For those (mostly Christians) attracted to the idea that the ‘war on terror’ is a clash of civilizations (a poisonous notion guaranteed to foment decades of unrestrained violence), a caution: you might want to consider ignoring the old testament injunction an ‘eye for an eye.’ For if there is a moral equivalent to the dead on both sides an eye for an eye will mean literally thousands of terror attacks like the recent horrific one in Barcelona (sixteen dead).
The body count in the West’s criminal assault on Middle East nations is now in the millions. In Syria the death toll is now 470,000. In Iraq, it is a staggering 1,455,590 (not counting foreigners). In Afghanistan, 105,000 including Taliban and Afghan soldiers and police. In Yemen, pulverized by US-backed Saudi Arabia repeatedly accused of war crimes, the toll is now over 12,000 (including 1500 from war-induced cholera) mostly civilians. A child dies of malnutrition every ten minutes. It is impossible to get an accurate count for Libya which the West turned into a grotesque failed state as a result of its exalted ‘responsibility to protect’ doctrine. Estimates range from 30,000 to 100,000.
Divide that roughly 2 million dead by 16 and you get a moral equivalent that would require 125,000 Barcelona attacks. Hard to imagine? Try imagining the daily horror in these countries with a combined daily death toll in multiples of sixteen, week after week, month after month, year after year.
And, of course, that doesn’t take into account the many more millions who have been wounded, displaced as refugees, died trying to get to Europe or permanently traumatized by war – categories that include millions of children whose lives will never be the same.
This is what we have done. What our governments have done in our name. And we are still doing it. The West either invaded these countries completely illegally (as in Iraq and Afghanistan) or encouraged and then betrayed dissident movements that our governments knew could not possibly prevail. Or, as in Syria, our governments quickly handed over the revolution to armed gangs and jihadists because they were more likely to prevail against Assad in the West’s goal of regime change. Or in Libya where we violated the UN resolution for a no fly zone and turned it into an assassination mission.
Does any of this absolve the guilt of the killers in Paris, London, Barcelona and other places? Of course not. Does it mean that every killer has a legitimate grievance against the West? No. But that, of course, is one of the perverse aspects of terrorism: anyone can be a jihadist by simply declaring membership.
It is stunning that there is almost never any connection made between the terrorist threat, which is very real, and the almost twenty year assault on the Muslim countries of the Middle East. Small wonder then that the popular responses to the terror attacks are almost always completely devoid of any recognition of the context of the slaughter. In response to the latest attack tens of thousands marched in Barcelona. The theme was ‘We are not afraid!’ The public response in Britain, France and elsewhere was almost identical.
Do people actually think this is a thoughtful let alone strategic response to terror? It implies that these attacks are similar to hurricanes – unpredictable, unstoppable, inevitable. In fact they should be afraid because more is coming. A more appropriate slogan might have been ‘Get the West out of the Middle East’ and in fact a few demonstrators actually made the point about Western foreign policy. They received little coverage.
Canada has been incredibly lucky that it has not been targeted by ISIL. Our contribution to the destruction and humiliation of Muslim countries was our eager participation in the ruination of Libya – a country which had boasted the highest standard of living and most generous social programs in Africa. It is a particularly egregious result of imperial hubris. Libya had done everything the West had asked of it: it co-operated fully with the war on terror, and it radically reduced the size of its military. It also abandoned its nuclear weapons program – a lesson North Korea will never forget.
In contributing to the assassination of Muamar Gadhafi Canada contributed to the unprecedented refugee crisis which has engulfed Europe. Gadhafi new exactly what would happen if he were forced from power and said so as Canadian jets pounded his country. He stated, in desperation: “Now you people in NATO listen to me – you are bombing the wall that stopped African migration into Europe. This wall stopped the terrorists from al Qaeda. This wall was Libya. You are destroying it, you fools.”
Even the Canadian air force pilots knew what the result of regime change would be knowing full well that the vacuum created would be filled by Al Qaeda and other Jihadist groups. They referred to themselves as “Al Qaeda’s air force.”
We as citizens face the consequences of our actions every day. If we threaten people or hurt them, we get arrested, if we burn down their house, we go to jail, if we drive recklessly, steal a loaf of bread, or fish without a licence, we face consequences. But our government can join in the complete destruction of a country and it – and we – don’t even get a reprimand.
Our new Middle East policy? It’s simple. We have no business being there, we have no lofty goals capable of being achieved, we have no genuine national interest, we are complicit in a senseless daily slaughter and we contribute to the creation of jihadists who want to kill us, not for “our freedoms” but because we treat them as less than human. We should just get the hell out.