The last week was a good one for extremist loonies of all sorts. Pakistan experienced yet another dose of vicious hatred by a bunch of murderous fanatics.
In Israel a hard-line enemy of Palestinian statehood, Ruby Rivlin, was elected president and in the US a right-wing fascist, David Brat of the Tea Party, came to the top of the pile in the Republican Party when he defeated a not-quite-so-fascist opponent in an election selection contest.
Then in Iraq, a country driven into hideous anarchy by the US invasion of 2003, a group of extremist thugs of ISIS, the Islamic State of Iraq and Al-Shams, savaged the cities of Mosul and Tikrit, while in the US a couple of young fanatics “stormed into a fast-food restaurant armed with a duffel bag full of military gear, shouted, ‘This is the beginning of the revolution!’ and pinned a flag associated with their political movement to the dead bodies of the police officers they executed at point-blank range – then killed another innocent person and carried out a suicide pact.”
(This wasn’t considered to be a terrorist attack because the murderers weren’t Muslims: they were home-grown white savages who don’t count in the terror stakes.)
The world is in a dreadful state, and Pakistan’s admirable representative to the UN, Ambassador Masood Khan, summed it up when he said that “Terrorism is not an abstract phenomenon. It is a scourge that hits us every day. It is truly an existential threat. All around the world we witness the catastrophic consequences and costs of terrorism.” Exactly, but some places experience more terror than others, and at the moment Pakistan is a front-runner in suffering from the excesses of bigoted barbarity. So what can be done about this appalling situation?
Not very much unless the world packs together – and the world isn’t very good at doing that. But there might, just might, be a long-term solution that would cost masses of money over very many years but could stop the ideals, the essence, the ethos of terror taking root in the minds of the young. And we’ll have a look at that in a moment; but meanwhile let’s examine the problem more closely.
I agree with Ambassador Masood Khan’s observations and sympathise with his exhortation that “developed countries must hone their skills to strike a balance between effective provision of security to their citizens and respect for the basic principle of the rule of law and justice.” There must, he said, be “sweeping reforms which cannot wait because of the urgency to respond to the ever evolving threat of terrorism.”
Right. But there’s more to it than that; and first is identifying a major misconception. I don’t want to link Ambassador Masood Khan to card-carrying defectives like US Secretary of State John Kerry, but we must bear in mind that Kerry keeps using the word ‘coward’ when describing people who don’t act quite like Kerry.
And let me bear my breast on this and say that I used to be an admirer of Kerry. We served in Vietnam about the same time, and although of course I didn’t know him, this is a bit of a bond. I strongly supported his 1971 statement to a US Senate Committee that “there is nothing in South Vietnam that realistically threatens the United States of America. And to attempt to justify the loss of one American life in Vietnam, Cambodia, or Laos by linking such loss to the preservation of freedom is the height of criminal hypocrisy.” Excellent summation.
But now he says all terrorists are cowards. Certainly those who kill innocent unarmed people are cowards of the most despicable sort – but those who storm well-guarded establishments knowing full well that they are not going to survive…Well, what are they?
They are maniacs, certainly. They are savages, to be sure. And they deserve no pity. But they are not cowards. They are fighting because they believe in something so strongly that they will hazard their lives – willingly forfeit their lives – to forward whatever crazy cause has attracted their unqualified devotion. However bizarre and incomprehensible to us their motives might be, to them they are the ultimate in principle.
So Ambassador Masood Khan was not completely correct when he said about the Karachi airport blitz that “Pakistan has been in the grip of a battle against the fury and cowardice of terrorists.” Fury, yes. But we can’t call them cowards, because they knew they wouldn’t come out alive.
Can you place yourself for even the tiniest instant in the mind of a person who is going to smash into the Karachi airport or anywhere else with the certain knowledge that he’s not going to survive? Whatever he is, he’s not a coward. He is, however, terrifyingly and irredeemably ignorant of compassion.
One of the most chilling photographs I can recollect is that of a quartet of suicide bombers (three being sons of Pakistani immigrants and the other a Jamaican) in a railway station in the UK just before they went on their London bombing spree in 2005.
On the video clips they looked just like everyone else, but of course they were not. They were fanatics, one of whom had declared that “I and thousands like me are forsaking everything for what we believe. Our drive and motivation doesn’t come from tangible commodities that this world has to offer. Our religion is Islam, obedience to the one true God and following the footsteps of the final prophet messenger. Your democratically-elected governments continuously perpetuate atrocities against my people all over the world. And your support of them makes you directly responsible, just as I am directly responsible for protecting and avenging my Muslim brothers and sisters.”
It is this type of warped interpretation of Islam that is motivating thousands of young people around the world to take up arms, to don and detonate suicide vests, to slaughter people without thought to an alternative. And the alternative is compassion, kindness, decency, and living-with-neighbour tolerance. It’s called civilisation.
The long-term solution to terrorism is education. It would cost billions of dollars to create a world-wide education system that can counter the loonies. Even starting now, right this minute, it would take years to get off the ground. There would be massive problems. But it’s got to be done in every country, otherwise we will be overcome by ignorant bigoted savages who ‘forsake everything’ in order to create a hell on earth.
By: Brian Cloughley