Courier Letters to the Editor 10-29-14

Terrorism revisited

Dear Editor,

It’s always been a difficult thing to think about: terrorism, massacres, genocides, beheadings and such. But we’ve known about them for generations. There have been the extermination camps of Nazism, the killing fields of Cambodia, several mass killings scattered around the world from Africa to South America to Yugoslovia. In the Middle East nations, it seems one group or another has been killing people for decades. Well, it’s not just the Middle East nations either — might as well say in some parts of the world. I suppose one of the downsides of old age is to have witnessed by television images most of the worst in human history.

For sure, this latest terrorist group is a bad crowd. They must fancy themselves greater than the worst of what has been. Maybe they are in proportion to the region’s population. They make videos of their actions and post them on the Internet for the world to see. That makes me wonder how World War II would have played out if the Nazis had broadcasted videos of their atrocities. Maybe the rest of the world would have reacted sooner, and the war would have started and ended earlier. But one of the differences between then and now is this: the earlier generation knew what they were doing was wrong and tried to hide it, while this new generation knows they are just as wrong and are proud to show it.

The shock factor — those beheadings — is relative both to what’s been in history and what’s been happening every day in society. Every few months and years there’s a school or workplace shooting or other murderous rampage. In some cities, gang violence and deaths are accepted aspects of society. Down south of the border, there have been drug wars raging for years, with bodies hanging from bridges and their own style of decapitations. The news programs during the Vietnam years were reporting daily death counts in the tens and weekly counts in the hundreds. That was only the American side — the Viet Cong side had thousands. Yet this latest terrorist group thinks we can be shocked by videos of beheadings. Maybe one of the fundamental problems is that violent deaths are the norm these days. We’ve shocked ourselves often enough.

They use a major religion’s name as part of their own. Supposedly that adds some kind of justification for their actions. But that’s only in their own minds. Almost a thousand years ago, it was the European crusaders, who were Christians, fighting the Turkish Seljukians, who adopted the Mohammedan religion.

In today’s terms, it would be the Christain terrorists fighting the Islamic terrorists, depending on which group was talking about the other group. You’d think it would be offensive to use “terrorist” with either religion’s name or commit massacres and genocides in a religion’s name. At some point in the actions, it mutates from a major religion’s beliefs to small, extreme cults with human sacrifice.

I suppose most are quick to say it’s just another religious war, especially the anti-religious groups. If that was true, then a billion Christians and a billion Muslims are sitting this one out, while 15,000 to 150,000 jihadists fight for their seventh-century, fundamentalist beliefs.

Personal, political and power are more apt to be the reasons for wars and terrorism. The leaders use religion and other differences to antigonize one group against another. As soon as “Islamic State” was attached to their cause, it became a political war. They want a territory of their own, and they intend to take it from others of the same major religion. I suppose that might make it partly a war between religious sects. Still, it’s basically a few men who want to govern, by their own rules and beliefs, a people and territory. That’s what Assad wants in Syria, it’s what Saddam Hussein wanted in Iraq, Bin Laden and Taliban leaders in Afghanistan, Pol Pot in Cambodia, Hitler in Germany.

The man’s name is Ibrahim Awnad Al Badri, though he uses Abu Bakr Al Badhdahi now. He claims to be the Caliph, head of a Moslem state, a political position. He and close co-leaders have radicalized the followers into massacring men and teenage boys, enslaving women and children by appealing to some sense of religous duty from an age 1,400 years ago. (Somehow that fundamental “do not kill” rule among the major religions gets lost during political power grabs.) It’s Badri’s terrorist group — not ISIL nor ISIS, and for sure not 21st-century mainstream Islam’s.

Have a happy Halloween. Friday night’s fun-making with scary spirits, demons, movie characters and other fantasy themes will be followed by Monday’s morning news programs with reports on the real world versions.

Jerry Hughes