Sunday, September 14, 2014

The British Hero

What ghastly news for a Sunday morning. 

Jo and I shivered in disgust when we heard of the sickening murder of David Haines. Similar emotions would have been felt in every home in the civilized world. 

This was a crime of barbarity, committed against a British citizen, most likely by another British citizen. An innocent man, a simple, caring humanitarian unconnected with government, religion or media, he’d devoted years of his life trying to help other lives destroyed by conflict.

ACTED is a Paris-based organisation that began its work in Afghanistan, bringing water, shelter and support to thousands. Now in many of the world’s trouble spots, it tries to bring basic necessities to populations ravaged by strife. David Haines, Yorkshire-born father of two children, including a four-year-old, had been in Syria less than two weeks when he was seized. He had been near the Turkish border scouting locations for refugee camps. 

That was back in March of last year. One can’t begin to imagine the torment his family must have felt since then. A British Hero, David Cameron described him yesterday afternoon. Too true. 

A man who put himself in harm’s way, not to harm, but to help. If the aim of terrorism is to terrify, these terrorists who run the so-called “Islamic State” are doing a pretty good job. It’s neither remotely Islamic nor is it a state. It’s a power-hungry medieval gang that’s become an army, controlled by a despot with henchmen fired by a lust for brutality and hatred of anyone who holds a differing view. That includes all of us: you and I are the real targets, we’d better get used to it. 

The real evil behind ISIL is the group of monsters who have funded these jihadists to be trained and organised into such a formidable force. Millionaires in Kuwait and beyond, using Islamist ‘charities’ as fronts, these are the people we should be rooting out, not just the cowardly front-line brigands posturing on their stolen tanks or the masked knife-wielding Brit. 

Callous, brutal, embodiment of evil – David Cameron’s words were stark. But what amazes me is that brave people like David Haines still put themselves at risk by going overseas to do humanitarian work. I wonder how their families can stand it. 

I spent a fruitless hour last week trying to persuade my daughter to come back from Kampala, where she’s running a charity there that helps to develop Ugandan artists. David Haines’s charity also works in Uganda, but in the North of the country, where farmers are still piecing together their lives after civil war, drought and famine. 

On Saturday the Ugandan government announced that it had thwarted an attempted terror attack in Kampala. They found explosives and arrested suspects. The attack was being planned by a cell of al-Shabaab militants, linked to Al-Qaeda, in retaliation for the recent US air strikes that killed its leader Ahmed Abdi Godane. The terrorists were targeting Americans, apparently. But I guess any Westerner would do. 

I don’t want my daughter to become another British hero, I want her home. But I respect that her passion to help Ugandans is stronger. And she’s not even near a front line, thankfully. Though the front line was trying to come closer to her. 

We need to destroy these Arab-funded terror groups now before the poison reaches our own shores. The threat to Britain is real and urgent. We need to put pressure on the Arab world to root out the venom that’s spreading and sustaining this hatred, for that’s the only way it will be solved: by getting the leading Arab players together to fight this horror. 

We can’t organise, nor can we be seen to be supporting, a Western intervention, unlike the disaster of Tony Blair’s Iraq war, which caused so much of this problem. We need to encourage and support an Arab coalition to degrade and ultimately destroy the threat in its own territory, before it reaches ours. 

We owe it to all the brave aid workers in Syria and Iraq. We owe it to our own children. And we owe it to the proud memory of David Haines.

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