Behind the use of drones is a complacent belief that murdering Muslims is always justifiable

Islamic terrorism is undeniably evil, but that doesn't make this state-sponsored, state-engineered terrorism a proportionate response

Yasmin Alibhai-Brown
Sunday 28 April 2013 18:37 BST
Activists of Pakistan Muthidda Shehri Mahaz burn the US flag during a protest in Multan on March 14, 2012, against US drone attacks. A US drone strike in Pakistan's lawless tribal belt on March 13 killed eight fighters supporting the Taliban in Afghanistan but not hostile to Pakistani authorities, local officials said.
Activists of Pakistan Muthidda Shehri Mahaz burn the US flag during a protest in Multan on March 14, 2012, against US drone attacks. A US drone strike in Pakistan's lawless tribal belt on March 13 killed eight fighters supporting the Taliban in Afghanistan but not hostile to Pakistani authorities, local officials said.

First, read this unconditional acceptance of facts that cannot be denied nor excused. Islamicist terrorism has inflicted atrocities and diffused panic and amorphous, long-term anxiety from east to west, south to north. Citizens of Nairobi and Baghdad, Madrid and London, Bamako and Dar es Salaam, New York and Bali, Mumbai and Damascus, Moscow and Karachi and now Boston, other places too, have had their lives and sense of safety blown apart. Those unaffected personally are haunted by the images and stories. Trepidation has entered their bones, our bones. Almost as chilling as real attacks are those thwarted by intelligence and security services. How many plots are still being planned? What if? Why? What do they want?

Millions of irreproachable Muslims are bewildered and enraged by this global vendetta which seems determined to annihilate modernism, occidental values, and also to destabilise some of the poorest and most hapless of nation states for reasons not made clear at all. Why are they trying to destroy Mali’s old culture for example? Some of us feel ashamed that Islam has become a byword for sinister, guerrilla warfare and is now regarded as a monstrous, rogue faith, easily turned into a killing call, most effectively for young men for whom life lacks meaning and direction. Women are now joining in too. The “spiritual leaders” behind the mayhem are wicked and psychologically manipulative men interested only in high body-counts and lurid publicity.

OK, now let’s turn to the most dominant countries in the world – and their finessed, widespread, extreme tactics used against people, some evidently fanatic and dangerous, others totally innocent. This is state-sponsored, state-activated, state-engineered terrorism which we are just meant to accept as a proportionate response to the evil above. More people are victimised by the unaccountable, secretive actions of the western nations – the US and UK most notably – than all those victimised by Islamicists. Most brainwashed and genuinely frightened westerners just accept what their governments do in fighting a nebulous “war on terror”. Hundreds of thousands are killed, physically and psychologically maimed and shocked and awed by western weaponry. It is fair enough and sensible to use intelligence and prevent plots home and abroad, but what is happening and has been since 9/11 is not defensible, moral, right, just or sane.

The war on Iraq was the most obvious manifestation of this illegitimate bullying and killing. At least then good people objected to the foul ambitions of Bush and Blair. But now there is hardly any scrutiny or interrogation of policies, and only terrifying complacency that murdering Muslims is always justifiable.

Obama, with his image of a cool, black, nice-guy President, is able to get away with stuff Bush never did. The coalition government is also less watched and criticised than Blair’s cabinet. It hurts to write this sentence but Obama is showing himself to be a truly ugly American, too fond of extra-judicial killings, still keeping men incarcerated in Guantanamo Bay, tacitly condoning the torture of suspects in foreign prisons and ordering secret drone attacks without any conscience. Drone warfare is now used routinely in Pakistan, Yemen and elsewhere. The bombs are casually dropped on, yes, terrorists, but also wedding parties, homes and schools, bursting open the bodies of babies, old people, women. Imagine what it feels like after an attack. These lives matter just as much as those of Bostonians and Londoners.

Recently American Senators, from left to right, have expressed disquiet about their President’s enthusiastic use of drones. Obama defended himself by saying, “This is not Dick Cheney we are talking about.” But as journalist Michael Crowley wrote in Time magazine this month, “in political terms it is hard to tell the difference” between the NeoCons of yore and Obama’s strategies. The dissenting politicians are worried that the drone war is creating more anger against America and also that it is legally suspect. The Independent this week published a moving testimony by the Yemeni writer Farea-Al-Muslimi who went to Washington and described the devastation caused by drone strikes in his country. Senators were shocked and awed by his testimony and analysis.

Britain is deeply implicated too. Anti-war protestors this weekend claimed that RAF pilots operate drones dropped on Pakistan and Afghanistan. Our country makes efficient ultra-modern killing tools which can obliterate humans and destroy habitats in an instant. These are proudly displayed at trade fairs and sold to blackguards until the US and Europe decides the purchaser is an enemy and turns against them, as with Libya, now Syria.

Britain has not raised its voice against the continued internment of men in Guantanamo Bay, where more than 160 are on hunger strike and some being force-fed. Shaker Aamer, a British resident, has been there for 11 years. He was cleared of all charges six years ago. Are these two civilised nations going to simply let such men rot and die in the gulag? Obviously.

Western leaders are blindingly proud of their democracies and human rights but how much better are they today than the Muslim terrorists they are trying to defeat? In fact, in terms of numbers of innocent dead, they are a good deal worse.

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