Now We Are At War? We Have Been At War Since 9/11 – by Stan Grant – The Guardian UK

 Now We Are At War? We Have Been At War Since 9/11

by Stan GrantThe Guardian UK

Peshawar, Pakistan: a suicide bombing has torn through a police cadet parade and scores of people are dead. I arrive to find fresh blood staining the ground. A mangled motorcycle is strewn across the road. Cars are burned out and upended; shop windows are shattered. Bits of human flesh are embedded in the shrapnel-marked walls of surrounding buildings.

Be’er Sheva, Israel: two buses have exploded. There is shattered glass, twisted wreckage and a convoy of ambulances ferrying the dead and wounded. There is already talk of reprisals against the Palestinian militants who have carried out this attack.  

Southern Thailand: Islamic separatists have taken shelter inside a mosque after launching a series of violent raids. In the preceding months there have been killings, bombings, beheadings. Now the Thai military open fire killing all inside the building. Soon after, I walk through the still smouldering mosque. There is blood dripping from the overhead fans.

These are just some of the acts of terrorism I have covered as a reporter over the past 15 years. To this list I can add similar attacks in Egypt, Afghanistan, Gaza, Indonesia, China. This has been the pattern since al-Qaida targeted the United States on September 11 2001.

Now we have the events in Paris and we are told this is war.

What are we thinking? It has been war for more than a decade. For people living in Afghanistan, Pakistan or parts of the Middle East it has been even longer.

We are rightly stunned and appalled at the loss of life and the brutality in France. But sadly, we should not be surprised. Just a day a before the Paris attacks, more than 40 people were killed in suicide bombings in Beirut. These were the deadliest acts since the end of Lebanon’s civil war in 1990.

Only a month ago more than 100 people died in a terrorist attack in Ankara, Turkey. The country has been torn apart by violence this year. In July dozens were killed in a suicide bombing in Suruç.

Now, we are told this is war? It was war on September 11. It was war in Jordan in 2005 when more than 60 people died in coordinated suicide bombings. It was war in Mumbai in 2006. It was war in London in 2005. Indeed it was war in Paris earlier this year when terrorists targeted the Charlie Hebdo magazine. All of these attacks took lives, left us stunned, sickened and left families shattered.

It is worth remembering who count the greatest number of dead in this rolling, seemingly worldwide and unending conflict.

The Global Terrorism Index 2014 ranks the countries most at risk from terrorism. The top five are: Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nigeria and Syria. In 2013, 82% of terrorism deaths occurred in those five countries.

The American government’s National Counter-Terrorism Centre estimates that up to 97% of terrorism fatalities are Muslims.

We in the west reflexively identify with attacks on those we see as our own [white/European people]. Terrorism in Paris touches the fear that it could happen in our neighbourhoods. Yet we did not react with the same outrage or horror or empathy a day earlier when Lebanese people were killed. Now it is hardly surprising that some in Beirut are asking if their lives matter less than those in France.

Muslims are not only the greatest victims of terrorism; they are also blamed for the acts of terrorism. How often do we hear the lazy, ignorant refrain: “not all Muslims are terrorists, but all terrorists are Muslim”. This is patently untrue.

Europol – the European law enforcement agency – counted 152 terror attacks on the continent in 2013, only two of them were religiously motivated. France’s Corsican independence movement the FLNC, the Greek left-wing Militant Popular Revolutionary Forces or Italian anarchist group FAI, have all carried out acts of terrorism that we never hear about.

Anders Brevik massacred more than 70 people in Norway in 2011. He left behind an anti-Muslim, pro-Christian Europe manifesto. No one demands that all Christian leaders denounce Christian terrorism. Yet after the weekend in Paris, former Australian prime minister Tony Abbott is once again calling on the Muslim community to do more to publicly reject Islamic radicals.

This is the same man whose simplistic “death cult” slogans played into the very propaganda Islamic State (Isis) feeds off.

Yet we cannot ignore the scourge of fundamentalist Islam inspired violence. Muslims certainly can’t ignore it because they bear the brunt of it.

Yes, this is a war. I have covered this war in its many theatres across the globe. I know that Muslims mourn their dead as we do. Muslim mothers bury their children. Muslim fathers wonder how they will keep their families safe. Muslim homes are destroyed. Muslims sit in overcrowded refugee camps. Muslims survive on relief rations from charities. Muslims get on creaky people-smuggler boats to escape. They fan out across Europe seeking haven. They come to our shores looking for shelter.

Muslims die in overwhelming numbers at the hands of Muslim extremists. Muslims are blamed for the very acts of terrorism they suffer.

We in the west – the western media – do not see Muslim lives as we see our own. We don’t report, discuss or feel their pain as we report the suffering of those in Paris.

Islamic societies have hard questions to ask of themselves. They are in a fight for the soul of their religion. The west also has to confront its own failures. Since George W. Bush declared the “war on terror”, policies and military strategies have floundered. Isis is born out of that failure.

This is a war. It touches us all from Paris to Peshawar.

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