I’ve been thinking a lot about terrorism lately. This is hardly surprising. Yesterday was the tenth anniversary of the July 7th, 2005 suicide bombings on the London transport network that killed 52 people. And twelve days ago saw the mass-shooting of Western tourists at the Tunisian coastal resort of Sousse – in which 38 people were murdered, 30 of them British.
The clue is in the word. The purpose of terrorism and the raison d’être of terrorists is to inspire terror. To terrify people and governments. Therefore, logically, if we wish to resist and defeat terrorists, we should respond in a simple way. We shouldn’t be terrified. We shouldn’t allow ourselves to be afraid of them. To quote the slogan that’s been ubiquitous in Britain during the last few years, emblazoned on mugs and on T-shirts, we should keep calm and carry on.
In the case of the Tunisian attack, a reaction of fear and panic is the thing that the terrorists want – and the very last thing that the situation actually needs. It was originally believed that this was carried out by a gunman acting under the auspices of Islamic State (IS), although more recent analyses suggest that he was trained by a Libyan terrorist outfit, Ansar al-Sharia. Both IS and Ansar al-Sharia loathe what Tunisia represents – a modern Arab state that, four years after its revolution, has been able to create a functioning democracy. One where a moderate Islamic party was elected into government and then, later, voted out of government and replaced by a secular one – all done peacefully, which after all is the democratic way of doing things.
Unfortunately, the Tunisian economy is also fragile. Just over 15% of its GDP and nearly half-a-million Tunisian livelihoods are dependent on tourism. Attack the local tourist industry and scare away tourists, and you cause severe damage to the country’s economy and leave a lot of people in poverty. And of course, it’s relentless, hopeless poverty that provides the likes of IS and Ansar al-Sharia with one of their greatest recruiting sergeants.
The appropriate response, then, is for Western tourists to set aside their fears and keep on holidaying in Tunisia. By doing so, they thwart the terrorists’ objectives and put much-needed money in the Tunisian economy, which indirectly helps the stability of the Arab world’s only proper democracy. The other day, this argument was put forward in an article by Justin Mozarra in the Spectator magazine. I have to say that its appearance in that particular publication surprised me, considering how I normally find the Spectator to be a blinkered, intolerant, right-wing rag that I can only read when I’m holding it at arm’s length with a clothes-peg fitted over my nose.
Sadly but inevitably, the thread below Mozarra’s article was soon full of abusive comments from the Spectator’s usual shower of bigoted, cave-dwelling, knuckle-dragging trolls. Many of them argued that no right-thinking white British person should ever go on holiday in Tunisia again because (a) all Tunisians are Muslims, and (b) all Muslims are jihadists. That last bit’s been scientifically proven, apparently.
Actually, if those trolls were correct, and all Tunisians are jihadists, I find it strange that many local people tried to save the lives of Western tourists on the beach at Sousse on June 26th — by, for example, forming a human chain between them and the gunman, or by piloting their boats close to the beach to rescue tourists who’d fled into the sea in an attempt to escape the carnage. If such folk are jihadists, I can only say that they’re the sort of jihadists who give the jihad a bad name.
For more about the heroics of ordinary Tunisians that day, check out this article by Chris Stephen that appeared in Sunday’s Observer:
Sadly, what’s likely to happen now is that tourists will shun Tunisia in the near-future and everything that the terrorists hoped would happen will happen. Meanwhile, it’s possible that the British government will respond, in the state of panic that seems to be its default mode of response to terrorist attacks, with military intervention in the likes of Iraq or Syria. It’s as if those big military interventions in the Bush / Blair years, in the name of the supposed War on Terror, haven’t taught anyone any lessons.
In recent years, the British authorities’ other response to terrorist activity has been to curtail civil liberties and extend state powers to snoop upon and detain people, i.e. to bring in measures to combat terrorism that go against citizens’ rights to a fair trial, freedom of speech, privacy laws and all those other things that mature democracies are supposed to be about.
One wonders why they haven’t learned anything from the experiences of the Irish Republican Army’s campaign between the 1970s and the 1990s, which saw atrocities being wreaked daily in Northern Ireland and regularly in England. The British response to the IRA was at its best when people simply shrugged off those shootings and bomb attacks and got on with their daily lives as if the terrorists weren’t there – adopting the ‘stiff upper lip’ that’s supposed to be a quintessential characteristic of Britishness.
On the other hand, there were plenty of dumb official responses to the IRA. These ranged from the incredibly counterproductive, such as the introduction of internment-without-trial in Northern Ireland in 1971, which today is regarded as a terrible blunder that only succeeded in driving more young people into the arms of the IRA; to the merely idiotic, such as when Margaret Thatcher decided to “deny terrorists of the oxygen of publicity” by banning the broadcasting of the voices of people like Gerry Adams, head of Sinn Fein, the IRA’s political wing – with the result that when such people were interviewed on TV, their voices had to be dubbed by actors. If nothing else, the ban at least provided some much-needed employment for Northern Irish actors, such as Conor Grimes, who did the dubbing. (“Well, Conor,” Adams asked Grimes later, “what’s it like being me?”)
(c) The Independent
One reaction to the recent spate of Islamic-terrorist attacks has been for journalists and politicians to argue that Islamic State shouldn’t be known as Islamic State anymore. Rather, they say, IS should be referred to by its Arabic name, Daesh. The French government, for instance, has complained that calling the organisation Islamic State implies that it represents an actual, legitimate state; and, also, it “blurs the lines between Islam, Muslims and terrorists.” French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius has said of IS and its members that, “The Arabs call it ‘Daesh’, and I will be calling them ‘the Daesh cutthroats’.”
Well, I suppose there’s some logic in the idea of renaming terrorist organisations to avoid offending innocent people. Although I think it’s a bit unfair on, say, the many Irish people who didn’t support the IRA but for decades had to put up with them being called the Irish Republican Army. Anyway, if we are going to rename Islamic State, why don’t we go the whole hog and give them a really unflattering name? I would suggest Caliphate of Crap. Or possible, Stone-Age-Mentality Dumb-shits.