National Column: Folly to assume we’re immune

by Paul Wells

So Canada is not immune to terrorist threat. Did anyone still think we aren’t immune? Already there have been deaths – Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent, run down in a parking lot in 2014 in St.-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Que; Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, shot at his post in Ottawa two days later. It is folly to assume there will never be more.

Aaron Driver, who was shot by police in the back seat of a taxi cab in the driveway of his sister’s Strathroy home on Wednesday, is at least this much like the perpetrators of those earlier murders: he came to Islam late in his short life and he does not seem to have been a diligent student. He showed up late at the mosque, left early, took no conspicuous interest in his community.

But he found in Islam, and increasingly in Daesh itself, some kind of awful inspiration. The video that tipped the FBI to his plan and condemned him to a bloody death was a formal bay’ah, or pledge of allegiance, to Daesh leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. It’s what you are supposed to do before you kill people where you live, as Daesh has been urging its faithful to do, a kind of murderous branding exercise.

“The smallest action you do in their heartland is better and more enduring to us than what you would do if you were with us,” an audio clip from Daesh spokesman Abu Muhammad al-Adnani said in May.

Mayhem in Orlando and Istanbul and Nice ensued. Driver was just slow getting his act together.

His father is an RCAF pilot who trained CF-18 pilots at Cold Lake, Alta. Some of them spent 2014 and 2015 bombing Daesh targets in Iraq and Syria. Youthful rebellion is seldom so complete.

And while it’s never wise to take a dead terrorist’s word on much, we should take Driver as an authority on this at least: Justin Trudeau’s decision to stop the CF-18 mission will not dissuade other Daesh-besotted loners any more than it dissuaded him. “Whether you drop a bomb or fire a single bullet, we will hold you accountable for this,” Driver said in his last video. Take that to the bank.

Driver’s family ties to the Canadian military make him an unusually clear expression of what the French scholar Olivier Roy has called the “Islamisation of radicalism” – Islam as pretext, as shiny object transfixing the world’s murderous losers. Earlier generations might have killed for heavy metal, or for Charlie Manson.

Perhaps their grandparents would have taken up arms for anarchy or the workers’ struggle.

Those earlier generations would not have been nearly so numerous. Daesh is an unusually potent
recruiter, efficient in transforming allegiance into slaughter, as anyone who travelled warily through Europe this summer well knows. But we help Daesh when we fail to note that a very large number of its practitioners are misfits, not scholars of the Qur’an.

Driver was followed by police for two years, gave several media interviews, posted his bay’ah in plenty of time for the FBI to tip off the RCMP, detonated a bomb in the back of a cab that did not badly injure the cabbie two feet away. He was no elusive mastermind.

Some guy was on TV on Wednesday saying we lack “the tools” to stop this sort of thing. In a sense this argument is self-rebutting. Driver was stopped. I guess we have the tools. But the comment was not devoid of meaning. We lack the tools because sometimes there are no tools. Orlando didn’t happen because the police screwed up. Nice didn’t happen because the police screwed up. They happened because these things happen now, and they happen anywhere. They could happen here, for real next time.

There will now be arguments in Ottawa about whether the Trudeau government’s policies against
terrorism are too hot, too cold, or just right.

“Unfortunately, the Liberal government campaigned on a promise” to strip the police of “essential investigative and enforcement tools,” Conservative interim leader Rona Ambrose wrote Wednesday. She did not list which tools have been taken, because none have: The Liberals have introduced no bill to match their vague campaign hand-wringing over the Conservatives’ Bill C-51. One suspects they will not be in more of a hurry now.

Aaron Driver converted to Islam and started telling reporters of his fondness for jihad while a Conservative was prime minister. A Liberal’s decision to end bombing runs did not dissuade him. These guys are not keener students of politics than of anything else. They do what they do. Usually the police catch them.

They won’t always. A dose of fatalism is handy.

Copyright 2016 – Torstar Syndication Services

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