By Gavin Jones
WITH DETAILED images readily available of executions carried out by the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq doing the rounds on social media sites, it’s probably time to confront these acts and put them in the context of what’s deemed to be ‘acceptable’ and what is not when waging war.
Furthermore, an appraisal of the West’s involvement in all these countries should also be considered.
Regarding its relationship with the Middle East, the West gives the impression that it has the right to deposit its various armies, unleash its aircraft and transplant its Western ethos to any country in the region. There seems to be a presumptuous and arrogant belief that it’s the harbinger of peace, freedom and democracy and that it knows best.
To the layman, this policy has been an abject failure with devastating results for the countries involved, not least the loss of innocent lives which is euphemistically described as collateral damage.
Since 2003, the ‘coalition of the willing’ has been present in Iraq, pouring in men and billions of dollars to create a supposed mirror image of Western nirvana, and yet in very little time, ISIS have taken over great swathes of the country and undone all the supposed ‘good work’ on the ground.
As for Afghanistan, the British in the 19th century, the Russians in the 20th century and now in the 21st century, a whole host of nations led by Uncle Sam have piled into that unfortunate country with similar high ‘ideals’ and aspirations. End result? From where I’m standing, not a lot.
Doubtless it will revert to its tribal alliances, warlords and poppy growing on an even greater scale once these latter day crusaders have bailed out.
And then there’s the Israeli/Palestinian dimension with suicide bombings, expropriation of Palestinian land, building of new Jewish settlements on that land, the bulldozing of Palestinian homes, bombardment of Gaza and the firing of rockets into Israel.
All these events have an almost daily inevitability and – rightly or wrongly – give credence not only to the Palestinians and the wider Arab cause but also to the defenders of Israel, thus handing the political hawks and military men the moral high ground to justify their resort to violence.
There seems no end in sight to these terrible calamities.
Let’s not forget the actual death count and destruction and how this is achieved. Are smart bombs, tomahawk cruise missiles and drone technology really that much more ‘civilised’ and acceptable than, say, roadside bombs or snipers? I think not.
As for summary beheadings, acts such as this have been standard fare for centuries in the Middle East and Asia, Genghis Khan and Tamerlaine being particularly efficient exponents of the ‘art’.
Yet again, I believe that the West has registered its indignation and revulsion primarily because it’s so graphic and personal. It’s as if this manifestation of the killing process has overstepped the bounds of acceptability and should therefore be subject to controls similar to those laid down in the Queensberry Rules which apply to the ‘noble’ art of boxing.
However one cares to look at this conundrum, the arsenal of sophisticated technology at the West’s disposal tends to achieve the same result but arguably more dispassionately as it’s delivered from a greater distance.
Missile strikes are a regular feature on our television screens in glorious Technicolor but sanitised to exclude the actual jellification of the ‘insurgents’, that loaded, demonised description of those who fight the West and are therefore by definition classed as the ‘bad guys’.
However, aficionados of this killing-fest can graduate to the next stage where more ‘realistic’ images are readily available on social media sites such as Youtube.
One can witness Taliban fighters and Islamic State jihadists being ‘taken out’ by missiles with the addition of voiceovers by American military personnel describing the action as it happens. Just like the Olympics.
Why bother to play one of the plethora of games such as ‘Call of Duty’ when you can watch the real thing on your laptop or tablet with the added bonus of expert commentary?