On Target: Our culture is not under assault

By: Scott Taylor

 Flowers left at the National War Memorial where Corporal Nathan Cirillo was fatally shot by lone gunman Michael Zehaf-Bibeau on October 22, 2014. (combat camera)

Flowers left at the National War Memorial where Corporal Nathan Cirillo was fatally shot by lone gunman Michael Zehaf-Bibeau on October 22, 2014. (combat camera)

Last week, French President Francois Hollande unveiled a commemorative plaque outside the Paris office of the satirical publication Charlie Hebdo on the one-year anniversary of the deadly terrorist attack that targeted the magazine for publishing cartoons insulting Islam. The attack and subsequent violent acts committed by the same perpetrators outside Paris resulted in the deaths of 17 civilians.

Those horrific events were overshadowed by the Nov. 13 shootings in Paris, which left 130 people dead and the French capital reeling in shock and fear. Again, the attackers were fanatical Muslims seeking to terrorize and kill westerners.

In Canada, we have had only two such incidents involving terrorist attacks linked to radicalized Muslims. Although they were unconnected, they occurred just two days apart, on Oct. 20 and Oct. 22, 2014.

The first was a vehicular homicide when Martin Couture-Rouleau deliberately drove his car into two Canadian soldiers in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Que. Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent was killed and a second unnamed soldier suffered minor injuries. Couture-Rouleau was shot and killed by Quebec police following a high-speed chase. He was a convert to Islam and at the time of his attack was under what authorities termed “aggressive surveillance.”

The second incident was far more dramatic and far more dramatized because it happened right on Parliament Hill. Although lone gunman Michael Zehaf-Bibeau was shot and killed just minutes after he had targeted Cpl. Nathan Cirillo at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, panic raged for hours in the nation’s capital.

The presence of so many journalists reporting via social media every unconfirmed rumour, combined with the plethora of various security forces involved, turned an isolated incident into a citywide wave of fear. It was falsely reported that there were multiple attackers in multiple locations, resulting in schools and government offices being locked down and bridges closed, while pundits took to the airwaves to explain how sophisticated the terror cell must be to have the capability of mounting so many attacks all at once.

When the dust finally settled, it became clear that lone attacker Zehaf-Bibeau was a mentally unstable individual with a history of drug addiction and violent crimes. Like Couture-Rouleau, he had recently converted to a radicalized form of Islam. While no one could ever connect Couture-Rouleau and Zehaf-Bibeau to Daesh, Canadian authorities claimed that the attacks were Daesh-inspired.

That, of course, was then repeatedly manipulated by the Harper Conservatives to explain to Canadians that our bombing of Daesh supporters in Iraq and Syria was in response to them having attacked us on our own soil.

For people paying little attention to world events — or listening only to Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump — it might seem that the Muslim world is embarking on a global jihad to destroy western civilization.

To put a far different perspective on things, one need only look at world events since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks against the U.S. America invaded and occupied Afghanistan, initially to hunt for Osama bin Laden and then, with the help of Canada and other NATO allies, to prop up the most corrupt regime on the planet. Then, in 2003, under the false pretence that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction, the U.S. invaded and occupied Iraq.

Throughout those decade-long occupations, thousands of American and NATO soldiers (including 158 Canadians) were killed and tens of thousands were wounded. However, those same bloody clashes resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and Afghans.

Had the international intervention been successful in making those two nations stable functioning states, one could argue that you need to break a few eggs in order to make an omelette. Instead, Afghanistan remains in danger of falling back under Taliban control, if not plunging into the grip of Daesh. In Iraq — and now Syria — the killing continues apace and the number of displaced is in the millions. In other words, we just created a mishmash of broken eggs and eggshells.

Then, of course, there is the Canadian-led intervention in 2011 to depose Libyan President Moammar Gadhafi. Learning from the bloody mess of occupying Iraq and Afghanistan, the West chose instead to arm and support the rebels with air power. However, as soon as Gadhafi was toppled and murdered, Libya plunged into total anarchy. Militias refuse to disarm, human smugglers are still running amok and now Daesh has established a strong foothold there.

On the same day that Hollande lit candles to commemorate the 17 victims of the Charlie Hebdo attack, a truck bomb blew apart a Libyan police training centre. A reported 67 recruits were killed and another 200 wounded. The incident barely made the news in western media.

To put this in perspective, we bomb a Muslim nation, topple its secular dictator, let it descend into violent anarchy, and then we convince ourselves that our culture is the one under assault from them? I think not.