Universal Values and the Attention of Terror

We are all global citizens.

This morning the southern hemisphere woke to news of another terror attack in Paris.  Multiple attacks have taken place across the city.  A state of emergency has been declared and the country’s borders have closed.  A hundred people are currently being held hostage at a concert hall, fifteen are already dead at this one site, and over 100 are known to have died elsewhere.  It is horrific.

When these things happen in the wealthy world, headlines are made, news segments become all-day programs with constant updates, live footage, specialist analysis and political announcements from various leaders.  It makes for gripping news, as it should, and we are all horrified by the violence, fear and loss of life.  In fact, we can be so horrified that some of us are traumatised.  Before I turned on this morning’s news, I read an email from a friend in England saying that the family’s summer holiday in Spain was great, but marred slightly by the terror attacks in Tunisia just across the sea.

In the rich world we have resources and systems in place which protect us as much as is humanly possible.  I was in Paris a number of times earlier this year and the security presence at train stations and attractions such as the Eiffel Tower was very strong with armed police, armed soldiers and others heavily visible across the city.

It is the poor world, where most terror deaths occur, who have no such protections.  The 2014 Global Terrorism Index Report states that 82% of all terrorist attacks occurred in just five countries (Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nigeria and Syria).  90% of all terrorist attacks take place in countries with gross human rights violations.  I’m not even sure that attacks such as that instigated on protestors in Phnom Penh last year, fit the criteria required to be labelled as “terrorism”.  Yet innocent civilians were terrorised, so if they don’t fit whatever official criteria is required, to me such events, which command very little worldwide attention, certainly seem to be acts of terrorism.  I feel the same about the aerial attack on Kunduz Hospital in Afghanistan last month, by America, as with the hundreds of innocent civilians killed by American drones in places like Pakistan amid a policy of secrecy and justifications.

Unlike the Parisian victims, most victims of terror die without attention from western media outlets.  So when I hear President Barack Obama talk about “an attack on all of humanity and the universal values that we share“, I stand by his words but not by his actions, as a man who has been labelled “The Lethal President” for his targeted killing program.  One of many examples of innocent victims of this program is Pakistani grandmother Momina Bibi whose family spoke in Congress of their loss in 2013.

I stand by the people of Paris but I equally stand by the invisible and ignored victims in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nigeria, Syria and elsewhere, who deserve just as much spotlight as Paris is receiving at this time.

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