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Questions on Terrorism - edited

by Zettel 

Posted: 12 July 2005
Word Count: 1751
Summary: See below

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This piece and/or subsequent comments may contain strong language.

Anyone who has read any of the stuff I have posted on WW will have an idea of where I stand on this kind of issue but I cannot help but be troubled by some difficult quiestions after the appalling events of last week. And I mean troubled, as I really wonder whether I am missing something obvious, not an uncommon experience for me. I truly wish these were rhetorical questions or that I could amaze you with my erudite answers and solutions. And I hope I do not need to say that the perpetrators of last week’s carnage have no sympathy from me.

 What cumulative set of circumstances leads often intelligent young men and women, some it seems as young as 19, and members of an affluent society, to sacrifice their lives and their futures to destroy the lives of men, women and children they have never met? I know of only one such credible motivation, a deep, overwhelming sense of injustice. Of unacknowledged wrong being done to me or mine; family, faith or nation.

 With carnage on the scale of London occurring daily ever since Mr Bush ‘won’ the war in Iraq, how on earth is the sane, democratic, humanitarian Iraqi supposed to respond to the outrage and outpouring of justifiable, grief that our media are representing to us?

 How is that same Iraqi supposed to react to the fact that when he voted in their recent elections, he knew that going to the polls was extremely dangerous from focused, directed, daily carnage inflicted on anyone with the temerity to exercise their fundamental democratic right? In contrast he learns that some 40% of the British voters couldn’t trouble their arses to spare a few minutes, in complete safety, to register their vote; a right for which millions of their own countrymen, over centuries of conflict and suffering, lay down their lives.

 Any Iraqi, looking dispassionately at the day-to-day life of himself and his family since the unseating of Saddam, sees the sucking in to his country of non-Iraqi insurgents. If he had doubts about the motivation behind the invasion, what does he make of the fact that the 60% of the British electorate who could be bothered to vote, gave Mr Blair a substantial majority, despite knowing that he lied to them about the reasons for the invasion?

 Many communities engendering and sustaining militant Islamists have over years, experienced the deaths of their equally innocent women and children, let alone men. Why do we wonder at their ambivalence at the deaths, numerically so small, of a people who, with a free, unthreatened vote, re-elected a government that lied to them and which is manifestly, beyond any vestige of reasonable doubt, pursuing a foreign policy driven by national self-interest not humanitarian principles of justice?

 What credibility are reasonable inhabitants of any state, let alone Muslims, supposed to give to the humanitarian credentials and concern for people, of any race, faith or colour, of a very popular President of a nation that has 6% of the world population and creates over 20% of planet-threatening Global warming pollution? And for what? The egomania of unrestricted personal aggrandisement and excess. An equation: take the marginal value of the fuel costs on a 4 x 4 against a fuel efficient, perfectly adequate way of getting from A to B. Then multiply the savings by the number of such vehicles on US (let alone UK) roads. Then convert the result into schools, water purification systems in the third world. And the car owner loses nothing real. These equations have become clichés – as if this makes them any less true and relevant. For the purposes of this piece – what in anybody’s God’s name, are reasonable, sane, intelligent people of good will in third world countries supposed to make of this? If they can't understand it –what are poor, without hope young people in Palestine, Darfur, Rwanda, etc etc supposed to make of it?

 Liberal Democrat Jenny Tong reaped a whirlwind of hypocrisy when she remarked that if she had been born a Palestinian, she might have been tempted to be a suicide bomber. Well given the circumstances above, surely we begin to see some clues to the answer to my first question? Can we not see why idealistic young men and women, even from within affluent societies, and especially when exploited by evil men, might be driven to sacrifice themselves and other innocents, to draw attention to systematic, willful, self-interested policies of affluent nations? Against the overwhelming, irresistible military force of the US – what other option is open to them to be heard?

 However humanitarian and sympathetic they might be, what are Iraqis supposed to do with the fact that every tragic British death is meticulously documented, specifically grieved, and nationally recognised? In contrast the, at least, tens of thousands of deaths of their countrymen, are not even counted, let alone acknowledged.

 A Kurd might ask – why did not 5,000 Kurdish lives destroyed by obscene internationally outlawed weapons, occasion grief and remedial action by the humanitarian sentiments so properly on display in Britain this week? Apparently on the principle that the enemy of my enemy is my friend. The friend in question being, at the time, Saddam Hussein. And someone made a tidy profit on selling him the fucking gas. Let alone the arms with which to attack Iran and Kuwait.

 A grieving inhabitant of Srebencia might ask - where were your tears for 8,000 Muslims massacred while the UN stood and watched, with lethal political squabbling - as innocents, yes women and children too, were simply slaughtered before your eyes? No doubt, no uncertainty – you knew it was happening. Even the unpspeakably deluded young men who dispensed such despair last week did not force a grandfather to eat his grandson's liver. I'm sorry for the image, heard only this week, which sickens me too, but this is not just about Muslims, or colour or even race. It is about something deep and ancient and savage in human beings, especially when emboldened by the solidarity of a group and rendered immune from criticism or dissent by the infallibility of transcendental belief.

 We must simply hang our heads and our souls, with shame at the names of Rwanda and Darfur. The numbers alone beggar belief – every one a much loved mother, father, daughter, son.

The tragic events of last week pose a profound challenge to our democratic beliefs: in a free democracy are not its citizens, all its citizens, responsible for the death and destruction meted out by their nation upon other peoples? Is there one might say, children of course excluded, any such thing as an innocent, non-combatant adult in a free democratic society? If we say this distinction should be recognised absolutely in a Geneva Convention kind of way then we must face the logical conclusion. With the overwhelming, irresisitible technological military might of the US and its allies, this principle literally means that any citizen of any country and any faith, unjustly treated by this view of the world is literally limited to dying for justice never living it.

For whatever reason, deluded or not, we had a graphic and terrifying illustration of how this thinking played to a few British educated, middle class 'idealistic' young Muslims in Leeds.

Is this just a diatribe against the world? A plague on all your houses? I hope not. There are things that might be done. For example – set up an elite military rapid response force within the United Nations and under its genuinely independent control. It would have two characteristics:

1. It would serve to the very highest military standards and values. A force that any soldier of any nation would regard as the pinnacle of his career, to be accepted to serve within.

2. The unchanging mission of this force would be: to intervene with minimum but necessary force, to protect innocent victims of any conflict, in any state, anywhere in the world, irrespective of the political or economic interests of any UN member state. Such interventions would remain neutral with regard to civil war conflicts but their intervention with irresistible force, would ring-fence non-combatants and let the participants in civil war fight it out to a resolution.

Bush, I cannot bring myself to even accord him the courtesy of ‘Mr’ - and Mr Blair talk of ‘defeating’ terrorism - as if terrorism were an ideology. However much we may wish to demonise people who commit unspeakable acts, terrorism is irreducibly a tactic, a means to achieve other ends. One might almost wish it were just a matter of individual madness and bloodlust. Then isolate or remove the mad individuals and the problem is solved. But you cannot defeat an idea – still less a faith. Surely for anyone other than Bush, with an inadequate intellect, and no I don't mean stupid - he's far too dangerous to be simply stupid - and no sense of history, it must be clear that human history demonstrates this if nothing else.

Bush has done absolutely everything Bin Laden wanted him to do since 9/11. And Blair, whose intelligence gives him less excuse, has done the same. On Bin Laden’s behalf, they have recruited thousands of young men and women willing to fight the ‘infidel’ who is considered, not without some justification, hypocritical and when it suits him, profundly unjust. You have to work with honourable and dedicated Muslim believers to draw these tragically misused young people from their misplaced idealistic urge to self-destruction and back to the fundamental beliefs of Islam. Personally and philosophically, I have no truck with transcendentalism of any kind but I respect the faith of others. It is time for Muslim leaders especially in the Middle East, to stand up and be counted in a way, to be fair, Catholic leaders shamefully failed to do in the Irish conflict. Why was no IRA bomber ex-communicated from his faith?

I posted the following under poetry. It expresses my heart and my feelings. As a father and a husband, I mourn every single loss in London in the last few tragic days. But I want to stop this madness – not simply be outraged by it.

A thousand lives
and a single life
in the scales of justice

If you have reached the end of this – thanks for your patience and persistence!


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Comments by other Members

Richard Brown at 22:30 on 14 July 2005  Report this post
I reached the end and it was no chore to do so! You make some sharp points and drive them home powerfully. Alas you are all too right about the hypocrisy and the double standards. It is difficult not to despair.

There's too much to go into in detail here but I do agree that a UN-controlled, powerful global police force is an idea well worth considering. There would be risks, of course, but overall I support the notion. The riska of inaction are far greater.


Zettel at 23:32 on 14 July 2005  Report this post
Thanks Richard. I guess trying to write something coherent down is a form of catharsis. Though as you say, it is not a situation from which much comfort can be derived.



James Graham at 10:55 on 16 July 2005  Report this post
We should be able to find more writing like this in the press - an honest and thorough questioning of the interpretation of events that is handed down to us, and that we are supposed to accept. Not only that, an imaginative effort to ask the sort of questions Iraqis, Kurds and others might ask. Professional jounalists too should be trying to change our perspective in this way.

The failure to count Iraqi dead is such an affront to their memory and to the Iraqi people. It was ever thus. For some recent research I looked into some of the many Vietnam War websites. There are lists of American dead by state, by county, alphabetical, by regiment, by age group etc but no information whatsoever, even of the most general sort, on Vietnamese, Laotian or Cambodian casualties.


Zettel at 00:04 on 18 July 2005  Report this post

Thanks for the thought.

Again I do so agree. But the USA is a nation founded on genocide and they weren't bothering to name, count or honour their victims over 200 years ago either. And the parallel runs deeper, for then, as now, the political and military leaders were destroying a culture they didn't understand out of greed and self-interest.

It will be of little comfort to Iraqis to know that this injustice and maltreatment continues actively today and for the very same reasons.

(Of course one must recognise the dissenting voices of honourable men and women, then as now - but, like us, the voice of dissent is being silenced under the smokescreen of security. And in our case, as the result of an intentional, systematic campaign by Campbell and Blair, the most democratic voice of all - the BBC - is running so scared they even pulled an innoccuous little film criticising G8 from their Live 8 coverage - and they didn't even acknowledge they'd done it, let alone justify it.)

The whole thing stinks. But journalists are running scared or stupid it seems to me.



Cornelia at 14:11 on 22 July 2005  Report this post
There will no boubt be future advantages to Blair for 'riding pillion' to the US policies, as the commission puts it. His son, we see, is already to be sent as an intern to the US government. Blair has his own moral code to guide him, i.e. 'get what's going whilst you can'. His wife has the same attitude and they don't care how openly corrupt they or their associates seem to be. Mostly they work hand in hand to the benefit of all parties with money who can do them some good. Blair has been laughing at an admittedly supine cabinet and public since the start of his reign. The apple does not fall far from the tree, which is why I couldn't bring myself to vote for the man when he was elected in 1997. Before that I had voted labour for over 30 years.

I was pleased to see that Clare Short has proposed a bill to stop future leaders from going to war without the backing of the people, but I wonder how much good it would do when Blair just facbricated some facts to suit his case, as any future leader might do


Zettel at 16:04 on 23 July 2005  Report this post
I'm with you all the way Sheila.

Nothing better sums up the moral bankrupcy of Blair's government than the fact that an ex-minister Byers, in evidence to a court, admitted he lied but cuold remember why!!!!!




could not remember why


Felmagre at 14:26 on 27 July 2005  Report this post
This is why I want to write, to make a difference to thinking men and women, unfortunatley writers of today have less 'clout' less ability to speak for those without a voice than was once the case, but this informed, thought provoking work goes some way to addressing this inbalance.

Sometimes I despair but history tells us that one day the pendulum will swing the other way, unfortunately too late for those suffering injustice at the hands of todays 'despots'

Thank you for the hope that the pen is still mighter, just slower.

Zettel at 15:37 on 27 July 2005  Report this post

Thank you for your very generous comments. If enough people write the truth, then enough people read it, then enough people proclaim it....who knows what might happen.

Thanks again.


Alegria at 21:50 on 25 August 2005  Report this post
Haven't been on for a while and just read this piece which I think is powerful and passionately argued. Everyone I know thinks Bush is the pits, and Blair not much better now, but all those people I don't know re-elected these jokers and gave them the train set back to play with for another few years. Despair.

There's a website you can google called 'Buzzflash' which looks at the REAL news behind the disinfected version.

Great piece, but saddens me.


James Graham at 20:38 on 21 October 2005  Report this post
Coming back to this essay I'm as impressed as before with its forthrightness and passion. What is most convincing are the perspectives you offer through posing those 'difficult questions', but your call for a transformed UN is persuasive too. The whole thing carries such conviction that anyone who wanted to argue against it, or any part of it, would have to work very hard indeed.

The only suggestion I'd make now is that you should remove the reference to 'stuff on WW' from the intro, and the unnecessarily apologetic last sentence.


di2 at 05:42 on 26 October 2005  Report this post
A great piece. Your reasoning was clear and precise. Your compassion came through in the tone, along with your frustration and anger. You had no fear in presenting it as you see it. I'm "a head in the sand" type of person and usually prefer to read about times past, however on this occasion I read every word of your article plus all the comments from WW members.

Well done.

Persuasive commentary does make a difference.

Where honest people are free to make comment on their world, their government and leaders, there is hope that some things can get fixed. Sometimes what is required is a solution of how it could be done better and who is capable of implementing the solution.


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