When Flies Swat Back: London, Terrorism, and the Continuing Insanity of it All

Ever since the attacks on London yesterday morning, I’ve been curiously monitoring my own emotional reaction. I have a memory of how I reacted to both 911 and Madrid, and I’ve been wondering if my reaction here would be much the same. Strangely, it has not been the same, and I’m puzzling as to why that’s the case.

I find that I’m unable to cry. That’s what a did after 911. Just days and days of crying, every time the images of that horrific event came on TV. But that didn’t happen this time.

I find that I’m not shocked either. That’s what happened to me after Madrid. I just went into a state of shock that such an horrific attack could happen in a European country. But that’s not happening this time either.

Yesterday and today, I find that I cannot cry. I cannot seem to be shocked. I find that I’m just NUMB…

I’m numb to the whole thing….numb to the senselessness of it….numb to the point where –and I hate to admit this– I really don’t want to know much more about this London attack. It feels callous and uncaring to say this. But I have no desire to watch the 24-hour news cycle spin out their stories over the next weeks and months. I’m pretty sure I know what they’re going to say already. I’m pretty sure I know what our president is going to say too.

Now, I know that another portion of my numbness is different from this. It’s emotionally defensive. This is a terrorist attack. Everyone knows the terrorists WANT there to be pain, suffering, shock, etc, etc…. So, there is some part of my psyche that says “don’t react to this…don’t give them what they want.”

To that end, it strikes me that London is a strangely ironic place for this to happen, in that the British are incredibly resilient people. If the terrorists think the British will shrivel up and fall apart over this, they didn’t study World War II very well. And they’ve forgotten that Britain has been dealing with terrorist attacks for thirty-years, at the hands of the IRA. I think they (the terrorists) will be sorely disappointed in how the British react. And that is good.

But, beyond all my numbness, there is something else more surprising.

There is a seething anger and a growing hopelessness. The anger is that, once again, this terrorism is so damn predictable given the ongoing war in Iraq. The hopelessness is that I fear it will once again strengthen the “resolve” of our President to fight the wrong enemy in the wrong way; and to, once again, take all the wrong lessons from this attack.

Let me tell you where the majority of my anger comes from this morning….

It’s from remembering how President Bush himself once described the fight against Al Qaeda. In fact, the title of this blog entry is taken from a quote from President Bush himself. Perhaps you will remember that President Bush told some of his closest advisors that, when it came to fighting terrorism, he was “tired of swatting at flies.”

Well, Mr. President, how does it feel today to know that those flies can still swat back? How does it feel to know that after spending billions in Iraq, a small group of unknown Al Qaeda affiliated terrorists can still act with impunity, and behind the backs even the most capable terrorism experts?

From the beginning, one of my chief concerns about the Iraq War is that it took valuable resources away from the real War on Terror. Before it began, I believed that the Iraq War would make us LESS safe, not more so. And I believed this because I felt it would divert our attention and resources away from Al Qaeda. I also believed it would make us less safe because it would help to create the next generation of Al Qaeda operatives. Both these fears have come true, in wholly predictable and pitiful fashion.

The Administration continues to deny that either of these has happened. But the facts are irrefutable. No less a pro-military organization than the Army War College released a report saying that resources HAVE been diverted away from the fight against terrorism.

Dick Cheney may claim that the insurgency is on its last legs. (The army doesn’t seem to buy this…) But Al Qaeda –which the 911 Commission clearly showed had NO operational connection to Iraq– now operates freely in that country. Security experts say that a new generation of terrorist is learning the trade in Iraq itself in numbers that shock everyone who studies it.

Were those some of the “flies” we all heard from yesterday, Mr. President?

Because resources have been diverted, not everything that COULD be done to protect our country HAS been done. For example, ABC News has done several undercover reports on our nation’s security in the past few years. In one such report, they successfully shipped depleted uranium into our country, without it being detected. They also showed how several unclaimed backpacks were allowed to stay on American commuter trains, one of them making it all the way to Penn Station in New York…again, without detection. (see “the holes we know” section of this link…)

Now, in naming these concerns, I certainly do not mean to criticize the hard work of local homeland security officials. They ARE working hard, and these kinds of security breaches trouble them greatly. But the fact is that we are not spending enough on security in these areas, and we are spending too much on this war in Iraq. As I heard Richard Clarke say last night on PrimeTimeLive, what if we spent just ONE TENTH of what we’re spending in Iraq on improving our domestic security on trains and in our sea ports? The fact is, we’re not and we need to.

We’ve dangerously taken our eye off the ball. Actually, the better metaphor is that we’ve chosen to ignore the “flies” in favor of fighting the war in Iraq. And in doing so, we’ve created a rotting stench of death that attracts more and more flies every day.

It’s exactly where I feared we’d be after the Iraq War. And there seems to be no clear plan on the part of our president to stop it.

It’s all so pathetically predictable.

So, I find myself angry and with a growing hopelessness. I don’t want to watch the news stories or what President Bush has to say about it, because I’m pretty sure I know what they’re going to say and I’m tired of hearing the same old thing.

They say insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. Well, that’s what we’ve been doing in both Iraq and the War on Terror for the past four years.

Since it’s so close and so tender to so many this morning, I hate to reduce London down to one small “meaning.” But what it feels me to me is that London is just one more hopeless example of the insanity of our current policies.

Will we ever find the will to stop the insanity?

(I am pleased to tell you that this blog entry has been published by Common Dreams…EF)

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Eric Folkerth is a minister, musician, author and blogger. He is Senior Pastor of Kessler Park UMC United Methodist Church in Dallas, Texas. Previously, he was pastor at Northaven UMC in Dallas for seventeen years. Eric loves to write on topics of spirituality, social justice, music/art and politics. The entries on this blog reflect that diversity of interests. His passion for social justice goes beyond mere words. He’s been arrested at the White House, defending immigrants and “The Dreamers,” and he’s officiated at same sex weddings in his churches, in defiance of what some believe is Methodist teaching. Eric is an avid blogger and published author, and 2017 recipient of the prestigeous Kuchling Humanitarian Award from Dallas’ Black Tie Dinner. (Human Rights Campaign) Eric has led or co-led hundreds of persons on mission trips around the globe, to places such as Mexico, Haiti, Russia, and Nepal. He has worked with lay persons to build ten homes, and one Community Center, in partnership with Habitat for Humanity of Dallas. He’s a popular preacher, and often tackles challenging issues of social justice in his writings and sermons. His wife, Judge Dennise Garcia, is a State District Judge for Dallas, County. As judge of the 303rd Family District Court, she consistently gets high ratings from area lawyers, and was named “best judge” by The Dallas Observer. First elected in 2004, she was the first Latina ever elected to a county-wide bench in Dallas County, and is currently the longest service district judge in that district. She was re-elected for a fourth term in 2018. They have the world’s best daughter, Maria, and an incredible dog, Daisy. Find links to Eric’s music-related websites, at the top of this site’s navigation menu.

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