What horrific slaughter.
To remain steadfast after repentance is never easy. That moment of sincerity whilst falling down on your face in regret, resolving never to repeat those mistakes or return to them, is severely tested over the days that follow. It is too easy to become heedless of realities, returning to the norms that surround us. Video, photography, opinion pieces, radio, music — our senses are perpetually bombarded from every direction. The gentle teachings of our deen are easily ignored: listen not to vain talk, speak good or remain silent, lower your gazes, remember your Lord often. It is all too easy to return to wickedness even after that sincere resolve to reform. The battle with the nafs is perhaps the fiercest conflict of all.
As sections of the media and governments worldwide congratulate themselves for telling Israel off for shooting civilians on the Mavi Maramara earlier this week, I am struck by the absolute lack of outrage at that hideous by-product of America’s robotic assassinations: the incidental deaths of women and children.
In the course of the war on terror, we have slipped into the alternative fictional world of 2000AD in which Street Judges sentence and execute offenders instantly in their effort to enforce the law. We have lost all sense of moral proportion, shrugging off the actions of the squadron of MQ-9 Reaper “hunter-killer” drones as some kind of norm. Judge Dredd now sits at a computer terminal at a military base in Nevada, sending his robotic army wherever he wills. All the world is Megacity 1: Pakistan, Somalia, Afghanistan, Iraq. In this alternative reality—now our tragic actuality—the world is his oyster. And we dumb clones.
How can it be that the deaths of wives, children and grandchildren are all considered an acceptable side effect of a policy of assassination? We no longer even talk of collateral damage: it is only necessary to mention that the target was an Al-Qaeda militant and anyone around him is suddenly non-human, whose death is inconsequential.
Some would point out that this is nothing beside the German blitz of British cities during World War Two, or in light of the nuclear destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. What is the death of a few children to the massacre of 50,000 civilians and the destruction of the entire city of Hamburg during one week in July in 1943? It is the way of war, is it not?
Not last time I checked. While it goes without saying that the targeting of civilians is absolutely prohibited in Islamic Law, with clear conditions laid down to avoid accidental civilian casualties, the Geneva Convention also makes plain the status of combatants and civilians on the battlefield. Civilians may well have borne the brunt of military action over the past century, but under humanitarian law they are supposed to be protected people.
It is claimed that a man said to be a leading militant in Al-Qaeda—that great spectre of the war on terror—was killed last week by a missile fired from a robotic drone in Pakistan’s North Waziristan, near the town of Miran Shah. Nobody advocates capturing those charged with terrorism or rebellion and bringing them to trial, for this is war; indeed to even make such a suggestion is to admit some sort of sympathy for the worst of the worst.
Dare we speak up for those killed alongside him though? For it is claimed that his wife, three of his daughters, his granddaughter, and other men, women, and children, were also killed in the missile strike. They were collateral damage? They were guilty by association? Or is this a new post-patriarchal age when we dare not speak of women and children for fear of patronising the victims of war? Must we remain silent in reverence to the new wisdom of our age?
If not now, when will we awake? Last July, the US Air Force released a report entitled, “Unmanned Aircraft Systems Flight Plan 2009-2047,” in which it proposes a drone that could fly over a target and then make the decision whether or not to launch an attack, all without human intervention. The drones are not going away, nor the so-called war on terror.
So I see those crocodile tears for Israel’s actions this week are already dry, for if the nations truly cared then, surely they would condemn these other breaches of international humanitarian law too. Isn’t it this the death of civilisation?
Why all the killing? I really cannot comprehend it at all. A bomb planted in a Peshawar marketplace extinguishes the lives of 91 in an instant as it rips through everything in its path; 200 more are left injured. Just a matter of hours earlier 150 are slaughtered in Baghdad.
Islam holds that indiscriminate violence is makruh (offensive) on the battlefield and haram (forbidden) in a place where there are civilians. This slaughter follows not the sunnah of our Prophet, upon whom be peace, but that of the twentieth century, during which 250 million people were needlessly killed. Fifteen million during the First World War, 9 million during the Russian Civil War, 20 million under Stalin’s regime, 55 million during the Second World War, 2.5 million during the Chinese Civil War, and on, and on.
Who gave Muslims permission to adopt the sunnah of the Luftwaffe and RAF, who once championed terror bombing for utilitarian ends? And who gave them permission to abandon the sunnah of the Messenger, peace be upon him, which forbade attacks on non-combattants?
Who now will stand up to the killers and defend our deen and the common man? If a man in the midst of this anarchy must now blunt his sword and resign himself to a fate like that of the better of the two sons of Adam, does the burden then pass to those of us living in safety and security?
For years Muslims have lamented that though we condemn terrorism repeatedly, nobody hears us. But today we realise that all this time we have been addressing the wrong ears. Those who needed to hear us were not our angry neighbours, but those men wielding high explosives and an alien utilitarian way.
Amidst the carnage of a bombed-out marketplace, who now will make themselves heard?
I am really quite tired of being bombarded with propaganda set on defining for me the realms of civilisation. We want “civil” in that word to refer to courtesy and politeness, but we know that it doesn’t. Instead, our dictionaries describe civilisation as an advanced stage or system of human social development. Of course, for us, politeness is a characteristic of advanced human social development, as is honesty, sincerity, kindness and generosity. Yet what it actually means in practice is something quite different. The British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, uses it to describe that same group of nations which make up the G8. Thus that constant bombardment of ideas.
But I am troubled. Why are the civilised nations spending so much on weapons? The United States of America’s Department of Defence alone – excluding research, maintenance and production – had a budget of $437.111 Billion in 2004. While it is true that US expenditure accounts for only 4% of Gross Domestic Product, as compared to Saudi Arabia’s 10% as the world’s ninth largest spender, its 2005 military budget was still greater than the combined total of the next 27. Interestingly, the United Kingdom – tiny beside the US, China and Russia – spends almost as much as Japan and only slightly less than Russia and China: something like $50 billion. The joint expenditure of these self-described civilised nations is 57 times greater than the combined total of Cuba, Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Sudan and Syria, and contributes to two thirds of the total expenditure of the entire planet. In the case of the US, these figures exclude their actions in Iraq and Afghanistan which are funded outside the Federal Budget.
Why are the civilised nations spending billions on killing machines, on developing the most hideous weapons ever conceived? Consider the BLU-82B/C-130 weapon system, nicknamed Commando Vault in Vietnam and Daisy Cutter in Afghanistan. This is a 15,000 pound bomb based on explosive sludge which is dropped from high altitude, producing a massive flash visible from long distances and intense boom on impact, destroying an area between 300 and 900 feet radius. Or consider Fuel-Air Explosives which disperse an aerosol cloud of fuel which is ignited by an embedded detonator to produce an explosion, causing high overpressure. And I am not even mentioning nuclear weapons. What kind of mind could conceive of such weapons, and what sort of nation would fund them?
Blessed are the peace makers, says the Bible, for they shall inherit the earth. A time comes when we must realise that the labels assigned by those around us are worthless. Spending $500 billion – even $50 billion – on a war machine is not indicative of advanced human social development. Far from it. Let the primitive nations rejoice. Blessed are the peace makers, for they shall inherit the earth.
The war was over, but the scars remained. Pushed together, the people lived in compounds scattered across the vast landscape. It was better like this; not much better, but better than the urban squalor that faced the returning refugees. The compounds were a sanctory from the ever threatening outside world: The minefield hell holes. The pitted landscape filled with cluster bombs. The poisoned lakes. And the dead land. The dead land that was good for nothing any more. Poisoned for a million years; a graveyard of a once fertile land. The compounds offered saftey.