Algeria, Mali, and how the murder of hostages shows our leaders play into the hands of Islamists

Those who were caught up in the Algerian shootout were victims of pitiless terrorists. In that Cameron is right. But distorted Western values made them vulnerable targets

Share

The desert siege is over. The end, as foretold, was bloody. According to the Algerian government, 23 hostages and 32 hostage-takers died. The victims – whatever their nationalities – all suffered unimaginable fear and violence. I doubt they gave any thought to who was “British”, who “French” and who just a plain native. They were workers in a globalised economy, in it together till the end.

Sure, class and race meant some had more than others. But when caught in such a grisly drama, all such distinctions must dissolve, burn off. Grief too will be shared between high and low as families mourn. They are united in agony and turmoil. Ours is an age of perpetual instability and barbarism.

Colonial irritation

Western power merchants – particularly British and Americans – in contrast, use each such tragedy to engender discord. They strut the world stage, issue threats and remind us who is boss. When will they see themselves as others see them, or try to empathise with the citizens of three quarters of the world? It was embarrassing to witness David Cameron’s colonial irritation with the Algerian upstarts who went ahead with the rescue without seeking permission from the UK or US.

Economic might is draining away fast from these old centres of power, and they have lost two key wars in the past decade. But does that make them a little more humble, less solipsistic, any the wiser? Not at all. They didn’t get to where they were with self-doubt and by playing fairly. This latest farrago has brought out the worst in these cowboys and we should be afraid, very afraid.

It just hasn’t been the same since they assassinated Bin Laden. We need a proper scoundrel to hate. So out of the desert storm he comes, a one-eyed super-villain, Mokhtar Belmokhtar, aka “Mr Malboro” because he gets rich selling smuggled cigarettes. Wow! Kathryn Bigelow can make another blokey film about Mr Malboro next. Imagine the awards. His band of maniac men call themselves Those Who Sign Their names in Blood. (How do we know any of this is true?) Soon Belmokhtar’s name will be as familiar to our children as Voldemort. We will be persuaded that another Western jihad is needed against this evil monster, to make the world safe again, a day that never comes.

Cameron said yesterday that Britain would show “iron resolve”. Leon Panetta, the US Defence Secretary stood with our man Phil Hammond and warned that the attackers would be “hunted down”, that they would find “no sanctuary, no refuge, not in Algeria, not in North Africa, not anywhere”.

The truth is that most malevolent and ruthless terrorists will find sanctuary and refuge even among people who loathe them, whose lives are blighted by extreme Islamicism. And that is because the West is loathed and feared even more. Not the great civilisations and systems of the West – those are admired and coveted. But the Occident’s hypocrisies, ethical indifference to the sufferings of its victims, paranoia, lies and catastrophic wars are detested.

It is worse still, that since 9/11, white lives appear to matter more than others and that all actions, legal or illegal, are acceptable because the end matters more than the means. And the end is to maintain Western privileges. Nations like Algeria and Mali, destabilised by Muslim militants, know Western interventions are always based on self-interest. Their own people merely become part of the necessary debris. It is a dirty deal and one that will be increasingly resisted and that means only continuing chaos for some of the poorest people on Earth.

Pitiless 

US drone attacks have killed countless children and other innocents in Pakistan and Afghanistan. So what? To those who operate the drones, according to one US magazine, the casualties are “bug splats”. These lifeless kids have no teddy bears, candles, names or even numbers. Should we expect the relatives of these “splats” to feel for us when we lose innocents? As Obama’s second term is heralded in, we won’t hear the words Guantanamo Bay, where inmates hang between death and life, uncharged, untried, touching no conscience.   Obaidullah was 19 when incarcerated there in 2002. In 2012, all charges were dropped and still he waits and writes poems about love and spring’s fragrances.

Next week the High Court will hear further allegations about the torture of Iraqis by our soldiers. Meanwhile millions go to Bigelow’s movie about Bin Laden and see an exquisite filmic argument justifying torture.

Those who were caught up in the Algerian shootout were victims of pitiless terrorists. In that Cameron is right. But distorted Western values made them vulnerable targets too and there is no sign that our leaders understand that responsibility. Recently, on a visit to Mumbai, I met Mike, an Englishman, and Sunil, a historian. Over tea Mike asked: “Why do Muslims hate us Westerners so much?’ To which Sunil, a Hindu, replied: “Not only Muslims, my friend. We all do because you don’t see the world through our eyes, ever. If you did, we would have a future together.” That is the only way we have a future together. Cameron and the rest of the Western political elite don’t get that and never will.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - Junior / Middleweight

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: One of the South East's fastest growing full s...

Guru Careers: Marketing Manager / Marketing Communications Manager

£35-40k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Marketing Communicati...

Recruitment Genius: Commercial Engineer

£30000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Estimating, preparation of tech...

Recruitment Genius: IT Support Technician

£14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: You will work as part of a smal...

Day In a Page

Read Next
David Cameron has reiterated his pre-election promise to radically improve the NHS  

How can we save the NHS? Rediscover the stiff upper lip

Jeremy Laurance
 

Thanks to Harriet Harman, Labour is holding its own against the Tory legislative assault

Isabel Hardman
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor
The ZX Spectrum has been crowd-funded back into play - with some 21st-century tweaks

The ZX Spectrum is back

The ZX Spectrum was the original - and for some players, still the best. David Crookes meets the fans who've kept the games' flames lit
Grace of Monaco film panned: even the screenwriter pours scorn on biopic starring Nicole Kidman

Even the screenwriter pours scorn on Grace of Monaco biopic

The critics had a field day after last year's premiere, but the savaging goes on
Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people used to believe about periods

Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people once had about periods

If one was missed, vomiting blood was seen as a viable alternative
The best work perks: From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)

The quirks of work perks

From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)
Is bridge the latest twee pastime to get hip?

Is bridge becoming hip?

The number of young players has trebled in the past year. Gillian Orr discovers if this old game has new tricks
Long author-lists on research papers are threatening the academic work system

The rise of 'hyperauthorship'

Now that academic papers are written by thousands (yes, thousands) of contributors, it's getting hard to tell workers from shirkers
The rise of Lego Clubs: How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships

The rise of Lego Clubs

How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships
5 best running glasses

On your marks: 5 best running glasses

Whether you’re pounding pavements, parks or hill passes, keep your eyes protected in all weathers
Joe Root: 'Ben Stokes gives everything – he’s rubbing off on us all'

'Ben Stokes gives everything – he’s rubbing off on us all'

Joe Root says the England dressing room is a happy place again – and Stokes is the catalyst
Raif Badawi: Wife pleads for fresh EU help as Saudi blogger's health worsens

Please save my husband

As the health of blogger Raif Badawi worsens in prison, his wife urges EU governments to put pressure on the Saudi Arabian royal family to allow her husband to join his family in Canada