The terrorist bombings in Boston have brought home a very hard truth: Western moral certainty that led us through the Cold War is ceding its surefooted stance to extremist Islamists.
Open and transparent justice has always worked simply: innocent or guilty, resulting in exoneration and freedom or sentence and punishment. Holding people indefinitely in a semi-guilty state of limbo has always been the dream of medieval barons, tyrants and dictators. With money and technology, it is now possible to hold everyone in the world in a state of ‘continuous monitoring’. The question is: if such pervasive control is possible, should it be funded and done? Will secret courts and more prisons and continuous invasive monitoring stop terrorism? I argue not. If there was no continuing need for supersonic flight technology and the Concorde was retired, is it possible that no useful social purpose will be served by invasive monitoring, aggressive prosecution, and indefinite incarceration?
The Tsaernev brothers are an American product. So says the Chechen president Kadyrov and he may be right. While the FBI and local police agencies were busy entrapping innocent people and conducting invasive monitoring of entire communities, they were alerted to Tamerlan Tsaernev by Russian intelligence services. The FBI did not find anything, but it did not exonerate him either – possibly delaying (or denying) his citizenship request.
As I write this today, there is a strong possibility that Tamerlan, at least according to his mother, was bitter about being ‘persecuted’ by the FBI. And therein lies the fact that the limbo of continuous suspicion wastes people’s lives, or forces them to seek sick revenge by wasting other lives. At this moment in time, It does not appear that Tamerlan was ‘radicalized’ by a cleric and it is established that he visited Russia after his run-in with the FBI. It is also unclear if the FBI tried to recruit him into their extensive informer network.
It takes great courage to live a life of uncertainty and one needs amazing fortitude and composure to be normal even when wrongly monitored or criminalized. Such grace is now being identified with Islamism and this is a bigger threat to Western civilization than any kind of terrorism. It appears that Tamerlan may not have had that grace or fortitude, or he might have been such a good actor that he was able to fool a well-funded FBI.
Shaker Aamer from Guantanamo
Shaker Aamer, a British resident who has been a Guantanamo detainee for over a decade and whose innocence is accepted by his captors, shows this resilience and writes in the Independent today about his time in Guantanamo:
They used to call their goon squad the ERF, or Emergency Reaction Force. We called it the Extreme Repression Force. More recently, they changed euphemisms and now they call it FCE, or Forcible Cell Extraction. The abuse remains the same. When I hear the tramp, Tramp, TRAMP of the boots coming to my cell door, my body floods with adrenalin and my stomach cramps up. I know they are coming in to beat me up again.
Right now, I have bruises all over my body. I think I bruise easier now, 60 days into my hunger strike, with my physical defences breaking down.
. . . . .
It’s hardly a novel idea. I lived in America many years ago, and I remember the motto on the New Hampshire licence plate: Live Free or Die. I may have to die. I hope not, because I want to see my wife and family again. But the Americans should understand what it means to fight for liberty. They began their revolution with the “shot that was heard around the world” on 19 April, 1775. Some lackey to King George III doubtless labelled them the “worst of the worst”, for they were the terrorists then. If demanding a fair trial makes me a terrorist, then we are all terrorists now, and on that anniversary, we celebrate our own revolt.
If the Cold War had Continued
Had the Soviet Union still existed, would the American Gulag of Guantanamo exist? Even the Soviet Gulags did not keep incarcerating those deemed innocent. Until Western governments and intellectuals own up to the lies of Rumsfeld, Bush, Blair and Powell, the injustice of extra-judicial murders, the immorality of Guantanamo and the regression of secret courts, the inadvertent manufacturing of terrorism by over-funded intelligence agencies will continue and the high moral ground will now be occupied by Shaker Aamer and his fellow inmates at Guantanamo.
Sometimes I think that some sick mind conjured up Guantanamo as Dante’s purgatario for those not afraid to kill themselves. If so, it was a total failure.
Yes, I repeat: the higher moral ground today belongs to those whom Rumsfeld slandered as ‘the worst of the worst’, and by implicit reasoning, moral certainty today has been ceded to the Islamist hard-liners: they are perceived to not lie, not forget, practice swift though cruel justice, and they are morally certain of themselves. And these hard-liners inculcate impressionable young minds with terrorism – they run terrorism factories. We are letting intolerant hard-line clerics become the only hope for millions of young men who instinctively desire a civilized future for humanity. Every young person who leans towards hard-line Islamism dreams of a just and fair future for all mankind. His way of getting there — through ignorant clerics and without requisite institutions — may be entirely fanciful, but just the fact that his only hope is in hard-liners should scare all liberal people of the world.
Apologies to Guantanamo Inmates and Iraq War Crimes Tribunal is the Only Civilized Way
Unless Western governments and thinkers do not regain moral certainty and become surefooted again, the Long War will not be about Islamic terrorism, it will be about Islamism emerging as the hope of civilization for downtrodden people who see Western hypocrisy so blatant that it paralyzes Western government into inaction, as any positive action would necessitate breaking some false pretenses. The mighty and powerful should not be ashamed to apologize to Islamists wrongly accused and incarcerated and should be willing to recognize them as equal human beings while abhorring their ideology. Isn’t that what we lectured the Soviet Union on? It should begin with Rumsfeld. The Anglo powers should not hesitate to convene an Iraq War Crimes tribunal to try abuses from both sides — and they should appoint an Iraq Resources Commission to manage Iraq’s oil transparently. A few American servicemen should be jailed or executed — or else the next super-power would have to unearth the evidence decades from now. Such actions would take the wind out of the sails out of the hard-liners, but Western intelligence agencies and corporate lobbyists would be appalled That is exactly why they need to be de-funded and taken out of policy-making and relegated to grunt sleuth work.
Any policy-maker crazy enough to suggest that unjust wars can be swept under the rug forever by remaining the only brutal superpower suffers from delusion similar to the one in the financial industry that continued borrowing to pay off debts is infinitely sustainable. Why not? For the simple reason that continued global occupation will result in more atrocities and further demoralization of one’s own people. Humans, conquerors or vanquished, jailers or jailed, are innately justice-seeking moral creatures. Empires decline through a lack of moral rectitude. Britain was very smart to give up colonialism voluntarily rather than be forced to do so — and thus emerge out of WWII as a smaller but moral country rather than an immoral empire.
The vast majority of Muslims, including myself, saw the future of the human race in the continuation of Western liberal civilization. During the Cold War, we thought we were contributing to human advancement as a whole by coming to learn from, and work for, the West. The end of the Cold War woke us up like a cold shower that we might be ‘the other’, and then the propaganda machines took over. It is time to stop them, and not fall for the lure of technology to upturn centuries of human achievement in justice, transparency and good governance.
Is there any leader brave enough to say the obvious and stop the funding and sub-contracting of torture and injustice, and the wholesale trading of Western liberal values for war industry profits?