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Pure Evil

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A map showing the location of explosions in Baghdad in 2016

The terrorist bombing in Manchester last week shocked the world. People out for a good time were faced with unspeakable horror that resulted in 22 deaths and dozens of serious injuries. Many of the victims were children, one as young as eight years old. I usually avoid controversial topics in this space, but this was such a repugnant violation of civilized values that I cannot keep silent.

How could anyone on earth commit such an act? The British tabloid, “The Sun,” had photographs of the smiling, angelic eight year old girl and the young adult, perpetrator of the act of Arabic ancestry, side by side. Underneath, in large letters, were the words “Pure” below the girl’s picture and “Evil” below the boy’s. That is an understandable characterization of the matter, but I wonder about it.

Again, there is absolutely no doubt whatsoever that this was an evil act. I do not condone it in any way. However, consider this: just a couple of days later an American bombing raid killed over a hundred civilians in Mosul, Iraq. More than twenty were ― you guessed it ― children. The US military command issued a statement later saying that the bombs dropped had hit an ISIS ordnance depot, setting off explosions that greatly compounded the damage. Planners for the raid had not been aware of the existence of those explosives. But does that excuse the killing of those innocent civilians? Whether you or I think so or not, many in the Arab world attribute guilt for the deaths to America.

The purpose of the bombing raid had been to kill two ISIS snipers.

Many would argue that this is inevitable in war, which is notorious for “collateral damage.” Mosul is in a war zone and Manchester is not. But is this a true distinction? Perhaps the biggest buzz word of the 21st century is globalization. It is naïve to imagine that people in Iraq or Syria or any other Arab country are unaware of the misery in which they live, and the peace, comfort and pleasure that people in the Western countries live theirs. This is especially true in regards to those of Arabic ancestry who were born and raised in the West, many of whom make trips to the Middle East to visit relatives and friends. Is there any doubt that they discuss the situation in detail, and probably with a great deal of bitterness?

There is another aspect of the matter to be considered. Authorities made intense efforts to identify every victim of the Manchester tragedy as quickly as possible. Not only were the family of the missing desperate for any news of their loved ones, but the public at large was clamoring for action. One of the most touching pieces of information to emerge after the chaos died down was that dozens of ordinary people rushed to the scene to offer help. Everyone felt a responsibility to aid their fellow citizens.

Anyway, in Manchester within days all of the names of victims were known. What about the situation in Mosul? The names were not only unknown, but irrelevant. Why should anyone in the West even care?

As far as the West is concerned, the whole country of Iraq regularly ignites in conflagrations of explosions. What else can be done but to throw up one’s hands in despair concerning that hopeless mess?

The conclusion to be drawn is that the West does not care about the suffering in the Middle East at all, even though it is responsible for a significant amount of it. The eight year old girl who died in the Manchester bombing was certainly pure, but was the perpetrator evil?

As I said, I do not think so. I think that he was angry and frustrated and persuaded by those closest to him to take action to address the hellish conditions in the land of his ancestors. The act was evil, without a doubt, but in order to address the problem effectively, it is important to understand the facts clearly.

Were the American bombers in Mosul evil? Were the planners?

By no means do I excuse the bomber of Manchester; rather, I thoroughly despise him and people of his ilk. But I have to be realistic in accepting the facts as they are. Everyone says that we must take steps to prevent this from happening again. Well, the first step is to recognize the obvious, without prejudice, emotion or preconceptions.

What is the solution? It is obvious that a controlling authority has to be put into place in the Middle East in order to maintain a disciplined environment. The governments there are not doing so, therefore another form of administration is required. In my opinion, some kind of United Nations supervised control would be best. In the last century, dictators kept the peace in the region, but that does not work anymore. Case in point: Syria.

Syria is a huge mess itself. More than half a million people there have died at the hands of a brutal dictator, sometimes as the result of the use of poison gas. The man is obviously evil, right?

Wrong, but more than that, irrelevant. What does applying an emotional label accomplish?

Here is the truth about Syria. The West could have done things to alleviate the problems there, but first a realistic assessment had to have been made. In hindsight, it is clear what then should have been done.

It was urged on all sides that America should have played an active role in confronting the government of Syria. But is that realistic? What would have been gained by that? How was it in America’s interest to get involved?

Or, from a different perspective, in whose interest was it to be involved? Well, the fact is that upwards of a million Syrian refugees will end up in Germany. Consequently, it was in Germany’s interest to solve the problem at the outset.

I do not suggest that Germany should have rushed in to confront the Syrian government militarily, far from it. What suggest is that Germany should have taken the lead in proposing a United Nations mandate in Syria which would have replaced the government and instituted peacekeeping operations. No doubt, this would have been difficult and costly in financial terms, but those million Syrians in Germany represent a huge cost as well. No to mention the half million plus dead Syrians.

Of course, this is a moot point now since the Russians are so entrenched there. The only way a solution can be reached now is for the flames of emotion, hatred and bitterness to burn themselves out.

It may be emotionally satisfying for a grieving heart to attribute horrible events to the activity of evil in the world, but it solves nothing. It just disguises the true source of the trouble.

Those who wish to comment on the opinions expressed here may send their thoughts to info@GoWizardry.com. The most interesting responses will be addressed in future postings.

Robert J. Terry

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