Unfortunately in all of these Western societies, the political debate about the root causes and future of Jihadi violence failed to answer this seminal question. Furthermore, a stunningly compromised expertise failed its governments by dragging authorities into chronic misinterpretation of what is happening and what to do about it. One more time, the experiment is repeating itself in Australia. Here is why:
As in the United States, the United Kingdom, France, and other Western democracies, law enforcement and counterterrorism agencies have been efficient in monitoring the threat, swift in responding and lucky in uprooting networks planning terror. With the exceptions of the first strikes of 2001 in New York, 2004 in Madrid and 2005 in London, police and security teams have been able to stop the plots before they are executed; knock on wood so far. But these law enforcement heroes are operating under the aegis of questionable government strategies, or rather non-strategies, with dramatic consequences. The latest arrests made in Melbourne, Australia, are another example.
Thanks to a massive counterterrorism operation with multiple raids throughout the state of Victoria, four Australian citizens of Somali and Lebanese heritage were arrested at dawn. Police and agencies executed 19 search warrants, which resulted in the stopping of a plot to launch a suicide attack in Melbourne, a la Mumbai, on an army base. Nayef el Sayyed, Saney Edow Aweys, Wissam Mahmoud Fattal, Yacqub Khayre, and Abdirahman Ahmed, aged between 22 and 26, were arrested and charged with preparing a terrorist attack on the Holsworthy army base in southwest Sydney. Other suspects were under arrest already, one accordingly was cooperating. More arrests could be made.
Authorities said the operation "disrupted a terrorist attack that could have claimed many lives." Australian officials were concerned that a Somali Jihadist had obtained a "fatwa" (religious edict) from Somalia calling for attacks in the country within weeks. It is believed that at least two of the conspirators have links to Somali Shabab al-Jihad, a group with ties to al Qaeda. Australia was lucky to have aborted the strike. But more ominous is the bigger picture.
Australia, regardless of Somali and Lebanese connections in this particular operation, is on the al Qaeda international list of Kuffar (infidel) countries to be hit; and Canberra must realize that is part of the Jihadi campaign against democracies; even though its current government is dismantling the so-called "war on terror," linguistically.
Jihadi ideology and strategies cannot be changed or affected by the wishful thinking of their victims. That is what Washington, London, and the rest of the partners in the so-called "overseas contingency operations” are learning day after day from Waziristan to North Carolina. Australia's new school of thinking on the confrontation, emulating U.S. and UK "new" doctrines, argues that by not pinpointing the ideology of the threat, it will just go away, or at least it would be sidelined.
Almost a month before the August arrests, Attorney General Robert McClelland launched "project lexicon," a study on the "language surrounding terrorism." As argued by British and American experts before, the Australian report found that "several of the words or phrases used to describe terrorism had the inadvertent effect of glorifying violent criminal behavior." It added that "rather than framing terrorism as a struggle by describing it as a "war" or "Jihad," acts of terror should be described as serious criminal acts usually directed at innocent civilians."
Obviously, the Australian report, as with its Western cousins, fell into the trap of the Jihadi war of ideas aiming at confusing and mitigating democracies by taking out their main weapon against the Jihadists: to expose their ideology and rally the counter Jihadist Muslims.
The evidence to such failure in identifying the threat came few weeks later as agencies were arresting people in their early 20s. As we saw in Georgia in the U.S., and in Birmingham in the UK, a lexicon banning clear words only contributes to the defeat of democracies. For such wrong analysis is responsible for legitimizing Jihadism in the eyes of indoctrinated youth. Naturally, if Jihadism is not exposed, Jihadi ideologues and cadrescan operate freely and in full legitimacy to further recruit.
Worse, by banning the use of extremely important terms, these medieval-like lexicons terminate the ability of analysts, let alone the public, to detect the "threat." The West in general, and Australia in particular, will unfortunately continue to experience the catastrophic effects of blurring their own vision, as most seasoned experts in Jihadism believe the plots we have already uncovered are only the beginning.
Why did Australia’s government insist on inflicting its country to further risks of radicalization? Not only did it create a lexicon to confuse its law enforcement and public, but just one day before the arrests of the Salafi Jihadists, the Australian Communications and Media Authority handed the Jihadi Khomeinists a propaganda victory. Hezbollah TV, banned in the U.S. and in some European countries, was granted a license to broadcast. Al Manar, funded by the Iranian regime, promotes suicide bombings. Its capacity to produce Jihadist minds is by far superior to the radical sheiks of Somalia and their fatwas.
The question is not why the Jihadists are thrusting through the last safe Western society, but it is why Australia's policy makers are being duped by their experts.
This article first appeared in Family Security Matters.
Dr Walid Phares is the author of "The Confrontation: Winning the War against Future Jihad". He is the Director of the Future Terrorism Project at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and a visiting scholar at the European Foundation for Democracy.