I regard Christianity, Islam, and Judaism as the three great evils of this world.
We like to think politicians are above religious bigotry, not in the least shaped by the faith teachings of their childhood. We elect level-headed, experienced people, ready with cool judgment to understand the consequences of blind, bigoted retaliation, moral enough not to take tit-for-tat reprisals. If only that was a truism. They are just as quick to misjudge, just as irrational as the rest of us, ready to impose their religious principles to the full.
They simply would not contemplate proposing Habeas Corpus is set aside, or, in England’s case, side-line the Magna Carta for the sake of internal security. But that has already happened. In a modern neo-capitalist, neo-liberal world of them and us, the principles of the Magna Carta are not required, imprisonment without trial a matter of cold calculated action. Rendition becomes an acceptable policy.
When elected our representatives have the constitutional tools to do the job. That makes extremely suspect calls by them for greater powers. Each new terrorist action is succeeded by more calls for greater powers and democratic constraints. “I’d be happy to have my e-mails checked knowing I was safer”, (heard twice in one evening on BBC Radio) a common remark invariably from somebody in the ruling class who would certainly not be affected by such an intrusive loss of privacy.
Given additional powers to arrest citizens on suspicion, or attack warring factions outside our borders by proxy, their excuse is always the same – our way of life is ‘threatened’. How it is threatened they cannot tell exactly. It is an ‘existential threat.’
As with Paris, come calls for European unity, ironically from the same people who days previously exhorted we leave the European Union.
Hysteria rules, okay?
The aftermath of atrocities in Paris have an expected morbidity to their ritual. There are eloquent expressions of shock, outpourings of sadness and grief, statements of righteous condemnation, people congregate to show their accord, their respect for the slaughtered. Newspapers and television show endless loops of terrorists at work.
The media and press talk of the worst atrocities ‘in living memory’, a phrase designed to omit all the atrocities we have perpetrated on others in the name of freedom and liberty.
The country’s leader steps up to a battery of microphones to show himself not weak or wobbly as his opponents claim, but remorselessly ruthless in seeking retaliatory justice.
Drop the drawbridge! Prepare the cauldrons of hot tar!
Border crossing points are shut down; traveller’s submitted to unwarranted searches; multiculturalism condemned a failure; politicians make racists speeches knowing they could never utter them at other times. Administrations, their members with interests in security firms, demand greater powers for surveillance than ever. Army generals request more weapons, and carpet bombing sanctioned.
The volume of hatred is pushed up to eleven.
Fear and panic is filled with intemperate claims of who was involved, how they died, and who is on the run, swiftly followed by press contradictions of who died, new eye witnesses to the tragedy differing from official versions, as the state loosens its grip on the news.
That is followed soon after by police asking for more money to protect citizens, and politicians proposing the Internet is shut down at times of emergency, which is to say, anytime they want it blocked. Chinese leaders laugh up their silk sleeves.
Our terrorism versus their terrorism
Terrorist attacks on our soil, the result of attacks on their soil, are to be answered with further attacks on their soil. We never learn from history.
Moreover, no one is clear who ‘they’ are. Our politicians give them dehumanising acronyms. In an atmosphere of hysteria members of the political class advocate nuking every nation whose people wear a tea towel on their heads.
The answer to the Syrian dilemma is simple aver warmongers – wipe it out. Israel, Saudi Arabia, allies of the west, are spared, of course.
That way, we are told, lies a peaceful Middle East and safety for us. Iran, yesterday’s ‘gravest threat to world peace’ is currently downgraded to probable friend. We, the population, fearing a new enemy, are made docile and obedient for a few more years.
A depressingly familiar scenario.
Even as police raid ‘safe’ apartments looking for evidence, politicians name names as if certain who the culprits are, yet terrorist attacks on the west tell us the perpetrators are self-appointed, not groomed, not necessarily full-time members of banned insurgent groups. They saw their countries pillaged, flattened, and decide more violence the answer.
None own a nuclear arsenal. ‘If ‘Jehadi John’ can wield a knife, we can wield a mega-ton bomb.’ So goes louche callousness. Vengeance shall be ours. Governments forget it was penknife wielding fanatics that brought down New York’s monuments to extreme capitalism, the Twin Towers.
But we have the United Nations
In Britain’s case, prime minister David Cameron showed his respect for international law by announcing he might disregard the United Nations in any action they propose if it does not do as he wishes.
His excuse is, if the United Nations accepts a veto from Russia over retaliatory strikes on ISIS he will do as he pleases. (In the event, Russia sided with the United Nation’s motion.) Cameron espouses the very act that undermines the authority of the United Nations. Like the USA, he assumes the United Kingdom to be an exceptional state.
It was the USA, the (then) USSR, China, and Britain that demanded a veto on inception of the United Nations. We in the privileged West are above international law. Blair and Bush reminded us of that. The USA refuses to recognise the court in the Hague.
An example of official genocide
A former US Ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, published an eye-opening study in which she lamented the inability of the United Nations to respond properly to atrocities: ‘A Problem from Hell – America in the age of Genocide.’ In one chapter she makes mention of the genocide that took place in East Timor in 1975. Power states in one bald sentence, “The United States looked away.”
The Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation in East Timor estimated the number of deaths during the occupation from famine and violence to be between “90,800 and 202,600 including between 17,600 and 19,600 violent deaths or disappearances, out of a 1999 population of approximately 823,386.” The truth commission held Indonesian forces responsible for about 70% of the violent killings.
Samantha Power was referring to the USA’s perception of itself as the world’s policeman, but she was also drawing attention to how easily international action by the United Nations is undermined by the most powerful states.
At the time of the invasion, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, her predecessor, took a decidedly different view. In his book, ‘A Dangerous Place’ he argues with great confidence and just as much arrogant pride how he managed to render the United Nations “utterly ineffectual in whatever measures it tried to take” to end the atrocities. Things turned out well, he says, because “The United States wished things to turn out as they did.” In short time Washington supplied the Indonesian invaders with all the machine guns, bombs, and helicopters needed to begin their genocidal actions.
I draw on that example, one of many where the West has allowed, encouraged, or actively participated in genocide, to show how conveniently we forget the tens of thousands of deaths we inflict on cultures with a skin darker than ours, and how in high hypocrisy we call on the United Nations to ‘do something’ while simultaneously ensuring it is emasculated if it appears to be interfering with our economic or military interests. Do we wonder a small number of those people, ostracized, frustrated, demand attention for their grievances, for justice, by embracing the most horrific methods of death?
I could have chosen any number of examples where we ‘Brits’ were involved, the sinking of the Belgrano in the Falkland’s phony war, is one. In that Margaret Thatcher proved the British Empire was not dead. England owned and ran almost three-quarters of the world before the USA became the most powerful nation.
I have not touched on the disaster that is Iraq or Afghanistan. Vietnam is a distant memory even though every year thousands are maimed or killed by Agent Orange left in the soil. And nearer to home is there is just as heinous a terrorist atrocity, in July 2011, when Anders Breivik, a Christian ultra-Zionist extremist and Islamophobe, slaughtered 77 people, mostly teenagers.
In France’s case, hours after the Paris obscenities, Jean-Claude Juncker, European Commission President, announced security spending will be given special treatment in the EU budget deficit rules.
“We are facing serious terrorist acts. France, as other countries, has to have at its disposal supplementary means.”
More weapons, more surveillance, more constraints on freedoms, more tension in our daily lives, more chance of disaster. We might as well be living in Baghdad.
Juncker underlined, without irony, that the budget leeway was “to ensure citizens’ security” and not to enable France to fight a war. Days earlier François Hollande had said France was ‘at war.’
We should expect Westminster to seek a majority to renew Trident, to use the Paris attacks to get approval for greater GCHQ surveillance into our domestic lives – if innocent we have nothing to fear, they tell us, conveniently forgetting false accusation by government edict, press or neighbour.
Having armed and supported insurgents in Syria to defeat Assad the man we once feted, the UK parliament will be asked to double military spending, with additional spending for ‘special operations’ kept secret. We have the right to violate the sovereignty of nations that do not agree to our conditions for trade or military support.
This essay penned days after the Paris killings illustrate a very general principle observed with impressive dedication and consistency: The more we blame crimes on enemies the less the concern, tending to perpetual denial, of what we did to them that caused them to lose all reason.
Both sides, them and us, are engaged in an endless spiral of revenge.
In the end, the only winner is the last man standing.
And what of the innocents?
Meanwhile, countless refugees flee from the death and destruction in their backyard, running for safety into the arms of nations involved in the bombing. We call mass displacements of people collateral damage.
Fear of foreigners rises to the surface, with excuses such as ‘I wonder how many terrorists are in that group?’ That group coming here is one hundred miserable humans, men, women, children dispersed to the cold north. One hundred.
Below is a photograph of a refugee camp in Jordan, a small nation with no means to close its borders. Some of our taxes are used to subsidise the great cost Jordan has taken on to help cope with the flood of humanity.
Thus endeth the lesson. Let us sing, “Onward Christian soldiers.”