Sunday, November 15, 2015 11:14 am
By Muideen Olagunju-Alatede
A US Army bloke sits before an advanced computer system and studies the monitor closely with the rapt focus of a cheetah timing its move to hunt down a prey. He presses some keys and digitally gets an unmanned flying machine called “drone” glide into a position. He presses some more keys and watches on his monitor as the drone’s advanced camera locks a target firmly on crosshairs. The army bloke, with probably a burger or ice-cold Coke or Bud Light on his table, presses the final “ENTER” Key and instantaneously, the drone unleashes a precision-guided missile down to the earth below. At that moment, he could bite on his burger or take a swing from the liquid can.
The US deploys drones with some regularity. In one instance in Yemen, the drone’s missile hit a wedding procession killing 12 people including the couple. To date, conservative estimates put innocent civilian deaths in the War On Terror orchestrated by the United States and its allies at 1.2 million. Some international organizations put the figure as high as 3 million in just three countries namely Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan. That’s 3 million human beings who bore no arms and waged no war. Men, women and most unfortunately children. In one particular attack, a Tomahawk cruise missile killed 40 people in Yemen including 22 children and 12 women.
Interestingly the film, “Rules of Engagement” was set in Yemen. At his trial for the killing of innocent civilians, Col. Terry Childers (played by Samuel L. Jackson) reeled out the riveting line: “You think there’s a script for fighting a war without pissing somebody off? Follow the rules and nobody gets hurt? Yes, innocent people probably died. Innocent people always die but I did not exceed my orders”.
Two days ago, Paris, the capital of France and world renowned center for arts, fashion, exquisite cuisine and fabulous social life, was brought to its knees by carefully plotted terrorist attacks. 129 people have been officially declared dead mainly people who took the time out to enjoy the best Paris had to offer. At a Rock concert (ironically one of the bands on show is inauspiciously named “Death Metal”), scores of people were shot dead by the terrorists. One of the terrorists was reported to have blamed France for intervening against ISIS in Syria.
The world was quite quick to express its condemnation. The situation trended on Twitter and Facebook. In fact, Facebook experimented with a new feature known as “Temporary Profile Picture” offering a user the choice of having the tricolour flag of France super-imposed on the user’s profile picture. Many world famous landmarks including the Eiffel Tower, the CNN Tower, Sydney Opera House and the Toronto Tower have projected the Tricolour. It was a sad day for the world. But na today?
Will there be more attacks on the unsuspecting civilian populations particularly in the world’s main cities? I am afraid yes. As long as drones tear up limbs of women and children without repercussions, as long as world powers refuse to open themselves to genuine commitment to international peace and security, as long as there are double standards on the issue of international security, as long as there’s proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, as long as peace plays second fiddle to spoils of war
Recently, a kinsman did a great piece on the concept of Love-Thy-Neighbour. He ended the piece sounding the Vatican out as an Haven of Peace. I disagreed and gave verifiable points that held the Vatican out as guilty of war crimes as most belligerent entities even as I retain praise for the Church for admitting past acts of terror and apologizing accordingly. My belief is firm on the notion that the world, in its complexity, has never seemed to be prepared to take the straight path to peace. There seem to be an obsession for armed conflict and terror.
A boxer is considered good if he could take punches as he could give. Can world powers who suffer publicized effects of terror be considered true victims deserving our somber sympathy? Saddam Hussein was pushed out on trumped up allegations of stockpiling chemical weapons. America has since eaten her own words on the existence of those weapons. However, Iraq has never been the same again. Same with Libya which enjoyed fantastic prosperity under Ghadaffi. Where’s Libya today following Ghadaffi’s Western-backed ouster? In ruins. Would Syrians absolve foreign super-powers from the situations in their once-upon-a-time Pride of the Orient? What these instances breed are resentment, radicalization and the uncontrollable urge for vengeance.
Carefully orchestrated plots bring terror, like we had in Paris, to the doorsteps of the perceived oppressors. It is scary. London was once under attack. In America, security agencies work round the clock deploying billions of dollars to achieve homeland security. Every Arab or identifiably suspicious-looking Muslim is under the cosh of bare-skinned scrutiny. The fear is intense and unending. To the starry-eyed karmaists, it’s all America’s fault. A blunt assessment reveals that America almost appear to thrive more as a super power on account of wars. The conspiracy theorists come up with various rationales. One is that America’s monstrously powerful defense contractors crave conflicts in order to make more money and secure jobs for their workforce.
There are some who say America intricately planned the 9/11 attacks in order to engineer regime changes in Afghanistan and Iraq. It’s preposterous but there’s an angle that makes it at least remotely plausible. America once planned to kill Americans in terrorist attacks in order to blame same on Cuban communists. This would then tilt public support to any invasion of Cuba. It was code named OPERATION NORTHWOODS. The plan had written approvals of all Joint Chiefs of Staff. Thankfully, President JF Kennedy had no liver to implement it. That should give an insight into how dangerously intelligence/military operations work.
In the French-Algerian war of independence, nearly 1.2 million, with civilians in the majority, were killed. The French Army killed many people including lawyer Ali Boumendjel and disguised their deaths as suicides. French troops also shove live Algerians into the seas from helicopters and called them shrimps.
The end of that war saw France become the magnet for many hundreds of thousands of Algerians who settled to work in new factories and lived in poor areas of Paris and Lyon. The Muslim/Arab population in France increased with France’s affinity to Syria and Lebanon. However, the settlers were never seen or treated as part of the French integrated society. Interestingly, modern France has evolved as a society not particularly keen on organized religion. In this regard, the Muslims are the hardest hit in the growing intolerance. This is seen in the French ban of the Muslim face-veil in public. With situations like this, tension hits boiling points among younger generations of the Muslim population. The 2005 riots accentuated the tension which is connected with scant recognition given to the Muslim population by the French establishment. It has worryingly become quite easy for fundamentalist groups like Al-Qaeda or ISIS to get willing recruits from France. It is understood that more that 1,000 youths have recently left France to fight on the side of ISIS in Syria. Friday’s attacks may not be unconnected with the deep-seated issues of identity, recognition and discrimination.
I resent terrorism but I have never viewed it as baseless. The state sponsored ones have deep motives of gaining socio-economic or political or territorial advantages. The individual or organized terrorism mainly has background in ideological, religious, racial or puritanical considerations. The most scary part is the uncertainty connected with the targets and casualties. I have a blood brother who has been living in London for 17 years. He commutes in public buses or by tube. I have not less than a hundred more relatives residing abroad. My greatest benefactor and the patriarch of my family is somewhere in Europe as I type this piece. Since the attacks are coordinated mainly against innocent civilian targets, who knows who the next victims will be?
The world has seen too many avoidable killings. Once the killing is designed with little or no regard to innocent lives, whether by drone or by radicalized young men wearing explosive vests, it is terrorism. My favorite course as a law student in OAU was International Humanitarian Law otherwise known as the Law of Armed Conflict. It discusses principally the Geneva Conventions and their Additional Protocols and focuses on crimes of concern to the international community: genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. World super powers, directly or indirectly, regularly commit the last two? President Obama brazenly stated that it was important “not to feel too sanctimonious” about some of the methods America use.
For the certainty that US servicemen will be found liable, the United States has not only refused to ratify the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, it is all out to oppose it. Mentioning the United Nations complicates the matter. Its Resolutions, particularly regarding the situation in Palestine, are almost always flouted or disregarded without sanctions. So where is the commitment to world peace?
For the certainty that US servicemen will be found liable, the United States has not only refused to ratify the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, it is all out to oppose it. Mentioning the United Nations complicates the matter. Its Resolutions, particularly regarding the situation in Palestine, are almost always flouted or disregarded without sanctions. So where is the commitment to world peace? The terrorists are hardened and mean. Many have been brainwashed to have no regard at all for sympathy or love. They have mandates to send as many people as possible to early graves.
Will there be more attacks on the unsuspecting civilian populations particularly in the world’s main cities? I am afraid yes. As long as drones tear up limbs of women and children without repercussions, as long as world powers refuse to open themselves to genuine commitment to international peace and security, as long as there are double standards on the issue of international security, as long as there’s proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, as long as peace plays second fiddle to spoils of war.
As I round up, keep this in mind: we may still have many other country flags to use as our temporary profile picture on Facebook. There’s a long walk to peace in the world. That’s if we have begun the walk already.
*Muideen Olagunju-Alatede is a lawyer and member of Oyo State House of Assembly.