Stop Being So Surprised By Terrorism


Not too long ago I joked with a friend that I was convinced I was actually the target of every Islamist terrorist. Almost everywhere I go ends up being attacked by terrorists. Last summer I travelled to Brussels and this morning the city was the subject of a series of suicide bombings, claiming the lives of some thirty innocent people. It’s no joking matter. This is deadly serious, and I am not the target – we all are. News reports this morning spoke of people’s sock at the events. Being so close to a fatal bombing can only be shocking. It is truly horrific, but why are we shocked? Why are we, who were not in Brussels today, shocked and surprised by what has happened? Has it really escaped our attention that the European Union (of which Brussels is the nerve centre), together with the United States and the United Kingdom, is involved in a globalised war, and that all of us are now collateral in the violence of this war?


Another friend asked me today how I think we can ever stop these terror attacks. What struck me in this question was its sheer naivety; so much so that it was verging on stupidity. The solution, as complex as the solution to any conflict is, I told him, begins with something quite simple: We stop bombing them! Attacks like those this morning, like the attacks in Paris, London, and New York, come as such a surprise to us because they are so infrequent. Our drone attacks on civilian targets in Syria are a feature of everyday life in that country. For more than a decade and a half the United States and Britain – who we have supported – have operated a shock and awe offensive in Iraq and Afghanistan, indiscriminately arresting and torturing innocent people.

How serious are we when we ask how we can stop these terrorist attacks? Let’s first consider our own terrorist attacks and the terror régimes we have inflicted on other people. Do we seriously think that they will not seek revenge? If we do think this, then we are the stupid ones. The West has supported states the likes of Iraq, Israel, Syria, and Saudi Arabia, and we have turned them into the monsters they became. Rather than asking how to stop the Islamic State, we might consider the US military hardware that was left for it in northern Iraq and the money it gets from Saudi Arabia and the oil we buy from it. We must quit playing the innocent and looking so surprised when they strike us back.

Those who lost their lives this morning were innocent people who no more deserved to lose their lives than the millions who have lost their lives in the Middle East since September 2001. Whether we like it or not, we share some responsibility for all of these deaths because we have elected to have warmongers in government in our democracies. God only knows where the next bomb will go off, and how many more lives it will claim. Statistically it will probably explode beside some school or hospital in Syria, but it could be another target in Europe or the United States. I haven’t the faintest idea how to go about ending this madness, but the one thing I know for sure is that it won’t happen until we stop responding to violence with violence.


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