Is there no other way?

The mother of one of the American journalists beheaded by the Islamic State in northern Iraq, while understanding President Obama’s dilemma in responding to IS, pleaded with him, ‘Is there no other way’ (except military force)? Cruel and indifferent to life as IS is, there is always a reason behind every ‘terror’ movement.

The difficulty seems to be that addressing the issues which drive people to violence and terror is more complex and demanding than simply bombing them. Rather than listening to grievances and struggling to address them, the choice is made to send in drones. They don’t risk American lives and they keep the war far from America’s shores.

The word ‘drone’ has a harmless, even friendly, sound about it. A drone is a male bee which has no other job besides fertilising the queen. It came to stand for any idle fellow. Yet drone is no idle threat. It is the word chosen by the US military for lethal pilotless planes guided by someone at a computer thousands of miles away in a Washington office. The targeted person may live in a house with 30 other people so that to kill that one person 31 have to die.

‘Interviewees describe emotional breakdowns, running indoors or hiding when drones appeared above, fainting, nightmares and other intrusive thoughts, hyper-startled reactions to loud noises, outburst of anger or irritability and loss of appetite and other physical symptoms … A father of three said: “drones are always on my mind. It makes it difficult to sleep. They are like a mosquito. Even when you don’t see them, you can hear them, you know they are there.”’(A report quoted in the LRB 4.7.13)

The enmity created by this type of response does exactly the opposite to what is intended. Instead of eliminating extremists it multiplies them. It is hard at times to see why the most powerful country in the world does not follow simple logic and do what is obvious; take time to understand what drives the bully in the playground.

“If your brother does something wrong, go and have it out with him alone, between your two selves. If he listens to you, you have won back your brother. If he does not listen, take one or two others along with you …” This advice of Jesus continues until he says, “If he still refuses to listen, treat him like a pagan or a tax collector.” (Matt 18:15). And we know how Jesus treated pagans and tax collectors – with endless compassion.

We have made huge advances in technology but have our advances in morality kept pace? In a way, yes! The world is a far more caring place today than in the time of Pontius Pilate. But the courage to reach out to “enemies” and try to see their point of view still eludes us.

Post published in: Faith

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