How do you bomb an idea?



Let me take you back to the halcyon days of September 10th 2001. Do you remember what life was like? We lived in a world where there areas of danger and civil war but largely we got on with things and were able to pop on a plane to most locations without too much worry about terrorism. In fact in the UK we had more recently lived with terrorists next door in Northern Ireland and even that was a fairly limited campaign on “the mainland” as it was called back then. Yes there were the odd terrorist attacks – even from Al-Qaeda – but in the large part we were living in a safer world

Then the next day three hijacked planes hit buildings and a fourth was crashed in to the ground when the passengers overpowered the terrorists. Now I don’t want to diminish the deaths of those three thousand people but fourteen years later we are in a situation that has been largely caused by our reaction to that atrocity. In simple terms when you spend $2 trillion to fight a group of terrorists, kill twice as many allied soldiers than were killed on 9/11 and murder a further one million civilians in the middle east you do have to wonder if we have overreacted.

Look at what has happened since we reacted to the 9/11 attacks – bombs and attacks in London, Madrid, France, across central and northern African countries, all over the Middle East and further afield – how are we any safer? Today we see more fallout from a screwed up approach to fighting terrorists with Turkey shooting down a Russian jet in its airspace. We bomb target after target yet every few months there is another attack by this “small group” of terrorists. Surely I can’t be the only one to see the cause and effect here. We go and kill their friends and family, they respond in kind. What part of that don’t politicians understand?

France responded to the attacks in Paris by bombarding Syria – a country already in pieces due to the bitter civil war that has been hijacked by ISIS – and has done nothing to lower the threats and dangers for the rest of us. In fact quite the opposite. It’s easy for the lazy end of the media to point at Muslims and blame them but we all know that the problem isn’t one about religion, it’s a problem with people. Idiots on both sides that think that by posturing and killing they can make their point better than the other side.

I have no sympathy at all for the terrorists, but look at the situation from their point of view. Regardless of their beliefs, people who are just living their lives find their family and friends are being indiscriminately killed by bombs from above. They want revenge for the desecration and murder and have two choices: flee as refugees or pick up a gun and join the terrorists. Few will just brush themselves down and carry on with their lives – especially after the third or fourth attack on them. Now let’s add the latest round of bombs we are throwing at them because of Paris. David Cameron now says he wants to add to those bombs. It can’t just be me that can see the snake eating its own tail here.

Boots on the ground, more bombs, more anti-Muslim sentiment, more mistrust, more animosity, more confusion, more death and where will we be? In the same place with more bodies around us. How many of us have held up our hands and said the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq were wrong? How many of those people are now saying we add Syria to that list of targets? No, we can’t do nothing – that much is clear – but we can’t just keep killing because we know that today’s terrorists are in their late teens and early twenties. We must take the responsibility for partly creating those fighters. We do it again and we face another generation of terrorists fueled by our actions.

No, there are no easy answers, but the Peace talks are a much better bet. Find a way to get people round the table, try for a ceasefire, stop the killing and try to find a path through the corpses. It won’t be easy – but neither is taking the decision to kill anymore innocent people. If the vote comes to the House of Commons then we will hear all the usual arguments for and against taking military action: pacifists will object and those in favour of bombing will speak in favour. Even the SNP – a largely anti-war party – are considering action here. There is a momentum to try to stop ISIS where they are.

But ISIS are here in the UK, in groups and individually across Europe, Africa, Asia – in fact right across the world. They don’t have geographical boundaries, yet we aim to bomb within man-made lines they don’t accept. how can the two correlate? To defeat an ideology you have to attack the ideology not the physical people. Yes there will always be those who will fight to the death for their cause but the majority will sit down and talk.

Can’t we try that first and stop the killing after fourteen years of an onslaught?

Being a pacifist is sometimes the most difficult of choices because it relies on finding the goodness and reason in people – even those we believe have no goodness in them. One of the most powerful things I’ve seen recently about the futility of war is this. While it’s based in a world of science fiction the words and ideas are as relevant for our current situation than anything I’ve heard from any politician or commentator.


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