Opinion: Helpless in the Face of Terrorism | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 25.07.2005
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Opinion: Helpless in the Face of Terrorism

The recent bombings, first in London and now in Egypt, and the killing of an innocent man by British police make it clear that we're increasingly helpless in the face of terrorism.


At least 64 people were killed by bombs in Sharm el-Sheikh

This is the only thing that appears certain: the attacks in London and Sharm el-Sheikh didn't directly have anything to do with each other. Or at least very little, seeing as there are some parallels: Great Britain and Egypt are both close allies of the United States, and both Tony Blair and Hosni Mubarak are presented by al Qaeda as stooges of George W. Bush.

Terroranschlag in Scharm el Scheich, Ägypten

Sharm el-Sheikh

It is perceived discrimination that leads to violence and terror being directed against the state. Not against its official representatives -- for that the terrorists are too cowardly -- but rather against innocent people such as underground passengers in London and hotel staff and souvenir hawkers in Egypt.

The victims are randomly and blindly picked, possibly belonging to the same population group as the perpetrators. Terrorists don't care about such things. Innocent victims are the "collateral damage" of their battle against the dark forces of the US and its allies -- to use the same cynical term that the US itself first used in its fight against terror.

Jean Charles de Menezes, Porträt, fälschlicherweise in London erschossen

Brazilian Jean Charles de Menezes was shot dead by British police

Such "collateral damage" by the British includes the young Brazilian man who was practically executed by the British police with five bullets pumped into his head. Why? Because he came out from the wrong building, wore a coat in summer, looked southern or "oriental" and then fled from the cops. Scotland Yard's statement that it deeply regrets the tragic mistake sounds hollow because it adds that targeted killings remains permissible in special cases.

Britain treading on dangerous ground

"Targeted killing" could also be "murder in broad daylight." The latter is how the liquidation of radical Palestinians by Israel is condemned throughout the world as well as the shooting of IRA radicals by British agents in Gibraltar years ago. Her Majesty's agents still, however, have carte blanche to first shoot and ask questions later.

That makes Britain -- a recognized democracy -- move dangerously close to countries and regimes in the Middle East recognized for not being democratic. Egypt, for example, which serves the US as a willing helper in the interrogation of disagreeable suspects in the fight against terror. Washington may have Guantanamo, but in Egypt torture can take place more nonchalantly.

However, the Egyptian authorities haven't killed any suspects so far. They have only arrested dozens of possible witnesses in order to pick up the trail of the perpetrators -- perpetrators, who consciously aimed to strike Hosni Mubarak's regime at its most sensitive spot: the tourism industry, which brings in lucrative foreign currency.

The poor hit the worst

Touristen kehren ausScharm el Scheich, Ägypten heim

Tearful reunions as tourists come home from Egypt

Much like in the aftermath of big attacks in the past, tourists will lose their appetite to spend their holidays in the land of the pharaohs.

It's an understandable sentiment but still a tragic mistake. After all, avoiding a certain country can't protect one from terrorism. And would people think of canceling their vacations to England?

In the case of Egypt, it's the poor who are worst hit -- they are among the victims and they are the ones who will in future sit in front of empty hotels and have nothing to eat. It's the same scenario as tsunami-affected regions experienced earlier this year.

It might sound macabre, but one is as helpless against terrorism as one was against the seaquake. You can't prevent the quake itself and its deadly waves, but you can reduce its impact through sufficient preventive measures.

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