The how and why of terror in Brussels, a tragedy that hits home for me

Getty Images / Sylvain Lefevre

Brussels’ bombed-out airport, March 22. (Getty Images / Sylvain Lefevre)

I awoke this morning to a text message: “God bless Belgium.” It didn’t say more. It didn’t need to. Everyone nowadays knows what a message like that means.

It means the everyday — the visiting of death on an otherwise peaceful place by a group of terrorists — has happened in a place that isn’t just another name on the news ticker at the bottom of your TV screen. Tel Aviv, Diyala, Kabul, Mogadishu, Valence on Jan. 1 alone, and others pretty much every other day of this year: These places are the rule in our world today, violence to which we are appallingly indifferent. A Paris is the exception, violence in a place to which we have some connection and which provokes in us a feeling of personal sadness and even anger.

A Brussels, that is, violence in a place you once called home for four and a half years, is something beyond that.

Every bombing of an airport or subway station ought to provoke the same outrage in us that we feel when it’s an airport through which we’ve flown dozens of times (one where people I actually know landed, safely, this morning shortly after the bombings). Or when it’s a subway station whose name we’ve heard the train announcer’s voice say so many times we can mimic it: “Mael-beek.” It just doesn’t.

Every city so attacked is the home to someone’s former neighbors, colleagues, friends, pastors — and someone’s current ones. We only feel it acutely when we know enough of them for Facebook to start sending us notifications that people we know have been able to mark themselves “safe” in a “Facebook Safety Check.” What does it say about our world that a social-media giant must keep at the ready such an alert system? It says this happens in a deeply personal way to too many people, far more often than we are prepared to recognize. It also says that, if it hasn’t yet happened in a place that’s dear to you, well …

***

Brussels was no accidental target. It’s not one of those European cities that readily comes to mind for many Americans, but as the capital of both the European Union and NATO it most certainly ranks as a top-tier city internationally. (So powerful are the EU’s regulators that, when I lived there from 2004 to 2009, Brussels supposedly had more lobbyists than Washington, D.C.)

Nor is it an accident that Brussels was attractive as a home base to the plotters of these terrible acts. While French law makes the more controversial aspects of the Patriot Act look downright libertarian, Belgian law notoriously hampers police investigations — when, that is, the police can be bothered to investigate; tales of officers refusing to enforce the law in a neighboring communes (municipalities the size of many neighborhoods in the city of Atlanta) and the like are rampant, if not always verified, in the city. The investigators are, by reputation, more Clouseau than Poirot.

What’s more, the country’s attempts at multiculturalism have yielded a society more fractured and segregated than most anything you will find in America today. This has led to resentment among the nation’s immigrants, who typically hail from North Africa and Turkey and have largely failed or declined to assimilate, as well as among the Belgians themselves. Flanders, the Dutch-speaking northern half of Belgium, has for years struggled with separatist political parties that have welcomed voters who are either xenophobic or simply tired of being told their complaints about immigrants are impolitic. (Sound familiar?) The splits among not only ethnic lines but, among the Belgians, linguistic lines (Dutch speakers vs. francophones) have at times made the country ungovernable. Between 2007 and 2011, the political parties in the country’s parliamentary system went a total of about two years, including 20 consecutive months, without being able to form a government.

It is within these conditions that Islamist terror cells apparently have been able not only to exist but to flourish. Last November’s attacks in Paris were coordinated from Belgium, and only last Friday was one of the Paris terrorists captured in Brussels. We will have to wait and see if those who carried out today’s attacks in Brussels were specifically connected with the killers of Paris.

***

The more familiar the place and people, the more personal the tragedy. I am thankful that, as far as I can tell, everyone I know in Brussels is safe. But we cannot all wait for tragedy to hit us personally before we recognize the determined evil in our midst. The long war between the West and Islamist terrorists carries on. They know that fully. Do we?

(MyAJC’s full coverage of the attacks is available here.)

Reader Comments 0

137 comments
Lil_Barry_Bailout
Lil_Barry_Bailout

"The kills of terrorist leaders during the current administration"

-------

Funny, there always seems to be another Islamofascist ready and willing to step into the job of whoever it is we kill.  Obama is playing Whack-A-Mole.

MarkVV
MarkVV

There are facts, and there are speculations. The kills of terrorist leaders during the current administration, listed by lvg below, are facts, just as is the loss of ISIS territory. Claims like that President Obama’s withdrawal from Iraq “created ISIS” are pure speculations, which anybody can dream up penny a dozen, but cannot prove. If any President is responsible for the situation in the Middle East, then it is the Republican President George W Bush because of his decision to invade Iraq. And if we start talking about who said what about the situation in the Middle East at some time, let us first recall VP Cheney and his prediction that we would be welcomed in Iraq as liberators, and the predictions of the prominent supporters of President Bush’s war about how little that war would cost the US.

EastATLGuy
EastATLGuy

@MarkVV


ISIS is the JV team according to your cult leader. It's his fault Europe is getting bombed. 

EastATLGuy
EastATLGuy

@MarkVV


" President Bush’s war '

Hillary Clinton voted for that war. 

Lil_Barry_Bailout
Lil_Barry_Bailout

@MarkVV

Each president has to do the best with what they've inherited.  Our President Bush inherited eight years of inaction against Islamofascist terrorism and made great strides in combating it.  A positive, upward trend from where we were in 2000.  Obama inherited a stable, Democratic Iraq and threw away the gains made there.  Egypt, Libya, Ukraine, Turkey, Syria...all worse on his watch.  A horribly negative downward trend.

Our President Bush accomplished far more than Obama.

DerekGator
DerekGator

It is too late for most of Europe, they have let too many Muslims into their countries that they are now sitting ducks to the jihadists.  America needs to pull our heads out of our politically correct butts and realize that we can no longer open our doors to Muslims, far too many of them are dangerous and our never ending overseas involvement is only adding fuel to their fire.  

EastATLGuy
EastATLGuy

It's ironic that Obozo hangs out with communists all day while the JV team blows up Europe. 

lvg
lvg

In response to the resident scholar from East Atlanta:

"""The list of senior terrorists killed during the Obama presidency is fairly extensive.

There’s Ben Laden,  of course, killed in May.

Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) leader Al Alwaki.

Earlier this month officials confirmed that al Qaeda’s chief of Pakistan operations, Abu Hafs al-Shahri, was killed in Waziristan, Pakistan.

In August, ‘Atiyah ‘Abd al-Rahman ,  the deputy leader of al Qaeda was killed.

In June, one of the group’s most dangerous commanders, Ilyas Kashmiri,  was killed in Pakistan. In Yemen that same month, AQAP senior operatives Ammar al-Wa’ili, Abu Ali al-Harithi, and Ali Saleh Farhan were killed. In Somalia, Al-Qa’ida in East Africa (AQEA) senior leader Harun Fazul was killed.

Administration officials also herald the recent U.S./Pakistani joint arrest of Younis al-Mauritani  in Quetta.

Going back to August 2009, Tehrik e-Taliban Pakistan leader Baitullah Mahsud was killed in Pakistan.

In September of that month, Jemayah Islamiya operational planner Noordin Muhammad Top was killed in Indonesia, and AQEA planner Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan was killed in Somalia.

Then in December 2009 in Pakistan, al Qaeda operational commanders Saleh al-Somali and ‘Abdallah Sa’id were killed.

In February 2010, in Pakistan,  Taliban deputy and military commander Abdul Ghani Beradar was captured; Haqqani network commander Muhammad Haqqaniwas killed; and Lashkar-e Jhangvi leader Qari Zafar was killed.

In March 2010, al Qaeda operative Hussein al-Yemeni was killed in Pakistan, while senior Jemayah Islamiya operative Dulmatin  - accused of being the mastermind behind the 2002 Bali bombings – was killed during a raid in Indonesia.

In April 2010, al Qaeda in Iraq leaders Abu Ayyub al-Masri and Abu Omar al-Baghdadi were killed.

In May, al Qaeda’s number three commander,  Sheik Saeed al-Masri was killed.

In June 2010 in Pakistan, al Qaeda commander Hamza al-Jawfi was killed.

http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2011/09/the-terrorist-notches-on-obamas-belt/


And this is only through September 2011

EastATLGuy
EastATLGuy

@lvg

"In response to the resident scholar from East Atlanta"

A response to what? I simply stated that Obama had never killed anyone. I'm not sure if you're illiterate or maybe your brain is fried? You claimed that Obama had single-handedly killed people. 

BTW, who is Ben Laden? Is he a relative of yours? I've heard of Bin Laden but Ben? Not so much.



bu22
bu22

@lvg And how many did they kill in San Bernadino, Paris and Brussels?

EastATLGuy
EastATLGuy

OBAMA LIED! AMERICANS DIED!


WASHINGTON (AP) -- Americans have been killed by prisoners released from the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, a senior Defense Department official told lawmakers Wednesday, triggering sharp criticism from Republicans opposed to shuttering the facility in the wake of deadly attacks by the Islamic State group in Brussels and Paris.

EastATLGuy
EastATLGuy

"ISIS is not a threat to the US." - Barack Hussein Obama


Well folks, this is gonna make a really nice commercial for Trump and Cruz. 

Lil_Barry_Bailout
Lil_Barry_Bailout

Obama on why he's ineffective against ISIS:  "I've got a lot on my plate...ISIS isn't an existential threat".

Remember when the know-nothing left reamed Our President Bush for years for saying that he frankly didn't care that much about Osama bin Laden?

Are you know-nothings sorta catching on to how Presidents (and I use that word loosely in Obama's case) communicate to listeners around the world?

EastATLGuy
EastATLGuy

@Lil_Barry_Bailout


The same people still won't admit that Hillary voted for the Iraq War and helped create ISIS when she and Obozo destabilized the Middle East after pulling troops out. 

Lil_Barry_Bailout
Lil_Barry_Bailout

@Starik @EastATLGuy @Lil_Barry_Bailout

To take down one of the biggest state sponsors of terror, ensure they couldn't use their chemical and biological weapons capability, and stabilize the country.  All of which were "mission accomplished", as Obama himself acknowledged.

EastATLGuy
EastATLGuy

Trump was right. 


PARIS (AP) -- The Islamic State group has trained at least 400 fighters to target Europe in deadly waves of attacks, deploying interlocking terror cells like the ones that struck Brussels and Paris with orders to choose the time, place and method for maximum carnage, The Associated Press has learned.

lvg
lvg

American couple still missing who were  dropping off someone  at Brussels airport when blast occured. Anyone hear any more?  

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

Yesterday was, for reasons unrelated to the attack on Brussels, a day I couldn't monitor the thread closely. Today is different.

EastATLguy, if you want to stick around on this blog, cut out the personal insults. The next one will be the last one.

Everyone else: Don't encourage nasty comments by responding with the same.

Eye wonder
Eye wonder

@EastATLGuy @Eye wonder @Kyle_Wingfield

I'm neither being nasty nor encouraging your nastiness. I'm simply pointing out that, notwithstanding your "no problem," you seem incapable of not trolling. I'm done with you. Adios.

Eye wonder
Eye wonder

@Kyle_Wingfield 

As a FYI, "EastATLGuy" has been banned from participating on Jay's blog. For good reason. He deserves to be banned here as well. In my opinion.

MarkVV
MarkVV

@teaman11 @Eye wonder @Kyle_Wingfield This is not about banning opposing thoughts, it is about someone who does not present any thoughts, only spews insults, ignorance and lies. Still, I prefer ignoring such people rather than banning them. 

teaman11
teaman11

@Eye wonder @Kyle_Wingfield Why do you want to try to ban someone with apposing thoughts?  This is exactly what has been going on at college campuses across the USA.  Liberals must shut down all dissenting opinions.  Sad. 


lvg
lvg

Yesterday was a good day for Trump and ISIS; We need a Dresden approach to ISIS not pin pricks.Obama still has the best track record for hitting and destroying top terrorists. Belgians twice this week got the ir man after twice one of the suicide bombers chickened out. Let the demagogues and right wing loonies tell you they have a better plan- they don't.

EastATLGuy
EastATLGuy

@lvg


Yeah, stellar track record. Do you always make stuff up?

lvg
lvg

@EastATLGuy @lvg You could not even name all the terrorist leaders killed by Obama, Name the ones killed by Bush/Cheney

EastATLGuy
EastATLGuy

@lvg @EastATLGuy


Obama has never once killed anyone. Neither has Bush/Cheney. Presidents don't kill people, oh ignorant one. 

ObamaOsamaYoMama
ObamaOsamaYoMama

But but Barry said that ISIS was the JV Team and had been contained......surely he did not lie to us. 


Note to anyone who voted for that CLOWN....please beyotch-slap yourself....maybe twice.

MarkVV
MarkVV

@DwagBoy You mistake ISIS with Al Qaida (about being contained), and ISIS was a JV team at the time of that pronouncement.

stiffneck
stiffneck

Looks like the JV team won again  Obama.

JKToole
JKToole

@camelToeJoe Your definition of multiculturalism, please. Define your methods of "crushing"? What cultures would you begin with, please list them in order. How do you go about "defeating" an idea? Your simplistic answer to complex questions are just jargon.

EastATLGuy
EastATLGuy

Trump predicted Belgium would get hit by ISIS. The NY Times mocked him. This was back in January.


WHOOPS!