The Boston bombing and now the slashers in Britain … We speak so enlightenedly when we consider what amount of hate could drive people to acts of [[terrorism]]. But we ignorantly forget to ask what drove them to so much hate in the first place. We have many convenient answers — religion, mental illness, cultural depravity — all of which reveal at least as much about ourselves as them. But when they come right out and give us the answer, we will not listen. We cannot listen, because it does not allow the comforting narrative that we are better than them — that we could never be driven to commit such acts.
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, “in scrawled notes made from his hospital bed” he said his brother “was motivated by the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and his belief that they represented an assault on his faith”. Although used as a pretense by sultans and militant groups over the ages to gain power and land, traditional Islam does NOT allow for aggressive wars, but also gives no quarter to those who would attack believers. “They” may outright loathe “us” because we’re decadent or different, but they FIGHT us because the West is seen as a threat to their sovereignty, their culture, their survival. It doesn’t take a degree in geopolitics to understand this, only open ears.
Oddly, we Americans are eager to interpret Dzhokhar’s words “When you attack one Muslim, you attack all Muslims” as fanaticism, but who wouldn’t applaud the slogan “When you attack one American, you attack all Americans”? And he was likely familiar with this passage of the Quran: “If anyone slays a person, it would be as if he slew the whole people: and if any one saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of the whole people.” Not so evil in that context, is it?
Michael Adebolajo, one of the murderers of a man in London, spoke to the camera of a bystander:
“Remove your governments – they don’t care about you. You think David Cameron is going to get caught in the street when we start bursting our guns? You think politicians are going to die? No, it’s going to be the average guy, like you, and your children. So get rid of them – tell them to bring our troops back so we can … so you can all live in peace.”
This is an answer we don’t want to hear, or can’t allow ourselves an interpretation that is not clear-cut evil. So why does terrorism exist, then? Does it perhaps offer hope to effect change, given it gets more press than any Palestinian-Israeli peace movements you’ve never heard of? Or is it the only thing left by the un-empowered? Is it an act of defiance to give an eye for an eye, innocents sacrificed in vengeance of other innocents? What of a life where insurance of a family’s protection and compensation by militants is worth strapping oneself to explosives? Did the race riots in the 60s speed up the necessity for change? Did the IRA really feel what they were doing was pointless, let alone wrong? If the [[French Resistance]] could have bombed a music hall in Berlin, would they have felt justified while their own countrymen were put on trains with one-way tickets?
But let’s forget the whole greyscale spectrum of human motivations and focus on the worst — hate. So what has driven so many to such hate to justify in their minds such violence? The answer is the same thing that drives ANY OF US to hate.
Some of us feed on a steady diet of outrage thanks to such methodical hate sites as “yourdailymuslim.com” and “thereligionofpeace.com”. On the other side of the globe, news outlets enumerate the countless men, women, and children that are slaughtered in the crossfire of American-led military operations and Israeli occupation. In Western minds, we hold dear images of the twin towers and can picture remains of suicide bombings; emblazoned in Middle Eastern minds are Palestinians losing their homes or pieces of children marking the trail of Predator drones, day after day.
Some argue drones are military operations and terrorist attacks are specifically targeting civilians. So which category do Hiroshima or Nagasaki or even Dresden fall into? Does it matter if the trigger-pullers wear a uniform? Remember, whether we agree or not, consider the “terrorist” point of view, be it French, Irish, or Arabic. They consider such deaths as necessary collateral damage because they cannot be as successful directly against military targets, or can only hope to influence the will of the people against the actions of their respective governments. In the case of 9-11, Al Qaeda made it clear in their statements they did not see those in the World Trade Center as “innocent”. And in a country where We The People supposedly call the shots by popular will or complicit complacency with regards to foreign policy, that isn’t so crazy.
We can split hairs all day long, but senseless deaths are senseless deaths, and certain Muslims condoning things like a marathon bombing is no worse than certain Americans suggesting we turn the Middle East into a parking lot. We criticize “their” morality, but equally immerse ourselves in the blind insistence that “someone has to pay”.
But of course this is their way of life, not ours. Never mind the scalping by Native Americans (who learned it from the French) escalating into constant retaliations back and forth between massacred Frontier settlements and massacred Indian villages to the very precipice of genocide. Women and children were killed, so it was natural in minds and masses ungoverned by compassion or sense that the women and children of others were considered fair game. Back then it was several days or weeks and a newspaper away. Now it’s a rare glimpse of greyscale camera footage from a drone that may as well be stepping on ants.
We may argue we are more civilized these days, but I suggest we are only more insulated from the dirty work. It’s all too easy to call for genocide. Yes, genocide. I once came across pages and pages and pages of hate speech comments filled with dehumanizing Muslims as bloodthirsty animals out to kill us all, interspersed with all sorts of calls for a [[Final Solution]] again that particular quarter of the human population. And this was in response to an article about building a mosque with a 9-11 memorial!
But then these bigots wouldn’t actually do it, would they? They openly support such “policy” in a nation with plenty of nukes and a record of detaining vast numbers of citizens by ethnicity via reservations and internment camps. So why not go on a rampage against the local mosque, or travel to Saudi Arabia to blow up a marketplace? Because we’re not terrorists. We have nothing to gain and everything to lose. Terrorists have at least some hope of gain and nothing left to lose. Put those shoes on an American “patriot” and see what horrific things they do.
The sad fact is that we cannot accept that we are all capable of atrocity, and therefore are bound to repeat it. We are doing it right now. No one’s hands are bloodless, Muslim, American, or otherwise. After each tragedy, each “side” vows to bring others to “justice”, strengthening their “resolve”, and never “giving in”. And in doing so the “terrorists” dictate our policy down to the letter with a growing police state and endless martyred soldiers. We cannot accept such inhumane methods and therefore will not even consider legitimate outcries, the ignoring of which has fostered such a desperate, extremist culture. We make them less human the more we don’t allow them to be — and we are quickly becoming the very thing we have resolved to defeat.
“Terrorism” is a relative term, not only in the sense of who is using it (one person’s terrorist is another person’s freedom fighter) but also by definition, both issues being inferred in the above blog. Terrorism tends to be a word used as shorthand for ‘propaganda by deed’, from the anti-Tsarist Social Revolutionaries to the Red Brigades.However, surely a strictly semantic definition would broaden the scope of the word to mean ‘the pursuit of one’s objectives by the application of terror, which would include acts of ‘just’ war, such as the bombing of Dresden in WW2, and for some, the colonialist counter-insurgency in Kenya, the North of Ireland etc, and the aerial attacks on civilian facilities in Tripoli (1986). In other words, let us be mindful that individuals and non-State militias do not have the monopoly on terrorism, and the State is perfectly willing to include it as a weapon in its arsenal.
The State also teaches hatred where it did not exist before (or at least was not uppermost in the mind), and it is notable talking to some ex-career soldiers in the British Army that, once having left, they could have sympathy for members of the Irish working class, to the extent in some cases of understanding why some chose to take up weapons against them as representatives of the British State.
‘Bona fide’ terrorists such as the Red Brigades are susceptible to infiltration and manipulation, and during the 70s ‘Days of Lead’, were used to derail the autonomous proletarian insurrectionary movement and ratchet up the ‘Strategy of Tension’. Terrorism is not the friend of revolution.