Barcelona: Shocking, but not surprising.

Jihadist groups had said they intended to take their campaign of terror to  – ‘The Mediterranean’. In April Spanish intelligence warned that they expected a terror attack on a tourist site during the summer. They considered Madrid and Barcelona to be at the highest risk.

Two months ago the CIA told their Spanish counterparts that Las Ramblas was a target.

On Wednesday there was an explosion in a house in the town of Alcanar. That set alarm bells ringing and may explain why so many eyewitnesses to the Barcelona atrocity say they noticed an increased police presence in the hours before the attack.

When the second vehicle ramming happened, 74 miles away in the town of Cambrils the assumption was of a coordinated attack. ISIL later said it was responsible.

Among the arrests made are a Moroccan and a Spanish man of Moroccan origin. This is also not surprising. Given the proximity of North Africa to Spain the heritage of many Spanish Muslims is from the Maghreb. Of several hundred suspected terrorists on the Spanish watch list about 150 are thought to be men who have returned from jihad in Syria and Iraq.

Over the past few years the Spanish authorities have thwarted several terror plots, and last year there were 187 terror related arrests there, second only to France in Europe. There have now been at least 9 vehicle attacks in Europe in the past three years.

President Trump couldn’t but help get himself in the news again this week. After all, he opened his mouth and spoke, and opened his lap top and tweeted.

Following the violence in Charlottesville in which Heather Heyer was killed he blamed it on ‘all sides’. Without doubt some of the extremists from the ‘Antifa’ (anti-fascist) movement came ready, and possibly wanting, to fight, but hundreds of neo-Nazi white supremacists showed up with shields, torches, and weapons. They chanted slogans such as ‘Blood and Soil’ and ‘We won’t be taken over by Jews’. Somehow the President even managed to say that there were some ‘really good people’ among them.

In a phenomenally bad tempered press conference he was asked why he hadn’t condemned the extreme right’s actions in Charlottesville earlier. His response was that as a responsible politician he needed to be ‘sure of the facts.’

This potentially credible remark was somewhat undermined on Thursday when he reacted to the terror in Barcelona.

The President tweeted that people should ‘Study what General Pershing did to terrorists when caught’ – suggesting that Pershing had stamped out Islamist terror in the Philippines in the early 1900s. The story was that Pershing had rounded up 50 terrorists and ordered 49 of them to be shot using bullets dipped in pig’s blood. The survivor was supposed to then tell people what happened.

The problem was that historians have convincingly debunked the story. Fake history!

There was a huge loss of life in Sierra Leone this week. Hundreds of people were killed by a mudslide and flooding on the outskirts of the capital –Freetown. There have already been mass burials, but hundreds of people remain missing, and almost 3,000 survivors have been made homeless.  Sierra Leone has the highest rainfall in Africa and the capital is prone to flooding.  It is squeezed between the mountains and sea, and has spread up the mountainside which has resulted in deforestation which is often illegal. This erodes the soil and is thought to have contributed to the mudslide. Dumping waste into poorly functioning drainage systems is also though to be part of the cause of the disasater.

There was a landmark case at the International Criminal Court court. An Islamist militant , Ahmad al-Faqi al-Mahdi , was found liabale for $3 million dollars  for destroying ancient mausoleums in Timbuktu   He’s already serving a 9 year jail sentence for leading the forces which destroyed the monuments in Mali in 2012. It is a symbolic ruling as Mahdi  has no funds. The ICC has ruled that the $3 million damages should be paid to the local community which tried to save the monuments.   Mahdi admits His crimes and is remorseful calling on muslims not to follow his path. .

Finally, an opinion poll  has given us a picture of the likely make up of the Bundestag after next months’ parliamentary elections in Germany.  The survey, by Bildt, suggests that Alternative For Germany (AFD)  is set to become the country’s 3rd biggest party and enter parliament for the first time. Chancellor Merkel’s Christian Democrats are expected to remain in power, but if the poll is correct it will change the German political landscape. It might also halt the complacent view that the results of the French and Dutch elections this year suggested that the rise of the far right in Europea had been halted. That view is statistically flawed.

That was the week that was – enjoy the week which will be.

 

 

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7 Comments on "The Week That Was"

  1. Tim, I would not worry too much about AfD. Because of the voting system here in Germany it is possible that they could enter parliament but I have major doubts about them becoming the third largest party. If the quantity of posters is anything to go by this will be a straight fight between Angela Merkel and Martin Schulz with a strong effort by the Greens and Der Linke (The Left).

    The only fly in the ointment are the voters in the major cities of former East Germany. This is where AfD have most of their support.

    • What part of Germany do you live in Peter?. If Afd can win 7.4% and come fourth in North Rhine-Westphalia, as they did in May, then I wouldn’t have thought 3rd place would be beyond them.

      • Rob, I’m about 30Km south of Frankfurt in a small city called Darmstadt. Every area is different and around here Der Linke and the Greens seem to be the most popular, we even have a Mayor who is a member of the Green Party.

        As I said, in the major cities, especially the poorer ones, it may be a different story. Having said that, if AfD can get 7.4% of the vote then it means that 92.6% of the voting population don’t want them.

  2. The Pershing comment raises an interesting issue. Trump has been accused of denigrating a revered US General with his comments. Yet Pershing participated in the fag end of the Indian wars, policed the reservations and then went on to participate in forcing US colonial government on the Philippines, hardly something to be celebrated with something like, say a statue, for instance. You could argue the same but far more forcibly for the likes of Grant, Sherman, Sheridan and Custer all of whom have statues adorning Northern US cities. Yet no one is advocating pulling down the statues of people responsible for the massacre and displacement of America’s indigenous inhabitants. Indeed notorious Indian hater Sheridan has a mountains, squares, schools and counties named after him. If the Confederate monuments come down, then so should every monument featuring a person with a dubious legacy.

    • I think the argument is (rightly) that many of these Confederate statues were put up as a provocation and to piss people off. It therefore seems only right to pull them down for the very same reason. More broadly: there’s hardly an historical figure that doesn’t have some dark and unwholesome things in their backstory. There is an argument that we should pull them all down but, I think, there’s a more powerful argument about not forgetting our history, defeats as well as victories.

      • I would agree on not pulling all the statues down, Union or Confederate. The most prevalent argument I have seen put forward for pulling them down is that they are honouring people who fought to preserve slavery, which is fine if you are claiming all statues commemorating people who fought in dubious causes go, but the people making these arguments clearly are not. According to the SPLC the vast majority of these statues were erected between 1900-1920, which was a time when there were still Confederate veterans living and certainly the sons of those veterans were running the states, counties and towns of the South. I would imagine most of them were put up by these men as a commemoration of people they saw as heroes rather than some two fingered salute. Most of the monuments in Washington DC honouring Union soldiers were erected or conceived around the same time. The ones erected after 1960, in my opinion would be better kept as a reminder of the hostility and resistance of the South to the civil rights movement, but in the end it is for the local people to decide. Just really not keen on pulling stuff down or erasing stuff from history.

  3. When it comes to statues of historic figures that now sit uncomfortably with us today, I am not wholly in favour of pulling them down.

    Although I believe that the idea of learning from history is just ridiculous (everything that happens is unique, however much we try to find similarities), we cannot simply erase events and figures because they are looked at as distasteful now.

    May I suggest that we instead simply rewrite the words on the plinths and plaques. For instance, “Robert Edward Lee – Racist.” Or some other subtle label.

    By the way – like the TW2 video.

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