Thursday,20 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1236, (5 - 11 March 2015)
Thursday,20 September, 2018
Issue 1236, (5 - 11 March 2015)

Ahram Weekly


Terror’s moral dilemma

Al-Ahram Weekly

Since the Soviets left Afghanistan in 1989, having battled local chieftains and their allies, including Al-Qaeda, terror has become a global phenomenon as well as a moral dilemma.

To this day, people have not been able to make up their minds on what constitutes terror and what does not. For decades, national liberation movements have been branded as terrorists, a practice which has not completely ended if one listens to Israel’s version of events in Occupied Palestine.

When they invaded Iraq in 2003, the Americans had no qualms about labelling all resistance to their presence as terror. Theirs is an attitude that is by now common in the West.

For example, the same fighters who formed the Taliban and Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan were viewed as freedom fighters when their violence was directed against the Communists. But when they set their eyes on Western targets, the label was changed.

In the Arab Spring wave of uprisings the Muslim Brotherhood may not have been the catalyst, but it kept the protests going and ultimately used them to grab power. The sympathy the group gained in the West, where it was seen as a possible ally, was only matched by the dissatisfaction it created at home in its short stint of incompetent government.

In Libya, it was clear that extremist Islamists were leading the insurgency against former leader Muammar Gaddafi and that eventually they would be able to control the country, but this did not stop NATO from backing them.

In Syria, the Americans sat on the fence for too long while Islamic State (IS) and Al-Nusra Front were gaining ground every day. It was only when IS crossed the border into Iraq that alarm bells went off in Washington.

Drawing a line between a terrorist and a freedom fighter remains tricky. To this day, France is having trouble designating Al-Nusra Front as a terrorist organisation, even though the UN Security Council has done just that. Western nations, while rhetorically recognising the right of people living under occupation to resist, often denounce the Palestinians as terrorists.

The lack of agreement on who is a terrorist continues to mar the global response to terrorism. This lack of agreement is due to the fact that people’s reactions to violence depends on their own interests.

The closer the bloodshed is to home, the likelier it is that it will be denounced as terror. But when violence happens in distant lands, or against a regime people have an interest in ousting, it is condoned.

If we are ever to win the war on terror, we have to remain consistent. We cannot pick and choose who is a terrorist and who is not. Double-dealing is going to get us nowhere.

The Americans, big on fighting terror, remain vehemently opposed to discussing Israel’s war crimes at the International Criminal Court. This is only one example of the double standards that undermine the unified stand on terror.

In Iraq and Syria, the same terrorist groups carry out similar operations across the borders, but their actions are met more firmly in Iraq than in Syria.

In Libya, Western nations react selectively to acts of terror, while trying to carve up their future spheres of influence in this oil-rich country. The Americans are apparently willing to let the IS branch in Libya get away with murder, but not the IS outfits in Syria or Iraq.

Terrorists, not to be outdone, have also developed their own system of double-dealing. Anyone whom they can deceive, or coerce, into helping them with money and arms is a friend, only becoming a foe when they no longer do so. There are no lasting friendships in terror’s murky underworld.

We have been fighting terror for close to 25 years, and instead of stamping it out we have allowed it to prosper. We have denounced terror, sent units to hunt it down and even raised armies against it.

But we have forgotten to do the one thing that we should have done, which is to regard all its victims as equal and to act firmly in their defence and not in defence of our own interests.

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