Quick Links to subsections
Why this chapter?
Whose Side Are You On?
The Threat of Fundamentalism
The Proud Commission of Evil
Close Links between the "enemy" Fundamentalists
Shared Opposition to Democracy
The Medieval Mindset
Manipulation of Public Opinion
The Office of Special Plans
The Final War
Unlike the previous chapters which have been re-written to take into
account the years of feedback I have received, the views expressed in
this chapter do not represent any kind of evolution from the original.
Instead this chapter represents a complete change in my focus brought
about by the events of 9-11. It may or may not attract your support.
It is, therefore, appropriate for me to return to the use of the first
person singular as I can only claim these views as my own. Hopefully
the next rewrite will allow me to re-introduce the plural.
Note: This is an advanced draft of the rewrite of Chapter 10. The most
glaring unfinished business are the missing links. Anything underlined
which doesn't already have a hyperlink will eventually. If the underlined
words are in italics, then a "portal" page is being prepared
which will contain related narrative and, probably, several more links.
To react or contribute to the draft, please email me at harrystottle
at fullmoon.nu using the subject heading "RTP Response" (plus anything
else as appropriate) (This format will ensure my antispam filters don't
reject your efforts!)
Further note: What began as just another Chapter has grown almost into
a book in its own right with mini chapters of its own - which I will
try to keep as "sections" within the chapter. If it looks too unwieldy
when I'm done, I might reconsider. For the time being at least I will
try to keep it as a single chapter.
Why this chapter?
This is the closing section of an insightful
article by Paul Berman from the New York Times..
"It would be nice to think that, in the war against terror,
our side, too, speaks of deep philosophical ideas -- it would be nice
to think that someone is arguing with the terrorists and with the readers
of Sayyid Qutb. But here I have my worries. The followers of Qutb speak,
in their wild fashion, of enormous human problems, and they urge one
another to death and to murder. But the enemies of these people speak
of what? The political leaders speak of United Nations resolutions,
of unilateralism, of multilateralism, of weapons inspectors, of coercion
and noncoercion. This is no answer to the terrorists. The terrorists
speak insanely of deep things. The antiterrorists had better speak sanely
of equally deep things. Presidents will not do this. Presidents will
dispatch armies, or decline to dispatch armies, for better and for worse.
But who will speak of the sacred and the secular, of the physical
world and the spiritual world? Who will defend liberal ideas against
the enemies of liberal ideas? Who will defend liberal principles in
spite of liberal society's every failure? President George W. Bush,
in his speech to Congress a few days after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks,
announced that he was going to wage a war of ideas. He has done no such
thing. He is not the man for that.
Philosophers and religious leaders will have to do this on their
own. Are they doing so? Armies are in motion, but are the philosophers
and religious leaders, the liberal thinkers, likewise in motion? There
is something to worry about here, an aspect of the war that liberal
society seems to have trouble understanding -- one more worry, on top
of all the others, and possibly the greatest worry of all. "
This rewritten chapter is my attempt to answer that call.
Part 1 - Fundamentalism versus Consensus.
Whose Side Are You On?
Inevitably, if we want to explain how all human behaviour fits into
the straightforward survival
paradigm, we must face the paradox of War. The Human Race devotes
enormous resources to the means and practice of killing each other
- with apparently obvious negative effects on survival including the
very real and increasing risk of, eventually, destroying our entire
species. What makes such obviously irrational behaviour possible?
The primary purpose of this chapter is to explore, in some depth, the
ethics of mass slaughter and see how Survival Based Ethics (SBE) can
illuminate the field. It is easy to argue that there is no rational
basis on which to initiate a war and if all nations capable of fighting
a war were governed by rational systems, then wars simply wouldn't happen.
That, of course, isn't the world we live in. Few, if any, war-capable
countries are governed rationally, which means they are nearly all capable
of starting the hostilities. Even when countries are capable of acting
rationally, they may well be attacked by one which isn't.
For a formal summary of the Causes of War you could do worse than study
entry in the Internet
Encyclopaedia of Philosophy. I have only marginal disagreements
with it. It's conclusion is that we don't really understand the causes.
I don't believe they are that difficult to understand. We might elaborate
elsewhere, particularly by reference to Wrangham and Peterson's "Demonic
Males" but here we'll keep it simple: Wars are generally initiated either
by bullies or in response to bullies. They (the bullies) think they
can get away with it. And often do. The specific illegitimate reasoning
which is used by the bully to justify their actions (at least to themselves)
may or may not be relevant or even particularly interesting. The only
reason we would normally analyse the beliefs of the insane is to cast
light on the extent of their disease and perhaps to assist in finding
a cure for their illness. Other than for diagnostic purposes, we will
learn little by studying the internal logic of their world view. Unfortunately,
as we will see, such diagnosis in respect of warmongers is in fact often
necessary if we are to have any hope of a favourable prognosis.
The Threat of Fundamentalism
The hallmark of the warmonger is typically some form of fundamentalism.
And since I contend that Fundamentalism is the greatest threat to the
future of humanity, I'd better define how I intend to use the term.
(and originally) it is used to convey a religious mindset in which reality
is dictated by a "holy" written text or tradition. The believer
views any dissent as heresy and any deviation from prescribed practices
or adherence to proscribed views or practices as a crime or "sin".
I need to use the term more widely. The traditional description of
mindset and behaviour is valid, but the limitation to religion is too
restrictive. Stalinism, Maoism, Pol-Potism and whatever ism underpins
the current regime in North Korea all have or had followers who exhibited
all the traits of religious fundamentalism, albeit, in their case, loosely
based on misrepresentations of Marxism. But the fundamentalist need
not have a precisely defined creed. Hitler, for example, wrote "Mein
Kampf" but neither he nor anyone else, so far as I can discover,
ever used it as a reference point for their policies and practices.
Similarly, Napoleon had no profound philosophy other than initial support
for republicanism which evolved into imperial ambition when he realised
that he alone could transform the world. Certain Animal
Rights campaigners (cached)
are clearly fundamentalist. Margaret Thatcher became a partial fundamentalist
after "her" victory in the Falklands War. She became increasingly
unable to accept the possibility of her own fallibility.
Fundamentalism, for the purposes of this discussion, is any view of
the world which is characterised by
irrational certainty. (i.e. the conviction that X is true or that
"I am always right", despite the absence of empirical
refusal to consider critical or alternative views
refusal to accept or even witness contradictory evidence
Fundamentalists tend to adopt one of two strategies in relation to
their interaction with society. The "harmless" ones either
disengage (harmless, that is, to the rest of us) and go off to create
their own little corners of the world (examples: the Amish,
or the Children
of God) or spectacularly self destruct (eg Jim
Jones - Peoples Temple - cult who committed suicide in Guyana in
1978 and the Solar
Temple cult many of whose members who did much the same on a smaller
scale in 1994). Then there are the "world changers" who, rather
than withdraw from the world, conclude that they are obliged to change
it in their image, adopting, in the process, a policy of militant activism.
In pursuit of such a policy, most active fundamentalists seem to take
the view that their ends justify almost any means.
commenting on the December 2004 case in which the play - "Bezhti"(cached)
written by Gurpreet
Kaur Bhatti a Sikh playwright caused offence to other Sikhs who,
in turn, made death
against the author and forced the play to close, puts
it thus: (cached)
Opposition to the West's progress towards its liberties has never
been absent; the Counter-Reformation and the counter-Enlightenment
exist today in the form of those who believe that there is a single
right answer to everything, an answer that must be enforced even at
gunpoint if necessary. Their ranks included Nazism and Stalinism in
the 20th century, both premised on a rejection of the Enlighten- ment
principles of democracy and individual liberty; but religion is a
far older and more pervasive opponent, which achieves a more powerful
psychological hold over adherents because it feeds on credulities,
needs and fears, rather than on political abstractions or economic
All fundamentalism is inherently logically opposed to real democracy
as this implies that social policy principles can be decided by means
other than their particular favoured creed or practice. This opposition
is as clear in Stalinist regimes as in Theocracies.
In War, sometimes, of course, the fundamentalism is clearly religious
- as in the Christian Crusades or 9-11. Sometimes it is racist fundamentalism
- like Hitler's visions of the Aryan master race. Sometimes ideological
- Napoleon's attempt at imposing liberte, fraternite and egalite, for
example, the Stalinist purges or the Khmer Rouge civil war in Cambodia.
Often it is what we might call "historical" fundamentalism, whereby
the perpetrators perceive, revive or invent past injustices which must
be avenged - like the Argentinian invasion of the Falkland Islands or
the Hutu genocide against the Tutsis. Occasionally we see opportunistic
fundamentalism. This is straightforward bullying. The invader sees a
weaker target who holds valuable assets or territory and does not appear
to have alliances with any other countries who might intervene to prevent
or repel the attack. The Indonesian
genocide in East Timor (cached)
seems to have been an example of that cynicism [strongly aided (as you'll
read in that link) and abetted by the Australian government with tacit
support from the USA and provisioned, amongst others, by arms sales
from the UK]. The fundamentalism, in all cases, takes the form of declared
infallibility of "the cause". It is inconceivable to the warmonger
that they could, in any important respect, admit - even to themselves
- the possibility that they might be wrong.
Chris Hedges in "War
is a Force That Gives Us Meaning":(cached)
When those who commit crimes do so in the name of the cause, they
often come to terms with the crimes through an ersatz moral relativism.
Facts are trimmed, used and become as interchangeable as opinions...
Destruction of honest inquiry, the notion that one fact is as good
as the next, is one of the most disturbing consequences of war.
If we ever need to explain or justify the importance of philosophy
in human affairs, this would be my core argument:
Fundamentalism is the greatest human threat to human survival.
Fundamentalism is only possible among those who do not understand
the significance of the First
and Second questions or their answers.
No-one who comprehends both those questions and their answers - and
thus internalises the inherent uncertainty in all conclusions we can
reach about the nature of the universe we inhabit - no such philosophically
aware human could possibly sustain any world view which justifies the
actions responsible for initiating a war. Such a person could never
- whilst of sound mind - believe that they were so unequivocally correct
or an enemy so perfectly in error that an unprovoked attack was justifiable.
Just because, however, no truly rational being would start a
war, this does not, of course, imply that no rational being would ever
fight a war. If a rational being is attacked by an irrational
one, it can certainly be a rational decision to defend oneself and that
may entail warfare. The obvious question arises - particularly given
the American invasion of Iraq - can a pre-emptive strike ever be justified?
Philosophically that is not too difficult an issue. If the snake is
poised to strike and escape is not an option, then, regrettably, we
must kill the snake. If there is a rational and empirically verifiable
basis for the belief that you are about to be attacked using weapons
against which you have no certain defence, then the choice is straightforward.
Kill or be killed.
The devil, as they say, is in the detail. The Americans clearly failed
to demonstrate to the world at large - or even to their own people -
any "rational and empirically verifiable basis" for a belief that they
were about to be attacked. In fact, they didn't even argue that they
were about to be attacked, at least not by Iraq. There was never any
prospect of an Iraqi attack and they didn't pretend there was. Their
argument was that Iraq was a hostile regime and could, potentially,
arm terrorist groups who, in turn, were inclined to attack the United
States or its allies.
Is that argument itself beyond reasonable bounds? Not in principle.
Again, it comes down to the "rational and empirically verifiable basis"
for the argument.
That terrorist groups exist with ambitions to attack the US is now
beyond reasonable dispute. It is also fair to observe that relations
between the USA and Iraq had deteriorated to such an extent that had
the regime possessed appropriate materials, it might well have been
inclined to pass them on to such terrorists. Whose fault that is we
needn't resolve. The question is, was there any evidence that Iraq possessed
relevant materials? It does seem that there was at least a prima
facie case (pdf-2mb) for such possession (cached).
What concerned me most, for example, were the stories that Iraq had
manufactured and stockpiled significant quantities of VX
nerve gas. For example, this
story, deals, in a partisan, but nevertheless informative manner,
with the strike against the al Shifa Sudanese pharmaceutical factory
in Khartoum in 1996 while the empire was under Clinton management (cached).
It suggests the recovery of reasonable forensic evidence (unaudited)
of a VX precursor and intercepted phone calls between the Plant managers
and Iraqi scientists. It doesn't discuss whether there were potentially
plausible innocent explanations for such contacts so we are rather pressured
to assume there was no such possibility. It also alleges that at the
time, bin Laden was a secret investor in the company. The Clinton administration
used this "link" to suggest a link between Al Qaeda and Iraq,
though, as the author points out, Iraq may have been blissfully unaware
of bin Laden's involvement.
Such stories have been commonplace since that attack. It was not unreasonable
for we ordinary members of the public to assume that there might be
a foundation to them.
If VX possession had been verified, and Iraq had refused to destroy
the agent verifiably, that alone could, in my view, have been sufficient
to justify a first strike. Given
- the risk that small quantities of such a toxic material could be
easily smuggled out of Iraq and given
- the manner in which Iraq had been pushed into becoming a dedicated
enemy and - never mind the missing links with Al Qaeda - given
- their established
with the Palestinian Intifida and thus
- the risk that at least one major MIFT
terror group may have been "donated" the relevant small
the net threat would be far too high for any potential victim to ignore.
If released from a high building in New York, a single thermos flask
of this material, optimally weaponised, could reasonably be expected
to kill upwards of 10,000 citizens. In an enclosed or partially enclosed
space, like, for example, a large sports stadium, we would expect 80
or 90% of the crowd to die within minutes.
There is no ethical dilemma in pre-empting such a verified threat.
The ethical issues only arise because the threat in this instance was
never sufficiently verified. The responsibility for that is widely shared.
for what appears to be a comprehensive and reasonably balanced summary.
In short, yes, the Americans went off half-cocked and without sufficient
verification, but only after more than a decade of obstructions to proper
inspections (which could have provided proper verification or falsification)
and sanction-busting (which provided illicit weapon making facilities
to the regime) for which other UN members share considerable responsibility.
All hands have blood on them. The Americans merely have more than most.
There is just one other rational basis for initiating hostilities against
someone who has not (yet) attacked you - viz to protect a third party
victim who has
- either been attacked or appears to be in imminent danger of being
attacked and who
- is incapable of defending themselves and
- makes it clearly understood (or is visibly and actively prevented
from so doing) that they would welcome your assistance.
Nevertheless, even when provoked to an act of war by external forces,
I will argue, amongst other things, that any decision - in a rational
society - to respond by going to war can only begin to be truly rational,
or, indeed, truly ethical if it is not just a democratic decision, but
one which commands the much higher level of support required for near
Consensus. There are many strands of argument which support this conclusion
but for now I will limit myself to one. Take, for example, the circumstances
in which a pre-emptive strike is proposed on the basis of either 3rd
party victim defence or imminent danger of direct attack.
Consensus is the only reasonable protection against abuse of that excuse.
Warmongers have routinely claimed to be acting on behalf
of 3rd party victims with little or no justification. Similarly
there are many cases prior to the recent invasion of Iraq, in which
the invader has claimed, without proof, that the victim of their attack
had malicious aggressive intent. They have often even staged attacks
from the alleged enemy to provide a pretext for their military response.
Such "False Flag" attacks have been raised much higher in
public consciousness since 9-11, because many conspiracy theorists argue
that 9-11 is the mother and father of all false flag attacks. Part of
their argument is to take great delight in reminding us all of just
how many other such deceits have been carried out just by the American
Government. They have, at least, eliminated the argument that Governments
don't behave like that. And if the so called "liberal democracy"
of the world's leading nation can behave like that, it doesn't take
much imagination to realise what the others can get up to.
The requirement to present the case for such assertions, openly, to
a democratic plebiscite and to persuade the vast (rather than simple)
majority of the people that such dramatic lethal action is necessary
imposes a very high burden of proof on the potential invader.
It is likely that only extraordinary circumstances will persuade an
educated electorate that military invasion is justified. Nevertheless,
there have been examples in our recent history where I am confident
that the required Consensus would have been attainable. Rwanda would
have been a leading contender. Kosova and the Balkans generally a close
second. In 2004 the obvious candidates were the Congo and Sudan. Clearly
the purposes of military intervention by the United Nations or some
force acting in their name in such cases must have nothing to do with
material gain for the invader. Indeed one reasonable prerequisite in
proposing such intervention could be the need to demonstrate that the
invader will not benefit materially from the intervention. If material
benefit is a realistic prospect, then, automatically, we should suspect
and question the motives of the proposers. Be that as it may, I argue
that the requirement to achieve consensus prior to initiating an attack
is a major and necessary obstacle to the arbitrary exercise of power
- particularly including the exercise of military power.
The ethics of Warfare are, therefore, almost secondary to the next
major purpose of this chapter, which is to explain the overwhelming
importance of Consensus in rational societies. Without it, it is doubtful
whether a species aspiring to civilisation can survive for long once
it has reached our level of technological development.
The first but least significant point to make about Consensus
is that because the word will appear in this chapter several dozen times,
it is worth clarifying exactly what we mean by it. If you haven't read
it in previous chapters, you can see our detailed discussion here.
The short hand version is that, from now on, you should understand Consensus
to mean "near Consensus" unless otherwise specified in the text. "Near
Consensus" should, in turn, be taken to mean that, preferably more than
95%, but in no case less than 90%, of "those entitled to vote" have
reached (or, we hope, will reach) agreement on a given policy or question.
Second and most importantly, while it may not be an obvious conclusion,
9-11 made one thing crystal clear, and the (at least) ill advised and
premature US invasion of Iraq has emphasised its importance. It is now
the main aim of this chapter, perhaps the entire book, to explain how
and why it did so and to attempt to seed a Consensus about how to deal
with the historical crisis into which we have been plunged as a result.
Many of us, perhaps naively, thought that the ending of the Cold War
would lead to a prosperous and largely peacable "new world order".
In particular, we would all benefit from the "peace dividend"
- the funds released from the global war effort would now be made available
to tackle global poverty and the gross inequalities between the developed
and undeveloped parts of our world. We were, it is true, beginning to
wonder why it was taking to so long to realise these benefits but we
still had some vague notion that we were still loosely on course.
The Proud Commission of Evil
That illusion was shattered on September 11 2001. We
learned instead that the divisions between us remain as deep as they
ever have been and that the "new" enemy was far more committed
than any previous foe we have faced. Though they are, fortunately, (so
far) lightly armed in comparison to the military forces ranged against
them, they have the advantage of being able to choose the battleground
and, in particular, they are armed with a world view in which their
ends justify any conceivable means of attack against virtually any target.
If we thought that flying loaded passenger planes into tall buildings
broke new bounds, any lingering doubts about how far such fanatics were
prepared to go have since been swept away by the attacks, in 2004, on
school children in Beslan
and the deliberately, even proudly, video recorded beheading of non
combatant hostages and the subsequent publication of those recordings.
The world reacted, understandably, as though this constituted a new
development in warfare. There is, however, nothing new about the killing
of innocents. Even the deliberate killing of innocents is not
new (we needn't look beyond the "Holocaust" for the most egregious
example of that). Nor is boasting about it . Even the scale is
relatively trivial by historical terms. True, Ghengis
Khan, even on a really bad day, probably never managed to slaughter
3,000 non combatants in less than an hour. Even the Nazis couldn't match
that pace (unless you aggregate the output of all their extermination
camps) but did manage to keep up their more modest 12,000 a day at Auschwitz
for for a couple years, almost without a break. And, in the same war
the Americans broke - and still hold - all previous records by killing
nearly 100,000 non combatants in a matter of seconds (cached).
Nor are Suicide
So what then was new about 9-11?
First, it is unlikely that we'll ever know whether the timing and effects
of the attack on the World Trade Centre were brilliantly planned or
accidentally optimised for the killers' purposes. The fact that the
attack on the second tower was broadcast live as it happened was a critical
factor in the subsequent impact of the attacks. As was the live broadcast
of the total collapse of the towers. Either it was all expertly planned
or they had a hell of a lot of luck. If we're to believe the well known
video allegedly showing bin
Laden discussing the attack in the days shortly after 9-11(cached),
they weren't expecting the towers to collapse. If that was true, they
must have seen that as the icing on the cake, the helping hand that
Allah must have lent to show his approval of their plan.
The timing, at least, appears to have been coolly and deliberately
Previous "evildoers" like the Nazis didn't actually want the world
to know what they were up to, and denied it constantly. Some of their
sympathisers are still
denying it today (cached).
In contrast, even the world's best PR team could not have dreamed up
a more efficient way to publicise the attacks on America. Attacking
the Twin Towers 18 minutes apart allowed just enough time to ensure
that enough cameras would respond to the first attack and be in position
to capture the second attack - enough to ensure we all got a ring side
seat - while not allowing enough time for America's sleeping defences
to intercept and prevent it.
Consequently, millions of people in America and around the world would
watch the murder of about a thousand people in real time. Subsequently
we could all see it replayed a thousand times in slow motion and enhanced
detail. They and we would watch, without the filter of an edited recording,
people throwing themselves out of windows a thousand feet up because
they preferred suicide - by smashing themselves on the pavement - to
being burned alive. They would see the icons of Global Capitalism collapse
in on themselves and they would know that this must mean crushing those
who were still inside trying to get out or those who were heroically
trying to rescue those who couldn't save themselves. And don't forget,
from the psychological impact point of view, at the time we were first
watching, the numbers being talked about were not the eventual mercifully
low death toll of "only" 2,645.(cached)
The first news I heard - which was an hour or so after the impacts -
suggested that up to 30,000 might have still been inside when they collapsed.
So what we thought - particularly those watching in real time - was
that we were witnessing the deaths of tens of thousands of fellow humans.
That was new.
Contrast it, for example, with Eddie
Adams iconic image of the Vietnam War (cached)
and try to remember how shocked we all were when we first saw that static
image, after the fact, of a single unarmed man being shot in the head
at point blank range. Forty years later we're watching the deliberate
slaughter of thousands. On Live TV. Compare it again to how squeamish
the Americans become when it comes to (not) showing
some of their own handiwork (cached).
(but let he who is without sin cast the first stone)
The world has simply never experienced such a blatantly public attack
captured for instant replay in such detail. The images, the utterly
clear and unambiguous message of hate and determination which they represent
are beyond anything we've experienced in human history. When we learned
that one tower had been hit by a plane most of us probably thought "what
a horrible accident". When we watched the second plane aiming at
the second tower, we knew, without any pundit or analyst having to explain
it to us, that this was no accident.
It was possibly one of the most traumatic events in history for observers.
Studies since have found considerable evidence
of stress in the US population (cached),
not just where we might expect it (Manhattan) but across the country.
I suspect, if anyone ever went looking, we'd find evidence of stress
around the world. Personally I am reputed to be fairly low on the stress
curve but after watching the replays and news for a few hours that evening,
from the comfort of my own home on the other side of the Atlantic, I
distinctly remember feeling something very close to a panic attack as
the full implications of what we had seen began to sink in.
These people want me dead! Or would do if they knew I existed.
Dead or compliant. If I ever appear on their radar screens, any brief
examination of this website would make it obvious that I am an opponent
of almost everything they stand for (at least in terms of how to manage
society). They clearly don't have a behaviour code which tolerates dissent
from their viewpoint, so, if they are ever in a position to do so, I
must assume they will try to eliminate my opposition; perhaps first
by giving me the opportunity to recant and then, if I refuse, by killing
me and destroying any evidence of my views.
You too are in the firing line, if you show any public signs of agreeing
with the arguments I am making or similar arguments voiced by others.
And, in the eyes of such an irrational foe, evidence of your agreement
might be deduced from something as trivial as the fact that you have
been shown to have visited relevant websites.
Death or compliance. Which will you choose? I hope, if I'm ever
forced to make the choice, that I will have the courage to choose Death
(unless I have a cunning plan...) but I have an even stronger hope that
we can avert my ever having to make that choice!
Although the majority of victims were Americans, the main target was
the WORLD Trade Centre which, by definition, was bound to have representatives
of dozens of nations. This was the first time we'd seen war declared
against almost the human race in total. (Actually the war was declared
several years earlier. (cached)
We just didn't take it seriously until 9-11)
Never in our lives have we watched anyone, anywhere, openly commit
such an unspeakable crime. And never in our history has such an unspeakable
crime been committed with such overt publicity as one of its main aims.
Yes there have been previous terrorist bombings, but never so clinically
- or so successfully - arranged for the benefit of the live media.
In contrast, for example, though we all heard about the much more dramatic
and even more "evil" Tutsi slaughter of the
Hutus in Rwanda; and we all wrung our hands in impotent despair, we
didn't actually see anyone having their head hacked off. And any journalists
who got too close to the action were scared off by homicidal hooligans
who, despite apparently running amok, still had enough presence of mind
to ensure that their evil deeds were relatively well hidden at the time.
That kind of reticence is the norm. Most "evildoers" recognise,
at some level, that what they are doing is beyond the pale and, although
that awareness does nothing to restrain their behaviour, they do at
least "have the decency" to try to hide what they are doing
and subsequently do their best to deny it ever happened and to prevent
all attempts at uncovering the truth. At some time in the near future,
for example, the recently deposed dictator of Iraq will face trial for
the massacre of tens of thousands of his own citizens. We can anticipate
that his defence will be based on a mixture of self justification (they
were "rebels"; we were entitled to hunt them down and kill
them) and denial (I ordered no such thing as the killing of thousands
of women and children). The last thing we can expect to hear is some
proud admission of the crimes.
No State Shall,during War, Permit Such Acts of Hostility Which
Would Make Mutual Confidence in the Subsequent Peace Impossible: Such
Are the Employmentof Assassins , Poisoners, Breach of Capitulation,
and Incitement to Treason in the Opposing State"
These are dishonorable stratagems. For some confidence in the
character of the enemy must remain even in the midst of war, as otherwise
no peace could be concluded and the hostilities would degenerate into
a war of extermination.
Emmanual Kant - Perpetual
Peace 1795 (cached)
That hits the nail right on its head. Any enemy prepared to launch
attacks like 9-11 clearly isn't interested in, eventually, negotiating
a peace treaty. It is clearly intent on a war of extermination. If they
cannot be dissuaded, or detained and safely restrained, we may be forced
to exterminate them first.
With the new enemy, the rules have changed. Rather than hide their
horrors, they parade them. Their philosophy
so far as it can be called philosophy) starts with Qutb's
interpretations and moves on to defend and advocate the extreme
behaviour. For example:
- "People cannot be made obedient except with the sword!
The sword is the key to Paradise, which can be opened only for holy
- "We believe in the principle of establishing Sharia,(cached)
even if this means the death of all mankind,"
- "we issue the following fatwa to all Muslims: the ruling
to kill the Americans and their allies - civilian and military - is
an individual duty for every Muslim who can do it in any country in
which it is possible to do it."
In 2004, video recordings of inevitably slow, clumsy and inefficient
decapitations (presumably they'll get better with practice) became the
new "norm" - if you wanted to download the gruesome images
from the web (I'm not going to link to them, find them yourself if you're
that keen!). I predict that, sometime in the next couple of years, MIFT
will engineer some kind of event to which the live media will be drawn
innocently expecting something other than what they will actually witness.
They might, perhaps, expect a news conference. What they will get will
be the real time beheading of a prominent hostage or perhaps some other
nightmarish scene of slaughter. Why? Because they have seen how much
more powerful the effect of the live images has been in comparison to
anything recorded or merely reported. If they can guarantee a live audience,
they achieve the same kind of benefit they got from the media on and
after 9-11. They massively amplify their message. As Mary Kaldor
...their violence is itself a form of political mobilisation.
It is grisly, spectacular and designed for the media age. Whereas
classical terrorists tended to attack strategic targets – such as
important officials, telephone towers, or power stations – the new
terrorists carry out mass killings, suicide bombings, or hideous atrocities
like video-beheadings in order to gain and shape public attention
and project their call to a holy war. (link)
So, if you're looking for what's new in MIFT tactics, it is, first,
the abandonment of the "rules of war" and, second, skillfull use of
the media to promote awareness of their campaign of unashamed, no holds
barred, pure unadulterated terrorism.
Recognising, quite rationally, that they cannot match the military might
of their opponents, they choose to go for the psychological jugular.
Frighten the population (that's us in the west AND Moslems not already
living under Shariah
- which is most of them) into forcing our governments to concede their
So far, their strategy is working remarkably well and probably beyond
their wildest expectations. By the end of 2004:
From being a disconnected rabble of disparate Islamic militant
groups, a dominant paradigm had emerged which has changed the agenda,
direction and tactics of Islamic militancy. Where most had been
generally focussed internally on achieving Shariah within their
own countries, they transformed to being largely externally focussed
on the common enemy, the corrupting influence of the non Islamic
world, particularly the western democracies, particularly the United
From a few hundred jihadis in the training camps of Afghanistan,
Sudan, the Phillipines etc they had become a few tens of thousands
spread widely around the middle east and Asia. The conflicts in
Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan and the poverty in North Africa appeared
to be recruiting more to their cause than America's military efforts
They had forced the whole world to take them seriously
They had succeeded in pushing the world's remaining superpower,
who still - proudly and largely without recognising any irony -
called themselves the Land of the Free very close to becoming
With regard to that last measure of success, however, it must be said
that they were pushing at an open door.
and the Religious
Right - America's Fundamentalists
Assuming, for the time being at least, that we don't buy into the major
(and notably not yet satisfactorily "debunked") conspiracy
which alleges that the US Government - specifically led by Dick Cheney
- was either directly responsible for 9-11 or at least permitted it
to happen, we can further assume that the neo-conservatives
and religious right obviously
didn't welcome the slaughter of 3000 of their fellow citizens, including
their own husbands, wives, parents, children, friends and other loved
ones. But they did unhesitatingly seize the opportunity - the excuse
of 9-11 - to impose, on their citizens and visitors to their country,
many of the procedures and restrictions we normally only associate with
totalitarian states. They had even launched attacks not so much on "freedom
of speech" (which is sacred even amongst the religious right),
but against the speakers who dared to utter certain lines of
thought. By the end of 2004, they had already imposed surveillance systems
the East German Stasi could only dream about. They had already restricted
freedoms in areas well beyond the legitimate bounds of government.
Three years after 9-11 they still held more than a thousand people
in their jails without charge and without the benefits of the most basic
legal rights such as habeas
corpus. Add this to their long running war against personal autonomy
known as "the war on drugs" (about which much more in the next chapter)
and their 2004 tally of political prisoners ran to over
half a million (pdf)(more than 25% of the total)(cached).
Not quite on a par with the worst periods of the Soviet system
or the Chinese, but deeply disturbing for a country which genuinely
sees itself as the beacon of freedom in the modern world without,
apparently, experiencing cognitive dissonance.
Close Links between the "enemy" Fundamentalists
Another novel feature of the conflict takes the form of a number of
disturbing links between the leadership of the two sides of the war.
"Fahrenheit 911" is a hyperbolic - but often accurate - presentation
of some of the business and political links between leading Republicans
(particularly the Bush family) and the Saudi leaders, including the
bin Laden family. He does not mention, however, the deeper - and much
more disturbing - philosophical links. Both sides are led by religious
fundamentalists. Both have a medieval approach to morality. Both sides
share common values across a wide range of social issues.
Both share a psychotic level of conviction in their own moral rectitude.
The parallels have been closely documented by Adam Curtis' autumn 2004
Power of Nightmares" broadcast by the BBC.
Most alarmingly, as Curtis documents, both antagonists reached the
same conclusion about their respective audiences. The Islamic fundamentalists
decided - in line with the logic of Takfirism
- after failing to ignite popular uprisings against western inspired
anti-Islamic corruption in Algeria, Egypt, Sudan and elsewhere, that
the Moslem people themselves had already been corrupted by western influences
- and, therefore, had made themselves legitimate targets for the increasingly
psychopathic campaign of violence and intimidation. Similarly, having
failed (when Clinton was elected) to persuade their people that America's
task was to be the standard bearer for "Good" against "Evil" on the
World Stage, the Neocons,
too, concluded that the people themselves were "wrong". They embarked
on a campaign to discredit the incumbent Democrat President at
any cost - even, some
would argue, the theft of an election (cached).
Eventually, for them, 9-11 became the convenient "proof" of the existence
of Evil which it was their god given task to oppose.
The two sides may or may not be aware of their close links, but the
Neocons and Religious Right
certainly have far more, philosophically, in common with Ayman
al-Zawahiri (the Islamic disciple of Sayyid Qutb who persuaded bin
Laden to finance the Jihad)(cached)
than with me, most of my readers, or, come to that, I hope, most Americans.
Conspiratorialists would probably suspect that they are aware of these
links and share a common agenda, while those of us who see the protagonists
as, essentially, psychologically unstable, would not be surprised if
they had not yet recognised their deep similarities.
Shared Opposition to Democracy
Personally, however, I believe that, ultimately, even without a conspiracy,
their shared values will eventually lead the protagonists to form a
common front against what we might call "secular autonomists"; those
of us who share the kind of values this book promotes where the sole
constraint on personal behaviour is "do nothing to any 3rd
party without their free and informed consent" and any rules on
wider social interaction are decided at least by large democratic majorities
and preferably by Consensus.
As Curtis points out, the very notion of deciding major behavioural
moral issues on the basis of plebiscite rather than theological doctrine
is the very heart of the problem. It is exactly what the Islamic fundamentalists
(such as Qutb) used as their evidence that the west is the source of
the corruption in Islam, as a few autocracies began to introduce the
limited western model democracies. By (their) definition, anyone participating
in an election either as voter or candidate was effectively committing
- turning their back on their religion and denying the validity of the
Koran. Why? Because the implication of democracy is that moral matters
can be decided by the people, rather than the clear word of their god.
Some fundamentalists argue that the the Koran specifically permits -
even advocates - the killing of Moslems who break the faith. And denying
the primacy of the Koran - in all matters - is a serious breach of the
faith. Rarely has this view been voiced
so explicitly as by the Islamic fundamentalists publicly threatening
participants in the January 30 2005 election in Iraq (cached).
Those who participate in this dirty farce will not be sheltered
from the blows of the mujahedeen
Democracy is a word of Greek origin meaning the sovereignty of the
people... this concept is considered apostasy, contrary to the doctrine
of one God and Sharia
To be fair, though, at least they're honest about their position. They
object to democracy because it implies that a majority opinion can outweigh
the opinion - the divine guidance - of their holy book. That isn't a
rational position, but it is at least a clear and honest position. Their
anti- democratic credentials are not exclusive to Islamic fundamentalists.
As John Cornwell documents in "The
Pope in Winter", the Catholic pontiff, John Paul, tried to insert
his god into the European constitution and, despite his noteworthy campaign
for freedom on behalf of his native Poles and those suffering elsewhere
under earlier communist regimes, his later attitude to freedom was somewhat
ambiguous; essentially being limited to the "search for the truth" -
where the truth is defined very much as the truth preached by his own
The American Religious Right, of course, are hoping to incorporate
some of their prejudices into their own constitution. So religious
groups generally feel that Democracy isn't fully capable of making decisions
in line with their preconceptions. But even secular elites won't trust
the masses to decide more than who gets to make the real decisions.
Otherwise most European states would still have capital punishment for
example. So although only Takfirists, so far, however, have considered
that killing potential voters is the obvious means of preventing democracy
making the wrong decisions, most of the world is still governed by those
who have used less drastic means to achieve similar limitations.
By contrast with that honest - albeit disgustingly violent - religious
rejection of democracy, or the confused denial by those who sincerely
believe that what we've got already is democracy, the Neocons
entire strategy is based on a philosophy of deception. Their mentor,
Leo Strauss, was a latter day Machiavellian and Platonist. The main
lessons he appears to have imparted included the following (these are
not quotations, they are paraphrased from an informative
Drury, an acknowledged expert on Straussian philosophy:)
- The natural order (the food chain) is the morally correct order.
What IS thus dictates what OUGHT. Observance of the natural world
clearly demonstrates that "might is right".
- Justice is merely the interests of those who hold power enshrined
in the rules they make to protect their position. (an
analysis from which Karl Marx would not dissent. But he would argue
that this is a crime and should be challenged.)
- Secrecy, Lies and Deception are essential tools for the exercise
and maintenance of power.
- Fear is an excellent means of control
- So are myths, including religion.
- politics is a conflict between mutually hostile groups willing
to fight each other to the death
- humanity depends on man's willingness to rush naked into battle
and headlong to his death
- Perpetual war is an ideal state. Only perpetual war can overturn
the "modern project"
- the history of western civilisation has led to the triumph of
the inferior, the rabble
- Whatever can be done to bring the masses along is legitimate.
If you can use democracy to turn the masses against their own liberty,
this is a great triumph.
I'm assuming I don't need to waste your time or mine debunking that
cynical patrician approach. If you were remotely inclined to agree with
it, it is highly unlikely you'd be reading it here.
As an atheist, he argues that, in the absence of God, morality has
no absolute basis; with which, of course, I agree; that's a major focus
of this book:- How to make rational rules we can all agree on in the
absence of divine or other absolute authority. The conclusion he reaches,
however, is somewhat different to my own, viz: that "the wise" must
fill this vaccuum and steer the masses in the right direction. (I discuss
Strauss' philosophy in more detail in Part
1 of Chapter 7)
The Medieval Mindset
The obvious connection between Qutb and Strauss is their agreement
that the common people are not capable of making decisions in their
own interest. Qutb's logic is religious. Strauss is simply a narrow
minded elitist. They are both examples of the medieval mindset.
Both believe that only an appropriate authority can make the "correct"
decisions needed to maintain a civilised society. Qutb's authority is
his distorted reading of the Koran and the only decisions required are
how to decide which part of that scripture applies to a given situation.
Strauss's authorities are appropriately selected and trained Platonist
disinterested wise leaders who are capable of acting in the best interests
of society. Both agree that their ends justifies almost any means. The
chief difference is that, while MIFT
are prepared, violently, to bludgeon opponents into submission proudly
and openly, the neocons cannot afford that luxury because, like it or
not, even the limited form of democracy they work under is sufficient
to remove them from power if they offend their electorate. They are
forced, therefore, to adopt more subtle means of manipulation.
Manipulation of Public Opinion
This manipulation takes two forms. First the ownership and control
of the mass media as spelt out in considerable detail by Noam Chomsky.
Everything he tells us in "Manufacturing
Consent" is even more relevant in 2004 than it was when he published
it in 1988. Essentially by controlling the agenda, the boundaries of
debate and who is allowed to be heard (and for how long), the media
moulds western society - America in particular - into the docile form
required to sustain the capitalist political economies. We keep expecting
the internet to change things in this regard because the web allows
intelligent motivated citizens to bypass the establishment channels.
Unfortunately, although almost
2/3rds (pdf) (cached)
of American citizens now have web access, as that report reveals, to
date only 29% have yet begun to consult, regularly, online web based
news sources.(But it is growing, slowly) The vast majority (83%) in
America, for example,still rely on Local or Network TV News for their
view of the world (cached).
The second form of manipulation is "the
the straightforward invention or distortion of evidence, or the promotion
of conclusions as though they are based on evidence. This is the grande
version of the "some say" unattributable rumour technique routinely
used on Fox News to imply that authoritative sources believe something
that Fox wishes either to promote or challenge. (Watch Outfoxed).
It involves the simple assertion that there is evidence or expert consensus
that x or y is the case - despite the complete absence of such evidence
or consensus - combined with attacks on the personalities and motives
of opponents (rather than their arguments) with the intention of promoting
an emotional, rather than intellectual, response in a docile audience.
Donald Rumsfeld is an old hand at the relevant techniques.
Curtis documents the cold war episode in the mid 70s following the
signing of the first ABM treaty where the early neocons - including,
most prominently, Senor Rumsfeld - had convinced themselves that the
Soviets weren't acting in good faith. They were certain (irrationally
- they had no empirical evidence) that the Russians were devoting increasing
resources to developing the upper hand in the nuclear arms race. For
B" convinced itself that the Russians had developed sophisticated
anti-submarine detection technology in contravention of the treaty.
The CIA consistently and categorically denied any basis for such beliefs.
Team B reviewed the evidence and were reluctantly forced to agree with
the experts view that there was no evidence to sustain their belief.
Did they behave rationally and drop the charges? No. They concluded
that the absence of evidence "proved" that the Soviets must have developed
technology so advanced that the Americans were unable to detect it!
They said it loud enough and often enough, and poured sufficient vitriol
on those who challenged their childlike lie, that when Reagan was elected
the B Team became the A Team and their paranoid vision of reality became
official US Policy. (You have to absorb Chomsky to understand how the
media collaborated in this deception)
When Bush junior was inaugurated in January 2000, the neocons came
to power obsessed with Sadam Hussein and looking for ways to justify
going to war against him to finish off the job Bush's father had chosen
not to complete the first time around. They claim to have been convinced
that Saddam had stockpiles of Chemical, Biological and possible even
"Nukuler" weapons. All the experts, from the United Nations weapons
inspectorate to their own intelligence agencies, agreed that there was
no evidence of such stockpiles. The most they could sustain was that
Iraq had not properly accounted for the weapons listed after the end
of the first war. Following 9-11, the neocons first reaction was to
bomb Iraq. Richard Clark had to point out that there was, again,
no evidence that Iraq had any connection with the attacks and that what
little evidence there was pointed much more clearly to MIFT.
The neocons reluctantly had to permit the prime target to be Afghanistan.
But this did not deter them from insisting that there must be a link
between Saddam and Al Qaeda. (Ironically, had they merely insisted on
a link between Iraq and MIFT, they would have been on firm ground. It
has been widely known for some years that Iraq has funded Hezbollah
and other Palestinian groups; but the alleged link specifically to AQ
simply didn't exist - or, to be more precise, no evidence of such a
link has yet surfaced). However:
Rumsfeld was so determined to obtain a rationale for an attack
on Iraq that on 10 separate occasions he asked the CIA to find evidence
linking Iraq to 9/11; the CIA repeatedly came back empty-handed (Time
magazine, May 13, 2002).
of Special Plans (wiki)
So, once again, they set up their own Straussian team to "review"
the evidence available to the experts. The "Office of Special Plans"
(OSP) was tasked with undermining the CIA caution about alleging any
Their methods included:
Karen Kwiatkowski (now a retired Lieutenant Colonel who worked closely
with the OSP in the Pentagon in the run up to the second Iraq War) reveals
in detail some examples and consequences of this approach. You will
no doubt be familiar with the following claims made by Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld,
Perle and others, all allegedly supported by the Intelligence. Kwiatkowski's
comments are in italics:
- use of partisan sources (Iraq defectors)
- selective use of intelligence
- invention of intelligence
- selective suppression and distortion of intelligence
- bypassing peer review within the Intel community
- removal of key personnel with relevant expertise if they were known
not to toe the party line
- replacement with placemen who were known to support the party line
- direct contradiction of professional expert consensus
- Saddam Hussein had gassed his neighbors, abused his people, and
was continuing in that mode, becoming an imminently dangerous threat
to his neighbors and to us -- except that none of his neighbors
or Israel felt this was the case.
- Saddam Hussein had harbored al-Qaida operatives and offered and
probably provided them with training facilities -- without mentioning
that the suspected facilities were in the U.S./Kurdish-controlled
part of Iraq.
- Saddam Hussein was pursuing and had WMD of the type that could be
used by him, in conjunction with al-Qaida and other terrorists, to
attack and damage American interests, Americans and America -- except
the intelligence didn't really say that.
- Saddam Hussein had not been seriously weakened by war and sanctions
and weekly bombings over the past 12 years, and in fact was plotting
to hurt America and support anti-American activities, in part through
his carrying on with terrorists -- although here the intelligence
said the opposite.
- His support for the Palestinians and Arafat proved his terrorist
connections, and basically, the time to act was now.
Senator Carl Levin (Senate Armed Services Committee) performs an even
of the OSP "assessments" a summary of which was leaked, in
what some regard as a sign of Neocon desperation, and became the basis
for the infamous Weekly Standard "exclusive" provocatively
Levin's report even includes (see page 20) the spectacularly relevant:
Taken to its logical extreme, this argument implies that absence
of evidence may in fact be evidence itself – that the fact that
no evidence can be found is an indication that evidence exists but
is being hidden.
It doesn't even matter what evidence was being talked about. What we
have here is the classic hallmark of the Neocon approach to the "facts".
If the facts don't support your preconceptions, then - either - change
the facts, ignore the facts, or change
the people (cached)
who are supposed to report them.
Democracy - the real thing, that is, not the sham version we're stuck
with - will be a major impediment to this kind of manipulation. This
is the major reason why secular elites - who have their own interests
to promote - are just as keen as religious fundamentalists to continue
to resist the evolution of democracy.
The democratic approach is also fundamentally opposed to - and by -
the religious approach to social decision making based on doctrine and
alleged divinely inspired writings. Fundamentalist religion leaves no
room for personal autonomy or democracy - other than distorted versions
of the already limited elective dictatorships we currently suffer. To
the religious opponent of homosexual practice or intoxication, for instance,
they are "evil" and should not be permitted regardless of how many citizens
vote to allow it. Their classification of "evil", in the case of such
behaviour, is not based on harm caused to non- consenting victims -
as it might be, legitimately, for instance, in relation to theft, murder
or rape - but on alleged disapproval of their deity as documented in
the Old Testament. Unlike rational beliefs, these opinions are seldom
open to rational discussion.
The Final War
The Final War humanity is beginning to fight is thus likely to be the
grand battle for the soul of our species. It will be between theists
and straussians who wish to retain control of what people can do and
think and the rest of us who wish to obtain/regain/retain control of
what we do and think entirely on an individual basis (subject to the
sole constraint mentioned previously). I believe that war has
already started; not on September 11 2001, nor even with the first attempt
at destroying the World Trade Centre back in 1993. One can argue that
its seeds go back centuries or even millenia, but I think we will eventually
acknowledge the first battle in the final war was triggered by the obscene
injustice which accompanied the creation of the State of Israel in 1948.
That conflict has been steadily escalating ever since. Oh, and as I
mentioned in chapter 5,
though clearly I don't practise any religion, I am genetically Jewish
and lost some 46 members of my extended family in the holocaust. I say
this just in case anyone wrongly assumes that I'm likely to be anti-semitic.
(which would, in any case, imply I was anti arab as much as anti jew.
Both are semites.)
The Final War will determine the fate of humanity. If the controlling
tendency wins, the outlook for the species is bleak. If autonomy wins,
the outlook for controllers is bleak (at least for their ability to
exert control). With such high stakes we can and must anticipate the
most extreme levels of violence and dedication. 9-11 demonstrated the
kind of commitment we can expect. Get used to it.
What appears to be driving MIFT
is, first, a number of genuine grievances which begin with the illicit
and un-compensated expulsion of millions of Arabs from their Palestinian
homes and territory to make way for the State of Israel. Though Jews
were the prime beneficiaries of this crime, the responsibility for the
crime itself seems to belong firmly to the then fledgling United Nations
who clearly had no idea what problems they were about to cause. Those
grievances and crimes have grown to insane proportions in the decades
since. The Arabs made the initial strategic blunder of trying to deny
the right of Israel to exist - which ensured not only that they would
attract little sympathy from the rest of the world but that the new
State would have every incentive to make itself a regional military
superpower, albeit with considerable help from its American backers.
Secondly, however, the legitimate MIFT grievances have become the fuel
which drives a particularly brand of militant religious extremism. They
are further assisted by what appears (to this non scholar of Islam)
to be a highly contentious, possibly even insane, interpretation of
Islamic philosophy which has its roots in the writings of Sayyid Qutb,
who was executed by the Egyptians in 1967. His flame, however, was preserved
by the man reputed to be the prime spiritual adviser to one Osama Bin
Laden: Sheik Abdul Ayman Asawahari. He took Qutb's arguments for killing
"legitimate" targets (like head of state Nasser) and expanded them to
endorsement for the killing of any Moslem who didn't practice their
religion in their "approved" fashion. And, of course, non moslems were
always fair game.
These were fairly major changes in the "rules". Combine that with the
clearly demonstrated willingness to commit suicide whenever that is
necessary to press home the attack and you have an enemy far more dangerous
than a rabid dog. They will attack any target of any size at any time
with any weapon. There is no constraint on their actions. Not even the
certain death of their own comrades will deter them.
Incidentally, despite the obvious atheist and, indeed, anti-religious
position taken by this book, it is only fair and entirely necessary
to point out that this new phenomenon is not - as the many anti islamic
hate sites profess - a natural consequence of any reasonable interpretation
of Islam. (Check out Islam
Online for a more accurate - or at least more mainstream - picture
of the Islamic world view) Nevertheless, the world's most dangerous
terrorists appear, today, to be almost exclusively Moslem. That is bound
to have an impact on the way their religion is seen globally. That impact
can only be countered by opposing messages from within the Islamic community.
Meanwhile, there are those of us who spend a great deal of time "following
the future". We are keenly aware of the pace of technological progress
and its implications, both positive and negative. In that context, this
"new" threat takes on a new dimension. We've had militant
terrorism since at least Irgun's efforts prior to the establishment
of Israel. We've seen the IRA, the Red Brigades, Baader Meinhof, the
PLO, ETA, Tamil Tigers, the Sandenistas and on and on. Some are still
with us today. Each has their agenda and a spectrum of tactics they
were prepared to adopt in pursuit of their goals. Some could even be
said to have held global vision of their aims on a par with the new
threat. In the late 60s and early 70s there was still a rump of Marxist
based "revolutionaries" who believed in much the same domino
theory as the cold war Americans, albeit on a different scale. Their
task was to be the nudge that got the revolution going and made the
first dominoes fall. That's not a million miles apart from the MIFT
What's the difference, then, between Baader
Meinhof and MIFT?
My guess is that even those who killed for Baader Meinhof, the IRA,
ETA and all the others were as horrified as we were by 9-11. (Someone
should conduct a survey!)
Think about that for a while.
If I'm right and all previous classes of terrorist reacted to 9-11
like "normal" human beings, what does that tell us about a)
those quaintly old fashioned and relatively harmless previous generation
of terrorists and b) about this generation.
The IRA campaign stuck to strictly military, political or strategic targets
for the first few years. Then they became disillusioned because it wasn't
working, So they widened their target range to include sites which inevitably
included civiliians. They killed
four soldiers and one civilian in a pub in Guildford (cached)
targeted because it was known that the pub was frequented by off-duty
soldiers. That, however, turned out to be just the opening salvo. One
of their number killed himself while planting a bomb in the middle of
Coventry. The government imposed a ban on a local funeral. Allegedly in
retaliation for this, the bombers then targeted two
pubs in Birmingham (cached)
and killed 21 teenagers having a good night out.
The revulsion this caused around the world caused the Provisional IRA
fund raising effort in the United States to collapse. They got the message.
(Evidence that market forces do work, even on Terrorists!) Although
subsequent bombings did kill civilians, they were never again the deliberate
target. (and, in November 2004, 30 years later, we saw the first hint
that the IRA might
admit they were wrong (cached)
and apologise) (The only subsequent deliberate attack on civilians was
carried out by a splinter group - the "Real
IRA" - who did not accept the woolly liberalism of their erstwhile
The ethical differences between the two generations of terrorists are
not just differences of degree. The previous generation had no desire
for Armageddon and tried to be selective in their choice of target.
The current generation accept that Armageddon might be necessary and
even desirable, and are prepared to provoke it.
The practical difference between this generation and that one is that
there is no message akin to the IRA's loss of funding - which could
be passed to MIFT with the same enlightening effect. No similar influential
peer group exists to whom they will listen. Indeed, opposition from
the Arab "street" would only confirm their view that the Islamic world
is already corrupt and in desperate need of their violent salvation.
The only authorities they recognise are the select few imams whose version
of Islam they are living to the letter.
It simply wouldn't have occurred to Baader or Meinhof to commit an
act like 9-11.
First, while they might have agreed that the occupants of the twin
towers were prime beneficiaries and representatives of the capitalist
system they sought to destroy, they didn't dehumanise them and think
of them simply as prime targets. Nor, indeed, did they see death and
physical destruction as being necessary preconditions for the destruction
of capitalism. That some destruction and death might be required was
a regrettable necessity and they felt they were justified in making
such a judgement. But their whole concept of terrorism was a much more
genteel version than MIFT. They were prepared to kill a handful to frighten
millions and spark a general uprising. There is no obvious reason -
in the MIFT world view - why the majority of humanity should not be
eliminated to ensure that only the pure Moslem survives.
Second, and more pragmatically, "traditional terrorists"
recognised the revulsion such attacks would produce within the minds
of their target audience - "the working class proletariat"
- and understood that this would dramatically undermine their support.
MIFT believe the exact opposite: that only violence and revulsion will
be sufficient to shock their target audience (the Islamic World) into
supporting their brand of fundamentalism.
Third, Baader Meinhof members were atheists who could not kid themselves
that they would benefit, personally, from martyrdom by waking up in
paradise. That's not to say that atheists aren't capable of becoming
suicide bombers. Indeed the first and - until the recent wave of over
500 suicide attacks (free reg required) (cached)
by MIFT in Iraq - leading exponents of terrorist suicide bombings were/are
atheists - the Tamil
Tigers. They are quite remarkable in this respect. Their suicide
can only be understood as a form of genuine altruism: personal self
sacrifice for the good of the survivors. Regardless of whether we approve
their killing of other human beings (and, as far as I've been able to
research, although they have often killed innocent victims, they have
always aimed at what, in war terms, are legitimate targets; military
or political leaders) we must admit to a sneaking respect for human
beings who have been prepared to give their lives in pursuit of a benefit
they know they will never enjoy and never even bear witness to.
Indeed, the only reason we find it difficult to feel the same admiration
for the courage of the 9-11 hijackers (though, obviously, not their
actions) is that, as acknowledged religious fanatics, their motives
were clearly not as pure and selfless as the Tamils. If they genuinely
believed in their own life after death in an environment which, by all
religious accounts, is supposed to be vastly superior to the one we
inhabit, then they could hardly be said to be making any kind of sacrifice
at all. They were making a leap of faith, certainly. But they were relying
on there being a safety net at the other end of their leap.
In any case, no other terrorist organisation has produced anyone as
unselfishly committed as the Tamil Tigers nor with religious convictions
as deep as MIFT. The Tigers' rational choice of targets makes them a
formidable foe and a major threat to their enemies in Sri Lanka. By
no stretch of the imagination, however, are they a threat to the entire
Nor, frankly, are MIFT. Yet. But unlike the Tigers, they would like
to be. They are prepared to do whatever it takes to change the world
into something of which they approve. And the problem with that is obvious.
Most of the rest of us wouldn't share their vision of what constitutes
a world worthy of approval.
Over a large number of fundamental issues, there are no possible compromises
between fundamentalists and rational beings.
Where is the option for compromise between permitting Abortion and
forbidding it. The continuing opposition to Stem Cell research shows
that the anti-autonomists will never accept any level of abortion. They
have already shown that they are prepared to kill in that cause, and
in the nearest they get to a suicide bomber, they have anti-abortion
terrorist Paul Hill. The Reverend Paul Hill, who turned himself
in after killing Dr John Britten and James Barrett (it seems only fair
to mention their names, if we're mentioning his. Like the 3000 victims
of 9-11, they deserve to be - but sadly won't be - remembered for much
longer than their killers).
Hill looked forward to the martyrdom his death would bring and the
encouragement this would provide for others to take similar actions.
"a great reward in heaven" (cached).
So, again, like MIFT suicide bombers, even if you approve his choice
of target, his attack and self sacrifice cannot be seen to be altruistic.
He has been described as a dangerous psychopath (same link). But that
is doubtful in my view. I do not get the impression that he could, for
example, have launched, or even wished to launch, an attack on the scale
of 9-11 even if an appropriate target had presented itself (say - an
imaginary conference of thousands of Abortionists perhaps) Something
in him would have recognised that such an attack would have been excessive.
Even if he personally wished to carry out such an attack, he probably
would have understood that the public reaction to it would have been
to bury his side of the argument for ever. Indeed, it is widely argued
that his actions are responsible for the much lower profile of the anti-abortion
lobby ever since. Having said that, they showed up in time to make history
by getting the catholic bishops to advocate one of the candidates -
for the first time ever - in the 2004 Presidential election. Kerry is
a lifelong catholic and personally opposes abortion, Bush is a Born
Again protestant who has authorised the execution of over 100 of his
own citizens and authorised the military action responsible for the
deaths of more than 50,000 innocent civilians, so its obvious which
they nominated. Right?
Right! One year after opposing
the War (cached)
they were now right in the middle of, the catholic pro-lifers nominated
the serial killer because he promised to make abortion illegal. Kerry's
the wimp who believes such decisions are deeply personal choices. This
is not, however, limited to or even focussed on the trivial squabble
between Republicans and "Democrats". Both contain and mostly
represent the controlling tendency.
This - final - War is the war between Self Control and Group Control;
between those of us who want individuals to control the State (while
it continues to exist) and those who prefer the State to control the
In the next part of this chapter, we will explore the reasons we cannot
dismiss either the immediate threat represented by MIFT or the even
more serious threat of growing authoritarianism arising from the inept
handling of that terrorist threat.
End of Part 1. (Last Content Edit Jan 2005)(links fixed June
had enough punishment,
take me to Part 2 now...