The sanest thing we could have ever done after the two hijacked planes crashed into the Twin Towers in 2001 was ask why. What motivates people to take so many lives and their own so spectacularly? After all, when a crime is committed, the first thing any law official looks for is a motive.
But this was the age of the Project for the New American Century, multiple theater wars and redeployment of American forces in pursuit of American interests. The neocons had successfully managed to hack into the US government and somehow Tony Blair at the same time.
We all know the story: it’s painfully repetitive and would be stupid if it wasn’t so gloriously engineered. American writer Gore Vidal acutely labelled it “perpetual war for perpetual peace”: Peace, not desired but a disingenuously given excuse for war to reign indefinitely.
And so in pursuit of power, resource and hegemony, we set off to war and never looked back.
Black gold and Sykes-Picot have made sure that the Middle East has never been a stable place. But the last 15 years of organised violence have accelerated the degeneration to the point of breaking up any stability left into splinters of abject chaos.
Each bomb we, the West, dropped on Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya rippled through the desert sands, winning hearts and minds to hatred, forever changing the landscape of a region already traumatized from a century of systematic and sustained abuse.
Every war we fought, dictator we propped up, terrorist we armed and proxy conflict we encouraged, can be found in the genesis of what happened yesterday in Brussels.
Militant political Islam from the East, whether we like it or not, is a bastard love child of the West: midwifed in the dungeons of Nasser’s Egypt, aided by the CIA as counterweight to Pan-Arab nationalism then raised on the milk of Kalashnikovs in Afghanistan as proxy force to fight Russia.
Al-Qaeda via Iraq’s occupation grew until the gory propaganda of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi bubbled over, creating ISIS. The NATO-backed destruction of Libya and support for the destabilization of the Syrian government, with a wishful view to easily deposing Assad, added to the perfect storm.
If September 11 was blow-back, what is happening now is a collection of multiple back drafts, where world leaders fight to be chief fireman, clambering to put out flames foolishly using only oxygen.
And as fire engulfs, spreading to every capital, so blame increases. It’s not me it’s you. It’s your hijab, beard, minaret and inability to take a joke. Who cares if the number one victims of ISIS worldwide are Muslims? What does it matter that the people fighting ISIS on the front line, by and large, are Muslim.
And so, within an hour of the Brussels bombings, #StopIslam starts trending worldwide, even though every Muslim I encountered yesterday on social media was actively praying for Brussels.
Racism is ultimately a tool used by the powerful to divide and rule for economic purposes. In slavery the white power structure could only benefit from the bodies of black people if it successfully argued that black people didn’t have souls. Today, imperial wars in the Middle East in pursuit of power and resources can only truly be maintained if victims of the bombings, dug out of the rubble, are a sub-human other: terrorists in short.
Fifteen years of rapidly growing hostility towards Muslims in the West coupled with a foreign policy that both indirectly and directly fuels militant political stands of Islam, is a powerful recruiting sergeant. Enter hashtag Caliphate.
In a globalised word, where borders are becoming more irrelevant, what happens a hundred miles away can never be distanced or dismissed. The rise of social media has seen the spreading of information wrestle the monopoly of ideas from the hands of the few to the smartphones of the many. Today 140 characters on Twitter are more powerful than 140 RPGs in Raqqa, and don’t ISIS know it.
Contrary to belief, ISIS is a wholly modern phenomenon; a product of sour times, with a nucleus firmly traced back to a resource war. But analysis and declarations of “I told you so” won’t do much in the way of combating what evidently is a very clear, present, rising and physical threat. So, if bombs and racism are not the answer, what is?
Something we should have done 15 years ago: Ask why. Many of us argued in the years following the attacks on the Twin Towers, that in order to be tough on terrorism you had to be tough on the causes of terrorism. Those voices, like the two million that marched against the war in Iraq were maligned and ignored, to the peril of a future generation.
Drain the swamp if you don’t want flies. If the bog of material excuses invoked by the demigods by al-Qaeda in 2001 could fill a river, today they make up an ocean.
Yemen, Turkey, Syria, Tunisia, Libya, Nigeria, France, Belgium, London, Spain, Iraq, Sudan, Palestine, I could go on; the list is unfortunately long and perilously connected. As a human my natural instinct is defend humanity therefore I sincerely wish to see an end to inhumane violence on a international scale, irrelevant of country. Je suis human.
On a personal level: what happened in Brussels could quite easily happen in London. On a smaller scale it already has. In July 2005 I was on the tube, a stop away from Russell Square, as the bombs struck the London underground leaving hundreds of fellow Londoners dead or injured.
I am not willing to become victim of someone else’s graphic spectacle without a serious fight. This world is as much my stage as it is their’s. Acting is too important to be left to David Cameron, Francois Hollande or Barack Obama. My role is to hold power to account for failing us terribly. Terror begets terror. Brussels just proved this, once and for all, spectacularly.