Culture of Terrorism (Corbett and K. Daniels)

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.

    • Pork Soda
    • April 19th, 2010

    I have always thought that once someone hits the point that they would blow themself up to get back at an opponent, then the only way to stop them would be with a well aimed 5.56 or 7.62. Hugs can’t do anything to stop the way this persom feels towards us. However, we need to catch people before they hit this point. Maybe showing them pictures of what a bomb does to a body would deter others from following this path. In Tal’afar, a woman suicide bomber’s uniquely feminine part was found hanging on a piece of concertina wire. Would she have carried out her attack if she’d known that would happen? If another suicide bomber knew what his bomb would do to a little kids head, would he have blown the gas station up? My point is that you have to make an impact on people when they are young, and watch out for those you can’t change.

      • Jack
      • April 21st, 2010

      You have to keep in mind that many of these bombers do it for the financial reasons rather than the religious or social reasons. Many times they are offered lots of money, that is to be paid to their families, after the bombing is complete. These people find this to be the only way to provide for their family in hard times. So it doesn’t matter what we tell them at a young age. What would help prevent this would be to stimulate their economy in a way that promotes legal and ethical business activities.

        • Corbett
        • April 22nd, 2010

        Suicide bombers primary goal is not to make money for thier family. I’m sure that it plays a role but this is not the main factor. I challenge you to find some scholarly work saying otherwise

    • Shake and bake
    • April 21st, 2010

    In thinking about this topic, it appears that the defining difference between us (US Military) and terrorists is an ideology. We take an oath to protect and defend the Constitution, while they attempt to inflict death upon those who disagree with them. Is it that the Islamic terrorists have a warped view of their religion, or is the American perspective on Islam accurate? While a scholar by no means on the Koran, I have cracked its cover and read portions of it. After reading and speaking with experts on the Koran and Islam, it appears that the American view of Islam is perhaps the jaded outlook. How does this impact us as future leaders? Understanding Islam and reading the Koran would be very beneficial to, and attempting to understand why people kill themselves for a cause.

      • Corbett
      • April 22nd, 2010

      Opening the Koran to understand al Queda or the Taliban is like reading the King James Bible to understand the K.K.K. Terrorist organizations may fall under a specific religion but reading the Koran will not explain or help you understand why they kill thimselves. If all 1.2billion Muslims who believe in the Koran killed themselves for their beliefs we would have a much larger problem on our hands.

    • deathstroke13
    • April 21st, 2010

    I agree with Pork Soda that we must catch terrorists at a young age. I assume that is what the opposition is doing as well. Catch the kids when they have moldable minds or when they are experiencing hard times. Provide them with shelter, protection, a cause and you have yourself a terrorist. We need to keep this in mind and I think that is what we are doing by trying to make the Middle East a better place for its populace.

    • Halo33
    • April 21st, 2010

    Terrorism is now a common household word that has arisen from all of the attacks that have occured and became a world wide issue that has surfaced very quickly. I believe that this nuisance is only made stronger with all of the media attention and deployments to try and solve the problem. Many times I have asked myself, “As a nation what would be the best course of action to solve a problem that has spider webbed its way from the Middle East?” and I am sure it is a very common question. To think of how the Middle Eastern countries have been at war for so long and now we look like the bad guys for trying to do some good and establish some sort of order to that area of the world, it is beyond me to try to figure out a resolution to the problem of “World Peace”, but I know as a nation we will over come the great burden that terrorism has put on our shoulders.

    • Fred Rogers
    • April 22nd, 2010

    Radical Islam is at war against the West, Judeo-Christian culture and Israel; radical Islam has proclaimed jihad against America. We are at war against radical Islam. estimates of all the muslims in the world, 1% are radical, that is 1.2 million muslims (which is not a few thousand). The Koran and the Sahih Bukhari Hadith are the two major religious documents of Islam.
    After Sept 11th, many Americans thought we must have done something to offend these people if they are willing to fly planes full of innnocent people into buildings. No, it is a warped ideology, radical Islam hates the West and Israel, it threatens the Muslim and non-Muslim alike. Almost every country today is dealing with terrorist activities due to radical Islamic terrorists who target innocent women and children.
    There is campaign of jihad, holy war, to bring down the West.
    There is no confusion as to why Islamic terrorists carry out terrorism, it is a warped ideology, look to the history of Islamic countries in the 20th century, and the slaughter that was brought about in many Middle Eastern countries, as espoused in the name of jihad.
    Radical Islamic terrorists believe they are carrying out the will of Allah and will be rewarded in the afterlife.
    Radical Islam is a threat to the world, both to the peace-seeking Muslim and non-Muslim alike. If we don’t admit the threat, we are only endangering ourselves.

    • Thats what she said
    • April 22nd, 2010

    In regards to the definition of terrorism that was posted I feel that it is far more complex. It is not a term that can simply be defined through a dictionary. What is referred to as terrorism is highly complex and hard to define in a few sentences. Mostly becuase cultural views of terrorism vary so greatly. For instance we can take into account Centuries ago the Boston Tea Party. Using the definitions above we would consider ourselves as terrorists yet by saying that goes against everything this country stands for. It is highly interesting how we classify those we do not agree with.

      • Corbett
      • April 22nd, 2010

      Thank you for summarizing my entire post. We WERE committing an act of mild terrorism at the Boston Tea Party. Terrorism is all in the eyes on the beholder and which side of the line you fall on.

    • Pea Tear Griffin
    • April 22nd, 2010

    I agree with Jack. We must find a way to help out the people of the Middle East financially. If we can find a way to support those people so they dont resort to terrorism. If the people are living a better quality of life then terrorism will seem like a bad idea. I believe that this is the key to living a better life.

      • Corbett
      • April 22nd, 2010

      Unfortunately the sole purpose of terrorism IS NOT TO MAKE MONEY. The middle east stoops to growing heroin, in the form of poppy seeds, to raise/make money.

    • Corbett
    • April 22nd, 2010

    I think something that we all need to stop and think about is this:

    These blogs are about terrorism. NOT al Queda. NOT Taliban. NOT Hammas. Terrorism is something that the entire world deals with. We focus too much on the middle east just because that’s where we are in theatre right now. Look at this topic as a human. Not as a soldier.

    Also, I have envited a professor of KU to respond to this blog and our comments. He specializes in these areas and offered a class on terrorism which I took last year. He is an United States veteran who served in three conflicts. He has been all over the middle east studying conflicts and learning about the people. He has a wealth of knowledge and hopefully will be sharing some with us shortly.

    • Rambler 1
    • April 23rd, 2010

    Using Clausewitz’s trinity of war I think the only way to engage terrorism in an offensive scale would be starting with the local people and developing an understanding of their views (culture).

    • CDT Ricky
    • April 23rd, 2010

    I enjoy reading this, and it always brings to light to reflect and see how the locals see you. American Military can be seen as terrorists at times. In 1988, USS Vincennes shot down an Iranian civilian aircraft. Killing all 290 on board. In 1998, the UK and USA bombed Iraq for 72 hours in Operation Desert Fox. This action was done without UN approval. It sounds like both of those could be seen as terrorist acts to others. Very insightful blog post and makes you think about things.

    • Porsche
    • April 25th, 2010

    When terrorist groups form, they are usually taking a political stance. In their culture, they need someone strong to lead the people. A leader in what we see as a terrorist group may just be a rookie political leader trying to do what is right for his people. We need to understand a culture and make America re-think what a terrorist is. Most will lable a common criminal, or combatant of war as a terrorist.
    When Osama bin Laden made the comment about the towers, he was taking a political stance for what he believed wronged his people. This is what makes him a terrorist.

    • Top Shelf Herps
    • April 26th, 2010

    One thing that I learned this week deals with the level of organization and infrastructure that some of these organizations have. When I heard Mr. Kambanas (spelling?) say that in Sadr City, Iraq, people can collect food stamps, unemployment and welfare, I was blown away. While my opinion was never as bias as what Kyle described initially above, I had let the U.S. Military, through various guest speakers and classes, convince me that anyone that we would face as a combatant in either Iraq or Afghanistan would just be some thug that wanted to kill American and cared for no one but themselves; apparentally they are trying to win hearts and minds as well.

    • Rooster
    • April 26th, 2010

    John’s closing remarks on his original post sums it up nicely.
    “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.”

    We have to adapt to the situation at hand. The face of terrorism we deal with will change, the motivation for that terrorism will change and the theater that we will be dealing with these issues will vary. We have to look deeper into what drives these individuals and know the places we are working in.

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