Skip to main content

The Friday the 13th massacre in Paris was the worst attack in Western Europe since Madrid in 2004, leaving well over a hundred people dead. Responsibility has been claimed by the Islamic State and French leader François Hollande has promised ‘merciless’ retribution.

In this episode I look at the context of the terror in Paris, offering a comparison with Mumbai in 2008 where Islamist militants carried out a very similar attack under the guidance of American spy David Headley. I also examine some of the questions that have already emerged: about the fake passport of a Syrian refugee found at one of the bomb sites; about possible foreknowledge on the part of the French security services; and about a little-reported bomb threat hours before the attacks that led to the evacuation of one of Paris’ major train stations.


On Friday the 13th of November a gang of as many as 20 fighters attacked several sites in the French capital in a co-ordinated assault. Several bombings near the Stade de France, a series of shootings, and a large scale hostage taking left at least 127 people dead. This was the worst terrorist attack in Western Europe since the bombings in Madrid in 2004.

So what the hell happened? This is an important question. But reconstructing the events themselves is not a valuable answer. And I’ve already spent more time than I want to spend poring over the grisly details of mass murders. Instead I want to offer you a multi-faceted analysis to try to help frame a more sensible discussion than usually happens in the wake of these events. So let’s break it down.

France has clearly been the terrorist target of choice this year – Charlie Hebdo and a string of other events have now culminated in this horrible massacre. It’s quite depressing – I really like France as a country and I like the French people so this means something more to me. I’ve never been to Paris, but I have a love of French literature and philosophy, to my mind the French are the greatest philosophers in the world. So this makes me very sad.

Naturally, the Islamic State has claimed responsibility, but I’m absolutely sure they are not the only ones to have done so. Naturally, their claim of responsibility is the only one being reported on. It is entirely possible that this was an attack by Islamist militants, possibly veterans of the Syrian jihad. The reports say that the bombings were suicide bombings, which if true does suggest ideological fanaticism. In one case a passport was found near to one of the alleged bombers that belonged to a Syrian refugee who had entered Europe via Greece. I have not seen any report saying that the alleged bomber was the same person as in the passport, and of course why would a suicide bomber leave ID behind? They are moving on to the afterlife, abandoning their earthly identity for the beyond.

This has shades of 7/7 and 9/11, where IDs were conveniently found implicating the desired suspects when it made no sense for them to be there in such good condition. What this suggests, of course, is that whoever was responsible, assuming they left the passport at the scene (whether before blowing themselves up or not) that they wanted to connect the attacks to the influx of refugees from NATO war zones. This is the post-Cold War strategy of tension. The Cold War strategy was largely binary – Left vs Right, Communist vs Fascist, but the new version throws Islam into the mix.

These says you have the Right attacking Islam, taking about ‘floods’ and ‘waves’ of Islamic immigration (usually some sort of water metaphor). The extreme version of this is the White Genocide myth, which ignores for example the fact that there are more white people in Europe now than 10 years ago, so the immigration from Asia minor and North Africa isn’t replacing white people so much as supplementing them. And also ignores the fact that not all indigenous European people are white, Northern Europeans tend to be paler, from the very white Finnish to the pink people inhabiting the British Isles. Compare them to the more olive-coloured Mediterranean Europeans and you’re not talking about genetically the same people. That is to say, there is no one white race. But when Right wing bigotry is your thing, facts are irrelevant.

Meanwhile the Left defends Islam and even Islamism, even Lefty progressives they are typically atheistic and liberal. This reaches its extreme when anti-fascist anti-racist protestors are going to demonstrations and standing next to members of Al Muhajiroun and other openly Islamist groups. So you have this mixture of Trotskyites, liberal progressives and liberal extremists alongside Islamic extremists. This helps turn the Left into a laughing stock, and also further fragments and trivialises Left wing politics, making it all into special interest identity politics.

To my mind, this strategy plays out regardless of whether the individual incidents themselves are false flags, or otherwise aided and abetted by agents of the state. We see this in the ‘refugee crisis’, where it breaks down along the lines of the Right making out like most of these people are terrorists, and the Left abandoning everything they say they believe in to make out like Islam is something Western Europe is crying out for, rather than a medieval religion.

So it has become more complex, more difficult to find a peaceful ground where you can approach this reasonably. I tend to sympathise more with the Left but I’m frequently dismayed by their pursuits and their approaches to different causes. By rights, at least in Western Europe, it should be the Left who are more open to the possibility of state or NATO conspiracies being behind some of these events, particularly the major events, the large scale violence. But they aren’t, on the whole. For some reason they see more future in trying to marry their progressive liberalism with a regressive religion than they do in trying to roll back the security state.

But let’s get back to Paris, because while I think it is unwise to jump to any conclusions I think we are duty bound to explore the possibility that this was a state-sponsored event. Certainly the political impact and exploitation of the event – declaring a state of emergency, sealing France’s borders temporarily, promising revenge – are suggestive of this. We’ve had a string of threats and warnings from the British government saying we should expect an attack here, and apparently special forces have been deployed on the streets of Britain. But there are a couple of other points I’d like to pick up on.

One of the bombers was known to the French security services prior to the attacks, indeed he was French, he grew up there. Reports are still sketchy but he was on some kind of watchlist of suspected radicals. So was Ayoub El-Khazzani, the man on the French train earlier this year who was ‘foiled’ by some ‘off duty’ British and American soldiers. Though what exactly they foiled, given this guy’s gun didn’t work, is not clear. Likewise Mohammed Merah back in 2012 was known to virtually every intelligence services going.

Nonetheless, the French authorities are being pretty hush hush with details, not naming any of the 8 attackers or the three people arrested in Belgium. I’m recording this on Sunday morning so by the time you hear it more details will be available, but it strikes me as typical of media coverage that we’re getting the flavour, the reaction we’re supposed to have – that it was some sort of Islamist, Islamic State attack – before being given any solid information. Now, this is what the media do on almost every topic, tell you how to react before they’ve even told you the story.

One might also wonder at Belgium, a country that only seems to exist for the sake of the EU and NATO, and obviously a key centre for Gladio operations. I will recommend seeing what happens with that angle – whether these people are quietly released, whether there is any real evidence against them, what they are actually accused of in terms of planning or facilitating the attacks.

There is also the question of a story that I’ve not seen widely reported but which probably has something to do with this. On Friday afternoon, hours before the attacks began, there was a bomb scare at Gare de Lyon, one of Paris’ main train stations. You can find this story under the headline ‘Paris railway station evacuated over bomb alert’ and it’s in Chinese Media, Indian media and in the Famagusta Gazette from Cyprus. But virtually nothing in British or American media. And the BBC definitely know about it because it was when I was watching their rolling news coverage late on Friday night that I first heard about this. I think, though I was tired so don’t quote me on this, that they referred to some other alert in Paris earlier on Friday, that there were multiple alerts.

Apparently there were bomb threats on social media that caused the alert at the train station. Even though it was a hoax, a false alert, given that only hours later gunmen and suicide bombers killed well over a hundred people you’d think the French authorities would be interested in who the fuck these people were who just so happened to post bomb threats on the internet that afternoon. But I can find no mention of this in any of the reports on what the authorities are up to. Is this some indication of foreknowledge? Who posted the threats only hours before they became a reality?

Taking another angle, when I got to work on Saturday morning I was listening to BBC radio and they had a report on Paris, and the commentator talked about this being an Al Qaeda type of attack, which struck me as a very strange thing to say. He went on to reference the Mumbai massacre of 2008, showing how this was either ignorance or just someone desperately trying to fill a news segment. Al Qaeda didn’t do Mumbai, it was Lashkar-e-Taiba. I guess all them muzzy terror gangs look the same to a BBC Classic FM news commentator.

But Mumbai is a useful comparison, because the manner of attack was exactly the same – a prolonged shooting and bombing assault carried out by multiple teams working at multiple locations. Mumbai went on for 2 1/2, 3 days rather than a few hours, but you get the idea. Indeed, from 2008 to 2011 or so the ‘Mumbai style attack’ was possibly the most used terror meme in news coverage predicting future attacks. There was also a lot of talk about far right terrorists and lone wolves, and then we got Anders Breivik, who did a mini-Mumbai attack by himself, at least on the face of it. I did hypothesise that he was a Gladio copycat, he did talk about Gladio in his manifesto, even as it relates to Turkey, and his whole political philosophy as we know it is entirely in keeping with Gladio.

For some reason no one made the connection between Breivik and Mumbai, in terms of actual tactics for killing large numbers of people with limited resources. So the ‘Mumbai style attack’ faded from the news coverage. Then we got Charlie Hebdo and the associated attacks in Paris at the beginning of this year, which was likened to Mumbai in that it involved a string of attacks at different locations. And now these attacks in Paris, numerous shootings, multiple bombings including suicide bombings, which has also been likened to Mumbai.

Of course, what no one mentions is that the admitted mastermind behind Mumbai was David Headley, a Pakistani American. Since he was sentenced I don’t think I’ve seen a single story about Headley, which isn’t surprising because this guy is dodgy as hell. Throughout the 1990s he worked for the DEA, he kept getting busted smuggling kilos of heroin through airports and always ratted out his colleagues to get dramatically reduced sentences, then went out and did the same thing again. He was very effective. In late 2001, shortly after 9/11, during a time when he was on supervised release and was travelling to Pakistan to spy on drugs gangs, there was an unusual and very short-notice legal proceeding. The conditions of Headley’s supervised release meant that he had to return to the US every few months but for some unstated reason in late 2001 there was suddenly a pressure to have these conditions removed. The judge in the proceeding said that the reason was so that Headley could return to Pakistan, presumably on a longer-term mission, and agreed to the removal of the conditions. This was a motion supported by both Headley’s defence lawyer, who had been called off the golf course at short notice, and the representative for the government.

However, only a couple of months later the DEA apparently ditched Headley for unstated reasons. To my mind it’s pretty obvious that at this point he was handed over to a more senior agency, most likely the CIA, and was being used to infiltrate Pakistani terror gangs. The FBI approached him several times over the next few years, as he got deep into Lashkar e Taiba and began to plan the Mumbai massacre. Each time they left him alone, including one time when he told them he was working for the American government.

I could go on at length about Headley but I’ve written an article and put together a document sourcebook on all this but the point is that while Mumbai was an attack by Islamist militants the key organising role was that of Headley, an American spy. So, while Paris might well be an attack by ISIS militants, it would not surprise me if there was, say, a French or British spy lurking in the background. Obviously it’s far, far too early to attempt to spot such a person, they usually only emerge in the background of a trial. Since all of the perpetrators in Paris are dead, prosecutions will depends on co-conspirators, planners, people who provided equipment. That’s where the real picture will emerge, not in the horrifying details of mass murder.

What I will say is that the nature of the attack – complex, highly co-ordinated, multiple teams who were well equipped and organised – all that smacks of a military operation. These weren’t random targets, they were selected, presumably were under surveillance by the attackers as they planned what they were going to do. This is the role that Headley played in Mumbai, and someone must have played that role in Paris. Whether we ever get to find out that person’s name, only time will tell, but to me it strongly suggests that the attacks were organised and planned by someone with military training and military experience.