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Terrorism has many forms

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Terror on an international scale reached its lowest depths last Friday in the bloodbath that took place in the town of Breslan, part of the Russian district of Assetyl. In a world where atrocities have become almost commonplace, the kidnapping of hundreds of school children and their subsequent massacre has caused revulsion even among the most cold-hearted. {{more}} The 21st century seems to be marked by a marked escalation in blood-letting on a mass scale, to the extent that today, perhaps the word most universally recognized is TERRORISM.
Sadly, YES, terrorism, not PEACE or LOVE. Over the last few years, especially since the infamous 9/11, all we hear morning, noon and night, is war and terrorism, war on terrorism, terrorist wars. With it has come a set of heavy-handed responses having grave implications for countries like ours, not only in security terms but economically as well. Financial transactions, no matter how innocent or legitimate, are now subject to security scrutiny, whilst our governments are forced to divert scarce resources to “secure” ports and airports under pain of international exclusion and isolation if we don’t.
But perhaps the most damaging effect is a psychological one. As the international media, on which we depend for information, and worse orientation, has its field day relaying the gory details of terror stories, we end up feeling threatened by this ‘terror’, but unable to clearly define it or understand the nature of the ‘threat’. In our lack of understanding, we cling to the pat formula and stereotypes put before us. Instinctively, in our minds, a “terrorist is——a Muslim, an Arab, a bearded Islamist, a brute, killer etc. etc. We are conditioned to think that way.
Yet it calls for a much deeper understanding of the dark forces which daily bring grief to so many innocent families, in the USA as in Iraq, in Moscow as in Kabul, in Chechnya as in Assetyla. Not that this must be any excuse for holding children hostage, whether for criminal purposes as in Guyana or Trinidad, or for political aims as in Beslan. That and the willful murder of these innocents, is morally, humanly, inexcusable and unforgiveable. As a parent, grandparent, human being, I am at one with the people of Beslan and the international community in condemning the carnage. Where will it end? What new act of barbarity next? Where? Against whom?
But even as we call for an end to such acts of bestiality, we need to go beyond that. What gives rise to these acts? Is it enough to simply put it to the “evil” of man? Or are there forces, actions, reactions, deeds and misdeeds which give rise to them, which bring out the beast in man, and woman? The international media gives us detailed reports of the Beslan killings, but what is happening in Chechnya for instance? Are there similar dark deeds being committed which force people to turn to inhuman reactions?
For instance, reports are that in Beslan, and in Moscow before it, some of the hostage takers were women. “Black Widows” is how the media describe them. Who are these? Women whose children, sons and daughters, whose husbands, brothers have been killed by Russian troops in Putin’s ‘war on terrorism’ in Chechnya. Do we know anything of the circumstances which would drive normal women to kidnap children on pain of death? Perhaps we should ask, seek information. What would drive a Palestinian woman to blow herself up in a bus, taking Jews with her? What spurred women in Vietnam, Cambodia to go on suicide missions?
Terrorism is many sided. There is an ‘acceptable ‘ face that we live with and tolerate, state terrorism, the king that shipped innocent young boys to a hell-hole of indefinite, inhuman detention in Guantanamo. The kind that Sharon’s tanks and helicopter gunships wreak on the Palestinian population, children among them. The kind that rains hell and destruction in Najaf and Baghdad. But we call that ‘war on terrorism’, and much as we may claim not to like it, make excuses that it is the only way to wipe out the “evil terrorists”. That was Putin’s solution to the Moscow theatre siege of last year. It is Bush’s gangplank for re-election and recipe for the progress of mankind. Heaven help us all.
Frighteningly all we are getting is an escalation of the violence. Sharon raids and suicide bombers respond. Sharon hits harder. Hamas hits back. US troops bomb, Arab militants reply in their own way. Putin puts Chechnya under manners, extremists hit at Moscow. And it goes on and on. Who suffers most? Is it not the poor, the most vulnerable ? Whose sons and daughters are the 1000 Americans killed in Iraq? Those of Rumsfeld, Bush or Cheney?
No, if the international community is serious, our strong stance against terrorism must go right across the board and our search for solutions must be based on social justice, peace and human rights for all. Until then? Maybe my grandson, your daughter will be the next victim and all our loud condemnations of “terrorism” will not bring them back. The terrorists come in many shapes and forms, religious (Muslim, Jew or Christian), economic (oil pirates) and social (racist bigots). We, the people of the world must not be afraid to link hands and confront and defeat them.

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