There are the extremists of terror promoting hate and killings to accomplish their goals, and there are the extremists of peace lecturing about tolerance and preaching non-violence at all cost to achieve peace. There is no moral comparison between these two radical groups but, if the first group is the problem, the second is not the solution. We must first change the approach to the dialogue with an open mind getting rid of foregone assumptions about who is good and who is bad. At the same time, we must be ready to have a real debate putting on the table our real opinions, not those that political correctness allows us to make known.
For example, how many people in our society believe that all Muslims are terrorists but don’t say it? Conversely, how many people, even if not supporting the killings, secretly share the same political view of the terrorists?
I suspect that these two groups are much bigger than what we would like to believe, and that’s where the real problem is. Still, in our debates, we hear only strong condemnation of the terrorists, the lecture to promote peace or the right but obvious warnings not to stereotype minorities.
These are aspirations, not plan of action.
I have nothing but unmitigated condemnation for the terrorist attacks wherever they take place. My resentment against them is even bigger because, while my solidarity for the victims and their families is unconditional, they have forced me to show solidarity even for a publication, Charlie Hebdo, I always disliked. Condemnation of terrorism shouldn’t be used to promote blasphemy camouflaged by freedom of opinion and satire.
Having taken this off my chest, let’s go back to the need to promote a dialogue as instrument of peace. Trying to understand does not mean to justify, and condemnation without understanding is senseless.
Of course, there can be no dialogue with killers. But we first have to understand why they are doing it. The act of killing can make you a killer, but also a hero and become ambassador to Ireland.
I know where I stand, and I know who is the killer and who is the hero. Still it is important that we understand why millions of people, not only the terrorists, disagree. In a context where the killing has to be qualified, let’s go back to Paris and examine one statement made by the terrorists: “You cannot expect to kill our people and not expect any kind of response.”
This statement, per se, when viewed in a vacuum, could have been made by a judge applying the death penalty, a political leader condemning a terrorist attack, a Head of State defending the planes bombing a terrorist camp killing hundreds, or by my honest and hardworking neighbor.
Why are we outraged if the same statement is made by a youngster with a Kalashnikov killing people in the streets of Paris or driving a killer truck in Nice? Well, the act of killing makes you a killer but doesn’t necessarily make you a murderer; it all depends on the motivations, and theirs are different from ours.
In fact, we are outraged because they put our soldiers dying in Afghanistan on the same level of terrorists killing innocent people with Kalashnikovs in our streets. This is unacceptable for me and many others, but some, and not just the terrorists, beg to disagree.
If we want to eliminate the problem, we must first find out who disagree with us, we can’t debate in a vacuum. Second, we have to understand why they disagree with us, and avoid judging before we understanding. Only at that point, the debate is meaningful.
Let’s go to the core of the problem.
We believe that we are there to protect democracy, the right of the oppressed, especially women, promote freedom of religion, and to stop violence.
Conversely, terrorists and other supporters (hidden or otherwise) believe that we are in Afghanistan and other Countries because we are against Islam, we want to impose our cultural and religious views, and to protect our economic interests and those of the oil companies.
Let me make a naïve proposal. If we believe that the terrorists and their supporters are lying about our religious, cultural and economic interests, and we are telling the truth that we are sending the troops mainly for humanitarian and democratic reasons and not economic interests, let’s get out of Afghanistan and all other Countries. If they lie and we tell the truth, we have no reason to be there.
Some argue that we cannot abandon millions of people in the hands of cruel and nasty dictators. If that’s the case, we should be in Afghanistan only if we are unequivocally invited by local governments, local population and, yes, by millions of people around the World coming from those areas. They should ask for help demonstrating in the streets of Paris, London, New York and Ottawa, supporting our soldiers in Afghanistan, not because they want them out.
Unfortunately, I suspect that American troops (and leaders) are pawns in the hands of radical leaders and terrorists. Many regions are extremely fragmented; hundreds of ethnic and religious factions are fighting and slaughtering each other. This is true in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Egypt and many other Countries. Whenever radical and terrorist leaders feel losing support with their own people, they provoke our sensitivities publically beheading people, attacking our symbols and slaughter people on our streets; and the bombings with our planes start. Unity is back against the Western World in general, and the United States in particular. The common unifying enemy is back allowing them to say ‘You bomb us in Syria, and we kill you in France.’
I am not an expert and this may appear to be a naïve proposal, and it probably is. However, considering the results of the proposals put forward in the last a few Centuries by the ‘experts’, it appears that whenever they implement an idea, they make things worse. We were more vulnerable after the war in Iraq, and we are more vulnerable now than we were before and after 9/11, the terrorists are at our doorstep killing people in our streets, they are luring our children into their malicious plans, most of the people in the Countries we want to protect are not better off than before our bombings, and terrorists and radicals stronger.
If anything, the proposal would accomplish a couple things. First, it would remove one of the uniting element supporting the terrorists, our troops; second, it would smoke out all the people that pretend to support our troops but, in reality, secretly undermine our action, supporting instead the arguments promoted by the terrorists, albeit not their atrocities.
PS: I didn’t forget the gas issue. That’s the topic for another day.