The missing element of mercy


Source: 5 Pillars

By Lauren Booth

Journalist Lauren Booth questions whether the West can really hold the moral high ground in the aftermath of the deadly Paris terrorist attacks.

“The quality of mercy is not strain’d,
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven” William Shakespeare

What do we want to happen as a result of the murder of French civilians in Parisian venues at the weekend? Closed borders, removal of immigrants, military intervention?

We must each ask ourselves this question, debating the answer vigorously, as the collaborative answer will define the qualities which will make up European and national responses to such terrible events and even characterize our society for years to come.

In his address after the events on 13 November, French President Francois
Hollande imposed a national state of emergency. He declared that the co-ordinated attacks in the capital were more than terrorism.

“This is an act of war,” he said, pledging to respond “mercilessly” to the terrible bloodshed in the French capital.

The subsequent bombing in Raqqa by the French air force, in a region of Syria currently under the control of ISIS, has been reported as both “extensive” and focused. The targets have been, we are told, weapons storage facilities and militant training camps.

Journalists are at pains to reflect that these attacks are in no way “revenge” for what has taken place, but tactical and precisely aimed to avoid civilian casualties. The French air force are to be congratulated that – according to local hospital reports – indeed no local people were injured
or killed in the campaign. We must be able to discuss how safe future bombing campaigns will be for the already bombarded, starved and tortured Syrian people beneath them.

Civilians on the frontline

Civilians are today and have been for decades on the front line, most noticeably and vastly, in the Middle East, from Yemen to Syria, from Libya to Iraq via Palestine. And this weekend, 129 innocent people were killed in a usually peaceful city, in Europe. Killed as they went about their post-work leisure activities.

129 is an awful number. Yet, in terms of modern war (the President’s word not my own), it is a tragic, but a relatively small one. Civilian war dead, are numbered in multiple zeros now. We live in an age where soldiers,
who join armies to fight, are increasingly protected from combat, with no expense spared, on the gadgets and deadly machinery which whilst inflicting damage on the enemy, means they should as rarely as possible, leave the safety of their homeland. The most favored of this type of weapon currently being the military drone.

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Categories: Europe, Opinion

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