It rained blood, body parts, metal, teddy bears and passports over eastern Ukraine on July 18. Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 was hit probably by an SA11 ground-to-air missile while cruising at 33,000 feet en route to Kuala Lumpur. Pictures of the wreckage and the victims were online in a couple of hours, and within a couple of days, there were items that belonged to the dead being offered on Facebook pages. For sale. I will repeat that. For sale. The personal effects of men, women and children whose remains were scattered across four square miles and quickly decomposing in the summer heat as nations haggled over who was responsible.
By the time this was written, there seems to be general agreement that the shoot-down was a dreadful mistake; that those who fired the missile believed they were targeting a Ukrainian military transport jet as they had done before and not a civilian airliner. The consequence of failing to correctly identify a target.
Gaza, and the consequences of failing to resolve a dispute that has cost countless lives over six decades. Israel has so far killed over 600 Gazans in its latest attempt to exterminate Hamas, more than half of that number being women and children. Facebook again, and a doctor holding aloft a charred infant, the left foot burned off and a sharp piece of bone protruding. The doctor screams silently out of the monitor.
Pakistan, the tribal areas. By July 23, there were over a million people displaced by an operation designed to root out terrorists, which will prove as futile as the Israeli attempt to kill off Hamas. Simply, it is not possible to bomb an idea out of existence, a belief. It will persist until replaced by another more appealing narrative, and there is no appetite for that in a country now wedded to violent religiosity and not open to negotiation in terms of revision of the national paradigm.
The million people who have been reduced to little more than homeless beggars by their own government are there as the consequence of a failure to impede galloping extremism over the last 20 years. As a consequence of allowing a mindset to prevail — that has its ideological brothers and cousins and nieces and nephews in Boko Haram, in ISIS, in al Qaeda and yes, in Hamas as well.
There is no dialogue with any of them because there is nothing to talk about that they are remotely interested in.
The Palestinians want their land back. They are not going to get it. They are going to be firing rockets into Israel for generations to come. The Israelis will continue the three-yearly cull in Gaza. The United Nations will continue to bleat as the monstrous irrelevance it has become.
The million-plus IDPs may eventually return to whatever is left of their homes and wait until the next advance party of men with long beards and short trousers comes calling, seeking shelter and succour. They are men with a mission — the overthrow of the state — and they have friends everywhere from the Fertile Crescent to the Bight of Biafra and South Sudan. They have friends in Pakistan as well, and will find bread and water and a safe bed for themselves.
The Netherlands is a small, quiet country in Europe that grows a lot of tulips, is home to the prettiest windmills in the world and was angry with nobody until last week. Most of the 289 people who died on MH17 were Dutch, a tragedy unlike anything they have experienced since the bombings of WWII. Their remains are in a refrigerated train in western Ukraine and will be repatriated over the coming days. Schiphol airport in Amsterdam is a sea of blooms left in memoriam.
Tears rolled down the face of the Dutch UN Ambassador as he asked whether the passengers were able to embrace before death, whether children were able to hold their parents’ hands… whether people were able to say ‘I love you’ before they plunged downwards, whether they were looking in one another’s eyes at the moment of terminal impact. Those around him looked at their papers, the walls, their microphones. Looked at anything but his tears. Consequences.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 24th, 2014.
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