The terrorists who planted the bombs were responsible for the deaths in London in 2005, not Tony Blair, but Blair knowingly put them in harms’ way. He had been told that his support for the invasion of Iraq increased the likelihood of terrorist retaliation. He took that risk. In France, President Hollande says his country is at war with ISIS, he doesn’t say that a country at war must expect to take casualties. Moral outrage in the face of terrorist atrocities begins to look like hypocrisy; people are entitled to say ‘what did you expect’? Did you really think that you could drop bombs in Syria but none would explode in France?
The methods of terrorism are to be condemned. There is no justification for bombs on buses or the callous slaughter of people at a concert. But is there really so much difference between what France is doing in Syria and what the terrorists did in Paris? Modern, so-called ‘asymmetrical warfare’ is terroristic in its very nature. The enemy sought by the bombers and the drones live in city apartment blocks alongside the people. The cynical excuse of ‘collateral damage’ does not begin to describe the scale of death and destruction for the civilian population.
When Britain bombed Iraq in the 1920s and used chemical weapons against its people there were no repercussions in London. Technology, religion and politics in the era of globalisation has changed everything. The war that Bush and Blair brought on threatens to engulf the whole of civilisation.
And here is an uncomfortable thought. We used to know what we meant by ‘innocent civilians’, non-combatants, people who were not part of the armed forces but who were caught up in the conflict. In the terrorist wars that radical Islamists and Western politicians are deepening by the day the distinction between fighters and civilians is losing the meaning it once had. Before it gets even worse, the citizens of the democracies must ask themselves whether they are prepared to pay the price for the decisions taken in their name.