Small Thought On The Terrorist Attack in Paris, France

What the attack in Paris has made clear to me is that there is a deep hatred amongst people against the west. I believe that much of this hatred stems from the same roots from which my discontents with the west had also grown – western interventionist policies with foreign nations. I also sense such discontents among the few people that I know from Pakistan, Nigeria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Morocco, and Serbia.

My displeasures with the west originate from the personal stories of my parents who, before they became victims of the Khmer Rouge, were also victims of American bombings of Cambodia – a fact that is not widely known. The bombardments that started in 1965 ended in 1973, and had killed hundreds of thousands of Cambodians. Indeed, before the Khmer Rouge took power over Cambodia in 1975 and before they sent all people to the rural areas to grow foodstuffs for ‘Angkar’ (the Organization/the State), there were already widespread famines and scores of displaced people due to the bombings. It had created a chaotic climate in which the anti-western, anti-capitalist, and anti-imperialist propaganda of the Khmer Rouge found their way into people’s minds – mostly into the minds of those poor rural Cambodian people that were suffering most from the secret bombings. Ben Kiernan writes in ‘Bombs over Cambodia’ (2004):

Years after the war ended, journalist Bruce Palling asked Chhit Do, a former Khmer Rouge officer, if his forces had used the bombing as antiAmerican propaganda. Chhit Do replied:

“Every time after there had been bombing, they would take the people to see the craters, to see how big and deep the craters were, to see how the earth had been gouged out and scorched . . . . The ordinary people sometimes literally shit in their pants when the big bombs and shells came. Their minds just froze up and they would wander around mute for three or four days. Terrified and half crazy, the people were ready to believe what they were told. It was because of their dissatisfaction with the bombing that they kept on co-operating with the Khmer Rouge, joining up with the Khmer Rouge, sending their children off to go with them. . . . Sometimes the bombs fell and hit little children, and their fathers would be all for the Khmer Rouge.”

Cambodia, together with Laos, still remains one of the heaviest bombed countries in the history of the world.[1] My parents were just 7-8 years old at the advent of the secret bombings. Imagine that a drone would bomb the school of your child or the hospital in which your loved ones are, would you not feel enraged? Would you not want to take revenge on those that are responsible?

A pre-moral person looks at the consequences of the actions. He sees the attacks, he acknowledges the dead, he becomes emotional and judges firmly. A moral person withholds his judgements and attempts to comprehend the causes of the attackers’ actions. I do not want to justify the killings of the French people, but I would like to emphasize that if we were really to honor the victims, we should reflect on the question why there are people that hate the west so fiercely. Maybe our society itself is part of a larger machine that is the origin of foreign hatred against the west. We must not only realize that religious fundamentalism is a danger to the world, but that there is a more contemptible false idol which is democratic fundamentalism – the uncritical acceptance that democracy is equal to liberty, that it is always superior and that, if necessary, it should be spread with violence.

As long as we, as a society, fail to reflect on ourselves and the political system we participate in, we will never find a fundamentally peaceful solution.

Footnote
[1] See Ben Kiernan’s ‘Bombs Over Cambodia: New Light On US Air War

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11 thoughts on “Small Thought On The Terrorist Attack in Paris, France

  1. There are always two sides and sometimes more to consider with these events. The biggest lesson is violence begets violence, and murderers will always find a reason or a cause to murder. You can catch more flies with honey than you can with vinegar. Another good post on your part.

  2. It may be true that the west’s actions rooted a hatred for some people, which means that the majority would have contempt for the West on the bases of religion and intervention?

    • Not necessarily on the basis of religion. But a religious person that is filled with hatred may justify his hatred through his religion, leading into ‘religious fundamentalism’.

  3. A very thoughtful and sobering post. Some comments:

    The memory of the bombing will live on for generations of Cambodians. Meanwhile most Americans, I suspect, are unaware of this aspect of the Vietnam War. (I was around then, but we didn’t learn of the bombing for quite some time after it started, and when we did hear about it, I like most Amercans, being preoccupied with other things, took Nixon’s explanations at face value.) Like George Bush, who claimed the 9/11 terrorists were motivated by hatred of our freedom, most of us, with rare exceptions like Ron Paul, fail to connect the dots between terrorist acts and past American foreign interventions.

    That said, I think hatred of the West exists in many foreigners’ minds side-by-side with admiration and envy, especially on a personal level.

    Democracy definitely does not equal liberty. Nobody said this better than Hayek in the chapter of his Road to Serfdom entitled “Why the Worst Get on Top.” http://fee.org/freeman/hayek-was-right-the-worst-do-get-to-the-top/

    • Thank you Warren. You’re right, there is still a lot of envy and admiration of the west. What if the west did not intervene as much or destabilize their countries… how much more admiration would they have. 🙂

  4. A point well made on a perennial moral dilemma. Thanks for posting it.

    Why did the Cambodians trade Foreign Terror for Native Horror?

    Well, we tend to think that the alternative to evil is good. Yet, there are times when the choice is between the known and unknown evil. Blissfully, we chose the latter.

    Did anyone remind the Parisians the simple truths? That we have nothing to fear, but fear itself. That there are no terrorists, only terrorized.

    • I don’t understand why Cambodians traded foreign terror for native horror. It’s something I’ve always wanted to understand. I don’t remember a time when I did not have such questions as: how can people be so cruel to each other or would they (the friends I had) be able to commit such horrendous acts to me if they would live during the Khmer Rouge period? It seems like there is a terrible part of human nature that is called upon in certain circumstances. I think the Milgram Experiment and the Stanford Prison Experiment have been examples of how peaceful people can move to extremely horrifying acts. I also think that the Khmer Rouge had good intentions. In their eyes, they were saving the nation from corruption, from immorality, from foreign invaders and from domestic traitors. Cambodia by the way, is a country that is quite paranoid. Until this day, they still fear that the Thai or the Vietnamese will one day take over the country. Some already believe that the country only exists by name, but that it’s actually under Vietnamese rule. According to them, after the Vietnamese occupation from 1979-1989, they have installed a pro-Vietnamese ‘puppet’. This paranoia feeds nationalism – a sentiment, I believe, that can be easily manipulated into hatred towards foreign Khmer like Sino-khmer or Vietnamese-khmer. Besides that, I also think that the poorer people were envious of the wealthy class. When the Khmer Rouge came into power and turned the social hierarchy upside down by installing the poor people into higher social positions, they may have been especially cruel to those fellow Cambodians who they believed were better off. I also think that we can partly blame it on the Cambodian culture. The culture is very hierarchical. People of status look down on poorer people and treat them like crap. The poor don’t even dare to look the better-off in their eyes. It’s a culture that breeds envy and discontents between classes. I think these are a few reasons why the Cambodians had traded foreign terror for native horror. In all honesty, I find the culture quite backward :P.

  5. It is an interesting read indeed but there are two or even more sides to every story. What we are also noting is that many of these groups that hate Western interventionist policies also hate their own people for being different in one way or the other. However, I agree that the misplaced perception of democracy as the superior form of governance overlooks the essential internal historical and socio-political factors behind the politics of the different countries that have become victims of Western ‘sanctification’ processes fronted by bombs after daring to opt not to embrace democracy. Libya and Iraq were stable before Western intervention.

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