Rio de Janeiro
The 27-seven-year-old Brazilian born electrician, Jean Charles de Menezes was killed by an anti-terrorist hit squad in London on Friday July 22. Seven bullets pierced his skull and shattered his brain, while the impact of an eighth snapped his spine. His death has left a poor, rural family grieving, and tens of thousands of Brazilian immigrants and students in England outraged.
In the immediate aftermath to his murder, his shocked cousin, Alexandre Pereira, could not control his fury. The powers granted by the English government to pre-emptively murder potential suicide bombers abide by the same logic as the atrocities committed by American and British forces in Iraq, he went to assert. The English government is well rehearsed in the use of these emergency powers endowed by the State to use against citizens and foreigners alike. Methods implemented in Northern Ireland and Iraq have been turned to the homeland.
But Jean Charles was neither Arab, Pakistani, nor Muslim. On July 22, after leaving his home to go to work, he was followed by a gang he could not have suspected consisted of law enforcement agents. No crime he may have committed on his commute can justify his brutal murder, nor the State’s claim to a monopoly on using murder legally. Jean Charles’ ethnic and national background had nothing to do with Iraq. Brazilians have continually manifested their opposition to the invasion and occupation of that country. Nor did his religious faith have anything to do with Islam. But his death will not have been in vain, for it has provided the Muslim committee with some breathing space to keep their pride.
As Bush did before him, by transforming the terrorist attacks of July 10 into England’s 9/11, Blair is taking advantage of civil panic to settle scores. His press conference of July 26 was by far the most international in tenor since his unequivocal support of Bush and Sharon’s military plans for the Middle East. He insisted, gnarled and beat away at any attempt to, in his words, “justify” the terror attacks. Yet his pose merely cast the pathetic silhouette of a shadow boxer.
As with 9/11, the acts were performed by human beings. Some of these individuals were devoted community workers. The fact that some of them were British citizens simply underscores how close Europe is, unlike North America, to the Middle East and North Africa, and how deeply history is able to tear events away from a compressed present. These individuals thought over their acts, planned them, and executed them. Part of the plan, criminally involving the murder of innocent civilians, involves paying for the act with their own lives.
Also like 9/11, coming to terms with the horror of these choices is an act by which citizens strive to understand the grounds of revolt, mad and blind as they may be. Such pondering has nothing whatsoever to do with “justifying”. Blair’s tough guy performance could not intimidate any would-be suicide bombers. Instead, he meant to threaten anyone opposing his militaristic state-terror policies in Iraq.
Deliberative democracy has no counts to pay to authoritarian longings. All citizens have an inalienable right to condemn their government’s criminal actions, and to insist upon accountability. That the criminal acts of a handful of individuals will have comprised the social standing and peaceful desire of Muslims for full integration into British culture and life will be the responsibility of Blair’s ignoble cowardice for supporting his country’s big corporate interests (oil and guns) over the lives of innocent civilians in Iraq and England.
For the warnings were clear. The nature of this war has changed with the miniaturization of weaponry and explosives. In their colonial wars, the European powers condemned as terrorists those who employed guerrilla war tactics to organize the subjected unarmed population. To their acts the European powers, England and France, then the United States, in Kenya, Algerian, Indochina, Korea and Vietnam, bombed rifle shooters from the air, and slaughtered tens of thousands of civilians “just for the example”. But the powers learned the strategy of guerrilla warfare and taught their future officers the secrets they learned from defeat.
Against infrared technological sighting, organized revolt has grown even harder. The road has been opened to the shocking and dismal path of self-sacrifice while pulling the innocent down into hell, in the belief that heaven waits at the end of the spirit’s road. Regardless of the religious convictions behind jihad, political solutions favorable to the Muslim populations of the Middle East have never fit the Anglo-American equation. With the G7 population’s accomplishments in deliberative democracy, much of which inspired by the independence wars fought in India, Algeria, Cuba and elsewhere, authoritarian leaders pushing to return their corporate dues must seek different paths to persuade and fool.
Disinformation campaigns do follow rules of efficiency. Inevitably, at one point, they fail. The technocrats of risk calculate probabilistic charts to account for possible blowback, and how to anticipate the potential financial losses incurred. For two years now, it has been clear to the eyes of any half-curious observer that the Iraqi occupation, through Abu Ghraib, destroyed cities like Fallujah, endless civilian deaths and brutal home searches, has pushed the bar of the terrorist coefficient in guerrilla warfare up to unheard of levels.
Never a word to condemn torture by shameless Blair. The same Blair who filed all Chechen resistance fighters as terrorists is now smearing England’s distinguished Muslim community as potential terrorists. What if Jean Charles de Menezes was Muslim? No doubt, the British establishment would have barked at any complaint from the Islamic community, dismissing collateral damage as the outcome of acts “its own kind” had committed. The slaying of the Brazilian Jean Charles finds some redemption in allowing British Muslims to assert their rights to voice opposition to British authoritarian and racist policies.
There was always another way to Blair’s in reacting to 9/11. Beyond France and Germany, this was Canada’s. Hospitable to any American in distress in those days of gloom, Canada opened its border inward. What it got in return was American disinterest and Bush’s oblivion, matched with unfounded accusations against Canada’s border enforcement.
There is another way, Mr Blair. It does not go by the path of State sanctioned execution, but by humility. That socialism was ever tied to your name is a historical stain on progressive politics. Your European way of governance, acting with civility at home while leading imperialist policies abroad, is an old, hypocritical farce. It perpetuates the very lie upon which British civilization attempted to eradicate the French voice of Canada, and the voices of nations the world over.
There is another way. It’s called peace and dialogue. At least one country in the Commonwealth, Canada, has recognized that. Another nation in the Americas, Brazil, has also stood firm on international peace. Innocence has been killed to let the voice of protest breathe. And breathe it shall.
NORMAN MADARASZ, a Canadian, is visiting professor of philosophy (Bolsista CAPES/Brasil) at Universidade Gama Filho, Rio de Janeiro. He welcomes comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.