Beirut, Baghdad and Paris:
The colonial racialised hierarchy of terrorism's victims
Sat 14 Nov 2015
Sons of Malcolm
While we await the results of the investigation from the Sinai plane crash, while the smoke in South Beirut from Daesh's murderous is still smoldering, while Baghdad is still reeling from the latest Daesh attack on a funeral of an anti-Daesh Shia fighter, Paris experienced multiple synchronised terrorist attacks. The way in which 'Western' governments and states interact with these dynamics and the nature of Western media reports and public reaction point to a deeply troubling racialised and dehumanising manner in which different victims of terrorism are treated and respected, or disrespected.
In the case of Beirut many Lebanese and others complained about the dehumanised nature of the way the attack was reported, western mainstream journalists gave the impression that the area targeted was some kind of 'Hizbullah bunker' or 'Hizbullah stronghold' rather than the densely populated residential area that it is. This attack on Beirut and its people was one of the biggest terrorist attacks since the Lebanese civil war which ended some 25 years ago, however this attack was only reported on item 6 perhaps 5 on the headline news on Western news channels. The attack the next day in Baghdad saw barely any verbal comment from news media, perhaps a mention on the ticker tape text that runs along the bottom of the screen. And that's where the victims of terrorism are posited, at the bottom of a hierarchy of humanity which the overwhelming amount of humanity does not help to define. The discriminatory nature of how Black and Brown people terrorist victims means their stories and plight is rarely represented on the same human level as those vitims who live in the West and happen to have a lighter skin and hair colour. Often the manner in which non-Western victims of terrorism are treated smacks of a dehumanizing framework.
The Sinai Metrojet plane crash investigation points in part to a terrorist plot that brought the plane down, but there is an important aspect of the way in which the UK handled that issue similar to the Sousse attack in Tunisia that demonstrates another manner in which non-Western people are treated in a wholly different and comparatively unjust manner. The UK has seen some considerable terrorist attacks this last decade, such as 7/7 and 21/7 and a suicide attack on Glasgow airport. Through all these instances no one ever suggested that all flights in and out of the UK should be halted, and that the UK has now become a place that is unsafe for tourism. However, such a move has been made against Tunisia and more recently against Egypt that has resulted in a devastating impact on the livelihood of the people of these countries, as tourism is a major source of revenue.
With the recent Paris attacks, will the UK or any major world power be suggesting that there should be a boycott of tourism in France? One only has to pose the question to know that such a move against France would be unthinkable, so why is it so casually accepted when it comes to Tunisia and Egypt? It can only be a insidious but very powerful notion that Western and especially Western white people and countries are somehow human or more human than others.
It has become a banal normality that western victims of terrorism are humanised, we learn of their direct family members, see their family members tears and grief, learn of what school they went to and what their close friends say of them; on the other hand when non-Western people are killed in terrorist attacks there is none of this humanisation, rather these victims would be lucky to get a verbal mention on news or a mention on the ticker tape. However, perhaps the most problematic aspect is that for Western states when they suffer terrorist attacks, the same mass killings and mutilation and depravities becomes a ‘struggle for freedom’, as the same groups that France, the US and UK support in Libya and now Syria, the same groups they finance, arms and support become heroes, that is they are heroes when they kill non-Western people and they are heroes when they help destroy countries that are strategic obstacles for the West. A group of Syrian people are currently in a law suit against French foreign minister Fabius for stating that the armed gang known as Jabhat Nusra in Syria was doing a ‘good job’ in Syria. When the same kind of ‘job’ is conducted in Paris, one doubts that Fabius will be commenting in the same way, but why is one a terrorist act and the other an ‘act of freedom’?
This writer went on several peace missions to Libya in 2011 and it was in the Libyan arena in the Nato war against it in 2011 and then in the same year the start of tens of thousands of armed gangs infiltrating Syria supported by the West that we saw the open allying of leading Western states with these terrorist groups. In Libya the USA, UK and France were the air power of the terrorist groups on the ground including 'Al Qaeda' type groups such as the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, whose leader Hakim Belhaj is a known Daesh leader but a liberal-left 'human rights' cause celebre in the UK. Belhaj was a terrorist leader in Libya and a leading colleague of Nato in its war against Libya. The victims of this Nato and allied death squad terrorism were just airbrushed out of existence throughout that entire war, the tends of thousands of dark skinned or Black Libyan and non-Libyan African people and others resisting Nato who were lynched and chased across Libya by Nato's terrorist allies just did not exist for the Western media and countries for the entirety of that imperialist war.
Immediately following Syria the West directly allied with armed gangs whose ideology informs them to kill anyone outside their own notion of 'God's/Allah's chosen people' in their twisted use and abuse of Islam. With the attacks around the Charlie Hebdo offices earlier this year in Paris and now this multiple terrorist attack in Paris, that terrorism which the West has been exporting to countries of the Global South has returned to the lands of their most powerful backers. The UK state collusion with these armed gangs is well known, leading one leading terrorist recruiter to state: "I came back [from war] and opened the door and the trickle turned to a flood. I inspired and recruited, I raised funds and bought weapons, not just a one-off but for 15 to 20 years. Why I have never been arrested I don’t know." (Guardian,13/06/2015)
Or perhaps in the case of Moazzam Begg who was sent off to Libya and twice to Syria by the British authorities to conduct work in support of supremacist armed gangs in those countries, including meeting with Hakim Belhaj in Tripoli, Libya. Begg said of his meetings with MI5, a branch of the UK's military intelligence services: “In the meeting Begg said MI5 were concerned about “the possibility of Britons in Syria being radicalised and returning to pose a potential threat to national security. I told them that Britain had nothing to worry about, especially since British foreign policy, at the time, seemed in favour of the rebels.” (Guardian, 02/10/2014)
China suffered terrorist attacks in March 2014 where some 30 people were knifed to death, this too was hardly reported in the Western press, there were no hand-wringing solemn words of solidarity and unity by political leaders in Europe and North America. Rather, the Western press was reticent to even call these acts terrorism, as the political project of the terrorists in splitting and weakening China is something that many Western nations support. From China through to Africa, there is a clear pattern whereby terrorist groups who are supported directly or indirectly by the West through their primary allies in the Muslim world such as Saudi Arabia are active in terrorising and in some cases such as Somalia and Libya facilitating the total collapse of communities and societies.
The supremacist nature of these armed gangs display a world outlook which is a mirror image of European racism and white supremacy, which is aped by Saudi Arabia's Wahhabism, which itself is a state and ideology which was brought to power by the UK and continues to be a primary global ally of the US and UK. The common thread between European racism and these assymetric mirror relfections of them is that certain categories of people are worthy of humanity, and then there are other groups of people who are outside of that category and are expendable who can be massacred without trace or justice in massive imperialist bombing campaigns, or can be sexually enslaved and raped and mutilated.
At certain times victims of terrorism are used by the instigators and backers of global terrorism to achieve certain goals. For example, the Nigerian Chibook girls who were kidnapped by the supremacist militia Boko Haram were utilised in a similar way the 2012 Kony campaign previously was used to depict Black and African people as either mad killers, or as hapless victims only to be forgotten once their use for a racist narrative has been exhausted.
Terrorism and massacres is wrong in Syria, Libya and Somalia, it is a tragedy against people on the same level as it is when the victims are in Paris and London, but treating all humans as equals in resisting this racist hierarchisation is a challenge that confronts us all.
The US and UK destruction of Iraq and France joining in with the destruction of Libya and Syria and the way terrorism plays a fundamental component part of these neo-colonial and racist wars is something that has to be deconstructed by people. It is a shame that unlike the impact of the war of aggression and occupation against Vietnam that a similar endeavour in the US and UK invasion, occupation and destruction of Iraq has failed to be a defining and instructive and educational political issue for current generations that otherwise could have informed a deeper understanding and solidarity with sections of humanity who are attacked by 'the greatest purveyors of violence' in the world today, to paraphrase Dr King, which remains the UK and USA and leading Nato countries.
The challenge that we are faced with is to go well beyond the narrow media reporting and imperialist opportunistic grandstanding of politicians who seek to further deepen their Islamophobic and racist strategies against those racialised as outside 'civilised European-ness' and to justify the on-going primary scapegoating of Muslims and migrants and refugees for the oppressions and injustices of Western states. Perhaps like with Vietnam, we should take a lead from the very people and countries who are resisting this project of imperialism, racism and terrorism against their Homelands? Surely it is they who are resisting the best and from whom we should be learning the best.