Last week I wrote an editorial praising the triumph in Brussels, Belgium at the capture of ISIS terrorist Salah Abdeslam. The morning that article was published, Brussels International Airport was bombed. The irony of an editorial heralding victory on the same day of this tragedy seems both ill-timed and tragic. Given the short time frame, one must naturally conclude that the fleeting victory triggered the ensuing tragedy. While the world has closely followed this week’s updated reports in Belgium, we somehow managed to overlook the suicide bombing at an Iraq soccer tournament Friday, March 25.
ISIS claimed responsibility for the suicide bomber who walked into a soccer tournament in al-Shuhadaa stadium about 30 miles south of Baghdad. The bomb killed at least 25 innocent people, as well as wounding about 90 others. This death count rivals the 31 confirmed killed in Tuesday’s Brussels attack, yet the world seems to have its eyes fixed firmly on central Europe.
To be fair, Belgium is a vital center of international affairs. As the center of European Union headquarters, the city of Brussels is teeming with the world’s most influential leaders. Additionally, the number of those injured in Belgium was three times the count in Friday’s attack. One event seems carefully planned, while the other appears to be yet another random act of senseless violence. However, these facts do not undermine the significance of the attack in Iraq.
Compared to the coverage of European terrorist attacks, the crises of the Middle East seem almost shrouded in mystery. Perhaps most of us have grown weary of keeping up with the seemingly endless string of violence in these war-ridden countries. Perhaps we have simply grown accustomed to skimming the headlines for our news fix. Whatever makes front page scans into our brains. All else is sent to junk mail. But if we dig deeper than the surface issues, we can grow to understand the true matter of events at hand.
For instance, one of the factors behind ISIS’ increased violence is due to the weakening power of the group at its source – the Middle East. Iraq’s army is taking back its cities. In fact, the Iraqi people have been oppressed by ISIS just as surely as Europe has. ISIS’ founding leader, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, actually spearheaded the extremist group after his tactics of brutality toward non-sympathetic Muslims was condemned by fellow extremist, al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden. Now, as the Iraqi army takes back their country, ISIS strikes out even more fiercely in a desperate attempt to gain some leverage.
Are we making ground in this fight? ISIS’ second in command was killed this week by U.S. special forces as they attempted to capture him for questioning. Abd al-Rahman Mustafa al-Qaduli, who was considered to be the sixth-most-wanted terrorist in the world, is actually the second high ranking member of ISIS which U.S. special forces has taken out this month. These facts are encouraging, even triumphant. But we do not see them broadcast as front page news. This could be for security reasons, but chances are that most ISIS members are well-aware of the extermination of their second-in-command. No, it is us the public who are unaware.
Keeping up to date on global matters takes work. We don’t have the luxury to focus on just one localized issue at a time. Rather, our mental scope needs to broaden so that we can take in various perspectives and contemplate the thread that connects each issue to one another and to us.
Take for example, President Obama’s recent visit to South America. The purpose of this excursion was to build foreign relations, specifically with Cuba. He arrived on Cuban soil as the first sitting U.S. president to visit since 1928. Many in Washington criticized this effort to open communication with the Communist country, especially given the timing of the attacks in Belgium. Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz was among those to urge President Obama to return to the United States following the events Tuesday morning. But the president defended his stay by musing that “the whole premise of terrorism is to try to disrupt people’s ordinary lives.”
On the surface, his visit might seem callous, ill-timed and inappropriate. He was visiting a country with a heavy record of anti-American sentiment, on a day when the rest of the world was focused on Belgium to offer their support.
Yet the president was also opening doors to trade with a country which has been isolated for more than 50 years. He was already treading eggshells given the delicate circumstances of a fragile alliance, and he made a statement, however indirect, about the capability of a democratic nation to govern itself in the face of turmoil, despite the pilot being absent from the cockpit.
This week has been a frenzy of headlines. Major disasters, however unwelcome, do have a tendency to draw people to the news. We need to be informed, not just when disaster strikes or a presidential election is on the line. No news may be good news, but let’s be realistic. There is always news.