By Daniel Margrain
That the overtly aggressive Western foreign policy of vengeance and the violent rush to bomb takes priority over the more conciliatory approach of attempting diplomacy, is depressing. But to do so in the knowledge that such a policy is both counterproductive and disproportionate is unconscionable. I’m not suggesting that Cameron and Hollande have deliberately set out to provoke terrorist atrocities on the streets of our cities, but their policies in the middle east unquestionably promote and exacerbate them.
It’s inconceivable that the political establishment are unaware that the violence of terrorists and the violence of the state are mutually reinforcing phenomena. So why, in their infinite wisdom, are the political establishment continuing the discredited ‘war on terror’ strategy if not to perpetuate the vicious cycle of death and destruction that the likes of Cameron and Hollande claim they want to eradicate?
Since the onset of the Iraq debacle, war and terrorism has spread exponentially but judging by the hawkish rhetorical flourishes of Cameron and Hollande one might have been led to believe otherwise. Yesterday, both leaders hardened their warmongering rhetoric as though in denial while the rest of the world looked on with incredulity. Even the right wing commentator Peter Hitchens acknowledges that “rhetoric and militancy have not done very much for us in the past. Why should it be different this time?”
The hardening rhetoric must be seen within a context in which the numbers of armed officers in Britain has fallen over the last five years, in addition to the refusal of ministers to rule out further cuts to the British police in general. It seems undeniable that the combination of more bombs allied to increasing austerity, will potentially put the British people at a greater risk from terrorism .
One might reasonably argue that mistakes at the top of government can be made, but to repeat them over and over again, in the hope that the result will be different, is a sign of madness. Fighting a war with bombs against an unidentifiable and highly mobile enemy whose sleeper cells are spread throughout the planet, is akin to arguing that the Hydra can be obliterated in the marshes of Lerna.
Every time the head of one of the principal beasts is decapitated, it mutates and multiplies into a far bigger entity whose tentacles and reach spread among their martyrs’ in ways that our leaders cannot seem to be able to comprehend.
A 14 year long Western war of terror has terrorized the oppressed to the extent that many more want to fight back than was the case prior to the atrocity in New York. The strategy of invasions and regime change has been an unmitigated disaster and yet our leaders’ are apparently oblivious to the fact that the war can never be won by what is effectively a policy of indiscriminate bombing.
Surely, it’s reasonable to surmise that the purpose of such a misguided foreign policy strategy of state violence that has demonstrably failed time and time again, is to maintain the establishments grip on political power thereby ensuring that the aspiration towards the reordering of society along more egalitarian lines are minimized.
A policy that effectively promotes and exacerbates terrorism means that the question of whether such an outcome is the intention of leaders’ like Cameron and Hollande is moot. The fact is the cycle of violence doesn’t stop with the dropping of ‘precision’ bombs on ‘terrorist targets’ whose collateral damage has historically killed more innocents than did the terrorist atrocities in Paris many times over.
It’s a sad and depressing reality that the kinds of barbaric acts witnessed in the French capital have been exploited politically by the establishment in order to justify their retaliatory rhetoric and subsequent violence. This in turn ensures that a system in which the military elite and arms manufacturers who lobby their governments for the purpose of maintaining their exalted financially privileged position, is sustained.
The logical corollary that arises from this mutually beneficial relationship, is that the protection of civilians on the streets of cities like Paris and London are not necessarily a priority for our leaders. This is because the deaths of civilians by terrorism is arguably regarded by the likes of Cameron and Hollande as a political price that’s ‘worth paying’ in the short term, with the view to securing their geo-strategic interests in the longer term.
Any rational analysis shows that acts of terrorism cannot seriously be regarded as an existential threat to the power of the state. The Paris attacks, for example, killed 0.01 per cent of the population of the city. To put it into context, many more people die each year in traffic accidents in France than were killed in the atrocity.
The disproportionate amount of media coverage devoted to Paris reached saturation point in the days that followed, which is partly a reflection of the nature of rolling 24 hour news. Of course geography and cultural affinity played a major part in the decisions of editors to give so much coverage to the drama, but that doesn’t excuse the fact that only a fraction given over to Paris was given to the terrorist atrocity on the Russian airliner which, it must be reiterated, resulted in more deaths.
The wall to wall coverage serves a political purpose which is the promotion of the idea that the suffering of people in places most of us are more readily able to identify with, matter more than those we don’t. This is all part of a media narrative that reports the victims of war and terrorism as though, as John Pilger put it, they are “worthy and unworthy” – the former being innocents killed on ‘our’ side while the latter are those of our official enemies.
This is all part of a much broader media system of propaganda which consistently conflates inappropriate militarism and its symbols with notions of unflinching patriotism. The displaying of national flags plays a very important role in this regard, especially after national tragedies.
For instance, the public were encouraged to adorn the French flag and sing the French national anthem at the England versus France football international at Wembley Stadium a few days after the Paris atrocity as an act of solidarity. But there were no similar calls following the terrorist atrocities in Beirut that happened just a few days before.
The purpose is to try and convince the public to support yet more ineffectual and immoral bombing of innocent people in a far away country in the hope that the people go along with the lie that this strategy has reduced the number of deaths caused by terrorism and is therefore making us safer.