The Lessons that must be Learnt from the cases of Anis Amri and Salman Abedi
The cases of Amri and Abedi the mass murderers of Berlin and Manchester respectively present potent lessons on all the fatal flaws of the European engagement with Islamic extremism in Europe and especially with its discourse of radicalisation driven by a racist anti-Islamic worldview. In Amri’s case he was a known drug trafficker but the priority is terrorism which blinded the reality from view that it’s simply a means to an end. Whilst there are reports that since 2012 Abedi was fingered to the security apparatus and the fact that he was part of a family dedicated to military activity seen in their return to post Qaddafi Libya and their activities there set off no alarm bells.
Anis Amri was an illegal immigrant in Germany and was under the surveillance of Berlin police as he was a “professional drug trafficker” seen in the court authorised telephone tap the police utilised but never exhausted in a quest to build a case against Amri utilising surveillance which could have uncovered other activity. The Berlin police failed to utilise the evidence they gathered on Amri to obtain a warrant, arrest and charge Amri for drug trafficking before Christmas 2016 and in response to Amri’s mass murder in the Christmas market proceeded to create evidence exonerating their failure to arrest an illegal immigrant who was a “professional drug trafficker”. The German security apparatus failed to recognise the threat Amri posed as an extremist bent on a military strike and the police failed to act to incarcerate a “professional drug trafficker” in spite of the prosecutable evidence they held on him. A host of questions arise: in their profile of Islamic extremism does the security apparatus of Germany “see” that there is no contradiction between being a “professional drug trafficker” and a mass murderer supposedly motivated by Islam? Are the Berlin police generally dismissive of the need to prosecute “professional drug traffickers” or are they persuaded not to waste time on “petty cases”? Is it simply overload and hubris driven by the desire to make the big bust which excludes Amri as a plausible extremist threat in the gaze of the security apparatus and as a target for arrest by the police? Who then pays the price for those murdered by Amri as a result of the failure of the state to act cogently and effectively in response to the threat posed. The salient question is if those wielding power in and over the state agencies especially the politicians can see the reality in all its nakedness? The answer is No!
Salman Abedi carried out his attack during a general elections campaign in which the ruling Conservative Party under new leadership is seeking political hegemony in a quest to write on the landscape a new paradigm of neo-liberalism. In response especially the BBC has set about the task of propagating a bi polar discourse of Salman Abedi where the mass murderer, the individual is painted as troubled and mentally deficit whilst it hammers on the innate threat posed by Islamist terrorism of both the imported and home grown variety especially the variety that springs from immigrant families. Clearly the task is to mask the colossal, systematic failure of the security apparatus to act upon the reports made about Salman Abedi as early as 2012 and worse yet to place him within the context of his family and the security threats that arose from this context. This systematic failure allowed Abedi to travel to Libya and back repeatedly without the intervention of the state which enabled the Manchester attack. The failure to grasp that the family embraced and acted upon the discourse of the Shahid and the duty to wage total war on the enemies of Islam didn’t foster the perception that Libya was the proving ground, the means for perfecting the modus operandi and for concretising the commitment to become Shahid. Intervention that broke the spiral fostered by the environment of Libya post Qaddafi was necessary and failed to materialise. The state apparatus and the politicians failed the victims of the Manchester attack and the political discourse that seeks to place the focus of the electorate on the bomber rather than on those charged with public security who failed miserably and their political overlords illustrates potently the reality that the politicians are only driven by the need to win power and to retain power by any means necessary. All electorates are then only collateral damage. The political outcome of the Manchester attack will then be the embrace of neo-liberalism with a masked 21st century neo-Nazi worldview with the Muslims of Britain being the despised, marginalised minority. Le Pen and Wilders the masked version applied with a heavy dose of neo-liberal austerity where Muslim discipline and punishment is the sought and hoped for opiate of the masses.
In this whole sordid affair where was the much touted PREVENT strategy especially where persons did their duty as defined under Prevent, it was not acted upon by the state apparatus and the fears and concerns of those who made the reports were confirmed? The executive summary of the report “Eroding Trust” by the Open Society Justice Initiative states: “The UK’s Prevent Strategy, which purports to prevent terrorism, creates a serious risk of human rights violations. The programme is flawed in both its design and application, rendering it not only unjust but also counterproductive.” Did the Open Society Justice Initiative envision a situation of refusal to intervene when in receipt of reports where the individual subsequently carried out an act of mass murder? This is not a counterproductive instance of the operational life of the programme this is simply a catastrophic failure to act. The salient question then is: why the refusal to act upon the reports made? The present prime minister of the UK has a stake in this affair given her investment in a hard line approach to Prevent during her tenure as home secretary under the Cameron administration. Extremely hard questions have now to be posed to those who surveil Islamic extremists in the UK as apparently they have grave problems in “seeing” the potent threat posed by seemingly innocuous persons who travel to and from zones of insurgency. Maybe these innocuous persons simply don’t fit the profile for a sexy threat that affords a big bust with all the media hype and the political capital accruing to the politicians who will be then eternally grateful. A “professional drug trafficker” is also simply not sexy in the politics of the power relations of state actors and politicians as is a university drop out who travels to and from Libya. We, the herd, will always be acceptable collateral damage because we have made ourselves in this structure of power, powerless.