Cycle of violence

The images of hostages and their distraught parents fleeing the school in northern Ossetia were a horrible shock to all of us who could not grasp this most extreme form of terrorism – small children being used as shields. Westerners are unnerved by the intensity of the phenomenon, the barbarity of the act, the use of children for the promotion of separatist aspirations or other demands. The mere thought that the Athens Olympic Games could have become the theater for similar terrorist acts is hair-raising. Extremism of this kind may seem incomprehensible to us, but the causes need to be examined. Unjustifiable as such acts may be, we must nevertheless acknowledge that they are generated under conditions of political or military oppression. In the case of the school hostage crisis, it is common knowledge that Chechnya is under Russian military occupation. Chechnya is often described as the Iraq of Russia, a battlefield between occupation forces and rebels. Domination by outside forces provokes resistance and when this is unproductive it is followed by terrorist acts which lie beyond the sphere of imagination or common sense. Politics is absent and power is imposed through violence. Inevitably, violence breeds violence and acts of hatred take place that go beyond the principles and the laws of our world. Life becomes valueless, violence coupled with religious and nationalist extremism reaches incredible proportions, exceeding the bounds of reason, and is impossible to deal with. We have experienced this in Palestine, Iraq, and now in the latest Russian hostage crisis. And more is to come if violence continues to be elevated above politics. Before and during the Athens Olympic Games, the Greek government came under strong pressure to accept the presence of foreign troops on its territory, to allow patrols by foreign armed guards, and in general to put on a bellicose face. Our country resisted. It did not want to host the Games under a security blanket in response to an invisible threat that becomes increasingly aggressive the more it is provoked. Greece avoided provocation, it chose to come into contact with political figures of the volatile Islamic world, it put on a friendly face, it chose a more discreet type of security. The wager was won. Perhaps the powerful of this world should bring politics back into the game. There is no other way to break the cycle of violence.

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