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Friday, December 20, 2013

The 'hen or egg' perennial question




Today, in The Guardian's 'Comment is Free' columns, Seumas Milne argues 'denying a link between western wars in the Muslim world and the backlash on our streets only fuels Islamophobia and bloodshed'. 


In what will be seen by many as a controversial argument, Milne re-establishes the obvious (or what should have been obvious) link between the war on terror, its 'dehumanization' and transmutation into a war where borders are irrelevant on the one hand and terrorist attacks such as the one that took place in Woolwich last May.
To say these attacks are about "foreign policy" prettifies the reality. They are the predicted consequence of an avalanche of violence unleashed by the US, Britain and others in eight direct military interventions in Arab and Muslim countries that have left hundreds of thousands of dead. Only the willfully blind or ignorant can be shocked when there is blowback from that onslaught at home. The surprise should be that there haven't been more such atrocities.... it is the US and its closest allies in the war on terror who have declared the whole world to be a battlefield, in which they claim the right to kill whoever they deem to be a threat.British and US special forces have been doing that in Somalia. The US routinely kills large numbers of civilians in drone strikes across the Muslim world – 12 were reported incinerated last week in Yemen. By waging a war without borders, often against unarmed or unidentified victims, they have fatally blurred the boundaries and invited their enemies to do the same. That was Adebolajo's view of the Woolwich attack, his brother Jeremiah told al-Jazeera TV: "The geographical location of the battlefield, since this war on terror, has basically disappeared."
For many such an argument misses the point that terrorists exploit the victim card to pursue their agenda of hatred.

And, indeed, Adebolajo was a confused, troubled person. No one knows what he might have done if he had not encountered preachers of hatred. The Woolwich attack might have happened in the name of another cause or even without a cause. Or it might have not happened at all if Adebolajo had channeled his concerns, energy or even confusion to other, positive, pursuits.

But ignoring that three perpetrators of  acts of terrorism have linked their actions to indiscriminate attacks against Muslims, in a war without borders is not an honest and viable option. The war on terror is inextricably linked with the capacity of narratives of hatred to make sense to and get a hold on people who might have otherwise chosen other paths in their lives. This rhetoric of resistance is plausible and can sustain narratives that make terrorism legitimate or even unavoidable in the eyes of the perpetrators largely because of the indiscriminate, brutal, routinized and 'dehumanized' nature war on terror. 

PS. in what could be interpreted as a 'Freudian slip' I had originally written war of terror. 

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