As the world tries to come to grip with the Paris atrocities, we should not forget that it was the invasion of Iraq that gave rise to the formation of the so-called Islamic State.
EVERY DAY STORIES OF DEATH AND DESTRUCTION in the Middle East appear in the news feeds. Mass killings. Bombings. Destruction. Despair. They have become so commonplace that they rarely make the mainstream news bulletins, never mind the headlines. Even the suspected downing of a Russian airliner by a terrorist bomb and the death of over forty people in Beirut by suicide bombers have solicited nominal coverage. In New Zealand they weren't enough to knock stories about the All Blacks off the top of the news bulletins.
The default setting appears to be that these are atrocities that are occurring 'over there', in alien lands that bare little relation to our country's interests and our everyday lives. So we can, more or less, ignore them.
And while Barack Obama can strongly condemn the Paris killings he has little to say abut the atrocities being committed by the Israeli government against the Palestinian people. Nor, for that matter, neither does the New Zealand government.
In stark contrast when the violence in the Middle East spreads its tentacles into the elegant streets of Paris, there is blanket media coverage - and our politicians are robust in their condemnations.
In New Zealand, even the once-over-lightly breakfast 'news' shows on both TVNZ and TV3 have been affected. While Rawdon Christie and Paul Henry can quite happily babble on about nothing much when people are being blown up in Beirut, a new solemnity suddenly emerges with the killings in Paris. Suddenly its not appropriate to be seen joking around.
We see photos of some of the people killed in Paris, while the innocent men, women and children killed in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere remain an anonymous statistic.
Inevitably the Paris killings have raised questions about who is to blame for the murderous rampage. That has been easy to answer because the so-called Islamic State has claimed responsibility, declaring the Paris killings to be the opening salvo in a war against the west. Those who died were merely 'pagans'.
The less convenient question to answer, for the mainstream media at least, is who is responsible for ISIS? While TV3's Paul Henry was quick to laud acting prime minister Bill English's explanation - that the killings were committed by individuals who felt morally compelled to act in such a way- he has remained silent about the complicity of western governments in the rise of ISIS. That doesn't quite fit the narrative that it is 'us' against 'them'.
But the origins of ISIS should no longer be a matter of debate. The case has been proved. The Washington Post puts it this way: “almost all of the leaders of the Islamic State are former Iraqi officers, including the members of its shadowy military and security committees, and the majority of its emirs and princes.”
Even the war criminal Tony Blair has been forced to concede that the invasion of Iraq gave rise to ISIS.
But it'll inevitably be the people who have fled to Europe to escape war and persecution in their homelands who will face the backlash.
As I watched events unfold in Paris on my television screen, I could not help but reflect on what Rosa Luxemburg said in response to the horrors of World War One. From her prison cell in 1915 she wrote that the world was confronted with a choice - “socialism or barbarism”. The barbarism of Paris should tell us that only socialism can defeat it.