Terrorism: All three sides of the coin

By Michael Lashley

How do we treat with terrorism? Can it be effectively managed and reduced to a minimum? Whose “fault” is it? How did we become the target of terrorist acts?

Whenever there is a conflict, there are generally three sides to the story: my side, your side and the truth.

The truth is often a selective combination of some elements of my account of the “facts”, some elements of your account and some other elements that neither of us may have included in our account.

Terrorism is a vicious form of attack in that it uses threats and acts of physical violence to inflict on us an even more powerful form of violence. It instils thedeathly fear of further attacks that may occur at any time and in any place. They may affect any randomly selected victims, including us, our loved ones and any members of our society.

Terrorism is therefore essentially the policy and practice of psychological violence on the part of “terrorists”, seeking to launch a revolt and a counter-attack against an “enemy” who is perceived to be the cause of an injustice, a collaborator in the injustice, a beneficiary of the injustice or a person / group that is indifferent to the injustice.

The root causes of terrorism are neither religion nor culture nor ethnicity. No religion, culture or ethnicity is to be seen as evil, the demon or the devil. The demonization of Islam is just as irresponsible an attitude as the demonization of Christianity. It is a detestable fact that at one time or another, sometimes at the same time, Western societies have treated Jews, Arabs and Muslims as inferior, as worthy of being disliked, distrusted, and kept in check.

What are we to do?

The critical factor in dealing with terrorism is finding the right balance. Neither over-reacting nor under-reacting is effective. In fact, the major reason for such violent revolts against a country, a government or a system is our failure to understand and to act upon the root causes of terrorism: the sense on the part of the potential “terrorists” that grave injustices exist, are not being addressed, and are being inflicted without any hope for the liberation of the victims from the physical and mental sufferings inherent in the injustice.

Terrorism thrives on the feeling of victimhood. Terrorism is both a national and international reality. It sees itself as waging war against national and / or international injustice. The truth, whatever it may be, becomes irrelevant.

Right here in Canada, two recent experiences of terrorist attacks force us to recognize that we have now arrived at a turning-point. There were several incidents in recent years of “home-grown terrorism”, but these last two have grabbed our attention because they have targeted members of our security forces, members of our Parliament and most of all the sanctity of our democratic structures.

There can be no doubt that one attacker wanted us to get the message that he was attacking our Parliament Buildings in Ottawa because he rejects our claim to democratic values such as justice and equity. Some analysts argue that one of the principal threats to Canadian national security is the perception that Canada has given up its international status as a mediator and a promoter of peace and of the just and peaceful settlement of international conflicts.

We also recognize that in our country, grave and gross injustices have been committed against the aboriginal peoples and we continue to tolerate in the wider society chronic inequity, persistent poverty, unemployment, under-employment, and alienation of young people and new immigrants in the labor market.

Instead of limiting ourselves to the repression of violence, let us simultaneously focus on eliminating the causes of violence. Terrorism cannot thrive if we continue to strive for the elimination of injustice, inequity and marginalization, both at home in Canada and abroad.

But we cannot condone violence in any of its many forms. We must celebrate the patriotic duties performed by the two soldiers who were killed, the third soldier who was injured and indeed by all the members of our country’s security services. We support the tributes being paid to our heroic Sergeant-at-Arms of the House of Commons.

Michael Lashley
Michael Lashley