Saturday, 15 April 2017

5 Simple Security Tests

Whenever political leaders come forward with vital actions that must be taken for the sake of “our security”, here are 5 simple tests to gauge if they are actually concerned about anyone’s safety:

[1] Does carrying out airstrikes against a foreign country make us safer when that country is neither attacking nor posing a direct threat to us?
If the argument is that we should bomb regimes that launch military attacks against their civilians, should we not rethink when our bombs end up killing their civilians too? And if the safety of those civilians is the real objective, why do people such as Trump order airstrikes which endanger them, but deny asylum for refugees seeking sanctuary from their own government’s deadly attacks? Furthermore, airstrikes are not only far more expensive than humanitarian support, they fuel radicalisation and thus weaken our security.

[2] Should refugees from the Middle East be kept away from the West because they pose a genuine terrorist threat? Are there not real threats to our lives that require much greater attention?
Based on mortality figures, population data, and records of terrorist incidents in the US, it has been estimated that the chance of being killed by a refugee terrorist in the US is 1 in 46,192,893. By comparison, one is 260 times more likely to be struck and killed by lightning; 129,000 times more likely to be fatally shot in a non-terrorist related gun assault; and 6,900,000 times more likely to die from cancer or heart disease [Note 1]. So does it make sense for the US government to spend around $500 million to save one life through its anti-terrorism programs, but only $10,000 to save one life through cancer research? [Note 2]

[3] Must a policy banning visits by foreign nationals be supported just because it is put forward in the name of ‘security’, or should it be held back if its design has little to do with security, and more with personal business interests?
The Trump Administration has tried and tried again to block entry for people travelling to the US from Syria, Iran, Yemen, Sudan, Somalia and Yemen, even though not a single terrorist attack on US soil since the 1970s has been committed by anyone from these countries. By contrast, 15 of the 19 hijackers who carried out the 9/11 atrocities were from Saudi Arabia, with the rest from the UAE, Lebanon and Egypt, and none of these countries was included in Trump’s proposed ban – what they do have in common in addition to their terrorist connections is that, unlike the countries targeted by the ban, the Trump Organisation has business interests in them [Note 3].

[4] Should we allocate public funds in proportion to the degrees of life-threatening dangers we face, or spend large amounts on what can be most sensationally covered in the media?
We are told that Western governments are under pressure to cut public spending on health and other safety matters (such as rough-sleeping or domestic violence), but they have spent a vast amount tackling terrorism since 2001 – the US budget for this area alone accounts for over two trillion dollars. In the UK, despite repeated government claims about austerity constraints, anti-terrorism measures continue to be expanded with financial and legislative resources. According to one report, the average annual deaths from terrorism in the UK was 5 compared with over 17,000 annual deaths from accidents [Note 4]. But aren’t accidents by their very nature unpreventable? Far from it, the UK has for decades had the safest roads in Europe with its excellent road safety initiatives. But since the government started cutting the budgets for police and traffic management, road deaths have risen by 4%, the first rise since 1997 [Note 5].

[5] Should we focus our resources and public warnings on atrocities committed by those drawn to Islamic extremism, and pay less attention to the greater number of killings carried out by other extremists?
For example, in the US, in the 15 years since the 9/11 attacks, 26 people have been killed by self-proclaimed jihadists, but almost twice as many were murdered by white supremacists, antigovernment fanatics and other non-Muslim extremists [Note 6]. Does it make any sense to go along with the Trump Administration’s promise to change the government’s ‘Countering Violent Extremism’ program, and make it focus exclusively on threats from Islamic extremism, ignoring the violence and killings committed by other groups, to the extent that when a white supremacist murdered a black American in New York as part of a planned racist killing spree, Trump would not acknowledge, let alone condemn, the attack? [Note 7]

Note 1. Source:
Note 2. Source:
Note 3. Another country that is not covered by the ban is Turkey, even though the state department has warned about “an increase in anti-American rhetoric [that] has the potential to inspire independent actors to carry out acts of violence against US citizens.” Trump has several business interests in Turkey, earning him up to £6 million a year. Source:
Note 4. The only comparable cause of 5 deaths a year is being killed by stings from wasps and bees. Source:
Note 5. Source:
Note 6. Source:
Note 7. Source:


Woodman59 said...

The problem is that people are waking up to the fact that Islam itself poses a fundamental threat to Western democracy, imperfect as that currently is, and the societal freedom and order that has been built up here over centuries.

It is the potential existential threat to Western civilisation itself that is the real concern.

It is how we deal with this which is the big question. Military power is
certainly not going to be enough - it's a hearts and minds campaign to overcome the cultural barriers and forge a common sense of humanity in place of competing religious ideologies, that will be needed.

Henry Benedict Tam said...

Islam is no different from any other established religion. It can be a source of inspiration for love and peace, and it can be exploited by the unscrupulous to promote hatred and violence. The threat to democracy comes from selective readings of one religion's texts while ignoring others, and the propagation of distorted reporting that suggests all believers of one religion are dangerous but no one who purports to subscribe to another religion has ever committed any atrocious act. As a humanist, I have my reservations about all religious dogmas, but I also recognise that it is fallacious to blame any religion for the vile actions of individuals who claim to act in its name, when in fact they betray its core injunctions to care for and respect others. To forge a common sense of humanity, we must begin by clearing away malicious and unfair misrepresentation of the beliefs and values of millions of people, and stand firm against all anti-democratic manoeuvres, whatever religious or non-religious doctrines they invoke as their justification.

Woodman59 said...

I am also a humanist - at least have been for some years now. I was born into a 'respectable' mainstream religion...but even that was effectively a cult that it took 25 years to get out of mentally - well after I became an adult.

Those of us who have been through something like this can therefore listen to someone like Ayaan Hirsi Ali or pretty any much of the other ex-Muslims and understand very well that as Ayaan says "Islam is not a religion of peace, it's a political theory of conquest that seeks domination by any means it can".

The religious aspects are just used to justify and reinforce the inherent totalitarianism involved.

The religion I grew up in was also authoritarian and seriously condemnational in various ways - but it rarely gets beyond spiritualized rhetoric and/or social exclusion, although that's bad enough.

We can safely say that the foundational texts of Islam are way off the scale in the levels of violence advocated towards non-believers, other religious believers or apostates - texts which (despite denials by apologists) clearly have precedence (in the opinion of the most significant interpretations) over other earlier texts which date from a period before the ideas initially presented were rejected by all of the people who dismissed Mohammed as an entirely 'false prophet'.

Therefore Islam at its heart - is dramatically different from any other established religion. It's not a question of unscrupulous exploitation by a few. The advocation of violence has been central throughout its history, with non-violence rather the exception to the rule.

That is not to deny the genuine humanitarian culture and religious instincts of those who have lived in areas subjugated by Islamic conquest, and the consequent repeated attempts to humanise and reform the religion accordingly, which reforms have always been savagely attacked by conservatives...see Ibn Warrq, for example.

This is not in any way to allow other religions off the hook - they all have significant despotisms built-in, but the especial historic violence of Christianity towards Judaism has been (and still is) of extremely major concern.

It is not so much the individual believer that is at fault here, but the institutional structures which guide them. In order to forge a common sense of humanity we must begin by setting aside divisive religious teaching for a while, instead meeting together in celebration of the range of supportive family experiences we all need.