Mali – The fragility of hostility

The new threat to our safety is North Africa. This is the line we are currently being peddled by Cameron and co – the vacuum of power left in places such as Libya and more recently, Mali, has been filled with Islamic jihadists, hell-bent on destroying the West.

Now of course, we all know what happens when our government decides that an unstable nation is rife with militant fanatics – we start killing people. To paraphrase an internet meme I saw a few days back “We kill people who kill people, to teach them that killing people is wrong”. The cynic in me worries that this coincides too well with our imminent abandonment of Afghanistan. We’re set to leave one quagmire of our own making and ready to start another one. Cameron has made a U-turn in recent days (no surprise there), from saying that we will not commit any troops to Mali – to saying that we may commit a few hundred. All that he needs from there is perhaps an attack on British soil or a Murdoch paper to print images of “one of our boys” being carried home in a box and national fervour will predicate a full-scale attack.

All too often people tend to forget about the actual reality of war. Perhaps we are desensitised by years of films and video games. Perhaps, and I think more likely, we are able to separate fiction from fact and we are desensitised by an almost endless barrage of “war” and “terror” on the news. Since the attacks of 9-11 barely a day goes by without gunfights, or terror attacks, suicide bombing or roadside IED. The real-life facts are that people die – not just the “good guys” and the “bad guys” but every day people going about their lives. Sunday night a French Helicopter attack on a Malian village slaughtered 12 innocent people – with at least three children amongst the dead. Try to actually think about this, don’t disconnect in the way that many tend to when we talk about dead civilians in other parts of the world. These are people’s children, their friends, family. This is also just the tip of the iceberg, they’ve barely been in Mali for a month.

If there is a threat to human life in Mali then by all means, I would never try to stand in the way of us fighting that – but in 2012 we must have better ways of attacking militant groups than helicopters raining down torrents of rockets and bullets. Better ways than indiscriminate drone attacks. The threat from Muslim fundamentalists will be higher today than it ever has been, and it is our fault. I could say America’s fault, but to wash our hands as if we aren’t somehow complicit would be a fallacy. Military advisers, government officials, think tanks – they must know that day by day we are creating more jihadists than we are killing. Every drone strike, every misplaced bomb, every dead civilian creates 10 more militants. The truth is that war is profitable – for those at the top, war makes more. War creates markets. It’s more than just oil, it’s aggressive capitalism. It’s killing for profit.

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