CDT Corbett: Culture of Terrorism I
When asked to write about the culture of terrorism it is necessary to understand both what culture is and what terrorism is. Both of which we believe are simple to describe, yet when we look closely we are quite wrong. Terrorism in the dictionary has these three definitions:
- The use of violence and threats to intimidate or coerce, especially for political purposes.
- The state of fear and submission produced by terrorism or terrorization
- A terrorist method of governing or of resisting a government.
Now when you read these you think, “yeah that accurately describes the people we are facing in Iraq or Afghanistan.” Who else do you think this describes? If you look through our history and at all conflicts around the world there are several key components to terrorism. The First would be that a terrorist act is politically inspired. If not, then it is nothing more than a crime. It also has to involve violence or the threat of violence. The point of terrorism is not to defeat the enemy but to send a message. Do you remember 11September2001? An al-Qaeda spokesman said, “ It rang the bells of restoring Arab and Islamic glory.” The act and the victim of a terrorist act must have some symbolic meaning or significance. The Twin Towers falling had quite a bit of shock value that had huge psychological impact. The last and possibly most defining characteristic of a terrorist act is the deliberate targeting of civilians. It is often explained that those who pay taxes to a government are responsible for their actions. Basayev declared all Russians fair game because “They pay taxes. They give approval in word and in deed. They are all responsible.”
Even with such defining characteristics it is hard to understand any facet of terrorism. Who is likely to become a terrorist? Why do they commit the crimes or atrocities that they do? These are very difficult questions, which the best scholars cannot answer. Typically when you ask an American to describe a terrorist they think of a Muslims and more specifically the Sunni and Shia. Even soldiers, or ROTC cadets for that matter, see all 1.2 billion Muslims in the world as a possible threat when in actuality there are only a few thousand Islamic terrorists. Why are there not more? How do we tell who is and who is not a terrorist or likely to become one? You cannot. Efforts to produce a terrorist profile have all failed. This is often because they all share a common trait. They appear to be normal. But why does a human being decide to kill others and put himself outside the law and dramatically increase the likelihood that he will be killed or imprisoned and put his family at risk? Most would say because they are crazy. They see themselves in a world that is black-and-white. They see a world where good faces evil and their adversaries are to blame for all their problems. They identify with others and want revenge against their evil adversary. The deadliest act of terrorism in the United States before September 11th was when 168 people died to what we now know as a Vehicle Born Improvised Explosive Devise. The person convicted of the crime was Timothy James McVeigh who was a Catholic army veteran. He served with the U.S. 1st Infantry Division and was awarded the Bronze Star for his service during the Gulf War. My point? If this man can become a terrorist just like someone living in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, who is the enemy?
Terrorism is such a broad topic that we as future officers have to deal with. As the future leader in our military you must come up with answers, techniques and tactics that are more efficient than those in the past. Can we ever defeat terrorism? You can argue either way. The one thing that we can agree on though is that terrorism is not going away anytime soon.
- Today our nation saw evil, the very worst of human nature. -George W. Bush, 11 September 2001
- The best that one can say of these people is that they are morally depraved. They champion falsehood, support the butcher against the victim, the oppressor against the innocent child. –Osama bin Laden, 7 October 2001
- God knows that the plan of striking the towers had not occurred to us, but the idea came to me when things went just too far with the American-Israeli alliance’s oppression and atrocities against our people in Palestine and Lebanon. The events that made a direct impression on me were during and after 1982, when America allowed the Israelis to invade Lebanon with the help of its third [sixth] fleet. They started bombing, killing and wounding many, while others fled in terror…. The whole world heard and saw what happened, but did nothing. In those critical moments, many ideas raged inside me, ideas difficult to describe, but they unleashed a powerful urge to reject injustice and a strong determination to punish the oppressors. As I looked at those destroyed towers in Lebanon it occurred to me to punish the oppressor in kind by destroying towers in America, so that it would have a taste of its own medicine and would be prevented from killing our women and childrens -Osama bin Laden
- Thinking people, when disaster strikes, make it their priority to look for its causes, in order to prevent it happening again, -Osama bin Laden, October 2004
CDT Daniels: Culture of Terrorism II
When many people think about international terrorism they just think of a bunch of pissed off Arabs with bombs strapped to themselves willing to go blow themselves up so that they can go spend eternity with a bunch of virgins. This is obviously a very bias and uneducated view of terrorism but it is fairly common none the less. I believe that to truly get a grasp of what brings about terrorism you need to free yourself of all biases and take in all the information before you come to conclusions. To help with this process, while you read this article, think of them as “Transnational Non-state threats” instead.
There are a few key points about transnational non-state threats that I would like you to take away from this, the first is the name, transnational non-state threats. When dissecting this group of words you will find that these people operate back and forth between countries (transnational) and they have no government affiliation (non-state) and lastly they are a threat. This last part, threat, is very important. If they were not a threat, they would be considered just another NGO like the Red Cross/Crescent or Doctors Without Borders. The reason that I stress the threat part is not because I want to point out that they can be mean, because that is kind of obvious, but because it gives you a good comparison to other organizations that you might be more familiar with.
The second point I would like to stress is the influence behind joining these organizations. This has become a highly debated topic so I will attempt to give you facts so that you can form your own opinion. First off there are three different forces which people believe tend to push others into becoming tourists. These three forces are economics, politics, and religion. The debate comes from which of these forces has more pull.
Economics plays a role simply because being a terrorist makes good money. In many areas throughout the world money is very scarce. Terrorist cells then capitalize on this opportunity by providing jobs, security, and lots of money to people willing to help their cause. This means that many people inside terrorist networks might not fully believe in the cause, they are more interested in the money.
Although these are non-state actors they are still effected by politics just as much as any other person in this world. For instance, all of the trade restrictions put on South and Central American countries by the WTO (World Trade Organization) and the IMF (International Monetary Fund) have begin to put a squeeze on certain economies in those regions. These political maneuvers can and have ruined industries and restricted jobs for these people. Some of these people then turn to violence and/or drug trafficking (drug trade and terrorism is closely linked in South and Central America) to make money.
The last force that effect terrorism is widely considered, by the same people who have that stereotype above, to be the most important force that drives terrorism. There is fact and fiction in this claim. Yes it is a force, particularly in the middle east and pacific islands, but no it probably is not the driving force behind terrorism. Muslim extremists do use religion to help justify and endorse certain violent acts through processes of a better afterlife and through the jihad. However, when making this claim it is important that you realize that at no point do the basic texts of Islam enjoin terrorism and murder or do the random slaughter of uninvolved bystanders. Therefore, the only time religion is tied in, is in the case of the extremists who have a slightly warped point of view of their religion.