Were Attacks on Beirut and Baghdad Attacks on Humanity, Too?

By Adam Hefty (November 14, 2015)

I spent last night, like many, watching the news from Paris unfold, feeling relief as my friends who live there posted that they were alright, worrying about UC students who might be in proximity at UC Paris which a friend said was close to one of the attack sites, worrying about the possible backlash and the instant expansion of the security state.

Two other terrorist attacks killing dozens in the past two days, in Beirut and Baghdad, have gotten much less notice and solidarity — and you know where this comment is going. When one friend posted with concern about friends in Beirut, someone commented with no knowledge of what had happened. Two attacks in Baghdad yesterday killed 26 people, and that has become so “normal” that I didn’t hear about it until a friend of a friend mentioned it in a comment on Paris. I didn’t hear about it even though I live closer to Baghdad than Beirut or Paris, and even though I had Al Jazeera on in the background for a couple of hours yesterday. I looked it up, and the New York Times thought it merited a one paragraph story.

Obama says the Paris attacks were an attack on all humanity and universal values. Were the Beirut and Baghdad attacks, perhaps, acceptable to all humanity and universal values? Or are all humanity and universal values just silent, neutral, or uncommitted about them, just tired of those places?

This kind of comment is cheap and easy and entirely predictable in the wake of something like this, and it feels disgusting to comment at all. Yet, while feeling that solidarity and fear for Paris, I feel like I ought to register being outside of some sense of humanity and universal values that are indifferent at best to most people in the region where I now live. Indifferent at best; at worst, willing to render thousands of lives collateral damage, or victims of reprisal state terrorism, in the name of humanity and universal values.

1 Comment

  1. Katie

    Thank you for this, Adam. You made me realize that I’d been unaware of Baghdad as well. This points in part to the fact that it is genuinely hard to pay attention to the entire world at once – but only in part. The exclusion of the Middle East and its inhabitants from the categories of humanity and universal values is obviously nothing new, nor are the motivations behind that kind of move (Hello Crusades! Hello Inquisition! Hello Enlightenment!) but it’s particularly troubling to me to see it so carefully reproduced in an age in which we are so amply self-aware of the pecuniary as well as ideological incentives for that position.

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