Recent reports might have you believing that ISIS had been eliminated as a force to be reckoned with. Their apparent defeat in Mosul and Raqqa led to claims that thousands of their fighters had been killed, and most of their leaders too. Less well-publicised reports hinted that many had been ‘allowed’ to leave to avoid further conflict, and that opposition forces, including US-backed Syrian militias and Iraqi army units, had stood by and watched, as many ISIS fighters left unhindered, with all their equipment and weapons.
Whatever you believe about the situation in those places, one fact remains. ISIS have not gone away. In fact, events over the past few days show that they have even decided to change tactics. The attack on an Egyptian mosque, resulting in the deaths of over 300 people, many of them children, signals something of a different path. This group have usually reserved their attacks for those westerners they despise, Christians they hate, and members of other sects that they do not consider to be sufficiently ‘Muslim’ for their liking. This recent attack was against a Sunni congregation, in a Mosque attended only by Muslims. ISIS are supposedly also Sunni Muslims, so this recent atrocity almost defies explanation.
It is interesting to note that they do not claim responsibility for it, despite the perpetrators carrying ISIS banners, and the attack bearing all the hallmarks of previous extremist outrages. Perhaps condemnation in the Muslim world has held them back on this occasion. So why did they do it? I can only speculate that this and other attacks in Egypt are concentrated on making that country unappealing to foreign tourists. These horrors do not have to happen in a Cairo museum, or in front of the Pyramids, to make outsiders fear to travel to the country. Egypt’s economy relies so heavily on tourism, that even a partial disruption to that industry can disrupt the economy, followed by the government, and leave the situation open for extremist groups to exploit the vacuum.
It also makes the rest of us realise that this evil organisation will go to any lengths to maintain the momentum of their perceived cause. We should take that recent example on board, no doubt as they hope we will. If they are prepared to do this to innocent people who follow exactly the same religion, then they are obviously prepared to do the same, or worse, to those they regard as infidels. Nobody should believe that ISIS is ‘finished’, whatever some world leaders would have us believe.
After my recent post about the cost of using cruise missiles in Syria, the Americans have now used a ‘MOAB’. This is a ‘Super Bomb’, nicknamed ‘The Mother of All Bombs’, a corruption of the bomb’s acronym, which stands for ‘Massive Ordnance Air Blast’. The actual designation of the device is GBU/43B, which doesn’t float well as a headline in quite the same way, does it?
This enormous explosive device is the biggest non-nuclear weapon ever detonated, according to some reports. However, during WW2, slightly larger bombs weighing 22,000 lbs were used and known as ‘Grand Slams’. The MOAB was developed at a cost of an estimated $300,000,000. This also included the cost of the 20 bombs delivered. Each one is estimated to have cost $16,000,000, and the logistical costs involved in the deployment and delivery this week are believed to be close to $1,000,000.
On this occasion, I will refrain from speculating what better use could have been made of that money. However, it is worth looking at the result. The bomb detonated just above a tunnel complex, believed to be used by insurgent fighters in the region. The blast could be felt almost two miles away, but reports say that no civilians were injured. The claim is that 36 fighters were killed by the bomb, confirmed by Afghan soldiers, and US Special Forces personnel on the ground.
The sum is simple enough. $17,000,000 divided by 36 = $472,222. That’s what it cost to kill each man in that tunnel complex. Current estimates agree that ISIS has around 20,000 fighters in Syria alone. Other sources estimate that the Taliban has a force in excess of 35,000 operating in Afghanistan and Pakistan. So, if we use the same cost basis to destroy every one of those 55,000 remaining soldiers, we are left with a pretty big bill, one that America has to fund. $25,972,221. (Yes, almost 26 BILLION dollars)
Compared to the cost of the cruise missile attack that only killed six people, that’s very good value, I suppose. A bargain.
I have left a few comments on other blogs about this recent event, so I decided that I also ought to write something about it on here.
I looked up the cost of that operation. Fifty-nine cruise missiles = $94,000,000. The amount needed to replace them? Around $100,000,000. Factor in the costs involved in the preparation of the attack, use of warships, and the other logistical issues, and the total is something like $200,000,000. Yes, that is two hundred million dollars.
I would have to consult those better qualified than me, but I imagine that many good things could have been done in America, with that amount of money. It costs a bit less than $100,000,000 to build a very good hospital. So that’s two and a bit great new hospitals that could have been created in some poor districts of the US. A large new high school costs about $40,000,000 to construct. So, that money could have gone to building five good schools, to help educate the children of America.
It costs less than $40,000 dollars to buy a decent-sized electric car in the US. So more than 5,000 electric vehicles could have been bought and supplied to government agencies, to help reduce pollution. I could keep going on. Flood defences, new homes for those in need, solar panels, medical research, palliative care, and so on…Even in 2017, $200,000,000 is a great deal of money, and it could, and should, have been put to better use.
So, who wins? Not the six Syrians killed in the attack. Not the rebel fighters, who still can’t beat Assad. Not the civilians, who will be caught up in just as many future battles. Not the reputation of the US military, which failed to render the airfield unusable, or even to destroy all the aircraft kept there. Not the citizens of nations all across the world, who now fear that this escalation could lead to an all-out war between Russia and NATO.
Let’s consider the possible ‘winners’ who emerge from this situation.
Assad can now claim that his sovereign nation was attacked by a foreign power. And he will be telling the truth, like it or not.
ISIS continues to operate as if nothing has happened, no doubt cheered by the thought that the US might remove Assad, leaving the way open for them to take control in the future.
The arms companies will be happy, as they make more profit from selling at least another fifty-nine cruise missiles. And that’s only the beginning of an increase in the ringing of their cash registers.
Then there are those companies involved in post-war ‘reconstruction’ and security, companies like Halliburton. They will be rubbing their hands together at the prospect of another Iraq to come.
Then there is Mr Trump of course. After being under sustained attack from the American media, and failing to get the support he needed from a large section of his own population, the President has finally done something. Whether this was at the suggestion of the hawks in his own military, or his own doing, is of no matter. He is now being seen as decisive. A man of action. The American version of Putin. A strong leader, unafraid to take the moral high ground, even if that moral high ground involves using hundreds of millions of dollars worth of explosives.
And if that action helps his friends in big business, so much the better.
The tragic crash of the Russian airliner in Egypt, and the awful loss of life, has featured around the world on every TV news bulletin and newspaper headline. Over the past two days, it has become clear that the plane was destroyed by a bomb, probably placed inside the luggage compartment. The motive is obvious. Russia has become involved in the war in Syria, bombing insurgent targets, and if western sources are to be believed, other internal enemies of Assad. Much has been made of lax security at Sharm-el-Sheikh, which is a relatively small airport, used primarily for the tourist trade to and from the Red Sea resort. Claims and counter-claims by different terrorist groups have clouded the issue further, but whoever was responsible, it was undoubtedly easy enough to arrange, and for their purposes, it worked in a spectacular fashion.
At the same time, various allied air forces, army advisers, and domestic combat troops, continued their fight against ISIS in Syria. ‘Precision’ bombing proved to be anything but precise. Children were killed, hospitals destroyed, and parts of the large cities in that country reduced to rubble. The Russians had joined in with this campaign, choosing their own targets, and also claiming success against militant groups. The truth is that we will never really know whether or not any of the actions, by any country concerned, has had any positive effect. Looking at the evidence we can actually confirm, ISIS continues its activities, seemingly untroubled by the bombings, or ground action. Claims to have killed prominent leaders are pointless, as leaders are easily replaced. As well as the cost in lives, the financial costs of this war are staggering. And we can now add the long-term cost of supporting the tens of thousands of refugees fleeing the region, hoping to escape the war by settling in the west.
Contrast this with the action involved in destroying the Russian aircraft. A small group, perhaps three or four determined people, using cheap or readily-available explosives. They place them in some baggage, and the plane departs for Russia, happy holidaymakers returning home to the start of a Russian winter. A short time later, the explosion kills 224 people, including the crew, and many small children. For any normal person, that in itself is horrifying enough. But there are other agendas involved, and far wider repercussions. This event was just a tactic, and though a terrible tactic, it was ingenious, though we don’t like to admit it. All the western and Russian efforts over the past weeks have probably killed less insurgents than the number of people who died on that aircraft. It has probably cost billions of dollars, alienated many neutral countries, and brought into question what is going on in Syria. And we can only imagine Russia’s revenge to come.
The bombers in Egypt have achieved more in one morning, than all the resources of the western nations and Russia combined. In attacking the tourist industry in Egypt, they not only sent a message to Russia about their involvement, they also damaged the economy of a country that relies on tourism for most of its wealth. They affected western tour companies, hotel chains, and everything associated with the leisure economy in many countries, not just Egypt. If they succeed in eventually undermining the stability of Egypt, that country might be ripe for inclusion in the tide of Muslim fundamentalism that is sweeping parts of the world. The uncomfortable truth, is that the ‘terrorists’ or ‘freedom fighters’, and whatever other groups are called, or call themselves actually know what they are doing. The countries facing them rely on remotely-operated drones, hugely expensive missiles and aircraft, and supporting local armed forces that have shown themselves to be unwilling or incapable of success against ISIS, and similar organisations.
Years of war, sides changing, friends becoming enemies, untold billions of dollars, and countless lives lost. Technology used to fight an ancient war, and a reluctance to commit the lives of soldiers on the ground. Compare that with a few committed individuals, one bomb in a suitcase, and the subsequent effect.
I think we can conclude who is going to win.
Maybe it’s the change in seasons, and the arrival of colder weather, but don’t you feel that it has all gone a little quiet of late? I refer of course to the predicted end of life as we know it. The war in Syria was supposed to herald a crisis of immense proportions. Assad had to be removed, Isis were going to sweep away western values and take over the world, and the Russian involvement in Syria was almost certainly going to provoke a nuclear war. The tense standoff between Russia and Ukraine must surely end up involving NATO troops on the ground somewhere, everyone was sure of that too.
Then there was the influx of Syrian refugees. They would change the face of Europe as we know it, radicalise the youth in the countries where they settled, and undermine the very fabric of Christian society, changing all the churches into mosques within a generation. It was alleged that most of them were simply fifth columnists, ready to rise up against the nations that had given them shelter, bringing jihad to the centre of Europe. And even if none of this happened, western economies would collapse under the weight of supporting this ‘human tide.’
In the UK, Corbyn’s election as Labour leader would destroy the constitutional monarchy, restore nationalisation of all industry, and plunge this country into a spiral of debt from which it would never recover. He alone would return us to the bad old days of the 1970s, and his closeted Marxist agenda would leave us defenceless and vulnerable, with no more influence than Switzerland or Lichtenstein. Scotland would cecede from the union, and Britain would cease to be a United Kingdom.
Nothing happened of course. The media and politicians did their best to stir everyone up into a state of terror, fearing for the future of their children. (And their investments too, of course) The Syrian refugees continue to make their long trek to a better life in the west, but somehow it hasn’t been as bad as we were told. No need to order your copy of the Koran just yet then. Life carries on all over Europe, just as it had before all this happened. The British Prime Minister even tells us that our economy is improving, not collapsing as we were assured that it would. The Russians are still propping up Assad, but we seem to have stopped rattling our sabres for now, and put them back into the sabre cupboard. Isis fighters haven’t managed to get any further than they had when they were stopped, and the prospect of a nuclear war has returned to its normal state of mutually assured destruction.
Russia and Ukraine may have cancelled domestic flights, but behind the scenes they are brokering a deal about The Crimea. Putin stood up to all the threats and rode out the hysteria. He proved that he wasn’t a man to be messed with, so the west stopped trying to mess with him. The press even started to write about things that might actually be true. Such as Isis is supported by the CIA, and funded by the Saudi government, (read Royal Family) just as Bin Laden was. The question is now finally being asked, ‘Who is the real enemy here?’
And as for Britain, they forgot one important point. Corbyn is not in power, and is unlikely to ever be. His radical policies are so much hot air; and even if Labour won the election in five years time, they would never get through the process to become official policies anyway. And he is not a Marxist, far from it. He is a vegetarian Liberal with some Socialist ideas that are unlikely to ever see the light of day. And I say this as one of his supporters…The Scots might vote for independence when they next get the chance. Then again, they probably won’t. The Union is secure as it has ever been, whether we like it or not. The proposed referendum on leaving the EU is going to be watered down to a vague ‘agreement,’ and by the time the vote happens, if it ever does, everyone will be so terrified of leaving, the country will surely vote to stay in.
So you can book your holiday for 2016, cancel the Hijab to add to your daughter’s school uniform, and stop worrying about your teenage son being called up to fight in some foreign land. Feel free to order the 50-inch curved screen TV you lust after, and get it delivered in time for Christmas. With any luck, the iphone 7 will be out soon, and there will be some good new programmes on Netflix too.
OK, I admit from the outset that I am something of a conspiracy theorist. Not about everything you understand, just certain aspects of modern political machinations. ISIS appeared out of nowhere. Had you heard of them, before the excitable news reports? Suddenly, this supposedly unspeakable fundamentalist organisation was conquering northern Iraq, sweeping all before it. They were murdering Muslims and Christians, in fact anyone who did not agree with their stated ideals. But what are their stated ideals? Do any of us really know them, or understand what they are about?
It was plain to see (or was it?) that they were unstoppable. No amount of force from the Iraqi army, or the Peshmerga militia forces, could halt their seemingly irresistible advance, and their capture of much of the country, and possibly, Baghdad. These were a new brand of military fundamentalists, a volunteer army of multinational Jihadists, set on a course of massacre and destruction. Nobody was safe from them. Ancient sects, obscure religious groups, other Muslims, and crucially, Christians, were all to be killed in their thousands, or cast out as refugees.
This gave the West the ‘moral authority’, to intervene with air strikes. We have seen them on TV, but do we really know what they are, and what they are striking? I don’t. Then came the ‘execution’ of the American journalist, supposedly held for two years, in Syria. Remember that, Syria. A brutal, pointless execution, was broadcast on the Internet. Or was it just that? Do we still believe anything we see, in 2014, I wonder? This gave the Americans and their allies even more justification to expand operations. Soon, the British Prime Minister, ‘recalled from holiday’, declared that UK planes would start to assist in attacks on ISIS. He didn’t really say why. I doubt that the execution of an American journalist would usually be sufficient cause.
ISIS was proclaimed to be a rag-tag army of dedicated fundamentalists, with foreign fighters flocking to their cause. Many of these were said to come from the UK, including the killers of the US journalist. There was also the suggestion of both backing and manpower originating in Syria. Remember that. How did ISIS do so well, in such a short time? They captured American equipment in northern Iraq. This was presumably given up with little resistance from the Americans and Iraqis that previously had charge of it. Suddenly, these militiamen from all over the planet, including ordinary young men from southern England (apparently) could operate sophisticated weapons systems. They knew how to drive modern tanks without training, and manage the weapons delivery systems and computerised controls inside them. Ask anyone who has ever joined the tank regiments, in any army. It takes months of intensive training to be able to be proficient in this modern technology. They used missile systems, rockets, and other modern weapons, all of which require substantial training to become familiar with.
But we are expected to believe that these Jihadist fighters took to all this in the matter of a few days. They drove all opposition before them, and even frightened mighty America, with their military prowess. The air strikes have slowed them down, so we are told. We now have to look beyond Iraq, to see where ISIS gets its ‘real support’. Syria, naturally. The Assad regime, unpopular in the west, has been tarnished with this accusation, whilst unable to offer any defence. Next stop, Damascus perhaps, supposedly to eliminate ISIS.
So, what do I think about all this, for what it’s worth? I believe that ISIS is funded and organised by the west. I think that American and British special forces are training and leading this group, as they did with the Mujaheddin in Afghanistan, in the 1980s. Their sole purpose is to blame Syria, to engineer a reason to remove the Assad regime, and destabilise that country, as they have done with so many others. If the execution is real, it was carried out by western soldiers, not simple Jihadists, and the reports of massacres and refugees have been grossly overstated, to rouse public opinion. Time will tell perhaps, but I will be sticking by my contention.
I watched the news today, trying to contain a feeling somewhere between a wry grin, and outright rage. The military success of the Islamic fundamentalist organisation ISIS (now called ‘Islamic State’) in Iraq has caused the flight of many people from the city of Erbil, which is currently in danger of being overrun by this group. The Kurdish Peshmerga army can no longer stop the advance of the militants, and there is grave concern for non-Islamic religious groups in the area. On the TV, there was a lot of discussion about a possible genocide against these groups, and many civilians have fled into the hills, to avoid any contact with ISIS fighters. There are Americans in this city too. As well as consular staff, there are other civilians, ground troops and advisers. The general feeling seems to be that there is little chance of stopping ISIS eventually reaching Baghdad, and taking control of the country. This would result in a Taliban-style government, fiercely opposed to all non-Muslims, and foreigners of any kind. Some might argue that this would always be the eventual outcome of the war against Iraq, and the subsequent destabilisation of the region.
However, the current US administration is not about to give up that easily. Using the justification of ‘humanitarian aid’, because of the refugees from Erbil, (and the presence there of Americans) they have commenced air strikes against ISIS positions around the city. President Obama has been on television laying out his reasons for intervention, and the British Government has shown support for this action, and pledged to assist with logistical help, and humanitarian aid for the civilians in danger. The western powers do not want to sit by and watch innocent civilians put in danger, or lose their lives, because of the actions of an aggressive, well-equipped, religious fundamentalist army, intent on overwhelming all opposition.
So what about Gaza then? No help for the Palestinians? Are they not in the same situation? They are being overwhelmed by a superior force, intent on their destruction. This force is determined, very well-equipped, and has a religious agenda just as plainly stated. It also cares little for the loss of civilian lives, and is pursuing its campaign irregardless of opposition from many countries in the world, as well as the United Nations. So why are Obama’s jets not attacking Israeli tanks, to stop them killing innocent people in Gaza? And why is the British government not pledging humanitarian aid to the Palestinian civilians, who are equally in danger of losing their lives?
I think we all know the answers to those questions.