Once again, civilians ended up indiscriminately targeted by the asymmetric warfare of jihadist terror, reduced to bloody and frightened victims, crippled forever in their ability to simply live daily life. All the more so after previous massacres that bloodied Paris in November 2015, devastating what had been a typical Friday night of fun. The two attacks Tuesday in Brussels confirm this reign of terror is not over.
The bombings were full of symbolism. They took place the day after leaked information that Salah Abdeslam, the lone surviving Paris attacker, would cooperate after his arrest. The Islamic State insists Brussels was not retaliation but rather a pledge never to stop. The explosions at the Brussels airport were in front of the American Airlines counter, a message to the United States. And the attacks on the metro station were near the European Commission, and Brussels is also home to NATO. Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker was barricaded inside with the head of the European Council, Donald Tusk, who spoke of his shock by the bombings.
It will be written that Europe is at war, as though Europe and the entire West have not already been at war in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria for the last two decades, with hundreds of thousands of victims and many, too many, massacres of civilians. Maybe the West has forgotten — insulated from the killing as it is thanks to remote-controlled drones. Maybe it has forgotten France’s new post-colonial enterprises in Mali, Niger and Chad. As if having destroyed and helped to destroy with Western wars three states of the Middle East was an exotic and marginal arabesque.
This is the beginning of the sowing of hatred that inevitably occurs when E.U. capitals explode. It’s the side of Europe that beats refugees in Calais for writing “we are not terrorists” on their picket signs and rejects refugees fleeing poverty and conflict we caused. It’s the Europe busy erecting walls and barbed wire and “hunting for aliens,” piling on resentment, funding repressive regimes and delivering desperate human beings into the hands of Sultan Erdogan, the Turkish leader who has fanned flames of war in Syria by training (also on Europe’s behalf) the militants of al Qaeda and ISIS. (Not to mention perilously engaged in a ferocious repression of the Kurds, a group of his own people.)
This trail of blood will not end by invoking the quasi-objective role of the intelligence service, because often Western intelligence has turned a blind eye to the phenomenon of foreign fighters who went to fight Assad and ended up at NATO training camps in Turkey. But mainly because the countries of the allied front in the war in Syria — the U.S., Russia, Britain, Qatar, Turkey — all have opposing interests to say the least, not to mention the criminal hegemony of Saudi Arabia, the eternal economic and military reference point for the West.
The only way to stop the Islamic State is by taking the fertile soil of war and hatred out from under its feet. Stop the bloody wars. Resolve the crises, such as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which remain hot embers beneath the ashes that fuel armed jihadism. And it is possible to cool these flames, as the U.S.-Iran agreement demonstrates.
Until we do, we’ll remain stuck in this spiral: war, terrorism, war, terrorism.
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