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Are people born ‘terrorists’?

Sixty years ago, a Nigerian author using magic realism to convey the social and political chaos in his country, Ben Okri, said: “The magician and the politician have much in common; they both have to draw our attention away from what they are really doing.”

Twelve years earlier in 1947, American writer and humourist, Dave Barry, wondered: “The question is, why are politicians so eager to be president? What is it about the job that makes it worth revealing, on national television, that you have the ethical standards of a slime-coated piece of industrial waste?”

Controversial, satirical English novelist, George Orwell (1903-1950), best known for The Animal Farm, wrote: “Political language . . . is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.”Nazi Germany Adolf Hitler had it that if you repeat a lie ten times, people will take it for the truth.

With a light, but far reaching touch, on the current world crave for democracy in all its faces, William O. Douglas, observed: “Free speech is not to be regulated like diseased cattle and impure butter. The audience that hissed yesterday may applaud today, even for the same performance.”

And Socrates, that ancient Greek philosopher, who lived between 470 and 399 Before Christ (BC), literally left behind a will for us today, saying: “I was really too honest a man to be a politician and live.”

These scenarios kept on creeping back into my mind, one after another, as I went through what Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had to say when addressing a regular meeting of his ruling AKP Justice and Development Party.

His speech sent my head wandering in Turkey itself, across the border into north-east Syria, imagining the chilling experiences of the so-called Kurds terrorists and their innocent family members, Tehran in Iran, corridors of the Pentagon in Washington, and those of the Kremlin in Moscow, UN in New York and EU in Brussels.

This is without forgetting Pennsylvania and some destinations in Africa and elsewhere in the world, where Turkish citizens are living literally in self-exile, and not ready to risk any attempt of going back home.

President Erdogan told the meeting: “Some countries find the terrorists they see as threats to their national security wherever they are and kill them.”

He jumps to the conclusion: “So, this means they acknowledge that Turkey has such a right as well.”

He expounds: “This includes the terrorists with whom they shake hands and praise a lot. He makes a special reference to the “Kurds and Hizmet Gulen Movement followers.”

He falls back on the religious “God-willing” modus loquendi to deliver a message home to the Turkish people saying: “…we will give good news to our nation about this issue soon.”

Syllogism rules apart, because this is not a document on a philosophy treatise, there are several points worth reading and noting from the president’s address. But, maybe, the most important and central ones are: “National security, the definition and practice of terrorism, who is a terrorist and whether killing those perceived as terrorists provides the answer or cure. Finally, cross border killings operations.”

By any standards, these are not light issues. With or without having to take recourse to the super sensitive and many times overstated question of national security, what people need is peace. And this peace goes beyond the absence of war.

It is here that the words of Henry Kissinger, that strong former American Secretary of State, come to light. He warned: “If peace is equated simply with the absence of war, it can become abject pacifism that turns the world over to the most ruthless.”

Prof. Jon Pahl even dares to go an extra mile. He refers to what he expresses as “deep peace” which, he argues: “…is even more crucial than the kinds of peace that follow from economic and social justice …”

Generally, the world agrees on the properties of terrorism. Even those who practice it are in the know. Otherwise, how can they deliver against what they don’t know anything about? Non das quod non habes – you cannot give what you don’t have – held builders of ancient Roman Empire.

The problem with Turkey today is why the country still operates on the virtually archaic and erratic Roman principles. Despite what had already been achieved on the democracy path, the current ruling formula still remains one of “divide et impera” — divide and rule. If you don’t agree with this one, a terrorist you are branded. Rulers have yet to learn the dignity of difference.   

When it comes to peace building, Turkey still goes by the ancient Roman principle of: “si vis pacem para bellum” – if you want peace prepare war. Look at the pace of acquiring the ultramodern ground-to-air missile and anti-missile equipment. And the style is: “Come what may; if the ally – America in this case—does not respond favourably, even the enemy –Russia – is welcome.”

In today’s Turkey, the war language of Emperor Julius Caesar: “veni, vidi, vici” – I came, I saw, I conquered –is the operative one. The north-east Syrian invasion style tells the story much better. On the ground, it is Turkey which dictates the terms. Turkey remains the common factor in the solution.

Great Turkish philosopher, Said Nursi, had time to highlight that the problem here is failure on the part of those in power to appreciate the fact that “moral laws are absolute. They are not relative. Efforts spent on spicing our actions in the interest of our desires points in the wrong direction. This is why we substitute legal and illegal, right and wrong with attributes. And a state is created along these lines.”

This brings us to the next – in fact basic — level of Turkish politics, which is the index for the state of the country’s future. Said Nursi identified ignorance, poverty and disunity as his country’s greatest enemies.

This is what constitutes the Turkey disease, so to say. And the real cure cannot be found in addressing symptoms or taking pain killers. In Turkey, the fact that power resides in truth has yet to be taken on board by the leadership. If it has, then it is being ignored. What is terrorist about being born a Kurdi? Which genes are responsible for this characteristic?

Where on earth does one find a terrorist movement that addresses education, poverty and disunity issues in society? What is criminal about being a niece of Fethullah Gulen?

The answer lies somewhere else. Those who have done a bit of political science know that failing systems create perceived enemies in order to secure their peoples’ support. The question is for how long can this game survive? Eventually, the people will know the truth.

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Felix Kaiza is a Tanzanian journalist with more than 50 years of experience currently working as an independent media consultant. Learned in agriculture, journalism, political science and international relations, his main fields of consultancy, besides the media, are good governance, nature conservation, tourism and investment. He was the first Tanzanian Chief Sub-Editor of an English daily newspaper in 1970, he has been behind the establishment and growth of the national independent media since the early 1990s. He is UNFAO Fellow Journalist since 1975 and has wide experience on regional integration. He worked on the Information Directorate of the original East African Community on whose ashes survive the current one. His ambition is to brand Tanzania in the inbound market with made-in-Tanzania brands, including information, almost all of which is currently foreign brewed.


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