Ghosts of the Innocent Victims–what more is there to come?

by Ralph Keller

The pictures of the Manchester attack are shocking, and the suffering of the bereaved is unimaginable. My thoughts and my solidarity are with them.

Manchester’s is the latest incident in a long series of terror attacks: New York, Paris, Berlin, to name but a few. These are Western cities, but bombings have also taken place in Africa, Asia, the Middle East. It is a worldwide phenomenon. It leaves a lot of innocent people dead, regardless of who does it. (An extensive list of terror attacks is available at The source includes the number of victims the world-wide terror has claimed.) The Manchester attack points towards the IS (ISIS) network once again.

A media race is now on in the U.K. Politicians try to calm the public by explaining which security measures had been taken, and which additional measures will be taken in the future. The police and the secret services are coming out with reports on how the investigation is proceeding and what arrests have been made. However, given that the attacker had been known to law enforcement previously, the fact that the bomb did go off is nothing short of a total security failure.

I don’t have a problem with the media itself. But the nature of the reporting in response to the Manchester attack (and the others before) couldn’t be more of a reflection of a mode of production that ignores the essences of society’s phenomena, i.e. the phenomena’s underlying mechanisms and causes. To the capitalist mind, phenomena like terrorism seem very much like the virgin birth of Jesus. The media does not change a thing in regards to the underlying mechanism and connections. The media race is therefore a mere confession of helplessness. This is because everyone now talks about preventing a future effect, i.e. how the phenomenon of terrorism manifests itself in the future; or how the effect—another bomb going off—can be prevented. What we need instead is to tackle the cause, the motivation for terrorists to set off their bombs.

Here are some underlying mechanisms and causes, and the source of the motivations, that need to be tackled. The war on terror, started by George W. Bush and Tony Blair, did exactly the opposite of what it set out to do: it made matters worse than ever. If, as Trump did last week and if, as the British and the German governments (and others) routinely do, all we get is yet another arms deal with some country; if that country then uses those arms to force its will; if, on top of arms deals, advanced capitalist nations keep pursuing their imperialist wars (e.g. Iraq, Afghanistan, now Syria); if civilians keep dying; then you get what? New terrorists with new motivations.

No human being is born a terrorist, much less is she or he of virgin birth. Every terrorist is bred. As long as capitalist nations keep leading their imperialist wars, as long as capitalist nations keep escalating rather than start de-escalating, terrorism will not stop and its networks will not falter. I fear though that global capitalism is both unwilling and unable to de-escalate. So I fear that the ghosts of the innocent victims will keep haunting us.


  1. Yes. US foreign policy has been responsible for imperialist wars but I think there is an important omission here.The role of “Islamism” and the spread of authoritarianism throughout the “Islamic” world. The rise of an Islamist variety of authoritarianism in the shape of Erdogan in Turkey, for example had nothing directly to do with imperialist wars waged by the US. The growth of Wahabism has a lot to do with an incredibly well funded Saudi religious policy, and Saudi Arabia itself is an absolute monarchy . It us estimated that Saudi spending on religious causes abroad are between $2 billion per year since 1975. Saying that capitalism underlies surface phenomenon is like saying that gravity causes plane crashes.

  2. I wouldn’t go as far as saying that gravity (=the interests of leading capitalist nations) are the only cause of a plane crash–if and when a crash happens. Another source is the loss of uplift (=militant extremism for lack of a better general expression; not just the Islamic type, there are enough militant extremists in the West).

    The article did touch on the loss of uplift, i.e. terrorist motivations and networks).

    As Peter rightly points out, the uplift part is under-explored and needed more attention; however I think this does not invalidate the gravity part.

  3. Put another way, the position I took in the article was that one would not have terrorist motivations and networks without the interests of leading capitalist nations.

    Following Peter’s comment, these interests are insufficient reason to fully explain the phenomenon of global terrorism. Yes.

  4. My apologies for coming to this a bit late, but Peter G., could it not be argued that Islamism initially was a socially conservative response to imperialism in the 19th century. After all, it only became a wide-spread force from the late 70’s-1980’s with the success of the Iranian revolution, the invasion of Afghanistan and the fragmentation of the Lebanon.

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