The West’s policies and actions in the Middle East have set the stage for tragedy. The destruction and destabilization of states and the creation of a new Cold War flash-point in Syrian (and one upcoming in the Ukraine) are spreading chaos in the world. The mass murder in Nice, France is an example, par excellence, of what Chalmers Johnson describes as Blowback. What is ‘Blowback’?
Blowback – is a term invented by the CIA, refers to the unintended consequences of American policies that are predicated on projecting its military power to every corner of the earth and using American capital and markets to force global economic integration on its own terms.
So this is what happened in Nice [from cbc.ca]:
The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria claimed responsibility for the truck attack on the French city of Nice on Saturday as French police arrested three people there in connection with the carnage that claimed the lives of at least 84 people.
“The person who carried out the operation in Nice, France, to run down people was one of the soldiers of Islamic State,” the news agency Amaq, which supports ISIS, said via its Telegram account.
“He carried out the operation in response to calls to target nationals of states that are part of the coalition fighting Islamic State,” the statement said.
We in North America tend to think (unless you happen to not to be white) of terrorism and war as something that happens ‘over there’. We sit with a manufactured placidity behind our oceans and vicariously experience the horror visited on people in foreign lands and, if moved enough, make a post about it on some social media platform (irony noted). What is difficult for North Americans is the teasing out the questions of “How, if at all(?), does this relate to us?”, while wading though the media slideshow of human misery and death. Our media is failing us by not providing context to the images we see, so we don’t know how to respond.
Blowback is coming. Through the direct result of our use of military and economic power we are fracturing countries and immiserating their people for our Geo-poltical gain. The people of North America are subject to a severe disconnect between the foreign policy goals stated at home and what those goals look like when actualized in reality. I am fairly confident that most of the policy initiatives that involve displacing people and murdering them wouldn’t get much popular support.
However, call it (murder et cetera) bringing “stability’ to a region, it sounds palatable to the citizenry, and thus their consent is ensured. How many lives hang in the balance or have been sacrificed because of word/not-words like ‘precision bombing’ and ‘democracy promotion’? Our use of opaque sanitized language cuts people off from the empathy we all possess and allows for the most pernicious of behaviours.
We in the West feel connected only when the chickens of violence come home to roost and vengeance is delivered to our innocent populations. The sympathetic news coverage begins immediately, more so if the victims happen to be Caucasian (because #whitelivesmattermore), and we can connect with the sorrow and horror being visited on the people in question.
Did believe in Islam play a role in the mass-murder in Nice. Almost certainly. Even traumatized desperate people need persuading to enable them to commit murderous acts. The ISIS brand of Islam is tailor made to undermine empathetic thoughts and feelings, to numb the fundamental kindness we feel toward each other (this applies to almost all organized religions, of course) and make atrocities such as what happened in Nice possible.
Fervent belief in ideology – religious or otherwise – helps make disastrous events possible, because as soon as we can start people as the ‘enemy’ and the ‘other’ it becomes so much easier to destroy their lives.
So, did Allah take the wheel and instigate vehicular homicide on a grand scale? Probably not, but he certainly put gas in the tank and keys in hand.