As I watch the news on television and see another atrocity unfold in front of my eyes, innocent people crushed to death as they were celebrating Bastille Day, by the weapon of mass destruction that is a white van, the absurdity of the situation becomes hard to miss. 84 – 84 dead, many amongst them children. 84 innocent people crushed to death by a mad man behind wheels, hurling his vehicle at them with the intent to do maximum harm. And so he did, until his turn came to die an early death under the blaze of gun bullets aimed to kill. Every last second of an insignificant life laid to bare on the world stage, analyzed, repeated, studied and vilified. 84 dead. In the coming days, the lives, loves and stories of these people cut down in their prime will fill magazines. Images, anecdotes and testimonies will make them come alive again for a few moments only to heighten that feeling of loss when it is brought home again that because of a mad man behind a wheel, Stephanie will not get her dream wedding and Jeff will not play for the home team, and our eyes will well up in tears.
Meanwhile the world we knew and functioned in comfortably will have changed again to an even more aggressive and unwelcoming place to all who do not come from the West. You are blamed and asked to carry the shame of the act of a lone madman, but was he alone? Or was he following the orders of a higher entity that is fighting to destroy the freedoms the West benefits from. ISIS or IS or Al-Qaeda, these boogie men in the dark who hate western values, western freedoms and consider the rest infidels, sending their radicalized disillusioned soldiers to do Allah’s work in our midst.
But is it western freedoms what they truly hate? Is it these ideals of the enlightenment era on which western countries have based their societies upon that they truly hate and want to destroy? Or is it something much less elusive and much simpler at play here? Simply, simple mathematics?
You see someone somewhere has figured it out. Be it in the caves of Afghanistan or in the corridors of Western universities, someone did the math, made the calculations and passed on the simplest and deadliest thing one can pass along, not a nuclear bomb, but rather an idea.
During the first Gulf War, when Bush I was in power, America was drunk, drunk with power. The USSR had disintegrated, the US could boast that it had won the Cold War and it looked out onto the horizon and saw….nothing, absolutely nothing….for now.
When the world is your oyster, it is your chance to set new standards, to right old wrongs and settle old grievances with the generosity and largess of a winner, correct? No, you go on a rampage and you secure the oil fields on which your economy is based on before someone gets organized enough to stop you.
And so Bush I called the Saudi Arabian king and asked him to issue him an invitation to come and protect him from the madman Saddam to his north, because frankly the American jet planes were already in the air. By the end of the first Gulf War, when
America prided itself for crushing a third world country by carpet bombing it to the stone age and finally sending tanks in to burry alive all the soldiers intrenched to fight a real fight, the mathematics of killing had begun.
If American dead there were, it was more often than not by friendly fire, that Iraqi fellow never had a chance, nor did his family or his village for that matter. The ratio of death I would venture was 100/1, the lonesome 1 being the Western Alliance soldier, the 100, the nameless, faceless Iraqis with no imminent weddings to attend and no home teams to play for. They do not even have a name to go by, let alone a picture. And so began a new era in world consciousness of senseless Arab deaths hidden and unrecognized and accidental Western deaths lionized and immortalized.
Years of sanctions and humiliation under the Clinton administration were capped off by the accidental presidency of a simple minded man, son of Bush I, Bush II. I will venture here into a personal note, I have never been a religious person, I was brought up a Christian, in a household that was more secular than not and where debate and doubt were encouraged over dogma. It was in such an atmosphere that a thought came to my mind one day, that there was no ultimate evil in this world, as there is no ultimate good. If anything there is a Churchillian attitude of interests rather than friendships ruling human relations, but another constant truth struck me, if evil there is, it is not the devil with a tail and horns coming out of the underworld that is at play, but rather the very unfortunate mixture of mediocracy put in power. History seems to correlate that, for what is Hitler but a failed artist? Or Stalin but the paper boy of the greater thinkers in the Bolshevik movement, be it Lenin or Trotsky? But power they did reach through single minded thinking that is not betrayed by a hint of gray, but rather a blatant, simplistic, monochromatic logic of black and white, good and evil, the type of thinking that inevitably leads to killing fields.
And so the calamitous reality that America had voted in a man not up for the job, even if he were an amusing one, was visited upon the world and it had done so at a time when the US had no counterbalance to it and it happened at a time when the sins of the father, Bush I’s Gulf War, was visited on the son, Bush II, 9-11.
And so this mediocre, if gentle man, did what all mediocre men in power do, they unleash evil upon the world, the Iraq War.
And so again, we watched in awe America’s arms superiority being rained on a defenseless, broken, humiliated country, the latest technology it had developed, finally tried and tested on these defenseless guinea pigs. A humiliated America, caught with its pants down, reminding the world of the gravity of its wrath…except that is not what happened. As the bodies fell from the Twin Towers, America’s vulnerability became apparent, and as the aftermath of the war became increasingly chaotic, so did its limitations.
And in this new world order of a fading if clumsy America, the Arab died. Crushed, burnt, smashed or smoked to death with little consequence and even less pump, just dead, whereas every Western death was mourned, cried over and remembered. The mathematics of killing became apparent again, for every western death, at least 100 Arab death must happen to make the evening news.
This mathematical reality is based on an assumption that Arab, especially muslim lives, do not matter, and are not wanted, a perception so respected and lived by that it got absorbed by the very people it described. Be it in Baghdad or Birmingham, a muslim youth understood that his existence on earth was a nuisance and that his life had little value if at all. So much so, that he became willing to give up that which is of such little value, his life, for a greater cause, to maybe lead his fellow muslim out of the living hell he has been living in for the past century. With such a backdrop, it took a small mental leap to find validation in death when it was denied in life. And so to death they all went, finding a purpose in a purposeless life. And then somehow the idea was communicated to them that he need not billions of dollars in arms to fight their fight with the great powers of the west and their proxies, all they had to do was get a plane, a gun or simply a truck and kill 84 people, because 84 westerners x 100 = 8 400 Arabs and this will surely make the evening news.