World War Free
I have been (unusually) reticent to comment very much until now, at least publicly, about the horror that is Islamic State, apart from submitting factual articles relating to operations against them. This resolve broke briefly when Jakarta was bombed - again - recently, and I freely admit this was because I love Jakarta, I was worried about friends who live there, both Indonesian and international, and it all just got too hard to keep my mouth shut.
Staying quiet hasn't been out of fear of reprisal, or because I think Muslims in general are responsible, or any kind of rubbish like that. No; it's because I know once I start banging on about it, I won't stop. I will drive everyone insane with the need to say just how pathetic I think IS are, but also why I believe they are the biggest threat of our time - apart from Donald Trump, of course (not kidding. Really).
The attack on Brussels, which has now been claimed with the usual boasty bullshit by Islamic State, is the latest in a long, long, long line of horrors. Over the last two years alone, IS has struck across the globe at will; when thwarted, when opposed, when sulking, when told they can't have one hundred new twelve year old child brides to rape and sell into slavery - you name it, they'll make up a reason to maim, kill and torture. It's fairly evident from their public displays of disaffection that there is no humanity within the leadership. Try to leave, you die. Speak out, you die. Show any sign of weakness, be past the point of usefulness - you die. Wrong place, wrong time, which of course could be based on rock, paper, scissors at this stage of the proceedings - yes, you guessed it - time's up.
One hundred years ago, both France and Belgium were battlefields. Names like Passchendaele, Mons, Neuve Chapelle, Armentières, Ypres, Vimy Ridge - they stopped being 'foreign', and were suddenly a part of everyday conversation.
Now - we have new names.
Baquba. Lahore. Varanasi. Baghdad. Jalalabad. Domodedovo Airport. Alexandria. Kabul. Faisalabad. Al Hillah. Zvornik. Benghazi. Maiduguri. Mogadishu. Chad. Moscow. Anbar. Diyarbakır. Jerusalem. Palestine. Al-Shabaab. Suruç. Ankara. The Sinai. Jakarta.
One hundred years later, both these countries, along with pretty much every nation on the planet, are battlefields once more; but now, they are fighting an enemy who defies understanding, because how can you understand an enemy who wants no outcome but death?
This is a world war. The difference is, it's a war against irrationality and cowardice. It's a war against the worst of who we are as a species, and stupidity, and bullying cowards who use fear and intolerance to break families, societies and countries apart.
It's a war to stay free in our own heads, and ensure we don't give in to the hobgoblins who lurk in our hindbrains, urging us to blame anyone who sits outside our comfort zone for all the bad in the world. Because the biggest and best tool IS have in their arsenal is us.
Every time someone says 'typical bloody Muslim', when they strike, we've lost the war. Every time we accept their actions as extremism, rather than excusism, we may as well hand over the deeds to the planet, because they've just won. Every time - and I speak as a journalist here - we don't speak out responsibly, but instead start scaremongering - game over. It's a battle of ignorant fulfillment, and it's a win by default.
I hesitated when I drew this image, because I thought 'am I doing the veterans of those original Flanders Fields a disservice? Am I tarnishing their memories?'
I thought long and hard, and I came to the conclusion that the people who died in Brussels yesterday are part of Belgian military history now. They may be civilians, but it doesn't mean they aren't deserving of the respect we pay warriors; if only because through this new Passchendaele, this new Battle of Ypres -
World War Free is becoming more and more likely. Because our little race of rabble rousers are realising just what IS wants to take from every single person, irrespective of colour, race, religion, gender, opinion, intelligence level or age.
And that precious, precious part of us, the part that keeps our minds and hearts free, is perhaps the one and only thing we will fight for...