Stepping off the merry go round

Last weekend, a pair of suicide bombers killed 81 people and wounded 140 more in an attack on the All Saints Church in Peshawar, Pakistan.

Last weekend, a pair of suicide bombers killed 81 people and wounded 140 more in an attack on the All Saints Church in Peshawar, Pakistan. A branch of the Pakistani Taliban has claimed responsibility for the bombing, proclaiming that such attacks will continue until the U.S. ends its campaign of drone strikes.

Christianity is the second-largest religion in Pakistan. There have been Christian churches there since at least the late 19th century, and relations between Muslims and Christians have fluctuated between co-existence and outright persecution. In recent years, however, the lives of Pakistani Christians have grown ever-more dangerous.

Since the U.S. and its allies invaded Afghanistan in 2002, the Taliban have been targeting Christians in revenge attacks. There is an evil kind of logic behind this. So much of what tears the region apart is the result of interference from a succession of U.S. presidents who have all to one degree or another traded upon their Christian faith while supporting murder and mayhem in Central Asia.

Jimmy Carter’s foreign minister Zbigniew Brezhinski bragged that his administration created the Mujahadeen, thus “giving to the USSR its Vietnam war.” When Ronald Reagan ousted Carter, one of the few programs he didn’t axe was support for the Afghan “freedom fighters.” The Mujahadeen gave birth to the Taliban and the Northern Alliance, and so to a civil war. George W. Bush of course invaded Afghanistan, and began attacking suspects in northern Pakistan with drone strikes, a practice which Barack Obama has escalated.

It hardly needs to be said that the evils beset upon Central Asia by Christian American leaders is no excuse for the Taliban to blow up churches, no matter how sanctimoniously those leaders may spout their faith while financing the latest dictator, sending in the troops, or bombing apartment blocks.

Oddly enough, it apparently does have to be said that the evils committed by the Taliban are no excuse for murdering Muslims. Consider the drone campaign. Somewhere between 2,548 and 3,549 people were killed by drone strikes in Pakistan between 2004 and July 2013. Of these, according to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, only 1.5 per cent were the so-called “high-ranking Taliban” officially targeted, while five per cent were children.

There is nothing more terrifying than the irrational. When we believe we are under attack by religious fanatics who hate us simply because they are madmen who hate freedom and democracy, the situation seems desperate. We are desperate. As Afghanistan has proven repeatedly, it’s not a situation that can be resolved using conventional military methods. So what to do? With no obvious alternative, it begins to seem reasonable to use drones to penetrate these fortresses of fanaticism, to try to stem the flow of terrorist attacks.

It’s not. Drone strikes are an act of war. So are suicide bombings. Or, if you prefer, they are both terrorist attacks. A difference in delivery systems doesn’t make one more or less evil than the other, nor are they unequal in irrationality. In both cases civilians, including children, die horribly. Both achieve the opposite of their declared motive, which is to get the other to stop.

There’s a lot that Western nations could have been doing for decades to stem Islamic extremism: tying aid and trade to human rights, helping to fund secular education, in particular for girls, encouraging and supporting moderate governments. Instead we have backed dictators and supported terrorists until they were no longer useful, whereupon we made war on them. Bulletin: it’s not working.

The predictable White House response to the Peshawar bombing is to hunt down the organizers of the attack and bomb them, along with an unknown number of accomplices, family, and neighbours. The predictable Taliban response to that will be another bombing. Somebody has to step off the merry-go-round first. Does anyone really believe it’ll be the Taliban?

Al Pope won the Canadian Community Newspaper Award for best columnist in 2013. He also won the Ma Murray Award for Best Columnist in B.C./Yukon in 2010 and 2002.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The City of Whitehorse will be spending $655,000 to upgrade the waste heat recovery system at the Canada Games Centre. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
New waste heat recovery system coming to the CGC

Council approves $655,000 project

Yukon First Nation Education Directorate education advocates and volunteers help to sort and distribute Christmas hamper grocery boxes outside Elijah Smith Elementary School on Feb. 23. (Rebecca Bradford Andrew/Submitted)
First Nation Education Directorate begins Christmas hamper program

Pick-ups for hampers are scheduled at local schools

Cyrine Candido, cashier, right, wipes down the new plexi-glass dividers at Superstore on March 28, before it was commonplace for them to wear masks. The Yukon government is relaunching the Yukon Essential Workers Income Support Program as the second wave of COVID-19 begins to take place in the territory. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Yukon Essential Workers Income Support Program extended to 32 weeks

More than 100 businesses in the territory applied for the first phase of the program

City of Whitehorse staff will report back to city council members in three months, detailing where efforts are with the city’s wildfire risk reduction strategy and action plan for 2021 to 2024. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Council adopts wildfire risk reduction plan

Staff will report on progress in three months


Wyatt’s World for Nov. 25, 2020

Cody Pederson of the CA Storm walks around LJ’s Sabres player Clay Plume during the ‘A’ division final of the 2019 Yukon Native Hockey Tournament. The 2021 Yukon Native Hockey Tournament, scheduled for March 25 to 28 in Whitehorse next year, was officially cancelled on Nov. 24 in a press release from organizers. (John Hopkins-Hill/Yukon News file)
2021 Yukon Native Hockey Tournament cancelled

The 2021 Yukon Native Hockey Tournament, scheduled for March 25 to 28… Continue reading

Lev Dolgachov/123rf
The Yukon’s Information and Privacy Commissioner stressed the need to safeguard personal information while shopping this holiday season in a press release on Nov. 24.
Information and Privacy Commissioner issues reminder about shopping

The Yukon’s Information and Privacy Commissioner Diane McLeod-McKay stressed the need to… Continue reading

Keith Lay speaks at a city council meeting on Dec. 4, 2017. Lay provided the lone submission to council on the city’s proposed $33 million capital spending plan for 2021 on Nov. 23, taking issue with a number of projects outlined. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Resident raises issues with city’s capital budget

Council to vote on budget in December

Beatrice Lorne was always remembered by gold rush veterans as the ‘Klondike Nightingale’. (Yukon Archives/Maggies Museum Collection)
History Hunter: Beatrice Lorne — The ‘Klondike Nightingale’

In June of 1929, 11 years after the end of the First… Continue reading

Samson Hartland is the executive director of the Yukon Chamber of Mines. The Yukon Chamber of Mines elected a new board of directors during its annual general meeting held virtually on Nov. 17. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Yukon Chamber of Mines elects new board

The Yukon Chamber of Mines elected a new board of directors during… Continue reading

The Yukon Hospital Corporation has released its annual report for 2019-20, and — unsurprisingly — hospital visitations were down. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Annual report says COVID-19 had a large impact visitation numbers at Whitehorse General

The Yukon Hospital Corporation has released its annual report for 2019-20, and… Continue reading

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council this week

Most Read