Weak Brits, Tough French - article by Daniel PipesWeak Brits, Tough French
by Daniel Pipes
Thanks to the war in Iraq, much of the world sees the British government as resolute and tough and the French one as appeasing and weak. But in another war, the one against terrorism and radical Islam, the reverse is true: France is the most stalwart nation in the West, even more so than America, while Britain is the most hapless.
British-based terrorists have carried out operations in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Kenya, Tanzania, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Israel, Morocco, Russia, Spain, and America. Many governments - Jordanian, Egyptian, Moroccan, Spanish, French, and American - have protested London's refusal to shut down its Islamist terrorist infrastructure or extradite wanted operatives. In frustration, Egypt's president Hosni Mubarak publicly denounced Britain for "protecting killers." One American security group has called for Britain to be listed as a terrorism-sponsoring state.
Counterterrorism specialists disdain the British. Roger Cressey calls London "easily the most important jihadist hub in Western Europe." Steven Simon dismisses the British capital as "the Star Wars bar scene" of Islamic radicals. More brutally, an intelligence official said of last week's attacks: "The terrorists have come home. It is payback time for … an irresponsible policy."
While London hosts terrorists, Paris hosts a top-secret counterterrorism center, code-named Alliance Base, the existence of which was recently reported by the Washington Post. At Alliance Base, six major Western governments have since 2002 shared intelligence and run counterterrorism operations - the latter makes the operation unique.
More broadly, President Chirac instructed French intelligence agencies just days after September 11, 2001, to share terrorism data with their American counterparts "as if they were your own service." The cooperation is working: A former acting CIA director, John E. McLaughlin, called the bilateral intelligence tie "one of the best in the world." The British may have a "special relationship" with Washington on Iraq, but the French have one with it in the war on terror.
France accords terrorist suspects fewer rights than any other Western state, permitting interrogation without a lawyer, lengthy pre-trial incarcerations, and evidence acquired under dubious circumstances. Were he a terrorism suspect, the author of Al-Qaida's Jihad in Europe, Evan Kohlmann, says he "would least like to be held under" the French system.