Human emotion isn’t as complex as we like to believe. When someone hurts us, we want revenge. We feel anger and hatred. We want to make those who have humiliated and scorned us suffer. We might think we’re over all that. We might, as individuals, make a conscious decision to avoid conflict in our lives, we might try (at least) to forgive, to take the moral high ground by not fighting fire with fire. Everyone knows an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind, right?
But when the suffering is not ours alone, but a shared trauma- one that bonds us with other human beings we’ve never even met- all of these wise and compassionate ideas are tossed aside. On Friday, Paris was subjected to another barbaric terrorist attack, the second in less than a year. ISIS have allegedly claimed responsibility for the brutal murder of 120 innocent people, although as usual no evidence for this has been offered to the public.
As I write, French jets are attacking the city of Raqqah. They have dropped at least 20 bombs so far, and no doubt many more will be launched before the night is through. “We are going to lead a war which will be pitiless,” French President Francois Hollande has promised. But let’s take a step back from the strong emotions that terrorist attacks inevitably cause. Is all-out war really the only reaction? Is it the the moral reaction? Is it a reaction which will lead to a more peaceful world? Surely not, since Islamic extremists claim to be conducting their own revenge attack for French involvement in the bombing of Syria.
Today’s French airstrike, which was coordinated with the United States, was carried out simultaneously from Jordan and the United Arab Emirates. According to the French government, fighter jets have taken out an ISIS command and control center, a training camp and a munitions warehouse. Great, says the internet. They f***g deserve it, man.
But who are they? Just like carpet-bombing Iraq after 9/11, just like hunting for Bin Laden in Afghanistan, this knee-jerk reaction – the need to hurt and maim those responsible- is directed at the wrong people.
Look at the image below. It is a photograph, taken today, of a child in the Syrian city of Raqqah. Should she pay for Paris? This picture, just as sad and shocking as any we’ve seen coming from the carnage in France, was posted on Twitter by @PalmyraPioneer with the caption: ‘To the people & government in #France, #Raqqa City residents are not all #ISIS , we please do not targets at random.’
How many civilians have been killed in the revenge attacks? How many kids? How many mothers and fathers? How many more desperate refugees will this create? How many more young Muslims will be radicalized due to Western attacks on Islamic countries? What kind of a future do our grandchildren face? Will we look back and wish we’d learned to deal with our anger and fear in a different way? I for one hope so, because if not they have no future at all. None of us do.
The war drums are banging again. Paris has provoked widespread anger, hatred and a hunger for revenge in the West. Those of us who truly care about all human beings- not just those white, European, non-Muslim ones, but everyone, including the innocent child pictured above- need to reject the idea of war under any circumstances. We also need to remember the blood on the hands of Bush and Blair, the lies they told to attack Iraq, and realize that revenge will lead us to WW3.
One thing we all have in common is that none of us want that.