John Hemming's Web Log John's Reference Website
Friday, July 08, 2005
  Why, what, when?
As with the incidents in New York, Bali and Madrid a question people ask about yesterday's atrocity is "Why?".

The "Why" should be relatively straightforward. For a society which is as peaceful as the British society normally is it is difficult to understand the reasons why people do this sort of thing.

In a sense I picked up more understanding when I visited Lyon as part of a local government based approach to peace in the Middle East. We had a wide range of local politicians including some Mayors who had been in the IDF.

It was quite clear that although everyone there was committed to finding a peaceful solution that this is not the case for everyone in the Middle East. The situation between the two groups is such that some people wanted revenge far more than they wanted peace. At times the lust for revenge is so strong that people resort to terrorism.

A similar situation exists worldwide where disputes escalate from smaller incidents into larger developments.

Atrocities like yesterday's bombings should never be trivialised. They will, however, not directly undermine the British way of life - nor should they be allowed to. The Birmingham Blitz during the second world war killed over 2,000 civilians and injured many more. This, however, was not allowed to undermine life in Birmingham. There will, of course, be a media frenzy on this story for about a week, but life will continue.

Indeed we should not allow such an event to derail ordinary life although we must show our repects and share condolences with the bereaved families.

This does not conflict with people continuing to go to films, plays and concerts. To do anything else would be a victory for terrorism.

Clearly the police are taking the right steps in keeping the sites sealed off so they can identify evidence to be able to identify the culprits involved in this so that anyone responsible can be brought to justice.

The organisers would be clearly aware of the fact that the bombings could not undermine the UK directly. The question is what they were looking for. To that extent I agree with Ken Livingstone that their objective was to divide society. If they can stimulate the UK into an indiscriminate, intemperate response then that has the potential to increase support for the terrorists.

The mechanism is simple. If the UK takes action against people who were not responsible then the families of those will see the UK as their enemy. It is crucial that the UK only takes action against people who can be shown to be responsible for the dreadful deeds. Such action would be seen by the world as clearly justified. I do think that the government understands this issue better now than was the case previously.

We must remain vigilant. However, we must not allow this evil act to derail our society. We must not give in to terrorism.

At the same time, however, Britain does need to think carefully about how it is perceived in the world. In countries in which Britain was seen positively, the attitudes have now changed. By being too closely linked to the arrogant US Foreign Policy, British people are now tarred with the same brush.

We can see this sort of conflict operating in Iraq. The argument used by the UK government against an early withdrawal from Iraq refers to "defeating" the insurgency in Iraq. Even the US government has recognised that the insurgency cannot be defeated in a purely military sense. Their attack on Fallujah strengthened the insurgency by driving more people into the camp of the insurgents. The insurgency is a response to the presence of US troops particularly and also British troops.

This feudal type of battle is very similar to the international disputes that result in terrorism. The actions are often driven by a lust for revenge and tit-for-tat retaliations.

Action does need to be taken, but it must be proportionate action against people shown to be the right people. Otherwise things escalate.

We face substantial problems globally in part from the situation we are currently in with substantial anger (as evidenced at G8) and resentment at the arrogant way in which the world is being run. This will be exacerbated by the materialist society in which we live going through cold turkey as it encounters the withdrawal symptoms from the reducing availability of cheap fixes to the fossil fuel addicted economies.

This can act as a stimulus for greater conflict or we can hope that our governments may realise that arrogance is the enemy of peace.
 
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