In Paris there has been a massacre.
Every week in Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan and in many African countries, there are massacres.
In Syria, every day is a day of massacres.
Massacres of people whose lives are as important as our own. Their relatives and friends feel grief as we feel grief.
Because Paris is just two hours away by train, because 128 people died having a Friday night out, as we have Friday nights out – the Parisian massacre is getting more publicity than what happens in the middle east. Only this week 40 people were massacred by IS in Beirut. In April, 148 students were killed in similarly random fashion in Kenya.
A death in Paris is as important as a death in Beirut, Kenya or Syria, but no more important. I am not making a political point, but a humanitarian point. If IS kill 129 people in Syria, then it is an act of war and goes unreported, if they kill people in Paris it is an act of terrorism and sparks international outrage. But the deaths have the same moral weight, and if we say otherwise – we assume a European life is more valuable than a middle eastern life – which is a racist statement – at least in my book.
The gratuitous violence that marks IS’ behaviour is equally deplorable in Syria as it is in Paris. I have no language to condemn it that does not create further tension and resentment. I do not want to understand the behaviour -to justify it at any level- violence of its kind is inhuman and wrong.
But the equal and opposite reaction, that of war against IS, which is what is being proposed by almost every western politician speaking today, is not the answer. War does not solve problems – it creates them. IS has been born out of conflicts that we were stupid enough to escalate. Conflicts in Iraq and Palestine and Afghanistan have been inflamed by western intervention and what happened in Paris is to a degree a consequence of our reactive belligerence.
Statements such as “we do not negotiate with terrorists”, sound good on the TV but they don’t help. These terrorists are pissed off enough with us to blow themselves up to prove it. Instead of demonstrating our intelligence and sophistication through superior “weapon systems”, perhaps we should try working out why these Jihadists are so pissed off and what can be done to stop them blowing us and themselves up in the future.
Nor should we use what has happened in Paris as a further excuse to close borders to those who IS have made migrants.
Nor should we allow the events in Paris to disrupt the normal business of states, as should be being discussed at the G20 summit. If barbarism is allowed to stop us going about our daily business, barbarism will win.
Those countries that deal with terrorism best are those who look to find ways to peace not war. I can point to Germany and the Scandinavian countries that have found ways to comfort the bereaved and displaced of the Syrian conflict and have made themselves part of the solution. This does not make them invulnerable to terrorist attack, but it gives their people a pride that they are not accelerating the problem.
I hope that the belligerent reactions of political leaders in the west, especially those in Europe and America, will be proportionate to the overall problem. What has happened in Paris this weekend is horrible, but it is no more horrible than what Syria sees every day.
We must find a way for Syria to find peace before going to war with the terrorists. For we cannot win the war with terrorism, we can only win the peace.