Imagine a truly concerted political effort dedicated to understanding and limiting terrorist violence. Wouldn't its first, elementary task be to identify the actual reasons for that violence, the core causes? Wouldn't that require honest comprehension of what really spawns, motivates and generates violence? Wouldn't any such uncompromised enquiry want to trace the primary circumstances and founding grievances behind major acts of violence? Wouldn't it, in true enlightenment spirit, dispense immediately with all the tired labels, standard narratives and media pedantry that has only served to obscure, excuse and further encourage terrorist violence? Wouldn't it come to the logical conclusion that the more states, governments and corporations produce, sell, fund, sponsor and promote the instruments, economics, geopolitics and deeper culture of violence, the greater likelihood of a respondent spread of virulent violence?
Even if we're to accept that violence is somehow an intrinsic or inevitable feature of human existence, shouldn't the driving instincts of a truly civilized order be to contain and limit terror through imaginative diplomacy and patient peace initiatives rather than relentless war-seeking 'interventions' and arms proliferation?
Donald Trump has been in Saudi Arabia this week sword-dancing with despots. Yet his buffoonery, readily derided by liberals, got more attention than the staggering $110 billion arms deal being signed-off by these two weapons-addicted states. More planes, bombs and instruments of mass terror to annihilate more suffering children in Yemen. More military and political support from the world's primary exporter of arms for a regime intent on building ISIS in Syria and Iraq and spreading its ideological barbarism across an already war-scorched region.
As fellow leading arms trader, the UK also continues to back this medievalist tyranny. Given a virtual free ride by the media, Theresa May and Defence Secretary Michael Fallon express no concern over such ugly dealings and the West's wider economy of death. The UK's arms trade with Saudi Arabia, they insist, is in the 'public interest', a 'commercial necessity'. For May, "Gulf security is our security and Gulf prosperity is our prosperity." And this 'vital relationship', she soothes, has "helped to keep people on the streets of Britain safe." Is this claim remotely credible?
While May and Trump stand in 'resilient defiance' of ISIS-style terrorism, they both uphold a regime that, 9/11 included, has done more than any other to promote, inculcate and export such ideological violence. Yet, rather than blanket media condemnation, an already electorally-wounded May gets the chance to play moral stateswoman. How many mourning the victims in Manchester fully realise that May and the UK state actually back the regime most supportive of ISIS, its offshoots and its proxy executioners? Will the BBC or any of our leading commentariat ever have the guts to highlight and shout-down such blatant hypocrisy?
We watch bewildered at the actions of a crazed terrorist. How could any person carry out such an act of calculated wickedness? Murdered children, devastated parents. Lives and families wrecked. Yet we remain cocooned and detached from the same human suffering inflicted by our politicians and their deliverance of terrifying weaponry against similar innocents in Yemen, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine.
The emergence of al-Qaeda in Iraq, and now ISIS in Syria, was the direct product of Western invasion. After Blair and Bush, Cameron, Obama and NATO have also left a trail of human carnage in Libya, giving rise to more jihadist forces, notably the al-Qaeda-derived Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, a contingent of which is thought to have been domiciled in Manchester, where suicide bomber Salman Abedi was born to a Libyan family.
Abedi carried out the bombing days after returning from Libya. As Neil Clark asks, not only do we need to understand who turned Abedi, but "who turned Libya - which as recently as July 2010 was being lauded in the British press as one of the top six cruise ship holiday destinations - into an "Daesh stronghold" - and a training ground for terrorists like Abedi?"
That one person, Salman Abedi, is immediately responsible for the horrific killings in Manchester. Others may be party to his terrible act. But, as Trump joins the Western war club with his own murderous assaults on Yemen and Syria, you will wait in vain for 'our' state elites and their corporate-military associates to accept that they hold crucial responsibility for the unleashing and spread of such madness.
As Nafeez Ahmed observes, the mindset of ISIS-drawn 'martyrs' suggests a pathology of the deluded "loser" dangerously detached from social reality, seeking 'inclusion' and 'approval' through acts of 'redemptive' violence. But, as Ahmed shows, that same sick denial of barbaric act and consequence is evident in the words of Trump as he proclaims 'solutions' to the ISIS menace through more mass arms shipments and partnership with the Saudis.
Ahmed goes on to remind us how the US, West and Gulf states funneled arms and support to al-Qaeda affiliates in Syria as part of their common agenda to remove Assad. The CIA and MI6 also facilitated "rat-lines" for jihadist fighters to Syria from Libya, the Caucuses and Balkans. As Ahmed records, all this was approved by the UK authorities, who turned their own blind eye to British jihadists travelling to Syria. Ahmed further notes how NATO and the West were eager partners of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group in their common effort to remove Gaddafi.
It's very likely we may never prevent a deranged individual, bent on whatever ideological crusade, from exploding a bomb, or weaponising a truck, in a public space. But, as the media grant prime ministers and presidents privileged platforms to condemn and denounce, there's a gaping lack of scrutiny over the West's own wicked war and arms agenda - or 'foreign policy' as it's so dutifully called.
That distortion matches the abject failure of Western 'intelligence' to promote meaningful 'safety on our streets'. What truly intelligent mind, after all, would fail to see, or seek to disguise, the inevitable consequences of so much Western aggression, invasion, proxy warmongering and arms procurement?
For Nafeez Ahmed, the "deeply uncomfortable reality" here is that:
the domestic leftovers of Britain's military adventures abroad are emboldened networks of extremist sympathisers, which British authorities are literally afraid of prosecuting for fear of embarrasing MI5 and MI6 over their wanton liaisons with Islamist militants for geopolitical aggrandisement.
It is a convenient way of avoiding confrontation with the most inconvenient truth of all time: that since 9/11, the staple tactics of the 'War on Terror' - military interventions, mass surveillance, drone assassinations, torture, rendition - have seen a massive acceleration in terrorist violence. US State Department data shows that since 2001, terror attacks have skyrocketed by 6,500 percent, while the numbers of casualties from terror attacks has increased by 4,500 percent. At what point are we going to wake up to the fact that the institutions of the 'War on Terror', too, have failed? Not just failed, but contributed to the violence we all fear? (Original emphasis.)Behind all the lofty appeals to 'uphold our way of life', Manchester only confirms how the whole language of 'state intelligence' and 'public security' has been crafted as propaganda in the service of power. Incredibly, we're now asked to believe that May ordering troops onto the streets is a signal of 'strength and reassurance' rather than an admission of the greater dangers we now face as a result of Britain's failed warmongering. As historian Mark Curtis asserts, "the British establishment is putting our lives at risk."
Lamentably, populist liberal voices lauding our 'resistance to terror' and 'refusal to succumb' also obfuscate the problem by failing to accompany that message with wider explanation of Western crimes.
The admirable, spontaneous care shown by people in Manchester and beyond tells us much about the natural capacity for human compassion and empathy. Yet any serious deterrence and limiting of such suffering, here and elsewhere, requires not just condemnation and pledges of unity, but the specific indictment and exposure of the higher state forces driving terrorist violence.
Einstein's (supposed) definition of insanity - doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results - may have become, in itself, a circular-sounding cliche, but, as the same reactive outcries over yet another atrocity on 'our' cities unfolds, how many politicians and journalists have the integrity to confront these issues in their wider, causal context?