Tag Archives: terrorism

Closure at last, and a significant event, but the end is still a long way away

Bin Laden's reign at the head of Al-Qaeda is at an end.
Osama bin Laden

Waking up to the news of Osama Bin Laden’s capture, and ultimate death gave a sense of relief, but also a sense that this significant landmark is only a mark in the long path to defeat terrorism. We can only wonder and hope that there is some closure now for those that have lost loved ones, friends, colleagues and family in the atrocities before, on, and after September 11th 2001, but it won’t be the end of this story. Bin Laden was a figurehead, the head of an organisation that had, for the last 15 years, been at the hub of multilateral actions against the West, and, as is often overlooked, many Muslims around the world. Seeing the events and reaction unfold today brought a rush of the blood, but not excitement. While the man behind so many deaths is now gone, it gives me no pleasure to rejoice the death of another human being.

Scenes in America have been more colourful than in the UK. It’s understandable when their operation resulted in the killing – with, tellingly, no direct assistance or involvement from the Pakistan government – and their country was so horrifically affected. I can’t imagine how those friends and relatives of those lost in the Trade Centres must have felt over the last nine years as bin Landen evaded the clutches of the allied forces, and countless American soldiers and intelligence, prolonging the agony and seeing the man responsible taunting the West with videos, messages and more attacks. Dancing and cheering in the streets – from a mostly young and sometimes well-oiled crowds – didn’t sit too comfortably with me, as I can’t bring myself to celebrate a death, however repugnant the person may be. But the US has invested so much emotionally, financially and ideologically into finding and killing Al-Qaeda’s leader that the reaction was always going to be different on the other side of the pond. Watching some of the reactions today of the bereaved to the news, and how they conducted themselves with such dignity was very moving. For them, the victory, however hollow, must bring an end in part to a harrowing period.

For Britain, it’s also a landmark. We’ve been – justifiably or not – invested into this battle ‘shoulder to shoulder’ with the United States since its beginning, and we’ve been directly affected by the spectre of Al-Qaeda, its operations and figurehead looming over the last decade. For teenagers and younger adults, they’ll struggle to remember a time before this was so. Having attended a funeral after 7/7 – something I hope I never have to go through again, let alone seeing the pain it caused to the family – it’s a relief to be at this point. But the reality is that little will change. In fact, we may see things escalate if revenge attacks are orchestrated. London will be a more tense place for a while. But we can only hope that this is the beginning of a new chapter, and that, with all the change that’s now afoot in the middle east, that Al-Qaeda’s lustre is reduced, and that their dominance ebbs in the coming years.

And predictably, even as the news surfaced, there were naysayers already debunking the news. However low governments and the military may stoop – whatever we may say, we left thousands dead in Afghanistan and Iraq – it’s hard to believe that this would be an untruth. It would be one that would dwarf the spin that so ashamedly took us to war in Iraq. The US and its allies have invested way too much time, money, resources and emotion in this claim otherwise, and there have been none of the usual denials from the terror groups that form the cabal involved. I’m a skeptic, but this is one thing that I am taking on face value. And cheeringly, Obama will have a grandstand moment to validate his presidency, giving him a boost that even grudging Republicans can’t deny him. The States are united for a short time, and great that is too.

We will be talking about this day for many years, and the main hope is that it can be a positive landmark, that we will look back at this as a turning point. But to think that cutting the head from one of the snakes in Medusa’s hair renders the rest of the beast incapacitated would be short-sighted. But at least for many, this will hopefully be some sort of closure, and draw a line under the terrible events in New York and London. It’s the least that the bereaved deserve.

When staying silent is the most shameful act we can use…

Gaza conflict

It doesn’t take much to see the almost minute-by-minute news from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on our screens, airwaves, webpages this last few weeks. The fact it’s been going on for months, and in fact decades, is less reported or covered. Like with many things in our fractured planet at the moment, the emphasis is on the NOW. And now, right now, it’s a conflict that would only appear to have one side. Hamas, are the bad guys. And that is why this ‘war’ (though with the Palestinians so outnumbered and outgunned, invasion would be more appropriate) is so much an example of how this 2000s planet earth functions.

Hamas are a terrorist group, according to the UK, US, Canada and EU. To their people they are freedom fighters. And since 2006, they are the elected government of Palestine. But, if you believe the media, specifically, the BBC, Sky, ITV, CNN, Fox, NBC et al, they’re the stone-throwing, rocket-launching terrorist instigators of this entire shameful and saddening conflict. Let’s forget the almost laughably disproportionate level of attack (100s of rockets from Hamas, single figure deaths – some figures from their own troops on Israel’s side – to 10 days of aerial and now ground bombardment, 600+ dead, 1000s injured, and lack of electricity, water, food, aid and medicine) and remember that whatever happens, Israel is acting in self-defence. Let’s enjoy the news ‘blackout’ (just because you are in Israel doesn’t mean you can’t report on Palestine) that means in the UK we only see Israeli politicians and soldiers giving their ‘balanced’ accounts of the conflict (though Channel 4 must be lauded for their egalitarian stance alone from all other broadcasters here). After all, if we are fed enough of this ‘truth’ then perhaps we will one day believe it.

To a friend today who said:

As far as i can see it Isreal keep saying they will stop any offensive as soon as Hamas stop firing rockets into their country. All Hamas seem to be bothered about is telling Isreal they will be crushed and killed in Gaza and have no intention whatsoever of stopping the firing of rockets. The only way anything can get sorted out now is by Hamas giving up. As soon as they do all this will end and the world can then look at sorting whatever issues palestinians have in Gaza.

I replied:

Do you agree that the response from Israel to Hamas’ rocket attacks (which have killed only a few people) is completely disproportionate?

Do you agree with the blockade of Gaza over the last 18 months by Israel to prevent fuel, money, water, food, medical supplies and general aid (currently less than 10% of the amount needed each day gets through, if at all) thus starving the Palestinian people?

Hamas, while I agree are a terrorist/military organisation as well as (people do sometimes seem to forget) an elected government, are defending the right of the Palestinian people to live in their own country. Did you not see the map Tony posted showing how Palestine has been encroached upon by Israel in the last 60 years? Would you agree with England being gradually eroded to less than 10% of its size by another country?

Israel are happy to use Hamas’ rockets as the excuse to totally destroy Gaza’s infrastructure. While they claim they are destorying Hamas’ system of government (they see a return to the Palestinian Authority that Hamas beat in the elections as a solution) what on earth do they think will happen when there’s a ceasefire? Gaza is being systematically pounded into the ground. Once there’s a ceasefire, Israelis will be going about their daily business while 1.5m Palestinians starve. There’ll be no country left to govern by the time this is finshed.

When this was Bosnia, we called it genocide or ethnic cleansing. What’s the difference here?

This was a person not ignorant or blinkered, just representative of the general population, taking their views of what is fed to them in the media. It’s depressing that we are led so much by those channels, some of which do have agendas, but some of which, like the BBC are publicly funded and are bound by their charter to be ‘impartial’. They should have it challenged, even more so than during the Iraq war.

And while it’s true to say the blockade has made it difficult to report directly, it’s not the whole truth. The BBC does at least have two Palestinian reporters embedded in Gaza, but then they also have reporters stood on the border overlooking the Gaza strip and reporting ‘on the spot’ and pretty much saying almost nothing about the Palestinian side of the conflict. It really is an amazing piece of propaganda and spin from Israel (who set up a political spin department last year for this very sort of issue) that they will counter almost every piece of news…

“the civilians were killed as Hamas have hidden in homes while they fight” (where else do you expect them to hide?)
“we are pursuing military targets but even sometimes civilian targets are hit” (the perfect excuse – though reports from inside the hospitals say the vast majority of casualities are civilian, including women and children)

Today’s blast at the UN-controlled school was particularly shocking – remember that the UN give the Israelis GPS coordinates of all their schools/safe houses so they no where they are and they don’t target them, yet they hit 3 today, one of which resulted in 40 deaths. Israel were on the news almost as soon as it happened claiming that they were only acting in self-defence, and that the explosions “didn’t relate to the ordanance we used” (ie. that Hamas’ had their own explosives in there – a UN safe area – which caused the deaths).

That’s what gets to me the most. The total lack of balance, (Channel 4 is the only one really providing this) and then the almost complete lack of opposition anywhere within the Arab world, UK, Europe (bar France). The UN is therefore appearing weak and powerless. Another blog echoes this desperate situation perfectly.

We can only hope the ceasefire talks and news of a humanitarian corridor are valid and that we shall see an end to the bloodshed. This is genocide by any other name.

In case you think ID cards aren’t enough….

The government now plans to introduce a database to track every email, text message and phone call made by anyone in the UK in order to ‘combat terrorism’. This is because terrorists used it to plan attacks. They also use speech, to one another. Will this soon be monitored too?

On Question Time, renowned hawk Geoff Hoon went further to justify his colleagues’ plans. Not monitoring it would be “giving a licence to terrorists to kill people”. I’m pretty sure an email didn’t fly the planes into the WTC, but I may be wrong. Police and security services already have powers to monitor phone traffic, but this is on a case-by-case basis, and not a wholesale right to watch every single communication we all send and receive. It makes the ID card scheme, when the government has already proven itself to be far less than competent in managing our personal data, look like a molehill.

Responding to Lib Dem MP Julia Goldsworthy who likened it to “something I would expect to read in [George Orwell’s book] 1984”, and asked “How much more control can they have? How far is he prepared to go to undermine civil liberties?”, he continued: “To stop terrorists killing people in our society, quite a long way actually.” Seemingly, by any means neccessary. “If they are going to use the internet to communicate with each other and we don’t have the power to deal with that, then you are giving a licence to terrorists to kill people.” Hardly. Why don’t we just lock everyone up and then no one will be able to kill anyone.

Thankfully, the bill has now been put back to 2009, when hopefully, given the reaction of pilots and students to the first wave of ‘voluntary’ ID cards, it will be defeated in both the house and the Lords. It really isn’t hard to understand that this sort of invasion of our human rights to free discussion and being innocent until proven guilt are being undermined.

Leaving the last line to Hoon: “The biggest civil liberty of all is not to be killed by a terrorist.”

Clearly bigger than every other one, in Labour’s eyes.