You Can’t Bomb an Idea


Originally posted on The Practical Subversive. 

There really aren’t any words to convey the horror of Friday night’s events in Paris. Nothing can justify the actions of the terrorists, gunning down innocent people as they enjoy a night out.

I know some people have been calling others selectively sympathetic, when they pour out grief and solidarity over events in Paris, while ignoring similar atrocities in Lebanon, Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen, Palestine and countless other places around the world.

I don’t really think that’s an argument worth having. It doesn’t help me understand the situation the world, all of us, find ourselves in. Trying to score who’s-the-most-compassionate-points really won’t take us anywhere. It’s discussed from an Australian perspective here.

Still, I’m certain that we can’t let these events be turned into an excuse for bigots and racists to give vent to their prejudices. This, for example is shameful and despicable.

Instead of reacting, I’ve been trying to understand. Asking, Why?

I’m in no way an expert, and I wouldn’t claim to be. So I’m reading around trying to find a glimmer of hope and I thought I’d share some of that reading with you. I have to tell you in advance though, it doesn’t look good.

I’ve read arguments like these before, that the West is simply reaping what it has sown:

But I wanted to understand where ISIS came from. How does such a strong poison appear? This seemed a good place to start: “You can’t understand ISIS if you don’t know the history of Wahhabism in Saudi Arabia.”

A rather depressing analysis of the history behind ISIS and its second part won’t lift your mood either: “Middle East Time Bomb: the real aim of ISIS is to replace the Saud family as the new Emirs of Arabia”

The conclusion drawn from these two articles is about who is threatened by ISIS:

“So whom precisely does ISIS threaten? It could not be clearer. It does not directly threaten the West (though westerners should remain wary, and not tread on this particular scorpion).

The Saudi Ikhwani history is plain: As Ibn Saud and Abd al-Wahhab made it such in the 18th century; and as the Saudi Ikhwan made it such in the 20th century. ISIS’ real target must be the Hijaz — the seizure of Mecca and Medina — and the legitimacy that this will confer on ISIS as the new Emirs of Arabia.”

These articles make clear that far from it being the Saudis who are behind ISIS and are propping them up, it is Western interventions in Iraq and Syria that have given ISIS the space to grow. There may be funding coming from Saudi Arabia for ISIS, but it’s not coming from the state.

All very well, but what does the West do? We’re in this mess; is there any way out?

We’ve seen the French government respond with more bombs, but how do we defeat the Wahhabi ideology that birthed ISIS, as this author calls us to?

You can’t bomb an idea.

The author of this post agrees; what we’ve been doing since 2001 in the Middle East hasn’t worked:

But then the author leaves us with a little sliver of hope:

“But I do have this: stop what we have been doing for the last 14 years. It has not worked. There is nothing at all to suggest it ever will work. Whack-a-mole is a game, not a plan. Leave the Middle East alone. Stop creating more failed states. Stop throwing away our freedoms at home on falsehoods. Stop disenfranchising the Muslims who live with us. Understand the war, such as it is, is against a set of ideas — religious, anti-western, anti-imperialist — and you cannot bomb an idea. Putting western soldiers on the ground in the mideast and western planes overhead fans the flames. Vengeance does not and cannot extinguish an idea.”

After everything I’ve read over the last few days (and these are only a select sample) I think that’s the best I can do, the best hope for peace.

We need to leave the Middle East alone.

P.S. This film is well worth watching:

It gives a great overview of the history of the crisis we face and links it to 2008 financial meltdown, among other things.

Also, this article identifies links with politics in Turkey:


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About RIC Aberdeen

The Radical Independence Campaign sees Scottish independence as the first step towards creating a fairer, greener, more democratic place. RIC Aberdeen are a local campaigning group, ordinary people who want to make a difference. We do canvassing every Wednesday night, along with other events. Please get in touch for more info.

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