Brussels Under Attack
March 22, 2016 4:51 AM   Subscribe

Brussels explosions: Many dead in airport and metro terror attacks BBC: "Many people have been killed or seriously injured in terrorist attacks at Brussels international airport and a city metro station, Belgium's PM says. Two explosions hit Zaventem airport at about 07:00 GMT, and another struck Maelbeek metro station an hour later. The government has not confirmed casualty numbers. Brussels transport officials say 15 died at Maelbeek and media say up to 13 died at the airport. Belgium has now raised its terror threat to its highest level. The attacks come four days after Salah Abdeslam, the main fugitive in the Paris attacks, was seized in Brussels."
posted by marienbad (276 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
 
This is becoming tragically routine, and I don't see things improving anytime soon.
posted by Optamystic at 4:52 AM on March 22, 2016 [12 favorites]


Their expediency to organize retaliation - if that's what it is - shocks me.
posted by Dragonness at 4:54 AM on March 22, 2016 [9 favorites]


Awful.

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posted by haiku warrior at 4:55 AM on March 22, 2016


There’s a related MetaTalk thread, for those who’ve not seen it.
posted by misteraitch at 4:55 AM on March 22, 2016 [7 favorites]


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posted by Joe in Australia at 4:55 AM on March 22, 2016




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Fuck.
posted by Karmeliet at 4:58 AM on March 22, 2016


Stay safe, everyone. Let's hope these numbers don't climb.
posted by easily confused at 4:58 AM on March 22, 2016


Sounds terrifying to be in Brussels right now. People are still in lockdown because there is no public transportation and there could still be attackers on the loose. Praying for the people there.

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posted by Drinky Die at 5:02 AM on March 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


on the tv at the gym they were showing videos of both airport explosions. i guess people were recording relatives leaving or whatever. don't have the inclination / stomach / time to search for them, but if anyone is curious they must be out there.
posted by andrewcooke at 5:05 AM on March 22, 2016


Their expediency to organize retaliation - if that's what it is - shocks me.
We really have no idea, Dragonness. It may, or may not, be related. It's very likely too soon to be a case of direct retaliation, however. There have been reports that Salah Abdeslam was possibly involved in the planning some further attack. This one was possibly it, maybe even expedited because of his capture?

But, at this point, all we can do is speculate. The question isn't answerable. The only thing that is certain is that Salah Abdeslam is going to be a source of critical intelligence right now.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 5:10 AM on March 22, 2016 [4 favorites]


This is becoming tragically routine, and I don't see things improving anytime soon.

There was a period in the 1970s and the 1980s when there was a number of bombings in Europe from both home-grown and imported terrorists, and then a long lull with what I remember as being not nearly as many attacks, until the new wave started this decade.

These latest are horrible and very sad, and I hope that someone smarter than I am can see a way to break the cycle rather than having this become the new normal.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:11 AM on March 22, 2016 [32 favorites]


There was a period in the 1970s and the 1980s when there was a number of bombings in Europe from both home-grown and imported terrorists, and then a long lull with what I remember as being not nearly as many attacks, until the new wave started this decade

I don't remember a lull: the last one that personally affected me in the 20thC was the 1996 IRA bombing of Manchester city centre (and a close friend lost a relative in Omagh in 1998). It seemed like a blink of an eye to 2001 and everything that followed from that.

My partner routinely works in and around the EU parliament in Brussels, and this is just so much like being a child frightened for my dad working in London during the IRA campaign (and in Canary Wharf the day that was bombed too). I know, rationally, that the IRA attacks were significantly less fatal, but for some reason child & teen me processed that fear at the same level as adult me processes this new one.
posted by AFII at 5:19 AM on March 22, 2016 [23 favorites]


This is becoming tragically routine, and I don't see things improving anytime soon.

Terrorist attacks in Europe aren't new. I grew up with ETA murdering policemen or planting car bombs every other week, people in Ireland and the UK, or who have dealt with smaller separatist terrorist groups know it too. We survived the IRA and ETA, we can survive islamist attacks without blaming the Muslim population of Europe.
posted by sukeban at 5:22 AM on March 22, 2016 [118 favorites]


Simon Jenkins on the media response:

"The blanket media coverage assured for any act of violence is reckless. The media must “report”, but it need not go berserk in revelling in the violence caused, as it manifestly has done to Islamic State brutality. More serious, the intention of the terrorist is clearly to shut down western society, to show liberal democracy to be a sham and to invoke the persecution of Muslims. Yet that is the invariable response of the security industry to these incidents. Convinced of its potency, it dare not admit there are some things against which it cannot protect us. So when incidents occur it jerks the knee and demands ever more money and ever more power. It must not be given them."
posted by progosk at 5:23 AM on March 22, 2016 [99 favorites]


These latest are horrible and very sad, and I hope that someone smarter than I am can see a way to break the cycle rather than having this become the new normal.

We could meet hate with love. But I suspect we'll just amp up the policy of the last half century.
posted by Talez at 5:23 AM on March 22, 2016 [6 favorites]


No no no.
posted by rtha at 5:24 AM on March 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


I moved from Houston to Amsterdam in November. Since I've been here there have been two major terrorist attacks in neighboring countries. I used to worry about getting killed in a mass shooting in the US. I know I live in a large touristy city that could be an likely target. It's hard not to get freaked out by this.
posted by Brittanie at 5:25 AM on March 22, 2016 [6 favorites]


One of the news reports has some audio of the conversation between the air traffic control tower and pilots about why suddenly no one's allowed to land at the airport... It's amazing and impressive and reassuring how calm and professional they all are.

Meanwhile: sending love out to you and your Brussels connections, MeFi.
posted by TwoStride at 5:27 AM on March 22, 2016 [3 favorites]


Big hug to everyone there.

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posted by longdaysjourney at 5:31 AM on March 22, 2016


The pro-torture element is going to be all over this, given that Belgium had a man in custody who might well have known about these attacks.
posted by Flashman at 5:33 AM on March 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


Tragic. My thoughts and hope with everyone impacted. I love Brussels, and have friends there, and I'm heartbroken for everyone there.
posted by SecretAgentSockpuppet at 5:36 AM on March 22, 2016


Brussels attacks: were they revenge for Abdeslam's arrest?

For the terrorists, the aim is to show they can still terrorise, mobilise and polarise with violence. This is not so much about revenge, but simply demonstrating a continued capability. They may be down but, they are saying, they are not out.

It is also very possible that the extremist network wanted to act before security agencies acted on any information divulged by Abdeslam, who is known to have backed out of a suicide attack and may have been considered by his erstwhile co-conspirators as likely to cooperate with authorities.

Belgium’s foreign minister, Didier Reynders, said on Sunday that Abdeslam had told investigators he was planning a fresh attack in the capital. “He was ready to restart something in Brussels, and it may be the reality because we have found a lot of weapons, heavy weapons, in the first investigations and we have found a new network around him in Brussels,” Reynders said.

posted by Drinky Die at 5:38 AM on March 22, 2016 [6 favorites]


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posted by daniel_charms at 5:38 AM on March 22, 2016


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posted by tonycpsu at 5:43 AM on March 22, 2016


Abdeslam had been on the run for months if not years. Major questions to be answered about why he was not apprehended earlier. The security services have been at the very least complacent about known ISIS operatives who have travelled to Syria to fight Assad.
posted by colie at 5:43 AM on March 22, 2016


I dread the elections next year in the Netherlands. Xenophobia is the main driving force for people to vote for Geert Wilders and the P.V.V.
posted by Pendragon at 5:45 AM on March 22, 2016 [9 favorites]


Tragic. Thoughts with everyone in Brussels

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posted by nubs at 5:45 AM on March 22, 2016


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posted by Mister Bijou at 5:50 AM on March 22, 2016


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posted by mostly vowels at 5:50 AM on March 22, 2016


I spent about as pleasant a six hour layover as you can spend in the Brussels airport when I was flying home from Cote d'Ivoire most recently. I am still struggling to understand the shooting in Bassam and imagining the faces I recognize but don't know and hoping they are safe; now I'm adding the lovely woman at the coffee place, the West African baggage handlers who commented that my luggage was heading somewhere close to home, the guy at immigration, and so on to my list of faces that I cross my fingers for and think about for a moment or two every night.
posted by ChuraChura at 5:52 AM on March 22, 2016 [32 favorites]


The pro-torture element is going to be all over this, given that Belgium had a man in custody who might well have known about these attacks.

I hope they have very good protective custody policies in place there, because I can't imagine he is a popular person with either the guards or most of the other prisoners today, and I want him interrogated and spilling the beans rather than to suffer an "accident."
posted by Dip Flash at 5:54 AM on March 22, 2016 [3 favorites]


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posted by pemberkins at 5:58 AM on March 22, 2016


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posted by faceplantingcheetah at 5:58 AM on March 22, 2016


Keep in mind that Brussels was on lockdown shortly after the Paris attacks on account of intelligence reports. I wonder if these attacks are the very same.
posted by Dalby at 6:06 AM on March 22, 2016


Terrorist attacks in Europe aren't new. I grew up with ETA murdering policemen or planting car bombs every other week, people in Ireland and the UK, or who have dealt with smaller separatist terrorist groups know it too. We survived the IRA and ETA, we can survive islamist attacks without blaming the Muslim population of Europe.

I second this sentiment but still think it's going to be harder to solve this time round. The IRA and ETA had specific political positions, negotiations around which were in the gift of the British and Spanish political establishments. There's no single body with the power to fix the poor integration of and poor support for immigrant populations across Europe. And the 'international community' doesn't seem to be able to do much about the conditions in Syria and across the Middle East and North Africa that sustain the ideologies behind these kinds of attacks.
posted by Mocata at 6:08 AM on March 22, 2016 [14 favorites]


I don't deal with tragedy like this very well. I'm left struggling trying to understand how someone could hate strangers so much that their mere existence is cause enough for deadly attacks. So many people trying to live their own lives and get by.. minds filled with smaller concerns about love, what's for dinner, an upcoming presentation, or outage over the fictional actions in a murder mystery novel.. have ended - for what? Hate? Inspiring Fear?

Empathy is sometimes very hard to deal with, but I can't help but feel like our species would be better off if everyone felt it like I do.

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posted by INFJ at 6:11 AM on March 22, 2016 [14 favorites]


The IRA and ETA had specific political positions

I don't know much about ETA, but I can guarantee you that the British media never, ever mentioned any political goals or positions of the IRA during the hysteria after any of the many, many bombs that went off in the UK during the 70s-80s.
posted by colie at 6:11 AM on March 22, 2016 [2 favorites]


I don't know much about ETA, but I can guarantee you that the British media never, ever mentioned any political goals or positions of the IRA during the hysteria after any of the many, many bombs that went off in the UK during the 70s-80s.

Are you suggesting that people in the UK were unaware of the IRA's goals? That's an incredible nonsense.
posted by Emma May Smith at 6:14 AM on March 22, 2016 [27 favorites]


The thing about these attacks that they just don't make any sense.

France is mostly, and Belgium is completely, inconsequential.

The Russians, Iranians and Turks are not in least bit affected by the precious sensibilities of Western democracies -- doesn't matter to them whether the flavor of the day in Brussels or Paris is skin-head Islamophobes or abject white-guilt appeasement, or anything in between.
posted by MattD at 6:16 AM on March 22, 2016 [3 favorites]


Churachura, it has brushed us very close. My first DMs this morning were from a very sad Congolese lady who was terrified of going into work this morning near the metro station. I "stayed" with her until her brother joined her.
posted by infini at 6:16 AM on March 22, 2016 [13 favorites]


They were just viewed as 'evil bastards' and that was the end of it. Much like Islamists are now 'evil bastards' detached from the events that have created them - if you work for CNN or the BBC.
posted by colie at 6:16 AM on March 22, 2016 [2 favorites]


"Brussels" the EU concept is different from Brussels, the Belgian city. This is the heart of united Europe.
posted by infini at 6:17 AM on March 22, 2016 [26 favorites]


I can guarantee you that the British media never, ever mentioned any political goals or positions of the IRA during the hysteria after any of the many, many bombs that went off in the UK during the 70s-80s.

Sure, but that doesn't mean they didn't have them or that the British government wasn't aware of them and didn't think about them as a political as well as a security problem. Even Thatch had back-channel discussions with the IRA as far as I remember.
posted by Mocata at 6:18 AM on March 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


I dunno, I doubt this is revenge per se. Accelerated due to the arrest maybe.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 6:19 AM on March 22, 2016 [9 favorites]


Even Thatch had back-channel discussions with the IRA as far as I remember.

Just like we now have plenty of back-channel discussions with Al Qaeda - and even send them weapons in Syria. Remember when they were the bad guys? But, point taken, the media reception of these things is a derail, they basically only ever talk bollocks.
posted by colie at 6:20 AM on March 22, 2016


I wonder why Belgium would be a target?

Theories.

1) EU capital city, and a huge win for these guys would be the destruction of the EU. Return Europe to a bunch of squabbling nations. This would be a massive own goal by Europe, but what the West has proven time and time again is that they are more than happy to destroy their own society because of fear.

2) Afraid they were about to be caught, and they were based there. If you're thinking "shit, our man got nicked, he's going to spill the beans" you don't plan on a 300 mile trip anywhere. You grab the arsenal, go to the largest thing nearby and attack.

3) Propoganda. "You caught one of us. You have no idea how many of us there are. You cannot stop us." Plus, now the story of the capture of one of them is old news, and the bombing of Brussels is on the lead of every single bit of media in the West.
posted by eriko at 6:20 AM on March 22, 2016 [35 favorites]


My roommate is from Brussels, and is preparing for a trip home the first week of April (and to return with her parents, who'll be staying with us the second week of April).

I haven't seen her yet today. I heard her moving around before I got out of bed, but when I got up some of her things were scattered in her office and her bedroom door was shut, so it's hard to tell whether she hadn't heard anything and someone's going to have to break it to her, or whether she DOES know and the news is the worst news possible and she's hiding in her room.

Am hoping it's the former.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:21 AM on March 22, 2016 [5 favorites]


I fucking swear I have a gift for planning a trip to Europe and having this happen. I'm heading to Manchester tomorrow evening. Happened before my December trip, happened after the July 7th, 2005 bombings.

I need to actually run the numbers. This may be observation bias.
posted by eriko at 6:22 AM on March 22, 2016


4) They're locals.
posted by sukeban at 6:22 AM on March 22, 2016 [13 favorites]


@Brittanie

Amsterdam is a very safe city, and Muslims here don't suffer socially here anywhere near as badly as they do in Paris or Brussels. There's a definite degree of marginalisation, and some consequent radicalization, but it hasn't manifested itself in actual mass terrorist assaults. The only thing I can think of is the very specific and targeted assassination of Theo van Gogh around 10 years ago.
posted by daveje at 6:23 AM on March 22, 2016 [5 favorites]


(which is to say, eriko's 2) point above, sorry)
posted by sukeban at 6:24 AM on March 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


The Russians, Iranians and Turks are not in least bit affected by the precious sensibilities of Western democracies

Yeah there wasn't a bombing in Turkey just last week blamed on ISIS. Yep not affected at all.

Iran has the good sense to keep Wahhabist radicalism firmly in check in their majority Sharia state.

Have you never heard of Chechnya and the years of warfare there in regards to the Russians?
posted by Max Power at 6:24 AM on March 22, 2016 [14 favorites]


I would guess it was Brussels because, for whatever reason, that's where motive and opportunity met this time. Perhaps the Belgian cells that were able to get the attackers to Paris found themselves unable to target any other city but their own this time.
posted by sallybrown at 6:24 AM on March 22, 2016


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posted by ellieBOA at 6:26 AM on March 22, 2016


(which is to say, eriko's 2) point above, sorry)

No worries. "Afraid they were about to be caught, and they were based there" was a long and obsfucated way to say "they're locals."
posted by eriko at 6:26 AM on March 22, 2016 [2 favorites]


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posted by Gelatin at 6:26 AM on March 22, 2016


[A couple of comments deleted; neither Islamophobic or "Brussels deserves it" type arguments are welcome here. Generally let's try to stay cool in here. (Also let's not continue with the IRA/Thatcher derail.) Thanks.]
posted by taz (staff) at 6:26 AM on March 22, 2016 [16 favorites]




Reddit live update feed.
posted by zerobyproxy at 6:29 AM on March 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


A friendly reminder. Choose:

1. Not to hate.
2. Not to make baseless assumptions.
3. Not to be online.
4. To love.
5. To think.

You have lots of choices. Be safe.
posted by Fizz at 6:31 AM on March 22, 2016 [42 favorites]


I'm left struggling trying to understand how someone could hate strangers so much that their mere existence is cause enough for deadly attacks. So many people trying to live their own lives and get by.. minds filled with smaller concerns about love, what's for dinner, an upcoming presentation, or outage over the fictional actions in a murder mystery novel.. have ended - for what? Hate? Inspiring Fear?

Everyone demands blood for their fallen. The only difference between us, the people trying to live their own lives, and them, the "evil terrorists" is that we try to claim plausible deniability of the carnage we create by being many steps away from the actual killing. But still, we, the mild mannered populace, are the proximal cause of "our side" continuing on in the cycle of violence.
posted by Talez at 6:32 AM on March 22, 2016 [20 favorites]


So many people trying to live their own lives and get by.. minds filled with smaller concerns about love, what's for dinner, an upcoming presentation, or outage over the fictional actions in a murder mystery novel.. have ended - for what?

We have to try to remember that in every market in the middle east you can buy a DVD of our soldiers doing it to them, only with fancier equipment.
posted by colie at 6:36 AM on March 22, 2016 [18 favorites]


One of the things I've been thinking about is how this isn't just about the west; there are many (and very deadly) suicide attacks (just one example) in the Middle East. We don't hear much about them at all, and certainly not the kind of detailed coverage we get of attacks in Europe. It shouldn't be framed at all as ISIS or Al-Qaeda or whomever against the West; it's them against anyone who stands in the way of their goals, whether ideological or directly practical. They're just as happy to kill Muslims as anyone else if it serves their ends, maybe happier since the Middle East is their actual turf.

They seem to me to make anything from the seventies or the eighties look extremely lightweight by comparison. I think it's that times have changed, and the purpose has changed - it's not to intimidate governments into giving them what they want through being a thorn in their side, or to get rid of a particular political figure, as I think it mostly was then. The large-scale-ness, the "almost a war"-ness is the point.
posted by Frowner at 6:39 AM on March 22, 2016 [45 favorites]


Today is a good day to watch Charlie Chaplin's final speech from The Great Dictator.
posted by GameDesignerBen at 6:40 AM on March 22, 2016 [19 favorites]


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posted by Existential Dread at 6:45 AM on March 22, 2016


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posted by Stynxno at 6:46 AM on March 22, 2016


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Not that I in any way really expected this, but yesterday while driving to work and listening to the radio they were going on and on about Abduslam's capture and how cooperative he was being with authorities - listing out some of the things they'd learned so far and what they might be hoping to learn from him w/r/t terror cells in Europe. And I'm pretty pro transparency in government, but I thought shit guys: why are you telling us this? Wouldn't it be more sensible to mention his capture as little as possible until you got and acted on whatever information the dude can be persuaded to share?

Probably wouldn't have made a drop of difference, but it confused me yesterday and makes this morning's events just that tiny bit more inevitable feeling, which is sad. Stay safe, Belgians.
posted by deludingmyself at 6:47 AM on March 22, 2016 [7 favorites]


And I'm pretty pro transparency in government, but I thought shit guys: why are you telling us this? Wouldn't it be more sensible to mention his capture as little as possible until you got and acted on whatever information the dude can be persuaded to share?

Hard to maintain that kind of silence when you just had Kalashnikov fire ringing through Molenbeek and people are tweeting about it.
posted by ocschwar at 6:50 AM on March 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


Completely true and I don't mean to derail. His capture was clearly going to be a known thing regardless.
posted by deludingmyself at 6:53 AM on March 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


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posted by heliostatic at 6:54 AM on March 22, 2016


Current death toll is 34. 20 in the subway explosion and 14 in the two explosions at the Brussels airport.

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posted by zarq at 6:55 AM on March 22, 2016


Not that I in any way really expected this, but yesterday while driving to work and listening to the radio they were going on and on about Abduslam's capture and how cooperative he was being with authorities - listing out some of the things they'd learned so far and what they might be hoping to learn from him w/r/t terror cells in Europe. And I'm pretty pro transparency in government, but I thought shit guys: why are you telling us this?

I would place the chances of his actually being cooperative around 20 percent, and a good half of that is "him giving them crap info". Odds are they're crowing about his cooperation as a way to flush people out, though obviously, not in this particular way.
posted by Etrigan at 6:55 AM on March 22, 2016 [4 favorites]


Today is a good day to watch Charlie Chaplin's final speech from The Great Dictator.

And the "Most Shocking Second a Day Video".
posted by Talez at 6:55 AM on March 22, 2016 [6 favorites]


The thing about these attacks that they just don't make any sense.

France is mostly, and Belgium is completely, inconsequential.

The Russians, Iranians and Turks are not in least bit affected by the precious sensibilities of Western democracies -- doesn't matter to them whether the flavor of the day in Brussels or Paris is skin-head Islamophobes or abject white-guilt appeasement, or anything in between.


Because they want the West to hate them. The last thing these radicals need is a bunch of expats living in first world countries, making good money, living alongside secularism and Christianity and being Muslims and doing just fine. They want a goddamn holy war and evidence that people can live in peace and get along is hateful to them.
posted by Zalzidrax at 6:56 AM on March 22, 2016 [52 favorites]


The only thing I can think of is the very specific and targeted assassination of Theo van Gogh around 10 years ago.

Indeed. My Dutch Studies classes were only able to call out that, and that random (read: crazy guy, not religious radical) attempt to crash a car into the Queen's bus, as incidents of Dutch political violence in the post-war era.
posted by fifthrider at 6:58 AM on March 22, 2016


Because they want the West to hate them.

Which doesn't explain Abidjan or Nairobi or Bamako or Mumbai or all the names you would not recognize.
posted by infini at 6:59 AM on March 22, 2016 [19 favorites]


I've been to Belgium twice, for the Magritte centennial and wwi's. Stay safe.
posted by brujita at 7:02 AM on March 22, 2016


Just heard from my roommate - her family is all safe. thank god.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:05 AM on March 22, 2016 [45 favorites]


Frowner: "They seem to me to make anything from the seventies or the eighties look extremely lightweight by comparison. I think it's that times have changed, and the purpose has changed [...]"
Don't underestimate the power of ubiquitous cameras and social media in spreading the terror. People weren't live-tweeting the Canary Wharf bombings, nobody was sharing pictures of Admiral Blanco being blown up, and the RAF didn't post the killing of Hanns Martin Schleyer on Youtube.
posted by brokkr at 7:05 AM on March 22, 2016 [8 favorites]


The thing about these attacks that they just don't make any sense. France is mostly, and Belgium is completely, inconsequential.

France packs an emotional wallop in the rest of the world - so many tourists dream of going to France someday, and to Paris in particular. Also, France has cast a very long shadow in the Middle East and North Africa in terms of colonialism, dating back to the days of Napoleon. So France may not be a political mover and shaker in terms of the 21st-century world stage, but it's been a major player in "the history of the Middle East" and "the cultural life of the world at large".

As for Brussels - Belgium has also cast a long colonial shadow on the history of the African Continent as well.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:09 AM on March 22, 2016 [14 favorites]


The Telegraph is saying that the airport explosion was near the American Airlines desk.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 7:09 AM on March 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


The only difference between us, the people trying to live their own lives, and them, the "evil terrorists" is that we try to claim plausible deniability of the carnage we create by being many steps away from the actual killing.

Is that really the only difference between the people trying to live their own lives and radical jihadists?

But still, we, the mild mannered populace, are the proximal cause of "our side" continuing on in the cycle of violence.

Probably. I'm pretty mild-mannered, but I kinda wish we'd helped out more in Rwanda, too.

I guess what I'm saying is I understand that asymmetrical warfare really, really sucks, and yes, innocents are slaughtered on both sides (of any war), but I do believe there is a difference between the two sides, especially when you look at what those sides wish to accomplish.
posted by valkane at 7:11 AM on March 22, 2016 [6 favorites]


The Telegraph is saying that the airport explosion was near the American Airlines desk.

There were two bombs at the airport. The other was outside a Starbucks. But I would not read anything into either.
posted by Emma May Smith at 7:12 AM on March 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


By definition, once in an airport you are near an American Airlines desk. I'm not sure anything should be read into that.
posted by AlexiaSky at 7:14 AM on March 22, 2016 [6 favorites]


Rolled out of bed this morning, and turned on my phone to see "2 of your friends are marked safe in Brussels," which is an odd way to hear about something like this...


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posted by schmod at 7:15 AM on March 22, 2016 [8 favorites]


Because they want the West to hate them.

Which doesn't explain Abidjan or Nairobi or Bamako or Mumbai or all the names you would not recognize.


No, but those places don't unexplain attacks in Paris or Belgium. There are multiple audiences that these people are trying to terrorize in different ways.
posted by Etrigan at 7:15 AM on March 22, 2016 [13 favorites]


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posted by and they trembled before her fury at 7:18 AM on March 22, 2016


Which doesn't explain Abidjan or Nairobi or Bamako or Mumbai or all the names you would not recognize.

Some things come to mind: it's perfectly possible for people to have a set of strategies toward the West and a separate set of strategies elsewhere.

Also, it seems like with these loose-knit/stochastic/DIY terrorist cellular organizations, people could have different goals. It could be very possible that the French attackers, for instance, were motivated mainly quite differently from the people in Mumbai - there might be some ideological overlap if they actually met, but what drives them as individuals could be pretty different. You're probably a very different person if you grew up in France in shitty circumstances and become a terrorist than if you grew up in, say, war-torn Iraq surrounded by military operations and become a terrorist.

I feel like it's important to think through how large-scale events have many causes.

Also, as I think about this, it occurs to me that basically terrorist attacks are acceptable losses to our various governments. The sensible moral thing to do would be to stop drone attacks, stop holding political prisoners, pay reparations to families where people have been killed by bombing or where their homes have been destroyed and to do our best to deescalate our involvement in the Middle East - that would cut the legs out from under these terrorist organizations, given a little bit of time. But we'll never do that because it does not suit our political interests. Basically, the odd subway bombing and so on is perfectly acceptable as long as we get to carry on in the Middle East.

Also, I don't think it's "us", in the sense that it's certainly not me supporting violence in the Middle East. Like a lot of mefites, I vote against war-mongering candidates, I hate the drone program, etc. I donate to relevant causes, I go to demonstrations, etc. It's the fact that we have this large, unaccountable state apparatus that is mostly opaque to most people most of the time. You have to be a specialist to even understand exactly how all the parts work together, and of course a lot of it is secret to begin with. The real blame lies with the people who are in government at a level where they are actually making decisions on this stuff - or, to a degree, to the low-information voters who provide them with political cover.
posted by Frowner at 7:19 AM on March 22, 2016 [46 favorites]


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posted by Theta States at 7:19 AM on March 22, 2016


I wonder why Belgium would be a target?

At a guess, because that's where the perps lived

They want a goddamn holy war


Long term I thought they wanted to cover the world in Islam. For Europe, letting demographic trends do their job is probably more efficient, albeit time consuming.

I kinda wish we'd helped out more in Rwanda, too.

"We" who? Not me, and not my kids.
posted by IndigoJones at 7:19 AM on March 22, 2016 [4 favorites]


The Telegraph is saying that the airport explosion was near the American Airlines desk.

Not according to American Airlines.
posted by Mister Bijou at 7:20 AM on March 22, 2016


Some Belgian cartoon commentary: Pis & Love; le doigt belge.
posted by progosk at 7:20 AM on March 22, 2016 [2 favorites]


Also, it seems like with these loose-knit/stochastic/DIY terrorist cellular organizations, people could have different goals. It could be very possible that the French attackers, for instance, were motivated mainly quite differently from the people in Mumbai - there might be some ideological overlap if they actually met, but what drives them as individuals could be pretty different. You're probably a very different person if you grew up in France in shitty circumstances and become a terrorist than if you grew up in, say, war-torn Iraq surrounded by military operations and become a terrorist.

I remember reading a piece about Al-Qaeda some years back that postulated that this was how they were run: independent cells, with similar ideologies, but mostly doing their own thing - rather than a top-down hierarchy.
posted by divabat at 7:21 AM on March 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


I wonder why Belgium would be a target?

Brussels is the de facto capital of the European Union. Why WOULDN'T it be a target? I'm surprised anyone is surprised by that.
posted by showbiz_liz at 7:22 AM on March 22, 2016 [19 favorites]


Also, as I think about this, it occurs to me that basically terrorist attacks are acceptable losses to our various governments. The sensible moral thing to do would be to stop drone attacks, stop holding political prisoners, pay reparations to families where people have been killed by bombing or where their homes have been destroyed and to do our best to deescalate our involvement in the Middle East - that would cut the legs out from under these terrorist organizations, given a little bit of time. But we'll never do that because it does not suit our political interests. Basically, the odd subway bombing and so on is perfectly acceptable as long as we get to carry on in the Middle East.

Hit the nail on the head there. Considering political interests generally equate to economic interests and then you start to see how someone could consider all those who live and benefit from those economies as prospective targets.
posted by dazed_one at 7:22 AM on March 22, 2016 [4 favorites]


Buzzfeed: Belgian Authorities Overwhelmed By Terror Investigations

"One Belgian counterterrorism official told BuzzFeed News last week that due to the small size of the Belgian government and the huge numbers of open investigations — into Belgian citizens suspected of either joining ISIS, being part of radical groups in Belgium, and the ongoing investigations into last November’s attacks in Paris, which appeared to be at least partially planned in Brussels and saw the participation of several Belgian citizens and residents — virtually every police detective and military intelligence officer in the country was focused on international jihadi investigations."
posted by DynamiteToast at 7:23 AM on March 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


And the political response has started up this morning. So far, everyone's responses are about as predictable it gets.

I've hit the point where the "thoughts and prayers" line doesn't even mean anything to me, any more, and yet, despite this, I don't have something better to be saying, either.

Be safe, folks. Everyone, everywhere. Be safe.
posted by Archelaus at 7:25 AM on March 22, 2016 [4 favorites]


What a mess this world is. Not many positive trend lines pointing upwards these days.
posted by The Card Cheat at 7:27 AM on March 22, 2016 [1 favorite]






Know how I said that my workplace has a Belgian office? Well - my boss is one of the main liasons between the headquarters and the European offices. So I just asked her if she'd heard from our Brussels office.

"...Why would I have heard anything from them?"

"Didn't you hear about what's going on in Brussels?"

"...No, I don't read the news any more, it's too depressing."

So I had the fun task of breaking the news to the boss. Yay.

(She then checked. They're fine. Our Brussels office has only three people.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:38 AM on March 22, 2016 [10 favorites]


This moment of reaction from the EU High Rep for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Mogherini struck me: though there will be plenty of calls for "hardening" of policy, I keep thinking compassion is a subtler antidote.
posted by progosk at 7:42 AM on March 22, 2016 [2 favorites]


For those interested in the trends of terrorism in the EU I've made a couple of graphs from the information in the wikipedia article -> see them here
posted by DrRotcod at 7:47 AM on March 22, 2016 [3 favorites]


DrRotcod, am I missing something? 2015 had rather more terrorism deaths in Europe then your graph is showing, unless you consider France not part of Europe. And they are in the wikipedia article.
posted by Bovine Love at 7:57 AM on March 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


suspect that ISIL is not training that many terrorists right now. They are out of money, time, and space. Their goals are the same as Trump's, they don't muslims coming to the West.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:58 AM on March 22, 2016 [3 favorites]


[Couple comments deleted. Again let's spare for another day the comments that seem to suggest this is somehow ok because of bad things the west does.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 8:01 AM on March 22, 2016 [15 favorites]


My bad - correct data here
posted by DrRotcod at 8:02 AM on March 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


I wonder how much chatter there was ahead of this? Coming home on the Tube last night, I was slightly perturbed by the line of police with sub-machine guns patrolling the exit from the Hammersmith and City Line. "Something's afoot," I thought ...
posted by Sonny Jim at 8:07 AM on March 22, 2016


Chatter! What color was the threat level?
posted by thelonius at 8:10 AM on March 22, 2016


Are you suggesting that people in the UK were unaware of the IRA's goals? That's an incredible nonsense.

I seem to recall that there was plenty of awareness of their purported objectives, what was not allowed was any form of propaganda or any broadcasting of their voices such that the broadcasting of a statement on TV news with an actor reading the words was a very common, almost cliched, event. Do you really think that during the whole of this time there were bombs going off and no one bothered to explain what was happening and why?

Anyway, tell us about the awareness of ISIS or Al-Qaeda goals amongst people in your country.
posted by epo at 8:13 AM on March 22, 2016 [3 favorites]


"Remember. The enemy of the extremist isn't the opposite extremist, it's the moderate. This sort of thing is done to provoke an extreme reaction to move the moderates to the extreme. These guys *actively want* war, but they're not going to get it with "Great Satan" talk. They are banking on an overreaction, which will drive more Islamic moderates towards the extremist position, and more French moderates to the "Islam is Evil Must Destroy" extreme.

When everybody's an extremist, then you can start really fighting.

The right answer is to handle this as a police matter. The wrong answer is to handle it as a military matter and create ISIS mark II."


Via Mefi's own: eriko

https://www.metafilter.com/145914/French-left-wing-satirical-magazine-Charlie-Hebdo-attacked-by-extremists#5882702
posted by Freen at 8:13 AM on March 22, 2016 [18 favorites]


Chatter! What color was the threat level?
I know, but it's been there since 2014, and the armed police presence last night was so suddenly overt that I can't help but draw a connection. You're right, though, that that might just be confirmation bias.
posted by Sonny Jim at 8:16 AM on March 22, 2016


.
posted by Annabelle74 at 8:22 AM on March 22, 2016


.
posted by Ms. Moonlight at 8:26 AM on March 22, 2016


As for Brussels - Belgium has also cast a long colonial shadow on the history of the African Continent as well.

True. But, and I might be going out on a limb here, I have an inkling that the perpetrators of the current attacks are not from the Congo. Or care at all about the Congo. Or Belgian colonial history.
posted by sour cream at 8:27 AM on March 22, 2016 [35 favorites]


Yes, they most likely live in Brussels.
posted by zutalors! at 8:30 AM on March 22, 2016


..................................

I hope that I don't have to comment later with more. Craziest part is that I was planning a solo overnight trip to Brussels tomorrow for a concert. I am so grateful to be a train ride away and my heart goes out to everyone there now.

(((also as always but especially in threads like these, 3 cheers for the mods)))
posted by that silly white dress at 8:30 AM on March 22, 2016 [9 favorites]


Do people sincerely believe that stopping drone strikes and pulling out is actually going to fix things over a long enough time? Sure, drone strikes aren't going to fix the problem, but if someone is severely sick you give them something to combat the fever while trying to fix the underlying issue. I don't even want to imagine what ISIS could accomplish if they were significantly left more unchecked than they are now.
posted by Dalby at 8:36 AM on March 22, 2016 [4 favorites]


Islamic State formally claim responsibility. As they would.
posted by Sonny Jim at 8:37 AM on March 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


A couple of things:

1. To the people asking "why Brussels?": Abdeslam, the surviving Paris attacker, was from Brussels, where he was arrested in a raid on Friday
2. Brussels is home to the European Parliament and NATO headquarters. As someone else said, it's more remarkable that Brussels hasn't been targeted before.
3. The Paris attacks were planned in Brussels by Belgian nationals.

It seems to me that this was an act of desperation and/or retaliation after police closed in on the remaining network in Belgium. This is different to the longer term planning in France, and attacks on Western tourists and others in Africa, or Shia in the middle east.

Reminder: the overall goal is to turn Western populations against Muslims, thereby driving them into extremism and support for ISIS, etc. Therefore we should be mindful of this however we choose to respond.
posted by Acey at 8:38 AM on March 22, 2016 [10 favorites]


Sure, drone strikes aren't going to fix the problem, but if someone is severely sick you give them something to combat the fever while trying to fix the underlying issue.

Western intervention in the Middle East is the underlying issue. One of the biggest ones, at least.
posted by tobascodagama at 8:38 AM on March 22, 2016 [9 favorites]


Long term I thought they wanted to cover the world in Islam. For Europe, letting demographic trends do their job is probably more efficient, albeit time consuming.

the 'islamic state' is neither islamic nor a state. discuss. /coffee talk

it's also worth remembering that it's not the people that are the problem, it's the ideology (and the circumstances that lead to fundamentalist mindsets...) as cithrin bel sarcour* says: we're fighting the idea of war.
posted by kliuless at 8:42 AM on March 22, 2016 [14 favorites]


"Western intervention in the Middle East is the underlying issue. One of the biggest ones, at least."

Most of ISIS' targets and victims are other Muslims in the Middle East. I don't think that western intervention in the middle east is the driving cause behind these attacks. I think it's the fact that ISIS probably sees the West as allies of their enemies in the Middle East. Thing is that without that intervention the attacks would still continue. There's nothing containing ISIS to a geographic region.
posted by I-baLL at 8:51 AM on March 22, 2016 [8 favorites]


Even if I accept your claim, that still doesn't answer my question, tobascodagama.
posted by Dalby at 8:52 AM on March 22, 2016


Which doesn't explain Abidjan or Nairobi or Bamako or Mumbai or all the names you would not recognize.

There are many different reasons for these targets, but commonly their aim will be either to (a) destroy the local tourism industry, which props up pro-western Muslim nations (as was the case in Tunisia), and thereby strengthens extremists, or (b) cause a sectarian conflict with the country, also to wreck the countries' prospects for peace and stability and become a breeding ground for further gains by extremists.

We have to start making more of an effort to understand things if we are ever going to make any progress. Right now we play into their hands every single time.
posted by Acey at 8:52 AM on March 22, 2016 [4 favorites]


.
posted by Rabarberofficer at 8:55 AM on March 22, 2016


Ted Cruz is saying that this is a good reason to allow police to "Patrol and secure Muslim neighborhoods"
posted by Uncle at 8:55 AM on March 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


Most of ISIS' targets and victims are other Muslims in the Middle East. I don't think that western intervention in the middle east is the driving cause behind these attacks.

If you pretend that history started a couple of years ago when ISIS first became a household name in the US, this perspective makes sense. If you look at the long view, Westerners meddling in the Middle East around because they thought they could benefit from said meddling is absolutely the cause of those attacks as well.
posted by tobascodagama at 8:56 AM on March 22, 2016 [20 favorites]


Ted Cruz is saying that this is a good reason to allow police to "Patrol and secure Muslim neighborhoods"

Unwittingly accurate in saying "patrol and secure Muslim neighborhoods before they become radicalized" instead of "patrol and secure Muslim neighborhoods so that they don't become radicalized."
posted by Etrigan at 8:57 AM on March 22, 2016 [5 favorites]


Yeah, I think framing this in terms of drones and Western intervention in the Middle East risks falling into the Occidentalist "only Western people have agency and non-Westerners simply react to our awesome power" mindset, which is unfortunate. It's a bit like the liberal-left response to the Charlie Hebdo attacks, which missed the point that these attacks are not about us, primarily. IS have their own aims and objectives and they're not entirely congruent with a righteous "fighting back against colonialism" intellectual framework.
posted by Sonny Jim at 8:57 AM on March 22, 2016 [26 favorites]


Arguing that the West needs to keep meddling in the Middle East because look how badly we fucked things up there is the worst, most destructive version of the sunk cost fallacy I think I've ever seen.
posted by tobascodagama at 8:57 AM on March 22, 2016 [19 favorites]


Dalby: we have been bombing Sunni areas in the middle east for a decade and a half. When we started there were a few hundred terrorists. Now there are tens of thousands.

Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

As for "unchecked": exactly what do you think airstrikes alone achieve? We have no shortage of bombs or planes, what we lack are reliable targets. Every terrorist or civilian killed multiples the problem a hundredfold. We are playing into their "Islam under siege" narrative. Only the Kurds were actually on the ground: our NATO ally Turkey is busy bombing the shit out of them.

I don't have all the answers, but what we are doing clearly isn't working.
posted by Acey at 8:58 AM on March 22, 2016 [10 favorites]


Question for European mefites: when I listen to UK podcasts and they discuss the EU, the impression I get is that when they talk about “Brussels” it is somewhat similar to the way people in the US talk about “Washington”— so, legislation from Brussels represents policy for the entire EU.

I think that is a key factor that a lot of US people might be missing when they ask "why Brussels???", because most US media depicts the EU as having more to do with Angela Merkel than its actual governing center in Brussels. Most of what I know about the EU comes directly from EU media, because US media barely covers it at all, and only in a very peculiar way when they do.
posted by a fiendish thingy at 8:58 AM on March 22, 2016 [5 favorites]


In the words of a Facebook meme a friend of mine posted:

"Je suis sick of this shit."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:00 AM on March 22, 2016 [11 favorites]


kliuless: the 'islamic state' is neither islamic nor a state. discuss. /coffee talk

On "is it Islam", read the Atlantic Article What ISIS Really Wants. It is well worth the read, and is an excellent discussion of "is ISIS islamic". I'll note that Islam covers a lot of people and variations; just because it may well fit a definition of Islamic doesn't mean it is a particular persons Islam.
posted by Bovine Love at 9:02 AM on March 22, 2016 [6 favorites]


Are the Belgian police and intelligence services any good? I remember hearing back in the mid-2000s that the country's law enforcement agencies were known to be relatively corrupt and incompetent.
posted by Alluring Mouthbreather at 9:05 AM on March 22, 2016


Belgium had no government at all for about 2 years recently.
posted by colie at 9:09 AM on March 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


a fiendish thingy: "Question for European mefites: when I listen to UK podcasts and they discuss the EU, the impression I get is that when they talk about “Brussels” it is somewhat similar to the way people in the US talk about “Washington”— so, legislation from Brussels represents policy for the entire EU."
Right, it's a metonym like Washington or The Sublime Porte.
posted by brokkr at 9:10 AM on March 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


About Western intervention: it's the one thing we control, that's why it's important. ISIS and similar presumably have autonomous local policy goals that have little to do with the US; that's not, for our purposes, important. As we all know, even a militantly left US government with pure hearts, etc couldn't stop all the world's bad actors anyway.

If what we're doing (ie, killing and crippling civilians, blowing up infrastructure and then lying about it) is creating sympathy for ISIS or encouraging people to become terrorists, then it would be useful to stop, regardless of whether it solved the problem 100%. Some would allow as how killing civilians is bad anyway, but that's another matter. And when we knock down functional even if kinda bad governments, or put incompetent people in power, or put tyrants in power, or remove legally elected peacetime governments (look at Iraq and Iran since the 1950s) we're destabilizing those places. When places are unstable, you get violence and chaos. That's good for the US as a nation state, but pretty rough on a lot of individuals both here and there.

The US can't go look into people's hearts and make them stop thinking that they should behead people or blow them up. What we can do is stop those of our actions that make things worse and that are immoral.
posted by Frowner at 9:10 AM on March 22, 2016 [41 favorites]


the 'islamic state' is neither islamic nor a state. discuss.

This Scotsman is neither true, not a Scotsman. Discuss.
posted by Behemoth at 9:11 AM on March 22, 2016 [6 favorites]


colie: "Belgium had no government at all for about 2 years recently."
Not quite correct; they had an interim government between June 2010 and December 2011. And the federal governments of Flanders and Wallonia were still functioning normally. That's not "no government at all".
posted by brokkr at 9:14 AM on March 22, 2016 [3 favorites]


Hat tip: the National Socialists were not socialist.
posted by tel3path at 9:14 AM on March 22, 2016


Yeah, I think its time to stop claiming that the more extreme and violent versions of a religion or ideology aren't "really" that religion. I mean, that's a good discussion for believers to have amongst themselves, but I don't think it helps the rest of us analyze and understand the world to say that the Islamic State isn't Islamic or that Union of Soviet Socialist Republics wasn't socialist.
posted by Alluring Mouthbreather at 9:16 AM on March 22, 2016 [3 favorites]


the 'islamic state' is neither islamic nor a state. discuss.

Somebody better tell them that. I mean, I'm sure you could find an opposing imam to issue a fatwa saying that IS are all apostates (and you know what that means), but they certainly identify as Muslims and want to impose their vision of Islam on their region of the world. And al-Baghdadi is said to have a doctorate in Islamic studies...
posted by theorique at 9:18 AM on March 22, 2016 [3 favorites]


The National Socialist party was the Nazi party, not a part of the USSR.
posted by tel3path at 9:20 AM on March 22, 2016


Not sure what the fuss is about. ISIS already made clear that they wanted to establish a Caliphate, and everyone knows the oil rich gulf countries are busy funding and abetting them.

Unless the Western leaders man up, send soldiers on the ground, are ready to lose a thousand soldiers, and stop propping up the Gulf regimes, this war is there to stay.

Anything short of that is just mindless agitation.
posted by Kwadeng at 9:21 AM on March 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


The National Socialist party was the Nazi party, not a part of the USSR.

I understand that. I wasn't replying directly to your comment, even though the sequence makes it look that way. Sorry for any confusion.
posted by Alluring Mouthbreather at 9:22 AM on March 22, 2016


"If you pretend that history started a couple of years ago when ISIS first became a household name in the US, this perspective makes sense. If you look at the long view, Westerners meddling in the Middle East around because they thought they could benefit from said meddling is absolutely the cause of those attacks as well."

I guess i don't understand what you're arguing then. Are you saying that ISIS attacks people because of Western intervention in the Middle East? Because if you are then I disagree with you. If you're just saying that Western intervention in the Middle East caused power vacuums and exacerbated existing problems, then I agree with you. The way you phrased your initial comment made it sound like you were saying that the main cause of these ISIS attacks is Western intervention and I don't think that's accurate.
posted by I-baLL at 9:22 AM on March 22, 2016


From November last year:

Belgium is a failed state
Brussels’ nest of radicalism is just one of the failings of a divided, dysfunctional country.
posted by monospace at 9:23 AM on March 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


they certainly identify as Muslims and want to impose their vision of Islam on their region of the world

True, but apparently quite a few young male wannabe jihadis show up in Syria etc with only very basic knowledge of Islam, but with a very developed sense of alienation, injustice and rage.
posted by colie at 9:24 AM on March 22, 2016 [9 favorites]


[One comment deleted. The 'neither x nor y, discuss" thing has kind of run its course, let's move things along from there and not continue spiralling around that specific thing?]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 9:25 AM on March 22, 2016


the overall goal is to turn Western populations against Muslims, thereby driving them into extremism and support for ISIS, etc. Therefore we should be mindful of this however we choose to respond.

Is there any evidence for this? I see it asserted a lot, but I don't see any particular reason for it to be more plausible than "they just want to strike out at the people they hate". Not everyone is playing multi-dimensional chess; some people just do what they want, and don't care whether their enemies (in this case, everyone who isn't them) hate them.

I get that it's useful because it supports the idea that we mustn't let these attacks lead to racism- after all, that'd be what the terrorists want. And it carries the comforting notion that there exists a plan and we know what it is; even if we can't stop it, that's better than chaos (cf: every conspiracy theory ever). And it might even be true that this end result is actually what they're achieving. But is there any decent evidence supporting the idea that this is high on their list of motivations?
posted by metaBugs at 9:31 AM on March 22, 2016 [3 favorites]


Is there any evidence for this?

My source is a letter from Zarqawi to Bin Laden from back before IS split from AQ, around 2004. He says it in as many words.

If we succeed in dragging them into the arena of sectarian war, it will become possible to awaken the inattentive Sunnis as they feel imminent danger and annihilating death at the hands of these Sabeans.
posted by Acey at 9:36 AM on March 22, 2016 [15 favorites]


One factor that can make places like Brussels and Paris prime targets for attacks are that the cities are very international and thus easy places for terrorists to hide and also magnifies the reverberations of their attacks. Parisian tourism and Brussels being the EU capital mean that both places are constantly filled with international outsiders in ways that only a few other places in the world are. An attack on either place can be an attack on almost all of the western world and possibly other parts too.
posted by srboisvert at 9:37 AM on March 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


Sorry, I think that was the wrong pull-quote, relating to the Sunni-Shia conflict rather than Western targets. But the same logic applies. Western targets tend to be more symbolic and act as propaganda/psychological warfare but it wouldn't surprise me if they were trying to provoke a backlash against Muslims in general. I felt the same about Cologne New Years Eve. Extremists have more in common with each other than with moderates, whatever side they're on.
posted by Acey at 9:45 AM on March 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


[A few comments deleted. Sorry, please being commentary-to-mods to the contact form, not in the thread. And please skip the "mefites are like ___" -- that kind of metacomment gets deleted. Just flag comments that are a problem as they come in.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 9:46 AM on March 22, 2016


Maybe we can give the cutting off aid to Gulf states thing a shot first before we commit to more war
posted by Apocryphon at 9:47 AM on March 22, 2016 [3 favorites]


There have been direct comments by ISIS that their attacks are intended to destroy what they called the "grey zone" of both moderate Muslims and anti-interventionist Westerners.
posted by kersplunk at 9:49 AM on March 22, 2016 [4 favorites]




Well, my trans-Atlantic flight out of Heathrow tomorrow certainly promises to be a bundle of earthly delights. But I will certainly bear in mind my deep personal responsibility for the Sykes-Picot agreement as go about my day.
posted by Sonny Jim at 9:52 AM on March 22, 2016 [5 favorites]




[A few comments deleted; folks, please think twice about whether you're adding something useful to the thread; this isn't a good place to grind general axes or whatever.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 10:13 AM on March 22, 2016




Are you saying that ISIS attacks people because of Western intervention in the Middle East? Because if you are then I disagree with you. If you're just saying that Western intervention in the Middle East caused power vacuums and exacerbated existing problems, then I agree with you.

It's the latter. Apologies if my attempt to be pithy made my point unclear.
posted by tobascodagama at 10:19 AM on March 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


Not quite correct; they had an interim government between June 2010 and December 2011. And the federal governments of Flanders and Wallonia were still functioning normally. That's not "no government at all".


No, just enough of a lack of government to embolden petty criminals into knowing they can treat some neighborhoods as their own fiefdoms, because a Moroccan shop owner calling to complain about harassment from a local gangster is likely to have his issue lost in the shuffle. Next thing you know there are safe houses in Molenbeek used to conduct a massacre in Paris. Belgium's institutionalized dysfunction and Walloon-Flemish rudeness is no longer cute.
posted by ocschwar at 10:24 AM on March 22, 2016 [5 favorites]


I think we could do with an objective and unrelated to any event FPP on the technical, academics, and political definitions of the concept of blowback. Chalmers, not Chomsky. I am not learned enough and wish to be educated. This can't all be brownian motion.
posted by infini at 10:26 AM on March 22, 2016 [7 favorites]


@infini - While the sentiment was worth reading, I probably should have stopped at the end of the original poster's segment, rather than continuing on and reading the responses from the racist white-power jackass below it.
posted by Archelaus at 10:36 AM on March 22, 2016 [2 favorites]


the racist white-power jackass below it.

I've learnt to tune them out. They're all over the place. Both my cheeks are sore from turning as an aging woc

tl;dr - I honestly didn't notice it
posted by infini at 10:44 AM on March 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


Article on some American missionaries who were injured in the attack.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 10:46 AM on March 22, 2016


Re: Why Brussels, I remember around the time of the Paris attacks hearing on NPR that Brussels, in addition to having a large, unintegrated Muslim population, was a center of the illegal gun trade in Europe [Financial Times link], and was where the Paris attackers obtained their guns.
posted by permiechickie at 10:54 AM on March 22, 2016 [5 favorites]


Amsterdam is a very safe city

There's a bunch of Dutch jews who I suspect would take issue with your characterisation of the place.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 11:07 AM on March 22, 2016 [5 favorites]


A lot of people want to know why terrorists do the things they do. Reading the extreme right-wing treatise/novel The Turner Diaries made me understand the terrorist mindset better. Read it, but please find a way not to support the author economically when doing so, and keep in mind that it's neither great literature or very pleasant to read. I certainly felt like I needed a shower afterwards.
posted by Harald74 at 11:13 AM on March 22, 2016 [3 favorites]


He's dead, and the organization he founded died due to infighting and their leading intellectual turning out to have a thing for young girls.
posted by ocschwar at 11:18 AM on March 22, 2016


But his Intellectual Property marches on.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 11:22 AM on March 22, 2016


Question for European mefites: when I listen to UK podcasts and they discuss the EU, the impression I get is that when they talk about “Brussels” it is somewhat similar to the way people in the US talk about “Washington”— so, legislation from Brussels represents policy for the entire EU.

Well yes and no. It's a bit more complex than that. Unlike the states, which is one nation state, the EU is made up of 28 separate nation states. The EU does have legislative power to varying degrees in different policy areas. Some areas are more member state competencies and some fall under the jurisdiction of the EU. Some EU law is set in the form of Regulations, which instantly apply all over the union and others are Directives which member states must transpose into their national law according to certain boundaries.

The European Commission, European Council and European Parliament as institutions do not have nearly as much visibility with ordinary people than the US administration. I would imagine that the proportion of EU citizens who could name Jean-Claude Juncker (or Donald Tusk or Martin Schulz for that matter) is far far smaller than the proportion of Americans who could name Obama.
posted by roolya_boolya at 11:24 AM on March 22, 2016 [3 favorites]


Arguing that the West needs to keep meddling in the Middle East because look how badly we fucked things up there is the worst, most destructive version of the sunk cost fallacy I think I've ever seen.

I'm not arguing that the West needs to keep meddling because we have some sort of responsibility. I'm arguing that the West needs to keep meddling because letting ISIS take over the Iraqi and Syrian state would be terrible for (1) the people living there, and (2) the people not living there.
posted by Dalby at 11:25 AM on March 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


He's dead, and the organization he founded died due to infighting and their leading intellectual turning out to have a thing for young girls.

This is my surprised face.

But as long as his IP has not gone to benefit the SPLC or similar, I urge you to not buy the book.
posted by Harald74 at 11:26 AM on March 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


The strategic goals of terrorists are one thing. But the other thing is that suicide bombings and targeting civilians are now a Thing. A Meme, an Idea, and an increasingly obvious and ubiquitous option. I remember when suicide bombings became more frequent in the 80's, and thinking how desperate and hopeless those people must have felt to drive then to do such a thing. I think there have always been desperate and hopeless people throughout history. (Are they made so through economics, imperialism, militarism, drought, scarcity, etc? Sure - take your pick.)

What's new is the idea that one can obtain guns and explosives and take out a bunch of civilians (and oneself) as a tactic. Sure, it's always been an option. Like it's always been possible to shoot up a school. It just wasn't done so much. Now it is. And it gets played and played in the increasingly ubiquitous global media (social or not), so that hopeless desperate persons might say, "Hey, I could do that". It's frightening, and I think a lot more attention needs to be paid to this aspect of terrorism, rather than the endless analysis of possible goals and strategies. It's the plural of copycat.
posted by jetsetsc at 11:45 AM on March 22, 2016 [5 favorites]


I'm arguing that the West needs to keep meddling because letting ISIS take over the Iraqi and Syrian state would be terrible for (1) the people living there, and (2) the people not living there.

Our meddling has already made things terrible for (1) the people living there, and (2) the people not living there. I think it's high time we stopped meddling and let the regional actors sort their own shit out. I think we've done quite enough.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 11:47 AM on March 22, 2016 [2 favorites]


". I think it's high time we stopped meddling and let the regional actors sort their own shit out. I think we've done quite enough."

Does accepting refugees count as meddling?
posted by I-baLL at 11:51 AM on March 22, 2016 [4 favorites]


I'm arguing that the West needs to keep meddling because letting ISIS take over the Iraqi and Syrian state would be terrible for (1) the people living there, and (2) the people not living there.

No one disputes that ISIS is bad for everyone. But you're begging the question of whether Western intervention is actually doing good for people in the Middle East (and in the West, and in the rest of the world).

I'm not sold on either side, honestly. I think we probably do have some role to play (both we meaning the US, and we meaning Western powers generally). And absolutely, quite a bit of responsibility given actions taken by the US and by the colonial powers in the last ten years and the last hundred years.

But first, do no harm. We can't impose, colonize, force; we can only support, encourage, nudge. I think President Obama understands that, and is at least trying to follow that principle.
posted by tivalasvegas at 11:53 AM on March 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


I think maybe we could stop droning
posted by zutalors! at 11:53 AM on March 22, 2016 [9 favorites]


Minimally stop with the drones and admit that we've killed civilians and pay reparations to people whose families have been killed or crippled and whose property has been destroyed. Stop lying about it and stop justifying it when we even admit it. And pay reparations to all those people who've been falsely or excessively imprisoned as part of the war on terror. We could rebuild at least some trust and prestige if we admitted what horrible things these are and started to make such amends as we could.
posted by Frowner at 12:00 PM on March 22, 2016 [10 favorites]


Amsterdam is a very safe city

There's a bunch of Dutch jews who I suspect would take issue with your characterisation of the place.


Nice derail. Six year old article.

Amsterdam ranks fifth in the current Safe Cities Index. The cities in front were Tokyo, Singapore, Osaka and Stockholm.
posted by daveje at 12:00 PM on March 22, 2016


[A couple comments deleted. If you think Mefi should have posts about other events, go ahead and make those posts rather than lamenting how other people don't care enough or whatever. Also maybe we can bring the thread back over to today's events and things in Belgium, rather than steering off into the USA, what should US foreign policy be, etc.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 12:09 PM on March 22, 2016 [6 favorites]


I think it's high time we stopped meddling and let the regional actors sort their own shit out. I think we've done quite enough.

I agree, but rather than "do nothing", we should be facilitating dialogue between the immediately neighbouring Muslim nations like Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Iran, etc, such that any kind of settlement is not seen as imposed by the West á la Sykes-Picot. The Sunni-Shia conflict has cost immeasurable harm to that whole region, Islamic State is just the latest horrible development, but if we destroy them something worse will surely replace them.

Above all, this is not our fight. This is a continuation of a sectarian war that has been raging since Mohammed's death in 632 AD. In that sense it is very similar to the Irish "Troubles", which were themselves the continuation of sectarian hostilities dating back to the 1600s and before. I don't want to be insensitive on a day when many Western bystanders have been killed in cold blood, but too many have died, both Muslim and not, for us to continue to worsen the situation. The withdrawal of Russia gives me hope but there is a long way to go. The interests of the West and Russia in the region have made the situation so much worse. Instead we shouldn't be taking sides but trying to find a path to a reconciliation within Islam.

If you read that letter from Zarqawi, it's obvious that he reserves most of his hate for the Shia first, and Westerners come much further down the list. Since he essentially founded Islamic State/Daesh, it's not unreasonable to expect them to share his priorities. If you read what he has to say about the West - it's all about how the Shia betrayed Islam and collaborated with the Crusaders, allowing the Caliphate to collapse and plunging the region into shame and subordination. See this passage for starters:
As the days pass, their hopes are growing that they will establish a Shi`i state stretching from Iran through Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon and ending in the Cardboard Kingdom of the Gulf. [...] Yes, the hosts of the Ottoman state stopped at the gates of Vienna, and those fortifications almost collapsed before them [to permit] Islam to spread under the auspices of the sword of glory and jihad all across Europe. But these armies were forced to return and withdraw to the rear because the army of the Safavid state had occupied Baghdad, demolished its mosques, killed its people, and captured its women and wealth. The armies returned to defend the sanctuaries and people of Islam. Fierce fighting raged for about two centuries and did not end until the strength and reach of the Islamic state had waned and the [Islamic] nation had been put to sleep, then to wake up to the drums of the invading Westerner."
Certainly they have grievances against the West dating back to Sykes-Picot. It seems like a long memory to the likes of us, who can barely remember the crimes of the last fifteen years, but this guy goes all the way back to talking about the Franks and Genghis Khan, and all of it is the fault of the Shia. I don't know how you overcome something like that. It's like trying to reason with fundamentalist Christians who blame Jews for the death of Jesus to this day, plus everything else bad that has happened over the last 1,400 years.

But it's clear anyone reasonable that we are dealing with a tiny minority of Muslims here. Were it not for the geopolitical rivalries along sectarian lines between Saudi Arabia, Syria, Iran, etc, which have only served to exacerbate the situation, perhaps it would not have got to this point. And the West has a lot to answer for there. We have been propping up the Saudis for decades, and it seems natural for Iran to lurch the other way when threatened. But I see a sliver of daylight in the Iran deal. I hope that one day we will see them reconcile and end this futile and endless killing.

The least we can do is stop pouring fuel on the fire, but we can do so much more.
posted by Acey at 12:21 PM on March 22, 2016 [12 favorites]


I think it's high time we stopped meddling and let the regional actors sort their own shit out. I think we've done quite enough.

Who is this "we"? Who are you speaking for? Forgive me if I am being unkind, but perhaps this patronizing, armchair colonialist attitude is one of the causes of the many problems in this world.

That said, the... people... who carried out these attacks are horrible, do not represent a coherent political ideology, and are criminals.

I don't pretend to know what the answer is.
posted by My Dad at 12:28 PM on March 22, 2016 [3 favorites]




(I work with a global team. There is no "us" and "them" in my world, no "here" and "over there".)
posted by My Dad at 12:29 PM on March 22, 2016 [8 favorites]


One thing that struck me about the Brussels attack today (and that has been percolating since November) is that the refugee Muslims are trying to escape the violence that ISIS inflicts. It would be like finally escaping an abusive relationship just to find your abuser at the shelter setting fire to part of the building (and then being blamed for said fire by the shelter).
posted by toomanycurls at 12:32 PM on March 22, 2016 [15 favorites]


The... people... who carried out these attacks...do not represent a coherent political ideology

Pretty sure they would disagree with you on that.
posted by IndigoJones at 12:42 PM on March 22, 2016 [2 favorites]


Based on that Atlantic article about what they really want, ISIS doesn't seem to have a political ideology, not really.
posted by zutalors! at 12:44 PM on March 22, 2016


All the Belgians I know (and I'm married to one) have long felt that a terrorist attack was bound to happen sooner or later, so I was weirded out at first by the "why Brussels?" bafflement here. I guess from an overseas perspective Belgium can seem like a speck of a land, and Brussels a hobbiton of chocolate and excellent beer. But Brussels is also a gritty metropole, the heart of EU, and the capital of a multicultural country in league with NATO, and with a known problem of radicalization among their marginalized muslim youth.

I assume at least some of the terrorists were locals. I imagine an attack on your home turf would be both logistically easier to organize and perhaps also psychologically particularly satisfying. I think the extremist strategy we've seen in Europe has mainly been "strike where it's easy to cause a carnage". Except Charlie Hebdo and the Jewish supermarket, which were chosen for more specific reasons.
posted by sively at 12:44 PM on March 22, 2016 [12 favorites]


There was just a piece on CNN last night about homegrown Belgian terrorists in Brussels. "Sooner or later" seemed to be the message. I watched a bit and went to sleep and woke up to this news so "why Brussels" seems weird to me, too.
posted by zutalors! at 12:49 PM on March 22, 2016


I also think there's a lot of "projection" going on, in that we tend to see our own worst aspects magnified and focus on that - colonialism, imperialism, warmongering - as if that is the sole cause. But while many innocent people on the ground may object to those things, these terrorists object more to who is perpetrating it than to the actual crimes. In fact they dream of holding similar power and and desire to do the same in return. Which is why it becomes so difficult for a liberal westerner to simultaneously condemn terrorism and the response to terrorism: it goads us into our base instincts for revenge and the perpetuation of violence. Both sides are guilty, historically speaking in the least. We can find no recourse that doesn't make the problem worse. Caught in the middle are the innocents, but even they are deemed valid targets by the killers on both sides.

It's like being faced by a madman with a grenade and realising the fact that you cannot take him alive, and to refuse to kill will only hurt others. So many are known to authorities before they act, but we struggle to do anything to stop it. That's why they do it, and why is scares us so much. It hurts us not only physically, but morally - psychologically even. It calls into question our very values. So, when faced with that grenade wielding madman, we close our eyes and shoot wildly in his direction, and innocent people are killed, all because we refuse to look him in the eye and attempt to talk him down instead, lest we realise we aren't so different after all.

Or something like that.
posted by Acey at 12:56 PM on March 22, 2016 [6 favorites]


I also think there's a lot of "projection" going on, in that we tend to see our own worst aspects magnified and focus on that - colonialism, imperialism, warmongering

I don't feel that way, and certainly there's never any unity of 'we' that I feel regarding 'worst aspects' after these events. The people who did the fighting and dying for 'our' colonialism and imperialism were also victims of political systems and of the oppression of ruling elites. Maybe if I was a member of a ruling elite I'd act just like they do. But they're a tiny number of people protecting a definable set of privileges.
posted by colie at 1:08 PM on March 22, 2016 [3 favorites]


Nice derail. Six year old article.

Here's something more recent.
posted by Behemoth at 1:10 PM on March 22, 2016


It calls into question our very values.

That's giving them too much credit. Each one of us here probably shares the same values of supporting life over taking life. Where we draw the lines might vary, but given the horror expressed here, I don't see that called into question.
posted by kokaku at 1:16 PM on March 22, 2016 [3 favorites]


Searches are ongoing all over Belgium and police have found 'an explosive device containing nails' in Schaerbeek in Brussels. Sirens and helicopters can be heard consistently from where I am (between EU district and Schaerbeek).

It would be nice if this thread was sharing quality links to reliable and thoughtful news and analysis sources and information about what's happening in Brussels right now.
posted by roolya_boolya at 1:22 PM on March 22, 2016 [22 favorites]


Anybody know, are the BBC and Guardian the best nearish news site to follow for this, or are there good English-language sites more local to Belgium?
posted by LobsterMitten at 1:28 PM on March 22, 2016


Of all sad words of tongue and pen, the saddest are these: Trump was right again.
posted by dragoon at 1:36 PM on March 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


Anybody know, are the BBC and Guardian the best nearish news site to follow for this, or are there good English-language sites more local to Belgium?

Flanders Today and Brussels Times but they are pretty small publications so not so fast to update. France 24 has an english language site. The EU version of Politico is based in Brussels too but their coverage of terrorism events is quite sensationalist and tabloid. They do sometimes have links to decent coverage elsewhere thought.

Most major news outlets have correspondents in Brussels though so I imagine there is a lot of good coverage popping up in all kinds of English language outlets.
posted by roolya_boolya at 1:37 PM on March 22, 2016 [4 favorites]


Here's a piece a friend wrote this morning, on sleeping through another terrorist attack (among other things).
posted by The corpse in the library at 1:37 PM on March 22, 2016 [3 favorites]


The corpse in the library , my husband slept through 9/11 on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. He woke up around noon and had dozens of phone messages on the answering machine.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 1:39 PM on March 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


I don't feel that way, and certainly there's never any unity of 'we' that I feel regarding 'worst aspects' after these events.

I should maybe have said that this was my own projection really, of course I don't speak for others. It makes me think about things like that.

That's giving them too much credit.

Again, I should have said it make me question my values, in that over the last decade I've gone from supporting (or at least understanding) the authorities and their efforts to protect us (with regards to air travel, for instance), to feeling like it's hopeless, that nothing will ever make us truly safe, and that we should look elsewhere for a solution.
posted by Acey at 1:43 PM on March 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


Can someone more informed or local comment about the inefficacy of local government in Brussels? My experiences two decades ago indicated crazy bureaucracy and a lot of difficulty getting anything done, but I had a language barrier.
posted by poe at 1:44 PM on March 22, 2016




to feeling like it's hopeless, that nothing will ever make us truly safe, and that we should look elsewhere for a solution

As far as i know, nobody is ever going to ask me for a solution nor would they do what I would suggest. If someone wants to take their rage out on NYC, there's not much I can do about it other than hope I'm not in range when it happens and try to help those who need help after. When it comes down to it, all I can do is look at my own actions and do a little better each day to do good by the people around me.

To swallow an event like this seems akin to railing against the weather. Some things are so much bigger than us.
posted by kokaku at 1:48 PM on March 22, 2016


>The... people... who carried out these attacks...do not represent a coherent political ideology

Pretty sure they would disagree with you on that.


So what? Criminals never think they're criminals.
posted by My Dad at 1:49 PM on March 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


This is not the first attack but I hope it'l be the last. To many people died just to prove something to someone. Problem is that people who did this don't know what they want to prove neither to whom.
posted by korpe4r at 1:49 PM on March 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


Anybody know, are the BBC and Guardian the best nearish news site to follow for this, or are there good English-language sites more local to Belgium?

If you read French, Le Monde has some good reporting. I'm not familiar enough with Belgian newspapers...
posted by My Dad at 1:50 PM on March 22, 2016


So what? Criminals never think they're criminals.

Surely not never. Criminals may come up with all kinds of justification for why they do what they do, but not acknowledging their transgressions as crimes is generally fodder for the jury.

As to these guys, there's plenty of Islamic doctrine for them to hang their hats on. You might not agree with it, but you can't dismiss it as nonexistent.
posted by IndigoJones at 1:59 PM on March 22, 2016


A reminder: "Look for the helpers"
posted by poe at 1:59 PM on March 22, 2016 [7 favorites]



Here's a piece a friend wrote this morning, on sleeping through another terrorist attack (among other things).


Thanks, that's exactly the kind of thing I was looking for.
posted by roolya_boolya at 2:03 PM on March 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


Here's something more recent.

Sigh. That was Brussels, not Amsterdam. At least the other guy knew the difference.

I'm not very convinced that the Netherlands is seriously at risk since the level of radicalisation is much less, and there's hardly any noise about terrorist cells in this country. After Paris, Brussels was always going to get targeted, since the cell was based there, and Brussels/Belgium has stability issues and similar social and economic marginalisation. After Abdeslam's arrest last week, it looks like his cell brought their plans forward while they were still in a position to carry them out.

However, the Netherlands has the presidency of the European Union for the first six months of this year, which means lots of Council of Europe meetings, and visits by numerous foreign dignitaries. It might make us a target, but it would be something brought in, not something home-grown.

And it would be a hard target - the Dutch cops are *very* twitchy right now.
posted by daveje at 2:11 PM on March 22, 2016 [2 favorites]


Thank you for sharing that link, the corpse in the library. It made me feel hope.
posted by infini at 2:17 PM on March 22, 2016 [2 favorites]


[Couple comments deleted; again please don't bring this back to "let's argue over the US's role and what Americans think and what's America's role" - those are topics we've been over a million times, trying to keep the focus in here on today's events and Belgium.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 2:27 PM on March 22, 2016 [6 favorites]


Can someone more informed or local comment about the inefficacy of local government in Brussels?

Well, "Brussels Capital Region" is one of the three federal regions of Belgium, along with Flanders and Wallonia. (Let's not get into the community governments, whose borders are not the same as those of the regions.) It has its own regional parliament, like Wallonia and Flanders.

Within the boundaries of the Brussels Capital Region, there are 19 municipalities (towns), each with their own mayors, councils of alderpersons, and city councils. These include the old city of Brussels itself (where Manneken Pis and the Grand Place are located), Molenbeek-St-Jean (where there is a large, somewhat poorly-assimilated Muslim population), and Forest (where Abdelsalm was found). Some things that would be the responsibility of cities in the US are the responsibility of the region, others are the responsibility of the municipalities. This proliferation of jurisdictions means that opportunities for graft are rampant and inefficiency is more or less built into the system. Each municipality is responsible, for example, for the registration of its inhabitants. That's why when I lived in Brussels a few years ago, I lived in the municipality of Saint-Gilles, which, besides being hip and relatively safe, also took a relatively short time (6-8 weeks) to process my paperwork, while in the town of Brussels proper or in Ixelles, it might have taken well over 3 months at least.

Since Belgium does not forbid the "cumul des mandats" (one individual holding more than one office), you can see that in the regional and city governments there was often overlap. For example, Charles Picqué, who has been the mayor of Saint-Gilles since 1985, was also the Prime Minister of the Brussels region from 1989 to 1999 and from 2004 to 2013. During those times, there was a "functional mayor" (bourgmestre faisant fonction) drawn from the council of alderpersons, who filled his duties in Saint-Gilles.

So, yes, Brussels municipal government is extremely inefficient. In other parts of Belgium, there was a "fusion of municipalities" in the 1970s, in which smaller villages were absorbed by their larger neighbors, but in Brussels that is not allowed because these municipalities are all technically bilingual (French/Dutch) and thus not subject to that law for a variety of reasons. So you have places like Saint-Josse-ten-Noode, a municipality of around 24,000 inhabitants and 1.4 square km smack dab in the middle of a major metro area.

As far as I know, all of my friends from the years when I lived in Belgium are safe. For those who weren't:

.
posted by dhens at 3:08 PM on March 22, 2016 [8 favorites]


Also, Brussels National Airport is not actually located in the Brussels Capital region but rather the suburb of Zaventem, which is located in Flanders. It's a short train ride from the city to the airport though, one which has been shortened by a recent construction project.
posted by dhens at 3:12 PM on March 22, 2016 [3 favorites]


Thank you very much, dhens. I wish you and yours the best on this worst of days.
posted by poe at 3:20 PM on March 22, 2016 [2 favorites]


Can someone more informed or local comment about the inefficacy of local government in Brussels? My experiences two decades ago indicated crazy bureaucracy and a lot of difficulty getting anything done, but I had a language barrier.

This tongue-in-cheek (but factually correct) Youtube film may give you an idea of some of the complexity.
posted by sively at 3:25 PM on March 22, 2016 [3 favorites]


The video that sively links addresses the question of regional, community, and federal governments that I hinted at in my own reply.
posted by dhens at 3:28 PM on March 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


think the extremist strategy we've seen in Europe has mainly been "strike where it's easy to cause a carnage". Except Charlie Hebdo and the Jewish supermarket, which were chosen for more specific reasons.

I think it's a mistake to assume that the Brussels targets weren't chosen for ideological reasons.

There have been a number of recent terror attacks against Jewish targets. They're only the extreme end of a continuum of antisemitic violence that has led to the exclusion of Jews (as Jews) from public life in much of Europe. Jewish institutions, which were relatively rare to begin with, now try to keep a low profile and are much better protected than some random train station or airport. This is probably why Coulibaly attacked a kosher supermarket: it was an easy target and its association with Jews meant that it still held symbolic significance.

This desire for symbolism is why I suspect that there's some meaning behind the present choice of targets; it's not just a case of seeking to kill large numbers of people. Airports are a classic choice for terrorists, because attacks against them are high-profile and very disruptive. I can't think of a reason for attacking a subway carriage but it may have been a timed, accidental, or externally-instigated detonation. If so, the person carrying the explosives was probably going to a target that made ideological sense.
posted by Joe in Australia at 3:58 PM on March 22, 2016 [2 favorites]


Joe in Australia: "I can't think of a reason for attacking a subway carriage but it may have been a timed, accidental, or externally-instigated detonation."

It's pretty simple: a lot of people packed into a tiny space.
posted by barnacles at 4:07 PM on March 22, 2016 [3 favorites]


Maelbeek metro stop is situated between the Arts-Loi stop, which is the interchange stop where the lines meet in Brussels i.e. one of the busiest stations and Schuman, which is right underneath the Berlaymont building, which is the headquarters of the European Commission.

Perhaps they meant to hit one of those targets or maybe Maelbeek was close enough to both cause the chaos they wanted.

Maelbeek also has some of my favourite metro art in this city. I wish I had got around to photographing it before this happened.
posted by roolya_boolya at 4:22 PM on March 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


It makes sense that they would cover the streets with messages of peace and tributes, since every now and then, they make a flower carpet in the Grand Place.
posted by SillyShepherd at 4:34 PM on March 22, 2016


It's pretty simple: a lot of people packed into a tiny space.

And then the entire mass transit system shut down.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 5:18 PM on March 22, 2016 [2 favorites]


My coworker's parents live in Brussels, and he was using the Brussel's Twitter to keep track where they were finding explosives. It was a little quicker than the news, but that was earlier today.
posted by Become A Silhouette at 5:47 PM on March 22, 2016


Mass transit (buses, subways, etc) are a favorite target of terrorists because they concentrate people as barnacles said, and also because they are "normal, everyday" targets. If terrorists attack Parliament or equivalent "big important building", it feels to the average person like they are aiming at the government. But it's scarier if people are wondering "could it be this bus".

There's ample history for this in the recent past: many different bus bombings in Israel, Madrid commuter train bombings, London 7/7 bus and subway bombings.
posted by theorique at 5:52 PM on March 22, 2016 [4 favorites]


"I can't think of a reason for attacking a subway carriage but it may have been a timed, accidental, or externally-instigated detonation."

Targets are not being chosen for political significance. The goal is slaughter, plain and simple.

As such, an ideal target has lots of people and isn't effectively guarded, so that the bomber has the best chance of penetrating and setting his bomb off, and maximizing the number of people killed or wounded.

A packed subway train car is perfect. And probably the station that was attacked was chosen because it was busy and had poor security, and not for any other reason.

Latest word is that these bombs were based on TATP (TriAcetone TriPeroxide) which happens to have one big advantage: no nitrate. Which means bomb-sniffing dogs won't pick up on it.

TATP also has one huge disadvantage: it's really tricky to create and work with. If you're at all careless or stupid you'll have firsthand experience with a "work accident". It takes someone who is well schooled to create the stuff without setting it off and to pack it properly in a suicide vest along with a detonation system that will work; this isn't something a lone-wolf does.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 6:08 PM on March 22, 2016 [2 favorites]


Oh, and an ideal target also has the effect of shutting down a huge system of some kind afterwards so that the fear and disruption are really wide spread. Attacking an airport can disrupt air traffic over an entire continent (and this one did). Attacking a subway station can shut down the entire subway system (and this one did).

As a consequence, literally millions of people were affected by today's attack, to a greater or lesser extent.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 6:11 PM on March 22, 2016 [2 favorites]


Goddamn it, not again.

.
posted by homunculus at 9:39 PM on March 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


From November 2015, another cracking article by Jason Burke: "Jihad by brothers"... a family affair
posted by Mister Bijou at 1:42 AM on March 23, 2016 [1 favorite]


Both sides are guilty, historically speaking in the least. We can find no recourse that doesn't make the problem worse. Caught in the middle are the innocents, but even they are deemed valid targets by the killers on both sides.

Really? Are you serious?

I think that "everybody is guilty" is a very, very Christian concept. "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone", fundamental/ancestral sin, forgiveness, etc.
Now, I don't know if you are Christian or what your opinions are on Christianity, but this concept is so pervasive in our culture that you don't have to be Christian or particularly religious in order to accept it without further thought. It's the way or culture in which we are brought up.

I also think that "everybody is guilty" is untrue and not very helpful.

Take your last statement: The "killers" on both sides regard the "innocents" as valid targets. Is that really true? I have met veterans who have been to Iraq and they did not strike me as mindless killing machines. Now, I don't doubt that among the troops in Iraq or elsewhere in the middle east, there are or have been a few ruthless sociopaths who enjoy shooting up civilians just for fun. But here is the thing: Such behavior is not only the exception but als generally regarded as a warcrime and those who are caught will be brought to justice and put in jail. Contrast this with ISIS and parts of Al Qaida etc.: Those who shoot up innocent civilians are hailed as heroes and it is regarded as a legitimate means of war.
Also, the explicitly stated goal of ISIS is to subdue the entire world. Until that goal is reached, there is war. There is no room for "peace negotiations" or "sitting down at a table to come to a solution". Also, the concept of peaceful coexistence is alien to ISIS.
I think that is a fundamental difference between that and the rest of the world.

Not all cultures are equal.
posted by sour cream at 3:03 AM on March 23, 2016 [10 favorites]


Interesting read, M. Bijou.

Apparently the El Bakraoui brothers, currently identified as two of the Brussels airport bombers, were previously know to Belgian police, but only for non-jihadist grand banditisme (armed robbery and car-jackings).
posted by progosk at 3:06 AM on March 23, 2016 [1 favorite]


Here’s What a Man Who Studied Every Suicide Attack in the World Says About ISIS’ Motives

Lots of interesting facts. It's not stated clearly in the article, but I'm reminded that ISIS is a mash-up of old Iraqi army and intelligence and foreign fighters. A Syrian (whose wisdom I'm not certain of) dismissed all of ISIS as foreigners on the radio yesterday. Whatever is true, they are very dependent on appealing to young misfits in the west.
posted by mumimor at 3:15 AM on March 23, 2016 [4 favorites]




Here's an interesting take on homegrown jihadism in Belgium. (Spoiler: it's not really deeply religious, nor political in any strategic sense, and is driven on the individual level by a combination of peer pressure and the prospect of a positive identity and a sense of purpose.) I found the link on the website of Rik Coolsaet, a Belgian academic who studies violent radicalisation in Europe. Here's a paper he wrote about radicalisation in Belgium and the forces driving it. Another thing I found really interesting is this article about the measures taken in Vilvoorde, a Belgian municipality that's fighting radicalisation with steps towards integration.
posted by sively at 3:27 AM on March 23, 2016 [11 favorites]


Here's a pretty good article from The Guardian: Why did the bombers target Belgium?
posted by colfax at 3:38 AM on March 23, 2016 [3 favorites]


That Jason Burke article in the grauniad also quotes Rik Coolsaet...
posted by Mister Bijou at 3:47 AM on March 23, 2016


(can't favourite sively's links hard enough, especially the Vilvoorde initiative.)
posted by progosk at 3:50 AM on March 23, 2016 [1 favorite]


Third Brussels Bombing Suspect Arrested
bbc saying that claim now withdrawn
posted by andrewcooke at 4:42 AM on March 23, 2016


[A couple of comments deleted. To repeat from earlier: Again let's spare for another day the comments that seem to suggest this is somehow ok because of bad things the west does.]
posted by taz (staff) at 5:23 AM on March 23, 2016


Here's an interesting take on homegrown jihadism in Belgium.

"the new hipster pop-jihadism"?

It's even worse than we thought.
posted by colie at 5:39 AM on March 23, 2016


"Rambo-envy"
posted by Mister Bijou at 5:47 AM on March 23, 2016


"the new hipster pop-jihadism"?

Jihadis - pretty darn bad.

Hipster jihadis? - NO QUARTER! NO PRISONERS!
posted by theorique at 6:02 AM on March 23, 2016


Joking aside, it's a very interesting article regarding the disconnect between the Bin Laden-style terror mastermind figure, and some of the young men drawn into this world who may be committing or enabling these crimes, and who were maybe 5 years old on 9/11, e.g.:

“For foreign fighters the religious component in recruitment and radicalization is being replaced by more social elements such as peer pressure and role modelling,’’ said a January 18 report by Europol, the European Union’s law enforcement agency, which deals with militant networks.
...
These are youths who gather in groups, such as the recently dismantled Sharia4Belgium. They know less about Osama bin Laden than they do about Tupac Shakur; Belgians who travel to Syria to fight often revere the deceased American rapper on social media, identifying themselves with his lyrics about life in the inner cities. But these attackers also have their own rap music, hip clothes popular with young Muslims that are sold by companies like Urban Ummah and slogans akin to what might be found on a bumper sticker (“Work Hard, Pray Hard.”) Their tweets often end with terms like #BeardLife and #HijabLife. While in Syria, they send selfies to their friends showing themselves wearing kohl, a traditional Middle Eastern eye shadow.

posted by colie at 6:39 AM on March 23, 2016 [3 favorites]


So I have a stupid question. I hear a lot about things like "jihadi websites". Is the reason these are allowed to exist:

* free speech
* desire to keep tabs on the players and not drive them to untrackable places
* difficulty of coordinating takedowns across countries/jurisdictions

or some combination of those or other reasons?

It seems like if such a site is being hosted in a particular place, you could just nuke the DNS records globally or redirect them all to some kind of counseling website, or information about how to achieve less awkward haircuts.
posted by freecellwizard at 7:47 AM on March 23, 2016


This whole thing is still a little bit too close to home for me, so I'm not sure I can articulate this properly, but:

I think it's important to remember in this whole media circus that Belgium is actually quite a small country. The current population is only around 11 million people (in comparison, New York City has about 8 million, and the New York metro area has about 20 million). I've seen quite a few American articles blaming Belgium for not having a huge anti-terrorism unit, etc, but very few articles that acknowledge that the scale is just vastly different here compared to the U.S. and so Belgium has to do a lot of things differently than the U.S.

For example, I believe that historically-speaking smaller countries like Belgium have relied on their larger European allies to pass along important intelligence info, simply because places like France (population 66 million) have had more resources available for that kind of work. And now that model no longer works very well, because the problem has become this complicated combination of both international and local one. Belgium has not really adjusted to that new reality yet, but it's at least understandable why they haven't, since the old model worked pretty well for a long time.

Anyway, if you're an American reading stuff about Belgium in the days and weeks to come, just try and remember that we're talking about a country that has a similar GDP and population as the state of Ohio.
posted by colfax at 8:27 AM on March 23, 2016 [12 favorites]


It seems like if such a site is being hosted in a particular place, you could just nuke the DNS records globally or redirect them all to some kind of counseling website, or information about how to achieve less awkward haircuts.

The can of worms things like this would open up would be gigantic. In short it would be easily abused, would paint with an immensely broad brush and is easily overcome. Some more thoughtful commentary of DNS blocking is available.
posted by mmascolino at 8:58 AM on March 23, 2016 [5 favorites]


Around 40 different nationalities among the dead and wounded in Brussels.
posted by roolya_boolya at 9:22 AM on March 23, 2016


mmascolino, the linked paper is great and very well written. I'm a developer, so I know some of the arguments already, but I think continuing to discuss the big picture is important. The spread of information has totally outstripped anyone's ability to limit, control or curate it. In general free information flow is obviously good, but if a lot of that information is misleading, false, or incites people directly to commit illegal or immoral acts, it's problematic. I suppose the demon is out of the box for good though; look at the current Apple / phone unlocking case and the complexities with something that used to be as simple as a warrant.

Sorry for the slight derail.
posted by freecellwizard at 9:39 AM on March 23, 2016 [1 favorite]


-Political violence in western Europe
-Foreign ISIS fighters per capita: Belgium leads EU
-Terrorists. Muslims. Needle. Haystack.
-A refugee responds to yesterday's attacks
-The more problematic side of the Islam argument

that last one from ianbremmer gets back to Bovine Love's point above:* "I'll note that Islam covers a lot of people and variations; just because it may well fit a definition of Islamic doesn't mean it is a particular persons Islam."

i guess for 'wayward youth' and 'return-of-the-caliphate' types, the legitimacy/attention they're pining after can be conferred by those who would conflate the 'islamic state' with islam -- that you are what (preferably high status) others pretend you to be, for long enough -- which in practice looks like an extended marketing campaign other ethno/religio-nationalist demagogues looking for a 'scapegoat to power' by artificially (artfully? to the extent/degree that it's all made up) creating in-group/out-group distinctions for job security... anyway, that's just another way of rehashing #PlayingIntoTheirHands #ReligiousExtremistsDeserveEachOther and #TheWireNotHomeland

like, if a state is a stationary bandit by another name then what separates narco/petro-terrorists from revolutionary armed forces? again, speaking for myself, the solution is to fight the idea of war itself and those (including the very human inclination within ourselves) who would sort us into us and them. /cliché, i know, but i still think it's true #humanist #idealist

---
*sorry, that was just an offhand #coffeetalk ref, not a derail into definitional semantics -- 'are mormons christians?', 'no true christians kill', etc. -- i have no doubt (heh) they're 'true believers' but like the article states, to paraphrase: "nearly all muslims reject the islamic state."
posted by kliuless at 11:47 AM on March 23, 2016 [4 favorites]


[A few comments removed, there's a whole lot of heating-up and misunderstanding downside to linking in a five-year-old article that could be mistaken for contemporary; better to err on the side of caution there, all else aside.]
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:41 PM on March 23, 2016 [5 favorites]




To follow on from the Guardian Why Belgium link; Politico had an article a year ago titled: Belgium is a failed state - Brussels’ nest of radicalism is just one of the failings of a divided, dysfunctional country.
This was partly refuted last december with an article from the NEU
Belgium is not a Failed State. Or at least not yet.
Yesterday in the Independent in an article titled Brussels attacks: The atrocities committed by Isis have exposed Belgium's failings as a society The mayor of Vilvoorde, a suburban town outside the capital, called Belgium’s security arrangements 'a perfect example of organised chaos'.
This FB post posed some questions that should be addressed.
And the Guardian has recently posted Brussels suicide bombers had known links to Paris attacks
posted by adamvasco at 1:17 PM on March 23, 2016 [2 favorites]


I didn't realize Belgium was such a disaster as a state. Did I miss a Metafilter post about it? Because I rely on you guys to keep me informed on this stuff.
posted by Justinian at 1:21 PM on March 23, 2016 [2 favorites]


State Deparment declared travel advisory to all of Europe. That's a bit wild
posted by zutalors! at 2:16 PM on March 23, 2016


LOLs as only a small brown furriner in remote EU can
posted by infini at 2:34 PM on March 23, 2016


This does not make Belgium look good:
Turkish officials have provided more detail of Ibrahim Bakraoui’s detention and deportation from Turkey in the summer of 2015, including on their warnings to Belgium that he was a suspected foreign fighter, writes the Guardian’s Middle East reporter Kareem Shaheen.

Bakraoui arrived in Antalya, a popular tourist destination, in June 2015. He was detained a week later in Gaziantep by Turkish security forces, who flagged him after he had entered the country as a potential foreign fighter that Turkey believed intended to travel to Syria.

Belgium was informed of his arrest by Turkey on the 14th of July, and the Belgian authorities replied on the 20th of July, saying they had detained Bakraoui before but had released him because they were unable to find any terror links. Turkey wrote back to Belgium warning them that he was considered a foreign fighter with links to Syria.

Bakraoui was deported to the Netherlands upon his request. Since Belgium did not request an extradition, he was free to travel anywhere in the EU zone.
posted by Joe in Australia at 2:42 PM on March 23, 2016 [2 favorites]


State Deparment declared travel advisory to all of Europe. That's a bit wild.

The State Department has been issuing travel advisories about Europe for a while now. I know because I signed up to get alerts from the State Department and the nearest U.S. embassy when I came to Europe (mostly to make my mom happy), and I basically get one email alert a week and have been for years now.
posted by colfax at 3:00 PM on March 23, 2016 [1 favorite]


Europe is FINISHED. (c) All right wing websites.
posted by colie at 3:12 PM on March 23, 2016 [1 favorite]


Hipster jihadis? - NO
We commit terrorist outrages in places you probably haven't heard of. See also: hipster jihadi reporting (that NPR article linked way above).
posted by Sonny Jim at 3:21 PM on March 23, 2016




Police operation ongoing on chaussée d’Ixelles now. Le Soir coverage here. Couldn't find links in English as yet.
posted by roolya_boolya at 4:40 AM on March 24, 2016 [2 favorites]




Putative leaders of the whatever
posted by infini at 4:22 PM on March 24, 2016


The two Bakraoui brothers, who blew themselves up Zaventem airport and the Maelbeek metro station, had filmed 10 hours of video of the daily routine of the head of Belgium’s nuclear research and development programme using a concealed camera. Police have confirmed the existence of the footage, but not who shot it.
posted by adamvasco at 6:18 PM on March 24, 2016




Radio Sweden—Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven says we must defend open society:
We can never guarantee that it won't happen [here], no. We can never guarantee that because then we would have a society no one would want.
posted by XMLicious at 9:00 PM on March 24, 2016 [7 favorites]






FPP on Lahore bombing
posted by XMLicious at 2:45 PM on March 27, 2016


Anti-Immigrant Protesters Disrupt Brussels Memorial, Make Nazi Salutes
“We don’t believe in candles and flowers. That [is] for the dead,” one protester, who said his name was Mario and said he was in a “hooligan gang” from Ghent, told the Telegraph. “We want answers from the government. There are too many fanatics in this country.”
posted by adamvasco at 5:44 PM on March 27, 2016 [3 favorites]




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