A reporter's thoughts on terrorism
My good friend Andres Vargas, the Latin American correspondent whose work last appeared here, has some thoughts on the reporter-terrorist feedback loop, appeasement, and Canada's limp response to the new state of the world.
Regrettably, these frightening scenes seem to be an all-too-common occurrence these days and no longer occupy the final pages of newspapers on the flip side of the globe. Even here, at the tip of the world, itís difficult to feel removed from world events. Finger pointing Mr. Bush seems to be the knee-jerk reaction these days in our bid to explain why innocent children are gunned down indiscriminately. Terrorism wasnít invented on Sept 11, but terrorism ceased to be something we could ignore on Sept. 11. The tearing down of the towers was largely plotted, financed and put in action before Bush was elected. There are two fundamental changes that have happened since we were born that are facilitating terrorism. The first is simple ease of travel. The sheer volume of world travel and accessibility of it means you can literally walk out of a cave in Afghanistan on Monday morning and likely tuck into a hotel bed before the day is over. The further back you go in history the larger the world was. The other is that the news of a school full of children being blown up used to make itís way to North America in hours, days or weeks. Now, the carnage unfolds before our eyes. Terrorism lives on fear. Without reporting, the act doesnít happen. By fearing them, by seeking to appease them, terrorists get what they want and get it on the cheap. We arenít seeing more terrorism now than a few years ago. In fact, if you add Rwanda and Sudan youíll get 10 times more deaths then in Middle East during the same time period. The difference simply being we didnít have cameras to watch children being thrown alive onto a burning heap of bodies in Rwanda and they werenít our children. We were wrong.
As Europe, the Americas and Asia race ahead economically, boosting education levels and standards of living, Africa and the Middle East are mired in the 20th century -- the 19th century in some cases. In the long-run the best way to defeat terrorism is to help bring simple freedoms to the Middle East: assist them achieve higher levels of education, foster civil liberties (especially for women), boost cultural exchanges, increase trade. In short, by promoting the economic welfare of the region, the people there will choose to cherish life and seek to advance through labour, rather than by walking onto a bus laden with explosives, which used to get your family a fat cheque from Saddam.
In the short-term, we have to fight the terrorists head on. They exist because they are allowed to, creating symbiotic alliances with rulers, filling each otherís coffers and extinguishing dissent. By taking them out we remove at least one obstacle to freedom in the region. There isnít a pool of a million terrorists waiting to happen. All human beings cherish life if they are given sufficient civil liberties and opportunities to advance. Trade sanctions, resolutions are embargoes are nice, but at some point you need to take a stand.
I was sorry Canada didnít accompany the U.S. into Iraq. I fail to see the humour when politicians back home take cheap shots are the U.S. to boost their popularity. We enjoy a comfortable existence largely because of them, sending 90 percent of exports south of the border and nestling in the comfort of their security blanket. We have far more in common with the U.S. freedom, rule of law and liberties than we do with repressive regimes scattered throughout the Middle East. I much prefer our politicians repress gut-reactions to lambaste the U.S. and instead converse and offer to help. When called upon in the past century Canadians have made sacrifices that few if any countries in the world can match, right through to Rwanda.
Now isnít the time to stop.