Terrorism is defined by those nice folks in Dictionary Corner as ‘the use of violence or fear to advance a political cause’. So it’s difficult to have a ‘War on Terror’, when it would seem that War itself is a form of terrorism. It really is a case of eye of the beholder here. One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter; one man’s liberator is another’s oppressor.
The horrible acts perpetrated in Woolwich yesterday afternoon have done nothing to change anyone’s mind about anything. The good people of the English Defence League were of the mind that all Muslims are either terrorists or supporters of terrorism. They still are. Their opponents held the opinion that all members of the EDL are small minded bigots with somewhat cavalier approaches to the concepts of ‘logic’ and ‘patriotism’. That hasn’t changed either. The outpourings of racial ignorance and downright unpleasantness on Twitter and Facebook might have shocked some of us with their malice, vitriol and downright bloodlust, but they shouldn’t have. There have always been closed-minded fools, and they have always been the target market for extremists on both sides.
And don’t think you’re immune to criticism just because you read the Guardian, recycle your yogurt pots, and go on anti-racism marches with your pals from yoga class. If an EDL member was to today go out and ritually behead a member of the Muslim community, you would probably be the first to post gloating tweets/FB statuses which implied (however subtly you might have believed) that the English Defence League as a whole were represented by that one machete-wielding lunatic. Two wrongs, and all that.
Whatever your stance on war or foreign policy, soldiers never deserve to die. Not for the oil interests they are protecting, or for the country they believe they are defending . You can be as edgy as you like on the internet about it, but you wouldn’t take their place in the morning, for any amount of money. Having bullets shot at your head sounds quite terrifying; it doesn’t matter that these boys and girls volunteered for the service. It’s a job, the same as you have a job. And if you don’t have a job, well, there’s always the Army. Our soldiers don’t deserve to die, and neither do theirs.
Because, regardless of what the media would have you believe, the men and women on the other side are also soldiers. The man in Woolwich yesterday may not have been. And if someone walks into Marks & Spencer’s this afternoon with a bomb strapped to them, they won’t be either. But when someone is trying to oust what they consider to be an occupying force from their land, bundling them in with the ‘terrorists’ just because they’re brown is a bit lazy.
When I was younger, the ‘terrorist’ label was something applied to people from what is arguably (and boy, do they argue about it) ‘my’ country; albeit the top half of it, which is technically part of another country. The fact that we came from the South, spoke with different accents, and had no real horse in the race didn’t matter to ignorant people. They still made comments and threats, regardless. I was once asked (in Romford) to ‘apologise for Canary Wharf’, by a drunk Englishman who was very serious. My hilarious joke about it being a ‘monstrous carbuncle in architectural terms’ seemed to fly right over his head.
When we supply funds, equipment and arms to so-called rebels in foreign states to help them overthrow so-called oppressive regimes (read: regimes who want to nationalise their fossil fuel extraction industry), the word ‘terrorist’ is never used. These Muslim people’s religion is seldom mentioned, except in a positive way. But, five years down the line; when the liberated natives are unhappy with the Halliburton lackey we installed as their president after the ‘free’ democratic elections, those same ‘rebels’ will attempt to effect another regime change, this time without our approval. And then they’ll be terrorists. Muslim Fundamentalist terrorists, no less.
What happened yesterday was terrible; it was terrifying; but, whether or not it was terrorism, is really a matter of opinion. I think what we can all agree on here is that, in 2013, someone cutting off another person’s head is the act of a barbaric madman, not a legitimate way to enact justice. Well, unless you happen to be in charge of Saudi Arabia. But that’s okay; they’re our friends.