Categorized | Features, General, News, Opinions

Terrorism and Pandora’s Box

By Edgar Nkosi White

Terrorism is an emotive word and like holocaust and racism, its meaning seems to constantly change depending on who uses it.  For example, I feel almost a parental love and ownership of the word slavery and have to be constantly reminded that it’s not mine to keep since in fact, it’s still being busily practiced in a good portion of the world even now.  That gives others the right to use it too.  So feel free.   It’s hard to keep possession of words once they slip from your mouth because words, once they leave you, are as difficult to redeem as your soul.

Recently in London, a soldier was killed in the street, hacked to death by two men.  The brutal incident was labelled “terrorist”.  Politicians and leaders of many stripes were quick to respond.  Some tried to manipulate the situation by appealing to hysteria and panic while others called for calm.  Likewise, some clergymen were fast to label this the end time and the last days of Armageddon.  But before we go leaping into the abyss, a few questions should at least be asked, if not fully answered.  Namely, is a soldier still a soldier even if not in uniform?  Is a soldier a legitimate target in a time of war?  What and who exactly are we at war against?  However you answer these questions they only lead, like a Socratic discourse, to yet further questions which never cease.  For me, the largest question of all is:  Why is there no outrage and outcry when drone missiles fall on innocent civilians daily, killing women and children in Pakistan, in Afghanistan and Palestine and countless other places on the globe?

Why is it permissible then in those cases to merely shrug a shoulder and emit words like regrettable and collateral damage?

To me, what is amazing is for someone to toss up a rock into the air above their head and be shocked if it falls and hits them, as if for some reason they had expected that the law of gravity would somehow cease for them.  To unleash violence is to open Pandora’s Box.  Once we start to let free the demons we can never lock them back again.  We can’t be random or selective.  We can’t say this death is acceptable because it’s not face to face but through some glass, darkly, as when a button is pushed from some far away vantage point in some bunker.  Whether it is the release of a napalm bomb or drone missile as opposed to a meat cleaver in a street, it’s all the same.

Of course, the really disturbing fact about this action in London was that as opposed to the clinical distance of a suicide video mailed to a television station, people were made to witness the calm interaction of perpetrators with onlookers there on the street.  Rational explanation was given for exactly what was being done and why.  People actually recorded it all on their cell phones.  The whole situation was surreal and yet the faces of the attackers were familiar, common every day black faces which could be encountered anywhere in London, even in the most gated community where they might be, if not neighbours then certainly workers.  They were engaging others in calm and polite conversation before returning to continue to deal with their selected target.  There is an attempt at present to label this incident a racist attack as distinct from terrorist.  Racist attack is a category which has hitherto almost always been the exclusive domain of whites of the host community unleashing venom on Blacks or Jews or against Muslims.  Now the hope is by labelling this incident as merely being racist, the oxygen of publicity will somehow be avoided.  At the same time, there is a desire to highlight the incendiary nature of the crime.  It’s a very tricky tightrope to have to walk between racist and terrorist.

So before we set off on our vigilante campaigns and start to attack every Muslin man, woman and child we come upon, it might be well to just pause long enough to think.  Where will this lust for vengeance lead us?  The answer is never ending war.  This was something which was hinted at on the outset of the Iraq war.  How eager everyone was to set upon the enemy with “Shock and awe” strategy which would guarantee victory.  Once the enemy was subdued (remember Mission Accomplished?) we would then set out for our next target.  We never foresaw that instead of waving the white flag above their heads, the enemy would simply morph into countless other forms, slipping back and forth easily between borders, toppling whole countries and turning those who were once considered safe allies into unrecognizable factions.  We never thought they might spring up in our own communities and perhaps even our own families.  And most important of all, none of the experts and so called pundits had even an inkling of the Arab Spring and the resultant domino effect.

Why was it that no one told us that people might one day tire of injustice or even get bored with fear?  The answer is simply because it was unthinkable.

The stratagem of the west, especially the U.S. and Britain has always been to prop up and support cruel dictatorships with the proviso that they remain stable.  Why?  Because such regimes have proven to be very profitable.  And so we had the Shah of Iran, Marcos in the Philippines, Mobutu in the Congo, Papa Doc Duvalier in Haiti, Mubarak in Egypt, et al.  The list is almost endless.  As a matter of fact, a good test of corruption in a leader is whether or not the U.S. embraced them and allowed them to remain in power for at least twenty years.  There’s a lot to be said for consistency, at least until it fails and you find yourself on the wrong side of history.

And so now, before we go rushing off on the crusade of vengeance and skin-head rallies in support of the lone slain soldier, it may be well to ask just how much support does Britain actually give to its soldiers once they return from war?  The answer is not-a-hell-of-a-lot.  There has been a record spike in suicide of war vets recently.  Even the Falklands, which rushed our recently fallen Margaret Thatcher to fame, has resulted in some alarming figures.  Whereas 255 British soldiers died in the Falklands conflict, 264 have committed suicide in the twenty years since.  I don’t see people marching or Prime Minister Cameron going biblical about that.  Truth be told, they are getting ready to cut veteran benefits even further this year.  I was shocked to learn these statistics and the cavalier attitude of the Military which states very simply:  “Sadly, vets are no longer soldiers; they are vets and so not our priority.”

Britain loves ceremonies and commemorative events.  They’ll make much of the twentieth anniversary of the Falkland victory (in fact the last victory Britain’s had) and forget the rest.  This is why I can’t take too seriously this professed outrage at the death of a soldier.  True this attack was savage and meant to shock.  There was a time when people went to battle and came home.  Now all battles are brought home.  We bring them with us on cell phones.  There is no safe ground because the madness has been unleashed.  The bloodier the outrage, the more scores yet to be settled.  The result is perpetual war in search of perpetual peace.  Why is it that the worse we do to each other as human beings the less we feel?  Why the greater the cruelty the more numb we become to cruelty?

If instead of trying to justify murder, we admit that we’re wrong to kill any unarmed human being in the name of a cause—be it in the name of Islam or some abstract war against terrorism—then the use of drone missiles is wrong and the reckless killing of civilians anywhere in the world is wrong.  Save all our sanctimonious statements of being on God’s side.  When we kill we’re on the wrong side, period.  War leads only to endless war and the rape of the soul isn’t rapture.

 

Edgar Nkosi White is a Montserrat born playwright and novelist.
His novel, The Rising, is available on Amazon.

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A Moment with the Registrar of Lands

By Edgar Nkosi White

Terrorism is an emotive word and like holocaust and racism, its meaning seems to constantly change depending on who uses it.  For example, I feel almost a parental love and ownership of the word slavery and have to be constantly reminded that it’s not mine to keep since in fact, it’s still being busily practiced in a good portion of the world even now.  That gives others the right to use it too.  So feel free.   It’s hard to keep possession of words once they slip from your mouth because words, once they leave you, are as difficult to redeem as your soul.

Recently in London, a soldier was killed in the street, hacked to death by two men.  The brutal incident was labelled “terrorist”.  Politicians and leaders of many stripes were quick to respond.  Some tried to manipulate the situation by appealing to hysteria and panic while others called for calm.  Likewise, some clergymen were fast to label this the end time and the last days of Armageddon.  But before we go leaping into the abyss, a few questions should at least be asked, if not fully answered.  Namely, is a soldier still a soldier even if not in uniform?  Is a soldier a legitimate target in a time of war?  What and who exactly are we at war against?  However you answer these questions they only lead, like a Socratic discourse, to yet further questions which never cease.  For me, the largest question of all is:  Why is there no outrage and outcry when drone missiles fall on innocent civilians daily, killing women and children in Pakistan, in Afghanistan and Palestine and countless other places on the globe?

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Why is it permissible then in those cases to merely shrug a shoulder and emit words like regrettable and collateral damage?

To me, what is amazing is for someone to toss up a rock into the air above their head and be shocked if it falls and hits them, as if for some reason they had expected that the law of gravity would somehow cease for them.  To unleash violence is to open Pandora’s Box.  Once we start to let free the demons we can never lock them back again.  We can’t be random or selective.  We can’t say this death is acceptable because it’s not face to face but through some glass, darkly, as when a button is pushed from some far away vantage point in some bunker.  Whether it is the release of a napalm bomb or drone missile as opposed to a meat cleaver in a street, it’s all the same.

Of course, the really disturbing fact about this action in London was that as opposed to the clinical distance of a suicide video mailed to a television station, people were made to witness the calm interaction of perpetrators with onlookers there on the street.  Rational explanation was given for exactly what was being done and why.  People actually recorded it all on their cell phones.  The whole situation was surreal and yet the faces of the attackers were familiar, common every day black faces which could be encountered anywhere in London, even in the most gated community where they might be, if not neighbours then certainly workers.  They were engaging others in calm and polite conversation before returning to continue to deal with their selected target.  There is an attempt at present to label this incident a racist attack as distinct from terrorist.  Racist attack is a category which has hitherto almost always been the exclusive domain of whites of the host community unleashing venom on Blacks or Jews or against Muslims.  Now the hope is by labelling this incident as merely being racist, the oxygen of publicity will somehow be avoided.  At the same time, there is a desire to highlight the incendiary nature of the crime.  It’s a very tricky tightrope to have to walk between racist and terrorist.

So before we set off on our vigilante campaigns and start to attack every Muslin man, woman and child we come upon, it might be well to just pause long enough to think.  Where will this lust for vengeance lead us?  The answer is never ending war.  This was something which was hinted at on the outset of the Iraq war.  How eager everyone was to set upon the enemy with “Shock and awe” strategy which would guarantee victory.  Once the enemy was subdued (remember Mission Accomplished?) we would then set out for our next target.  We never foresaw that instead of waving the white flag above their heads, the enemy would simply morph into countless other forms, slipping back and forth easily between borders, toppling whole countries and turning those who were once considered safe allies into unrecognizable factions.  We never thought they might spring up in our own communities and perhaps even our own families.  And most important of all, none of the experts and so called pundits had even an inkling of the Arab Spring and the resultant domino effect.

Why was it that no one told us that people might one day tire of injustice or even get bored with fear?  The answer is simply because it was unthinkable.

The stratagem of the west, especially the U.S. and Britain has always been to prop up and support cruel dictatorships with the proviso that they remain stable.  Why?  Because such regimes have proven to be very profitable.  And so we had the Shah of Iran, Marcos in the Philippines, Mobutu in the Congo, Papa Doc Duvalier in Haiti, Mubarak in Egypt, et al.  The list is almost endless.  As a matter of fact, a good test of corruption in a leader is whether or not the U.S. embraced them and allowed them to remain in power for at least twenty years.  There’s a lot to be said for consistency, at least until it fails and you find yourself on the wrong side of history.

And so now, before we go rushing off on the crusade of vengeance and skin-head rallies in support of the lone slain soldier, it may be well to ask just how much support does Britain actually give to its soldiers once they return from war?  The answer is not-a-hell-of-a-lot.  There has been a record spike in suicide of war vets recently.  Even the Falklands, which rushed our recently fallen Margaret Thatcher to fame, has resulted in some alarming figures.  Whereas 255 British soldiers died in the Falklands conflict, 264 have committed suicide in the twenty years since.  I don’t see people marching or Prime Minister Cameron going biblical about that.  Truth be told, they are getting ready to cut veteran benefits even further this year.  I was shocked to learn these statistics and the cavalier attitude of the Military which states very simply:  “Sadly, vets are no longer soldiers; they are vets and so not our priority.”

Britain loves ceremonies and commemorative events.  They’ll make much of the twentieth anniversary of the Falkland victory (in fact the last victory Britain’s had) and forget the rest.  This is why I can’t take too seriously this professed outrage at the death of a soldier.  True this attack was savage and meant to shock.  There was a time when people went to battle and came home.  Now all battles are brought home.  We bring them with us on cell phones.  There is no safe ground because the madness has been unleashed.  The bloodier the outrage, the more scores yet to be settled.  The result is perpetual war in search of perpetual peace.  Why is it that the worse we do to each other as human beings the less we feel?  Why the greater the cruelty the more numb we become to cruelty?

If instead of trying to justify murder, we admit that we’re wrong to kill any unarmed human being in the name of a cause—be it in the name of Islam or some abstract war against terrorism—then the use of drone missiles is wrong and the reckless killing of civilians anywhere in the world is wrong.  Save all our sanctimonious statements of being on God’s side.  When we kill we’re on the wrong side, period.  War leads only to endless war and the rape of the soul isn’t rapture.

 

Edgar Nkosi White is a Montserrat born playwright and novelist.
His novel, The Rising, is available on Amazon.