rolling a 7-11 for loose change.

And yet, the legend of Robin Hood has come down as a man fighting against evil, Robin Hood, the criminal, is now Robin Hood the hero. With a growing tide of welfare funded and bored teenagers trying to find an identity in protesting against whatever power structure they can see, the ghost of Robin Hood is returning. From completely insane attempts to blatantly steal from banks through the so called “Robin Hood Tax” to the spirit of the “Occupy Wall Street” protesters, a concept of stealing from the rich to give to the poor is one which appeals to the anarchist supporters who criticize society from the air conditioned lecture halls of liberal arts degrees and Starbucks cafes.

I have no idea of how the banking system works!

But the Robin Hood Tax and Wall Street have to wait for another day.

The topic for today’s article is that of the new breed of vigilantism, aka “blatant theft and destruction of property”.

And, not surprisingly, this concept of anarchism against all power and authority began with an attempted terrorist attack and a Hollywood Movie.

In 1605, the so called Gunpowder Plot, an attempt by Guy Fawkes and supporters to blow up the English House of Lords, was thwarted by English authorities. This terrorist attack was planned by Guy Fawkes in the name of the Catholic Church and the Pope, as revenge against Protestant England. Guy Fawkes hoped that the blow would trigger a major uprising of English Catholics against the Protestant government, bringing down the political structure.

While the attack was apprehended, and Guy Fawkes was hung as a traitor, his spirit lived on, and now, the Bin Laden of his day is now lauded as a hero by those who share his spirit of anarchist rebellion.

The revival of the Guy Fawkes plot into modern society began with the comic book series “V for Vendetta”, which was later unfortunately made into a major motion picture. The motion picture, which seems to have inspired much of the stupidity surrounding protests in recent years, tells the story of a criminal and terrorist err freedom fighter “V” who wears a “Guy Fawkes” mask, commits acts of terror, murder, and insurrection, and then finally dies a hero fighting against a corrupt government which crumbles through popular resistance and protest.

The persona of this character has been taken on by both the Occupy Wall Street protesters

and by another, more mysterious, but equally menacing entity: The apply named Anonymous (Anon). Anon is a misunderstood entity, like a virus or bacteria, it is constantly moving, spreading, and growing, without a central nervous system, goal, or even strategy. Anonymous is the name of a band of internet activists or vigilantes. With the World Wide Web being the new Wild Wild West, Anonymous fills the role of the new modern day outlaw or bandit.

And we are all worse off because of it.

We are also retarded

Anonymous members are a secretive bunch, always hiding behind, you guessed it, a Guy Fawkes mask, engaging in hit and run attacks on their targets, and then bragging about doing so on Twitter, Youtube, and Internet message boards.

Loosely associated with the infamous message board 4chan (seriously, don’t go there unless you like making friends with Federal Agents), Anonymous have engaged in a variety of high profile raids and attacks upon websites and servers belonging to companies or governments they decide are oppressive.

A partial list of their exploits:

  • Organising protests and attacks against the Church of Scientology
  • Invasion and Attacks on the Epilepsy Foundation message boards (for reasons best known only to Anon)
  • Iranian election protests in 2009
  • Attacks upon the Australian government websites including the webpage of PM Rudd, the Parliamentary Homepage, and others in response to the Australian resolution to censor ISP content to block illegal materials

  • Operation Payback : In response to the backlash against Julian Assange, Anonymous launched a fullscale assault upon companies they saw as opposing Wikileaks, including VISA, Amazon, Paypal, and Sony which included Denial of Service Attacks upon corporate websites.
  • Operation Arab Spring: In this attack, Anonymous took down the website of the Syrian Ministry of Defence as a token of support for the insurrection by the Syrian people.

In all of these attacks, Anonymous is little more than a cross between a high school bully and a vandal who spraypaints graffiti on the wall of a building. They look upon themselves as the modern day Robin Hoods, fighting against oppression, but they come off looking more like a screaming chimpanzee flinging mud and sticks.

One of the largest, and possibly the most far reaching attacks by Anonymous, however, has been the recent attack on Stratfor.

Stratfor has been called the “Shadow CIA”, and is a global open source intelligence firm which both provides free intelligence updates, intelligence reports and briefings on a daily basis, along with research articles for their paid subscribers, and finally intelligence services for a number of government agencies and corporate bodies.

The site has been in existence for a number of years, and is highly regarded both in and out of government for their intelligence analysis and reports on economic, military, law enforcement, and counter terrorist topics.

In December 2011, Anonymous, in association with other cyber criminal units attacked Stratfor, claiming that the website was part of the oppressing elite by supporting the US intelligence bodies. At the end of the attack, up to 200 GB of data was stolen, along with the credit card numbers and personal information of 860,000 subscribers, including my own.

It was a rude shock the day after Christmas to learn about the attack. I am a paid subscriber to Stratfor, as I find their research and analysis extremely useful in my studies. To then find that the site had been compromised by Anonymous, a group I have long held in derision and contempt, and that my personal data had been stolen by this gang of thieves, was most galling.

By the way, the mental state of these monkeys can be see at the following, where they have uploaded to the internet the entire contents of their theft.

http://pastebin.com/f7jYf5Wd

Take a moment to read through their post, I urge you, and then ask yourself if this is the rantings of a rational and intelligent mind?

After the theft of this information, Anonymous proceeded to drain as many credit cards as they could, donating the money to charities such as the Red Cross. Little did these modern day Robin Hoods think, but receiving stolen funds isn’t really in the Red Cross’s bag of tricks. The end result were increased charges for the Red Cross, as every single donation had to be returned and the Red Cross was charged individually for every one. Along with the associated time and expense required to track down every donation and return it, Anonymous may just as well looted the Red Cross.

To this date, Stratfor remains closed, with all subscribing members given a year’s free subscription to an online identity protection program.

However, hopefully anonymous has finally stepped on enough toes to justify a swift response against these idiots. Along with people such as myself who lost personal information, other subscribers include Malcolm Turnbull, David Smorgon, former US Vice President Daniel Quayle, Henry Kissinger, and former CIA director Jim Woolsey.

Stealing the credit card details of the man who ordered the bombing of Cambodia and a director of the Central Intelligence Agency? If Anonymous are lucky they will find themselves on an express trip to a certain US Navel Base in Cuba.

But what is the real result of such internet theft? How many of the 860,000 people who had their credit card details stolen were evil people bent on world domination and suppression? These would include academics, law enforcement officials, think tanks, students, and journalists. What is the justification for attacking them? What is the justification of costing banks millions of dollars as they cancel and replace credit cards, as my bank as done to mine (so don’t go looking for my card information!).

If the truth be told, Anonymous is little different than a shadow criminal organisation. Theft and extortion is just that. It is not couched in the romantic notion of good vs evil. It is not a struggle of the rich against the poor. It is the struggle of the criminal against the rest of society. And unfortunately, the rest of society has to pay the price for this.

Anonymous can bleat as long as they can that they are only attempting to protect people’s identities by exposing security holes. But at the end of the day, let us call a spade a spade.

I think that Michael Lee said it best:

I like hearing when companies pay the price for lax security, but in the case of Stratfor, proving that someone’s security is weak by spilling everyone’s details is like peeing your pants to prove your parents aren’t supervising you. It might feel good and warm at first, but you ultimately end up being the loser.

http://www.zdnet.com.au/why-we-all-lost-in-the-stratfor-hack-339328821.htm

 

 

Remembering 9-11

Reflections on the Decade

I remember where I was to the metre on September 11, 2001. I can also vividly remember my American stepfather’s reaction: shock, fear, anger….The news was sketchy, and as we lived in the middle of nowhere with no reliable television coverage, our knowledge of what had happened on that sunny September morning in New York and Washington DC was limited to conflicting phone calls from friends and whatever hysterical reporting was available through our 56k modem. As a young boy growing up in America, I had visited the Twin Towers, and lived close to Washington DC – these attacks felt personal. For those on the ground however, and those who had lost loved ones in the attacks – the day was the start of a lifelong nightmare.

America woke up on the morning of September 11 a proud, confident nation. Within 24 hours, the image of American confidence and superiority had been shattered – destroyed just as effectively as the towers of steel and metal which had been brought down by an act of terror.

Americans, and the world, looked to their President for answers. President George W Bush, only recently occupying the oval office, found himself in the most difficult position that a US President has ever experienced. How would he unite the nation, who were terrified, and looking for answers? How would he respond to this attack? Could a marginally popular President lead a nation through the greatest crisis it had experienced?

Links have often been drawn between the attacks on Pearl Harbour on December 7, 1941 and the September 11 attacks. This, I believe, is a fallacy, as it fails to consider the vast and overwhelming impact of September 11 on the American people. Pearl Harbour, while an unexpected sneak attack, was fought via conventional rules of war. The Japanese Zero pilots fought under a Japanese flag, they attacked using known tactics and weapons. The attackers did not bomb down town Honolulu, they concentrated on military targets.

The Japanese were a foe who could be defeated through a use of American military power. They wore identifiable uniforms, they had an established homeland, and they ultimately could be negotiated with and forced to surrender. The attacks also occurred within a global environment which fostered the clash of nations in war. Europe was ablaze, with America’s allies engaged in bitter conflict. It was seen as only a matter of time before America became involved militarily.

All the points above were absolutely reversed in the attacks on September 11. The attackers wore no uniform, they were unknown. Instead of attacking military targets, they specifically used civilians as both weapons of war and targets of terror. The aircraft were civilian airliners, not military warplanes. The individual or entity claiming responsibility for the attack was unknown to the American public, outside of the Intelligence bodies. Most Americans would even be hardpressed finding Afghanistan on a world map.

And finally, America became painfully aware that they were fighting an enemy who would not negotiate, would not surrender, and would not abide by the rules of war. If the enemy was prepared to sacrifice themselves without a thought to kill you, death or defeat held no fear for them.

And America demanded both action and answers. The words of my stepfather on the morning of the attack will remain with me forever…”They’re not just going to go after these people, they will knock the #*$& out of them!”.

And an entire nation demanded that America “knock the #*$&” out of somebody in response. President Bush’s words took on a tough rhetoric. “We’re going to smoke ’em out”, “The People responsible will hear us”.

That America was going to war was beyond doubt.

Fast-forward 10 years, it is unlikely that anybody in the American government could have foreseen the outcomes of two ground wars, a number of proxy wars, and a worldwide assault on the very concept of “terrorism”.

And yet, I would criticize very few of the major policy decisions made during this decade. Here is where my readers will disagree, some perhaps violently with me. However, I remain fully committed to both the Global War on Terror, and the conflicts both in Afghanistan and Iraq.

While I may oppose vigorously the tactics and execution of these conflicts, the executive decision to enter both countries, I believe, was the correct one given the circumstances. To do nothing else was unthinkable given the attacks upon America.

Ten years later, we can look back on the many mistakes made in both theatres of conflict – the documented abuse of prisoners, the killing of civilians, the insurgencies, the Iraqi civil war, the cementing of Iranian power in the region. It is easy to point at any or all of these and criticize the wars. However, what have these wars achieved?

1. Removal of Al Qaeda from it’s support base in Afghanistan and Iraq

2. Removal of Saddam Hussain from power with his government

3. Forcing of Al Qaeda to show its true colors to the Muslim world as a brutal terrorist group who will advocate killing fellow Muslims to achieve its goals

4. Establishment of a worldwide security structure and focus which will hopefully prevent future attacks

Are these wars worth it? Time will tell. Were they run correctly? Definitely Not. Were they necessary? Absolutely. America is learning how to combat this faceless enemy. They have been forced to revise and redevelop their strategy continually throughout the past decade, and they are succeeding.

Now, on the 10 year anniversary of the September 11 attacks, I want to say THANK YOU. Thank you to those who have faced evil overseas and in our own country. Thank you to those who risk your lives daily to make this world a better place.

And finally, on this day, we must all pause to remember the thousands killed by terrorist acts 10 years ago. May their memories live on, and may we never forget their sacrifice. May good come from this evil, and may we be victorious.