Nonfiction

We Cannot Sacrifice What We Must Defend

Trainees from the École nationale supérieure de la Police on Bastille Day, 2008. Photo by Marie-Lan Nguyen (CC BY 2.0)

Trainees from the École nationale supérieure de la Police on Bastille Day, 2008. Photo by Marie-Lan Nguyen (CC BY 2.0)

Ryan Hamilton

In Italy in 2007, a man named Aldo Moro went missing. He was held captive for 54 days as his terrorist captors demanded the release of their compatriots. After their demands were not granted, Moro’s dead body was discovered. However, something in that story is a lie. Aldo Moro was not murdered in 2007, but in 1978 during a period of time known as the Anni di Piombo.

Have you ever heard of the Anni di Piombo? I imagine not. The Anni di Piombo is the name for a period of violence of in Italy a few decades ago, mainly during the 1970’s. The name translates to years of lead. The most famous terrorist group in that period was the Red Brigades, who kidnapped and killed former Italian Prime Minister Aldo Moro.

What were their goals? They wanted to establish a communist state in Italy. They wanted to overthrow the established society and replace it with one of their own making – much like the FLQ, IRA, FARC and more recently, al-Qaeda and Daesh. Did any of these groups stand a realistic chance of achieving their goals and overthrowing the government?

No.

Did they really think hostage takings and bombings could achieve their goals?

No.

Is Daesh going to overthrow western civilization and replace it with an “Islamic” state?

Again, no.

Yet, they still have a path to victory. What is it? That we may destroy ourselves as we try to destroy them.

The Red Brigades wanted to start a revolution. They knew that people wouldn’t naturally decide to support them, so their plan was to provoke a response – let the government institute martial law, or perhaps invoke the War Measures Act, to deal with a bunch of street thugs. The people would then rise up against the newly-authoritarian regime and overthrow it. Now, these street thugs are probably going to end up in the new government and have a hand on the wheel as the country drives down a new road.

The real threat of terrorism comes from within ourselves. The real threat is when we are willing to cash our values at the bank of security in exchange for some short-term safety. The real threat is when we allow our rights to be trampled on and, because it was done in the name of safety, accept it.

What are we, as a society, built on? We are built on the rule of law and fundamental freedoms. Those freedoms are non-negotiable. They, more than race, religion or birthplace, make us who we are. We must ask ourselves, are we willing to give up the foundations of our society, a society that the world looks up to, so a miniscule number of our fellow citizens are not injured or killed? That shouldn’t be an easy question, but the most important ones rarely are. After all, North Korea doesn’t have a terrorist problem.

So, when you hear someone saying that we must do this or do that to fight terrorism, or say they are doing that, so of course we can do this, we need to realize that if we feel a need to prove our moral superiority over terrorists, it’s already long gone.

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