When I reflect on what happened this week in Paris my thoughts drift to George W. Bush and his proclamation that the United States is on a crusade against terrorism. Juan Cole, an expert on Middle East politics, asks an important question on his blog:
Having American troops occupy it [Baghdad] for 8 years, humiliate its citizens, shoot people at checkpoints, and torture people in military prisons was a very bad idea. Some people treated that way become touchy, and feel put down, and won’t take slights to their culture and civilization any longer. Maybe the staff at Charlie Hebdo would be alive if George W. Bush and Richard Bruce Cheney hadn’t modeled for the Kouashi brothers how you take what you want and rub out people who get in your way.
Certainly nobody is condoning the Charlie Hedbo attack but neither should we lose focus on the big picture: hundreds of years of colonialism, exploitation, rise of Islamophobia, Palestine and recent wars in the Middle East.
And just as worse, there are the opportunists that are aiming to profit from what happened. Some that come to mind are Marine Le Pen, Gert Wilders, from Finland Olli Immonen and Jussi Halla-aho, both members of the anti-immigration Perussuomalaiset (PS)* party.
US President George W. Bush declaring “this crusade, this war on terrorism” shortly after 9/11. According to Juan Cole, the Charlie Hebdo attack could possibly been avoided if Bush wouldn’t have embarked on a reckless war in Iraq.
Then Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg took a totally different strategy to Bush’s 9/11 response. Stoltenberg said after the 22/7 attacks by Anders Breivik that his country’s response would be “more openness, more democracy and greater political participation.” The Norwegian prime minister is today secretary general of Nato.
In Argentina during the 1970s, young people had three choices under a dictatorship: take up arms, remain silent and leave the country.
In Finland in 1904, Eugen Schauman became a national hero when he assassinated Governor-General Nikolai Bobrikov. The context was Russification, a powerful-backward empire like Russia that wanted to undermine Finland’s autonomy. From a Russian perspective what Schauman did must have been murder but from our point of view he became a national hero.
I personally am suspicious of violence and war because I’ve seen my fair share of them. I made a promise when I left Argentina in 1977, when it was ruled by a ruthless military dictatorship, to never kill a human being for as long as I live. It wasn’t an easy promise to make at the time.
In a war, the state resolves the moral and ethical issues for you. It gives you the moral answers to justify killing others. When you join a group like al-Qaeda and the likes, however, you have a choice because usually it’s your decision to be a part of such a group.
So what will we learn from what happened in Paris this week? Will we finally learn to sit around a table and negotiate in good faith and with respect to resolve our differences?
Or will the wall that helps our denial get thicker?
* The Finnish name for the Finns Party is the Perussuomalaiset (PS). The English names of the party adopted by the PS, like True Finns or Finns Party, promote in our opinion nativist nationalism and xenophobia. We therefore prefer to use the Finnish name of the party on our postings.