On Monday, I was in Northern Ireland to witness the latest political crisis between the two communities there. I went to an area they call Short Strand ... 800 houses occupied by Catholics surrounded by a forty foot high wire fence to stop rocks raining down from the Protestants on the other side. There were men trying to make the fence even higher, but every night the rocks come raining down, in what is effectively a war zone. Very sad.
But go to the other side of the fence, to see the Protestants, and what do you find? You guessed it, burnt out houses, boards on every window, people talking of being shot at, even producing a six inch bolt which struck a young girl on the head. And the truth is that both sides are suffering ... and inflicting suffering … and that they have hated each other for years, producing a history of appalling acts which simply can't be forgotten. Now what has happened in Northern Ireland began with two divided communities. And the violence made the division into a chasm impossible to bridge.
Had political progress been made decades ago, then perhaps the violence could have been avoided. Which leads me onto the world's great problem … and America's great problem, terrorism from the Islamic fundamentalists. My fear is that the atrocities of the World Trade Centre and in Bali, Indonesia are causing the kind of hatred which will mean the Islamic world and the West will hate and distrust each other for centuries. If that happens then we are all going to suffer and so will our children. Attacking the source of the terrorism, or in Iraq's case a country that could in future be the source of the terrorism, might get rid of leaders like Saddam, but surely it won't end the problem or eradicate the hatred -- it is likely to make it worse. Don't get me wrong, we must protect ourselves -- of course the world would be a better place if Saddam had left it, but simply invading Iraq won't stop the terrorists. It could easily produce a lot more. Surely, the only long-term solution is to find out the sources of the hatred and end them?
Above all, there is one which stands out in the Islamic world -- Israel and Palestine -- which is why our priority has to be to help those two peoples solve their differences, and if necessary, make them solve those differences. That's going to be a damn sight more difficult than doing deals in Northern Ireland ... but amidst all the current talk of war, it would be nice to hear some words of peace.