Let’s get one thing straight: the responsibility for last night’s disgusting massacre in Paris belongs to the shrunken specimens of humanity that carried them out and the organization that sent them to do it. The attacks are yet more evidence – if any were needed – that Daesh/ISIS is one of the most vicious and repugnant gangs of mass murderers in history, and differs from its more prolific predecessors only in terms of what they are able to achieve, rather than from any moral or ethical scruples regarding who they have the right to kill.
Consider these words from today’s statement claiming responsibility for the ‘miracle’ that took place last night. Beginning with an invocation to the ‘all merciful Allah’ – truly an oxymoron in the mouths of these dim fanatics, the statement goes on to gloat and exult in the murder of more than a hundred peaceful citizens in the following terms:
‘Eight brothers wearing explosive belts and assault weapons targeted areas carefully chosen in the heart of the French capital. The French stadium, during a match of two crusaders countries French and Germany where the imbecile of France Francois Hollande was present, the bataclan where hundreds of idolaters participating in a party of perversity were assembled, in addition to other targets in the 10, 11 and 18 arrondissement- all simultaneously.’
Yes, what an amazing achievement for these righteous executioners to have killed ‘hundreds of idolaters participating in a party of perversity’ in the ‘foul smelling streets of Paris’ without ever realizing that they were the ones who really stank.
This statement is an example of the kind of language that gives language a bad name;- it belongs purely to the category of maledicta – words of hate, intended to reduce certain categories of human beings into vile objects worthy only of virtuous extermination. But the executioners of Daesh/ISIS are the ones who are truly vile, and they have demonstrated their vileness again and again, in Mosul, Raqqa, and Kobane, in Ankara, and Beirut, and so many other places.
I don’t know why it’s so difficult for some sections of ‘the left’ to recognize these qualities. Instead I look on Facebook and elsewhere in the Internet to find angry and evidence-free references to the involvement of ‘Isra-hell’, or NATO in last night’s killings. Armchair military experts ask knowingly how a group of armed men could manage to attack a major city with automatic weapons.
The answer is, very easily. In fact not that difficult at all – especially if you expect to be killed yourself.
But there are those for whom evil acts are only evil if it can be shown that they are directly perpetrated or facilitated by NATO/Israel/Neocons, and that reactionary Muslim religious supremacists/bigots who have severed their connections to humanity and all the moral and ethical codes with which human beings have tried, however imperfectly, to establish limits on war and violence, can only be puppets whose strings are being pulled.
Such narratives also indirectly diminish the humanity of their victims, creating categories of worthy victims that mirror those they often criticize. Of course it is true that Western governments rarely show the same level of universal outrage when Palestinians are shot by Israeli soldiers, or when Iraqi, Yemeni or Pakistani civilians are coolly dispatched by the more ‘rational’ practices of high-tech violence practiced in the name of ‘counter-terror.’
No, Obama did not describe the Daesh/ISIS massacre at Ankara or the carbombs in Beirut earlier this week as ‘crimes against humanity’. No one talked about attacks on ‘freedom’ or ‘our values’ then.
But criticizing such moral selectivity should not lead those who denounce it to adopt a selectivity of their own. Because what took place last night was indeed a crime against humanity, that now takes its place in the dreadful continuum of terrorism and endless war that is slowly but remorselessly grinding our world into moral pulp.
I used to believe that talk of the ‘European civil war’ was a rightwing fantasy, like ‘Eurabia’, that Islamophobes used to whip up antipathy and hatred towards immigrants and Muslim immigrants in particular. I still do, but it is also becoming increasingly clear that these fantasies are not limited to the Breiviks of this world, and that if things carry on the way they are our collective future in this continent will be darker than we imagine.
Already the Paris massacres are being seized upon to justify all kinds of agendas that have nothing to do with Daesh. Take this statement from the Polish European affairs ministe Konrad Szymanski today:.
‘The European council’s decisions, which we criticized, on the relocation of refugees and immigrants to all EU countries are part of European law. After the tragic events of Paris we do not see the political possibility of respecting them.’
Forget the fact that many of the Syrians and Iraqis who came to Europe have fled from the same organization that perpetrated these ‘tragic events’ – many of whom are in the Calais ‘jungle’ which CRS police have been attacking with tear gas and stun grenades for more than three nights now.
There is likely to be a lot more – and worse – where this came from. The takfiri/jihadist terrorists who carried out last night’s massacre are at best indiffirent to the poisonous seeds their acts are sowing across the continent, and probably welcome any negative consequences. For them, any racist backlash against Muslims, and any further turning of the national security screw would – they hope – work in their favour by providing more recruits for their wretched ‘Caliphate.’
That is one more reason why we must deprive them of that hope. We must not allow these acts to polarize and divide us. We must oppose attempts to give into the temptation of authoritarianism, persecution and scapegoating. We must hold on to the possibility of a common European home that is the sum of all its parts. We must mobilize civil society against the mutually-reinforcing dynamic of endless war and endless terror.
If we don’t or can’t do this, the ‘European civil war’ scenarios may become a self-fulfilling prophecy. But it won’t be a civil war, but an unfolding and deepening process of persecutions, expulsions, ghettoization, racism and xenophobia and a tit-for-tat pattern of state and non-state violence that will leave the rest of us as nothing more than gaping horrified spectators of our reversion to barbarism.
We can be better than that, and we have to be. Because otherwise the ‘brothers’ who struck last night will win, and we may not find our way out of the deep hole into which we just keep on sinking.