Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Seeing Terrorism Through a Global Lens

Some will say that a few hours after the event is too soon to be posing reflective questions about an event that is still raw and bleeding. I don't agree. 

My memory goes back far enough to remember seeing the images of the Vietnam Era on TV during the dinner, night after night, as weeks became months, and months became years. Body counts were reported as routinely as the numbers of the DOW or sports scores. And it took the rage of activists and the specter of civil discontent to get the attention of leaders, eventually moving them to end the US presence in Vietnam and bring that ugly chapter of modern history to a close. The fall of Saigon in 1975 was five years, FIVE YEARS, after the shootings at Kent State. And anyone who thinks those two events are unrelated simply doesn't understand history.

So when someone raises yesterday's events in Boston to a global level, it is certainly not "too soon" to be asking uncomfortable questions.  Juan Cole's biography tells part of the reason he posed a question last night which put the Boston Marathon tragedy into a global perspective. Can the Boston Bombings increase our Sympathy for Iraq and Syria, for all such Victims? He said, in part,
What happened in Boston is undeniably important and newsworthy. But so is what happened in Iraq and Syria. It is not the American people’s fault that they have a capitalist news model, where news is often carried on television to sell advertising. The corporations have decided that for the most part, Iraq and Syria aren’t what will attract Nielsen viewers and therefore advertising dollars. Given the global dominance by US news corporations, this decision has an impact on coverage in much of the world. 
[...]   Perhaps some Americans, in this moment of distress, will be willing to be also distressed over the dreadful conditions in which Syrian refugees are living, and will be willing to go to the aid of Oxfam’s Syria appeal. Some of those Syrians living in refugee camps in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey were also hit by shrapnel or lost limbs. Perhaps some of us will donate to them in the name of our own Boston Marathon victims of senseless violence. Terrorism has no nation or religion. But likewise its victims are human beings, precious human beings, who must be the objects of compassion for us all.
When professor Cole posed his questions on his Facebook page he got a string of mostly thoughtful responses including this from Afghanistan. I have divided it into paragraphs for easier reading.
Melissa Skye Chiovenda Last night when I heard the Boston news I was sad and worried and angry, and I still am, this is a horrible, horrible thing. But this morning I wake with more confusion. Still the same feelings as last night but more feelings as well. My feed is full of thoughts for Boston, partly because, I live there (when I am not here in Afghanistan, now I live in Bamyan). It might be especially full because of that, but, this is not the main reason, people all over the country are sending out their wishes and they are right to do so. 
But how many civilians in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, are killed in terrorist attacks, or by mistake in military ops, or whatever other reason, men, also women, also children - how many? They don't even get the coverage in Afghan news, equal to such events in the US news, much less in the US news, I am afraid it has somehow become normalized here – no, I know that. 
But Boston makes Afghan news. And then, this morning, the first thing that happened was a Hazara friend whose family lives in Quetta (he is working here) called me to offer his condolences for what happened. I am not sure he even realized I was from Boston. I thought how kind he was, to do this. 
But then I thought, this person was in Quetta when the last bomb attack on Hazaras there happened, he and his father were both wounded, at least 80 died, one was one of his relatives, he grabbed a shovel to dig people out of the rubble. All but one were dead. Then there was the bomb attack before that, the there were the targeted murders of Hazaras, shootings of people riding in cars before that…he lives in constant fear for his family and friends. This is just one city, one country, one ethnic group. These events were hard on me. 
Boston is hard on me, although so far no one I know was affected as was the case in Quetta. Or, when someone my husband knew (he is working in Jalalabad, a Pashtun in Jalalabad, was collateral damage to a US plane missile attack after terrorists detonated a bomb. So I don’t know how to feel, the more I travel, spend time in other places the more I wonder about values of lives in different places. 
Each time something like this happens, anywhere, it brings up these feelings, but after Boston they are very strong. I am very sorry Boston, I love living there. I hope no one finds me insensitive. But, these are my feelings, coming from Afghanistan.
Take a look at yesterday's collection of Twitter messages.
And go now, if you didn't already, and read Juan Cole's biography and last night's post with videos.

Here's a Twitter message to underscore the point.

Yeah, I know. That was a over ten years ago. It still happens, not only from US drones but other sources as well. 
Here's one from yesterday.
These events occur with monotonous regularity. 

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