Does a War On Terror Only Make Us Terrorists, Too?
Idly scrolling through my Twitter feed last night (read When You Can’t See Your Tweets For Your Tears to find out why) I became aware of an incident in Manchester, my neighbouring city, which as the long and grim night unfolded morphed into a Terrorist Attack.
Excited children, indulgent parents, teenagers enjoying being out with groups of friends – tasting what it’s like to have the freedom of soon to be adulthood – thousands of happy people coming together at the Manchester Arena for a pop concert. Innocently flooding into a venue that in a few short hours would become the scene of mayhem, confused and dizzying terror and fear in the midst of a man with an I.E.D and an intent to murder.
As the night wore excruciatingly on, it became apparent that children had been killed, teenagers maimed, parents injured and terrified as they became separated from their loved ones, their babies, their futures. Mobile phones lay abandoned on the ground, silently bereaving frantic parents of the comfort of a phone call or a life.
Terror reigned briefly on the streets of a great Northern city, which stands shoulder to shoulder with my own great city; the scenes being relayed through television and social media depicted carnage, confusion, horror and hell on an evening that should have, and temporarily did, bring joy to those who had travelled from near and far to see a pop concert.
An attack on a pop concert – that’s what makes this particularly galling because if you look at the profiling of the people who would likely be at this sort of gig, well, they’re kids from around 8 years old to late teens, early twenties. They’re youngsters just starting out on life’s pathway, ready to become upstanding, and outstanding adults. They’re our future – and by attacking them, the terrorists were taking away our future in the shape of the 22 people who lay dead in a hospital morgue. Countless others have been injured, both physically and mentally by the events witnessed yesterday on a balmy evening which should have brought happiness, not hopelessness.
Media sources tell us this was not a ‘Lone Wolf’ attack but that Islamic State has claimed responsibility – so an orchestrated action of terror. Many of the contemporaries of those killed or injured will only remember Islamic State or Al Qaeda when they think of the perpetrators of modern atrocities – for indeed, this was an atrocious act. Calculated and cowardly, claiming the lives of innocent children in their quest for caliphate.
Yet terrorism is nothing new, unfortunately. In the broadest terminology, the earliest act of terrorism dates back to 1AD, and the Sicarii Zealots. So, we’ve been living amongst terrorism a long time, through The Hashsashin of the 11th Century; the Sons of Liberty in the US in the 1700’s; the emergence of the Jacobins during the French Revolution – which is probably the earliest association with modern day terrorism that you might care to find, if you look, this was probably the first time anarchism coupled with nationalism was seen as the most prominent ideology to be linked with terrorism.
What exactly is terrorism, then? The dictionary definition is the unlawful use of violence or intimidation against civilians in the pursuit of political aims. No mention there of religion, yet a lot of people automatically link religion with political endeavour, so are they one and the same thing? Both are simply an organised method of control whether by prayer or by the ballot box, although in my humble opinion one should never mix the two up otherwise we are simply saying that every Muslim is a terrorist, and every Irishman was a member of the IRA.
How do we combat terrorism? How do we prevent another Manchester? Another Paris? Another Westminster? Another snuffing out of innocent lives to illuminate the guilty to religious rapture or deliver the politicians to their path to power?
A policy of appeasement didn’t prevent World War Two, but yet in the modern day backlash to the atrocities being witnessed across the globe, does combative response not make us guilty of terrorism too? Never forget that in choosing to bear arms ourselves and send troops and bomb laden planes to places where terrorist targets are known, we too will be killing the innocent in order to satisfy our need to bring the guilty to justice.
In order to strike at terrorism, you have to understand the root of the problem. It’s like a tree. You can cut off its branches to try to control it, but to stop it growing completely, you have to look at its roots. What makes a terrorist? Is it religious ideology? Is it a pandering to power or is it much more simplistic than that?
Look at the reasons why people chose to revolt – and that’s what terrorism is. It’s a revolution against a government perceived to be doing nothing for its subjects – some political protagonists will disguise it as a religious routing but it isn’t. It’s about power, nothing more. So what makes a terrorist? Try social injustice, unemployment, lack of education, and social inequality for starters. It’s easy to brainwash and coerce someone who feels that their basic fundamental rights have been taken away from them, and throw into the mix the promise of everlasting paradise and you’ve got people who will be more than willing to press the button, or wield the knife.
Am I saying that every deprived person has the capacity to become a terrorist? Potentially, yes. You might not think this is the case – ‘it would never happen here’ – but you’ve only got to look across the Irish Sea to know that indeed it did happen here. What was the IRA feeding on, if it wasn’t the deprivation of their fundamental right to home rule, thinly disguised as a battle between Catholicism and Protestant protagonists for power?
So what do we wield, the pen or the sword? In the immediate aftermath of the Manchester bombing last night, it’s easy for everyone to expostulate and grow indignant that we should be somehow striking back at those responsible. Yes, we should be. Our country and its people has a fundamental right to be able to exist peaceably but it’s how we achieve that peace that needs to be carefully weighed up by those in the echelons of power, otherwise the only thing that we achieve is to become terrorists ourselves.
© Amy J Steinberg 2017
MY THOUGHTS AND CONDOLENCES ARE SENT TO THE VICTIMS AND THEIR FAMILIES IN THE WAKE OF THE MANCHESTER BOMBING.