The Woolwich Tragedy and the future

I can’t even begin to put my horror, sorrow and disgust at yesterday’s events into words. To those of you not in the know, a British soldier, Lee Rigby, was murdered in the street yesterday by two Muslim men wielding meet cleavers and kitchen knives. He was apparently identified by wearing a ‘Help for Heroes’ T-shirt, before being hit by a car, and then carved up like a piece of meat. Apparently the perpetrators were screaming ‘Allah’ as they did it, and invited passers-by to film and take pictures of their actions before armed police officers arrived. 

The reason why I’m writing about this is that there’s never any middle-ground in people’s responses. They are either right-wing extremists whose political opinions are centred around the kernels of xenophobia and racism, or ‘liberals’ banging the drum of ‘not every Muslim is like that!’, as they do after every one of these types of tragedies. 9/11, 7/7 and the Boston bombings earlier this year all throw up the same outcries from the same people. 

My opinion is strictly in the middle. Do I believe that all Muslims are terrorists with some secret agenda? Of course not; I’ve known far too many good people who happened to be Muslim for that. The opinions of the BNP, EDL and their supporters are nothing short of ignorant and, usually, racist. But equally blind are those who dismiss the problems that Islam is inspiring, if not directly causing, and that the people of this faith (and this faith alone) have consistent difficulty in integrating into our society.

Criticism of Islam in today’s world leads to one being branded as right-wing and extremist, so I’ve stopped trying to debate with people these days. There isn’t a lot of point. Take my old friend Neal, for example. For an intelligent man, he does believe in some very odd things. For one, I don’t believe that President Obama kills Afghan or Pakistani babies as a result of US air/drone operations. Yes, there are civilian casualties resulting from American airstrikes, but labelling Obama a ‘baby killer’ because of it is rather juvenile. Firstly, despite how the military can make the most terrible errors of judgement (I’m referring to the US military here, since Britain doesn’t operate drones over Pakistani airspace, which is where most of the controversy stems from), they will not initiate such a strike without firm intelligence that there are indeed terrorists in that area.

Personally, I’m not a big supporter of drone strikes, since there is always some tragic collateral damage. Special operations forces can accomplish the same missions with less loss of innocent life, though I can see why the Western governments use drones; after all, special forces or regular soldiers risk their lives, and the public is war-weary and tired of seeing coffins draped in flags coming home. The point is, despite how terrible it is when women and children are killed, the press usually fails to mention that these people were caught up in the blast because of their proximity to known hostile militants. They are typically the spouses and offspring of enemy combatants. Don’t take that to mean that I’m justifying their deaths; they don’t deserve to die for that reason, or any other. But consider the fact that they know what it is that their menfolk do. They can hardly be ignorant of the fact that their camps (and therefore, homes) will be targeted. They have a choice to leave and go somewhere safer. The victims of 9/11, 7/7 and the Boston marathon had absolutely no choice. 

I also remember Neal mentioning the rise of Islamist governments in the Arab world, and the possibility of Turkey joining their ranks. I remember Neal saying he thought it would be a good thing, and I wholeheartedly disagree. I don’t see how any governments which could be potentially sympathetic to terrorists will be advantageous to anyone, especially as Turkey has been such a model for others to follow since Ataturk. Neal, old boy, you’re a friend and I like you, but quite how you can criticise the Orthodox Church (quite rightly) but not see the potential problems that will arise from possible Muslim extremist breeding grounds…I don’t know. In Britain, it’s a left-wing politically correct trend to criticise ‘organised religion’, and highlight, say, sex scandals in the Catholic church or homophobic conservatism amongst Orthodox priests, but never mention the problems that Islam seems to cause.

I also don’t know what the future of England will be. Perhaps you’ll have heard that the right-wing extremist English Defence League attacked two mosques on the night of the murder. They said it was an act of ‘retaliation’…against who? Innocent people who were nowhere near the scene of the crime? This kind of thuggery is only making the social issues in our country more complicated and divisive, but I was shocked at how much support the EDL seemed to get just by browsing websites like Facebook and Twitter. 

From where I’m standing, the EDL is made up of ignorant lower-class English people who are living off state benefits and believing all the xenophobic trash the far-right are feeding them. It’s worth checking out a video of a Sky News journalist (I think it was Sky, anyway) interviewing an EDL supporter a rally somewhere in the north, wherein he states he is protesting ‘Muslamic law’ and ‘Iraqi law in the UK’. It’s laughable, but at the same scary. 

When you have so many ignorant native English trash like this hating anything and everything because it’s foreign and different, I’m not surprised Muslims are becoming radicalised in the UK if all they’re encountering throughout their lives is hate. I can sympathise; I watched a video of a Muslim rally in London a few minutes ago, listening to them chant ‘UK go to Hell!’ and ‘Shariah Law for UK!’, and I can tell you it doesn’t feel good to have people wishing death and destruction on your culture and country. On the other hand, however, the government has been positive towards Muslim communities, so much so that their actions border on positive discrimination, which further alienates moderate or liberal British people. 

The government’s actions were especially galling under Labour. My non-British readers will probably not be familiar with the Gurkhas, a race of people originating from Nepal who since 1820 have fought for the British Army in every major war we’ve fought. I’ve had the pleasure to meet many during my brief military career, and they are amongst the most natural warriors and finest soldiers in the world. Their bravery is second to none, but for some of the most dangerous men in the world they have a cheerful disposition, and are always friendly and helpful. Having said that, I would not want one as my enemy.

The controversy arose shortly after the 7/7 and Glasgow bombings, successful and failed terrorist attacks respectively, after which public tolerance towards Muslims and Islam was again running thin, just as it had after September 11th. It was made aware to the public that despite how Muslim families were importing their relatives from Pakistan in droves, the Gurkhas were not allowed to remain in the UK, even after fighting for our country for years. Even those who served for the maximum 25 years struggled to remain in the UK, regardless of medals, wounds or rank.

Things became worse when the government decided to disband several Gurkha units, and so a campaign spearheaded by actress Joanna Lumley was launched to try and reverse the state of affairs. She was successful, but only to a point; the government managed to spinelessly squirm its way out of honouring the Gurkhas, and would grant leave to remain to only those who had enlisted after 2006 and earned the Military Medal (MM). To anyone who cared to look at the finer details, it was hardly fair. Personally, I think we should just copy the model of the French Foreign Legion, wherein French citizenship is granted after six years of service. Actually, my friend Garry, who still serves in the Army, told me that the Foreign Legion has become a popular choice for former Gurkha soldiers who are facing deportation to Nepal after their service is complete. Quite how this is fair when whole sections of British cities are dominated by Muslim Asian communities who were born overseas is anyone’s guess. I don’t know what the government fears. Terrorist reprisal for ‘discriminating’ against Muslims? The oil sheikhs threatening to turn off the tap if their fellow Muslims aren’t having a good time in the UK? I have no idea. 

To get back onto topic slightly. I’ve just watched the statement from Lee Rigby’s family about his murder, and it’s without shame I can admit I cracked up as his family talked about their son, and if you watch and don’t feel the need to cry, you’re not human. I think it’s time that we in Britain admitted that there is a problem with the Islamic community. I remember after the BBC reported on the Boston bombings, a week later their breaking news read ‘Tsarnaev brothers may have had religious motives’. May have? Do you think so, BBC? 

I also recall the outcry from my ‘liberal’ friends, who were screaming and shouting behind their keyboards, ‘Just because it’s a bomb doesn’t mean it’s a Muslim! It’s probably some psycho American!’. Well, surprise surprise, the perpetrators turn out to be Muslim. What do you know? Funnily enough, they went quiet after that. 

I have no idea what the solution to society’s problem is; how radical Islam can be eliminated and how normal Muslim people can live their lives without fear of attack by racist, ignorant hooligans. Normally I’d suggest education, or something like that, but during my school days, when we were learning about Islam some of the pupils reacted with outright hostility to the claims that it was a ‘religion of peace’. Their arguments weren’t aggressive, or racist, but rooted in the fact that almost every major terrorist incident over the last twenty or thirty years has been caused by Muslims. I think the argument of ‘Oh, well, Islam doesn’t advocate what they did, they just interpreted it wrong’ can wear pretty thin, especially after these Islamic terrorist attacks keep on happening. I also remember watching a video during my school days of a young Muslim lad travelling around English schools talking about Islam. I remember being shocked when a young English girl who couldn’t have been older than 6, was talking about the Night of Power, wherein Muhammad was alleged to have had dictated the first verses of the Koran to him. I don’t think that’s right. When I was 6, I was learning about Jesus  and the story of St. George, traditional aspects of our society and our culture. I’ve never liked ‘multiculturalism’, especially not like this. I don’t even know what ‘multiculturalism’ even means anymore. I love Chinatowns and authentic Japanese restaurants, to say nothing of the rich contributions made to society by Indian families over the past God-knows-how-long. But it just doesn’t seem the same as Muslims who immigrate to the UK and then hate the place. 

Since there was also an incident on board a flight from Pakistan to Britain today, wherein two Pakistani men tried to take control of the pilots cabin, I imagine that patience for Muslims in the UK is wearing pretty thin at the moment. I’d like it if something positive came out of all this, that somebody, somewhere, came up with some way to make society progress as a whole without splintering it further. But that’s not up to me, and anyway, I think I might as well ask for the moon to turn bright pink. 

Finally, if by any chance anyone who knew Lee Rigby is reading this, I can’t even begin to put my sympathy into words. It’s just awful, but I’m confident he’ll never be forgotten. Rest in peace. 

 

About tcjogden69

Former soldier, current boxing trainer/student living in Tbilisi.
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7 Responses to The Woolwich Tragedy and the future

  1. panoptical says:

    With no disrespect to what you are personally feeling, there’s a huge disconnect between the way you seem to feel about Lee Rigby and the way you seem to feel about an unknown number of innocent women and children who have been killed by drone strikes.

    The fact is, innocent men, women, and children are killed in drone strikes. We can debate the details or the tactical, strategic, or even moral implications of this fact, but the fact remains. They’re not any less innocent because they didn’t choose to leave their homes, families, and everyone and everything they ever knew and loved once the President of a country around the world chose to engage in an illegal, unsanctioned, secretive assassination campaign in a country he’s nominally the ally of.

    And by the way, your logic justifies 9/11. Terrorists had tried to blow up the World Trade Center several times, including a very well-publicized truck bomb plot in 1993. Everyone working in the World Trade Center knew they were working in the highest-profile target in the world, and yet they chose not to work somewhere else.

    People have a right to work where they work, and live where they live, without someone blowing it up. Regardless of what their neighbors or their governments do.

    The United States now wages an ongoing, undeclared war by torturing prisoners, bombing targets full of civilians, and locking people in prison camps with no legal rights and no end in sight. Obama got elected to end that war, but instead he pardoned the war criminals and went after the journalists who reported on the war crimes. These are facts, not the imaginings of your imaginary “liberal” antagonists.

    My objection to the Bush/Obama doctrine has nothing to do with the religion, age, or gender of the victims. It has to do with not wanting to be part of a country that uses sci-fi villain tactics as part of routine national policy.

    • tcjogden69 says:

      Ah, now, Neal, don’t say ‘the way I seem to feel about an unknown number of innocent women/children’, that makes it sound as though I don’t care. I do care, but the difference is rather drastic. The streets of London are not supposed to be dangerous for serving soldiers, and the callous way in which Dummer Rigby was murdered is nothing short of appalling.

      I don’t believe liberals are my personal antagonists. I’d actually count myself amongst their ranks; I believe in freedom of expression and freedom of religion, but it doesn’t work when one group will not accept the others…which is how things like 9/11 and Lee Rigby’s death come about.

      I don’t think your counter-argument of using the WTC is all that effective, now that I think about it. Aye, I know about the 1993 plot, but a full eight years of peaceful non-incident went by before 9/11. The Afghan/Pakistan border is pretty much always locked in a state of war or, at least tension (Pakistan is suffering from internal conflicts without interference by NATO), unlike New York, so the innocent people who are killed by drone strikes aren’t really the same thing as people on their way to work in Manhattan. I agree entirely, people have the right to work and live where they want, but if you were fully aware that people near you were potential targets for those drones…well, it’s different when your neighbour goes to work carrying a briefcase or an assault rifle.

      Anyway, I still think America should use more special forces for those kind of elimination jobs. Your military has more special operation units than it knows what to do with. That’s by the way; Obama has been a big disappointment, and Afghanistan’s problems won’t have been solved when all the American troops have been withdrawn. If anything, it’ll get worse, just like it did in Iraq.

      I don’t think I’ll ever be able to convince you that I’m not a rootin’ tootin’ right-wing military fanatic. It’s quite typical of Americans. They’re either so pro-government it’ll sicken you or so anti-establishment and left-wing it’s impossible to debate with them. Your country needs a healthy injection of British cynicism. But I’m in total agreement with you about the drones; I’d scrap the whole drone programme in the States, especially as the Pentagon is considering taking the human element out of their control. Scary, eh? Nearly at the Terminator level of things. Still, if there’s any good that’s come out of the quagmire of the Afghanistan mess, I like to think that some of the Al-Qaeda they’ve eliminated were the ones who were planning the next 9/11 or 7/7. As for Guantanamo Bay and whatever other human rights violations the CIA and their mates commit, I can’t really speak to that, I’m not American. I like to think that our government wouldn’t be so immoral, but you can never tell with the swines. Say, though, here’s a thought; don’t you think it’s possible that your President is privy to information that you and I don’t know?

      • panoptical says:

        “I do care, but the difference is rather drastic.”

        To use your reckoning, Lee Rigby went to work with an assault rifle, not a briefcase, so by your logic, not only should he have expected to be killed, but his neighbors and family should have expected to be killed as well. If Britain were at war with the US, instead of stabbing Rigby, we would have blown him up and then come back and bombed his funeral so that his uncles and cousins would also be killed – and yes, that is an actual tactic that the US actually uses. In this case the Muslims were a lot more humane than the CIA would have been – they attacked somebody they *knew* was a combatant, and only that person.

        All you’re doing is producing ad hoc moral justifications for believing that the lives of people who are “like you” are sacrosanct and the lives of people who are not “like you” are forfeit – and your basis for making the distinction is their religious beliefs. You’re the one who can’t accept Muslims, not the other way around.

        And yes, it’s easier for you to put yourself in the shoes of another British soldier than it is to put yourself in the shoes of a nameless, faceless Pakistani stranger, but the question you have to ask yourself is, does being from the same country as you, or of the same religion as you, or in the same job as you, actually make someone’s life more valuable?

        “which is how things like 9/11 and Lee Rigby’s death come about”

        The people who arranged 9/11 didn’t attack New York because it was full of devout Christians, they attacked New York because they knew it would make America destroy itself, which would be the only way to get America’s military out of the countries the 9/11 hijackers came from. And Rigby’s attackers didn’t attack a random non-Muslim, they attacked a soldier, presumably because they have some specific grievance against soldiers. I wonder why that might be.

        “I like to think that some of the Al-Qaeda they’ve eliminated were the ones who were planning the next 9/11 or 7/7”

        Terrorizing Yemen and Pakistan with drones isn’t killing Al Qaeda members, it’s creating them. People who had never thought twice about America will strap a bomb vest on if you kill enough of their family members.

        “don’t you think it’s possible that your President is privy to information that you and I don’t know”

        The American government has a system of checks and balances that doesn’t work if the President makes secret decisions for secret reasons that secretly violate his enumerated powers. From what the government tells us, American intel on drone targets is actually really lousy – but even if it were rock-solid, if the public can’t scrutinize the decisions of the President, our system doesn’t work.

        There should be laws about when we can and cannot launch a drone strike, and those laws should conform to international treaties that the US has signed, because our Constitution says that those treaties are the highest law of the land. There should be an independent organization in charge of verifying that our laws have been followed and holding people accountable when those laws have been violated. Anything short of that is not justice, it’s murder.

      • tcjogden69 says:

        “All you’re doing is producing ad hoc moral justifications for believing that the lives of people who are “like you” are sacrosanct and the lives of people who are not “like you” are forfeit” – I don’t recall saying that, or even implying it. As ever, you’re listening but not hearing. Or perhaps you’re not even listening. I remember replying yesterday and saying I agreed with your opinions about your country’s use of drones.

        As for accepting Muslims, I can accept them just fine. I’ve known many over the years, even some who were soldiers, believe it or not. It’s not as black and white as ‘Muslims are bad’ and ‘all white people are good’. If you think I believe that, you need to re-read almost everything I wrote here, instead of replying with knee-jerk reaction rants about how I’m wrong.

        You’re right about more people becoming radicalised because of American military operations, but as an American, that’s your problem. It’s hardly surprising, really. America hasn’t really successfully intervened in overseas conflicts since WW2. Vietnam, Panama, Iraq, Somalia, Afghanistan…destabilising countries and leaving the locals bitter and enraged is becoming something of a national habit. America has done far more harm than good with its ‘War on Terror’, but then, that’s not altogether surprising when George Bush is in charge. Perhaps the world will be safer when China takes over.

        Some of it is also cultural difference between you and I. The military isn’t controversial in Britain, like it seems to be in the minds of some Americans; then again, no British soldier has ever gone trigger-happy and murdered sixteen women and children, or attacked Sikh people believing them to be “Muslim enemies” like two of your soldiers managed to do last year.

        I understand your reasoning when you say ‘Lee Rigby should have expected to be be killed’ (“by my reckoning”. No, not quite, but ne’ermind), in that in the minds of these “combatants” he was a legitimate target. I understand that. Really, I do. I still wouldn’t walk around Aldershot saying it, but I see what you’re saying. But does it make me feel better about the fact that a brave man was murdered in a most cowardly fashion? Does it make it alright if I can say ‘Oh, well, at least in their minds they had a good reason for it’. No, not even close. I know what you’ll say next; ‘But you don’t care about the victims of the drone strikes! You only care about people like you!’. Firstly, it isn’t true, and if you’d read my responses to you more closely you’d see that. But second of all, imagine your mother or father is hit by a car and killed tomorrow, and on the same day the same thing happens to someone else. Which will affect you more? It doesn’t diminish the tragedy in either scenario, just as it doesn’t with innocent victims of drone or air strikes or murdered soldiers.

        Of course I sympathise with Lee Rigby’s family, because I’ve seen first hand what happens to families whose children are killed in war. Ah, I hear you say, but they didn’t have to join the Army, did they! Well, no, and when you’re preparing for operations such as those in Afghanistan, you accept that not everyone will come home, and the back of your mind you think it might be (I was never deployed, but you’re always anticipating it). But the reason that this is so shocking is because it happened on the streets of our capital city, and the repercussions might well be significant. Why, just this morning I read that those EDL thugs have started attacking innocent Muslim people on their way to mosques, and some people have been badly hurt already. It’s terrible, but if you really want to find right-wing thugs who don’t like Muslims just because they’re Muslims, instead of people like me who just want to see the radical elements eliminated, go on the EDL website and knock yourself out.

        But at the end of the day, you and I are different people. In Britain, people don’t join the Army to kill Muslims, though I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s the case in America having met some of your National Guard. I sympathise with Lee Rigby’s family; I know the pride I felt when I put on my country’s uniform after going through Basic, and it’s something that people who’ve never done it will never be able to understand. I’m appalled and saddened because this man went through tours of Afghanistan and survived, only to come home to be hit by a car and carved up. I can’t cut myself off from that kind of thing like you seem to be able to. I can’t tell myself ‘Well, they believe in what they did, so that’s that’. I can understand that the 9/11 hijackers thought the people who worked in the WTC were legitimate targets, but that doesn’t change the fact that in my mind they committed 3000 murders for nothing. I agree with you that it’s important to try and understand why terrorists do what they do, but when you find yourself sympathising with them, it’s time to take a long, hard look in the mirror and get back to reality. Some of these people aren’t like you or I, wherein they’re prepared to have their minds changed by reason debate, they just want to see their way of life enforced on everyone else.

        It just reminds me of what I said the other day, how there are only two types of Americans; those who worship their country and then those who hate it, with no sensible middle-ground. I don’t understand you though, old boy. You don’t like America, you don’t seem to care for Georgia all that much either, so I think what we need to do is siphon out some of Bidzina’s money and create the Zupancic Utopia out of somewhere shitty, like South Ossetia, Abkhazia or Wales. I’ll even apply for citizenship.

      • panoptical says:

        It’s not that I don’t like America, or that I sympathize with terrorists.

        I guess what I would say is that I strongly believe that morality starts at home. You can control your own actions, but not the actions of another. America can – that is to say, it is in the power of America to – stop committing war crimes, overthrowing foreign governments, intervening militarily in unstable regions for dubious purposes, etc. America cannot – again, doesn’t have the capability to – kill every individual in the world who has ever taken up arms against America or American citizens.

        I recognize that it is bad when people die, but more people have now died in car accidents as a result of driving instead of flying for long trips because of the increased airport security measures we’ve put in place than died in the actual 9/11 attacks. Three 9/11s worth of Americans have died since 9/11 as a result of accidents with guns, and if you add gun homicides that’s another three 9/11s every year. Don’t even get me started on obesity-related deaths.

        Our leaders don’t spend a lot of time or energy figuring out how to make our roads safer, how to keep guns out of the hands of children and criminals, or how to keep Americans from eating themselves to death. Mayor Bloomberg of NYC does all these things, incidentally, and he is roundly and routinely mocked by basically everyone in America for it, but he’s done far more to save American lives than any American soldier, straight up to the commander-in-chief.

        So to go back to the original call-out – the reason I get more upset about Obama killing children than I do, for example, about children dying from having lack of access to clean water, is that in Obama’s case, the crime is being committed in my name, supposedly for my benefit, and with my tax dollars. That makes me complicit. I do not want to be complicit in child murder. I am not interested in hearing people tell me why those children had to die, or that at least it’s not American children, or in any other way attempting to mitigate or transfer the moral responsibility of that atrocity.

        If Obama wanted to save American lives, he had a lot of ways to do that. Instead he chose to blow up children. If I seem to be misunderstanding your response to my saying that, it’s because I don’t see how anyone could disregard that fact without somehow seeing those particular children as less than human.

      • tcjogden69 says:

        America has a hell of a lot problems to work through, no doubt, and I’ll not deny it’s a relief that they’re not my responsibility…though Britain has its own issues which we need resolving. Google the EDL and you’ll see what I mean. I heard a good story about them, though. They’ve been attacking mosques all week, it’s been awful, but there was one instance this week wherein they rallied outside this one mosque, and the imams came out with tea and biscuits, calmed them down and educated them to the fact that being Muslim doesn’t make someone a terrorist. By far the best way to give racists the middle finger, and good for ’em. Anyway, I found this on the news and it made me remember our discussion the other day. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-22698363 Looks like even the US High Command can get it right sometimes. Sometimes.

  2. panoptical says:

    Also, I believe I said that Turkey could be a good example to other Muslim countries and a good regional power to be influential, as opposed to, say, Iran or Saudi Arabia. That is specifically because the AKP is not sympathetic to terrorists and has no reason to be; Turkey is in a great economic position and has been getting better since the Islamists came to power, and faces no serious military threats. Prosperous, stable, peaceful Muslim countries with secular democratic governments are not terrorist breeding grounds. The only terrorism in Turkey is against the regime, and I think the Kurdistan Workers’ Party has sworn off violence.

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