Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Dies IRA and terrorism

Category: [Global Politics]

Terrorism is another form of warfare. It is the war of the power-- and/or the stateless. Of course terrorism is cruel, but so is traditional warfare. The dead are not deader after a terrorist blast than after a conventional cruise missile hit. One can argue that traditional warfare is fair, that it is only directed towards regular fighters, and that it is regulated and sanctioned by international law, - while terrorism is illegal, it is directed against innocent civilians, and it is unfair. That distinction doesn't hold very well.

War is an act of violence, which denies any law or rule, which transcends the group or the sovereign nation. The so-called international law is a set of multilateral agreements that breaks down when the agreeing parties decide to fight instead of talk. If international law should have a right in its own, as claimed by the internationalists, the US-UK invasion in Iraq is bluntly illegal.

The thin red line between "legitimate" force against standing armies, and "illegitimate" force against innocent civilians is a large gray area. Let's not mention the collateral civilian damage that regular armies inflict all the time. The concept of "total war" has been consecrated in WWII, and since then been applied in many "legal" wars. Let's forget Dresden by the Allies in WWII. When the US in Vietnam couldn't find a suitable army, they defoliated the life hood infrastructure of the civilians and the civilians themselves by carpet bombardments. The Israeli army destroys civilians’ houses as a routine. Was that state terrorism?

Finally in a war - conventional or unconventional - civilians are never innocent, certainly not in democracies. Bush forged an utter lie, the WMD's (a Tonkin-like legend), to drag his country and Blair into Iraq. Yet, Bush was not impeached. He and Mr. Blair have even been re-elected. Every civilian contributes to the economical fabric that sustains war. No civilian is innocent, ever.

If we want to condemn any war (be it conventional or terrorist) as fair or unfair, we have to look at the motives of the war farers, less at their methods, less at their morals. "Terrorism is utterly bad" and "conventional war is good" is only based on a judgment about methods.

What brings us to the IRA. Ireland has been plundered for centuries and been culturally defoliated by the British, in a campaign short of genocide. Irish have been driven out of their lands, there has been a massive "plantation" (organized immigration) by Scottish, Welsh and English settlers who got free ethnically cleansed land in exchange. The Irish struggle has many characteristics of a classical anti-occupation movement. Ireland got its independence long ago, but there is still Northern Ireland where the imported plantated Anglophiles still hold on to their privileges; they refuse to re-unite, and do not fear to use terrorist and discriminatory methods either.

Of course one can argue about tactics, and whether Ireland could already have been reunited without terrorist methods. I rather doubt that. The situation also differs with the one in Wales and Scotland, where there was a democratic support for autonomy - while Northern Island still objects to reunification. The fact stays that IRA claims (as with the Basks in Spain) do have a broader historical and popular legitimacy than for instance the claims of the Madrid bombers or the London Underground blasters. They only represent some lunatic claims of Islamophiliacs in Europe, an area where they do not have historical, religious or cultural roots at all.

If we rightly so feel mad and outraged about the London blasts, it shouldn't have to do with the tactics or the methods used. It should have to do with the historical context and with our perceived legitimacy of the claims of the perpetrators. Which is none. Europe has fought and resisted Islam since the 8-th century. They are free to seek their happiness in their old (Middle East) and new (SE Asia, the 'Stans) territories. Europe is free to keep its identity. If Muslim fundamentalists disagree, they have to leave. But leave morals out of the picture. The largest part of our brain is still primate, and primates defend their group, their territory and their way of life.

Link: this thought was a reply on a comment by Bob Doney in the Brussels Journal.

Photo: (click to view): terrorists in the making. Not really: a family in the isolated valley of Batad (Rice Terraces area, N. Luzon, Philippines) preparing our lunch, january 2004.


Blogger Rhys Wynne said...

Never thought before about settlers from Wales moving into the north of Ireland, but suppose there must have been some. i would say that the sympathies of the Welsh are with the those seeking an united Ireland (but not through the means of Terror)
Your comments about how strange that people seem to view death caused by war as something more acceptable than deaths caused by terrorism are very true.

5:29 PM  
Anonymous dof said...

I can agree with the idea that, when you fight reactionaries, you shouldn't be surprised if they resort to outdated forms of combat, at least with respect to the European Continent.

But from there to state that we have no right of indignation is going too far.

One of the benefits of warfare conventions is to prevent the situation to escalate to the point where the conflict can only be settled by the total annihilation of one of the factions. Contrast that with the slightly mellower European style of warfare where, to win, you only have to defeat the army units between your country and the enemy capital.

One of the reasons for indignation is also the position we are put in: we now have the choice of either adhering to our own rules, i.e. we fight with one hand tied behind our backs, or we readopt some outmoded forms of combat ourselves.

9:21 AM  

Post a Comment