There must be a digression to my childhood and an abbreviated recounting of what is known as a “sick joke” prior to discussing what happened in Brussels on 22 March, 2016. The story begins with a new mother being told that her newborn has a deformity. As she is taken to the “deformed baby nursery” she begins her query regarding the malformation. “Is the baby missing his arms?” The nurse informs her that the child has greater issues. The mother sighs, and states “What could be worse, what could be worse?” Is the child missing both arms and legs? She is told to brace herself for the shock. “What could be worse, what could be worse?” On arrival at the incubator, the mother observes a small eyeball lying on the pillow. She gives a convulsed sob and whispers, “What could be worse, what could be worse?” The nurse responds, “He is blind.”
On 19 March, Mehmet Ozturk stalked a tourist group of thirty-six individuals from their hotel to a restaurant on Istiklal Avenue. Bent on enjoying a culinary trip to the Bosphorus, they were unaware of the malicious intent clad in a suicide vest awaiting their departure from the eatery. When the flash and bang was over, two Americans with dual Israeli citizenship and one Israeli citizen were dead. Eleven other Israeli tourists sustained injuries, as did members of the entourage hailing from other nations.
One blind eye…
We had scarcely pondered “What could be worse?” when news quickly spread that Irem Atkas, director of digital communications for the Justice and Development Party posted a tweet, “I hope all the Israelis wounded in the attack will die.”
One blind eye….
To the credit of the AKP, Ms. Atkas was quickly relieved of official capacity. We all gave a collective sigh of relief and secretly thought, “What could be worse, what could be worse?”
At 3:30 a.m. on 22 March, news was breaking in the Dallas market regarding the attack at Brussels Zaventem International Airport. Signing on to my email, I sent up a flare to a friend on the east coast. I then picked up the phone to discuss the event as it progressed. “This will be a rolling attack, like Paris.” Sure enough, the news began to come in waves. Two explosions were successfully detonated at the airport and it was a mass casualty event. Three explosions targeted the subway system and the news on fatalities and injuries was not confirmed for either location. But this was big. This was really big, just like Paris.
One blind eye….
“What could be worse, what could we worse?” We received the worst kind of news after Salah Abdeslam was brought into custody by the Belgium authorities (18 March). As Europe’s most wanted terrorist, his ability to evade capture for 125 days is a testament to the deformity of the Molenbeek neighborhood where he lived. With eyes wide open, the Molenbeek community chose to live with one blind eye. His family and friends functioned as both al-Ansar and al-Nusrah. Help and support. It was afforded to the man 24/7. Not only was he shuttled about, he also walked about openly at times, ski cap pulled down on his head. When he was captured, it was within a ten minute walk of his mother’s home. Everyone knew. None had the courage to speak.
One blind eye….
The images are horrifying. I note in one image the bodies strewn along the airport floor are blurred. But the technician forgot to blur the piece of flesh the size of a pizza slice tossed atop an abandoned piece of luggage. One site shows a chest x-ray which displayed a large bolt embedded within the chest cavity. Videos show a baby seated crying in the rubble; a child’s voice calls out in English “Come help me” and shrieks of unbearable physical agony ring out. As a prior military officer, I await official news regarding the status of the U.S. Air Force Lieutenant Colonel, his wife, and four children. We know that “some are critical”. Other than that, there is a news embargo for the immediate future. As a mother, I worry about the three year old twin girls who lost their Peruvian mother. Their Belgian father will now have to raise them without maternal support. How will the father explain to them that Mommy is not coming back? Perhaps the most tragic story of all is that of the man who survived the blasts at the airport and managed to notify his family that he was o.k. He then boarded the metro and perished in one of the bombings in the underground. It is hoped he made peace with God during the short additional increment of time given to him on planet earth.
One blind eye….
But the West can no longer afford to turn a blind eye. To pontificate about poverty, lack of education, a history of colonization and the usual band aids offered up to cover an enormous gaping wound of hatred is no longer feasible. While pundits senselessly prattle along, we need to recognize that “Mother of Satan” is now with us. And “Mother of Satan” was the name bequeathed on the bombs which released a payload of carnage. But Mother has multiple children. And they are spread across the European continent.
Backlash is all about cause and effect. Turn a blind eye, don’t rat out your brother who is busy building pipe bombs in his garage and you will experience a backlash. Turn a blind eye, don’t sit down with authorities to discuss concerns about your radical imam and you will eventually feel the heat of a backlash. It is a natural, not an unnatural outcome for the tremendous tragedy which has befallen your religion. Please take your religion back. But remember this: You cannot lead into the future with one malformed, blind eye.