Bullets and bombs, Paris and Syria

Another indefensible slaughter in Paris but different just the same from the attack on Charlie Hebdo. Hebdo was an attack on free speech, on the core commitments of a free society. The murderous onslaught in Paris yesterday was an extension of a barbaric war being fought out across the globe. Radical Islam destroyed the twin towers and the democratic west destroyed Iraq before moving on to Libya and the intervention in Syria. It is more complicated than that of course, much more complicated. Who can spell out in a few sentences the politics that divides the contestants? But there is now a horrible reality, even if is still absurd, to what used to be called ‘ the war on terror’ but should now be called the war of terror. The Americans boasted about the ‘shock and awe’ of the bombardment of Baghdad. There was certainly shock and awe in Paris.

The propaganda in the western media makes serious discussion of these events almost impossible. The real and undeniable inhumanity of the attack in Paris is painted in lurid colours, the intervention of French forces in Syria as a brave confrontation with evil; democratic bombs and hateful Islamist bullets. It is almost too childish to bear.

In an echo of the Hebdo attack Google offered ‘Solidarité’ on its website but this time solidarity is a cheap sentiment. Better to think about why this happened and what to do next; to stop the war that feeds the terror. We talk about innocent civilians killed in terrorist outrages but those innocent civilians need to take responsibility for what governments do in their name. War in the 21stC is fought out in the cities and towns not trenches in open space. There is no war without large scale casualties among the innocents. The French have been quick to involve themselves in armed conflicts in Africa and the Middle East. They must decide what they want from those interventions and whether they are worth it because echoes of those wars will reverberate in French towns and cities.

War was always barbaric but never more so than today. A British Prime Minister can’t wait to gloat over the assassination of a man that murdered hostages. A lack of sympathy with the victim is matched by contempt for the man who ordered the killing. What is it that the French and British people want in the middle east?  Time to speak up before barbarism becomes the norm, at home and abroad.

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