Monday, 25 July 2016

Outrages all around. And outrageous lack of thought in response

When it comes to making the world safer, the complete – but unsurprising – failure of Dubya and Bush has now been dramatically demonstrated. These days, it seems barely a day goes by without some new outrage, generally linked with the vile genie the invasion of Iraq let out of the bottle, the terrorist so-called Islamic State.

When it comes to size and spectacular impact, the French seem to be suffering the most, but just for now, at least, it’s the Germans who seem to be at the wrong end of a long, grinding, agonising repetition.

Another day, another outrage
Not, of course, that all those attacks are actually terrorism. It was almost with relief that I learned that a machete attack in Reutlingen was a ‘crime of passion’ and not terrorist-related. It seems awful to feel relief over what was, after all, a murder, but I suppose it’s a bit like the Northern Ireland police at the time of the troubles. They had the notion ‘Ordinary Decent Crime’: with so many crimes literally atrocious, it must have been comforting from time to time to come across a common-or-garden, civil crime unrelated to the sectarian conflict.

As it happens, it wasn’t only the machete attack that was unconnected to ISIS. That was also the case of Friday’s shootings in Munich, when 18-year old David Sonboly killed nine people.

Apart from the horror of the event itself, it was also interesting to see the reactions to it. A great many people, not least the British Foreign Secretary and semi-professional bungler, Boris Johnson, assumed immediately that it must have been an act of terrorism. Boris began pontificating about the need to tackle terrorism at its roots in the middle east, as well as in the many countries it affected, which at least had the merit of being true – it just wasn’t relevant. He would have discovered that for himself had he waited until he’d had a little more information before sounding off.

Boris is a wonderful illustration of the truth that no one can be quite as stupid as an intelligent person. He has the brains to work out an astute message on terrorism, just not the self-control to wait until he finds out whether terrorism played any part in the act he’s commenting on.

It was in any case interesting to see who else jumped the gun and started running their mouths off about terrorism, with a mere skip to immigrants as the causes of terrorism, before they knew what had actually happened. “Oh, Mrs Merkel, is it time for you to have second thoughts about letting all those people in last year?” they chanted, only too happy to be able to give their xenophobia free rein.

Let’s set to one side the fact that Merkel let in a million desperately wretched people. That a handful of them turn out to be pretty rotten is unfortunate but hardly shocking. Are we really to turn our backs on over 999,990 of them because of what the rest may do?

Let’s instead concentrate on David Sonboly himself. Of the nine he killed, seven were migrants: three Turks, three Kosovans and one from Greece. It seems his victims were disproportionately immigrants, while he was German born.

Yet he was of immigrant stock: his parents were Iranian refugees. The son of immigrants rounding on immigrants isn’t that unusual, with one wave of immigration resenting the next, which it sees as destabilising its own situation, the way of life it has established with the native population. We’ve had some celebrated examples of this kind of behaviour in Britain. Leading Conservative politicians Michael Howard and Michael Portillo both backed measures to restrict asylum rights, even though the former was the son of a Jewish refugee from Nazism and the latter the son of a Republican refugee from Franco’s Fascist coup in Spain.

The people who used the Munich shooting to decry immigration were, it seems, lining up with the perpetrator against his victims. They didn’t mean to, of course, but it’s curious to see where you end up when you talk first and think later.

Either way, the incident was an outrage and a tragedy. Though it wasn’t itself linked to terrorism, it underlines a greater familiarity with violence in our societies which terrorism has probably fanned. We’re in for difficult times over the next few years or even decades.

Another case of reaping the bitter fruit of acting without thought or sufficient information, just as Dubya and Blair did. We’ll be consuming the toxic harvest of the Iraq invasion for a long time yet. The worst of is that the ill-judged reactions to Friday’s events, whether Boris’s or those of simple social media users, show that we’re still a long way from putting that kind of lazy, ill-informed and frankly bigoted thinking behind us.

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