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Playing the Minaret Card:The French Connection

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"The easiest way to gain control of a population is to carry out acts of terror. [The public] will clamor for such laws if their personal security is threatened".
-- Josef Stalin

"The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary."

H. L. Mencken.

It was Wednesday 7 January, 11.30am local time when Parisians saw a terror spectacle unfold before their eyes. Two masked gunmen armed with automatic weapons stormed the office of the French satirist weekly Charlie Hebdo killing its editor and some of the cartoonists. After uttering Allah ho Akbar (God is Great) the killers calmly walked to their getaway car (a gleaming black Citroen) and made good their escape. As they drove north, they sprayed a police car with bullets and killed a policeman.

What followed was straight out of the pages of a Robert Ludlum thriller- convoluted carjacks, hostage takings and police cars in hot pursuit of terrorists. The terror spectacle had its moments of burlesque when one of the terrorists pointedly told one of the bewildered driver who was ejected from his car," If the media ask you anything, tell them it's al-Qaida in Yemen." But their compulsive desire to be identified did not end there- they left their ID cards in the getaway car which they later abandoned.

Apparently, the gunman suddenly realized and rightly so that wearing balaclavas is not the best way of getting identified and that however heinous their crimes may be proper introductions have to be made in polite French society to get the necessary attention

.

The sordid drama came to a satisfying conclusion when the heavily armed anti terrorist squad cut down the three gunmen (two involved in the Charlie Hebdo killing and the third gunman in the killing of a policewoman) with deadly firepower.

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The slain gunmen were identified as brothers Cherif Kouachi and Said Kouachi who were on the terror watch list of the French security police. The third gunman was identified as Amedy Coulibaly- a criminal with a long history. Another suspect Hayat Boumeddiene- a femme fatale of sorts- is said to be at large and wanted by the French authorities for questioning.

As a fitting finale to the terror drama, the people of France numb with shock and awe of Jihadi terrorists, witnessed the polished appearance of their President Francois Hollande -- a pseudo socialist with plummeting poll ratings and addicted to imperial French wars in Syria and Libya- giving a cadenced speech calling for unity "France is a great nation when under pressure. We are stronger than our enemies when we are together."

The neatly scripted drama of deranged Islamic terrorists and the just retribution of the French state should not be taken on the basis of the narrative shaped by government officials and the official terror experts. Other narratives must be heard to glean the full extent of the tragedy and examine the possible culpability of the French Government itself.

To do that we must turn back the pages of history to a stage managed synthetic terror organized by the state itself.

From the late 1960's to early1980's Italy experienced a wave of terrorist acts which were bloody and sensational. These years were called 'Anni di piombo' (years of lead). During this period there were assassinations of politicians (Aldo Moro- sympathetic to communists sharing power in his government), journalists like Carmine Pecorelli who saw something fishy about Aldo Moro kidnapping, random shooting of policemen, bombing of Bologna railway station and the bank Piazza Fontana. This was also the time of strikes and labour unrest for better wages and working conditions and the rising popularity of the Communist party.

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In his excellently researched book 'NATO's Secret Armies-Operation Gladio and Terrorism in Western Europe' Danielle Genzer, a Swiss historian, points that NATO with the help of intelligence agencies of CIA (US) and MI6 (Britain) created a secret army of anti- communists codenamed Gladio (sword) which operated in Italy and other European countries whose sole object was to create a climate of fear by terrorist acts with the help of legally elected governments. The main purpose of the terrorist acts was to instill a feeling of revulsion and blame them on communist parties and movements. The Gladio operation was described by the press as a 'story straight from the pages of a political thriller'.

As Genzer sums up in his own words: "The secret armies, as the secondary sources now available suggest, were involved in a whole series of terrorist operations and human rights violations that they wrongly blamed on the Communists in order to discredit the left at the polls. The operations always aimed at spreading maximum fear among the population and ranged from bomb massacres in trains and market squares (Italy), the use of systematic torture of opponents of the regime (Turkey), the support for right-wing coup d'etats (Greece and Turkey), to the smashing of opposition groups (Portugal and Spain). As the secret armies were discovered, NATO as well as the governments of the United States and Great Britain refused to take a stand on what by then was alleged by the press to be 'the best-kept, and most damaging, political-military secret since World War II "[i]

Operation Gladio was spectacularly successful and broke the back of trade unions and the rising power of the communist parties in Europe.

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C R Sridhar is a lawyer from Bangalore,India.He writes for the Economic and Political Weekly and has contributed to the Monthly Review.He's a fan of music,movies and websites with alternative views.His writings are available at sapientpen.blogspot.in

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