Re Youths and ISIL

lettersTHE EDITOR: So, the reactionaries have only recently ‘discovered’ that scores of youths are leaving Trinidad to fight with ISIL. Predictably, they react by talking about blocking their re-entry, jailing them, etc. In other words, pretty much the same punitive measures they insist on applying to gang violence and school bullying.

Now, I, a firm “unbeliever,” spurn ISIL/Da’esh and all religious fundamentalist doctrines. I also support taking firm, decisive actions to protect against violent aggression. But as a “post-colonial” Caribbean national, I insist on deeper analyses and implementations concerning our many challenges and not just the now standard quick-fixes. Neither should we be parroting simplistic narratives coming from both sides of this divide. This latest episode with ISIL/Da’esh has illuminated a whole range of issues including the West’s hypocrisy; were it not for their constant meddling and destabilising of that whole region, there’d be no refugee crisis in Europe and no Taliban that spawned ISIL that will soon spawn a couple other radical groups, some of whom already exist and are (for now) supported by the US as the Taliban once was.

Keep in mind too that since the first war against Saddam the US has been offering citizenship to locals if they enlist in the military. What, wasn’t that an illegal war? Is only one form of religious idealism bad? What makes ISIL hideous but not the strict Christian upbringing of John Foster Dulles and his brother Allen? Their actions in the 1950s and 60s, informed partly by strict Presbyterian values help bring about the instability in that region we are dealing with today. What about General William Boykin of the US Army’s elite Delta Force?

These are the questions WE should be asking and answering. Another one is when are we going to seriously deconstruct the social and historical issues that marginalise and pathologise whole sections of our population, pushing disaffected youths into these gangs (ISIL included)? Dirty words, I know; calls to examine racist, paternalistic foundations of our legal, economic and education systems are routinely contemptuously dismissed. Never mind that researchers like Prof David V Trotman pointed the way in his book on 19th century crime in Trinidad….no, that’s just excusing delinquency and avoiding personal responsibility. But the missing generation Ella sang about are coming back to find us, manipulated and seduced by ideas of atonement before apocalyptic retribution comes (Cause we didn’t deconstruct religions neither).

Terrorism, like violent gang crimes, are built on unresolved social issues and should be dealt with on that level even as the security forces do their job. This is a “war” that should more be fought ideologically. Punitive-first measures and statements by former National Security ministers about youths from gangs joining ISIL to “make bigger fools of themselves” only serve to worsen already bad situations. But who cyar hear go feel.

Corey Gilkes
La Romaine