Mourn not just for Paris, but for the World

by Ingrid Robeyns on November 15, 2015

After the horrible attacks in Paris, a day of mourning is only appropriate. But we’d better mourn for all victims of extreme and systematic violence – not just in Paris, but also in Beirut, Baghdad, and other places.

The day before the Paris attacks, 41 people where killed in an attack by IS/ISIS in Southern Beirut.

In Baghdad, an IS/ISIS attack on a mosque killed 18 people, and 2 earlier this week when a Shiite place of worship was hit by two road bombs.

In the meantime, thousands of refugees that are fleeing for the violence of IS/ISIS are trying to get into Europe in horrific circumstances, many losing their lives along the way.

Let us not compare these tragedies. Yet let us also not just mourn for the tragedy that happens in places that we know best, or people we most identify with. Instead, let us mourn for all those lost lives, for all the suffering that could be avoided, if only we, as the human species, hadn’t gotten ourself into this horrific mess.

{ 53 comments }

1

Hidari 11.15.15 at 8:08 am

And let’s not forget the downing of the Russian airliner, assuming that that was, indeed, the work of ISIS. 224 civilians dead. Although the reaction of the Western media to this atrocity was somewhat different to the response to the Paris atrocity, for some reason I can’t quite put my finger on.

2

MPAVictoria 11.15.15 at 8:20 am

A well written and saddening post Ingrid.

/Strength and peace to all who need it.

3

Daniel 11.15.15 at 9:24 am

And let’s not forget the tens of thousands of innocent people American soldiers killed in the last fifteen years when their government decided to extend their hegemony over the middle east.

4

Hidari 11.15.15 at 9:51 am

5

Val 11.15.15 at 9:56 am

Absolutely Ingrid thank you. And though the immediate perpetrators of this act seem to be dead, let us not forget that anyone who organised or supported it should be dealt with through the criminal justice system and given a fair trial. No wars, no summary executions, peacekeeping and justice only. If we believe in the principles of justice we must live by them. This is not about Muslims or Christians or any creed or colour, it is about humanity.

6

chrisare 11.15.15 at 10:00 am

Why do we need to wait till after the Paris tragedy to be reminded of these other tragedies?

7

Daragh 11.15.15 at 10:31 am

@Hidari – That might be because it was very unclear in the first days after the attack as to what caused the downing of the aircraft (Russian airliners have a terrible safety record) and that the first reaction of the Russian government when it became apparent that it was a bomb was to deny, obfuscate and stonewall due to reasons of domestic politics. I agree that often our media is terribly insular, but let’s not get too cynical.

As to the OP – well put and fully agreed.

8

engels 11.15.15 at 10:46 am

I agree with the sentiment of universal solidarity but where the title of this post proposes mourning for ‘all the world’ the post only mentions victims of ISIS.

9

Ingrid Robeyns 11.15.15 at 11:58 am

Engels, yes, you’re right, I was unsure about which of the following two points to try to make – (1) that we should not only care about “western” victims of ISIS (or those most dominantly in the mainstream media – the Beirut attacks where to some extent present in the media, but to the best of my knowledge the Bagdhad attacks did not get much attention at all); and those ISIS attacks – while not literally everywhere in the world – are also in other parts of the world then Paris. Alternatively, (2) we should also not forget about non-ISIS-related extreme violence that is in many respects morally almost as repugnant, but doesn’t affect us (there are terrorist groups active in many parts of the world, ending or ruining people’s lives). While I think both points are important and should be made, I think there is also something stronger about just focussing on ISIS, since it makes it clearer that even if we limit our attention to those who died at the hands of ISIS, we should try not to be selective in mourning for some victims, and not for others. But that requires some effort on our part, I think.

10

engels 11.15.15 at 12:43 pm

11

reason 11.15.15 at 1:15 pm

I really find it hard to understand ISIS. Do they want to abandon their territory in Syria and Iraq and become an underground terrorist organisaton. Because in that case their actions might make sense.

If we go back and remember Afghanistan – where the Taliban spent a considerable time in full control until they made the fatal mistake of harbouring bin Laden. This history must be known to ISIS. Yet, within a short time they have antagonised Turkey, Russia, Iran, France. Only need to launch an attack in the US and they will ensured that their home territory gets completely flattened. It is quite an acchievement to get Russia, Iran and the US on the one side (against ISIS). I suppose they really do have a death wish.

12

reason 11.15.15 at 1:23 pm

P.S. And yes I think there are definite signs that ISIS has changed strategy, and it is likely that is an admission that their land grab is in trouble. And the Russian plane, in which more people were killed than in Paris (although less casualties in total) is part of that (I find it hard to believe that they didn’t do it, since they claimed credit). Claiming credit for something that will get a response of massive bombing campaign, if you didn’t do it, would be extraordinary.

13

Stephen 11.15.15 at 1:31 pm

Val@3: dealing with the supporters and organisers of ISOL through the criminal justice system and giving them a fair trial is a laudable objective. But for those who are currently resident in the Islamic State, and so inaccessible to the machinery of justice, how is their arrest and trial to be achieved without a war?

14

Ingrid Robeyns 11.15.15 at 2:25 pm

just a reminder to people wanting to comment of our Comments Policy: http://crookedtimber.org/notes-for-trolls-sockpuppets-and-other-pests/
which can be found at the top of the blog.

I don’t mind critical comments, and I am genuinly grateful to those adding to a reasonable and interesting discussion, but I am also deleting crap.
(just not to be misunderstood, this is in no way related to the above comments in this thread – it’s related to stuff you won’t be seeing).

15

Procopius 11.15.15 at 4:22 pm

@Val #11 – As far as I know Turkey is still quietly supporting ISIS by allowing them to move freely through the country, sell their oil there, and ship supplies from Turkey over the border to Raqqa and other ISIS strongholds. They are, of course also still getting money and weapons from Saudi Arabia and Qatar, and there are stories of both U.S. and Britain running resupply operations to them. Not to mention, of course, the large ISIS convoys that run on the highways every day in Iraq and Syria in full view of God and everyone.

16

Kiwanda 11.15.15 at 5:08 pm

Amen.

As to whose suffering to pay attention to: there is a credible argument that ISIS is in part a consequence of the mismanagement of the Iraq invasion, including the disbanding of the Iraqi army. Not discounting the evil and direct responsibility of the attackers, but without those American war crimes, this would not have happened. Shit happens all over the world, but some of it is more directly due to American actions and policies. As an American, I pay more attention to that part.

17

Omega Centauri 11.15.15 at 5:50 pm

Kiwanda, well said. And of course violent Jihadism had been mostly dormant until we activated as an instrument in fighting the ColdWar. So even Jihadist groups which can’t be thought of as arising from our breaking of the Iraqi state (or of our anti-soviet efforts in Afghanistan), (such as Boko Harem, and Al Shabab) are in part attributable to our letting the genie out of the bottle.

Notice that I used the breaking of the Iraqi state (not the direct casualties of US actions), the body count of the later pales almost to insignificance next to the victims arising from the forces we unwittingly unleashed.

18

A H 11.15.15 at 6:00 pm

#alllivesmatter

am I doing this right?

19

gianni 11.15.15 at 6:41 pm

“claiming credit for something that will get a response of massive bombing campaign, if you didn’t do it, would be extraordinary.”

Not really. The ‘massive bombing’ is the status quo – the West is not going to expand much further because doing so would embroil one in the Syrian Civil War, and now quite possibly with Russia.

As for ‘claiming credit’ – terrorist organizations have a clear incentive to claim responsibility after any sort of attack like this. They want to be perceived as powerful and dangerous. It makes them more intimidating to rival nations, more threatening to enemy populations (who may demand over-reactions that perpetuate the sorts of conflicts, inside society and internationally, that the terrorist org feeds on), and it also helps them garner recruits (who they competing with rival terrorist orgs to attract).

This, of course, has no bearing on the empirical question of whether they are actually responsible. But in addressing that question, I wholly reject the notion that the claims made by ISIS are relevant.

Since when were terrorists trustworthy, anyways?

20

Ingrid Robeyns 11.15.15 at 6:55 pm

A piece in the NYT with reactions from people in Lebanon – not surprising at all in my view: http://mobile.nytimes.com/2015/11/16/world/middleeast/beirut-lebanon-attacks-paris.html?

21

engels 11.15.15 at 7:32 pm

“When my people died, no country bothered to light up its landmarks in the colors of their flag,” – Quite, and I’m sorry to say I am finding all this flag-waving as an act of ‘mourning’ for ‘ordinary people’ pretty sickening. Leaving aside the other issues, there are better ways to remember Paris and innocent victims of war.

22

Donald Johnson 11.15.15 at 7:32 pm

Actually, Omega, US forces accounted for a large fraction of the deaths in Iraq. The study published in PLOS

http://journals.plos.org/plosmedicine/article?id=10.1371/journal.pmed.1001533

found that 35 percent of the violent deaths were attributed to coalition forces. The 2006 Johns Hopkins study cited by Hidari also found about a third attributed to the coalition. iirc, but I’m too lazy to look. Of course a large fraction of those might be fighters, if that makes a difference.

I think reliance on the press would give one the impression that virtually all the violence against civilians was Iraqi-on-Iraqi. Iraq Body Count found most of the civilian deaths caused by the US were in the opening invasion months and at Fallujah, but the US normally tends to count everyone it kills as an insurgent, so if most of the casualties couldn’t be independently investigated, it would slant the data. It’d be hard to conceal all the civilian deaths in March and April 2003.

23

Sebastian H 11.15.15 at 7:53 pm

I wonder about the ‘sophisticated’ attacks we keep hearing about. Is 6-10 men in a religious cult deciding to attack three different venues at a time sycronized by watches or text messages really THAT sophisticated?

24

Bruce Wilder 11.15.15 at 8:02 pm

Yes, well, “sophisticated” justifies pouring vast resources into a security apparatus focused on petty harassment and scrutiny of the general population. Irrational rationality is not the exclusive instrument of religious extremists from alien cultures.

25

Sandwichman 11.15.15 at 8:24 pm

Well, of course, it didn’t “all begin” in 1979. But neither did it all begin with the 1953 CIA coup in Iran against Mossadegh. But those two Cold War events, along with the 2003 invasion of Iraq, continue to reverberate in the current mayhem.

But, hey, geo-petro-politics was fun while it lasted. It did wonders for the GDP. When those chickens come home to roost, they don’t give a shit WHO they roost on, do they?

STEVE COLL: Well, it of course begins in 1979 when the Soviets invaded during the Carter administration, and it really swelled between 1981 and 1985. Essentially, under Bill Casey, the CIA created a three-part intelligence alliance to fund and arm the Mujahadeen, initially to harass Soviet occupation forces and eventually they embraced the goal of driving them out. The three-way alliance in each of the parties had a distinct role to play. The Saudi, their intelligence service primarily provided cash. Each year the congress would secretly allocate a certain amount of money to support the CIA’s program. After that allocation was complete, the US Intelligence liaison would fly to Riyadh and the Saudis would write a matching check. The US role was to provide logistics and technological support as well as money. The Saudis collaborated with Pakistan’s intelligence service, ISI, to really run the war on the front lines. It was the Pakistani army, in particular the ISI, that picked the political winners and losers in the jihad, and who favored radical Islamist factions because it suited the Pakistan’s army goal of pacifying Afghanistan, a long-time unruly neighbor to the west, whose ethnic Pashtun nationalism the army feared. The army saw Islam not only as a motivating force in the anti-Soviet jihad, but as an instrument of Pakistan’s regional policy to control Afghanistan. The US acquiesced with all of this in part because they thought that the only purpose that brought them to the region was to drive the Soviets out, and they didn’t really care about local politics. But also because after Vietnam, the generation of CIA officers involved in this program were scarred by their experiences in Southeast Asia, and they essentially operated under a mantra of no more hearts and minds for us. We’re not good at picking winners and losers in a developing world. Let’s let the Pakistanis decide who carries this jihad forward. That’s how the favoritism of the radical Islamic factions was born and nurtured.

26

reason 11.15.15 at 9:00 pm

gianni @19
You do realise the attack in question was against a Russian plane? Maybe you should reconsider your response in the light of that, especially since just one or two days before in the press there were reports that Russia was basically ignoring ISIS in its bombing raids.

27

reason 11.15.15 at 9:03 pm

gianni @19
Besides my whole point was that ISIS until recently wasn’t a terrorist organisation – although it encouraged others to commit acts of terror. It was an old fashioned army.

28

reason 11.15.15 at 9:07 pm

Procopius @15
Which if what you say is true, makes these provocative terrorist attacks even odder. I agree, up to now the attacks on ISIS have been tactical and limited. I think that might now change. So why did they provoke it?

29

Ronan(rf) 11.15.15 at 9:07 pm

“terrorist organizations have a clear incentive to claim responsibility after any sort of attack like this.”

Do they though? Terrorist organisations also have incentives towards credibility,( and other tactical and strategic goals, which sometimes mean not causing mass civilian casualties) Claiming responsibility for any attack could undermine this in obvious ways (perhaps in the specific case of ISIS they have incentives to ” claim responsibility after any sort of attack like this”, but that’s a different claim

30

Walt 11.15.15 at 9:26 pm

Ingrid, I have the impression that you live in Brussels, or that you’re from Brussels. Do you have any thoughts about the Paris attackers who are from Brussels? I hear a lot about the status of Muslims in France, but not much about the status of Muslims in Belgium.

31

Marc 11.15.15 at 9:40 pm

It takes quite a heaping helping of blame USA to pin attacks on Shii in Lebanon, a Russian plane, and French civilians on the US. ISIS slaughters locals cheerfully too.

It’s not as if they had no choice but to go this particular barbaric route. Even if you grant that the Iraq war was a complete disaster it neither explains nor excuses what happened in Paris. There are plenty of moral people in the Middle East who don’t choose to go with the ISIS death cult.

Or you can go the route that says that a hundred thousand dead here is meaningless because a million people died somewhere else at some other time. I don’t think that this takes anyone anywhere productive.

32

bob mcmanus 11.15.15 at 9:46 pm

31: The Belgian Syndrome Sic Semper Tyrannis

Molenbeek-Saint-Jean

Patrick Bahzad (Fr, in Paris, I think), on Belgium:”Small country at the crossroads to a number of European countries (UK, France, Germany, Netherlands). Easy to enter and to exit. Weak State, dysfunctional police forces for most of the 1990s, strong immigrant community from the Maghreb. Very “light” anti-terrorism legislation, easy access to illegal arms market. Presence of Balkans organised crime. “

33

Kiwanda 11.15.15 at 10:54 pm

Marc@32:
“It takes quite a heaping helping of blame USA to pin attacks on Shii in Lebanon, a Russian plane, and French civilians on the US. ISIS slaughters locals cheerfully too.”

I don’t think anybody said that; I know I didn’t.

“It’s not as if they had no choice but to go this particular barbaric route. Even if you grant that the Iraq war was a complete disaster it neither explains nor excuses what happened in Paris.”

I don’t think anybody said that; I know I didn’t.

“Or you can go the route that says that a hundred thousand dead here is meaningless because a million people died somewhere else at some other time.”

I don’t think anybody said that; I know I didn’t.

34

Marc 11.15.15 at 11:04 pm

Let’s see “As to whose suffering to pay attention to: there is a credible argument that ISIS is in part a consequence of the mismanagement of the Iraq invasion, including the disbanding of the Iraqi army. Not discounting the evil and direct responsibility of the attackers, but without those American war crimes, this would not have happened. Shit happens all over the world, but some of it is more directly due to American actions and policies. As an American, I pay more attention to that part.”

certainly comes across as directly blaming US policy for ISIS. Without Bin Laden, no invasion of Iraq. Without the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, no radicalized Bin Laden. Where do we stop the thread? Why only one jump back?

35

Rakesh Bhandari 11.15.15 at 11:08 pm

36

Kiwanda 11.16.15 at 1:54 am

ISIS exists in part due to US actions, yes. Not remotely the same as “pin attacks….on the US”.

I said “Not to discount the evil and responsibility of the attackers”, explicitly neither excusing nor explaining what happened in Paris.

“Without Bin Laden, no invasion of Iraq”. Bin Laden had nothing to do with Iraq except being used by Cheney/Bush as an excuse. Bin Laden’s acts and the Soviet invasion were not my country’s actions and policies.

37

Walt 11.16.15 at 7:00 am

The US invasion of Iraq was a completely discretionary fuck-up. The US could have a) not invaded, or given that the US had invaded could have b) not completely destroyed Iraq as a state. Some chains of events have a beginning, and this one begins with the Bush administration.

38

reason 11.16.15 at 8:34 am

Walt,
yes this is all true, the Bush administration was a complete fuck-up. Thank God the Republicans would, given the chance, elect someone even worse.:) We need nation building in the US (especially the US south).

39

BobbyV 11.16.15 at 2:19 pm

“Qutb lifts martyrdom as glorious and blissful victory. Martyrdom becomes the inevitable hope of Islam. Likewise, modern radical Islam views suicide bombings and terrorism, which they believe is pursuant to the victory of Islam, as a glorious type of death. Through death, the Muslim believes that he triumphs and realizes his hope in God.”
Luke Loboda, The Thought of Sayyid Qutb: Radical Islam’s Philosophical Foundations

40

Marc 11.16.15 at 4:18 pm

ISIS had its roots in Syria, which the US did not invade. The Iraq invasion was only possible with the excuse of the 9/11 attacks, which in turn had their roots in the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Blaming a byproduct of the Syrian civil war on the US invasion of Iraq on is superficially appealing, but remarkably muddy thinking on close examination. More to the point, it’s a clear deflection of responsibility away from the people who actually did the killing. I concur with the original post, that these things are tragedies. I’m also not defending the invasion of Iraq – I and others passionately fought against going ahead with that disaster – but I also don’t think it’s fruitful to use it as a weapon to minimize atrocities.

41

reason 11.16.15 at 4:50 pm

Marc,
ISIS definitely has it’s roots in Iraq
http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/dec/11/-sp-isis-the-inside-story

42

Tyrone Slothrop 11.16.15 at 5:00 pm

Likewise, modern radical Islam views suicide bombings and terrorism, which they believe is pursuant to the victory of Islam, as a glorious type of death.

For the young, at any event. Those of middle years and beyond don’t seem quite as able to discover that same caliber of glory when applied to themselves…

43

Bill Hamlin 11.16.15 at 5:08 pm

Elections do matter. It seems to me that Bernie and Rand are closest to being anti-war. Vote for them based on whether you want large or small government. But the others will just give us more of this suffering.

44

Kiwanda 11.16.15 at 5:32 pm

45

Walt 11.16.15 at 5:38 pm

Marc: How is it a deflection of responsibility? Nobody is confused who is immediately responsible. Your comments make no sense.

46

engels 11.16.15 at 5:41 pm

Even with the influx of thousands of foreign fighters, almost all of the leaders of the Islamic State are former Iraqi officers, including the members of its shadowy military and security committees, and the majority of its emirs and princes, according to Iraqis, Syrians and analysts who study the group.

47

engels 11.16.15 at 5:47 pm

They are children of the occupation, many with missing fathers at crucial periods (through jail, death from execution, or fighting in the insurgency), filled with rage against America and their own government. They are not fueled by the idea of an Islamic caliphate without borders; rather, ISIS is the first group since the crushed Al Qaeda to offer these humiliated and enraged young men a way to defend their dignity, family, and tribe. This is not radicalization to the ISIS way of life, but the promise of a way out of their insecure and undignified lives; the promise of living in pride as Iraqi Sunni Arabs, which is not just a religious identity but cultural, tribal, and land-based, too.

48

Rakesh Bhandari 11.16.15 at 5:56 pm

What side of this argument is Tony Blair on?

49

steven johnson 11.16.15 at 6:18 pm

US policy from the beginning aimed at dividing Iraqi society along sectarian lines, including covertly and tacitly allowing, even supporting the ethnic cleansing of Sunni neighborhoods and areas by Shia militias.

The extreme violence of Islamic state has always been paralleled by extreme violence by the Shia militias. Islamic State, as the militarily weaker party, publicizes its atrocities as a way of impressing people terrified of the Shia militias as action in their defense; as a way of provoking more Shia atrocities that force Sunni into their camp in hopes of defense. On the other hand, since the Baghdad government that bases itself on a coalition of Shia parties and their militias is supposed to be a legitimate democratic government, it is inexpedient to publicize their atrocities in the Islamic State style.

For some time now, in addition to fostering sectarian strife in a divide and rule strategy, since Iran has become so influential in Baghdad, the US has resorted to a more literal divide and rule strategy. It covertly supports Islamic state to divide Iraq. The US government I think tends to project the myth of imperial presidency onto its enemies, and imagines that replacement of individuals is far more important than it truly is. But the supposed astonishing rise of Islamic State immediately resulting in the fall of al-Maliki. The value of Islamis State (and Jabhar al-Nusra et al.) for overthrowing Assad, or at least dividing Syria, is pretty obvious.

Really, blaming the US government for the rise of Islamic State has a great deal of merit. The competitors for the title of most responsible are Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey. It is hard to say whether Saudi or Qatar would still exist, much less have their incredible world influence, without long unstinting US support. Turkey, even as Erdogan has been playing the Zia ul-Haq who will permanently Islamize his country, of course also has US government friendship for this course, no matter what.

As to why Islamic State would attack the French people? In the end, no matter what they say, French intervention will never put a struggle against Islamic State against the long term goal of regime change in Damascus or division of the country. Like its ultimate master, the French government no more cares for random civilians than it did the rather unpleasant folks at Charlie Hebdo. Thus, soon enough (shockingly soon,) I suspect the real effect of further French intervention in Syria will be to interfere with the Russian support of the Damascus government, which really does constitute a threat against Islamic State.

The goal I suspect is very much like the bombing attack on pro-Kurdish demonstrators in Ankara. In addition to being a blow against Kurds, who have opposed Islamic State (very effectively in Syria, somewhat in Iraq,) providing a stimulus to Turkish intervention is a step towards land havens for Islamic State.

50

engels 11.16.15 at 6:53 pm

51

Tabasco 11.17.15 at 1:22 am

What side of this argument is Tony Blair on?

The wrong side, by definition.

52

Bloix 11.20.15 at 2:14 am

#20, #21. Fuck that. I am not going to be white-guilted into feeling bad that I feel emotionally tied to France in a way that does not exist for me toward Lebanon. France is part of my intellectual and cultural heritage. I’ve been to Paris several times and I hope to go again and again. I’ve never been to Beirut and I have no desire ever to visit. I can feel that the massacre in Beirut is an outrage without feeling the sort of personal attachment that I feel toward Paris, and I feel no shame in that lack of attachment.

53

engels 11.21.15 at 12:08 am

I can feel that the massacre in Beirut is an outrage without feeling the sort of personal attachment that I feel toward Paris, and I feel no shame in that lack of attachment.

Reasonable enough, but I’m not sure how you get from there to defending the flag fest

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