Natalie Solent

Politics, news, libertarianism, Science Fiction, religion, sewing. You got a problem, bud? I like sewing.

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Friday, October 01, 2004
 
Back to School. Just after Belsan there was a cartoon in the Independent or the Guardian, I forget which, that showed the slogan "Back to School" written on a blackboard and Putin standing in a corner. The point was that we have to learn again that terrorism happens because of prior oppression.

I thought at the time that the cartoon was the usual poisonous attempt to shift blame from the child-killers to those who tried to stop them, but I'm coming round to the opinion that there was some merit in the cartoon after all. I just think very little of its merit was put there by its creator.

First let me acknowledge that there is some substance to the point the creator made intentionally. It is true in many cases that atrocities spark counter-atrocities. "Cycles of violence" do exist despite the great frequency with which the phrase is used as an attempt to equate a bombing on Monday with the death of the bomber in a shootout with the law on Tuesday. (They even exist despite the fair frequency with which the term is used to describe completely uni-directional violence where the last time the victims fired a shot in anger was generations ago.) I don't have the knowledge to say anthing useful about the history of the Chechen rebels other than it is common knowledge that the Russian forces have been brutal and that some female Chechen suicide bombers are widows of men the Russian soldiers killed. Going back further, the Russian army was sent back into Chechnya as a result of the Moscow apartment bombings. It looks to me as though the metaphor of a cycle of violence is more nearly true for the Chechen conflict than for many others in the world today.

No, I have not joined the Appeasers. To claim that an individual killing takes place as part of a cycle of violence is not necessarily to excuse that killing. The claim usually is made as an excuse but it doesn't have to be. Long ago I saw a picture of a ten-year old boy lying shot through the head somewhere in Southern Italy. He had been the last surving child of a Mafia family that had gradually been extinguished in a long-running vendetta between it and another Mafia family. His murder was part of a very clear cycle of violence but he was still innocent and it was still murder.

Now back to the points the cartoonist made unintentionally. Yes, Beslan sent us back to school. It sticks in my craw to call terrorism a process of "education", but it certainly does involve the transfer of information, both intentional and unintentional. It involves countries and cultures communicating with other countries and cultures, teaching, learning and re-learning things they have forgotten.

Like a great deal of modern education it involves video cameras.

The biggest lesson the Islamic fanatics wished to teach the world at Beslan School No. 1 was: this is the sort of people we are. There is nothing we will not do. No one is safe.

The slaughter of 35 children and 7 adults by the Iraqi "resistance" also conveys several lessons. Here are some of the unintentional ones that might or might not be learned by the watching world:

These killers are not the "Iraqi resistance". They cannot conceivably have thought that their victims, either as individuals (mostly children, remember, and accounts say that the cars were deliberately driven alongside the crowd of children before being detonated) or as members of a class (ordinary residents of a Baghdad suburb pleased at getting clean water), had ever done them any harm. The killers are not working for the Iraqi people; they are preying on the Iraqi people. They do not care in the slightest that their victims are Muslims.

In fact it is rather important for the purposes of the Islamo-fascists that a great many of their victims are Muslims and are in every way typical Iraqis. The terrorists must not allow the idea to spread around that you are safe so long as you are neither an unbeliever or a foreigner. The intended lesson to the people of Iraq was: submit to us, or this is your future.