It’s sad that I need to open this with a disclaimer, but unfortunately we seem to have lost the art of nuance in discourse; that being said, I am in no way condoning what happened in Manchester. If by the end of the piece you fail to see that, then I have failed in conveying my message, or you’re thick as fuck.(I’m also open to the idea that they may not be mutually exclusive categories)
I’ve tried to avoid adding another ‘Manchester hot take’ to the pile, but after catching a couple of quotes from an article in the DailyMirror, I couldn’t help myself. The piece in question was an incredibly brief bit on the motivations of the recent Manchester bombing as told by Jomana Abedi, the suicide bomber’s sister.
Ms. Abedi’s described her brother as ‘kind’ and ‘loving’, descriptors not taken well by Mark Session who dismissed the comments, claiming there was no place for them. It’s not an easy thing to hear those gentle labels attached to someone many see as a monster, it’s incongruous; how can someone capable of such evil be described in such a complimentary way? The reality is we have a simple ‘good versus evil’ narrative, with everyone the hero of their own story. While the suicide bomber’s final act was one of a malevolence unfortunately becoming all too common, we need to remember that before the bomber, there was a boy – a brother and son, one who doubt expressed the same love and devotion to his family, that we do ours.
There was also offence at the suggestion the attack was carried as retribution for the children killed in Allied air strikes. While Session claims there is no justification for the taking of a child’s life, the entire quote makes it clear that while it may not be justified, it’s different for Allied air strikes, because those kids weren’t purposefully targated. It’s the curse of the simplistic narrative striking again – look guys, there’s no justification for targeting children, I know we’ve maybe hit one or two in our air strikes, but we’re trying to wipe out ISIS. So...maybe cut us some slack? You should just accept that we might accidentally kill a kid or two, but that’s no reason to retaliate, it not like we done it on purpose! We’re bombing for peace in the Middle East!
To outright dismiss Jomana Abedi’s comments regarding her brother is irresponsible and myopic, if we continue to accept the same simple narrative we’re going to go round in ever exploding circles. We need to understand the motivations of those who carry out such barbaric acts if we are to ever have any hope of changing the course of future retaliation. We must also accept, as we were warned, our actions in the Middle East would have repercussions. We are reaping what was sown. Responding with more violence only plays into the hands of ISIS recruiters; the sight of civilians, especially children, getting caught in the crossfire is one of the key tools used to recruit potential violent and suicidal extremists, you don’t wake up one day and suddenly decide you want to blow yourself up, monsters aren’t born, they’re made -and we need to stop shipping the materials required.
If we escalate our actions in response to what has happened we can expect more of same, if we go down the route of internment, we can expect the same. It’s easy to call for internment when you know you have no fear of being detained, (i.e. you’re not Muslim), but it doesn’t work. It’s a sticking plaster solution, it hasn’t worked in the past, and it won’t work now; the injustice suffered by those innocently interned will only drive more recruits into the arms of the enemy.
Our ‘War on Terror’ isn’t working, you can’t fight an abstract concept, or at least, you can’t bomb it out of existence - and if we continue air strikes which kill innocent civilians, we will only move further towards more attacks on home soil. Violence only begets more violence, it’s a never ending downward spiral, there are no exceptions to the rule – the particulars may be different, but the generalities are the same. We need a new plan.
“Beware that, when fighting monsters, you yourself do not become a monster...”