Soon learnt, soon forgotten

Lubna Abdel-Aziz
Friday 10 Sep 2021

Terrorism has edged Covid-19 from our vernacular, at least for now. Images on our little screens of the atrocities in Kabul have revived memories of bombings, kidnappings, slaughtering, burning, and whipping leaving us shaking and quaking, all too soon.

Violence of every form haunts our days and nights, and the future remains muddy and blurred once again.

Should we not by now have become used to that most publicised form of political violence? Man tends to expel such memories to the remotest corners of the mind in order to survive. Yet here they come again, reminding us that terrorism is alive and well and still thriving.

Terrorism has been with us for centuries, but history in its wisdom, has all too frequently, ignored or approved it.

Most scholars trace its origins to the Jewish Sicani zealots who attacked the Romans and Jews in the first century in Palestine following its development to the first order of the Persian Assassins through the 19th century Reign of Terror in France. It began in 1793, led by Maximilien Robespierre Jacobin and lasted for 13 months. Paris was governed by the Committee of Public Safety, which oversaw a regime of mass executions of public figures. It was in France that the term terreur originated.

Now, for the first time in history, weapons of mass destructive power are readily acquired, and while the cost of everything has gone up, the cost of lives has greatly diminished.

A leading interpreter of international law, T J Lederer, wrote 100 years ago that “attempts made to prevent the use of instruments that cause destruction on a large scale are doomed to fail.”

How prophetic. Indeed, the main occupation of any army, major or minor, across the globe is to produce or purchase weapons of mass destruction.

What now are in the hands of terrorists?

And what are armies anyway? They both have one goal, to dispose of the enemy that threatens their security.

Can terrorism be considered a form of resistance against tyranny? There are more than 100 definitions of terrorism, but no universal agreement. However in each case they involve violence. Man kills man for his own interest.

The US Deptartment of Defence in 1990 offered this interpretation: “The unlawful use of, or threatened use of force or violence against individuals or property to coerce & intimidate governments or societies; often to achieve political, religious or ideological objectives.”

Why not grant these objectives and avoid the massacres?

The US has been involved in almost every war or conflict across the globe and the results have been pitiful.

Their incomprehensible blind alliance with Israel following WWII has ignited terrorism among the wronged Palestinians victims. The Israelis responded. The fury of injustice has, accepted by Americans, enraged Arabs, Muslims among others, enhancing the use of terrorism.

While terrorism is mostly associated with “primitive cultures” in the Middle East, let us remind you that there are terrorists in every country in the globe, whether state-organised or independent groups, even within the US. What were the Klu Klux Klan? What is Antifa or BLM? We could go on.

Our hearts weep for those young American soldiers, victims of fighting on foreign lands for foreign causes, because insane politicians believe they can spread democracy or prevent the spread of communism.

Democracy is not a commodity to be distributed to different nations as food or clothing. Democracy is an ideology that must be taught, understood, absorbed and applied only according to the culture and beliefs of each country. Moreover, you cannot achieve it by war. How many wars has the US won since WWII? Korea? Viet Nam? Cuba? China? Iraq? Afghanistan?

They have lost every war and yet they still pursue the same colonial policy that even the British have now abandoned.

We are nearing the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attack on the Twin Towers in New York, a heinous crime committed by 19 terrorists of Al-Qaeda, we wept our hearts out for the 2,996 innocent lives lost.

Was that a good reason to attack Afghanistan and Iraq, kill hundreds of thousand civilians, waste trillions of dollars and sacrifice thousands of American lives? To what avail? Catching the leader Osama bin Laden would have been enough, just like the Israelis caught Eichmann, condemned him and hanged him.

Meddling in other countries’ political feuds is no one’s business.

Why not wage war on Mexico? It is right there, forcefully, illegally invading your country, hurting the economy, seizing jobs from American citizens, killing youngsters with cheap drugs provided by their drug cartels. Legitimate reasons. Easier targets.

Or are the reasons more nefarious, ambitious gains of crude oil, natural gas, uranium and other resources for fear Russia or China would grab them first?

In 1958 the novel The Ugly American was written by Eugene Burdick and William Lederer. It depicted the failures of US diplomatic dealings in Southeast Asia. Adapted for the screen in 1963 starring Marlon Brando as the American ambassador, Harrison MacWhite who at first was baffled and refused to accept the anti-American sentiments, but finally he saw the light.

That should have been lesson enough for anyone willing to learn.

“Whom they have injured, they also hate.”

 Seneca, Lucius Annaeus (c 4 BC-65 AD)

*A version of this article appears in print in the 9 September, 2021 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.

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