Nice, France: Bastille Day Truck Rampage Not an Isolated Incident
In an act of sheer horror up to 84 people, including two Americans and 10 children, were killed yesterday in Nice as a Muslim terrorist plowed through a crowd of people watching Bastille Day fireworks. Devastating live video showed blood and contorted bodies in the aftermath of a 1.2 mile distance of zig-zag pattern driving designed to inflict the highest possible casualty rate. The driver then got out of the vehicle and began shooting at people before being shot and killed by the authorities. The truck was loaded with grenades and firearms. The driver has been identified as French-Tunisian Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel, a 31-year-old delivery driver.
For France, terrorism is becoming a way of life. From Charlie Hebdo to an attack on a kosher food market, a concert venue, a football stadium, and restaurants, Frenchmen are having to learn to accept Islamist violence as a background feature of life. The latest assault on France took place in a seaside tourist destination during a moment of celebration.
While media and authorities were slow to identify the attack as terrorism or radically inspired, heavy lifting will now ensue to discover the network the driver was part of and whether there are any other planned attacks. The obvious answer is also the simplest answer.
The driver is a Muslim who subscribes to radical Islam. Radical Islam a violent totalitarian ideology that accepts nothing less than complete submission to a skewed interpretation of faith. And that extreme application of a rigged belief system will always attack the West – until it has either achieved total destruction, total domination, or both.
You won’t see this point blank assertion in the media. Instead we can expect language that downplays the attack as a single act of aggression by a perhaps mentally challenged or economically frustrated victim who is unconnected to any larger network of people or ideas.
Recent terrorist attacks initiated by an individual have been packaged as “lone wolf” attacks which imply that the attack is not part of a greater Islamic ideology of radical hate. Classifying someone as a lone wolf actor has also required ascribing a personality deficit. In the case of the Orlando shooter, Omar Mateen, it was homophobia — even though an exhausting FBI investigation denied this premise. In the case of Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel, news coverage is already painting him as a dispossessed loner.
Clarion Project’s National Security Analyst Ryan Mauro challenges the lone wolf misconception, noting that these “lone wolfs” are still part of a pack. That pack is radical Islamic ideology that has birthed terrorist organizations and an aspiring global caliphate known as ISIS. For years, these groups have encouraged individually powered acts of terrorism against a Western population.
In September 2014, ISIS’ chief spokesman Abu Muhammad al-Adnani called for increased attacks in the West in response to a U.S.-led coalition that included the French. In his message, al-Adnani’s instructed jihadis on how to weaponize themselves:
“If you are not able to find a bomb or a bullet, then smash his head with a rock, or slaughter him with a knife, or run him over with your car, or throw him down from a high place, or choke him, or poison him …If you are unable to do so, then burn his home, car, or business. Or destroy his crops. If you are unable to do so, then spit in his face.” [Emphasis added.]
While Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State have been disseminating detailed direction on how to strike with vehicles, the idea of using transportation as a weapon was experienced on 9/11 with attacks on the Twin Towers using a Boeing 767 aircraft. And after 9/11, smaller incidences of vehicle weaponization sprouted domestically. In March of 2006, Mohammed Taheri-azar, a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, charged his SUV into a popular gathering place on campus. Taheri-azar told the police he acted in retaliation of the U.S. foreign policy toward Muslims.
In 2008, President of the Middle East Forum and terrorism expert Daniel Pipes, chronicled the growing epidemic of attacks and coined the term Sudden Jihad Syndrome, which he describes as instances “whereby normal-appearing Muslims abruptly become violent.” We’ve seen acts of sudden jihad with Fort Hood, with the Orlando Shooting, and again yesterday with France. As Pipes notes, these are not sudden shifts in a radicalized person’s mindset. Rather, these are attacks that come without warning and as a surprise to law enforcement and communities.
In other words, there’s no formal warning. The rules of war have completely shifted and we’re engaged in a global guerrilla war. Authorities and the media can spend time connecting the dots – or they can recognize a unifying common denominator in violent Islamic ideology.
In addition to encouraging sudden jihad, al-Adnani among others work to activate Muslims wherever they are:
“Rise and defend your state from your place wherever you may be. Rise and defend your Muslim brothers, for their homes, families, and wealth are threated and deemed lawful by their enemies…strike the soldiers, patrons, and troops…strike their police, security and intelligence members, as well as their treacherous agents. Destroy their beds. Embitter their lives for them and busy them with themselves. If you can kill a disbelieving American or European – especially the spiteful and filthy French – or an Australian or Canadian, or any other disbeliever from the disbelievers waging war, including the citizens of the countries that entered into a coalition against the Islamic State, then rely upon Allah, and kill him in any manner or way however it may be.”
Just a month after al-Adnani’s call to a spiritual war, there was an attack in Quebec where a man rammed his car into two Canadian soldiers. Center for Security Policy’s Kyle Shideler comments that these attacks have taken place in France on at least one other occasion and the French tried to downplay the significance. Shideler points to the December 2014 incident of a driver shouting “Allahu Akbar!” before mowing down eleven French pedestrians.
These sporadic acts of violence against domestic targets is something one free nation already deals with every single day.
The Guardian’s Jason Burke reminds us that Sudden Jihad Syndrome is Israel’s hard realty:
“…cars have been used in a series of lethal attacks by Palestinians on Jewish targets. This has led to recent unrest being called the ‘run-over intifada’ and has generated cartoons and songs on social media calling for the use of vehicles as weapons. These have inevitably circulated well beyond the Middle East.”
Run-over intifada came in November 2014, two months after al-Adnani’s call to weaponizing vehicles. For a West that has been critical of Israeli action against Palestinians, there is now more it has in common with a territory whose patience is stretched with daily acts of terrorism. When Sudden Jihad becomes a way of life, the only appropriate response is for a country to take measures that may seem extreme to others. As frustration mounts in the wake of another attack, rather than demonizing Israel, it might be time to learn from Israel.