Saturday 21 November 2015

Saturday Evenings: Stay In, Sit Up and Switch On

A few years ago a fellow blogger sent me an e-mail with a link in it asking me if I was interested in joining some kind of online protest. I cannot recall all the details but it was something to do with turning my blog into some kind of virtual Hyde Park Speakers’ Corner. The soap-box, sadly, was not included.

My answer at the time is the same answer I would give now to anyone asking me the same question: I do not normally use my blog for those purposes. Whatever is going on in the world, I let it sink in first and then, if I can add something constructive to the online debate, I will do so. There have been a few exceptions, but overall that has been a rule of mine to follow all these years as a blogger. The reason for this is that too often I find a knee-jerk reaction to events that call for a thorough analysis and that includes my own gut reaction. For a second, or a minute or a day, I stop thinking like a normal human being and become a vindictive monster hell-bent on revenge.

The terrorist acts in Beirut and Paris last week, and Mali only yesterday attest to this. The reactions have been of the binary kind: on the one hand, we have had plenty of well-meaning displays of solidarity, chiefly with the people murdered in the French capital. I, too, have joined those for the last seven days both on Twitter and Facebook. On the other hand there has been the usual crass response to the terrorist crisis, such as Donald Trump’s comments that he would give Muslims “a special form of identification that noted their religion”. Just in case you have been hiding under a rock all this time, Donald Trump aspires to be the president of the United States of America.

When I hear or read comments like that, my first question is: why do we adopt a one-size-fits-all approach to terrorism when this scourge is a multi-layered issue? If the solution were bombing the little buggers out of their miserable existence, that would have been done long time ago. It would have taken years but at least governments would have concentrated on just that one solution. But the sort of terrorism that we have come across for the last fourteen years is of a different kind with its very specific cycle of life, or death, as it has shown itself to be.

Do not get me wrong. To me, fighting Daesh is still a priority, even going the military way. At the same time, I would like our governments to think more creatively even if in the long run some of the financial rewards they have enjoyed so far fade into oblivion. Human life is more important than exports in my humble opinion.

First of all, consider the enemy. In normal warfare, no matter how hard, long-running or dirty the war is, your opponent will want to go back home in one piece. There have been heroic acts of immolation in history but most of the time soldiers on both sides have always wanted to stay alive. When it comes to fundamentalists, they do not care whether they are killed in what they call combat or if they are not. In fact, martyrdom renders them superheroes to other wannabe-terrorists. My suggestion is that we stop using words such as “battlefield” when talking about a massacre like the one at the Bataclan theatre. That was murder. Murder in cold blood. The people who murdered the concert-goers were murderers, killers. They were not, at least for me, soldiers. Because Daesh is not an army, it is a loose association of idiots guided by a twisted ideology based on the wrong interpretation of a sacred text.

Not Paris, but Beirut

Secondly, cut the supply. This will be the hardest measure to implement. Cut the supply of weapons, for instance. As far as I know Daesh is not a weapons manufacturer, nor do they have weapon-manufacturing facilities. This means that they are getting their guns from various sources: direct sale from trustworthy companies or individuals, theft and bribe. Direct sale should be easy to stop as it leaves a paper trail behind it. In this time and age with NSA and GCHQ knowing what goes on in almost every single household in Britain and the US, their intelligence could come in handy to follow the clues from warehouse to buyer. When it comes to theft, the west has to get its act together. For too long the arms industry has enjoyed a challenge-free existence because very rarely the weapons it has sold to rogue states and dictatorships affected their own citizens. Not anymore. The guns, submachine guns and other heavy artillery used by Daesh in their military drills and skirmishes can be traced back to the arsenal sold to countries in the Middle East and Asia, including, surprise, surprise!, Syria. This is the windfall to which I referred before and which has caused untold misery. Cut the supply of weapons and where will that leave Daesh? It is not the same to practice with the latest state-of-the-art automatic gun, stolen from a dead American, Afghan or Iraqi soldier in Afghanistan or Iraq, than to carry out exercises using only knives and pretend weapons. Knives can still kill, but they will not kill as many as those who were murdered in Beirut or at the Bataclan in Paris. It goes without saying that a radical measure like this one, a ban on all weapons sales, would be opposed by almost every single arms manufacturer in the world. The question is: what do we value more, arms exports or human lives?

The third element to take into consideration is the make-up of Daesh, especially the young people joining this terrorist organisation. That is another supply we ought to cut, nip it in the bud, so to speak. Why are some of our young people, especially Muslims, attracted to this gallery of cartoonish characters called Daesh? Maybe if we stopped laughing at Donald Trump et al and we started listening to their poisonous message and accepting it for what it is, a message said in earnest without any hint of irony, we could start making some progress towards engaging some of our young Muslim population in a productive dialogue. Two important disclaimers here: the first one if that this is not an attack on free speech. Donald Trump can say what he wants to as long as he can justify it. Same with British politicians, especially those who are pointing their finger at the refugee crisis and calling it a Trojan horse (oh, no, sorry, that was Donald again!). Just a little reminder: the 7/7 bombers did not come to the UK as refugees; neither did the perpetrators of 9/11. I could carry on. The second disclaimer is that not all young Muslims want to join Daesh. I know I am stating he bleeding truth but sometimes the bleeding truth must be stated to avoid confusion and misinterpretation.

The fourth element is the way the media deals with terrorism, mainly the new fundamentalism. If I am honest, I only found out about Beirut through Paris. Paris got much of the coverage. The sad outcome of this is that resentment will grow in a community that already feels beleaguered. By focusing on Beirut, Mali, Nigeria and other places where Daesh or a similar terrorist cell has struck, we begin to see the people in that part of the world as equals and not as AN OTHER.

I could list more elements that I believe would eventually deal effectively with this terrorist crisis. I think that the two most important factors are the arms industry and the disaffection of the youth. Prioritise human lives over the arms trade and work on the young, their aspirations and frustrations. This will not eliminate Daesh, but it will cut the supply of weaponry and personnel from which they are benefitting at the moment. I admit it is not a perfect solution and that it will take time, but then again this new kind of terrorism is not black and white but rather grey with blood stains on it.

© 2015

Next Post: “London, my London”, to be published on Wednesday 25th November at 6pm (GMT)


  1. I don't judge anyone on how they handle their time online, because I don't think it is nice to judge someone unless one really knows the person, and even then, the time I spend judging someone can be the time I spend working on myself. I don't get involved in protests either online or otherwise and I don't like or get involved in gossip because I feel that it can, and does, hurt others. I love your blog, thank you so much for sharing.

  2. I feel utterly confused about this, probably because I feel so disturbed by what has been happening, and I'm still working it all out When you're dealing with utterly unreasonable people, people who can only see their own point of view, the only thing to do is get them out of your life somehow. That, I do know. I also believe that Daesh's aim is to turn people who don't agree with its aims against each other - in particular, make it hard for moderate Muslims in Western countries.

  3. I feel utterly confused about this, probably because I feel so disturbed by what has been happening, and I'm still working it all out When you're dealing with utterly unreasonable people, people who can only see their own point of view, the only thing to do is get them out of your life somehow. That, I do know. I also believe that Daesh's aim is to turn people who don't agree with its aims against each other - in particular, make it hard for moderate Muslims in Western countries.

  4. Thank you.
    Murderers they are. And, sadly more effective in the self appointed role of selling death and fear than their opposition.
    I agree with your post whole-heartedly. About 1000 per cent. Conservatively speaking.

  5. Murderers they are indeed. But the stupid NRA and gun nuts will never let guns stop being sold, it all comes back to greed.

  6. I do think your sentiments are noble, CiL, but I also think you are talking against the wind in terms of weapons. Between money and politics, the flow of arms will continue until doomsday. The reason the CIA was in Benghazi, Libya, for instance, was for smuggling weapons which had been in the armories of Muammar Gaddafi to so-called anti-Bashar al-Assad "freedom fighters" in Syria. Even the recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize tried to be in the arms business.

    Barring another major, 9/11-type event in the U.S., the situation will continue to ebb and flow at least until another president is in the oval office about fourteen months from now.

    Apparently the term Daesh has been around a while, but your use of it was totally alien for me. I had to look it up. ISIL continues to be the term used by White House spokespeople in most instances -- even by Barack Obama and John Kerry. Conservative commentators use ISIS exclusively. Other media here sort of follow either the White House lead or the use adopted by conservative politicians. It ranges somewhere between comic and pathetic that political opponents in the U.S. cannot even agree what to call their enemy.

    I like your choice of music, CiL. I have friends among the Lebanese community, and enjoy their food and their music.

  7. Nicely thought out message. Thanks.

  8. I hadn't heard the name Daesh before. Maybe I don't read enough newspapers. I visited a blog recently where the question was asked 'what should we call these people (meaning terrorists) and it went on to introduce various names made up of initial letters. My response was simply to call them MURDERERS.

  9. Hi Cubano--I very much agree. I often wonder why they call these events "acts of war" rather than "crimes" since it seems to dignify them in a way not deserving. My guess is that the Western governments feel that if it is called an "act of war," there is a greater excuse for retribution, but I still disagree with the approach. The weapons are crazy--I kind of think a lot of money is coming from Saudi Arabia--and perhaps there needs to be some calling out there. But the approach of the Trumps etc alienating a entire community and religion is not only horrible but crazy. It really does play into the hands of the terrorists "us" against "them" mentality (as well as being unfair and illegal), a great recruiting mechanism. I think it is so hard to be a young man in the modern world--I don't know and wouldn't suggest a going back--as that seems to involve even more subjugation of women--but somehow purpose has to be re-purposed.

    Thanks so much for checking out my book, and for your kind comment. I don't want to fill my comments here with links and I don't want to take your time, but I almost didn't post my last night's poem because I thought you might visit and you would have liked the one before so much better! (About NYC and very tangentially some of the issues you write of here--very tangentially--anyway--here is the link to that poem if you are interested--but please don't feel pushed!) I almost visited here earlier today --though it is pretty early--to say go to this one and not the most recent. Anyway, here it is:

    1. PS - I did the pic for the cover of the novel, in fact, and think it's probably the best part--ha! k.

  10. great post! thank you so much for your sentiments. the world is full of pain and suffering, hardship and turmoil-it hurts so much...

  11. Hi ACIL - we seem to live and learn via social media - which only gives those who glance a vague idea, and so often most people don't think beyond the immediate ... I know I remotely don't understand the situation at all ... I sincerely hope some leaders will arise and help us get out of the quagmire, as well as lead the world to a kinder place.

    I have read some interesting and informative articles recently ... the answers aren't obvious ... this is a great post - and one I'm sure I'll come back to you - thanks for writing this and not reacting at the time ... - Hilary

  12. Well constructed arguments about a very complicated issue that if we all stop and examine, it has shown itself in various forms at various times in history and geography. Thanks.

  13. Beautiful blog!!!!!nice header and shoots!!I dont know anything aboutpolitics and bombings ect ect..I just want us to travel safe and free.And that our kids can grow up safely go to school.

    I will come back here to you!!

    Big hugs!


  14. Fabulous post, brother. It cuts through all the hateful hysteria that is roiling in the US now. Hate mongers like Trump and the rest of the Republican goon squad are mouthing off like drunks in a saloon. We need an intelligent response to this crisis, not flag-waving idiocy. We tried that once with Bush and the "Mission Accomplished" crowd and that only made things in the Middle East even worse. Here's hoping saner minds will prevail.

  15. I think that the sooner we come to realize that we're all citizens of the same place.. our Earth, we'll begin to see in terms of what you've expressed. Many of us already do. Many of us never will. But somewhere in the middle lies hope.

  16. It is indeed a grey and bloody area, as you say! And we are partly to blame due to politics, our thirst for oil and our immoral arms dealing...

    I am disgusted by people calling refugees Trojan horses... we need more compassion and common sense and less hate and bigotry.

  17. thanks for that
    a multi-layered article and i too think that often things are painted black or white and people forget the grey zones
    certainly no easy answers to this - think we can only fight terrorism if we're united and certainly it's no solution to build more fences - there are too many already

  18. Many thanks for your kind comments.

    Greetings from London.

  19. the trouble in the world today affect us greatly in Sweden as well. I have to follow the news of course. But rarely comment on them in my blogs. As you know.

    Would be cool the learn what your mind says about my work. Intriguing last comment of yours. :)
    You are on FB? I´ll see if I can find you. :)

  20. Fantástico post hermano, de lo mejor que he leído sobre este acontecimiento, abrazos.

  21. I agree - cut off the supplies of weapons and recruits and Daesh will be at least much weakened. I think politicians just don't understand how to approach this crisis.

    And the very thought of Donald Trump being possibly president of the USA is terrifying.

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