As we enter the 3rd year of the coronavirus pandemic, the rapid infection rate of the latest omicron variant has reignited global concerns causing disruption to many societies’ festive and holiday arrangements:
“Passengers travelling over the Christmas holiday have been hit with disruption worldwide after airline companies cancelled more than 4,500 flights, according to a flight tracking website.
“The Netherlands has announced a strict lockdown over Christmas amid concerns over the Omicron coronavirus variant.
Non-essential shops, bars, gyms hairdressers and other public venues will be closed until at least mid-January. Two guests per household will be allowed – four over the holidays. Prime Minister Mark Rutte said the measures were “unavoidable”.
In the UK, many have observed the unfolding fiasco surrounding the government’s dismal handling of the ongoing crisis, with revelations of members scandalously violating the same regulations they imposed upon the country during the previous Christmas holiday period:
“Families who lost loved ones during the pandemic have said they are “sickened” by a No 10 Christmas party held during last year’s Covid restrictions.
You cannot fool all of the people all of the time
Few will disagree that governments seldom practice what they preach and double standards abound in many examples too numerous to cite in this article. However, parallels will be drawn referring to one in particular where fear mongering, under the pretext of protecting society occurred, while insidious geopolitical and hegemonic strategies were later revealed to be the driving impetus.
Twenty years ago, the US and its allies unleashed the War on Terror against the Arab and Muslim world in response to the 9/11 attacks. Without revisiting the myriad reports that have since questioned the legitimacy of this campaign, the propaganda and ensuing climate of fear – alongside suspicions of the Other (Muslims in particular) – that virtually paralysed societies across the East and West will be reviewed.
Fear has often been the default portent of governments, exploited to implement otherwise unpopular policies:
“Mr. President, the only way you are ever going to get this is to make a speech and scare the hell out of the country.” So said Sen. Arthur Vandenberg to President Harry Truman in 1947… If Vandenberg’s words have a familiar ring these days, it’s because the new Politics of Terrorism bear remarkable similarities to the old Politics of the Cold War. Fear has once again become a powerful tool and motivator.” 
The article continued:
“Consider President Bush’s speech to religious broadcasters…as he built the case for war against Iraq. “Chemical agents, lethal viruses and shadowy terrorist networks are not easily contained,” he declared. “Secretly, without fingerprints, Saddam Hussein could provide one of his hidden weapons to terrorists or help them develop their own. Saddam Hussein is a threat. He’s a threat to the United States of America…
You reap what you sow?
Almost twenty years to the day, on 26th December 2001 – Boxing Day – news of Richard Reid aka the Shoe Bomber emerged following his arrest after boarding American Airlines Flight 63 four days prior. The flight was destined for Miami, Florida and, while seated in 29J, he attempted, albeit unsuccessfully, to detonate an explosive device in his footwear. Had he succeeded, 184 passengers and 14 crew members would have died. This attempted terrorist attack further heightened already intensified security on planes and airports following the 9/11 attacks, with the additional measure of passengers now having to remove footwear for scanning. Only when comparing today’s climate with that of 2001, does the impact of fear become more apparent:
“U.S. airlines lost $8 billion in 2001. The industry wasn’t profitable again until 2006. Losses topped $60 billion over that five-year period and airlines again lost money in 2008 during the Great Recession. Job cuts in the wake of 9/11 were in the tens of thousands and workers faced massive pay cuts. Only the Covid pandemic has threatened more jobs…” 
Fear of flying also negatively impacted minorities, often the target of Islamophobic presumptions and attacks; however, this rarely attracted mainstream media:
“Now, two decades later, the fear caused by those horrifying attacks continue to haunt several people living in the US, a study claims… it was also revealed that 44 per cent people from minority groups have altered their lifestyle and are scared of flying since the attack. This shows the way the minority groups were targeted in the country after the attack, as only 21 per cent White Americans agreed to this change.” 
Same Meat, Different Gravy
Unfortunately, it appears that very little has changed since the events of 9/11 insofar as it relates to the portrayal of minorities and so-called developing societies. From the targeting of Chinese citizens in the US following the outbreak of the coronavirus in Wuhan, China in 2019, to the marginalisation of countries on the African continent due to the discovery of the recent Omicron variant, vaccine racism and ‘Othering’ continues to be prevalent among Western perceptions:
“Blamed for spreading the virus, Asian Americans have reported being kicked, punched and spat on in New York, California, Texas and other states. The Asian Pacific Policy and Planning Council says it has received more than 1,600 reports of verbal harassment, shunning and physical assault in recent weeks.”
South Africa has complained it is being punished – instead of applauded – for discovering Omicron, a concerning new variant of Covid-19… A statement by the South African foreign ministry on Saturday strongly criticised the travel bans. “Excellent science should be applauded and not punished,” it said.
The bans were “akin to punishing South Africa for its advanced genomic sequencing and the ability to detect new variants quicker”. The statement added that the reaction had been completely different when new variants were discovered elsewhere in the world.
“What is going on right now is inevitable, it’s a result of the world’s failure to vaccinate in an equitable, urgent and speedy manner. It is as a result of hoarding [of vaccines] by high-income countries of the world, and quite frankly it is unacceptable,” said AU vaccine delivery alliance co-chair Ayoade Alakija.
Reports of Omicron’s pre-existence in Europe prior to the South African discovery received somewhat scant media attention. The dye had already been set and this time, it was Africans – an entire continent – instead of the Chinese who were marginalised for alleged responsibility of the latest variant outbreak.
Mental Health & Fundamental Truths
Mental health continues to preoccupy us all, particularly in view of the return to various degrees of lockdown measures, imposed to mitigate the spread of this latest invisible threat. Research into those most impacted during these periods yields an array of data suggesting most of us are affected, however, evidence highlighting the adverse effects especially on the young and elderly are perturbing.  While highlighting these aspects, it would be remiss not to juxtapose them with the trauma resulting from the adverse effects of Western invasion, occupation and indeed, terror meted out upon unsuspecting and innocent civilians in societies that fell prey to the former’s revengeful designs, always under the false pretence of liberation twenty years ago:
“The US-led war on Iraq, which was aimed at liberating its people from authoritarian rule, has not seen any serious attempt by the Western or even Arab media to focus on the human side of Iraq. Iraqi civilian death tolls are treated as nothing more than statistics…” 
Ironically, while Western societies lament the loss of recreational air travel for reasons mentioned earlier in this article, others have been subjected to aerial bombardment from fighter jets and more recently, drone strikes over a similar period. In fact, civilians heralding from eastern and less fortunate societies would dare to celebrate the absence of aircraft dominating their air space under such terrifying conditions:
“US drone and air strikes have killed over 22,000 civilians – possibly as many as 48,000 – across the Middle East and North Africa since the 9/11 attacks in 2001, according to UK watchdog Airwars…
The analysis – based on the US military’s own claim that it conducted almost 100,000 air strikes (including drones) since 2001 – showed that at least 22,679 civilians were killed in US strikes across various theatres that comprised the war on terror: Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Somalia, Libya, Yemen and Pakistan.” 
The fact that the above figures are based on US military data should suffice as a valid enough reason to doubt the veracity of the report provided. The number of civilian casualties is significantly higher with other, more independent reports estimating closer to 1 million lives lost. These fundamental truths are conspicuously absent from pro-government and media narratives, which continue to sanction a strategy resembling the type of state legislated terrorism depicted in R D Crelinstein’s theoretical models.
During trial, Richard Reid expressed being at war with the US, thereby attributing his actions to a misplaced sense of responsibility for Muslims (which was categorically condemned and rejected outright by the vast majority of coreligionists). Despite a degree of validity for some aspects of the grievances outlined, his perverted ideological and behavioural extremism dissociated him from anything resembling mainstream fundamental tenets upon which Islam is founded and understood:
“I admit my actions and…further state that I done them… Your government has killed 2 million children in Iraq. If you think about something, against 2 million, I don’t see no comparison… I don’t see what I done as being equal to rape and torture, or the deaths of 2 million children in Iraq. So, for this reason, I think I ought not to apologise for my actions. I am [at] war with your country…” 
Similar to Reid, other violent extremists are well known for a distorted notion of responsibility toward oppressed Muslims that culminates in terrorist actions. The shoe fit so to speak, but in Reid’s case, it was a bomb laden trainer. In accordance with the meaning of this well established adage, they assumed responsibility for their actions. Unfortunately, this sense of accountability – misplaced or otherwise – cannot be extended to the political elite who, despite exposure of their disingenuous political machinations – often designed to satiate professional careers – continue to eschew responsibility for the disastrous and harmful policies inflicted on law-abiding citizens. Opposition party leader, Keir Starmer’s recent remarks regarding Boris Johnson’s leadership are apt to recall at this stage:
Criminals are often convicted for their crimes (and rightly so) while in contrast, politicians appear to be rewarded with cabinet reshuffles and extended terms in office – as well as Christmas parties during lockdown.
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