Living with Terrorism

This photo provided by Georgian Public Broadcaster and photographed by Ketevan Kardava, shows the scene in Brussels Airport in Brussels, Belgium, after explosions were heard Tuesday, March 22, 2016. A developing situation left a number dead in explosions that ripped through the departure hall at Brussels airport Tuesday, police said. All flights were canceled, arriving planes were being diverted and Belgium's terror alert level was raised to maximum, officials said. (Ketevan Kardava/ Georgian Public Broadcaster via AP)

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

I am an old hand when it comes to living with terrorism. When we were stationed in Germany in the 1980s it was at the height of the second generation of the Baader-Meinhoff Gang/ Red Army Faction reign of terror. There were frequent bombings and murders committed by these East German supported terrorists throughout Germany, and we narrowly avoided being victims of two of them; one at the Frankfurt Airport, and one at the Frankfurt Military Exchange. Every day we had to look under our car for car bombs as that was a favorite method of killing. Likewise when we drove onto base, not only did we have multiple forms of identification verified, but our vehicles were checked for bombs underneath, as well as in the trunks and engine compartments, which had to be opened and inspected. Despite that on one occasion a bomb was found in the Mess Hall and defused, across town at another base a young enlisted man was kidnapped and murdered by a female terrorist posing as a date. When we were shopping one day at a German retail store we saw, and reported to the Polizei a group of people that we recognized too late from the wanted posters. We made our report and were interrogated for over two hours. I was actually glad for that, because what we said was taken seriously.

RAF bombing

Baader-Meinhoff/ Red Brigade Bombing in Germany

But sadly that was just the beginning of my experience with terrorism, both international and domestic. Terrorists may have different causes and motivations, but the one thing they desire to do is to is to terrorize and kill, that their victims often have nothing to do with their grievances, real or imagined, and are innocent of any crime against them does not matter; nor does it seem to matter to their western apologists who excuse the terrorists by blaming the societies and governments of the victims instead of placing the blame on the hate filled ideology of the terrorist.

The sad thing is the ideology of DAESH has been around for a long time, but that it would not made much progress had not President Bush destroyed Iraq and given them a place to flourish. Fareed Zakaria hit the nail on the head when he noted: “I should have paid greater attention to my mentor in graduate school, Samuel Huntington, who once explained that Americans never recognize that, in the developing world, the key is not the kind of government — communist, capitalist, democratic, dictatorial — but the degree of government. That absence of government is what we are watching these days, from Libya to Iraq to Syria.” It is the absence of the restraining force of government that has allowed DAESH to thrive, and which will allow it to continue.

I have travelled all over the world and I have been to war. I have seen horrible things and even when I admit the many things that this country has done that are wrong, and even criminal, I cannot allow that to color my view that the terrorists; be they the Baader-Meinhoff gang and the Red Brigades, or today the hate filled religious terrorists of DAESH deserve the slightest bit of sympathy, and just because our government and other governments, as well as the media sometimes label people as terrorists who are not, does not mean that the actual terrorists, like the ones who attacked Brussels yesterday are not terrorists. They are terrorist and that word has a definitive meaning for them, there is no moral equivalence of sleight of hand here. They terrorize and kill innocents in the lands that they occupy, and are taking their fight all over the world.

So do I live with it? I decide to live regardless of the threat, and refused to be terrorized and I will speak out, even if I offend people. I think that Salman Rushdie, a man who has known the price of having a bounty on his head by religious fanatics for decades, said it right: “How to defeat terrorism? Don’t be terrorized. Don’t let fear rule your life. Even if you are scared.”

I will travel to Germany again this year. I will go to the airport, I will travel on the subways, and go through train stations; and I will not be afraid. Likewise, despite the fact that I know such attacks are bound to happen here, maybe even at the base I am stationed, I will not be afraid.

Have a good day,


Padre Steve+


Filed under History, national security, News and current events, Religion, terrorism

2 responses to “Living with Terrorism

  1. Sadly many people in the Muslim world will say this of the US as well: “They terrorize and kill innocents in the lands that they occupy, and are taking their fight all over the world.”

    Left out of much of the reporting on the attacks in Brussels, in Paris, in Boston, etc has been the stated reasons for the attacks by both the attackers and the groups claiming responsibility: that the attacks are retribution for the military actions of the West in the Middle East, actions that have been ongoing for many decades now.

    We are in a cycle of violence that I fear will not be pre-empted any time soon.

    I think your referencing of the terrorism in Germany in the 80s by the Red Army and other groups is an apt example Padre. We did not respond to those attacks by launching airstrikes against the the GDR or USSR, because such attacks would have been counter-productive by achieving greater war, literally WWIII, and would have been morally unjust as the majority of the residents of the Eastern Bloc had no desire for war with the West and no enthusiasm for terror attacks. What attacks against the Eastern Bloc in retribution for Red Army and other terror group actions would have achieved would have been to provide those terror groups with the outright popular support of the people of the Eastern Bloc and would have pushed us into a cataclysmic conflict with a nuclear power. Thankfully there was still some wisdom, forethought and intelligence left in the capitals of the West thirty years ago!

    So it goes with our actions in the Middle East. We both served in Sunni areas of Iraq, both of us in Anbar. Many of the Iraqis we worked with or with who we moved among in those cities, towns and villages in the Euphrates River Valley are now with the Islamic State. Some are supportive of IS, others subjugated by them, and some are fighting them. You and I both know that the vast, vast majority of the people of those lands, just like the people of Brussels, Paris, Boston, Raqaa, Aden, Kandahar, et al are at their core kind, peaceful, warm people with little animosity for others living thousands of miles away, and who are all near uniformity in their possession of the desire for a life where they can raise their families without the violence and horror of war; something that has never left my dreams as I am sure it has not yours.

    Violence begets violence, whether it comes from the TATP coated fingertips of a jihadist in a Belgian apartment or from the manicured and painted hands of a female drone operator in Nevada. How do we break this cycle Padre? For the few in number cause the whole world to suffer.

    • padresteve

      I wish I knew Matthew… I wish that I knew. Looking at history it seems that as horrible as it is that it has to play itself out until all sides decide that it is in their best interests to stop fighting, but there are some who if they cannot have total victory that they will destroy as much as they can, even their own people in the process. DAESH is such a group. We could stop fighting this war this very afternoon, and they would continue killing the people in the lands they occupy, and attacking innocents across the globe. That is the real problem now. Bush may have set the stage by the criminal war he launched in Iraq which allowed DAESH to blossom, but they are not doing this just because of Bush. Their leaders have believed this genre of Islam, and the modern versions of it predate any deep American involvement in the Middle East by decades. T.E. Lawrence recognized around 1920.

      Thank you as always for your well thought out comments.

      Hopefully things will get better.

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