Collateral Damage

Well, apparently, we are at War.

That’s what we’ve been told over the last four years anyway: we are at War with Terrorism. Now, most people I know, protested against this “War”. We didn’t want to be a part of it, we didn’t want our soldiers to fight it, and we didn’t want the politicians that wanted to fight it.

We still don’t want to be in this “War”.

Now as I understand it, unless I’m very much mistaken (and that would be highly unusual), quite a lot of civilians on the “other side” of this War have been killed since it began.

We don’t know exactly how many, because apparently our politicians don’t count civilian dead, or as they referred to the individual human lives destroyed and mutilated by this War: Collateral Damage. We suspect it to be in the high thousands, and some estimates put at above a hundred thousand dead Iraqis, killed by the “War on Terror”. However many it is, it’s a lot of Collateral Damage.

And now, on Thursday, some civilians on “our side” of the “War on Terror” were killed. Not hundreds of thousands, not thousands, actually somewhere around 50, with several hundred more seriously injured.

And you know what? I suspect we’ll get to learn the names of every single Londoner killed on Thursday, because by the sounds of things, they are going to be counted very carefully.

Because of course, by the standards of the Western protagonists of the “War on Terror”, apparently Thursday’s dead Londoners were not Collateral Damage. Being the actual target, rather than incidental targets is morally so much worse.

Apparently, 50 Western civilians killed deliberately is much worse than 10,000 Arab civilians killed accidentally, not least of all because of the despicable methods used to kill them.

What would make the “other side” in the “War on Terror” more morally acceptable, apparently, would be if they lined up in uniformed ranks, and fought regiment to regiment, division to division, army to army. You know: a fair fight; a man’s fight; an honourable fight. Because all this using whatever tactics and opportunities that are available to those opposing the greatest military power the World has ever seen, is just downright unsporting. It’s not cricket; it’s not playing the White Man; it is Evil.


Of course, by now, we’re well into Ultra-Vicious Circle territory.

If those on the “other side” of the “War on Terror” actually used conventional, contemporary methods of warfare, they would no longer be labelled “Terrorists”, and would no longer be the targets of the “War on Terror”; and so wouldn’t have to fight at all.

But they have been targeted; and they are fighting back; and they are using the only methods that stand a chance of penetrating the kind of cigar-smoke-thick fog of irrational “resolve” possessed and paraded by politicians in the U.S. and the U.K. And because they are using those methods, they will continue to be targets of the “War on Terror”. Because they will continue to be targets of the “War on Terror”, they will continue to use the methods they do on the other targets in the “War on Terror”.

And throughout all of this, civilians in the Middle East and in the West (at least in those countries actively promulgating the “War on Terror”) will continue to be converted into Collateral Damage.

You know what? Whatever the death toll in Iraq since 2003, caused by our invading troops, I reckon we Londoners got off pretty lightly. Civilians are being turned into the same Collateral Damage numbers in Iraq as were created in London on Thursday, every day.

And so, Londoners aren’t feeling aggrieved. Londoners aren’t feeling outraged or hysterical. That’s not the London way. Londoners are having the same feelings we’ve felt every Time in the last 1,000 years that our Dear Leaders have decided to risk turning us into Collateral Damage by taking us to War. We have never expected the “other side” to take all the death we’ve so nobly dispatched to them, without sending at least some of it back our way. What happened on Thursday was an inevitable consequence of Tony Blair’s decision to back the United States in the “War on Terror”.

I suspect our Dear Leader’s response to Thursday’s attacks however, will be to encourage his Capo di Tutti Capo in Washington to create even more Collateral Damage, over there on the “other side”. And from thence, well, I refer you to the Ultra-Vicious Circle above.

No-one in London is outraged by Thursday’s attacks; because every Londoner is streetwise enough to know that if you’re going to give it, you’ve got to expect to take it. We Londoners can take it ­ we can take most anything: ask anyone who lived through the Blitz and the IRA ­ but that doesn’t mean we have to take it. Not when a change of democratic leadership and a reversal of militaristic policy could effect our safety so much more simply.

Now that those of us on “this side” of the “War on Terror” have had a taste of the medicine we’ve been dishing out to the “other side”, maybe we’ll get around to agreeing that we are not gonna take it anymore.

Maybe we will realise that the only way to stop a person fighting to defend their home and their Loved ones, is to stop attacking their homes and their Loved ones. I can’t think of any other way you can get them to stop, short of exterminating them all. And who wants that kind of Spiritual debt on their conscience?

Londoners aren’t outraged by Thursday’s attacks, but we do now feel a greater solidarity with all those Iraqis whose lives have been destroyed by the Terrorist Politicians on our side.

We understand fully now what is meant by Collateral Damage.

STEPHEN WINSPEAR lives in London. He can be reached at: