Sunday, August 13, 2006

Minding our language

As expected the ''next 9/11'' plot is all over the Sunday papers. What is interesting though is there are some definite attempts by both the right-wing and left-wing media to link foreign policy and domestic policy, and the widespread domestic anger over the foreign wars of the last decade (which have seen thousands of foreign Muslims killed), with the rise of domestic and international extremism. To look at sleeper cells in the UK - and the link with such cells with international terror networks.


It's clearer and clearer that July 7th didn't come ''out of the blue'', the clues and the anger and the links were there for years. Young Muslims grew up with 'The War on Terror' and many saw it as 'The War on Muslims'. Which is exactly what Bin Laden wanted. And now here we all are, reaping the whirlwind.

Unpacking the current situation is not a simplistic matter of Bush = bad and Blair = bad therefore we= targets because of our leader's actions, and if we remove our leaders we wil be safe. There are criminal plotters amongst us dreaming of large-scale death and destruction for political purposes. Trouble is, this idealogy thrives and spreads when glamorised by heroic sweeping language that talks of ''holy wars'' and ''global wars'' and ''Good vs. Evil'' and ''God with us'' and ''Unprecedented Enemy''. Who uses this language?

Both sides. We do and they do. It's stupid, and it's dangerous and it's hopeless.

There is nothing ''heroic'' or ''holy'' about looking into the faces of holiday-makers or commuters and letting off a bomb. There is nothing righteous or justified about bombing Lebanese people's houses and schools or driving tanks through Palestinian farmers' olive groves. Nor in shooting rockets into Israeli streets and suburbs. These actions are wicked and wrong, they stink in the nostrils of God, they make you want to weep.

Yes, and it makes many people impotent with rage just to witness them on TV. Anger, hurt, heat rises, and the cries of those calling for retaliation and revenge grow shriller, and louder and the bellicose rhetoric of politicians fills the airwaves, and drowns out the quieter screams and sobs of the injured and bereaved. Somewhere in the middle of this, the voices of the ordinary people who just want it all to stop, are drowned out.

The woman who wishes she could still gossip and drink tea with her neighbour, the man who just wants to get the bus to work in peace, the children who no longer have anywhere to play safely.

Has anyone asked people who have been bombed if they want endless revenge and escalating retaliation? I have, many times, and what I keep hearing, not just from 7/7 victims, but from a Jewish man who survived a suicide bomber, from a Palestinian family, from Gareth, a college friend who worked for Medecins Sans Frontieres in Iraq for 6 months was, we just want it to stop.

We just want it to stop.

And one of the ways to make it stop, or to dampen it down at least, is to draw together in common humanity, and marginalise and isolate the atrocities committed on both sides by naming them for what they are. Criminal. Unfair. Unjust. Inhumane. Wrong. Don't wrap wicked acts up in the banner of nationalism, or a holy war against evil faceless masses, don't use false rhetoric to justify the unjustifiable. The extremists will be there on both sides, still, but they will be seen for what they are. Nihilistic, misguided, murderous, power-mad, futile, not speaking for you, for me, but common criminals to be shunned and put away.

There will still be wars, but wars are wars, and criminals are criminals; and crimes against humanity are different to fighting between paid soldiers and civilians are not soldiers and they are not legitimate targets under the rules of engagement. At the moment, we appear to turn a blind eye to the bombing and maiming of civilians in foreign wars. Lebanon. Iraq. Afghanistan. Elsewhere. As if their ordinary lives are of less account.

So now our civilians are soft targets for people who have no armies, no rules of engagement, but only volunteers to step forward to blow themselves to pieces, enraged and inflamed by a merciless idealogy that points at our language and our actions and uses them to legitimise its own.

I refuse to call this a war. I don't call this an apocalypse either. I'm not buying the rhetoric, not drinking up the official line, the official Fear. I call this murderous hateful criminal killing and maiming of ordinary innocent people. We've got more power than those who want to attack us, so we have more responsibility to behave better, and not to fan the flames with language that is deployed to harden hearts and safeguard careers and justify the unjustifiable.

Update: Have a read - What Muslims want ( Review of Jon Snow documentary which I wish I 'd seen) over at Forceful & Moderate.

Update 2: Hmmmmm. Hat-tip, Justin.

Update 3: Slightly edited this post to make it clearer that I was pointing out appalling acts such as deliberate targeting of civilians by Hizbollah and Israel: I'm not taking sides here. I can't, when bombs are involved.

8 Comments:

Anonymous ACM said...

Your post reminds me of an Orwell quote, saying that political language is "designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable and to give the appearance of solidity to pure wind."

Keep up the good work.

August 13, 2006 11:55 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What you say is correct, but I am waiting for the proof that those arrested were actually guilty of a plot. Anyone recall Forest Gate where someone playing without a full team fingered some people for fun? Heaven help us if there is a plot afoot and they grabbed the wrong people!

August 13, 2006 4:13 pm  
Anonymous Justin said...

Huzzah for YouTube:

What Muslims Want, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5.

August 13, 2006 6:59 pm  
Anonymous Don said...

Heartfelt agreement, and Anonymous; your comments are are usful as ever.

August 13, 2006 11:24 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Rachel, when ever I read about two opposing forces that claim to have the same god on their side it (for me, at least) immediately disproves the existence of any such god.

Secondly, there have been a lot of fnords around since the turn of the century, the most popular being "linked to". This one is, at best, lazy journalism and, at worst, downright deceitful.

Thirdly, have you noticed how the blood-thirsty, immoral mercenaries of old have now become the much more fluffy and cuddly sounding "security contractors"? ACM's comment about language was spot on.

August 14, 2006 1:10 am  
Anonymous sonia said...

spot on - about the language and rhetoric

August 14, 2006 9:57 am  
Anonymous seth said...

hi rachel,

glad to see that you and j had a great time in turkey while the war against terror went up a few notches. my hat is off to the british authorities for catching this before tragedy and horror struck yet again. I understand that bush was woken up at 4 am our time and told about it.

but i will share some thoughts i have with you.

first,all attempts by liberal,moderate and progressive muslims to "reign in' or "chastize" their fundamentalist brethren have been to no avail. They either want us to be like them ,or they will kill us. They want to die,and they think that when they meet allah he'll be waiting for them with 1000 virgins.We have tried to understand them,reason with them,etc etc and it has been to little or no avail..

As far as israel goes,how can you not understand the situation they are in? its a fact that they have been willing to talk,trade land for peace,there have even been top-secret discussions of setting aside land for a palestianian state,and all it has gotten them is more dead and no reduction in terrorist attacks. When they try and defend themselves they are painted as the villians by the american and european media outlets.The israelis learned long ago that the arabs want to wipe them off the face of the earth,and they learned the old adage,"you have to fight fire with fire" long ago.Even my turkish friend memet-hes muslim and has been in the us for twenty years-agrees that israel has a right to exist and to defend itself.

If the UK was getting rocket attacks from either ireland or france or both they would have every right to defend themselves under international law.

Im getting tired of being a "soft target" in this "new world order". im tired of getting into the subway and praying that ill come out alive at the other end.Im tired of these lowlife dirtbags wrecking our freedoms and democracy that our forefathers fought and died for.

Yes,much of the blame lies with blair and bush but you cant tell me that yes while there are fundamentalists in the judeo-christian world, i dont think any of them is calling for our deaths.

Lastly,all responsible countries-

the UK,US,france,canada,whomever else have to stand firm and work together because this is a world wide danger that wont stop.

Ciao for now,

seth :)

August 15, 2006 3:46 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The forward-to-past mob were around long, long before the War On Terror.

In the early 90s the hate mongers were already present at the uni I went to - complete with a pre-packaged victimhood+violent intolerence of... well anything they could manage to be offended about.

The Anon

August 15, 2006 11:19 am  

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