7 August 2005
Cui Bono: Groupthink vs Thinking the Unthinkable?
Reframing the suffocating consensus in response to 7/7
- / -
Learning from the 9/11 response: groupthink and failure of imagination
Learning from different levels of response to "terrorist
Learning from the past: here we go again?
Learning from "al-Qaida" as a source of terrorism
Learning from premature closure and proximate causes
Learning from presumptions of "guilt by association"
[also separate version
Learning from manipulative framing of "terrorism":
Learning from metaphors of "war" and "terrorism":
Learning from alternative metaphors framing terrorism?
Learning from ongoing misframed "wars"
1 and 2) [also separate
Learning from the unthinkable: movies and infotainment
Learning from the unthinkable: historical evidence
Learning from the unthinkable: current events
Learning from denial and the the reframing of reality in relation
Learning from the "faith-based" manipulation of evidence
Learning from the unthinkable: lifestyle choices
Learning from ideological intransigence
Learning from avoidance of dialogue -- at any cost
Who benefits? Making the menu of options transparent
Conditions for doing the unthinkable?
This is an effort to bear witness to the manner in which the response to the
London Underground terrorist incident of 7 July 2005 ("7/7") is framed
in the light of the lessons of 9/11 and thereafter. The concern is that lessons
from previous incidents and subsequent investigations and revelations have been
poorly learnt. The Latin term "Cui
Bono?" (Who Benefits?) in the above title derives from the much-cited
practice of a judge in Imperial Rome, cited by Cicero
and by Thomas Hobbes
Cicero maketh honourable mention of one of the Cassii, a severe judge amongst
the Romans, for a custom he had in criminal causes, when the testimony of
the witnesses was not sufficient, to ask the accusers, cui bono;
that is to say, what profit, honour, or other contentment the accused obtained
or expected by the fact. For amongst presumptions, there is none that so evidently
declareth the author as doth the benefit of the action.
One application of this to 9/11 (Catherine Austin Fitts, 9/11:
Cui Bono?) ranked this as the "most unasked question" in
relation to the subsequent investigations by various authorities. Curiously,
by 16 July 2005, the question did not figure in a checklist of six questions
relating to the investigation of 7/7 (cf Speculations
and hypotheses as investigators search for answers).
With unusual rapidity, subsequent to 7/7, articles bearing the title "Cui
Bono?" were posted on the web on 7, 8 and 9 July. It is appropriate to
note that the philosopher Thomas Hobbes, responsible for the above citation,
through Leo Strauss, is one of the prime philosophical influences on the American
neocons (Earl Shorris. Ignoble
liars: Leo Strauss, George Bush, and the philosophy of mass deception
Harper's Magazine, June 2004). Like Hobbes, Strauss believed that fundamental
aggressiveness of human nature could be restrained only through a powerful state
based on nationalism. "Because mankind is intrinsically wicked, he has to be
governed... Such governance can only be established, however, when men are united
-- and they can only be united against other people" (Jim Lobe. Strong
Must Rule the Weak, said Neo-Cons' Muse).
The discussion that follows is based on the value premise that terrorism of
all forms is reprehensible and incompatible with a civilization that claims
to be advanced and enlightened. Sympathy and compassion for all that suffer
thereby is essential. However this discussion is not limited to the "terror"
caused by others on those of "my culture" and "my way of life". It extends to
the terror caused by "my culture" on those of others (possibly with my inadvertent
complicity). It includes the terror caused within my culture by those of my
culture -- even when the perpetrators are not legally defined as "terrorists".
It is to these forgotten victims of terror that this discussion is dedicated.
The concern here is with the actions of any people whose compassion does not
extend beyond their own and who are cold-hearted in their total indifference
to the suffering that they so inadvertently inflict on others.
#1. Learning from the 9/11 response: groupthink and failure
Investigations into the "global intelligence failure" relating to 9/11
and Iraq (cf Report
on the U.S. Intelligence Community's Pre-War Assessments on Iraq
, 9 July
2004; Lord Butler's Review
of Intelligence of Weapons of Mass Destruction
, 13 July 2004) highlighted
- Groupthink: This was originally defined as "a mode of thinking
that people engage in when they are deeply involved in a cohesive in-group,
when the members' strivings for unanimity override their motivation to realistically
appraise alternative courses of action". It describes a process by which a
group can make bad or irrational decisions. Each member of the group attempts
to conform his or her opinions to what they believe to be the consensus of
the group. In a general sense this seems to be a very rationalistic way to
approach the situation. However this results in a situation in which the group
ultimately agrees upon an action which each member might individually consider
to be unwise [more].
In the case of Iraq, this "extended to our allies and to the United Nations
and several other nations as well, all of whom did believe that Saddam Hussein
had active WMD programs" [more].
the Search for Archaeoraptor as a Metaphoric Tale: missing the link between
"freedom fighters" and "terrorists", 2002)
- Failure of imagination: regarding the second factor, according to
David Leventhal (Bush's
groupthink caused failure of imagination, 11 September 2004): Groupthink
"is used to blame the intelligence agencies for the WMD fiasco. 'Failure
of imagination' is used to blame the whole body politic for the 9/11 attacks.
Both frames are being used to deflect criticism away from the Bush administration.
In reality, though, groupthink and failure of imagination uniquely characterize
the administration's maladaptive pre-9/11 behavior".
Together these two factors resulted in coherent, simple conclusions -- which
were premature and wrong. It is to be hoped that the same conclusiona are not
made with regard to the response to 7/7. Who benefits
from groupthink and failure of imagination?
#2. Learning from different levels of response to "terrorist
The order of reaction and response to any disaster might be seen in terms of
the following stages or levels:
- physical measures: evacuate the area, security initiatives
to limit further damage or repetition, medical response to wounded. The
urgency of these measures may obscure the need for...
- empathy: consolation, condolences, solidarity, emotional
support for the wounded and bereaved (and their relatives and friends). As
noted by the former UK Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook: " The immediate
response to such human tragedy must be empathy with the pain of those injured
and the grief of those bereaved. We recoil more deeply from loss of life in
such an atrocity because we know the unexpected disappearance of partners,
children and parents must be even harder to bear than a natural death."
This process may obscure the need for...
- moral judgement: morally inappropriate, totally lacking
in any ethical principles, inconsistent with the values of a democratic civilization.
This process may obscure the need for...
- spiritual judgement: inherently evil, unworthy of any consideration.
This process may obscure the need for...
- concrete next steps: pragmatic realism ("life must
go on"; "business as usual") . This may obscure the need
- analysis: justification, purpose. Again as noted by Robin
Cook: "But perhaps the loss is hardest to bear because it is so difficult
to answer the question why it should have happened.... What purpose is there
to yesterday's senseless murders? Who could possibly imagine that they have
a cause that might profit from such pointless carnage?" [more]
This process may obscure the need for determining...
- who is to blame, other than those with whom we identify)
- who claims they did it (number of people calling in)
- who benefits
- who benefits from having people think an obvious suspect benefits
- who benefits from the confusion about who may benefit
- envisaging a strategic response
There is every indication that the level of response to terrorist incidents
is of the lowest order. Both the Islamic jihadists and the Christian crusaders
of the Coalition of the Willing have chosen to define their relationship as
a "war". The Coalition of the Willing has been very busy causing mayhem
and destruction to thousands of innocents and their families in Iraq and in
Afghanistan. Many have asked whether it is beyond the bounds of reason that
some would seek, with some justification, to return the favour?
Waves of emotion in empathetic response to casualties are justified in every
respect. They do however obscure the fact that very little such empathy and
attention is addressed to the many civilians casually terrorized and killed
in daily military operations -- by the governments elected by those who mourn
at incidents of terrorism to which they themselves may then be exposed. Who
benefits from waves of empathy -- as distraction and camouflage?
The distraction certainly helped to reframe the G8-Live8 agenda. Who is to be
considered innocent in such a context?
What is to be said of the extent of emotive media exposure of 7/7 and responses
to it -- compared with the deliberate exclusion of the media from recording
the shameful slaughter of innocents in Iraq and Afghanistan? The exception of
course being footage of the results of insurgent incidents -- not of what engendered
them. Innocents all over the world are slaughtered daily. Pointing a camera
at them, and knowing their names, does not make them more, or less, innocent
than those whose deaths go unrecorded. However, deliberately failing to count
and name those bodies is a mark of guilt on the part of perpetrators -- not
innocence (cf Iraqi
Casualties, 23 March 2004: "We don't count bodies").
#3. Learning from the past: here we go again?
Despite the level of violence perpetrated against civilians elsewhere, astonishment
of the greatest naivety is expressed at the "incomprehensible", "inexplicable",
"irrational", "unfathomable" mindset from which acts of
terrorism are undertaken in civilized countries against innocent people -- who
voted democratically for the leadership perpetrating the slaughter of innocents
elsewhere. As stated by Polly Toynbee (The Guardian, 8 July 2005):
The minds of those who did it seem too remote to understand, too unknowable
a twister to summon up much rage or thirst for revenge. A thousand questions
about fanaticism will go for ever unanswered. Of course we must detect, prevent
and expunge it as best we can -- but it is a monstrous force of unreason beyond
arguing with. [more]
Robin Cook (The Guardian, 9 July 2005) states:
... there is no language that can supply a rational basis for such arbitrary
slaughter. The explanation, when it is offered, is likely to rely not on reason
but on the declaration of an obsessive fundamentalist identity that leaves
no room for pity for victims who do not share that identity. [more]
But wisely Toynbee reframes Blair's assessment:
How barbaric, Tony Blair rightly said, that the terrorists should strike
just as the G8 at least strives to do better on Africa and climate change.
Yes indeed. But then barbarism is in the eye of the beholder and every act
of war is justified in the warped minds of its perpetrators. Barbaric might
also be 30,000 children a day dying in Africa while a mere 25,000 US cotton
farmers keep their trade-denying subsidies. Or Bangladesh soon to be washed
away in global-warming floods. Or arms sold to those who will force them upon
child soldiers, or any number of worldwide atrocities. [more]
To what extent does the phrase "warped minds" apply to perpetrators
of the "war against terrorism"? The war was after all named as "illegal"
by the UN Secretary-General. It is the subject of an ongoing debate regarding
its legality in the light of the shifting opinions offered by the UK Attorney
General. Its legality is also a matter of current debate in the USA in the light
of the "Downing
Street memo" (23 July 2002)?
Who benefits from framing suicide bombers as "incomprehensible"?
Does this apparent "incomprehensibility" and "irrationality"
have implications for the quality of intelligence that is being brought to bear
on the challenge and considered appropriate to it?
Despite the self-congratulation of the Coalition of the Willing for its own
tolerance of different beliefs in principle, there is however
the question of whether, in practice, societies under Christian
leadership genuinely promote such tolerance or seek rather to impose surreptitiously
their own worldview on others. A prime example is Franklin Graham (son of Billy
Graham, spiritual advisor to a succession of presidents), one of the USA's most
outspoken critics of Islam, who indicated that he had relief workers "poised
and ready" to roll into Iraq to provide for the population's post-war physical
and spiritual needs (Crusaders
sending in missionaries after the Blitzkrieg, 2003; Christianizing
the Enemy, 2003).
In this context, with a Christian-led Coalition creating and sustaining terror
amongst the innocent in Iraq, both sides then have something to learn from Cook's
Defeating the terrorists also means defeating their poisonous belief that
peoples of different faiths and ethnic origins cannot coexist. [more]
#4. Learning from "al-Qaida" as a source of terrorism
With respect to 7/7, media coverage immediately focused on "al-Qaida"
-- indicating that such a strike had long been expected. But it is important
- "al-Qaida" is a name that some terrorism experts claim was imposed
by Western officials on to disparate radical Islamic groups to give their
amorphous enemy a degree of conventional coherence -- and by doing so blew
Osama bin Laden's power and reach "out of proportion". Whilst concerned
about the threat of terror, they argue that we should "debunk the myth
of al-Qaeda" (cf Brendan O'Neill, Does
al-Qaeda exist? Not in the way that we think, say some terrorism experts,
28 November 2003; Adam Dolnik and Kimberly A McCloud, Debunk
the myth of al-Qaeda, Christian Science Monitor, 23 May 2002).
Adam Curtis presented in 2004 a series of BBC documentaries entitled The
Power of Nightmares that showed how the fantasy image of the "al-Qaida
organization" was created, arguing that the real threat came not from
a network but from individuals and groups linked only by an idea (The
making of the terror myth, The Guardian, 15 October 2004).
Now he argues:
For three years they told us breathlessly about a terrifying global
network. Now, suddenly, it has gone away and been replaced by "an evil ideology"
that inspires young, angry Muslim males in our own society. (Creating
Islamist Phantoms, The Guardian, 30 August 2005)
Unfortunately hundreds, if not thousands, of suspects have been tortured to
get them to admit to their links with a phantom organization -- reinforcing
the outdated belief of the intelligence agencies in the existence of the "al-Qaida
- According to Pierre-Henri Bunel (The
Origins of Al-Qaida, World
Affairs, vol 8, no 12, April-June 2004) in the mid-1980s, "Al-Qaida"
was a database located in a computer in an Arabic military school and dedicated
to the communications of the Islamic Conference's
secretariat. Since then, with the development of the internet, the Islamic
Conference developed its own network to which many Islamic organizations subscribed,
few of which were groups suspected of terrorism. Not all the member countries
of the Islamic Conference are considered 'rogue states'. But "Al-Qaida
remained the database of the Islamic Conference" and many Islamic groups
could pick up information from there. When Osama bin Laden was a CIA agent
in Afghanistan, the Al-Qaida intranet was a good communication system through
which to pass coded or covert messages.
- "al-Qaida" is a descriptor for a loose network, understood by
some as more like a movement of opinion or an ideology, rather than an "organization"
in any conventional sense of the term (however convenient it might be to assume
that it is an organization of some kind that could be subject to the repertoire
of responses used against such bodies). For example, for Richard Norton-Taylor
and abuse of intelligence, The Guardian, 19 July 2005):
"Al-Qaida is now as much a concept as an organisation or network".
Ironically it may be more a concept for extremists, and more an organization
for the security services seeking "master minds","coordinators",
"networks" and "cells". As noted by Jason Burke (Al-Qaida
is now an idea not an organisation, The Guardian, 5 August
... we need to face up to the simple truth that Bin Laden, al-Zawahiri
et al do not need to organise attacks directly. They merely need to wait
for the message they have spread around the world to inspire others. Al-Qaida
is now an idea, not an organisation.
- Osama bin Laden is acknowledged to have once been a CIA operative, but there
is no credible evidence to prove that he no longer is one (cf Michel Chossudovsky,
9 October 2001) [more].
Who could prove otherwise to whose satisfaction? The case has been made for
the advantages to some of promoting the existence of an entity named "al-Qaida"
as a combination "Aunt
man" or "bogeyman"
to provide a threatening focus for collective strategy. Who might benefit
from fabrication of threats of this kind? One might even ask whether "al-Qaida"
was a construct of some rogue intelligence agency cynically leaving their
footprint in the acronym:
- American Lie - Questioning Assumptions in International Development
- Artificial Lie - Questioning Assumptions in Intelligent Defence Action?
- The killing, capture or interrogation of key figures supposedly associated
with "al-Qaida" does not seem to have modified the capacity of "al-Qaida"
to undertake acts of terrorism. It is not clear under what conditions those
interrogated confirmed the existence of "al-Qaida", if they did.
- The cost of faking website statements from "al-Qaida" or of fabricating
videos of "Osama bin Laden", or of any other person, is trivial.
Their authenticity can only be assumed, not proven in a public court of justice
(whatever evidence, of possibly highly dubious quality and source, is advanced
in secret tribunals). Any such communications are readily assumed to be authentic
in the absence of evidence to the contrary -- facilitating the operations
of hoaxers. Who benefits from the exploitation of
such unquestioning reaction?
As noted by Thomas L Friedman: "There are no obvious terrorist headquarters
and training camps in Afghanistan that we can hit with cruise missiles. The
Al Qaeda threat has metastasized and become franchised. It is no longer vertical,
something that we can punch in the face. It is now horizontal, flat and widely
distributed, operating through the Internet and tiny cells" [more].
Anyone can claim to be "al-Qaida" and none will deny it -- least
of all the security services anxious for early leads. Anyone can claim that
some target group has "links to al-Qaida", especially if they need
rapid closure on their investigation to demonstrate effectiveness. Indeed, in
Iraq or Afghanistan, the very fact of having bombed any group suffices to define
them by that act, without further evidence, as a "group with links to al-Qaida".
For whom is it convenient that an easily framed responsible agent should be
loosely organized to the point of non-existence in any conventional understanding
of "organization"? Who benefits? And who benefits
from continuing to claim that "al-Qaida" is a conventional
organization that was responsible for terrorist incidents under the supreme
coordination of Osama bin Laden?
In the UK, of the 700 people arrested under the Terrorism Act since 9/11, half
have been released without charge, and only 17 have been charged. Only three
of the convictions relate to allegations of Islamic extremism. The same proportions
may apply in the case of the inmates of Guantanamo Bay -- if they live to tell
the tale. There is indeed a question of how it can be proven that many have
not been simply "disappeared", following the practice supported by
the USA in Latin America.
Whilst such issues are widely evoked and dismissed as "conspiracy theories",
John Laughland (Do
you believe in conspiracy theories? The Spectator, 17 January
2004) argues that "one ought to speak of a 'conspiracy of silence' about
the role of secret services in politics".
There is little comment about the possibly quite distinct nature of "terrorism"
based on a culture very strongly influenced by metaphors of the desert and the
kinds of loose social organization appropriate to it -- with compensating strong
tribal identities (cf Martin J Gannon (Ed), Cultural
Metaphors, 2001; Stella Ting-Toomey, Intercultural
Conflict Management: a mindful approach, 1999). There is also the much
more developed historical memory, in those cultures, contrasting with modern
western cultures -- with some exceptions, as illustrated by the tribal politics
of Ireland. Much of the "incomprehensibility" of terrorism deriving
from such cultures is strongly linked to historical abuses that are held to
be irrelevant by contemporary western cultures -- and by a leadership of the
Coalition of the Willing in deep denial. A key flaw in western strategic response
to terrorism may lie in George Santayana's insight: "Those who cannot remember
the past are condemned to repeat it".
Such factors raise interesting questions about the nature of the "collective
intelligence" that provides the strategic focus for terrorist incidents.
Anthony Wade (Cui
bono? Stupidity Versus Logic in the Latest 'Terror' Attack, OpEdNews.com,
7 July 2005), for example, explores the assumption that "al-Qaida"
would be so lacking in intelligence as to attack London in the very week when
plans to pull UK troops from Iraq were being aired. He suggests that other parties
might have had more reason to want to galvanize political support in the UK
to remain in Iraq -- and that it would be such other parties who would have
instigated the attack.
The faith-based framing of "al-Qaida" as inherently evil and satanic
(discussed below), has provided a justification for the "crusader"
framing of the Christian-led response undertaken with the regular presidential
blessing of God -- reiterated by military chaplains in the field (cf Gary Leupp,
Really is a Crusade! 2005). It is however extraordinary that modern
field commanders should assert that Satan has the face of the Islamic opponents
there (cf Paul Wood, Hunting
'Satan' in Falluja hell, BBC News, 23 November 2004).
Given the extraordinary similarity between the circulated images of the purportedly
satanic "Osama bin Laden" and the portrayals of the historical Jesus
in Christian places of worship, it is no wonder that the transformation by Coalition
Christian soldiers of the "face of Satan" into those of the slaughtered
innocent is a source of trauma. It is currently estimated that 1 in 6 soldiers
returning from Iraq now suffer from "post-traumatic stress disorder"
-- without taking account of those who fail to make known their symptoms. Unlike
the more secularized battle of Vietnam, Christian Americans have set themselves
up to be haunted by their actions in the Middle East (William M. Welch, Trauma
of Iraq war haunting thousands returning home, USA Today, 28
Feburary 2005). Who benefits from this manipulation of religious
and symbolic icons?
In a technocratic society, there is a curious symmetry to basing a global strategic
policy on the fulfillment of the will-to-good of one insubstantial global entity,
God, in response to the wioll-to-evil of a second insubstantial global entity,
Satan, understood to be acting through the demonic "al-Qaida" -- also
essentially insubstantial and global. Framed in this way, it is understandable
that those who persist in dehumanizing and demonizing others effectively evoke
their own demons to haunt them in one way or another.
In the terms of Jungian psychoanalysis, perhaps "al-Qaida" could
be usefully understood as humanity's "collective unconscious" -- which
is equally nebulous to the ordinary mind and to the security services. From
such a perspective, "the capacity of the insurgents to develop new tactics
faster than US forces can counter them" is to be expected (cf Paul Rogers,
the unthinkable, 30 June 2005). That is how the unconscious outmanoeuvers
the conscious mind. There is therefore a case for exploring the global "war
on terror" as humanity's effort to engage in a "war on the collective
unconscious" -- a notion offering psychotherapists much to say regarding
the maturation process of human civilization.
To some extent it is clear that the nature of "al-Qaida" is shaped
more by the attitude of particular observers and commentators to those "facts"
that they consider meaningful. In a real sense its nature then lies in the eyes
of the beholder. This might also be said to be true of how the natures of the
"international community" and "global governance" are shaped
by those to whom they are of relevance. For some there is indeed an amorphous
"al-Qaida" organizational style to the "international community"
-- reflected in its decision-making processes and how they are variously influenced
by movements of opinion to ensure a prolonged and painful death for many, notably
when threatened by starvation. For others the "international community"
is of course defined by a variety of formal interlocking legal instruments and
agreements with particular individuals holding formal roles and responsibilities.
Rather than asking the question what is "al-Qaida" like, it may instead
be more fruitful to ask what the "global governance" responding to
it is held to be by those holding various understandings of "al-Qaida".
After all it is "global governance" by the "international community"
that is now being called upon to deal with "al-Qaida". But is it not
the negligence of the "international community" that engendered "al-Qaida"
in the first place? (cf Spontaneous
Initiation of Armageddon -- a heartfelt response to systemic negligence,
Who benefits from the ability to blame "al-Qaida"
for immediately obvious disasters rather than give any attention to longer-term
systemic challenges of society and the planet?
#5. Learning from premature closure and proximate causes
There is evident danger in "lynch mob" psychology. The serious media
were subsequently obliged to reassess and apologize for their role in vamping
up the case against Iraq in the light of "evidence" for weapons of
mass destruction and the involvement of Iraq in 9/11. There is necessarily little
to no reference to the manner in which the media, whether voluntarily or involuntarily,
engage in a pattern of censorship. In the USA this may be linked to a need to
respond to threats from advertisers who may withdraw their business unless the
news is framed in a particular way. Whilst this is also true in the UK (since
1922) and Australia, there it is clearer that the government may easily issue
"D-Notices", or "Defence Advisory Notices" to restrict or
block coverage of certain themes, considered relevant to defence and security
[more | more].
Clearly such notices will have been issued subsequent to 7/7 and 21/7 in the
In the case of 7/7, in the absence of any other information, and prior to completion
of the forensic investigation, it was reported by The Guardian (8 July
A group of terrorists, affiliated or inspired by al-Qaida, carried out the
series of coordinated bomb attacks in London, intelligence officials and independent
analysts said yesterday. [more]
The same sources further claimed that:
A group calling itself the Secret Organisation of the al-Qaida Jihad in Europe
posted a claim of responsibility for the attacks, saying they were in retaliation
for Britain's involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan [more]
It was further stated that "the authenticity of the message could not
be immediately confirmed". However it was indicated that it had been assumed
...the al-Qaida leadership did not have the ability to order a coordinated
attack in Britain. But that did not mean a group of individuals broadly sympathetic
to al-Qaida did not have the ability to mount attacks on their own initiative
Furthermore current concerns of anti-terror groups seemingly were focused on
individuals or groups "only loosely affiliated to al-Qaida or entirely
Another report indicated:
Al-Qaida's method is not to give warnings, nor to claim responsibility at
first...al-Qaida's claims have been more difficult to authenticate, not least
because a variety of different groups with ever-changing names have made claims.
However this did not prevent a terrorism expert from immediately asserting:
"There's no doubt in my mind that this is the work of al-Qaida or one of
its nodes." [more]
How does a concept or movement of opinion engage in concrete action? What "al-Qaida"
is the expert referring to? Much was made of the "hallmarks" of an
"al-Qaida" attack -- which turn out to be the simultaneity of the
explosions. Surely a trivial matter to replicate in any copycat initiative --
or in an exercise in framing?
On the following day, The Guardian reported a source as indicating that
the posted message: "was only there for a few minutes, and they misquoted
the Qur'an". The bulletin board used was open to anyone. On investigation,
the server, based in Texas, was owned by a person who claimed George Bush's
former sister-in-law as a friend, as well as his navy secretary [more].
Is this the kind of link that the security services are looking for in tracing
terrorist cells? How would the security services respond to telephone records
from a proven terrorist to the elites of any country -- potentially rendering
them all complicit? How would they ever prove their innocence?
Subsequent to 21/7, Jason Burke (Al-Qaida
is now an idea not an organisation, The Guardian, 5 August 2005)
Whenever there has been an attack there has been a knee-jerk search for overseas
links or for some kind of overall mastermind. No investigations into the London
bombs, or indeed into almost all of those attacks committed in recent years,
have revealed any such connections.
Who benefits from premature closure -- and lynch
The desire for rapid closure -- in the face of obvious disaster -- impels some
to criticize very strongly any effort at identifying root causes, defined as
a new evil of "root causism". Their focus is on bringing the immediate
perpetrators to justice at any cost, identifying any responsible command structure,
and introducing obvious protective measures -- without any need for further
reflection, considered completely unnecessary. The possibility that there may
be more fundamental issues that may need addressing is rejected outright, as
argued by Norman Geras (There
are apologists amongst us, The Guardian, 21 July 2005):
It needs to be seen and said clearly: there are, among us, apologists for
what the killers do. They make more difficult the fight to defeat them....The
root-causers always plead a desire merely to expand our understanding, but
they're very selective in what they want to "understand".... It
is the fanatical, fundamentalist belief system which teaches hatred and justifies
these acts of murder. That cause somehow gets a free pass from the hunters-out
of causes... they have to be fought intellectually and politically. They do
not help to strengthen the democratic culture and institutions whose benefits
we all share.
Unwittingly, the last words highlight the naive assumption challenged by those
on whose behalf the terrorists claim to act -- by no stretch of the imagination
are the benefits shared by all. But such a position helps to focus strategic
reflection, if the proximate cause can be identified and isolated -- as in the
case of mammary cancer for which surgery is sufficient. The perspective is dangerously
irresponsible if the cancer has metastasized -- a metaphor increasingly used
in relation to terrorism. For example, according to Jon Basil Utley (36
Ways the US Is Losing the War on Terror, AntiWar.com, 3 August
2004): "Al-Qaeda has now metastasized into new semi-autonomous groups in
many nations, all motivated by hate for the U.S. and any nation or government
that helps it." But who benefits from a narrow
proximate-cause perspective? What is the wider perspective that is considered
By contrast, John Gray (Look
out for the enemy within, The Observer, 10 July 2005) calls
for a subtler approach to the challenge -- going beyond simple recognition of
Terror is not now, if it ever was, something that comes to us from outside.
It is a part of the society in which we live. Both liberals and neoconservatives
believe terrorism can be dealt with by removing its causes. The truth is less
reassuring. Al-Qaeda has mutated into a decentralised, often locally based
type of apocalyptic terrorism and, in this new guise, seems to be acquiring
a formidable momentum. We are going to need all our resources of wisdom, guile
and determination to deal with it.
What "resources of wisdom" have been recognized since 9/11? How are
they detected in the rush to closure?
#6. Learning from presumptions of "guilt by association"
There have been repeated efforts by the Muslim community to disassociate themselves
from the terrorist acts of militant Islamic fundamentalism and its "jihad".
Suspicion of Muslims in general remains -- and has already been much increased
by 7/7. Victimization and scapegoating are challenging communities. Who
benefits from this?
Publicly unacceptable racist prejudices are readily disguised as totally acceptable
prejudices against Islamic terrorists. Curiously however, Christians make little
effort to dissociate themselves from the militant branch of Christianity intimately
involved in what it prefers to label as a "crusade" against Islam
-- a view shared by its preferred president in the USA. The degree of involvement
of radical Christianity in perpetrating the war against Islam should not be
forgotten. This was exemplified by the much-puiblicized declaration to an evangelical
church in 2003 of the US Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence,
General Boykin, regarding the satanic nature of Islam [more
without making it clear that he was speaking in a private capacity. Boykin's
actions were subsequently defended by the US Defence Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld
With respect to 7/7, as an illustration of typically premature media closure
and jumping the gun, Mohamed El-Menshawy (Washington
Report, Center for Defense Information) was asked on CNN World News
(9 July 2005) why Muslims around the world did not immediately go into the street
to demonstrate against, and dissociate themselves from, those who had seemingly
"hijacked their religion" on the occasion of 7/7. The same question
might well be asked of those Christians who are faced with an effort by fundamentalist
Christians, who have seemingly hijacked Christianity, seeking to frame Islam
as satanic in pursuit of their evangelical agenda.
Muslim death cults: Mohamed El-Menshawy was also asked on CNN when Muslims
would recognize that they had a "death cult" in their midst and act
against that -- a question raised by Thomas L Friedman (If
It's a Muslim Problem, It Needs a Muslim Solution, New York Times,
8 July 2005). The "death cult" label was also used by Polly Toynbee
the Name of God, The Guardian, 22 July 2005) in relation to
the London attack of 7/21. Again the same question might be asked of ordinary
Christians with respect to fundamentalist Christians committed to the military
action in Iraq that has resulted in deaths estimated to be between 25,000-100,000
Christian death cults: Friedman's argument was, with respect to the
Muslim community: "If it does not fight that death cult, that cancer, within
its own body politic, it is going to infect Muslim-Western relations everywhere.
Only the Muslim world can root out that death cult" [more].
Does the same not apply with respect to any Christian "death cult"?
Should the Christian fundamentalist doctrinal commitment to "rapture"
in the very near future
then also be interpreted as an indicator of "death cult" status --
especially given the total indifference to the fate of the "left-behind"
and the condition of the planet thereafter? (cf Kurt Seland, The
Post-Rapture Survival Guide). Given the sympathy of President Bush for
such views, they are a current factor in US inaction on long-term strategic
issues, notably climate change (cf Glen Scherrer, The
godly must be crazy: Christian-right views are swaying politicians and threatening
the environment, Grist Magazine, 27 October 2004). This challenge
was confirmed by Bill Moyers
in his acceptance speech
of the 2004 Global Environmental Citizen Award (Joel Makower, Bill
Moyers on Climate Change, Christian Fundamentalists, and the 'Rapture Index',
December 2004). From a doctrinal perspective the process of rapture involves
a death ("in a twinkling of an eye") and resurrection in heaven (as
with the Muslim "suicide bombers").
For those who have then to deal with the consequences of this Christian commitment
to their own multiple simultaneous deaths in the near future, the sudden departure
of the enraptured are recognized as likely to be the direct cause of multiple
deaths of others (for example if the pilot of an airplane is "taken up").
Those to be so enraptured are indeed completely indifferent to these deaths.
Just as non-Muslims may have difficulty understanding the Muslim belief with
respect to jihadis, so non-Christians may have great difficulty in distinguishing
the beliefs of Christian fundamentalists from those of the Jonestown People's
Temple who died in a mass "suicide" in 1978 [more]
-- an earlier "death cult" of partly Christian inspiration.
The preoccupation with rapture of some fundamentalist Christians is closely
intertwined with Israeli policy towards Palestinians (cf George Monbiot, Their
beliefs are bonkers, but they are at the heart of power US Christian fundamentalists
are driving Bush's Middle East policy, The Guardian, 20 April
2004; Rick Perlstein, The
Jesus Landing Pad: Bush White House checked with rapture Christians before latest
Israel move, Village Voice, 18 May 2004 ). As noted by William
see opportunity in Promised Land. Financial Times, 16-17 July
Evangelicals draw their backing from Jewish claims to the "promised
land" from various passages in the Old and New Testaments...A minority
of US evangelicals are Christian Zionists who believe Israel's existence is
a necessary precursor to end-times and the second coming of Christ. For theological
reasons, some prominent US pastors are unyielding towards Palestinians' own
yearning for statehood and have joined settler groups in campaigning against...plans
to withdraw from the Gaza strip. They have also helped to fund Jewish settler
expansion...one of the main obstacles to resolve the conflict between Israel
and Palestinians... evangelicals can also afford more easily to adopt hard-line
The Catholic Church is renowned for the torture-assisted processes of its Inquisition,
possibly followed by burning at the stake. These were framed as essential to
"defending the faith" and "saving the souls" of those who
would otherwise be damned. Given the numbers killed by this process, it might
also be understood as the activities of a "death cult". The Inquisition
was committed to the eradication of heresies -- effectively the process now
advocated for Muslims holding views that give rise to what is defined as "terrorism".
Few would doubt the terror associated with the Inquisition's processes. Some
continue to defend them.
As with other faiths, Christianity has been intimately associated with massacres
and genocide throughout history -- for example the millions killed in the Belgian
Congo at the beginning of the 20th century. Perpetrators in the past century
have often been notable for having received a Christian education, or even of
being of deeply committed Christians, like George Bush and Tony Blair. More
problematic however is the manner in which Christian churches have been complicit
in such slaughter -- or condoned it with only token protest or expressions of
regret. It is readily forgotten that the large numbers of deaths associated
with the process of colonialization, and the "resettlement" of indigenous
peoples, was condoned by Christian churches, whether Protestant or Catholic.
As a primarily Christian country, it is most significant that the leadership
of the USA now finds itself obliged to guarantee itself -- by various deals
-- impunity from conviction by the International Criminal Court for charges
of crimes against humanity.
Religious "slow death" cults: Ironically, in the light of
one of the few agendas which they share, it might even be argued that the Abrahamic
religions (Christianity, Islam and Judaism) are all "death cults"
-- through their continuing effort to avoid any constraints on population growth,
or effective debate on the matter. In the absence of adequate food and water
supplies, or the capacity or will to deliver them -- and through associated
issues of health and poverty -- this agenda ensures a maximum number of deaths
in the immediate and foreseeable future. The numbers involved far exceed those
resulting from terrorist incidents. More generally, there are many ongoing violent
conflicts around the world sustained by those same religions (cf James A. Haught.
Holy Hatred: Religious Conflicts of the '90s, 1995).
Whilst religions are highly complicit in the deaths resulting from their support
of military action, it might also be asked to what extent the denial by religions
of any right to an "assisted death" -- in the event of a chronically
painful and undignified health condition -- justifies recognition of them as
slow "death cults". The commitment to ensuring the maximum pain of
others in this condition, for the longest period of time, is especially repugnant.
This commitment is especially evident in the insistence on avoiding abortion
of severely handicapped foetuses -- condemning the affected to a life of suffering
Curiously the Abrahamic religions all have blood rituals as key features
of their pattern of worship -- whether or not blood is actually or symbolically
shed or consumed. In all three religions, blood is an essential symbol of life
and is associated with celebrating different understandings of sacrifice --
again an indicator of a "death cult". One commentator suggests that
"There is a strong sense in which the holy warrior -- whether crusader,
jihadi or zealot -- longs for a literal ecstasis (death)" [more].
For Michael Ortiz Hill (Mainlining
The Crusader/Jihadi makes real its cosmos by drawing to itself final things:
The afterlife, the end of the world, the full sanctification of the children
of God. This sacred solipsism translated into a religious vernacular the Mutually
Assured Destruction of the Cold War. Without detente.
"Shoddy theology": Ian Buruma (Homeland
insecurity. Financial Times, 16-17 Juy 2005) develops an argument
with respect to fundamentalist Muslims that might also be seen as of some relevance
to an understanding of fundamentalist Christians in their preoccupation with
rapture and their disinterest in the future of the planet:
The promise of escape, of a new collective identity, of heroic martyrdom,
the ideal of dispensing with all rational thought in the name of a great cause,
the thought of reaching for heaven will continue to attract second- and third-generation
immigrants who feel rejected by a society that consequently fills them with
such hatred that the dream of blowing it up.
In the light of the above, current efforts to accuse Islam alone of "shoddy
theology" -- with respect to its ambiguous attitude towards declaration
of jihad and "terrorist" action -- could be usefully extended
to encompass all Abrahamic religions.
Inculcating extremist values: Suspicions are now attached to Muslim
"training camps" and madrasas
-- following CIA funding of them to train terrorists against the Russian occupation
of Afghanistan. Current supicions might, however, be usefully extended to the
widespread Christian promotion of the dubiously-named "crusader camps"
and the foundations which support them [more].
Whilst there is concern about the encouragement of jihad in madrasas,
it might be asked whether any attention has been focused on the function of
"crusader schools", notably grouped in The
Army Crusader Schools League in the UK. There are over 100 such schools
in Australia. In the USA there are numerous "crusader academies".
"Crusader College" was long used as a name for the US Naval Air Station
Miramar, which during the 1960s was highly successful in preparing fleet pilots
for combat cruises on the F-8 Crusader gunfighter [more].
Questions might be usefully asked about the extremist values and doctrines
cultivated in such locations, if only implicitly through the "crusader"
metaphor -- and of how these may even drive some to illegal militant action
against abortion clinics (cf Teresa Whitehurst,
'I'm Ready to Die': Fundamentalist Christianity instills in millions of American
followers a depressing- and dangerous - nihilism, 7 February 2005) or
to aspire to Christianize Muslims in their homelands, possibly with military
backing. Another comparative thread worth exploring is that relating to the
active concept of "Christ militant", notably as adopted by white supremacists
and the extremist Patriot movement in the USA (cf Brian Levin, The
Patriot Movement: past, present, future). It was the armies of "Christ
Militant" that comprised the First Crusade and captured Jerusalem on 15 July
1099. Such themes are especially relevant with the recent switch in terminology
by the Bush regime from "global war on terror" to "struggle against
violent extremism" [more].
Violence does not only take physical forms. As remarked by Johan Galtung, "physical
violence is for amateurs".
Comparing "holy warriors": Of particular interest in comparing
"crusader", "jihadi" and "zealot" is the protests
that many of their protagonists would make against the violent military connotations
exclusively applied to their own case:
- jihad: connotes a wide range of meanings: anything from an
inward spiritual struggle to attain perfect faith to a political or military
struggle to further the Islamic cause. Although jihad can apply to
warfare, the term is frequently mistranslated to mean "holy war" in English.
Mainstream Muslims consider jihad to be the most misunderstood aspect
of their religion by non-Muslims. A person who engages in any form of jihad
is called a "mujahid", meaning "striver" or "struggler", though this Islamic
term is indeed often used to mean a person who engages in fighting. It is
not limited to fighting or warfare however, a Muslim struggling to memorize
the Quran is a mujahid, for example [more]
- crusade: the crusading spirit and the crusading movement affected
every social class and every generation from 1100 to 1500 -- involving virtually
every geographic location accessible to Europeans. Since the 17th century,
the term has carried a connotation in the west of being a "righteous campaign",
usually to "root out evil", or to fight for a just cause. In a broader sense,
"crusade" can be used, always in a rhetorical and metaphorical sense, to identify
as righteous any war that is given a religious justification and asserted
to be holy, however dubious the justification [more].
Ardent activists may also refer to their causes as "crusades," as in the "Crusade
against Adult Illiteracy," or a "Crusade against Littering." [more]
It is in this sense that the "crusading spirit" can be understood
(cf Michael Whitcraft, Rekindling
the Crusading Spirit, 2005)
- zealotry: the corresponding action of Jewish extremists tends
not to be explored in the same context even though there is a striking parallel
between the actions of modern Islamic fundamentalists (even against other
Muslims) and the actions of the early Jewish zealots [more].
Their doctrines had a strong focus on the necessity of violent actions against
the enemies of Judaism. Some scholars have argued that Jesus was a zealot
[more]. There is also a striking
parallel in their willingness to commit collective suicide at Masada -- a
defining moment in Jewish history [more].
Traces of the doctrines of the early zealots are evident in modern Jewish
fundamentalism. In its more militant form, it might be argued that the behaviour
of the Irgun in the liberation
of Israel from the British has now been institutionalized in the actions of
Mossad. In the light of that mindset, conspiracy theorists and those antagonistic
to the "Christian-Zionist crusaders" frequently suggest Mossad complicity
in terrorist attacks [more
| more]. The
radical Jewish organizations Kach
and Kahane Chai, declared illegal in Israel, suggest other examples.
In the historical sense, both "crusade" and "jihad" each
tend to be viewed by the other culture as terms for aggression directed toward
it. In a non-historical common or theological use, "crusade" has come to have
a much broader emphatic or religious meaning --substantially removed from 'armed
struggle.' Thus the Western term "crusade" and the Islamic term "jihad" substantially
mirror each other in both the personal and the socio-cultural meaning--such that
translators between English and Arabic, for example, may use them interchangeably.
In recent years, however, there has been some heightened awareness among Westerners
to the historical and political problems with the use of the term "crusade",
and where any casual respect for Muslim culture has relevance, the term has
largely fallen into disuse. [more]
Who benefits from the lack of any objective comparison
between the patterns of indoctrination of the religious "schools"
and "camps" of those of Christian (Evangelical, Catholic), Muslim
or Jewish persuasion -- and their consequences for those of other faiths? What
proportion might be assessed as dangerously extreme, and how? How is the radicalism
of their respective "clerics" to be assessed -- when, in case, they
incite to extreme violence, or condone it?
Within a day of the announcement of the new UK anti-terrorism legislation --
focusing notably on incitement by radical (Islamic) clerics -- the leading US
tele-evangelist Pat Robertson, exemplified extreme Christianity when he recommended,
on the Christian Broadcasting Network (23
August 2005) to his 7 million viewers the assassination of the president of
"We have the ability to take him out, and I think the time has
come to exercise that ability... It's a whole lot easier to have some of the
covert operatives do the job and then get it over with." [more
Reverend Robertson, a former US Presidential candidate, is founder of the Christian
Coalition of America
-- a prime supporter of George Bush. Neither George Bush
nor the US Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, condemned such incitement with
any vigour. Robertson subsequently attempted to deny that he called for the assassination
]. Evangelists have
claimed that evangelist Reverend Robertson does not represent the views of evangelical
]. This clearly
implies that, those whose views he does represent should be "rooted out"
in the spirit of eliminating "death cults" from the body of the Christian
community. But, most intriguing was the extremely muted media "outcry"
in comparison with what would be the reaction to such a statement by an Islamic
cleric. On 24 August, for example, CNN endeavoured -- most inappropriately --
to reframe the incitement to assassination through humour.
What is the significance of the pressure of evangelical chaplains on cadets
in military academies -- exposed in one instance by a resigning whistleblower?
Reports indicate that the cadet wing at the Air Force Academy is about 90 percent
Christian (about one-third Catholic, one-third mainstream Protestant, and one-third
evangelical), but the evangelicals have a much bigger voice among the chaplains
there, reflecting the pattern in the chaplain corps of the Air Force overall
The academy in question is located in Colorado Springs, home to NORAD Headquarters,
Air Force Space Command, multiple Air Force Bases, and numerous other military
installations. One commentator Devlin Buckley (Theocon
Valley: A door in the wall of separation, Theocracy
Alert, 29 April 2005) noted that: "The academy leadership... has
proactively contributed to creating a religious institution out of the Air Force
Academy". Is there no concern at the nature of their mission as Christians
in being primarily responsible for bombing and straffing Iraqi towns -- from
on high? How is this issue related to the pattern of promotion of born-again
Christians within the military charged with operations against Islamic countries?
The agenda of the early Christian crusaders has not been forgotten in the Middle
East. The current suspicions regarding the Muslim agenda towards an Islamic
Caliphate might now be reviewed in the light of the Christian "Great
Commission" and the theology of dominionism
(cf Katherine Yurica, Conquering
by Stealth and Deception: how the dominionists are succeeding in their quest
for national control and world power, 14 September 2004) [more].
The Great Commission, with its "marching orders for Christians", is
"a comprehensive task that aims at developing a worldwide Christian civilization
and culture" [more].
This perspective might be reviewed in the light of the agenda of the so-called
theocons in relation to the Bush administration. (cf Sasha F. Chavkin. Unmasking
the Theocons, 23 March 2005). Bush's use of "crusade" should
not be forgotten -- nor its appeal to his supporters (Robert Parry, Bush's
'Crusade', 25 September 2001; Peter Ford, Europe
cringes at Bush 'crusade' against terrorists, 19 September 2001; James
Carroll, The Bush
Crusade, 20 September 2004). Nor should it be forgotten the degree
to which the prime ministers of the UK and of Australia share the faith of George
Converting the world: Whilst the Muslim focus on establishing a Caliphate
of countries of primarily Muslim faith may indeed be questioned, how does this
equate with the active agenda of "Christianity" to Christianize the
whole world? (cf John Noe, Restoring
the Kingdom-of-God Worldview to the Church and the World, 2004). Has
the "Christian" community, or its leadership, condemned such cultural
aggression? Why not? Who benefits from their failure
to do so? Who is complicit in this failure,
On a website of the intergovernmental Islamic
Educational, Scientitifc and Cultural Organization, Muhammad ‘Imarah
of Islam) states: "The Christian West has sought to Christianize
Muslims inside their own abodes under the auspices of Western secularism".
He substantiates this using the statement of a conference in Colorado in May
Islam is the only religion whose original sources contradict the principles
of Christianity. Moreover, the Islamic system is the most harmonious religious
system concerning social and political affairs. We need hundreds of centers
to understand Islam and to penetrate it cunningly. Thus, Christianizing Muslims
is the first of all our priorities."(Christianization : A Plan to
Conquer the Islamic World, Papers of Colorado Conference, Arabic edition.
Whatever the many deficiencies of Islam in the eyes of other faiths, how are
those of that faith to distinguish the Christianization agenda from the actions
of a Christian-led Coalition of the Willing, especially when a Christian pastor
of the same faith can address a much-cited letter to George Bush in the following
I need to ask you: Do you know what the values and vision of Jesus are? I
ask the question because I am baffled and confused by your behavior. You claim
Christ but act like Caesar. There is blood all over your hands, with the promise
of even more blood to come....You claim you are of the Sustainer of Life,
but you practice the terror of Death. You are spreading the war....Many people,
in the name of God, have taken up the sword. And many have come to ruin. Thinking
themselves capable of naming evil, they have become the very evil they name.
(Rich Lang, Fire
and Brimstone: A letter from a Pastor to the President, 18 April
Manipulating terror: What indeed is to be said of the images of an afterlife
of "fire and brimstone" deliberately cultivated and used by Christian
and other religions down the centuries to terrorize their adherents into obedience
-- "striking fear into their very souls"? [more
For those who have had that experience, why should this not be considered a
form of terrorism -- as with the terrifying so-called "Acts of God"?
(cf Is God a
Terrorist: Definitional game-playing by the Coalition of the Willing?
2004). Ironically many schisms in Christianity resulted from rejection of such
interpretations -- although the groups cultivating such views continue to survive
in democratic societies. Also ironically, this schismatic process might be seen
as a precursor of what Muslims are now being called upon to do in rejecting
It might also be asked whether the faith-based leadership of the Christian
Coalition of the Willing is effectively regressing to the original source of
Christian power in the exploitation and manipulation of existential terror --
vamping up public levels of terror associated with terrorist incidents. It is
clear that in terms of power politics leading a terrified nation, in which any
criticism is declared to be traitorous, is much easier than leading one in which
a diversity of critical views can be expressed.
Matching insight into "shoddy theology" has been that with respect
to the shoddiness of foreign policies giving rise to the injustices exploited
by such theology (cf Salma Yaqoob, Our
leaders must speak up, The Guardian, 15 July 2005).
As noted by an editorial in the Financial Times (14 July 2005):
Common to all Islam is a doctrinal concern to build a just society and to
preserve the unity of the Umma, the worldwide community of believers. This
is already a powerful and appealing political; combination even before the
spark of belief is added. Add to it the familiar list of timeless and actual
Muslim grievances, the sense of a religion under assault combined with a sense
of lost glory, and what begins to emerge is a liberation theology.
Who benefits from provoking schism within the Umma of Islam --
a global communion which Christianity lacks, as exemplified by the problematic
relations between the World Council of Churches,
the International Council of Christian Churches,
and the Catholic Church?
Stifling debate: The above editorial continues:
It is also important to recognise that the international jihadism franchised
by Osama bin Laden is almost entirely a Sunni Muslim phenomenon... It remains
a self-inflicted wound at the heart of Islam that the Sunni establishments
for all practical purposes closed down philosophical speculation in the 12th
century, believing it to be divisive as well as inimical to their monopoly
of power. This stifling of debate and enquiry, of curiosity and innovation,
is or should be at the heart of debate about Islam and modernity.
Curiously it is the "stifling of debate and enquiry" that is now
a feature of the response to 7/7 -- even within the Parliament of the UK. As
a believer in a particular version of Christianity, Tony Blair (Parliament,
13 July 2005) called for the mobilization of the "moderate and true voice
of Islam" to tackle the "extreme and evil ideology" associated
with 7/7. What would be the "moderate and true voice of Christianity"
in Northern Ireland? He stressed the nature of the threat whose roots lay in
"a perverted and poisonous misinterpretation of the religion of Islam".
Would it be the Catholics or Protestants who were seen to constitute "a
perverted and poisonous misinterpretation of the religion of Christianity"
in Northern Ireland -- or both? How does the Christian community deal with abuses
within -- and its tendencies to militant fundamentalism or the terrorizing of
Action against evil: But setting religions against each other in degrees
of "death cultishness" or "theological shoddiness" is not
helpful, as the following quotes imply:
- Dietrich Bonhoeffer has : "There is nothing quite so terrible as evil masquerading
- Anon: "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men
to do nothing."
- Blaise Pascal: "Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they
do it from religious conviction."
- Henry Thoreau: "There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to
one who is striking at the root."
- Hannah Arendt: "The sad truth is that most evil is done by people who never
make up their minds to be good or evil."
With respect to the Bush-Blair rallying cry for action against evil, as an
American sociologist, Wendell Bell (All
About Evil, 28 October 2002) points out:
In all sincerity, we Americans view our own recent aggressions as justifiable,
perfectly understandable, and rational acts designed to destroy evil. But
in our efforts to destroy members of Al Qaeda and the Taliban regime in Afghanistan,
we also killed and injured civilians, demolished homes and places of work
and worship, and created still more innocent victims. "Regrettable collateral
damage," we said.
And what of Osama bin Laden, his Al Qaeda followers, and other violence-prone
Islamic fundamentalists? Do they see themselves, as we have defined them,
as evil incarnate? If we would take the time to study and to listen, we would
learn that no, they do not. They see themselves, just as we see ourselves,
as righteous, moral, and sincere as they try to destroy what they regard
as evil in the world. They claim to believe that they are following the bidding
of their God, willing to become martyrs in the struggle against evil. Thus,
their thinking, too, is held hostage by the rhetoric of evil. They are, if
you can think an unthinkable thought, mirror images of us Americans as we
react with violence to destroy evil in the world.
As the above example from CNN illustrates, the media run the risk of repeating
the errors in relation to 9/11 and WMD -- focusing distraction and cultivating
denial (cf Destructive
Weapons of Mass Distraction vs Distractive Weapons of Mass Destruction,
2003). Under the circumstances, it is tantamount to inciting people to racism.
#7. Learning from manipulative framing of "terrorism":
Concerns have been expressed at a complicity within the Coalition of the Willing
to underreport the death count of their own military personnel associated with
the intervention in Iraq. This is notably achieved by focusing on statistics
of "killed in Iraq" as a key measure of the cost -- carefully framing
the counts maintained by others such as antiwar.com
(Casualties in Iraq),
Casualties in Iraq), CNN.com ("coalition
troop deaths...in the war
in Iraq"). Thus the official total of US dead on 21 May 2005 is given
as 1,831. But, as argued by Brian Harring (The
U.S. Military Personnel who died in German hospitals or en route to German
hospitals have not previously been counted. They total about 6,210 as of 1
January, 2005.... There is excellent reason to believe that the Department
of Defense is deliberately not reporting a significant number of the dead
in Iraq.... The educated rumor is that the actual death toll is in excess
of 7,000.... In addition to the evident falsification of the death rolls,
at least 5,500 American military personnel have deserted, most in Ireland
but more have escaped to Canada and other European countries, none of whom
are inclined to cooperate with vengeful American authorities.... This means
that of the 158,000 U.S. military shipped to Iraq, 26,000 either deserted,
were killed or seriously wounded. The DoD lists currently being very quietly
circulated indicate almost 9,000 dead, over 16,000 seriously wounded. [alternative
There is even a definitional issue relating to statistics on "deaths in
Iraq", which may well exclude deaths occurring in a helicopter evacuating
wounded to a local military base hospital or deaths in that hospital -- both
locations being legally defined as "US territory" rather than "Iraq".
The above report has been debunked as disinformation [more],
but in a context of assertions and counter assertions (and Pentagon underreporting
of Vietnam deaths) there is no great reasons to have confidence in any particular
interpretation, or the manner by which it may be discredited. It would be helpful
if the misused qualifier "in Iraq" was modified to reflect whatever
is claimed to be the truth by those who report it. Who benefits
from such trivial definitional game-playing?
Given the possibility of such definitional game-playing over "deaths",
similar definitional issues of selective intepretation are to be expected with
respect to "terrorism". As defined by Tony Blair:
The purpose of terrorism lies not just in the violent act itself. It is in
producing terror. It sets out to inflame, to divide, to produce consequences
which they then use to justify further terror. (18
The purpose of terrorism is not only to kill and maim the innocent, it is
to put despair and anger in people's hearts. It is by its savagery designed
to cover all conventional politics in darkness, to overwhelm the dignity of
democracy and proper process with the impact of bloodshed and of terror. There
is no hope in terrorism, nor any future in it worth living. And it is hope
that is the alternative to this hatred. (8
As discussed elsewhere (cf Varieties
of Terrorism: extended to the experience of the terrorized 2004), one
of the great unnoticed difficulties of the "war against terrorism"
is the manner in which terrorism is framed to include:
- acts perpetrated by people of a different culture or belief system against
the domain of the state accepting that definition
- acts perpetrated by groups in opposition to the policies of the government
of that state
but to exclude terror resulting from:
- acts perpetrated for a state
- acts perpetrated by criminals (notably organized crime)
against other civilians in the home country
- action of neighbourhood gangs terrorizing the vulnerable
-- who, in the UK, may only be restrained by slap-on-the-wrist, "anti-social
- bullying and harassment (even to the point of death or
suicide) in institutionalized environments (army, prisons, schools, workplaces,
etc) by other inmates or by the responsible authorities -- who may well tacitly
approve hazing rituals as a process of "character improvement" and
resist any restraining measures on such institutionalized terror (replicating
the recently publicized pattern in religious schools). For example, a spokeman
for the Russian Defence Ministry described dedovschchina as "a
natural process among men when one of them wants to be a leader...It's no
worse in the Russia than in any other European army". It was described
as deliberately created to instill discipline. Systematic abuse of conscripts
is rife in the Russian army and leads to many deaths -- labelled as suicides
and not investigated. [more]
- acts undertaken by a variety of other bodies (rogue agencies, disaffected
agents, corporate "dirty tricks units", etc)
- "Acts of God", namely hurricanes, landslides,
trunsamis, volcanoes, lightning, etc (cf Is
God a Terrorist: Definitional game-playing by the Coalition of the Willing?
Also necessarily excluded from terrorism as such are acts in some way conducive
to terrorism on the part of others:
- acts supportive of terrorism and terrorists, through providing infrastructure
and reseources. These are a particular concern of anti-terrorism legislation
insofar as the terrorism is of the "included" variety
- acts in inciting or condoning terrorism. Again these are a particular concern
of anti-terrorism legislation insofar as the terrorism is of the "included"
- acts ensuring "terrorism by proxy", analogous to the accepted
procedures of torture by proxy through "rendition".
These tend to be subject to a particular form of denial, whether they are
of the "included" or "excluded" variety.
Much has been made of the just cause of "freedom fighters" as against
the illegitimate cause of "terrorists". For example Wikipedia
Freedom fighter is a relativistic local term for those engaged in rebellion
against an established government that is held to be oppressive and illegitimate....
Historically, we find that people who are self-described "freedom fighters"
tend to be called assassins, rebels, or terrorists by their foes. During the
Cold War, the term 'freedom fighter' was widely used by the United States
and other Western Bloc countries to describe rebels in countries controlled
by Communist governments or otherwise under the influence of the Soviet Union,
including rebels in Hungary, the anti-communist Contras in Nicaragua, UNITA
in Angola and the multi-factional mujahideen in Afghanistan.[more]
The assumption is readily made for political propaganda purposes that the actions
of a group may be those of "terrorists" or of "freedom fighters".
The difficulties of distinguishing objectively between the two are clarified
in a complex online educational tool developed by Tom March (Freedom
Fighters or Terrorists: A WebQuest on Telling the Difference). It uses
as examples: ANC (South Africa), Oklahoma bombing (USA), Black Panthers (USA),
Eco-terrorists, Islam, Israel, and US/CIA.
It is reasonable to conclude that those who frame the definition of terrorism
in a manipulative manner are most probably those who would have a predisposition
to "framing" those accused of terrorism in any legal process.
Who benefits from such a selective definition of terrorism --
focusing on what is done to me and mine by foreigners -- and ignoring what my
society does to others? This point was strongly made by London mayor Ken Livingstone
Middle East policy , BBC, 20 July 2005), in opposition to the views
of Tony Blair, saying he did not just denounce suicide bombers, but he also
denounced "those governments which use indiscriminate slaughter to advance
their foreign policy... irrespective of the casualties it inflicts, women, children
Individually, those in western societies, through immersion in social tensions
induced by advertising, are themselves effectively terrorized on multiple fronts:
- measuring up physically: size, strength, weight, age, beauty, endurance,
- measuring up emotionally: sociability, relationships, depression
- measuring up intellectually: brains, memory, diplomas
- measuring up spiritually: merit, making it to heaven
- performance and achievement: winning vs losing, competitive sport
- financial security: daily food, mortgage payments, debt repayment
- personal security: home security, social security, street violence, gun
culture, terrorism, accidents
- fashion sense: taste, clothing, decor
- status, career, relationships: lagging behind, remuneration, "keeping
up with Jones"
Who benefits from ignoring the terror of daily life
as experienced by many -- to the point of forcing significant numbers into substance
abuse, mental illness or suicide? [more
| more] Terror Management Theory
(TMT) suggests that culture itself serves as a psychological defense against
the terror inherent in human existence (cf M B Salzman, Globalization,
Culture, and Anxiety: perspectives and predictions from terror management theory,
2001). Destabilization and destruction of their cultures therefore exposes some
to such terror. It is reported that some 250,000 a year commit suicide in China
-- with a further 2.5-3 million unsuccessful attempts -- the brightest typically
fearing inability to fulfil parental explanations [more].
Whether it takes the form of existential terror, fear, insecurity, panic,
anxiety, lack of trust or uncertainty, it affects the most affluent and modern
societies (cf Bart Pattyn and Luc Van Liedekerke, Anxiety
and Uncertainty in Modern Society, 2001). How should the quality of
that terror in western countries be compared with the quality of terror faced
by those in developing countries confronted by starvation and the death of their
family members? How insulting is it to those faced with such death to have their
terror demeaned by a legalistic definition ignoring the form of terrorism that
gaver rise to it? Who benefits from framing terror as an experience
uniquely experienced by people in western countries -- resulting from the actions
of terrorists from developing countries?
The unexplored consequence of experience of the terror of daily life is the
identification of scapegoats, as described by Jeffrey Johnson (The
Epistemology of Panic, 2001):
The creation of scapegoats is an integral part of an epistemology of panic.
This is an attempt to formulate a systematic rationalization of one’s
own insecurity and terror in the face of life’s challenges and opportunities.
Rather than intelligently, reticently, willfully, and courageously dealing
with the reality of a challenging situation, it is easier to react against
it through recourse to a palliative for oneself and a caricature of others.
This result is the creation of an ideology or set of preconceived notions
which serves as a façade for one’s panic. The very nature of
a reactionary is to be someone in panic. Reaction is a form of panic.
Of particular interest is the extent to which the so-called "franchising"
of terrorism by "al-Qaida" has resulted in a tendency to perceive
only the exotic "al-Qaida" brand as genuine terrorism. Who
benefits from such a successful branding operation? What is the
"market share" of the unbranded varieties -- perhaps dismissed as
being of lower "terror content", diluted into "anxiety"
or "panic", and lacking the life threatening strength of the "al-Qaida"
There is a terrible irony to the avoidance of the terror to be experienced
in one's own backyard -- as exemplified by a somewhat different reading of George
Bush's very own often-cited words (President
Discusses Patriot Act, 9 June 2005) :
We're taking the fight to the terrorists abroad, so we don't have to face
them here at home. [commentary]
#8. Learning from metaphors of "war" and "terrorism":
The importance of metaphor in war has been explored by George Lakoff (Metaphor
and War: the metaphor system used to justify war in the Gulf, 1991/2003;
Terror, 2001). He makes the strong point that "metaphors can kill"
(George Lakoff, Metaphors
That Kill: the Nation as Person, and how metaphors frame our perception of war,
19 March 2003).
James William Underhill (The
Switch: metaphorical representation of the war in Iraq from September 2002 -
May 2003) distinguishes from cited examples in The Economist:
- 13 "protometaphors" descriptive of the nature of "war":
Defence; Accepting a challenge; Lighting a fire; Unleashing a wild beast;
A film; Surgery; Execution; A game; Problem solving; A vehicle; Reaching a
destination; A commodity; and Crime fighting. Of these the final three are
- 17 phenomena considered themselves to be "war", again as "protometaphors":
Propaganda; Trying to alleviate poverty; Trying to eradicate terrorism; Trying
to cure disease; Business; Party politics; International politics; Student
protest; Cultural competition; Pacifism; Economic planning; Trying to prevent
drug traffic; The consolidation of the EU; Making peace; Trying to eradicate
tax evasion; Harming the environment; and Social unrest.
It could be most fruitful to apply Underhill's methodology to "terrorism"
as opposed to "war". But with respect to eradicating terrorism
is war, he argues:
One of the most dangerous consequences of the general acceptance of trying
to eradicate terrorism is war as a literal, straight-forward expression,
is the way it blurs not only the nature of terrorism and war (which is worrying
enough) but the way this blurring spreads to (or contaminates) other concepts.
Conjointly with war is crimefighting, trying to eradicate
terrorism is war has greatly affected the way we conceive such words
as "terrorist", "crime", "murder" and "execution"....It
must be remembered that the British government has always refused to acknowledge
the IRA's struggle as "war". The IRA were always "terrorists"
for the government.... Either you are a legitimate government maintaining
order, or you are one party of a violent power-struggle. A government can't
have it both ways. It can't refuse to acknowledge terrorists as forming an
army and then engage in a dirty war to crush that organisation. Something
of the same desire for both legitimacy and access to illegitimate means to
reach their ends can be found in both the British government and the Bush
administration. No doubt, it is present in all governments, but the protometaphor
trying to eradicate terrorism is war can at times go a long way
to extending support for this paradoxical situation and the government’s
tortuous rhetoric in defending its cause against violent groups.
This analysis points to a basic challenge in presenting what is technically
warfare", namely a situation in which the two sides are mismatched
in their military capacities. For those engaged in the "war on terrorism"
it has become vital to avoid framing the "struggle" of the "enemy"
as a "war" -- however some may understand jihad or "freedom
fighter". As noted above, this then allows their action to be framed as
illegitimate -- supposedly justifying a non-legitimate response.
It is curious that by so doing the Nazi initiative of World War II is framed
as being "legitimate". It also renders illegitimate the struggle of
independence movements engaged in guerilla
warfare -- such the American
War of Independence (1775-1783) -- seemingly then to be defined by this
device as "terrorism". The action of the World Council of Churches
in support of "freedom fighter" action against the regimes of Southern
Africa should seemingly also have been labelled as condoning or supporting "terrorism".
One of Underhill's concerns is the manner in which one usage, such as pacifism
is war, is inverted into making the peace is war. Something becomes
its opposite. As he notes:
The crowning glory of semantic confusion came in the representation of pacifism,
the antiwar movement and the making of the peace after the war all in terms
of warfare metaphors. That making peace could be seen in terms of waging a
war is indeed curious enough in itself. The justification seems to be that
making a lasting peace will take the same unswerving determination as a war
campaign. Waging the peace is, it would seem, a daunting task that takes guts,
resolute courage and skill. But the representation of those forces which resisted
immediate engagement in war in Iraq was even more absurd.
Who benefits from such semantic confusion in a world of memetic
warfare? (cf Missiles,
Missives, Missions and Memetic Warfare: Navigation of strategic interfaces in
multidimensional knowledge space, 2001)
#9. Learning from alternative metaphors framing terrorism?
If the above analysis by Underhill were to be applied to terrorism, it is probable
that many of the metaphorical usages applied to "war" would be applicable
to "terrorism" (if only from the perspective of the terrorist). This
would give metaphors of "Terrorism as...":
- defence -- a perception of the impoverished societies in which it
- accepting a challenge -- a perception of those faced with an immeasurably
more powerful oppressing force
- lighting a fire -- a perception of those claiming to send a signal
- unleashing a wild beast -- a perception in response to suffocating,
- a film -- a perception consistent with movie coverage of such events,
possibly for purposes of propaganda, and the enthusiasm that they engender
- surgery -- a perception consistent with targetted assassination for
- execution -- a perception consistent with targetted assassination
for political purposes and revenge
- a game -- a perception of cynical strategists
- problem solving -- a perception of the relevant advantage of use
of terrorism as a strategy
- a vehicle -- a perception of the need for a vehicle to carry a message;
There is therefore a case for exploring a range of alternative metaphors defining
the emergence of terrorist incidents in order to avoid such locked-in thinking
and the operational decisions made in consequence (cf Donald Schon, Generative
metaphor; a perspective on problem-setting in social policy, 1979).
Alternative metaphors could highlight possible traps to understanding associated
with unfruitful forms of groupthink. This approach follows from the much-cited
work of Gareth Morgan (Images of Organization, 1986).
Haystack and needle metaphor: One early response by UK Home Secretary,
Charles Clarke to
tracking the perpetrators of 7/7 used the metaphor of "finding a needle
in a haystack" [more].
This metaphor implies a mindset locked into finding the "needle" in
order to find the "thread", hopefully still attached to it -- in order
to find the "cloth" (al-Qaida) it was being used to "weave"
(the al-Qaida strategy). In the case that it might indeed be terrorists of Middle
Eastern origin, this metaphor ignores the fact that any "thread" might
necessarily be "broken", if it was a "carpet" that was being
"woven". The danger of searching for "needles" in this metaphor
is that the security services may end up "grasping at straws" -- as
well as having a predisposition to "stitching people up" with dubious
In that "haystack" metaphor, for example, it might be unfortunately
concluded that the simplest way of finding the "needle" was simply
to burn the "hay" -- which some might conclude was what was now being
done to human rights.
Cancer metaphor: As suggested (above) by Thomas L Friedman: "The
Al Qaeda threat has metastasized and become franchised. It is no longer vertical,
something that we can punch in the face. It is now horizontal, flat and widely
distributed, operating through the Internet and tiny cells" [more].
As noted by Donald Schon (above), this metaphor suggests a "surgical"
response -- echoed by the "surgical" precision with which Coalition
forces describe any attacks they undertake.
Commercial metaphor: Also suggested (above) by Thomas L Friedman: "The
Al Qaeda threat has... become franchised. It is no longer vertical, something
that we can punch in the face. It is now horizontal, flat and widely distributed,
operating through the Internet and tiny cells" [more].
This commercial metaphor has been used by Olivier Roy (Al-Qaida
Brand Name Ready for Franchise: the business of terror, Le Monde
diplomatique, 1 September 2004). It is also used by Raymond Whitaker and
Paul Lashmar (Franchise
terrorism: 'Trying to hit al-Qa'ida is like trying to hit jelly' Independent
on Sunday, 10 July 2005).
"Franchise terrorism" is now being used to describe the evolution
of a loose "al-Qaida" network into an even looser network through
which those trained return home to galvanize others and pass on their expertise.
This commercial metaphor, as noted above, is ensuring that the highly successful
"franchising" of terrorism by "al-Qaida" precludes the detection
of any other "brand" as being the "genuine product" -- with
a consequent lack of ability to detect the "market share" of the "unbranded"
varieties, especially those of local origin. Ironically "al-Qaida"
may even be faced with what might be termed "counterfeiting" of its
hallmarks by "unfranchised" terrorists..
Meteorological metaphor: Given what is allegedly known of the looseness
of organization of "al-Qaida", some have even argued that it might
be better framed as an attitude or world view (as in early Christianity, ironically).
In this light a "weather" metaphor might, for example, be useful:
- "heat" could model the frustration felt by impoverished Muslims
(fruitlessly tracked by surveys and "humint")
- "water" could model aspirations for a better life (fruitlessly
tracked by profiling individual water droplets, or puddles, especially when
in process of evaporation by the heat)
- "topography" could model the propitiousness of circumstances (tracked
as likely opportunities in time and space for terrorist incidents)
- "clouds", potentially forming thunder "storm cells",
could model amorphous organizations and their "terror cells" (fruitlessly
profiled and individually targetted under their ever changing names and forms)
- "wind", potentially driving the "clouds" into topographic
features (tracked as fickle changes in movements of opinion), or into a circular
motion giving rise to destructive "hurricanes", usefully compared
- "lightning", after build up of an adequate charge, could model
a terrorist strike (whose path could be photographed and fruitlessly traced
by surveillance technology)
The point of such a metaphor, of what is above all a complex system, is that
conventional security approaches are inappropriate to the elimination of "lightning"
-- although a weather report can of course be produced with its attendant uncertainties.
The challenge of this metaphor for George Bush is that it suggests that "global
warming" may also have a psychosocial analogue that could be as dangerous
to ignore. From a strategic perspective such metaphors have long featured in
more sophisticated classical approaches to martial strategy (cf Miyamoto Musashi.
A Book of Five Rings: Go Rin No
Geological metaphor: Another set of possible metaphors for terrorism
derives from geology: an "earthquake" or a "volcano".
Both are sudden, difficult to predict, events. In both cases they correspond
to a relief of stress, the first in relation to tectonic forces and the second
in relation to pressure of underground magma. These usefully point to the "underground"
nature of movements of opinion giving rise to terrorist incidents.
Fire metaphor: In a description of George Bush's second inaugural address
Sidney Blumenthal (A
military in extremis, 27 January 2005) pointed out that the speech was
aflame with images of destruction and vengeance.
The terrorist attack of Sept. 11, 2001, appeared as a "day of fire," a trope
combining the Dies Irae of the Roman Catholic Mass ("The day of wrath,
that day which will reduce the world to ashes") with the Book of Revelation
("lake of fire"). Bush never mentioned Iraq, but he spoke of fighting fire
with fire. "We have lit a fire as well -- a fire in the minds of men. It warms
those who feel its power, it burns those who fight its progress, and one day
this untamed fire of freedom will reach the darkest corners of our world."
The phrase "a fire in the minds of men" is a quote from Dostoevski's The
Possessed, and Dostoevski meant it to describe the fanaticism of nihilistic
terrorists. Bush twisted the reference to conflate "freedom" with retribution
that "burns" our enemies with "untamed" fury.
Jelly metaphor: As noted in passing above, the incident of 7/7 has led
to the suggestion that al-Qaida is like a "jelly" (cf Raymond Whitaker
and Paul Lashmar (Franchise
terrorism: 'Trying to hit al-Qa'ida is like trying to hit jelly' Independent
on Sunday, 10 July 2005)
Cowboy metaphor: The use of a pack of playing cards of the "most
wanted" terrorists [more]
was an early way of framing the challenge for Coalition of the Willing. This
is typical of antiquated, "good guy / bad guy", cowboy thinking. The
unambiguous "black-or-white" distinction extolled by the Bush regime
("you are either with us or against us") is strongly supported in
the USA by the emerging literary market for "Christian fiction" of
which Douglas Kennedy (Selling
the rapture, The Guardian, 9 July 2005) indicates:
This is a worldview in which all doubts and dilemmas are solved through either
divine intervention and/or the acceptance of God's radiant love.... In the
brave new world of modern Christian literature, doubters are either those
who haven't yet embraced God's light, or hardened secularists who are, by
and large, corrupt and venal.... There is right and there is wrong. There
is good and there is evil. And as in any western, the good guys always wear
the white hats.
The metaphor is consistent with the mindset which isolates (and possibly eliminates)
stallions to deprive a herd of wild horses of a leader -- before they are domesticated.
It is also consistent with understandings of how to "herd cattle"
through well-placed fear inducers -- channelling them as required. This may
be a challenge to understandings of the role of leadership in a democracy.
Chemical radical metaphor: A different metaphor has emerged in the aftermath
of 7/7, namely the concern that born-and-bred UK citizens are being "radicalized"
as noted by Richard Norton-Tyler (Security
services face worst scenario, The Guardian, 13 July 2005):
What concerns the security services is that the four bombers appear to have
been "radicalised" in Britain, not indoctrinated in training camps and religious
schools in the Middle East. How young men apparently from stable backgrounds
- as well as from broken or unstable families - are attracted to commit such
atrocities has concerned MI5 and the Home Office for a long time....Security
sources said yesterday that ministers would have to look again at radical
clerics who can encourage extremism and influence young men disillusioned
with western culture.
In chemistry, radicals
(often referred to as free radicals) are atomic or molecular species with unpaired
electrons (therefore electrically charged, rather than neutral) or an otherwise
open shell configuration. These unpaired electrons are usually highly reactive,
so radicals are likely to take part in a wide variety of chemical reactions.
The formation of radicals requires covalent bonds to be broken through a process
that requires significant amounts of energy. It could be argued that socio-political
"radicalization" is a somewhat analogous process through which conventional
psychosocial bonds are broken as a result of the energy differential associated
with perceived social disparities and iniquities.
The metaphor then suggests that, to avoid activation of a range of psychosocial
processes and engagement in them, radicalization should be inhibited, notably
by controlling catalysts of dissidence (such as "radical clerics").
It sets the stage for the criminalizing of dissidence (cf William Norman Grigg.
Dissent. New American, 1999). The resulting neutral apathy and
indifference, framed as desirable, highlights the challenge of mainstream voter
apathy (cf Andrea Lynn, 9/11
Day of terror a 'call to arms' for political dissent, scholars say,
Root metaphor: Terrorism, as expressed through the "perverted and
poisonous doctrines of Islamic extremism" may be framed as purely evil
by associating it with an "evil tree" metaphor. Thus Tony Blair launched
a campaign on 13 July 2005, calling for international cooperation, "to
pull up this evil ideology by its roots" [more].
For the religious, like Blair, such a tree is typically understood as an esoteric
"Tree of Evil" -- more appropriately understood as the biblical of
"Tree of Knowledge" of "Good and Evil" (cf Genesis
2:9: In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the
knowledge of good and evil). Within this metaphorical frame, the strategic
objective becomes one of "rooting out" or "uprooting" evil
which, at least in biblical terms, is curiously joined to good within the same
Tree of Knowledge -- standing as a complement to the biblical "Tree
of Life". There is seemingly no separate Tree of Evil to be uprooted
[more]. As an
operation to separate Siamese twins, this is no easy framing for a strategy.
There is also the even more challenging understanding that it is the nature
of the Tree of Knowledge to integrate the seemingly incommensurable perspectives
of the Abrahamic and other religions -- perspectives that encourage each to
define the other as "evil".
One commentator illustrates the danger of this metaphor as applied to the "rooting
out" undertaken so surgically by the Coalition of the Willing in Iraq:
"In trying to root out a couple of weeds, we set the entire garden alight."
If the medical metaphor of cancer-like metastasis
is used to describe the transformation of terrorism, then from a surgical point
of view any future effort at "rooting out" -- whether applied to terrorism,
evil or extremism (as repeatedly advocated by Tony Blair) -- may well be disastrously
Chemical solution metaphor: Another chemical metaphor that is descriptive
of the emergence of terrorism is that of a "supersaturated
solution". This is consistent with the observation that frustration
rises to a peak amongst ordinary Muslims in the light of the contradictions
in western policies in the Middle East -- and the disparities that arise from
them. A small change, or trigger,
may then provoke a rapid "crystalization" into an action taking terrorist
A variant of this metaphor would be that of the process of effervescence typical
of gassified water. Under certain conditions, possibly resulting from a chemical
reaction, the gas forms into bubbles. Individual bubbles might then be understood
as radicalized individuals or proto-terrorists. The danger is that security
and intelligence services focus on the particular bubbles emerging at a particular
moment and not on the condition of the fluid from which many bubbles may subsequently
Log-jam or silver bullet metaphor: In effect major terrorist incidents
may well result from the motivating power of an attitude, or an idea -- whilst
intelligence services endeavour desperately to imply that this idea is effectively
embodied in a single individual as a leader -- who could be "taken out"
to make the structure collapse. The question is then implicitly framed in terms
of the key "log" to free the "jam", or the design of a "silver
bullet" to eliminate the evil leader. The strategic assumption is made
that eliminating those key individuals will eliminate the attitude. For a society
supposedly based on "universal" Christian values -- and a long history
of highly-honoured martyrdom -- this is a totally ironic failure to believe
in the power of an idea to motivate individual martyrs (or "suicide bombers")
in support of their truth.
The above metaphors all provide ways of framing the action of terrorists opposed
to the declared strategy of the Coalition of the Willing. The latter strategy
has also been framed through its own metaphor -- "spreading"
democracy or freedom. The term spreading is however more commonly associated
with material substances, notably those well-known to a president with a cattle
ranching background. The questionable implication is that a non-material value
can be appropriaterly treated in the same manner. The comparison with "spreading
manure", and the mindset and equipment required, has not been lost on some
Especially problematic in any such "spreading" is the spread of arms,
fundamental to the American concept of democracy, as articulated by the Second
Amendment to the US Constitution -- also reflected in the constitutions of individual
states of the USA (cf Arming
Civil Society Worldwide: Getting democracy to work in the emergent American
Empire? 2003). To the extent that "democracy and freedom"
have become code for "Christian values" within the leadership of the
Coalition of the Willing, the use of "spreading" in that connection
is especially unfortunate.
The strategic assumptions built around current use of such metaphors have been
proven to be totally inadequate to the situation -- despite their potential
a Metaphorical Language for the Future, 1994; Metaphoric
Revolution: in quest of a manifesto for governance through metaphor,
1988). This is confirmed by the conclusion of the formal investigation of the
intelligence community's response to "al-Qaida" and WMD as a classic
example of "intelligence failure" resulting from groupthink (see above).
Who benefits from such metaphorical confusion -- and impoverishment?
(cf In Quest
of Uncommon Ground: Beyond impoverished metaphor and the impotence of words
of power, 1997).
#10. Learning from ongoing misframed "wars"
The legitimacy and honourable aspects of "war" have encouraged use
of the term in framing metaphorically the struggle of society against a range
of problematic conditions -- especially in politically motivated marketing campaigns.
Curiously the strategic implications arising from the possibility of whether
such warfare is "asymmetric" are not considered. Nor does the question
arise as to whether the dynamics of the "enemy" resemble "terrorism"
to a much higher degree than might be admitted or be acceptable -- given current
attitudes to "terrorism". Here we are dealing with cases of "war
on X" or "war against X", in contrast to Underhill's exploration
of "war is X" or "X is war".
Other than the "war on terrorism" (and excluding "trade wars"),
examples of "wars on X" declared by governments and international
Other kinds of "wars on..." have been identified, or "declared",
by groups of varying degrees of legitimacy (see Table 2). A contrast can be
very usefully made between "wars" declared by protagonists (marked
"P") and those "wars" noted by groups whose interests are
targetted (marked "T"). Some "wars" may be acknowledged
-- differently -- by both protagonists and targetted. Those in impoverished
conditions would, for example, tend to perceive that "war" has been
effectively engaged against them. Some may respond by declaring a "holy
war" -- or a "crusade". This can give rise to what is labelled
as "terrorism" -- against which "war" can in its turn be
declared. "Evil" may be variously detected and itself result in the
declaration of a "war" in response -- hence preferences for the "crusader"
and "jihadi" terminology.
Table 2: "Unofficial Virtual Wars"
(P="Wars" declared by protagonists; T="Wars"
detected by those whose interests are targetted)
- war on pain [more]
- war on property rights [more]
- war on business [more]
- war on gays [more]
- war on activists [more
| more] (P/T)
- war on environment [more]
- war against nature [more]
- war on the automobile [more]
- war on truth [more
- war of truth [more]
- war against the weak [more]
- war against the poor [more]
- war on science [more]
- war on children [more
| more | more
- war on personal responsibility [more]
- war on civil liberties [more]
- war on human rights [more]
- war on political dissent [more]
- war on psychiatry [more
- war on diabetes [more]
- war on junk food [more]
- war on education [more]
- war on fear [more]
- war on bacteria [more]
- war on guns [more]
- war on religion [more]
- war on tyranny [more]
- war against sin (P)
- war on love [more]
- war against trade unions [more
| more] (P/T)
- war on liberal economic order [more]
- war on abortion [more
- war on hope [more]
- war on journalism [more]
- war on counterfeiting [more]
- war on global warming [more]
- war on climate change [more]
- war on chronic illness [more]
- war on weeds [more]
- war on the family [more]
- war on spam [more]
- war on freedom [more
- war on hierarchy [more]
- war on fat [more]
- war on the press [more]
- war on choice [more
| more] (P/T)
- war on women [more
- war on academic freedom [more]
- war on child health [more]
- war on rational discourse [more]
- war on Christianity [more]
- war on Islam [more
| more | more]
- war on Judaism [more
| more | more
| more] (P/T)
- war on youth [more]
- war on the disabled [more]
- war on sexual temptation [more]
- war on cancer [more
| more | more]
- war on capitalism [more
| more] (P/T)
- war against global crimes [more]
- war on halitosis [more]
- war on water wastage [more]
- war against rising sea levels [more]
- war against population [more
- war on imagination [more]
- war on thought [more
- war on wisdom [more
With respect to the official "wars" (in Table 1 above), it is clear
to all that they are not being won with the current strategies (as supported
by the key members of the Coalition of the Willing):
- The "war on drugs" provides the most striking example [more
Labelled a "tragic failure", in the USA it has lasted over 30 years
| more] -- gradually
evoking new thinking from those who engage in it [more
| more | more].
The same is true in the UK (cf Alan Travis, Revealed:
how drugs war failed, The Guardian, 5 July 2005). One curious
side effect of the "successful" USA-UK attack on Afghanistan was
that drug production, constrained by the Taliban, began to flourish anew.
Given the continuing military operations there, it might be argued that both
"wars" have proven to be a failure.
- With respect to the "war on cancer", one report indicates
"30 years ago, the United States declared war on cancer. Three decades
later, we're still fighting and dying" [more]
Another report asks why access to alternative cancer treatment is so vigorously
- With respect to the "war on poverty" launched in the USA
by Lyndon Johnson in 1964: "Since then, the federal government has created
vast new bureaucracies and raised taxes to a staggering level not seen since
World War Two. L.B.J. helped create welfare..., Medicare, Head Start, the
Job Corps, and Medicaid. Worst of all, most of L.B.J.'s War on Poverty was
a failure". [more
| more]. There is also
criticism of the World Bank's approach to the "war on poverty" [more]
- With respect to the "war against hunger", one FAO report
indicates: "Given the rate at which hunger has declined since 1990 on
average, the World Food Summit goal of reducing the number of undernourished
people by half by 2015 cannot be reached. After falling by 37 million during
the first half of the 1990s, the number of hungry people in developing countries
increased by 18 million in the second half of the decade". [more]
The "war on drugs" also provides a very concrete insight into the
incapacity of governments to stop the smuggling of explosives by terrorists.
Given the market value of drugs, significant quantities are now transported
by "drug mules" [more
-- namely people who swallow a large number of wrapped balls of drugs to take
them undetected through customs on behalf of other parties, prior to excreting
them. High quality explosives can be similarly transported. Again, just as drugs
can be planted in the luggage of innocent passengers, explosives can be similarly
planted to be detonated from a distance -- thus providing a means of manufacturing
a "suicide bomber" from any suitable passenger. It is notable that
in the "war on drugs" the reasons for the huge demand -- even amongst
elites -- are never addressed. Possession may be declared illegal, but to little
The "war on terrorism" is being framed in a similar way to the "war
on drugs" and other "official wars", possibly mistakenly (cf
Marc O. Hedahl, Stop
calling it the War on Terrorism: an argument for moral clarity US Joint
Services Conference on Professional Ethics: Anti-Terrorist Operations and Homeland
Defense, 2003). It has already been announced that the "war on terrorism"
may last for decades. There is therefore every reason to believe that it may
continue for many decades without being "won". It is therefore legitimate
to ask whether catching occasional "mules", or taking out some supply
chains, will effectively address the underlying issue. Who benefits
from the reallocation of resources to engage in the "war"?
It is interesting that two "wars" that might be said to have been
won are the "war against communism" and the "war against colonialism".
This conclusion would be disputed.
For Lev Navrozov (What
Does This Buzz-Phrase 'War on Terrorism' Mean? NewsMax.com, 17
We can now see what the buzz-phrase "war on terrorism" means. It means invading
small and technologically backward countries that have nothing to do with
terrorism and provoking thereby hatred for the West, and especially the United
States, in the Islamic world, China, Russia and India. A possible result is
terrorism in the United States as intense as it is in Israel despite Prime
Minister Sharon's "war on terrorism" before and ever since his invasion of
the West Bank. In short, the "war on terrorism" is a possible conversion of
the West into Israel as far as the intensity of suicidal terrorism is concerned.
There is a curious irony to the challenge of the "war on terrorism",
when compared with climate change and the future "war
against rising sea level" -- a phenomenon currently denied by the Bush
administration. It evokes the curious image of George Bush acting like King
Canute of yore in bidding the tide to go back. However, in the case of George
Bush, it is his faith-based sense of reality that convinces him that the sea
level will not rise unbidden -- until his faith convinces him otherwise. In
Canute's case, history records that he only wished to demonstrate the limitations
of his power to his sycophantic courtiers. History will presumably record otherwise
in Bush's case.
Who benefits from the use of war psychology to pursue virtual
wars expected to be never-ending?
Curiously, in July 2005, US officials indicated that the phrase "global
war on terror" (known by the acronym GWOT), used by the Coalition of the
Willing for four years and predicted to last one or more decades, was to be
"phased out in favor of more nuanced language". The newly preferred
phrase was indicated as being "struggle against violent extremism"
-- presumably to be known by the acronym SAVE as a natural reflection of "faith-based"
strategic thinking. More curiously, in the light of the commerical metaphor
whereby terrorism is described as having been "franchised", this change
has also been described using a commerical metaphor (cf Tom Regan, The
'rebranding' of the war on terror, Christian Science Monitor,
28 July 2005). Whereas the Bush regime argues that this reflects a recognition
that subtler language is necessary to reflect recognition of a subtler challenge,
critics have argued that the change actually reflects a recognition that the
"war" was failing [more
Should the terrorized worldwide now coopt the term "global war on terrorism"
to refer to the many actions, notably by the Coalition of the Willing, contributing
to their terror?
#11. Learning from the unthinkable: movies and infotainment
Movies are no longer interesting (or worth watching) if there is an obvious
"good guy" and an obvious "bad guy" -- those belong to the
cowboy era. Such scenarios are good for kids and to nostalgically recall one's
own childhood when values were neatly defined and labelled without any ambiguity
or doubt. But unless the "obvious" stereotypes in the movie turn out
to disguise a completely unforeseen criminal or hero, the movie has little to
offer. Fiction has indeed moved on -- although, in the imagination of some,
reality has not caught up with it. It is the new "twist" that sells
movies -- but seemingly that proclivity has not sufficiently enabled people,
or the intelligence services, to envisage such twists in identifying those responsible
for terrorism (cf Twistedness
in Psycho-social Systems: challenge to logic, morality, leadership and personal
People have an insatiable appetite for watching others slaughter each other,
with body parts flying in every direction -- and the use of torture (by "good"
guys and "bad"). It makes for "credibility" and provides
a connection with an understanding of "reality". Watching fictional
representations of torture is considered acceptable, even a test of strength
of character. We like it, we want it, we find it entertaining. For any doubts
on this, check box office statistics and internet chat rooms. For some the interest
even extends to "snuff movies". Many body-contact sports provide a
form of violence-lite.
The news media are especially active in transforming actual warfare into entertainment,
as noted by Andy Deck (Demilitarizing
the Playground, 2004), who expressed concern that warfare is effectively
Through the ethical vacuum of the corporate media board room, war has become
a spectacle that resembles entertainment. The news networks compete with each
other in producing specialized war music, graphic design motifs, and play-by-play
interviews with former generals. In this round the clock media circus, public
impressions about war are increasingly a matter of story-telling, symbolism
and misinformation. Given the vaunted freedom of the press in the United States,
there would seem to be a lack of a coordinating mechanism that can drive effective
propaganda. But the pro-war, flag-waving format has proven profitable. Fearing
that they could be perceived as less patriotic than rival networks, brand
conscious media corporations have been willing collaborators in the promotion
Movies and books have also extensively explored, if not anticipated, scenarios
based on terrorist-type attacks on cities. Ironically one such (Chris Cleave,
Incendiary, 2005), involving an attack on London, was published on 7/7
Most people have been exposed through a multitude of movies to the process
of being "fitted up" or "framed" by manipulation of evidence.
This only confirms the personal experience of many of miscarriage of justice
in legal processes. How is it that there is little recognition, if any, of the
possibilities of deliberately using terrorist incidents to frame people, if
not whole cultures? Who benefits from such victimization
and scapegoating? Who benefits from obscuring this
With this extensive exposure, one might even ask whether the population is
being deliberately trained (if not "groomed") by some agencies to
find such processes acceptable. Alternatively it might be argued that the deficiencies
of society cause a collective invocation of such twisted scenarios, and role
reversals, as a balancing psychosocial force -- consonant with the process of
enantiodromia whereby a phenomenon is transformed into its opposite.
Both Hollywood and the Pentagon are open about the "guidance" provided
by the Pentagon for a range of movies touching on the military, defence and
security. Additionally the Hollywood directors are being encouraged to develop
scenarios to "show the heroism of American armed forces (Duncan Campbell, Guardian,
9 November 2001). But it is less well-known, in relation to its own strategic
approach to terrorism, that the Pentagon has also sought the imaginative advice,
and artificial intelligence expertise, from Hollywood scenarists to explore
unforeseen scenarios [more
Who benefits from "grooming" populations into acceptance
of violence? Who benefits from numbing sensitivity to violence
against any party?
#12. Learning from the unthinkable: historical evidence
It should be recognized that, for strategists inspired by chess:
- Military intervention, whether provoked or unprovoked, is acceptable:
- USA: According to Johan
Galtung (Human Rights
and the U.S./U.K. Illegal Attack on Iraq, World
Tribunal on Iraq, Istanbul, June 2005), by some counts the attack
on Iraq is US aggression no. 239 counting from the early 19th century
and no. 69 after World War II; with between 12 and 16 million killed in
the latter period alone. He reports the words of a Pentagon planner: "The
de facto role of the United States Armed Forces will be to keep
the world safe for our economy and open to our cultural assault. To those
ends, we will do a fair amount of killing".
- Collateral damage has long been acceptable:
- Nuclear warfare: Herman
about the Unthinkable, 1962), originally of the Rand Corporation,
was one of the key figures of the so-called "Megadeath Intellectuals",
the men who, in the early years of the Cold War, made it their business
to think about the unthinkable, and to design the game plan for nuclear
war (cf Louis Menand. Thinking
the Unthinkable. New Yorker, 25 June 2005).
- Experimentation on humans: Information continues to be
released concerning the extent of biochemical and radiological experimentation
on unsuspecting volunteers and prisoners, notably by the USA (cf Rongelap
1956), the UK, and Japan, in order to improve their weaponry.
- Warfare may be deliberately provoked and instigated:
- Vietnam: in this case the war was deliberately instigated
in 1964 by the USA (Norman Solomon, 30-year
Anniversary: Tonkin Gulf Lie Launched Vietnam War, 27 July 1994)
- Iraq: leaked information in the "Downing
Street memo" (23 July 2002) confirmed that the reasons for invading
Iraq had been deliberately fabricated
- "Settlement": The process of settlement of foreigners
in territories long inhabited by indigenous peoples may be designed to
occur in such a way that the encroachment of the settlers is resisted
by attack (cf Varieties
of Encroachment, 2004). The settlers are then free to claim "innocence"
and to have been attacked unreasonably and without provocation. This then
justifies any military response against the indigenous populations (David
E. Stannard, American
Holocaust: Columbus and the Conquest of the New World, 1992)
- PsyOps: Psychological
operations, most obviously through propaganda in increasingly sophisticated
forms, are expected to make deliberate use of negative framing of opponents
so that they appear as utterly despicable and worthy of elimination in
one form or another. Use of terms like "perverted", "scum",
"evil", "inhuman", etc. is standard fare. Unfortunately
it then becomes unclear what truth there is to claims against dictators,
who may indeed have engaged in many abuses of human rights [more]
- Assistance may be deliberately withheld:
- Coventry (UK): During World War II, having cracked
the Nazi's "Enigma" code, British Intelligence learnt of the plan to bomb
the city of Coventry. Rather than evacuate the city, so proving to the
Nazis that the code had been cracked, Winston Churchill let the city be
bombed on 14 November 1940. The city was devastated. [more]
- Concentration camps: Knowing of the existence of
the death camps, there has been much debate on whether the Allies should
have acted in response to them (cf Michael J. Neufeld and Michael Berenbaum
Bombing of Auschwitz: should the Allies have attempted it?, 2000).
- Ensuring (or envisaging) destruction of one's own assets (whatever
the harm to one's own population) is acceptable to gain strategic advantage
(notably through framing others in false flag operations):
- Coventry (UK): see above
- Cuba: A set of proposals in 1962, by the US Joint Chiefs
of Staff (codenamed Operation Northwoods) to Secretary of Defense Robert
McNamara, to covertly engineer various pretexts that would justify a U.S.
invasion of Cuba. These proposals -- part of a secret anti-Castro program
known as Operation Mongoose -- included staging the assassinations of
Cubans living in the United States, developing a fake "Communist Cuban
terror campaign in the Miami area, in other Florida cities and even in
Washington," including "sink[ing] a boatload of Cuban refugees (real or
simulated)," faking a Cuban airforce attack on a civilian jetliner, and
concocting a "Remember the Maine" incident by blowing up a U.S. ship in
Cuban waters and then blaming the incident on Cuban sabotage. [more
- Israel: With regard to the Israeli Embassy bombing of
1994, an MI5 officer has alleged that the Israelis had actually bombed
their own embassy and allowed a controlled explosion to try and get better
security and the relevant documents were never shown at the trial of the
Palestinians subsequently convicted (cf London
has bombed itself before, Prison Planet, 27 June 2005;
Kingdom: Concerns remain on the convictions of two Palestinians accused
in connection with the Israeli embassy bombing, 2001)
- France (Rainbow Warrior): In a deliberate act of
state-sponsored terrorism, on 11 July 1985 French agents blew up the Greenpeace
vessel Rainbow Warrior in the Auckland harbour, killing one person.
The involvement of French agents was first denied at the highest level
and then treated as heroic. [more]
- Oklahoma: New evidence with regard to the Oklahoma City
bombing (19 April 1995) has emerged to implicate the FBI according to
Pat Shannan (Terry
Nichols Implicates FBI Informant in Bombing, AmericanFreePress.net,
2005). (see also David Hoffman, The
Oklahoma City Bombing and the Politics of Terror, 1998)
- September 11: Beyond the many analyses of those dismissed
as conspiracy theorists, there are increasingly stronger suggestions that
9/11 was actually instigated by agents of the USA, as indicated by David
MI5 Agent says 9/11 An Inside Job Prison Planet, 27 June
- Anthrax scare: It has been argued that it was in fact
the CIA that was responsible for the 2002 anthrax scare in the USA (cf
Wayne Madsen. Anthrax
and the Agency: Thinking the Unthinkable, 2002)
- Gladio: Operation Gladio was a decades-long covert campaign
of terrorism and deceit directed by the intelligence services of the West
-- against their own populations. The purpose was to attack civilians,
innocent women and children, and unknown people far removed from any political
game, to ensure that they turned to the state to ask for greater security
[more | more].
It was associated with the so-called "Stay Behind Network" [more
| more | more
(cf Daniele Ganser, NATO's
Secret Armies: Operation Gladio and Terrorism in Western Europe,
- Transformation of security exercises: Reports of varying
degrees of credibility have indicated that security exercises within a
country may be transformed by the security services, or some element of
them, into real disasters through the use of explosive devices. Thus it
is reported that there were ongoing NORAD exercises at the time of 9/11
[more | more].
The London subways were being used for a security exercise at the time
of 7/7 [more].
The Bologna station disaster of 1980 is now recognized to have been a
The public is now being exposed to the reality of the handling of those suspected
of terrorism -- as was so disastrously demonstrated in London following 7/21
when a person unrelated to the incident was shot dead for failing to stop when
ordered to do so by armed agents out of uniform. This was justified as part
of a new shoot-to-kill policy named Operation Kratos [more],
developed with Israeli expertise -- and presumably basic to the rules of engagement
with suspected insurgents in Iraq, irrespective of whether the suspect can comprehend
the orders of the agents or they can be distinguished from ordinary criminals.
Who benefits from the lack of necessity to prove that
such shootings were justified?
Ironically "kratos", from the classical Greek notion of rule (and
originally the God of Strength), is the lesser-known face of democracy (demos
"common people," + kratos "rule, power, authority") -- a democracy that
it is the declared purpose of the Coalition of the Willing to spread worldwide.
It may be argued that a shoot-to-kill enforcement focus has now been cynically
placed on "kratos" in the rules of engagement with "demos"
-- under the guise of democracy.
There is probably a serious case for recognizing the emerging realities by
which the "kratos" of the 21st century may now be disguised in other
related dubious "rules of engagement": aristo-kratos (neocons? Davos
alumni?), pluto-kratos (multinational CEOs?), theo-kratos (theocons? fundamentalists?),
bureau-kratos (civil servant mandarins "on the take"?), auto-kratos
(Bush? Blair?), techno-kratos (purveyors of "silver bullets"?), merito-kratos
(exemplary conformists? laureates?), klepto-kratos (development contractors?
mafia?). These tend to accord with realities with which many are familiar --
in contrast to the promoted image of democracy [more].
As documented annually by Amnesty
International, torture is now widely practiced. As head of the world's only
superpower, the President of the USA considers torture acceptable [more
| more | more
| more | more
| more]. The UK Foreign
Office is threatening legal action against a former UK ambassador to Uzbekistan,
Craig Murray, who attacked the use of information obtained through torture by
MI6 via the CIA [more].
Which countries, and groups, would not therefore find it acceptable in pursuit
or defence of their particular agendas -- in emulation of the leading exponent
of the highest values of civilization? Should the Universal Declaration of Human
Rights be amended to reflect that reality ? (cf Universal
Declaration of Human Rights: in the light of God's renewed will, 2004)
An interesting technique in torture, frequently presented in movies, is that
of the "good cop / bad cop". Its purpose is to disorient in order
to achieve advantage over the victim. In the case of 7/7, having won the Olympic
bid for 2012 and indulged in preliminary euphoria -- the incident was a powerful
way of introducing disorientation. Who would benefit from such
Given the lack of ability to develop more sophisticated computer-enhanced modes
of dialogue between incommensurable perspectives, it is extremely ironic that
there is every possibility that the simplistic mindset from which Operation
Kratos arose was that sustained by a new computer game God
of War -- coincidentally the subject of a BBC commentary on 7/8 (James
of War game reigns supreme, 8 July 2005). This emphasizes Greek mythology
with the player assuming the role of Kratos, "a great and powerful warrior
that was granted unimaginable power by the Greek god of war, Ares. Kratos turns
on Ares and allies himself with Ares' sister, Athena, in an attempt to save
Athens from complete and total destruction at Ares' hands". The player
takes on "wave after wave of enemy hoardes en route to a massive final
battle with a formidable adversary". This probably gives a sense of what
anti-terrorist strategists do in their spare moments. As another review indicates
in referring to the "gratuitous bloodshed", the game "doesn't
just let you kill enemies, it exults in showing you the gory details".
As reviewed by Ivan Sulic (God
of War: Who wants to go god hunting? 25 March 2005), the synopsis of
the game is:
Beseeched by Athena and the other gods of Olympus, Kratos has been commissioned
from on high to discover Pandora's Box and use it to slay the enraged son
of Zeus. Once in possession of such divine power, Kratos will unleash one
thousand years of godly secrets and wield his newfound strength to kill Ares.
But he doesn't care for the plight of the Olympians. He doesn't care for the
wake of fire and death that spreads from the heels of war. Kratos doesn't
want to save anyone, let alone himself. All he desires is murder. Kratos wants
to destroy the god of war for the joy that would come from ripping his heart
out. Vengeance is what Kratos seeks -- vengeance and due payment. For what,
you must find out.
The relevance of computer games to comprehension of the urgent strategic challenges
of society has been explored elsewhere in relation to climate change (cf Playfully
Changing the Prevailing Climate of Opinion: Climate change as focal metaphor
of effective global governance, 2005). Such points are not lost on
the U.S. Army in its efforts at "militainment"
-- as an extension of the "infotainment" described above [more
The Army now markets its own Americas's
Army: Special Forces PC game -- described as a compelling example of
militainment -- to highlight weapons systems and forces troops engaged in the
global war on terrorism as part of its recruitment drive (cf PC
Game News, 3 May 2004). It incidentally ties such marketing to that
of the God of War game featuring Kratos. It is unfortunate that such
technical competence and marketing are not applied to the challenges of dialogue
with mutually deadly opponents. Who benefits from
grooming the population for war and incitement to warfare against other peoples?
How is this to be compared with werstern complaints about Islamic "hate
sites" on the web.
#13. Learning from the unthinkable: current events
The UK and the USA have been involved for several years in regular bombing
of locations in Iraq, Afghanistan and -- more covertly -- Iran. This has resulted
in many civilian deaths -- estimated at 25,000-100,000 -- an estimate, as noted
above, whose accuracy is a matter of indifference to the perpetrators [more].
From a democratic perspective, this "collateral damage" is entirely
acceptable to the US and UK populations whose war leaders -- as leaders of the
Coalition of the Willing -- were recently democratically re-elected by them.
In labelling perpetrators of terrorist acts as the ultimate "scum of the
Earth", one wonders with what adjectives are to be labelled those that
set them up, are complicit with such initiatives, or were directly or indirectly
responsible for creating the conditions that engendered such fanaticism. Given
that the US and the UK, as leaders of the Coalition of the Willing, have willingly
and knowingly tortured far more than were killed or wounded at 7/7 -- without
remorse or constraint -- there is indeed a challenge in finding appropriate
adjectives to describe such representatives of the highest values of modern
civilization. In the case of the G8 summit, a common left-wing political adjective,
"bloodsucker", was used by the Director of Campaigns and Policy at
War on Want, John Hilary (Bloodsuckers'
Summit: why the left should rendezvous with G8 in Gleneagles, June
2005). Perhaps "vampire" might indeed be an appropriate adjective
(cf Global Civilization
of Vampires: governance through demons and vampires on spin? 2005).
The Srebrenica massacre in former Yugoslavia is not known by a "number".
Ironically its number could in fact also be 7/7, namely the day in 1995 that
the Bosnian Serb forces led by (Christian) General Ratko
Mladic occupied the enclave to initiate the massacre of some 8,000 Muslim
civilians -- supposedly the worst human-rights atrocity committed on European
soil (since the Holocaust) [more].
The anniversary of the massacre is currently celebrated on 11 July, namely 7/11
-- although the first killing reportedly started on 13 July [more].
But, as with other incidents currently polarizing society, the commonly disseminated
"facts" are themselves in dispute (cf Gilles d'Aymery, Srebrenica,
Mon Amour: An Ostracized Narrative 18 July 2005).
It has also been remarked that commemoration of 9/11 might refer to the final
acts (on 11 September 1973) of the US-supported revolution in the Chile of Salvador
Allende, following which many thousands of people disappeared after being tortured
[more | more].
Perhaps "terrorist" acts of the future will exhaust the available
12/29 (Aden, 1992), 2/26 (New York, 1993), 6/25 (Saudia Arabia, 1996), 8/7
(East Africa, 1998), 10/12 (Aden, 2000), 4/11 ( Djerba, 2002), 5/8 (Karachi,
2002), 10/12 (Bali, 2002), 11/28 (Mombasa, 2002), 5/12 ( Riyadh, 2003), 5/16
(Casablanca, 2003) 8/19 (Baghdad, 2003), 11/15 (Istanbul, 2003), 11/20 (Istanbul,
2003), 3/11 (Madrid, 2004)
But it is nevertheless curious that both 9/11 and 7/7 occurred
at periods of commemoration of killings initiated by countries with which key
members of the Coalition of the Willing were complicit.
Torturing suspects for military intelligence is standard practice. This has
been made very clear. It is considered acceptable by the President of the USA
and by the Queen of the UK. No protest against that practice has been voiced
by either, nor by representatives of their governments.
The number of "Christians" killed in 9/11 and 7/7, supposedly by
"Islamic" fundamentalists, is of the order of 3000 maximum. The number
of "Muslims" killed by supposedly "Christian" people in
Srebrencia is claimed to be of the order of 8000 -- although the number is disputed
[more]. The person considered
primarily responsible, General Mladic, remains at liberty in a country that
has long been occupied by NATO forces. Does NATO have regulations against torture?
Does it respect them? What of value to the "war against terrorism"
has been learnt from the systematic use of torture on "suspects"?
Given the questionable legality of the intervention in Iraq, who benefits
from casting aside the constraints of the Geneva Convention or the authority
of the International Criminal Court? (cf Robin Cook, It's
not political correctness to hold soldiers to account, The Guardian,
22 July 2005). What is to be said of British soldiers accused of beating to
death their prisoners, claiming they had not been informed of the strictures
of the Geneva Convention, and justifying such unnecessary maltreatment as "silly
things" in statements such as:
You are out there to do the job. If you have got to start thinking about
silly things that you might be prosecuted for, you're putting people's lives
at risk. (Soldiers
may refuse to serve over legal threat 21 July 2005)
What job are these defenders of civilization supposed to be doing? Whose lives
do they put at risk whilst doing it? Is such treatment of prisoners a consequence
of the same minbdset that resulted in Operation Kratos in London? Who
benefits from framing the challenge in this way?
In the words of Robin Cook: "Osama bin Laden is no more a true representative
of Islam than General Mladic, commander of the Serbian forces, could be held
up as an example of Christianity" [more].
Who benefits from ensuring such radical distinction between the
activities of the "Christian" General Ratko Mladic against "Muslims"
and the actions of the "Muslim" Osama bin Laden against "Christians"?
The point is well made by the (falsely
attributed) urban myth: Former heavyweight boxing champ Muhammad Ali visited
the ruins of the World Trade Center on Thursday. When reporters asked how he
felt about the suspects sharing his Islamic faith, Ali responded pleasantly,
"How do you feel about Hitler sharing yours?"
#14. Learning from denial and the reframing of reality in
relation to "terrorism"
The new "faith-based" approach to reality by the leaders of the Coalition
of the Willing should not be forgotten. The White House is explicitly recognized
to have moved away from "evidence-based" ("reality-based",
"fact-based") strategies in favour of "faith-based"
strategies (Ron Suskind, Without
a Doubt, New York Times, 17 October 2004) [more].
Both George Bush and Tony Blair are specifically recognized as constantly reinventing
history -- as unwelcome facts become evident (cf Future
Challenge of Faith-based Governance, 2003).
The willingness of such leaders to engage knowingly and deliberately in duplicity,
at the cost of thousands of innocent human lives, has now been established and
confirmed, notably by the so-called Downing
Street memo. What is not known is the nature of the other duplicitous initiatives
in which they have been engaged, in which they are currently engaged, or in
which they have planned to engage. The huge amounts of classified information,
and the efforts to classify increasing amounts of information, are an indication
that they have a lot to hide and would have the greatest difficult proving they
they are not engaged in activities of which their electors would disapprove
within a Global Potemkin Society, 2000).
It is vital also to recall repeatedly the acknowledged complicity of the media
in vamping up the case regarding weapons of mass destruction, and the case against
Iraq, with the fabricated evidence presented to them.
We are not dealing with an honourable society with honourable leaders pursuing
honourable aims (cf Honour
Essential to Psycho-social Integrity: challenge of dishonourable leadership
to the nameless, 2005).
In the rapid return to faith-based governance, it is appropriate also to recall
the confrontation of astronomer Galileo
Galilei with the Catholic Church regarding the movement of the Earth around
the Sun. The Catholic Church claimed that Earth was stationary, indeed was the
center of the universe. Any challenge to that view was considered to be heresy,
a crime potentially punishable by death -- a challenge for which Galileo was
tried in 1633. Galileo is famously reputed to have muttered the phrase E
pur si muove ("But it does move") quietly under his breath,
after being forced to recant, in front of the Inquisition, his belief that the
earth moved around the sun. He has been referred to as the "father of modern
astronomy," as the "father of modern physics," and as "father of science." In
1992, 359 years after the Galileo trial, Pope John Paul II issued an apology,
lifting the edict of the Inquisition against Galileo.
A curiously incongruous parallel may emerge between Galielo Galilei and George
Galloway, former General Secretary of the War on Want. He has been condemned
by his peers in the UK Houses of Parliament for his "poisonous views"
regarding UK responsibility for evoking terrorism, -- and unsuccessfully investigated
for corruption by the US Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations (May
As faith-based governance increases its manufacturing of consent, and its criminalization
of dissent -- with the aid of a new form of "Inquisition" -- Galloway
may also be forced to recant his view that the terrorism experienced by those
countries was due to their military involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan. He
might then choose to go down in history as having muttered a phrase analogous
to E pur si muove. Hopefully the Bush-Blair axis will lift their "faith-based"
edict against such views in less than 359 years!
In July 2005, contradicting the continuing assertions of Tony Blair and his
Foreign Secretary [more],
by an expert group from Chatham House (formerly
the Royal Institute of International Affairs), said:
There is no doubt that the situation over Iraq has imposed particular difficulties
for the UK, and for the wider coalition against terrorism.
Riding pillion with a powerful ally has proved costly in terms of British
and US military lives, Iraqi lives, military expenditure and the damage caused
to the counter-terrorism campaign.
A majority of the UK population also share that view [more].
Who benefits from enforcing their assertion of the primacy of
a reality to which others do not necessarily subscribe? Who benefits
from patterns of denial by leadership in a democratic society?
#15. Learning from the "faith-based" manipulation
Documentation regarding the disinformation relating to 9/11, its links to Iraq,
and the existence there of weapons of mass destruction is now extensive. Major
strategic decisions by both the USA and the UK have been "faith-based"
rather than "evidence-based". Whatever hard evidence has been found
would appear to have been adapted to a "faith-based" case -- as with
the vamped up intelligence dossier which enabled Tony Blair to obtain necessary
support to collaborate with the USA on Iraq.
In addition, however, numerous reports circulate on the web regarding issues
that have been inadequately addressed, to the point of having been dismissed
or ignored -- typically as the fantasies of "conspiracy theorists".
Given the treatment by authorities of what has subsequently proven to be well-founded,
and failure to address these issues effectively, can only further erode confidence
in the actions and motivations of the intelligence and security services.
Despite recognition of these past problems of evidence and of the amorphous
nature of "al-Qaida", the security services and experts on terrorism
variously made the following assertions regarding responsibility for 7/7:
- it was immediately, and generally, assumed that "al-Qaida" was
responsible -- in the absence of any hard evidence
- Charles Clarke (as UK Home Secretary): "Nothing has been ruled out,
nothing has been ruled in as to the likely identity of the nature of the perpetrators
of those crimes" (Guardian, 9 July)
- immediately after 7/7 it was prominently reported that the explosions 'bore
all the hallmarks' of the use of a type of high-grade military explosive suggesting
a sophisticated international dimension to the bombings -- a likely "al-Qaeda"
- for Charles Clarke there was a strong possibility that an al-Qaida-linked
group was behind the bombings, but "Every single possibility remains
and I absolutely cannot say we believe it was committed by group X or group
Y" (Guardian, 9 July)
- security services claimed to be keeping an open mind about who was responsible
(Guardian, 11 July)
- tests on the explosives (and subsequently on those of 21/7) showed them
to be of a "home-made" kind -- known to "al-Qaida" from
- Egypt's interior minister criticized the British police for coming to "hasty
conclusions" about an Egyptian biochemist who was living in Leeds and
who returned to Cairo several days before the London attacks (Guardian,
- "The intelligence services have found no evidence that the attacks
in Britain were either organised or coordinated by al-Qaida..." (The
Guardian, 5 August 2005)
Curiously with regard to 7/7, no questions are seemingly asked about the possibility
of faking evidence and claims -- or of "grooming" or "triggering"
perpetrators in some way (eg hypnosis, etc) as extensively explored in movie
plots. It is curious, when even teenagers can be convicted for penetrating Pentagon
high security computer systems, that there is no recognition of the ease with
which information claims can be doctored for wider consumption.
The tendency for some to claim falsely their responsibility for highly-publicized
crimes is apparently not taken into account with regard to claims for terrorist
incidents. Any claim mentioning "al-Qaida" is given priority and credence
-- in absence of any hard evidence whatsoever. Until 7/21, no mention was made
of the possibility of hoaxes or copycat crimes -- also common phenomena in public
reporting of crimes. Is it possible that the perpetrators of the crimes are
quite unrelated to those who subsequently affirm responsibility -- out of pure
opportunism to further their quite unrelated agendas? Who benefits
from the negligence in considering such possibilities -- which were taken far
more seriously in the case of IRA terrorism?
With respect to 7/7, will the process of "getting the evidence" to
"fit the story" be transparent? How will it be confirmed how the "evidence"
was "found" -- in the light of the track record of tampered and planted
evidence in cases of miscarriage of justice in the UK? When the security services
believe they "know" who is guilty, why waste time looking for hard
evidence when it can be fabricated with far less effort? How is information
regarding the treatment of apparent evidential anomalies to be handled in the
case of 7/7 as distinct from 9/11? [more][more]
What attention is to be given to indications that major security "exercises"
were held both on the occasion of 9/11 and of 7/7, inhibiting the response to
the disaster when it became "real"?
Will holes in the story be filled with standard issue filler paste: "secret
evidence vital to national security"? Will evidence indeed be planted --
who will know? Will suspects be "encouraged" to sign supportive confessions
if they are to have any hope of release, avoidance of torture -- or survival?
How will those investigating the case ever be able to prove the contrary?
Perhaps of greater concern are the recently
announced achievements of a research programme on implanting false
memories, long a research theme of Elizabeth
Loftus, and a concern in relation to sexual abuse trials, notably involving
accusations of satanism [more
| more]. Little
has yet been said about the capacity to implant false memories in suspects accused
of terrorism, whether or not they themselves carried out an attack. The potential
would not be ignored by interrogators favouring a rapid and particular conclusion
-- and, as the sexual abuse trials illustrated, how would innocence then be
proven when the accused has been "persuaded", perhaps "willingly",
to confess. As one specialist indicates: "Even when they are not being actively
manipulated, there is consistent evidence that people often mistakenly identify
'perpetrators' from a line-up of entirely innocent people." [more].
The 7/7 incident occurs within what some perceive to be a wider pattern of
"black flag" covert, illegal, military operations by members of the
Coalition of the Willing -- and most notably the USA. To these are to be added
operations, namely those which may be less covert, but are specifically designed
to be attributed to other parties (as with Operation Northwoods mentioned above)
[see discussion of the false flag dimensions of the Cui
Bono issue on the Guerilla News Network in relation to 7/7]. As noted
earlier, there is no hard evidence that Osama bin Laden has ceased to be a CIA
operative. With respect to Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi, his possible role in false
flag operations is explored by Bruce Kennedy (Al-Zarqawi:
An American False Flag Operative, Prison Planet, 25 June 2004).
As America escalates its 'war on terrorism' which in fact is a war on Islam,
the need to escalate disinformation and propaganda is also prevalent, particularly
when the American public is loosing its stomach for the battle, when American
lives are being lost each day and when the President continues to be caught
red handed in one scandal after another.
To rouse public opinion to support America's colonial war effort, the US
intelligence community has created it own terrorist organizations. War propaganda,
disinformation and counterterrorism are braided together to achieve the maximum
result, for 'terrorism' must remain front and center in the minds of American
Here's how it works. The disinformation is circulated to the news media and
then the intelligence community creates its own terror warnings concerning
the very organizations it has created. In some cases, the disinformation appears
in advance, in order to pave the way for an up and coming act of 'terror'
that roots in a desired political outcome. This problem/solution equation
always appears when the war effort is waning and serves to give a face to
terror via an expensive advertising campaign.
Whatever the truth of such an analysis, the fact that such possibilities (recognized
by many) are not mentioned when considering responsibilities for 7/7, severely
reduces the credibility of security service initiatives, arrests of "suspects",
and official conclusions of the highest authority. Who benefits
For those advocating a "faith-based" perspective, the rapidly developing
world of selective reframing of evidential information, the vigorous promotion
of misinformation, and the consequent dramatic loss of credibility of any authoritative
source, all contribute to the fragmentation of any absolute truth. This is particularly
ironic since the latter is notably promulgated by the fundamentalist perspective
inspiring the Christian-led "global war on terrorism". Its effect
is therefore to accelerate the development of that which such Christians most
abhor, namely relativism.
#16. Learning from the unthinkable: lifestyle choices
There is a widely recognized contradiction between the exaggerated consumption
patterns of some and the impoverished conditions of others. A strong point made
by Charlotte Denny (Cows
Are Better Off Than Half the World, The Guardian, 22 August 2002)
was reiterated on the occasion of the July 2005 G8:
For half the world's population the brutal reality is this: you'd be better
off as a cow. The average European cow receives $2.20 (£1.40) a day from the
taxpayer in subsidies and other aid. Meanwhile, 2.8 billion people in developing
countries around the world live on less than $2 a day.
Such inconsistencies do not significantly constrain leisure air travel to distant
tourist locations, nor the importation of exotic foodstuffs from those locations
by air. The fact that some of these lifestyle choices are directly associated
with the death of other people is totally acceptable to all but a few.
Many lifestyle choices are widely recognized to be damaging to health and well-being.
Typical examples include substance abuse -- most visibly resulting in obesity.
Some forms, such as alcohol consumption, contribute significantly to road accidents
-- of which the total exceeds by far the numbers that are victims of terrorist
bombing. This is considered so acceptable that hit-and-run drivers, if convicted
for manslaughter, may well receive sentences far inferior to those associated
Although ensuring the death of some through lifestyle choices is considered
acceptable, as with the torturing of others, it might be considered unthinkable
that people in civilized societies should seek deliberately to damage themselves.
And yet body piercing of every imaginable kind is not considered unthinkable.
It is widely accepted as a fashion statement by those admired in society --
such as the pop stars of the Live8 initiative. Some forms are even considered
a desirable feature of the most sensitive parts of the human anatomy -- on which,
ironically, modern torture typically focuses.
It might also be argued that there is a curious symmetry between the use of
needles to deliver drugs, as a lifestyle choice, and the use of needles to deliver
drugs in many forms of interrogation -- the latter supposedly to ensure communication
of truth and the former to make painful reality sustainable through reframing
perception of it.
As noted earlier, it is clearly a lifestyle choice to select repeatedly and
consistently movies portraying, if not celebrating, scenes of violence. It is
no wonder that there may be electoral approval of those who can make them a
reality -- provided they can be enacted elsewhere by those who wish to participate,
and not at home where one may be personally involved. And yet again, the increasing
extent of road rage and its analogues, and the enthusiasm for weapons, suggests
that there is ever greater willingness to engage violently with others. The
phenomenon of pub-related violence is widely accepted in UK urban environments
-- regretted only by a democratic minority.
It would appear to be the case that the most civilized societies deliberately
cultivate an indulgence in self-damage in one form or another. Why would they
then have any inhibitions in damaging others? Who benefits from
the promotion of unhealthy, self-damaging lifestyles -- and from the predisposition
they offer in projecting such lifestyles onto the cultures of others?
#17. Learning from ideological intransigence
The current challenge to civilization is framed in terms of opposing world
views in which each seeks to uphold, defend and promote its own value system,
mode of organization and way of life. Each assumes that everyone wishes to subscribe
to its own pattern of belief, possibly after appropriate "encouragement"
to disassociate others from the errors of their past. Each frames the other
as misguided, if not evil -- even satanic -- in its opposition to this divinely
The consequence is that each only tolerates and encourages a discourse in which
its own values are perceived as uniquely good and universal -- to be protected
at any cost, including the killing and torturing of others. Withholding assistance
to others when they are in dire straits is also completely acceptable -- as
illustrated by Dafur.
George Bush, like his father on the occasion of the 1992 Earth Summit, has
specifically indicated that the American "way of life" is "non-negotiable".
Presumably he is thus offering an unconditional guarantee that SUVs, as dubious
symbols of that way of life and its greed for resources, will continue to be
operated by American citizens come what may -- and even if the African people
have themselves to be converted into biogas to fuel them. As a response to 7/7,
both the Queen of the UK and its Prime Minister, Tony Blair, chose specifically
to declare that the British people will also not change their "way of life".
Blair declared (at Gleneagles, 7 July 2005) that:
It is is important that those engaged in terrorism realise that our determination
to defend our values and our way of life is greater than their determination
to cause death and destruction to innocent people in a desire to impose extremism
on the world [more]
At the same time, however, both the USA and the UK are continuing highly destructive
bombing operations in Iraq -- with considerable (but carefully undocumented)
death of innocent civilians -- in an effort to force them to change their "way
of life". Whether or not "civilization" is to be solely identified
with the cause of the Coalition of the Willing -- excluding the cause of those
marginalized by its initiatives and depredations -- will be for history to judge.
The standard excuses of "civilizers" (whether Christian, Socialist
or Communist), for the abuses and failures on their watch, do not justify their
assumption that their approach -- appropriated self-righteously as "universal"
-- is without flaw and that other voices should not be heeded.
Who benefits from distinguishing so carefully and self-righteously
between "heroic missions" of bomber pilots, at so little risk to themselves,
targetting Iraqi towns to change their "way of life" -- in contrast
with the "despicable missions" of suicide bombers targetting the populations
whose leadership commanded the targetting of the Iraqi towns?
#18. Learning from avoidance of dialogue -- at any cost
It might be argued, if either was prepared to engage in meaningful dialogue,
that both the so-called Christian world and the world of Islam have reasons
to deplore practices of their respective societies. However, neither culture
considers that it has anything whatsoever to learn from the other. Each represents
for the other the deplorable world of ignorant unbelievers: lost souls for the
Christians, jahilliya for Muslims.
As Christians, both Bush and Blair would be proud to convert all Islam to Christianity
-- and the loss of any number of human lives in that cause would be assessed
as acceptable, as with the early crusaders. It is no wonder that the Christian
leadership seeks to frame Islamic agendas in the way most offensive to Christians
-- a technique reminiscent of military "psychological operations"
and negative advertising campaigns. It is no wonder that Islam seeks to protect
its values -- however aggressively and offensively it endeavours to extend its
own community elsewhere. Each is a natural mirror for the most reprehensible
features of the other.
Curiously in this context, and whatever the number of deaths, it is considered
completely justified to avoid any investment in the challenge of dialogue with
those who are apparently totally intractable -- unless it is done under conditions
of interrogation, assisted by electrodes or whatever other forms of "encouragement"
seem appropriate. In 1998, for example, a now declassified study for the US
State Department recommended that the Clinton administration "initiate
a dialogue with the Saudi Arabian religious establishment" -- but the recommendation
went unheeded [more].
For the personal representative of the UN Secretary-General for the
Year of Dialogue among Civilizations (2001), "dialogue with terrorists
often results in death" [more]
-- an attitude which helps to explain the precautious approach of the UN peace-keeping
force to situations like Srebrenica and Rwanda. The same might however be said
of "dialogue with nature" characteristic of many extreme sports in
which people voluntarily engage in celebration of being alive -- knowing the
risks (cf annual mountaineering deaths). It is curious that no "dialoguers"
seem to have the courage to engage in "extreme dialogue". There is
no fearless "Dialogue Delta Force" or "Dialogue SAS" going
boldly "where others fear to tread" -- rather a culture of dialogue
cowards -- despite the protective "dialogical armour" and overwhelming
superiority in "dialogical weaponry".
This incapacity exists in striking contrast to the ability of some (often extolled
in movies) to dialogue with violent criminals (notably in hostage situations),
with the criminally insane, or with those bent on suicide. It is also in striking
contrast with the ability of the Coalition of the Willing to develop a working
relationship with certain inhumane leaders of the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan
-- or to develop an accommodation with governments in that region known to practice
the most repugnant forms of torture.
A spokesperson for Tony Blair indicated on 20 July 2005 in respect of a dialogue
with Muslims that:
.... there seemed to be, to use the Prime Minister's words of yesterday,
a twisted logic that in some way we had to get extremists on board. What we
were actually doing was tackling head on the extremist viewpoint and mobilising
the moderate Muslim element along with other mainstream thinking to take on
that extremist view. This was not about bartering with the extremist view.
It was about taking on that debate at a local, national and international
level. The twisted logic was that in some way you had to concede to the extremist
viewpoint. You did not....As the Prime Minister had said the central problem
and difference, apart from the use of violence, was that their demands were
of such a nature that you could not negotiate with them. [text]
This argument would seem to ignore the merits of actually encountering those
who hold a radically distinct perspective, rather than admitting total incapacity
to do so. Any "barter" or "negotiation" only comes after
seeking out some basis for communication. The pejorative notion of "twisted
logic" fails to acknowledge that any encounter between distinct cultures
involves an impression of twisted logic (cf Twistedness
in Psycho-social Systems: challenge to logic, morality, leadership and personal
development, 2004). The agenda of the leadership of the Coalition of
the Willing has itself been described as based on twisted logic. The complexity
of any interface with "twistedness" needs to be respected in a period
in which "complexity research" supposedly provides insights into previously
inexplicable phenomena -- which might be considered a key characteristic of
differing religious perspectives (cf Engaging
with Questions of Higher Order: cognitive vigilance required for higher degrees
of twistedness, 2004).
Where physicists can expend vast amounts of public funds on investigating the
twistedness characteristic of "anti-matter", governments exhibit a
high order of timidity in developing any viable approach to those holding radically
distinct perspectives. The planet has every right to fear such irresponsible
incapacity in the event of the arrival of extraterrestrials (cf Distinguishing
Patterns of Assumption in Dialogue with Aliens: Communicating with Aliens,
A fruitful articulation of the challenge, perhaps overly cautious, is that
of Hans Herbert Kögler (Is
Dialogue with Terrorism Possible? 25 October 2001) who distinguishes
between "dialogue with terrorism" and "dialogue with terrorists":
At the same time, making sense of terrorism will have to involve a real
dialogue nonetheless. It will have to address, not directly those who are
fanatically engaged in a "jihad" against the evils of Western civilization
per se, but all those, not terrorists themselves, who applaud the destruction
of symbols of Western power, who support the idea of attacking the super-power
of the USA, and who consider Osama bin Laden a much-needed Muslim fighter
against the West. It is crucial, I believe, to enter into a real and probing
conversation with the sympathizers and supporters of anti-Western terrorism-at
least to signal, from our side, the openness to such an exchange. It is important
to understand what fuels such discontent, what enables the support of students,
workers, mothers, etc. of such acts of aggression, and to be willing to address
what might have to be done from their point of view.....
What would a new "language of dialogue" require? What would it look like?
Certainly, a basic premise would be an attitude of openness toward the experiences
and concerns of the other, an empathetic sense of how they might feel, experience,
and conceptualize events and encounters with us. Such a dialogical imagination,
necessary to overcome a self-absorbed monologue within the confines of one's
own cultural self-understanding, is essential as a sign of equal recognition-another
premise of ever moving beyond fruitless and violent confrontations between
them and us.
But even the possibility of dialogue is itself considered unreasonable by such
as Polly Toynbee (In
the Name of God, The Guardian, 22 July 2005) commenting on
Enlightenment values are in peril not because these mad beliefs are really
growing but because too many rational people seek to appease and understand
unreason. Extreme superstition breeds extreme action. Those who believe they
alone know the only way, truth and life will always feel justified in doing
anything in its name. You would, wouldn't you, if you alone had the magic
answer to everything? If religions teach that life after death is better then
it is hardly surprising that some crazed followers will actually believe it.
The existential timidity in the face of "extreme dialogue" is unworthy
of a civilization "reaching for the stars" and potentially dependent
on fusion energy. The latter is famously dependent on the craziest "Theories
of Everything", as illustrated by the much-quoted statement by Niels
Bohr in response to Wolfgang Pauli: "We are all agreed that your theory
is crazy. The question which divides us is whether it is crazy enough to have
a chance of being correct. My own feeling is that is not crazy enough."
To that Freeman Dyson added:
"When a great innovation appears, it will almost certainly be in a muddled,
incomplete and confusing form. To the discoverer, himself, it will be only
half understood; to everyone else, it will be a mystery. For any speculation
which does not at first glance look crazy, there is no hope!" (Innovation
in Physics, Scientific American, 199, No. 3, September 1958)
Could the challenge of dialogue with, and between, the "crazy" perspectives
of religions be fruitfully seen in this light? Investment in this possibility
might offer more hope than seeking crudely to eliminate and demonize insights
that may, in some as yet unknown way, be vital to the future creativity and
diversity of humanity?
Forgetting who were perceived as "terrorists" in the 1917 revolution,
for President Vladimir Putin (6 February 2004):
But the commonly accepted international principle of fighting terror is an
unconditional refusal to hold any dialogue with terrorists, as any contacts
with bandits and terrorists encourage them to commit new, even bloodier crimes.
Russia has not done this, and will not do this in future.[more]
Forgetting who were labelled "terrorists" in the American War of
Independence [more], or in the American
Civil War (cf the Bushwackers
and Jayhawkers), for President Bush (2 May 2002):
And there is never any reason whatsoever to establish dialogue with terrorists,
ever. To initiate dialogue with terrorists is tantamount to problems for democracy.
Terrorists cannot have, must not have, and certainly for our part will never
have any other fate than that of being permanently defeated...[more]
This presumably follows from the advice of specialists such as Ralph Peters
Walk the Earth: the mentality and roots of terrorism, and how to respond,
Do not be drawn into a public dialog with terrorists, especially not with
apocalyptic terrorists. You cannot win. You legitimize the terrorists by addressing
them even through a third medium, and their extravagant claims will resound
more successfully on their own home ground than anything you can say. Ignore
absurd accusations, and never let the enemy's claims slow or sidetrack you.
The terrorist wants you to react, and your best means of unbalancing him and
his plan is to ignore his accusations.
Forgetting the fear associated with IRA terrorism, Ian Buruma (Homeland
insecurity. Financial Times, 16-17 Juy 2005) argues, following
The IRA was the armed wing of a political party, whose aims, as we now know,
were at least negotiable. Suicide bombers and jihadis, however, represent
no state; indeed they do not recognise one outside the wholly imaginary community
of pure faith. There is nothing to negotiate with people who wish to kill
as many infidels as they can to establish a divine realm of the faitful. Worse,
those holy warriors, who see mass murder as an existential act, who cannot
conceive of themselves as anything else but divinely inspired assassins, are
eve beyond the ale of religious orthodoxy; they are pure killers....
Emphasis tends therefore to be placed on the acts resulting from dissidence,
described as terrorism, rather than on research into means of dialoguing with
those holding opposing viewpoints -- that are prepared to back them with extreme
- P.K. Abdul Ghafour. No
Dialogue With Terrorists, Says Prince Naif, Arab News, 12,
- Bishop of Southwell George Cassidy. (cf Bishop
urges dialogue with terrorists, 5 May 2004)
with the Enemy: opportunities and risks of dialogue and negotiation with terrorist
and insurgent groups (Seminar, Rome, 15 November 2003)
Church Leaders Meet with Terrorists in Lebanon: ADL says "irresponsible"
decision furthers interfaith rift, Anti-Defamation League, 20 October
Debate in the Saudi Press on Dialogue with Saudi Al-Qa'ida Members.
Middle East Media Research Institute, November 2003
Talking with terrorists 20 years on, 14 September 2004
- Nabil Sultan. Dialogue
with terrorists: some say why not. 25 May 2004
- James Brandon. Koranic
duels ease terror. The Christian Science Monitor, 4 February
- Ze'ev Schiff. Is
Hamas a dialogue partner? Haaretz.com, 8 July 2005
However, most representatives of governments would rather die than dialogue.
Some dissidents have already been obliged to recognize that. Suicide bombing
has consequently been transformed into a mode of communication with the very
hard of hearing. There is an interesting parallel between the refusal of government
to enter into meaningful ongoing dialogue with its own population (eg the challenges
of the European Constitution) and the refusal of government to enter into dialogue
with those with grievances in other countries in which it intervenes. In each
case government denies the legitimacy of the grievances and uses every conceivable
device to inhibit effective two-way transfer of meaning and learning. Who
benefits from denying that the consequence is predictable?
Vastly disproportionate resources are now allocated to investigations to identify
isolated culprits of marginal significance -- compared to the modest resources
required for any dialogue necessary to ensure that such acts are not repeated.
In consequence, the "technology" for effective dialogue with potentially
violent dissidents is not being developed -- and is effectively non-existent.
It is supposedly much cheaper to invest further in the technology of yet higher
levels of surveillance, policing, detention and destruction, and to bomb, torture
or assassinate people into submissive consensus. How much narrower a strategic
focus is it possible to have when the chairman of the Crisis Management Committee
in London (on 27 July 2005) foresees a decade or more of extremely heavy policing
-- supposedly because "We have no choice"? Who benefits
from closing down the strategic options through a pattern of groupthink and
cross-party consensus peer pressure?
Such a perspective contrasts with both the essential message of Christianity
and that of the Qur'an, as noted by Robin Cook:
After all, it is written in the Qur'an that we were made into different
peoples not that we might despise each other, but that we might understand
each other. [more]
How ironic that 9/11 should occur in the UN's Year
of Dialogue among Civilizations. What of relevance to dialogue with dissidents,
and those with grievances, was then learnt by the UN? But, as Cook also notes:
The danger now is that the west's current response to the terrorist threat
compounds that original error. So long as the struggle against terrorism is
conceived as a war that can be won by military means, it is doomed to fail.
But, on the other hand, for the Director General of Political and Military
Affairs of the EU Council of Ministers, Robert Cooper (The
morality of amorality in foreign policy, Daily Times, 14 July
The threat of terrorist attack causes people to re-examine human rights and
legal standards. It may be more important instead to look at the language
in which we discuss terrorist incidents. At times dialogue with terrorists
may be needed; there may be reason to avoid making this impossible by fixating
too rigidly on moral imperatives and condemning all terrorists as unspeakable
Even Cook argues for isolating terrorists rather than dialoguing with them.
This is curious since so many leaders of newly independent countries have been
labelled "terrorists" by those from whom they sought independence
(starting with France and the USA, and including Israel and South Africa). Were
Gandhi and others not labelled as "terrorist"? [more]
At some point it was necessary for the labellers to dialogue with Gandhi, Kenyatta
or Mandela, for example.
The approach adopted in the case of 7/7 is to expel any "radical clerics"
-- instead of learning from the challenge of dialoguing with them as a unique
resource. The most virulent micorganisms are carefully studied in special laboratories.
Who benefits from removing those capable of articulating the "terrorist"
position -- in order to avoid such learning?
But for Cook:
Success will only come from isolating the terrorists and denying them support,
funds and recruits, which means focusing more on our common ground with the
Muslim world than on what divides us. The G8 summit is not the best-designed
forum in which to launch such a dialogue with Muslim countries, as none of
them is included in the core membership... We are not going to address the
sense of marginalisation among Muslim countries if we do not make more of
an effort to be inclusive of them in the architecture of global governance.
Cook rightly notes that:
The breeding grounds of terrorism are to be found in the poverty of back
streets, where fundamentalism offers a false, easy sense of pride and identity
to young men who feel denied of any hope or any economic opportunity for themselves.
A war on world poverty may well do more for the security of the west than
a war on terror. [more]
In the larger sense of terrorism, noted above, it is however only too true
that it is bred in the poverty within "Christian" industrialized countries
as much as within impoverished "Muslim" countries elsewhere. How successful
are the industrialized countries in responding to the challenges of their own
backyards? Is the "war against terrorism" in fact a welcome distraction
from their incapacity in that respect?
Who benefits from the systematic denial of the possibility of
dialogue between those of intractably opposed views?
Conditions for doing the unthinkable?
In any normal criminal investigation, the best investigators (eulogized in
popular fiction and movies) are prepared to envisage the unthinkable. The problem
is that, in cases involving secretive agreements between governments and security
agencies, it remains unclear what lines of inquiry have been deliberately "dropped"
for whatever reason -- never to be mentioned in any subsequent report or media
The question is then whether some groups in society (the "big boys"
and "hard men" who deal with the "real world" through realpolitik)
are operating under conditions which they consider provide every justification
and opportunity for whatever seems necessary to advance their agendas. It appears
to make little difference whether these are purely self-interested agendas or
appeal to some understanding of values perceived to be of the highest spiritual
order -- possibly confirmed by divine mandate.
The modern approach to governance is highly dependent on sources of cheap labour,
whether or not this is achieved by ensuring that some countries and peoples
remained relatively impoverished (Nigel Harris, Thinking
the Unthinkable). It is also dependent on expanding markets -- however
these are to be achieved. The case has also been made that governance of societies
is increasingly problematic when there are no external enemies against which
to act (cf Needing
Evil Elsewhere, 2001). This absence tends to evoke internal enemies
dividing society in problematic ways. To simplify the challenges of governance,
there would then be a "legitimate" case for some to engender external
enemies -- whatever justification is put forward. As noted in the introduction,
the neocons of the USA have specifically benefitted from the analysis of Leo
Strauss in this regard [more].
The capacity of the unreformed institutions and procedures of modern governance
is much challenged by increasingly dramatic problems of society -- however much
effort is invested in denying their significance or publicizing tokenistic responses
(typical of the G8). In a very real sense modern governance has "lost the
plot" -- both the moral high ground and any image of being able to provide
coherent responses to those challenges.
Intellectually it is the critics of current policies, such as those long favoured
by the World Bank, that now have far greater legitimacy and credibility -- in
addition to being far more genuinely associated with the highest human values.
The contrast was in part evident in the G8-Live8 polarity, as it had been evident
before 9/11 in relation to US alienation from international principles of human
rights (notably on the occasion of the World
Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance,
Durban, September 2001).
The challenge of coherent global governance prior to that time was viewed through
- alternative action groups, achieving coherence through criticism, protest
- civil society groups achieving coherence through humanitarian projects and
- religious fundamentalists (of all persuasions) achieving coherence through
- scientists and technocrats achieving coherence through development of knowledge
- unaffiliated majorities achieving coherence through entertainment, sport
- business enterprises achieving coherence through mutually beneficial deals
- armed groups (military, mercenaries, terrorists) achieving coherence through
Like it or not, "terrorist incidents" now offer a quick and cheap
way of reframing the priorities of global governance in the eyes of the population
to discredit "new thinking" and reinforce "business as usual"
-- supported by ever more repressive measures (cf Promoting
a Singular Global Threat -- Terrorism: Strategy of choice for world governance,
Whether or not figureheads pronouncing worthy discourses, as is required by
their role, are directly involved in "terrorism", there is a strong
case for asking the question whether others are acting for them who are far
less scrupulous. Whether or not the figureheads are aware to any degree of the
range of actions undertaken (supposedly in their name), or on behalf of what
they represent, they are formally responsible and to that extent complicit in
It is important to remember that it is typically the very same people who lied
about weapons of mass destruction who will affirm, with the utmost sincerity
and conviction (endorsed by their respective spiritual advisors), that their
governments are in no conceivable way responsible for any acts of terrorism.
Lying is what they do -- when they can get away with it -- and it is increasingly
difficult for them to prove otherwise. The religious factions whose moral backing
they seek, and who so specifically support them, are complicit in that duplicity.
Leaders will however argue that it is irresponsible in the extreme to even consider
that possibility. And for a person of honour, it is even to be understood as
deeply insulting -- possibly even to be subject to criminal procedures.
Has the stage not been created in which any group, with any agenda, can create
a "terrorist incident", and expect the blame to fall naturally, and
even unquestionably, on an amorphous "al-Qaida" -- of "Middle
Eastern" origin? Who benefits from this?
As noted by Seymour Hersh
Wars: what the Pentagon can now do in secret. New Yorker, 17
January 2005), regarding the second-term of the Bush administration:
The President has signed a series of findings and executive orders authorizing
secret commando groups and other Special Forces units to conduct covert operations
against suspected terrorist targets in as many as ten nations in the Middle
East and South Asia.
Under these new directives, there is no obligation upon the Pentagon to report
any covert operations to Congress oversight committees. The core problem in
selecting Iran as the next target is that it is believed by the Bush administration
to have successfully hidden the extent of its nuclear program, and its developmental
progress -- surely reminiscent of the WMD case against Iraq. The directives
now permit the Pentagon to operate unilaterally in a number of countries where
there is a perception of a clear and evident terrorist threat -- and to create
a "global free-fire zone". As noted by Hersh:
...military operatives would be permitted to pose abroad as corrupt foreign
businessmen seeking to buy contraband items that could be used in nuclear-weapons
systems. In some cases, according to the Pentagon advisers, local citizens
could be recruited and asked to join up with guerrillas or terrorists. This
could potentially involve organizing and carrying out combat operations, or
even terrorist activities.
The approach enacted, according to Hersh's informant, parallels that of the
right-wing execution squads in El Salvador -- the military-led gangs that committed
atrocities in the early nineteen-eighties. These had been founded and financed
by the USA. The new objective is to recruit locals in any area without informing
Congress. This is consciously framed as "riding with the bad boys', by
forming groups of "pseudo-terrorists" following strategies notably
articulated by defense analyst John Arquilla (cf Networks
and Netwars: The Future of Terror, Crime, and Militancy, RAND, 2001).
Given this stated policy, how should evidence regarding the status of the possible
perpetrators of 7/7 be assessed?
According to Hersh, these secret operations will be carried out with virtually
no oversight; in many cases, even the top military commanders in the affected
regions will not be told about them. The American people, of course, will never
know what's being done in their name. [interview
Given the intimate involvement with major corporations benefitting from a variety
of war-related contracts, it is far from clear in whose interests these actions
are being taken and whether any moral principles are being respected and defended.
In this context, objectively speaking, credibility can be most effectively
ensured by the judicious use of terrorist incidents and threats of terrorist
incidents -- to promote cross-party unity within countries and consistent policies
between countries. Threats of bombs can be judiciously made to doubting countries
to keep them in line. The other face of the Coalition of the Willing is thus
the Coalition of the Threatened. To whose benefit?
It is in the light of the above that it is important to approach evidence for
the responsibility for terrorist incidents. Who amongst the possible suspects
in Table 3 (below) would be expected to have any qualms about loss of life in
a society -- whatever statements are made to preserve their honourable value-upholding
image? How are their potential benefits to be compared with what they have to
lose -- if anything?
Following the subsequent exploitation of the sense of humiliation and injustice
imposed upon a proud German people by the Treaty
of Versailles (1919) -- and which fuelled the anger of Mein Kampf --
will the world come to regret the degree of humiliation forced upon those of
Muslim faith in retribution for their complicity in terrorism? Who
Who benefits? Making the menu of options transparent
Table 3 constitutes a checklist worth considering in any professional investigation
-- and in communicating with the public. The items are not mutually exclusive.
The estimate columns in Table 3 could have been based on a separate table which
would have assessed the degree of benefit/risk for each row below in relation
to each of the "who benefits" (Cui bono?) questions
above. The figures given on a scale of 0-10 can only be guesses as a focus for
discussion. The table could serve as the basis of a survey of those with informed
| Table 3: Clustered checklist
of options in determining "who benefits" from major terrorist
incidents like 7/7 (tentative)
(Columns on right offer opportunity to explore estimates of relative
Advantage, Disadvantage/Risk and Net advantage -- scale
||Nature of benefit
|Agency (secret or rogue) promoting French
|| [false flag operation] destabilize role of
UK in G8 and European presidency; pique in response to symbolic significance
of Olympic loss
|Agency (secret or rogue) promoting US government
||[false flag operation] justify US foreign
policy agenda (notably to preserve oil supplies); justify present and future
internal repressive policies; displace attention from unwelcome policies
(climate change, debt relief, aid, etc); distraction from some other planned
initiative (eg attack on Iran); need to demonstrate who is "boss";
reminder of the need to be "on programme" and "singing from
the same hymn sheet"
|Agency (secret or rogue) promoting UK government
||[false flag operation] justify present and
future repressive policies by ensuring cross-party consensus; justify involvement
in Iraq; ensure a stake in future oil; distraction from some other initiative
(Byers memo); a planned exercise (cf Churchill and Coventry) in which suitably
profiled individuals were persuaded to simulate a terrorist attack, unknowingly
equipped with genuine explosives
|Agency (secret or rogue) promoting Russian
||[false flag operation] justify present and
future repressive policies; distraction from some other initiative
|Agency (secret or rogue) promoting
Israeli government interests
||[false flag operation] focus support
for Israeli policies; justify present and future repressive policies; marginalize
Muslim perspective; distraction from some other initiative in the Middle
East, notably in relation to the perceived nuclear threat of Iran
|Conspiracy of secret service(s)
||[false flag operation] bigger budgets and
control; reframe an image of incompetence and groupthink associated with
WMD issue; distraction from some other initiative
|Secret elite society
||calculated destabilization to increase control
of power centres (as imagined by conspiracy theorists)
|Secret esoteric society
||symbolic or esoteric agenda; blood ritual;
etc (possibly consistent with some more extreme views regarding the rapture-related
|Radical Islamic fundamentalists
||revenge for "Zionist Crusaders"action
in Middle East; provoke destabilizing repressive measures within western
societies; offer inspiration to disadvantaged Muslims; ensure vengeful action
against Muslims to increase their alienation from western values
|Radical Christian fundamentalists
||focus antipathy to Islam; ensure victimization
of Muslims; occupy the moral high ground; increase pressure towards rapture
agenda; develop militant crusader mentality (cf anti-abortion initiatives)
|Radical Jewish fundamentalists
||focus antipathy to Islam; ensure victimization
of Muslims; further agendas towards construction of a Third
|Right wing extremists (UK or other); white
||promote unquestioning implementation of repressive
legislation (biometric IDs, etc); xenophobia; action against immigration;
frame the Muslim ethnic group and alienate white society from them; ensure
victimization of Muslims;
|Radical anti-globalization group
||reminder of ignored poverty agendas
|Radical environmental activists
||reminder of ignored agendas
|Radical animal rights activists
||reminder of ignored agendas
||ensure increased sale of security products
||as explored in Goldfinger-style
|Agency (secret or rogue) promoting multinational
||ensure access to oil reserves; benefit from
reconstruction budgets; promote expenditure on reinforcement of security
of buildings; distraction from some other initiative
||acting for profit on behalf of any other party
|Aggrieved family member(s)
||blind revenge for gratuitous death of relatives
at hands of UK operatives
||commemorating the 10th anniversary of the
8,000 massacred at Srebrenica (whilst UN peacekeeping forces stood by) in
sympathy with Muslims in Iraq
||setting up conditions for future blackmail;
execution of ignored threat following blackmail attempt; providing proof
of capacity to some other client
|Criminal group (mafia)
||promote and exploit panic
|Alienated, disaffected group
||disruption with no ideological or other aim;
||enjoy panic and destruction
The virtual "wars" identified in Tables 1 and 2 make it very clear
that humanity is very much on a multi-front war footing in response to its challenges
-- in addition to the multitude of ongoing conventional wars around the world.
These unconventional wars may be understood as humanity's effort to deal with
"reflexive modernity" -- a term proposed by social theorist Ulrich
Beck (World Risk Society, 1998) to refer to the problems that humanity
has itself created, in contrast with "natural problems" (improving
provision of food, shelter, sanitation, health care, education, etc) (cf A
Summary of Ulrich Beck - Risk Society: Towards a New Modernity). Given
the limited success of these unconventional "wars", it is worth reconsidering
whether this is the appropriate way to frame the strategic challenge.
Given the strategic trap in which western civilization now finds itself, it
is worth recalling the words of an early policy scientist, Geoffrey Vickers
(Freedom in a Rocking Boat: changing values in an unstable society, 1972):
"A trap is a function of the nature of the trapped". Given the role
of "think tanks" in articulating strategy in response to terrorism,
it might also be worth exploring the metaphoric traps their approach engenders
from Think-tanks: constraining metaphors on developing global governance,
Until genuine concerns are addressed, rather than repeatedly denied, dissidents
of every kind are liable to become increasingly active and disruptive -- thanks
to the weaponry developed and enthusiastically sold worldwide by governments
for profit. The "promises" of summits, such as the G8, have an extremely
problematic track record. They are readily and frequently broken, even if their
commitments are not totally diluted or warped in the small print of the agreements.
Many of those of the 2005 G8, for example, will only have effect in the distant
future, if then.
Terrorism may be understood as being fundamentally the result of a complete
and total failure of dialogue -- reduced to the simple gestures of "suicide
bombing" and torture. By framing the "other" as unreasonable,
irrational and dangerous, the absence of such dialogue is justified. Efforts
at such dialogue may even be criminalized as consorting with terrorists. How
did it work in the case of IRA terrorism -- funded by sympathizers in the USA?
Essentially a degree of breakthrough emerged as a result of dialogue via Sinn
The marginalization of "dissident" (namely non-mainstream) perspectives
is a standard feature of the much-vaunted democratic process. Dissidents may
well be completely ignored -- to the point of making a complete joke of the
democratic process and all that it is supposed to represent in relation to democratic
values (cf Practicalities
of Participatory Democracy with International Institutions: attitudinal, quantitative
and qualitative challenges, 2003). This contrasts strangely with the
needs of the security services to monitor the opinions of every citizen -- as
expressed by phone or e-mail [more].
One might wonder why such capacity can be deployed so quickly and effectively
to gather information for repressive purposes -- but not in order to comprehend
the diversity of concerns and proposals in society in a more proactive manner.
More worrisome is the emerging trend, in the UK for example, of rushing through
legislation to criminalize any form of dissent that may be interpreted as "indirect
incitement to terrorism", "acts preparatory to terrorism", or
"condoning terrorism" -- despite definitional problems highlighted
earlier. It remains to be seen how such legislation is to distinguish unambigously:
- "fire and brimstone" Christian preachers terrorizing their parishioners
from their Muslim "radical cleric" equivalents,
- training of special forces for covert (possibly illegal) operations from
those of genuine terrorists,
- efforts by scholars or mediators to comprehend those engaging in terrorism
from those advocating it as a strategy (possibly
in state-supported defence think tanks),
- the planning and practice of neighbourhood terrorism by local gangs from
that undertaken by foreign terrorists,
- the forms of long-term, low-profile terrorism characteristic of harassment,
bullying and hazing in institutions from that perpetrated
dramatically in publicized incidents
More problematic, and consistent with the tendency to groupthink, is the extent
to which a suffocating consensus is developing regarding the nature of terrorism
and those responsible for it. One commentator, Joan Smith (Blood
and circuses, The Independent on Sunday, 10 July 2005), reacting
to the preceding "feel-good atmosphere" in the UK of the 2012 Olympic
decision and the G8, and the associated emotional manipulation, called for "more
vigorous debate, less soupy unanimity -- and less crowd-pleasing of the type
Juvenal rightly dismissed as panem et circenses". In the same vein,
commentator, Jackie Ashley (Speak
up, Speak out, The Guardian, 14 July 2005), reacting to "soupy
consensus" in the UK Parliament, noted:
Opposition is going out of fashion....Across the Commons there was the nearest
to complete unity I can remember....Making any connection between the government's
policy on Iraq and terror attacks in Britain, at all, is apparently beyond
the pale, in some strange way it is seen as disrespectful to those who died....
But the Commons is in real danger of sliding into a sentimental, soupy consensus,
too scared of being accused of saying anything that gives comfort to the many-headed
and anonymous enemy.... Saying that the bombings have nothing at all to do
with Islam is fatuous -- as fatuous as saying that there is no connection
between Christians and anti-abortion militants in the US. It might be a perverted
strain of Islam, or one variant of Christianity, but there's a connecting
"of". This too needs to be honestly and openly debated in parliament, without
the nervous thin syrup of evasion.... If this doesn't happen, not only will
governments continue to make mistakes unchecked by argument in parliament,
but people will continue to turn away from democracy itself.
Who indeed benefits from avoiding any mention of many of the
possibilities in Table3? Who benefits from stampeding the UK Parliament
into further restrictive measures in what has been described in The Guardian
(21 July 2005) as:
... part of a rapid evolution of policy by consensus which will see cross-party
legislation in the autumn to close legal gaps, and criminalise "acts preparatory
to terrorism", indirect incitement short of "glorifying or condoning" terrorism,
and those "giving and receiving terrorist training".[more]
And again from Seumas Milne (It
is an insult to the dead to deny the link with Iraq, The Guardian,
14 July 2005):
Respect for the victims of such atrocities is supposed to preclude open discussion
of their causes in the aftermath -- but that is precisely when honest debate
is most needed. The wall of silence in the US after the much greater carnage
of 9/11 allowed the Bush administration to set a course that has been a global
In commenting on the deep denial of those refuting any link between the Iraq
war and 7/7, Gary Younge (Blair's
Blowback, The Guardian, 11 July 2005) argues:
Shortly after September 11 2001, when the slightest mention of a link between
US foreign policy and the terrorist attacks brought accusations of heartless
heresy, the then US national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice got to work.
Between public displays of grief and solemnity she managed to round up the
senior staff of the National Security Council and ask them to think seriously
about "how do you capitalise on these opportunities" to fundamentally change
American doctrine and the shape of the world....
The space to mourn these losses must be respected. The demand that we abandon
rational thought, contextual analysis and critical appraisal of why this happened
and what we can do to limit the chances that it will happen again, should
not. To explain is not to excuse; to criticise is not to capitulate.
Who benefits from leadership that indulges in misleading assertions
(in the case of WMD) despite evidence to the contrary, and misleading denials
(in the case of the Iraq factor and 7/7) despite expertise to the contrary?
Further comments on the pattern of denial by Tony Blair and colleagues was
made by Richard Norton-Taylor (Use
and abuse of intelligence, The Guardian, 19 July 2005) who concluded,
following comments on the Downing
The limitations of intelligence were amply demonstrated in London on July
7. The security and intelligence agencies have said they will learn lessons.
Is it too much to hope that Blair and his foreign policy makers will too?
Following extensive comment on his denial in the face of expertise, including
that of Seumas Milne (It
is an insult to the dead to deny the link with Iraq, The Guardian,
14 July 2005), on 26 July Tony Blair denied that he had ever said that 7/7 had
nothing to do with the UK attack on Iraq. As noted by Gary Younge (Never
mind the truth. The Guardian, 31 May 2004):
Declaration and proclamation have become everything. The question of whether
they bear any relation to the world we actually live in seems like an unpleasant
and occasionally embarrassing intrusion. The motto of the day both in Downing
Street and the White House seems to be: "To say it is so is to make it
so". These people are rewriting history before the ink on the first draft
is even dry.
However Blair went on to say "Let us expose the obscenity of these people
saying it is concern for Iraq that drives them to terrorism. If it is concern
for Iraq then why are they driving a car bomb into a group of children and killing
them? Why are they every day in Iraq trying to kill people whose only desire
is for their country to become a democracy?" [more].
Curiously this last question in the printed report -- regarding the altruistic
aims of the UK -- was censored from the online Guardian archive. It
is however not difficult to understand that those in Iraq exposed to indiscriminate
cluster bombing (or depleted uranium and thermobaric weaponry), on the instructions
of Tony Blair, would have some difficulty accepting the sincerity of such altruistic
motives -- whether or not the weapons had "God Bless You" inscribed
upon them and were blessed by military chaplains. Of course the spiritual motivation
of Islamic fundamentalists exposing innocents in the west to bombs of any kind
is to be seen as equally questionable -- whether or not they have "Allah
Akhbar" inscribed upon them and were blessed by radical clerics.
From a larger perspective, both parties might be understood to be engaged in
a peculiarly barbaric form of dialogue -- typical of the failures of 20th century
thinking. The question is when the bombing by each side can be "upgraded"
to some more fruitful form of dialogue. Given Tony Bliar's style, there is however
every possibility that he will at some stage in the future deny (despite evidence
to the contrary) that he had every declared that dialogue with terrorists was
impossible. This would after all be consistent with the UK's long history of
eventually talking appreciatively to the declared "terrorists" of
every territory emerging from the UK's altruistic colonial domination (starting
with the USA, and including Israel).
Typical lag-times before dialogue with terrorists becomes possible are indicated
by: Israel (Irgun active as
a declared terrorist organization from 1931 to 1948, under the leadership of
Menachem Begin, who
subsequently became the sixth prime minister of Israel and a Novel Peace Prize
laureate); South Africa (ANC
terrorism commenced in the 1960s and continued until the group was legalized
in 1990, a period exemplified by the imprisonment of Nelson Mandela, prior to
becoming president); Kenya (Mau
Mau, declared a terrorist organization in 1952 and Jomo
Kenyatta arrested, released in 1961, and president in 1964); Zimbabwe (Mugabe
arrested in 1964, elected prime minister in 1980). Such figures suggest an average
"pre-dialogue learning period" of 18 years -- notably for the UK government.
It is therefore understandable that it is being suggested that the "global
war against terrorism" will last one or more decades. The same non-dialogue
mindset is calling the shots -- or rather evoking them.
From this perspective, any independence process in recognition of human rights
might be usefully recognized as a "terrorist laundering" process --
a concept that might encourage "Washington" to live up to its name.
It is just a question of the price the Coalition of the Willing is prepared
to pay in innocent human lives to stave off the moment of historical recall.
Who benefits from avoiding dialogue for as long as
Why not prepare the way with a permanent neutral dialogue zone as a laboratory
for lower ranking representatives (porte-paroles) of various dramatically
opposed perspectives -- an "Oslo process"? The long-term dialogue
between North and South Korea in a state of continuing belligerency suggests
one model, however unsatisfactory (cf James M. H. Lee, The
Korean Armistice and North-South Dialogue, 2001). It would be vital
that the context was not designed on the assumption that any one position was
the right and appropriate one -- or that a particular western style of facilitation
was appropropriate, or that agreement was the only desirable outcome. There
is a need to learn to talk to people who are totally unreasonable from one's
preferred perspective (possibly like one's parents, one's teenage children,
one's mother in law, or one's noisy neighbour!). What would such research cost
-- in comparison to the cost of vainly chasing after terrorists long after they
may have blown themselves up? Who benefits from avoiding
insights that might emerge from such research?
Such dialogue might lead to a more daring initiative following the precedent
of the post-apartheid Truth and Reconciliation
Commission in South Africa. According to Kevin Avruch and Beatriz Vejarano
(Truth and Reconciliation
Commissions: A Review Essay and Annotated Bibliography, 2002), since
1973, more than 20 'truth commissions' have been established around the world,
with the majority (15) created between 1974-1994. Even the exercise of scoping
out how this might work between religions would be of value. Given the manner,
noted above, in which negotiation with "terrorist" groups is framed
as either "impossible" or "inappropriate", it is interesting
to note the paper by Eric Brahm (Truth
Commissions) on a website named BeyondIntractability.org
-- specifically devoted to "information on more constructive approaches
to difficult and intractable conflicts" (an Intractable Conflict Knowledge
Base Project of the Conflict Research Consortium of the University of Colorado).
As noted by William Dalrymple (A
largely bourgeois endeavour, The Guardian, 20 July 2005):
Of course, we must condemn the horrific atrocities these men cause; but condemnation
is not enough. Unless we attempt to understand the jihadis, read
their statements and honestly analyse what has led these men to blow themselves
up, we can never defeat them or even begin to drain the swamp of the grievances
in which they continue to flourish.
A credible response is envisaged by David Clark (This
terror will continue until we take Arab grievances seriously, The
Guardian, 9 July 2005):
An effective strategy can be developed, but it means turning our attention
away from the terrorists and on to the conditions that allow them to recruit
and operate. No sustained insurgency can exist in a vacuum. At a minimum,
it requires communities where the environment is permissive enough for insurgents
to blend in and organise without fear of betrayal.
Avoiding dialogue and new insight, who benefits from
Tony Blair's interpretation of this to mean "big brotherly" collection
of intelligence on local Muslim communities -- intelligence that could be used
abusively for other purposes? (cf Vikram Dodd, Special
Branch to track Muslims across UK, The Guardian, 20 July 2005).
Rushing in legislation for more comprehensive identity profiling and installation
of thousands of surveillance cameras everwhere -- as the key to effective response
to terrorism -- may be especially ironic if the association of "al-Qaida"
with a database (as mentioned earlier) is confirmed. As was perhaps originally
intended, the final result of the "war on terrorism" may then be the
online recording of whole populations in a database. "Al-Qaida" may
then turn out to have been the codename for an exercise in control -- the ultimate
worldwide expression of anal
retentiveness by fundamentalists.
There is a curious irony to the parallel between the challenge of "dialogue
with terrorists" and of "dialogue with polluters" (in relation
to climate change). Tony Blair was quoted at the G8 as saying:
My fear is that if we do not bring the US into the consensus on tackling
climate change, we will never ensure the huge emerging economies, particularly
China and India, are part of a dialogue... If we do not have the US, India
and China as part of that dialogue, there is no possibility of succeeding
in resolving this issue. [more]
To the extent that "al-Qaida" can be usefully understood as a label
for humanity's "collective unconscious" -- or that of a dominant segment
of industrialized society -- it would seem that rejection of any form of dialogue
should be interpreted as a failure of the "consciousness" of humanity
to come to terms with that which it suppresses. From a psychoanalytical perspective,
the failure of consciousness to "get the message", or even to acknowledge
the legitimacy of the message, can only result in the escalation of the "irrational"
violence that the "unconscious" will imaginatively continue to inflict
on the "conscious". For humanity, seeking to win a "war"
against it's shadow is not a fruitful undertaking (cf Attacking
the Shadow through Iraq, 2002).
As to the calls by Tony Blair (13 July 2005) to "root out" the "perverted
and poisonous misinterpretation of the religion of Islam" in order that
the "moderate and true voice of Islam" can prevail, one wonders whether
there is not a case for "rooting out" the "perverted and poisonous
misinterpretation of democracy" in order that its "moderate and true
voice" might prevail. To whom should that call be addressed? Is Blair part
of the problem or part of the solution? (cf John Pilger, Blair
Is Unfit to Be Prime Minister, The New Statesman, 25 July 2005)
To what extent has the point been reached at which western leadership is now
imitating the legendary demonic archetype -- offering, with the highest spiritual
assurances, to solve humanity's problems provided humanity will sacrifice its
human rights and civil liberties? (cf Saad al-Fagih, Give
up your freedoms -- or change tack, The Guardian, 11 August 2005;
Tania Branigan, Britons
would trade civil liberties for security, The Guardian, 22
Wendell Bell. All About Evil. Journal of Futures Studies (Tamkang University,
Taiwan) where it first was published with the title "New futures and the eternal
struggle between good and evil," [Vol. 5, No. 2, November 2000): 1-20] [text]
Sidney Blumenthal. Above the rule of law. The Guardian, 2 August 2005
Brent Bozell III. Thinking The Unthinkable About Bush. 23 May 2002 [text]
Decision Support Systems. An Analysis of Al-Qaida Tradecraft. 2001 [text]
Norman K. Denzin and Yvonna S. Lincoln (Eds). 9/11 in American Culture. Altamira
Press, 2003(Crossroads in Qualitative Inquiry) [review]
Robert Fisk. The Reality of this Barbaric Bombing: if we are fighting insurgency
in Iraq, what makes us think insurgency won't come to us? The Independent,
8 July 2005 [text]
Catherine Austin Fitts:
- 9/11: Cui Bono? Conspiracy Planet: the alternative news and history
network, 9 July 2005 [text]
- Cui Bono? Building a Map to Solve the Crime. Narco News Bulletin,
17 September 2001 [text]
- Cui Bono 9/11? 911Truth.org [text]
Andre Gunder Frank. The Tragedy of September 11: Cui Bono. 25 November 2001
Jonathan Glover. Dialogue is the only way to end this cycle of violence. The
Guardian, 27 July 2005 [text]
Doug Giebel. When History Looks Back: Thinking the Unthinkable. CounterPunch,
16/17 October 2004 [text]
William Norman Grigg. Criminalizing Dissent. New American, Vol. 15,
No. 25 December 6, 1999 [text]
Huck Gutman. Thinking the Unthinkable. The Statesman (Kolkata, India)
30 October 2001 (on the specter of massive nuclear destruction) [text]
Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky. Manufacturing Consent. Pantheon Books, 1988
Seymour Hersh. The Coming Wars: what the Pentagon can now do in secret. New
Yorker, 17 January 2005 [text
| interview | commentary]
- Honour Essential to Psycho-social Integrity: challenge of dishonourable
leadership to the nameless, 2005 [text]
- Thinking in Terror: Refocusing the interreligious challenge from "Thinking
after Terror", 2005 [text]
- Errorism vs Terrorism? Encroachment, Complicity, Denial and Terraism, 2004
- Varieties of Terrorism: extended to the experience of the terrorized, 2004
- Practicalities of Participatory Democracy with International Institutions:
Attitudinal, Quantitative and Qualitative Challenges, 2003 [text]
- Politicization of Evidence in the Plastic Turkey Era: al-Qaida, Saddam,
Assassination and the Hijab, 2003 [text]
- Future Challenge of Faith-based Governance, 2003 [text]
- Destructive Weapons of Mass Distraction vs Distractive Weapons of Mass Destruction,
- Nos Morituri Te Salutamus: Salute of Iraqi Citizens to the Coalition of
the Willing, 2003 [text]
- Tank-thoughts from Think-tanks: constraining metaphors on developing global
governance, 2003 [text]
- Promoting a Singular Global Threat -- Terrorism: Strategy of choice for
world governance, 2002 [text]
- Spin and Counter-spin: Governance through Terrorism, 2002 [text]
- Groupthink: the Search for Archaeoraptor as a Metaphoric Tale: missing the
link between "freedom fighters" and "terrorists", 2002 [text]
- Transforming the Encounter with Terrorism, 2002 [text]
- Warping the Judgement of Dissenting Opinion: towards a general framework
for comparing distortion in rules of evidence, 2002 [text]
- And When the Bombing Stops? Territorial conflict as a challenge to mathematicians,
- Communicating with Aliens: the psychological dimension of dialogue, 2000
- Questioning the War on Terrorism [web
George Lakoff. Metaphors of Terror. 16 September 2001 [text]
Saul Landau. Cui Bono II: George W. Bush's draconian anti-Cuba measures. Canadian
Dimension, May 2004 [text]
David R. Loy. A New Holy War Against Evil? A Buddhist Response, 18 September
Wayne Madsen. Anthrax and the Agency Thinking the Unthinkable. CounterPunch,
8 April 2002 [text]
Wayne Madsen. Convenient London Terror: Cui Bono? Conspiracy Planet
Horst Mahler. 11 September 2001 -- "Cui Bono?" [text]
Jim Marrs. Marrs on 9/11: Thinking the Unthinkable. DVD [access]
Andrew C. McCarthy. Torture: Thinking about the Unthinkable. Benador Associates,
14 July 2004 [text]
Louis Menand. Thinking the Unthinkable. New Yorker, 25 June 2005 [text]
Richard K. Moore. Thinking the Unthinkable: world violence as a solution to
overpopulation and resource collapse, 1999 [text]
Derek Parfit. Cui Bono?, or, Avoiding the Repugnant Conclusion. June 2005 [text]
Matthew Parris. I name the four powers who are behind the al-Qaeda conspiracy.
The Times, 23 July 2005 [text]
Ralph Peters. When Devils Walk the Earth: the mentality and roots of terrorism,
and how to respond. Center
For Emerging Threats and Opportunities [text]
Steven Phillipson. Thinking the Unthinkable. Center for Cognitive-Behavioral
John Pilger. Power, Propaganda and Conscience in the War on Terror. Znet,
26 January 2004 [text]
John Pilger. Lest We Forget: these were Blair's bombs. Truthout, 10
July 2005 [text]
David T. Pyne. Thinking the Unthinkable: could Bush actually be impeached?
Ether Zone: the intelligent alternative, 11 July 2005 [text]
Tom Raynor (Ed). Thinking about the Unthinkable: Lessons of September 11, SUManagement,
Andrew L. Ross. Thinking about the Unthinkable: Unreasonable Exuberance? 2001
Chris Sanders and Catherine Austin Fitts. The Negative Return Economy: a discourse
on America's black budget. World Affairs, Journal of International Issues
Butler Shaffer. Cui Bono Revisited, 8 July 2005 [text]
Joseph R Stromberg. Cui Bono? Imperialism and Theory 5 October 1999 [text]
James William Underhill. The Switch: metaphorical representation of the war
in Iraq from September 2002 - May 2003 [text]
USA Department of Defense, Office of the Under Secretary of Defense For Acquisition,
Technology and Logistics. Report of the Defense Science Board Task Force on
The Creation and Dissemination of All Forms of Information in Support of Psychological
Operations (PSYOP) in Time of Military Conflict. Washington, DC, May 2000. [text]
Jon Basil Utley. Cui Bono on 9/11? Settler Lobby, The War Party, Armageddon
Lobby, Neo-cons. 29 May 2002 [text]
Bennett Voyles. Thinking About the Unthinkable: Lessons Learned in Security
in the Wake of 9/11. Futures Industry, March/April 2002 [text]
Anthony Wade. Cui bono? Stupidity Versus Logic in the Latest "Terror"
Attack. OpEdNews, 7 July 2005 [text]
Ian Welsh. The Consequences of Metaphors in the "War" on Terror. 18 March 2004
Deborah Du Nann Winter. Thinking about the Unthinkable. Peace and Conflict:
Journal of Peace Psychology, 2003, 9, 2, pp. 185-187 [review]
Robert Wright Schwartz. War on Evil: the world's most dangerous ideas. Foreign
Policy, 1 October 2004 [text]
"The only thing worth globalizing is dissent." --Arundhati Roy