A week ago Friday, Islamic terrorists associated with ISIS executed a series of attacks in Paris, at a sports arena, a music hall, a restaurant, and several other sites. They killed 129 people and left over 300 wounded.
I was horrified, but not particularly surprised. Two weeks before, ISIS planted a bomb on a Russian airliner full of tourists returning home from Egypt. The plane dropped out of the sky, and all 224 on board was killed. The Russians, more than us, have stirred up the ISIS hornet’s nest, and now we’re facing the consequences. (Then again, we built ISIS, but that’s another story.)
The next day (a week ago Saturday), my wife and I went to see the new James Bond movie, Spectre. One of the trailers was for London has Fallen, an upcoming action movie in which terrorists blow up, well, London. It seemed in poor taste after the events of the previous day. But I suppose that the show must go on.
Spectre was a pleasant afternoon’s entertainment, without so much emphasis on Bond’s personal problems. But it’s consistent with the new generation of Bond films in that Bond’s adversary resolves into a non-rogue agent of the same government that Bond himself serves. The plot revolves around a ‘Nine Eyes’ surveillance initiative by which nine countries would pool their resources and share surveillance data on all their citizens. But, in real life, there is a ‘Five Eyes’ surveillance agreement between the US, the UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. It seems pointless for Bond to appear in a movie trying to thwart a plot that is already in operation in real life.
Saturday night, the Democratic Presidential candidates had a debate. I watched some of it after the fact, and lost interest: the candidates are too much in agreement with each other. But Hillary Clinton was called out for not wanting to say that we were at war with ‘radical Islam.’
On one level, I agree with her: it’s ludicrous to say that one is ‘at war with Islam.’ A religion is a set of ideas: software for the brain. It’s almost like saying one is at war with Microsoft Word. But the principles of Islam are a driving force for the terrorists. That’s why I prefer to refer to our adversary as ‘Islamic terrorists,’ and what makes Hillary’s use of ‘jihadist’ evasive.
As I watched the evening news this week, and they regurgitated the Paris attacks, I realized that I was supposed to be frightened. I don’t see the point: quivering in fear accomplishes nothing. Even the Parisians understand that: they have been coming together at the Place de la Republique to talk, and heal, and move forward.
But our leadership is latching on to the event to tell us that we need yet more surveillance, and that those evil companies, Apple and Google, have released software that enables individuals to send encrypted messages that the government can’t read! They have to be stopped! And, by the way, you can blame this all on Edward Snowden, for spilling the beans about the NSA.
Well, maybe. If the volume of data to be transferred is small enough, it’s easy to make an unbreakable code, with or without a smartphone app, because the party who would break the code does not have enough input to begin to try. And no, the government does not have the right to read our communications in transit, any more than it has the right to read our paper mail.
Meanwhile, President Obama wants to bring at least 10,000 Syrian refugees into the US per year over the next two years, and perhaps many more. He says that it’s in the American tradition of looking after the downtrodden.
Again, well, maybe. Our Dear Leader sent out a graphic noting that in the past five years, we’ve accepted 2,000 refugees, none of whom have been arrested for terrorism… yet. But now he’s proposing bringing in an order of magnitude more in a shorter time, and somehow things will just work out?
Moreover, we’re broke. You might say that it’s only a few billion, and barely moves the needle in terms of the national debt. But it still pains me to see our President playing Lady Bountiful, spending money he doesn’t have.
All of which has taken me a bit afield from what I started with, the terrorist attacks in Paris last week. To be sure, it’s sad and horrifying, but life goes on. I speak from experience: we had terrorist death and destruction in New York City not that long ago.
But more horrifying than the destruction wrought by the terrorists is the realization that, in both instances, our leadership brought the terrorists into existence to play some other geopolitical games, and they turned on us when circumstances changed.
We have to start doing something different. And we need to start, as individuals, by not letting our leadership and the media fearmongers frighten us.