January 20, 1980 | Bombing in Basque territory

‘He who lives by the sword dies by the sword’: this applies to terrorists too (and civilians in the wrong place at the wrong time).

‘He who lives by the sword dies by the sword’: this applies to terrorists too (and civilians in the wrong place at the wrong time).

Do you believe in ‘just rewards’? Do you think that God or fate doles out punishment in a retributive fashion? If I hit you do you have the right to hit me back?

There is an old Biblical saying (actually it dates back to the Code of Hammurabi in Babylon) ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth’ (in Exodus and Leviticus). It means pretty well what it sounds like: if you hurt me I can do the same to you to the same extent. Straightforward, right?

But as Jesus said in Matthew:

You have heard that it has been said, an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: but I say to you do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.

And, for good measure here is what the great Indian leader Gandhi had to offer on this matter:

An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind

I am going to go out on a limb and suggest that terrorists are more in tune with Hammurabi.

These actors are not subtle. They know only violence and do not hesitate to use it. Things get very interesting when one terrorist group sets its sights on another (there are analogies to gangs here). We have seen recently in Afghanistan, for example, that the Taliban whack the Islamic State (ISIS) affiliate in Khorasan and vice versa.

1980 bombing in Basque territory

On this day in 1980 a bomb went off in a bar in Alonsotegi, a town in the Basque area of northern Spain. Four civilians were killed and a further ten wounded. An organisation calling themselves the Grupos Armados Espanoles (GAE – Spanish Armed Groups) claimed the attack, maintaining they were positive the locale was frequented by moderate Basque nationalists. Recall that there was a Basque terrorist group ETA that was active for 50 years in its violent campaign to gain independence for the Basque region.

In a communique issued after the incident the GAE said they were “fighting for the unity of Spain” and “combating any focus of violence in the Basque country”. In other words, an eye for an eye. Except that the victims were not those using violence: the terrorists needed to have their vision checked.

There are times when we have no choice but to meet violence with violence (in war time for instance). At others we must find an alternative. As Winston Churchill said: ‘Jaw-jaw is better than war-war’.

By Phil Gurski

Phil Gurski is the President and CEO of Borealis Threat and Risk Consulting Ltd. Phil is a 32-year veteran of CSE and CSIS and the author of six books on terrorism.

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