Condolences and big words again – till the next

Condolences and big words again – till the next

“It’s time for condolences again - till the next” was this column’s title more than 12 years ago (Nov. 18, 2003,) after the twin Istanbul bombings that killed 60 people. Since then hundreds of thousands must been killed in mostly Muslim vs. Muslim conflicts and terror attacks, including regular bombing of mosques - of the “wrong” Muslim sect. 

In the shocking days after tragedies like the ones which have happened thrice in the Turkish capital in a span of only five months, the immediate attention focuses on the potential culprit. In reality, the “brand” of the terrorist is less important because it could be any one or a few of the usual suspects, possibly enjoying some sort of logistical or other support from the rogue state and non-state actors in this part of the world. It does not matter much if the bomb attack on March 13 was the work of this or that militant Kurdish organization, or a few of them, or whether there were major security flaws. 

It is useless, also, to seek rational explanations about the target groups since a terrorist’s mind usually will not work like yours. There have been dozens of violent “Kurdish independence-inspired” groups since the mid-1980s and not much will change if tomorrow some of them, including the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), reflagged themselves into something else. Any sensible study on radical Islamist or pan-Arab terror groups in the Middle East would give you dozens of different names depending on the timeframe you are interested in. 

There may be many things we shall never know about any of the recent bombings. But there are also things that we know about the attacks, afterwards and the official reflex. We know, for instance, that an immediate media blackout is now part of the bomb pattern. We know that Turkish security is much quicker at identifying the terrorists and detaining their conspirators than getting at them before an attack. 

We know that we will hear more of the now-already-too-boring lines dancing around the themes like, “Don’t test our patience” or “We will militarily crush every terrorist.” They have been testing our patience for more than three decades now. Surely, they will keep doing so. 

Then there is the same old conundrum. If radical Islamists are not killing for “their version” of Islam, then the Kurdish suicide bomber is not killing for his ethnic cause, which, then, makes it impossible to understand the root cause of the problem. The jihadist kills because he wants to do a service to “his religion” while the radical Kurd kills because he wants to do a service to “his future homeland.” In both cases - and others - there is a nihilist urge to fight “the enemy,” and the enemy can often change. 

What else? We will see many security meetings. We will hear new security measures and promises from very important men to assure Turks that all will be fine. Amid the usual fancily-worded condolences from all nations already conveyed to Ankara, terrorists will now be planning new attacks. So it will be condolences, big speeches and calls for national unity - till the next ugly tragedy.

There will be no winners - there have not been winners since 1984. But plenty of losers - there have been plenty of them since 1984. Let’s hope that official Ankara can understand, before it is too late, that its Islamist doctrinaire over-optimism that Islam can glue Muslim Turks and Kurds together and lead to historic peace is worse than laughable. Same as any thinking that the Sunnis and Shiites who have been killing each other for most of the past 14 centuries will one day defeat the “fitna” and embrace each other is self-deception if not pathetic. 

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, in a very Bushian way, offered the Turks two options: You are either with us or with the terrorists. That thinking is passé. I am not with “them.” Nor am I a terrorist.