The so-called ‘Islamic State’ (who for brevity I will here call IS though I know that a collective like them can have nothing to do with a religion whose very name means ‘peace’) are anathema to everything I believe in. They kill aid workers. They radicalise vulnerable, idealistic teenagers online and send them out to war zones. They suppress female education. They suppress freedom of expression. A systematic tactic of theirs is to rape Yazidi women and girls, and to sell them as sex slaves, claiming this is the will of their god. I have close (very close) friends in Paris who live near the sites of the shootings and bombings. There is no justification for the actions of IS. They are a canker on our world. I loathe them and the absolutist, militarised regime they stand for.
I still don’t think we should bomb Syria.
The IS ‘base’ in Raqquah is not the centre of IS. IS is a poisonous ideology; it exists everywhere. In this internet world where everything is connected, IS can reach everywhere and everyone. They’re not a few people who can be bombed. They want to be martyred. Their IS magazine shows images of fighters next to their corpses, praising how they died in the cause.
We bomb Syria, we only slice the head off the hydra. And two more grow in its place. Bombing Syria becomes fodder for IS recruitment. Feeds the narrative that the wicked west hates Muslims and indiscriminately bombs them. And doesn’t it seem like that? Doesn’t this seem like a retaliatory action, for Paris? I’m heartbroken for Paris. I’m angry. But more death is never the answer.
So those are my practical considerations, but there’s more to it than that. Violence only begets more violence until somebody demands it stops. My beloved friend Bex has put this into better words than I could in her moving open letter to her MP John Glen. But ultimately, violence can only lead to more violence, and more hate. I don’t have the answer – perhaps it is to starve IS of weapons and oil supplies – but I know the answer is not bombing. Every single life belongs to a person as complex as yourself – someone with hopes and dreams and worries, someone with a family. Someone who takes too many pictures of their pet. Someone who does their hair in the morning. Someone who dreams and cries. Every single one of those people lost in senseless violence is an awful tragedy.
I want to leave you with these words from the Prose Merlin. These same fears and sorrows have been with us for centuries. I hope that we can be brave, and learn compassion, and undertake the hard, slow work of diplomacy instead:
‘And whan the Kynge Rion saugh the grete mortalité and slaughtur of his peple, and also of the peple of Kynge Arthur, his herte wax tender and hadde therof pitee, and seide to hymself that that mortalité wolde he no lenger suffre. And than he toke a braunche of sicamor in his hande and wente before the hoste to dissever the bateiles, and wente forth till he fonde the Kynge Arthur, and spake so high that he myght wele ben herde. “Kynge Arthur, wherfore doost thow suffre thi peple to be slayn and distroied, and also myn? Do thow now well, yef ther be so moche worthinesse in thee as the worlde recorded. Delyver thy peple fro deth, and I shall deliver also tho of myn, and we shull make oure peple withdrawe on bothe parties a rowme. And thow and I shull fight togeder body for body, by soche covenaunt that yef thow may me conquere, I shall returne to my contrey with the peple that is me beleft on lyve; and yef I may thee conquere, thow shalt holde thi londe of me and be my soget, as ben these other kynges that I have conquered.’
– Prose Merlin
(I want to thank Bex again for providing this reference)
I am aware that this is an emotional issue, and not all of my readers will agree with me. I would like to invite respectful disagreements, critical questions, etc. in the comments. Thank you for reading