I don’t know about you, but I watched the unfolding of the horror scenario that was the Paris attacks and I couldn’t help but notice the similarities between that surprise attack and Westgate here in Nairobi. The Paris massacre served to remind us all that extremism is now the new normal.
Of course, if you are as hungry on reading as I am, you will have noticed that terror has a new operation manual. A decade ago (think 9/11) Al Qaeda carefully recruited, trained and organised dozens of terrorists to carry out large-scale blockbuster attacks. In response to that, governments and security forces worldwide got smart and started shutting down international terrorist financing (think money laundering laws), tracking large operations, assassinating senior Al Qaeda leadership and, of course, killing Osama bin Laden.
However, as we adapted, so did the terrorists. Al Qaeda and ISIS and other radical nutcases have taken to social media to recruit and inflame individuals to take things into their own hands and attack where they can. Yes the terrorists have morphed and so must we. The truth is the next attack in Nairobi, London, Paris, Milan, Mombasa or even New York will be a lot harder to predict and we can thank ourselves for that.
Allow me to borrow from Max Hastings (former editor at The Guardian) when I say “it is pointless to focus on tightening border controls. Most terrorists who launch attacks in the West prove to be citizens of the nations they seek to injure, some of them born here”. The same goes for us in Nairobi and true enough in Mombasa. They didn’t come in, they are not coming - they are already here. The reason they thrive and are able to carry out their murderous acts is you and me.
The truth is, the radical element no longer comes in through our boarder points, they live amongst us and we know them. We live in a world where the criminal element is smarter, faster and in some cases more resourceful than most governments. Yet those of us who like to brandish the banner of “freedom” refuse to accept that the year is not 1992 and Moi is not in statehouse. What worked then can’t work now. The criminal element then was a “shifter” or Wanugu. His biggest coup would have been to steal heads of cattle or rob a bank. That’s not the case today.
Once again let me emphasis that the greatest treat to security is already within our boarders not outside. When President Uhuru dared to state this simple truth, twitter had a field day calling him names. Let me say it alittle differently so that maybe you can grasp the reality of it – the people who cause insecurity and are the biggest threat to our security are you and I. How? I hear you screaming. Because you go off half-arsed and follow the band-wagon of lunatics who don’t care about anyone but themselves. Blatant attention seekers who want you to to focus your attention on them and not on the threat. Young men who realize that taking their clothes off won’t get them any attention, so they undress a nation, a planet.
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and Edward Snowden who broadcast American, British and even Kenyan secrets wholesale, are celebrated as heroes by some people who should know better. In truth, Assange and Snowden have damaged the security of each and every one of us, by alerting the jihadis and Al Qaeda, our mortal enemies, to the scale and reach of electronic eavesdropping. They put everything out there in the name of “people have a right to know” never once thinking that “people” also includes every terrorist network in the world. In doing so, they destroyed our firewalls and allowed the terrorists to walk right in and take what they wanted and better yet, change their strategy. Speak to any intelligence officer and he will tell you how horrified he is at the prospect that their listening operations will be shut down by civil liberties campaigners. The truth is electronic eavesdropping, gives us the only edge we have got over the extremists. Like I said, the extremists, the terrorists are not coming, they are not planning to come in, they are already here.
In this politically correct world we live in, no President, no security chief, no secretary of state and no internal security Cabinet Secretary would dare use Winston Churchill’s wartime words, when he said: “Give us the tools and we will finish the job”. The truth is, in our political correctness and civil liberties madness lies our Achilles heel.
Tanks, guns, missiles, giant aircraft-carriers have no useful part whatever to play in our future security. They are nice as ego trips and a chance for arms dealers to make even more money, but I’m sure you can Google how much has been spent on hardware since Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya – we know it hasn’t made the world safer.
Looking back through History, we realise that societies are never completely safe for long. All that changes is the nature of the threats. Intelligence services the world over, The United States, the UK, our own and now of course in France, are heavily criticised because on several occasions terrorist attacks have been carried out by people whose names are discovered to have been on terrorist watch lists. Even this lot who carried out the murders in Paris.
But logistically it is an impossible task for any intelligence agency to monitor the thousands, and even tens of thousands, of young men and women known to have expressed an interest in violence. So what will we do?? I can almost hear you wailing in sheer desperation. Well my friends, a politician called Michael Howard once gave us a formula. The very one you have decided to ridicule even without discussing it’s real merits. Come on – let’s be honest, we only talked about the demerits of our new security laws.
So what did Michael Howard call for? Simple, he suggested that we need a lot of spies and special forces, together with higher-quality diplomats — ‘spooks, geeks and thugs’ he called them and I agree with him totally.
Knowing my musings here may be cause for thought and debate, allow me to add just one more thing. If you look at the profile of these young men who are given to violence, a lot of them can be termed as losers. Young men incapable of achieving of form of success – whether social or professional - in society. I said this once, I will say it again – our young men need to be gainfully, fruitfully occupied. A idle mind is the devil’s workshop and we should never dismiss the role of boredom and a lack of purpose, in persuading unstable young men to embrace terrorism.