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August 12, 2006

Very Good Indeed

Yes, why didn’t we?

More and more, I wonder about something. What if, after the attacks on the World Trade Centre or the London Underground, the West had taken a difficult and strange course of action, and done nothing at all? What if we had, as a society, turned the other cheek: mourned our dead, rebuilt our cities and allowed the senselessness of the attacks to stand exposed for what it was?

What if we hadn't invaded anywhere, hadn't, since we couldn't find our real enemies, invented others to strike at? What if we hadn't thrashed around like someone trying to kill a wasp with a broadsword? What if we had chosen not to dignify a Stone Age death cult with a geopolitical response? What if we had treated it like what it was: not an act of war, but an act of murder?

It's hard to see that more innocent lives would by now have been lost worldwide than actually have. It's hard to see that more teenage idiots would have rallied to Osama bin Laden's hateful flag than actually have. It's hard to see how these acts of murderous nihilism would have acquired - in so many eyes here and abroad - the apparent dignity of a cause.

August 12, 2006 in Islamists | Permalink

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Tracked on Aug 13, 2006 9:26:35 PM

Comments

Tim,

Quite.

Hopefuly they're asking themselves the same questions at the American Enterprise Institute and the Weekly Standard.

But I doubt it.

Tim adds: I was thinking more of the curtailment of civil liberties here but I take your point.

Posted by: Martin | Aug 12, 2006 9:44:35 AM

And what would you do the next time when they successfully killed twice as many, and then the next time, and then...

Of course the other answer is that, why, then the "stone age death cult" would have won. Because the west then would have shown that they were incapable of responding to any provocation. Therefore they are (1) obviously correct in their assertions that their cause is just, and (2) justified in continuing and broadening their campaign if any of their demands are refused.

This does of course assume that any subsequent actions have been of use in preventing any future attacks, which apart from the destruction of the AQ network in Afghanistan is potentially arguable. Certainly many of the restrictions of civil liberties seem absurd, so why are our governments so incapable of decisive yet proportionate actions ?

Posted by: Ed Snack | Aug 12, 2006 10:53:11 AM

Well said, Ed.

There is absoluely nothing new about terrorism or a "war against terrorism":

"Guy Fawkes could have changed the face of London if his 1605 plot had not been foiled, explosion experts have said. His 2,500 kg of gunpowder could have caused chaos and devastation over a 490-metre radius, they have calculated. Fawkes' planned blast was powerful enough to destroy Westminster Hall and the Abbey, with streets as far as Whitehall suffering damage, they say."
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/3240135.stm

"The Luddites were a social movement of English workers in the early 1800s who protested — often by destroying textile machines — against the changes produced by the Industrial Revolution that they felt threatened their jobs. The movement, which began in 1811, was named after a probably mythical leader, Ned Ludd. For a short time the movement was so strong that it clashed in battles with the British Army. Measures taken by the government included a mass trial at York in 1813 that resulted in many death penalties and transportations."
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Luddite

The Sheffield Outrages 1866
http://www.tuc.org.uk/the_tuc/tuc-2878-f6.cfm

To my mind, the policy issues that arise from recent events are not whether the government should apply considered measures to protect its citizens against terrorism. Of course, it should. The issue is rather whether our security against IRA terrorism would have been more effective had Armagh and Donegal been obliterated (the Lidice solution - reference: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lidice) and Dublin bombed?

Somehow, I think not so.

Posted by: Bob B | Aug 12, 2006 11:15:18 AM

I think the uselessness of his argument can be summed up in this excerpt:"So what if we treated this sort of terrorism as a force at once as ineradicable and as motiveless as the weather?"

Well, quite....!

Posted by: JuliaM | Aug 12, 2006 11:15:44 AM

Does the author truly not believe that Al Qaeda's base of operations was based in Afghanistan?

Posted by: Andrew Paterson | Aug 12, 2006 11:17:09 AM

"Does the author truly not believe that Al Qaeda's base of operations was based in Afghanistan?"

The day after 9/11, Donald Rumsfeld suggested it would be a good idea to bomb Iraq because there were much better targets there compared with Afghanistan. Don't believe me? Try:

"(CBS MarketWatch) -- A second former Bush administration official is set to accuse top presidential aides, including Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, of planning retaliatory strikes on Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, despite briefings from intelligence officials explaining that Iraq likely wasn't responsible. . .

"Rumsfeld was saying we needed to bomb Iraq ... We all said, 'but no, no, al-Qaeda is in Afghanistan,' Clarke said in the interview. "And Rumsfeld said, 'There aren't any good targets in Afghanistan, and there are lots of good targets in Iraq.' I said, 'Well, there are lots of good targets in lots of places, but Iraq had nothing to do with [the September 11 attacks].'"
http://www.cnn.com/2004/US/03/20/clarke.cbs/
http://www.usatoday.com/news/washington/2004-03-20-clarke_x.htm

Posted by: Bob B | Aug 12, 2006 12:19:15 PM

Draconian measures against the IRA might have worked, I suppose, save that they were the sort of terrorists who had American support. Still have, judging by the extradition treaty imbroglio.

Posted by: dearieme | Aug 12, 2006 1:07:36 PM

I don't really see what bearing the alledged quote has on my point Bob, that the idea that "we couldn't find our real enemies" is demonstrably false given that the plan to attack and destroy the WTC, Pentagon et al was hatched by individuals harboured by the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Posted by: Andrew Paterson | Aug 12, 2006 1:27:49 PM

"What if"? It's easy to find out "what if": It already happened. We treated this stuff as merely a criminal matter from the 1970s on. What happened was they kept on escalating. The AQ types perceived the Leith Strategy as weakness and cowardice, which in their minds was an invitation to hit us again, harder. These guys don't quit while they're ahead.

AQ uses snuff videos as a recruiting tool, and an effective one. Bin Laden figured 9/11 would draw people to his cause. Is there anybody here who'd be inspired by that kind of thing to join the organization that did it? If not, are you quite certain that you fully understand people who are?

Posted by: P. Froward | Aug 12, 2006 1:32:40 PM

Correction: "The AQ types and their predecessors perceived the Leith Strategy..." would be more clear.

Posted by: P. Froward | Aug 12, 2006 1:34:48 PM

It is hard to see that more people would have died. On the other hand it it is easy to see that al Queda would not have stopped & more non-Moslems would have died which is rather the point.

If 9/11 is to be treated as murder then you hunt down murderers. Personally I would hang most murderers but that is getting onto another subject - or the same subject in a different context.

Posted by: Neil Craig | Aug 12, 2006 4:21:13 PM

It is hard to see that more people would have died. On the other hand it it is easy to see that al Queda would not have stopped & more non-Moslems would have died which is rather the point.

If 9/11 is to be treated as murder then you hunt down murderers. Personally I would hang most murderers but that is getting onto another subject - or the same subject in a different context.

Posted by: Neil Craig | Aug 12, 2006 4:21:55 PM

P.Froward has it right. The increasing terrorism was treated as a criminal matter for 30 years. It got steadily worse.

About the IRA. If the IRA had Al Queda's scale, goals, and had destroyed the WTC then the IRA might well have been handled by whatever means were necessary.

But time was not on the side of IRA violence. Things were getting better with the methods in use.*

To believe that every terrorist activity is to be handled in the same way makes no sense whatever.

Terrorists must be fought in different ways depending upon their strengths and weaknesses.

*As always, to a fragment of the IRA things seem too much better now. So they form splinters and try to keep the violence going. They will be dealt with.

Posted by: K | Aug 12, 2006 4:51:15 PM

In trying to work out what makes al-Qaeda and other, similar Jihadist organisations tick, it could be more illuminating to regard them all as (malignant) cults rather than as transnational political organisations or religious sects.

This is not a mere relabelling exercise and it in no way whitewashes the Jihardists. What it can do is to provide better insights into what seems to be a basically irrational ideology with homicidal intentions and also into the apparent speed with which some apparently "normal" young men have been converted to murderous fanatics when most muslims don't exhibit such behaviour or anything close to it.

Just how potent and malign (ostensibly) religious cults can be is evinced by two graphic and compelling examples which have absolutely nothing to do with Islam:

- The Aum Shinri Kyo cult in Japan which perpetrated the sarin gas attack in the Tokyo subway in 1995:
http://www.religioustolerance.org/dc_aumsh.htm

- The People's Temple Sect which migrated from America to establish a settlement at Jonestown, Guyana. Relatives of cult members became concerned and made representations to the US government which led to a US Congressman going there with aides on an investigative mission in November 1978. The scale of the resulting calamity is perhaps left to reports on websites:
http://www.infoplease.com/spot/jonestown1.html

In case it's of relevance here, I don't also regard the cult model as appropriate to the IRA. In that case, we get better insights from regarding the IRA as an organisation that transformed by stages from its original purpose of agitating to alleviate repression of catholics in NI into a criminal organisation focused on generating enhanced incomes for its members through attracting donations (mainly from America) and straight forward crime. Occasional, demonstrative acts of spectacular arson and bombing are intended to revive flagging donations from sympathisers. The interesting question is whether the organisation of spectacular acts of terrorism by al-Qaeda also helps to generate or accelerate financial contributions from muslims sympathetic to what they perceive as its fundamentalist and liberating aims.

Posted by: Bob B | Aug 12, 2006 7:46:09 PM

"It's hard to see that more innocent lives would by now have been lost worldwide than actually have".

A hard hearted bastard could respond that while this may be true, the vast majority of the lives that have been lost are not those of American civilians.

Given that the US government takes protection of its citizens as a very high priority (far higher than most including our own, I might add) some could view the American course of action as having been most successful.

I guess where one sits on this argument depends on whether one is of an internationalist or more local frame of mind

RM

Posted by: The Remittance Man | Aug 13, 2006 1:10:15 AM

For the archive here:

On Friday 18 August, the high court in Tokyo is due to rule on an appeal by doomsday cult member Masami Tsuchiya against a death sentence. He oversaw the development of nerve gas used in a 1995 attack on the Tokyo subway by the group Aum Shinrikyo.
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/4784343.stm

From an earlier commentary on the cult:

"Andrew Marshall, co-author of The Cult at the End of the World: The Incredible Story of Aum, says they were arguably not helped by a 'straight-jacketed' education system which does not nurture critical faculties."
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/asia-pacific/3513617.stm

Posted by: Bob B | Aug 14, 2006 11:03:38 AM

For the archive here:

On Friday 18 August, the high court in Tokyo is due to rule on an appeal by doomsday cult member Masami Tsuchiya against a death sentence. He oversaw the development of nerve gas used in a 1995 attack on the Tokyo subway by the group Aum Shinrikyo.
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/4784343.stm

From an earlier commentary on the cult:

"Andrew Marshall, co-author of The Cult at the End of the World: The Incredible Story of Aum, says they were arguably not helped by a 'straight-jacketed' education system which does not nurture critical faculties."
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/asia-pacific/3513617.stm

Posted by: Bob B | Aug 14, 2006 11:04:42 AM

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