By Eoin Molloy
On October 22, 2014, Corporal Nathan Cirillo was tragically murdered at the National War Memorial at Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Canada. The perpetrator, Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, was a convert to Islam with a criminal record and a history of drug abuse. The lone gunman was shot dead inside the parliament buildings before any more fatalities occurred.
This attack bore striking similarities to the killing of two Canadian soldiers in Quebec by another Muslim convert, Martin Couture-Rouleau that had occurred just two days previously. The two soldiers were run over by the perpetrator in his car. Rouleau was a known supporter of ISIL and was also shot on apprehension for brandishing a knife.
With both perpetrators dead, it is impossible to ascertain a motive. It is unclear whether or not there was any connection between the attacks, but it seems unlikely. Shooting first and asking questions later is not the optimal strategy to prevent these things from happening again.
Canada’s Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, said that these attacks proved that ‘Canada is not immune to the sort of terrorist attacks that happen around the world’. US Secretary of State John Kerry also did not hesitate to mark the act as terrorism.
Contrastingly, the leader of Canada’s New Democrat party, Thomas Mulcair, said that there was simply not enough evidence to call the attacks terrorism. He went on to say that ‘there is a fundamental difference between the horrific acts of a profoundly disturbed individual and organised terror.’ Hear, hear.
As Glenn Greenwald of The Intercept said, ‘terrorism is a malleable and inconsistent term’ who’s meaning is often changed around to fulfil a political aim. He believes that terrorism, as we understand it, has come to mean violence against westerners by Muslims.
According to Zehaf-Bibeau’s mother, the shooting was the ‘last desperate act’ of a man who was ‘at odds with the world’. She believed that he saw death as being the only way out. She also clarified that her son had a serious addiction to drugs.
The simple fact is that Canada cannot pretend to be stunned by attacks like this. They have been at war for the past thirteen years, enthusiastically assisting the US in invading and occupying Afghanistan. Canada just recently announced that they will be sending CF-18 jets to bomb ISIL targets in Iraq and Syria.
To paraphrase Greenwald, the only shocking thing about attacks like these is that they don’t happen more often. You can’t simply bring violence to numerous countries and not expect to experience violence on your own soil. The US-led airstrikes on ISIL have lead to many civilian casualties. It is unsurprising that deranged lone gunmen with Arabic heritage seek this misplaced kind of revenge in the manner they do.
The counter-argument of ‘have you no sympathy for the Canadian soldiers?’ is to be expected. The murders were nothing less than tragic, but no more so than the killing of civilians in Iraq and Syria.
All of these victims are innocent. The killings of the Canadian soldiers are a sort of tragic blowback. They are indirect results of the trigger-happy nature of the Canadian government when it comes to joining foreign conflicts.
The only way to stop attacks like these is to stop meddling in the affairs of other countries. If Canada was not militarily involved overseas, deranged drug users like Zehaf-Bibeau would have no reason to use radical Islam as their shield. They would probably be just as violent, but their violence could not possibly be directed towards innocent soldiers.
As Mulcair said, men like these are ‘criminals and not terrorists’. It is not clear if Zehaf-Bibeau had an ideological motive or if he was simply insane. Calling gun-toting lunatics like Zehaf-Bibeau a terrorist without evidence almost justifies what he did, and his crime was unjustifiable.
*originally appeared in Sin*