Raising Cain

Many a magazine and newspaper I see in the shops, almost every post I see on Facebook, much of what I hear and see on the TV, all seem convinced that the Friday 13 November attack on Paris demands a response.

Fighting fever and fervor has swept the West and much of the message is not whether the Islamic State should be fought but how it should be fought.

I myself cannot help but mourn the loss of life wherever it may occur and want justice upon anyone who would cause such suffering and sorrow upon a civilian population.

It is one thing when folks with weapons attack other folks with weapons.

It is entirely a different matter when unarmed folks are attacked by weapon wielding assailants.

We are told that ISIS has claimed responsibility for the Paris attacks, but I wonder:

Does ISIS actually plan from the “caliphate” itself acts that occur outside their directly controlled territories?

Or is it to ISIS advantage to take credit for acts done by terrorists in their name as these acts give ISIS the reputation of being a force to be feared and respected?

The third possibility that the West itself creates acts of horror upon itself to drum up support for warfare is a conspiracy type theory I find difficult to accept as it seems too unlikely and too insane an option to soberly consider.

I cannot deny the feeling that something needs to be done to comfort the victims of attacks wherever they occur, but two responses I see time and time again unsettle me.

First, intelligence services time and time again always seem surprised when attacks occur in territories whose security they are responsible for, yet within days, sometimes even hours, manhunts begin for specific individuals who we are told are absolutely culpable for these acts and at no time does anyone raise the idea that an accused individual, reprehensible past or not, is presumed to be innocent until proven guilty.

Moments after the Boston Marathon Attack, we were told who did it, we followed with bloodthirsty anticipation the capture of the accused and with breathtaking speed the accused was tried and executed.

Long before the courtroom, the press and the public determined who was responsible and the hanging tree prepared for a lynching.

We, the average citizenry, place such unwavering faith and confidence in the powers that be and are ready to respond appropriately based on what we are told to be true.

As it is easier to believe what we are told than it is to investigate the veracity of this information, we simply let those that govern and administer us decide for us what best needs be done.

Second, as we demand quick response to the suffering that was visited upon civilian lives, few of us consider the consequences of swift retaliation.

So many of us are clamouring for sorrow and suffering to be visited upon ISIS that we perceive it to be a sign of wavering weakness if we stop to consider how many lives will be lost, how many families destroyed, how much damage will result and what follows after power-mad tyrannies are removed.

As long as no more of our lives are lost, no more of our families destroyed, no more damage happens to us, we don´t know or care what happens to others faraway from us.

I never thought the day would arrive that I would find myself partially seeing world politics from Russian President Vladimir Putin´s point-of-view.

I have always felt bothered by Russia´s annexation of the Crimea, citing the dual reasons that NATO was becoming too uncomfortably close to Russian territory for Putin´s liking and that the Russian-speaking population there preferred being controlled by Moscow rather than Kiev.

Not really new arguments…

America used the proximity argument regarding Soviet missiles in Cuba to almost result in nuclear war with Russia during the Kennedy Administration.

Nazi Germany used the language argument to justify invading Czechoslovakia as western Czechoslovakia had German speakers there.

Russia is insisting that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad remains in power, otherwise a power vacuum will result if he is removed.

ISIS itself might not have come into existence and become as powerful as it has become had there not been a power vacuum in Iraq and a civil war in Syria for it to take advantage of.

And as reprehensible and despotic as rulers like Saddam Hussein, Bashar al-Assad or Muammar Qaddafi may have been, their removal can destroy their nations´ power structure, resulting in civil chaos and anarchy, ripe breeding grounds for both terrorist attacks and recruitment.

Russia focuses their attacks on Syrian rebels, (though with the recent bombing of a Russian airline this may change).

Turkey is more concerned with Kurdish nationalists than it is with ISIS.

Sunni and Shia Muslims cannot seem to put their differences aside long enough to deal with ISIS inside Iraqi and Syrian territory.

The West is unwilling to put boots on the ground, preferring long range bombing and drone attacks.

Innocent lives remain at stake, both worldwide and within the self-proclaimed caliphate.

Too often we in the West act quickly to destroy governments we disapprove of, but we consistently seem to fail at rebuilding collapsed nations after these governments have been disposed.

So we remove ISIS, what then?

There will always be radicals in the world, attracted to the purity of fundamentalism and feeling rejected because their foreignness makes it difficult to find gainful employment and attracts discrimination.

Removing ISIS will not remove terrorism.

And the irony is, as dangerous as ISIS is, it is a power structure and acts as a theocratic government over its conquered territories.

Though there are many who flee from ISIS, there are also many who flee to ISIS.

According to the 21 November issue of the Economist:

“Yet the Islamic State endures.

Indeed its territory  remains one of the safer parts of Syria…

Food is cheaper and there is justice of a sort.

There is also a functioning economy, largely thanks to an estimated 30,000 barrels of oil pumped daily from captured fields in eastern Syria and northern Iraq.”

(But, of course, nations would never go to war over oil…)

“It doles out alms to the poor in exchange for total obedience.

It promotes a cult of personality around Caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

It churns out turgid propoganda about repaired bridges and newly opened schools.

…it has created multiple and mutually suspicious security services…to stave off coups.”

If you were given a choice between total anarchy combined with great uncertainty making even basic survival questionable versus a despotic regime that provides some semblance of order and a greater chance of survival which no one else seems able or willing to provide, could you honestly say you would prefer your children to starve?

Happily we in the West no longer have to make these choices.

Peoples in the Middle East, Africa and other regions are not as fortunate in this regard.

In my mind there is little question that ISIS needs to be dealt with decisively as too many lost lives cry out for justice.

The same could be said for organisations like Boko Haram in Nigeria.

But I think we need to soberly and objectively consider not just winning wars but as well bringing stability and order to the places we invade, not just leaving once the “bad guys” have been ousted.

Otherwise we will make martyrs out of monsters and create more damage and destruction than that we had intended to avenge.

We somehow need to show the world that faith is a matter of personal choice rather than state or military imposition.

We need to learn about other faiths other than our own, rather than simply hate other faiths because they are different or blindly fear them because  a few violent men have used these faiths to justify their barbaric acts.

As we sacrifice the lives of our military sons and daughters, while we sacrifice civilian lives caught in the crossfire, we need to leave behind not just the removal of inhumane despots and zealots but as well we need to replace these with a life worth living for,  a place where families can flourish.

The hate of terrorism, the fervor of fundamentalism, have one only enemy that can defeat them: love.

Not fear, not revenge, not paranoia.

Governments never seem to learn that, like sand,  the tighter the grip, the more control slips through the fingers.

Don´t just remove a governing force.

Teach the people how to govern themselves in a just society allowing individual thought and act that doesn´t violate others´freedom to do the same.

We need to act, not just react.

Yes, remove the negative but replace it with the positive, rather than just leaving behind a chaotic void of uncertainty and instability.

We are all brothers in our humanity.

We are our brothers´ keepers.




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