Wednesday, July 28, 2004

How to Train Terrorists and Other Dogs


How to train terrorists and other dogs.

 If you have ten people sitting around a table and one person feeds a dog from the table then the dog will continue to come back for more.
Simple really, but evidently not simple enough for the Philippine government or populace to grasp. This idea is at the heart of the dilemma Manila faced over the abducted man, Angelo de la Cruz.

The story so far - a group of AK-47 wielding aspirant murderers kidnapped de la Cruz. They shot a home-movie with him, except in this amateur theatrical they wear masks on their faces and he wears unspeakable fear. They demand, against a backdrop of a rallying flag, that the Philippines withdraw their troops or they will behead Angelo de la Cruz, who has the unfortunate accident of birth of hailing from that country.

Right, so that was the face of it – head off or head off.
Never mind that the Philippines had only 51 troops stationed in the country. Never mind that they were there to bring stability to the country. Never mind that the troops were due to leave in only one months time anyway. Never mind that Angelo de la Cruz was working for companies that are trying to reconstruct the country with international money. Never mind that it is not the fifteenth century and that pretty much the only people barbarous enough to behead anyone anymore are America’s favourite ally, Saudi Arabia.
No, regardless of all this these dogs too low to show their faces issued this ultimatum. And the Philippines reacted how?  

No matter how many times the other nine people do not feed the dog it will keep coming back and be a nuisance to all.
They fed the dog from the table. They promised to speed up the withdrawal of their troops in return for the safety of their citizen.

This entire issue is one outside of whether the Philippines should have been there in the first place. It is well beside the question of if America should have gone in there. A million miles away. It is a simple, painfully, blindingly simple – you cannot give in to terrorist demands.

By dealing with these terrorists the Philippines has unwittingly accomplished two things; they have made the deaths of other hostages whose Governments did not acquiesce to demands worth nothing and they have further endangered the lives of every foreign national in Iraq who now all face a higher likelihood of abduction and death.
This may sound drastic but is not. Again, beside any question of the legitimacy of foreign nationals’ presence in Iraq this is a matter of policy. Do you, as the Australian Foreign Minister put it, let gunmen dictate a nation’s foreign policy? If just one country does then you will find, just as with the dog at the table, the gunmen will keep trying it.  

It takes all ten people not feeding the dog to stop the cur from annoying you at meal times.
Not that the Philippines are alone in callous short-term self-interest. The Spaniards got the whole thing started. 
It has all been downhill since the Madrid bombings altered the course of the Spanish elections. The catastrophic campaign advertisement from an al-Qaida affiliate granted the Socialists a greater majority than they had expected and brought about the withdrawal of Spanish troops from Iraq.

To step back and look at this transaction the Spanish accepted a very bad deal. At the cost of 191 mostly Spanish lives and the injury of another 2000 Spain did what the perpetrators of the act wanted. And what, past embarrassment, did Spain get back?

They got, if you remember the habits of dogs and terrorists, the chance to have the same horrors threatened or used against them next time unscrupulous people don’t like what they are doing. And further to this they get the special consolation of aiding and abetting the spread of terror tactics.

The kind of people who make a living out of making condescending cover-all statements, glasshouse notwithstanding, like to say that the Arab world detests weakness in its leaders and sees compromise and nuance as signs of this detestable weakness. Quite apart from attempting to speak for a world, as these are the actions of disparate elements that happen to be mainly Arab, I don’t think this mantra-like incantation fits in terrorist cases. No, it is more a case of terrorists loving weakness. They see weakness and they exploit it as unthinkingly as a dog. Way to give a dog a bone.


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