Thursday, May 23, 2013

Murder in Woolwich

Like the Boston bombings, the murder of a British soldier yesterday in Woolwich has received massive publicity. That is, of course, understandable: these are violent acts occurring in places where we do not expect to see violence, and in situations where any of us could be among the random victims. However, the far greater violence of imperialist attacks on people resisting "full spectrum domination" is editorially disappeared from the capitalist mass media or buried in a page 37 paragraph and by and large accepted by Western peoples because it is "over there" and in places where we assume violence to be some sort of norm.

How do we respond to workmates and friends when a topic like Woolwich comes up?

Acts of terrorism must be condemned.  But we cannot condemn them in the same self-righteous and blinkered manner as the capitalist media and right-wing nationalist and reactionary people do.

They refuse to admit that there can be any rational basis for the actions of the terrorists. 

I have before me the Adelaide Advertiser, a Murdoch publication.  On page 4 it excerpts the comments of one of the terrorists under the heading “Rantings of a madman”.  On the same page, it directs readers to its website with the prurient appeal to “Watch the extremist’s manic rant”.

Hence, any consideration of what may have motivated the murder of the soldier is dismissed.  A “madman” does not have rational motivations. A “manic rant” is incoherent and crazy, illogical and delusional.

Yet in Murdoch’s national flagship, the Australian, comprador journalist Greg Sheridan says that what was “appalling” – even “especially” appalling – was “the calm, even lucid, fashion in which one of the two murderers explained the Islamist nature of his motives to the mobile phone camera of a passer-by.”

So what was it?  A “manic rant” or a “calm, even lucid” explanation?

At least one cannot accuse Murdoch of not allowing different views and interpretations in his newspapers!

And in any case, Sheridan was hardly stepping out of editorial line.  He opened with the one result that terrorism is guaranteed to produce, namely, a call for even greater repressive powers to be vested in the capitalist state’s security services: “…the terrorist threat is increasing, our ability to combat it is beginning to decline and we are contemplating further handcuffing of our security agencies in their counter-terror efforts.”

So what did the terrorist of the manic calm, of the lucid rant, have to say?

It is true that he praised Allah and bemoaned the killing of Muslims in Afghanistan by British forces.  I suppose that is what Sheridan means by the “Islamist nature” of the killer’s motives.

But the core of the killer’s message was the need for the British people to get rid of their government, a government that cares as little for the people of Britain as it does for the people of Afghanistan, and for the British people to demand the return of British troops (“our troops”) so that “we can all live in peace”.

Editorially, the Australian was in no mood to contemplate such a rational message.

Its opening salvo was that the “horrendous slaughter of a British soldier on a London street, like last month’s bombing of the Boston Marathon, is a gruesome reminder of the Islamic terrorist evil that lurks within even the most civilised societies.”

This is the same paper and same global media empire which never reminds us of the gruesome terrorist evil of massive airpower strikes at “weddings, parties, anything” in the “other” parts of the world, in “even the most civilised societies” that are not yet subject to the “full spectrum domination” of US imperialism and its NATO allies.

Here is one statement that goes to the heart of the matter, from the UK-based World to Win News Service. Are there others?


The state feeds on terror and ignores serious threats to society
Events in Woolwich yesterday show that the state is totally geared up for emergency action when it wants to be – committees meet, officials are called in, politicians focus their attention and insist something must be done.

One is entitled to ask why they can respond so strongly to a lone terrorist event when they are so entirely unable to react to long-term, serious threats to society – poverty, climate change, banking and tax corruption and youth unemployment to name a few? No committees met when it was reported last week that the concentration of CO2 has risen above 400 parts per million!

Cameron says the "British people" will "never buckle in the face of terror" and promised "terrorists will never win". But those who carried out yesterday's horrific attack and others like the Boston Marathon attack, were not aiming to win – they were aiming to die, and to strike a blow against their enemy as they did so.

Yet such acts of terrorism can no more “win” than the NATO powers can win their so-called war on terror. Instead, the world is now locked into a continuous conflict and the state adopts the rhetoric of “crushing” the terrorists, a rhetoric that is easily transferable to crushing all opposition.

The reaction of the state media shows the extent to which even intelligent journalists adopt distorted thinking in order to support the kind of imperialist and colonialist rhetoric that still colours so much public discourse in the UK. In an astonishing article on the BBC website, home affairs correspondent Dominic Casciani says:

For jihadists, it really comes down to the presence of soldiers - and an entire framework of belief that sees those personnel, whatever role they have been given under international law, as the enemy of Islam. That argument is often backed up with graphic images online of the suffering of ordinary women and children. It's all designed to whip up anger and a sense of burning injustice - the kind of injustice that leads people to be convinced that something must be done.

So women and children suffering in the Middle East and Afghanistan are just "images" and only serve to "whip up" a sense of burning injustice. They are not really burning injustices in themselves! He goes on:

Now, most people who feel a sense of injustice obviously combat it in [sic] purely peaceful means. The point about terrorism is that the sense of injustice becomes a springboard for mental somersaults in the mind of someone who thinks that indiscriminate violence can create justice.

So "most people" obviously combat injustice by peaceful means? Would that include the troops sent to Mali by the French government? Or the first invasion of Iraq, after Saddam fell out with the West and invaded Kuwait? Or the second invasion, when, as Blair now admits, the goal was regime change? Or the invasion of Afghanistan in response to the attacks on the Twin Towers? Or illegal drone assassinations?

Of course not! These claim the sanction of “international law” and fighting to “preserve our way of life”, which, when it comes down to it, means sustaining corporate and financial power over ordinary people’s lives.

The last time the cabinet’s emergency unit Cobra was in almost continuous session was in 2011 when riots broke out in London and other cities – another outpouring of anger at burning injustice. On this occasion it was the injustice of police shooting a young black man and anger at the impact of the economic crisis being foisted on to the young and the poor.

The reaction was ruthless and the justice system was instructed by the government to repress those who were caught. First-time offenders were given long prison terms; young people got four years just for Facebook messages.

Of course terrorism and rioting are not going to change the state of the world, or the state of the state. The state feeds on such acts and uses them to mobilise reactionary forces and reinforce repression against every community.

So the capitalist state is itself the problem, not the solution. It can never address the grievances that drive people to terrorism or to riot. Only when power is in the hands of ordinary people will the conditions exist for that to happen.

Penny Cole
23 May 2013

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