Oh Those Poor, Poor, Rich Arabian Princes and Princesses

Well, right now I’m in the GSU Law Library attempting to do homework.  But, apparently they don’t want to have any of the textbooks I need in stock in the library, so while I wait for a check to clear my account so I can go buy those overpriced things online and maybe borrow a copy from a friend, guess I’ll do an update.  So, like I said in the last post, I’m going to focus on the Panty Bomber (Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab’s new nickname in the media) and his upbringing to debunk the commonly held belief that terrorists come from the bottom rungs of society and only take up the box opener and explosive laden shoe out of desperation to increase the standard of life of their families and countrymen.

However, if we look at the history of terrorism throughout the last hundred years (when it began its historic rise to prominence) we find that even the proto-terrorists that lit the fuse that eventually lead to the explosion of WWI, we find that the Mlada Bosna (“Young Bosnians”) were not those who were being ground under the boot of the ruling classes, but rather were “Bosnian Serb intellectuals, university students and even schoolchildren.”  Unlike those who were actually down trodden and disenfranchised, these individuals were brought up in relative well-to-do households and actually got to attend college (a rare thing until after WWII).  It was the fact that they were actually able to attend college and ponder over the intricacies of the world around them that led them to throw the bomb.  Because they were “educated,” they saw what was going on around them and also realized that the “traditional” methods of doing things (you know, writing letters to the editor, talking to elected officials, organized protest, etc.) weren’t working and didn’t really attract those who needed change the most.  I mean, come on, if you’re busy picking radishes for 14 hours a day for $0.25 an hour, do you really have the desire to come home and sit down and write a letter.  More importantly, if you’re picking radishes for $0.25 an hour, do you even know how to write a letter?

So what these people realized was that, tradition be damned.  If they were ever going to make a change happen, they needed to do something to get the attention of the ruling class.  And bombs are pretty good attention getters.  But, that’s one of my main points.  These were EDUCATED people, advocating random bombings (to be fair, they only targeted the rulers themselves, avoiding women and children).  Their educations had actually made them too smart.  It wrested from them an understanding that violence in the name of change is still violence.  They instead replaced the common, traditional value system with a “higher understanding” of how things worked and how things should be.  And as such, were able to convince themselves that what they were doing was ok.

In fact, it has been this “reason-based” explanation that has been advanced by terrorists and their sponsors for decades.  In the 1970s, when the UN was taking up the case of the recent advent of truly international terrorism, their arguments were essentially that the violence wasn’t what was wrong with terrorism, it was what they were fighting against that truly mattered.  “[T]he Third World delegates argued forcefully that it is not the violence itself that is germane, but its ‘underlying causes’: that is, the ‘misery, frustration, grievance and despair’ that produce the violent acts.”  32.  Thus, to the terrorist, it’s not the violence per se (we’ll get to that later), but rather why the violence existed in the first place.  “Terrorist” according to this definition of the word could not be held against someone who is “denied the most elementary human rights, dignity, freedom and independence, and whose countries objected to foreign occupation.” 32.

All of these individuals had conjured up this explanation due to the fact that their (more often than not) liberal, Western educations had eliminated a sense of belonging to their traditional class/caste/tribe/whatever.  Instead, they began to feel that their lives were consistently becoming more meaningless, hopeless, and lonely, to the point where they sought out something to fill the hole that their educations had bore into them.  Enter the “Utopian” vision, where their countrymen’s problems are not their own, but rather forced down upon them by the ruling class/colonialists/the bourgeoisie/the Jews/America.  If only their countrymen would wake up and smell the coffee, they’d realize that they were the masters of their own destiny, and as such would rise up and throw off the shackles of their oppressors.  But alas, because of the craftiness of their oppressors, their countrymen weren’t able to remove the blinders.  Enter the terrorist’s idea that by causing violence to the oppressors, they would be able to bring enough attention to the suffering of their people and their oppressors would be forced to concede defeat and let them be free.  It’s as if, instead of Gandhi simply doing hunger-strikes, he poisoned the British water and food supplies until they left of their own accord.  (Would that be more of a non-voluntary hunger strike then?  But I digress).

To further the terrorist’s idea that he is simply an enlightened soul, helping out his oppressed countrymen, many of these terrorist groups will come up with name like “freedom fighters,” or “liberation army,” etc.  Furthering entrenching the idea that it’s not the violence that’s the problem, it’s why they’re being violent.  “[T]he terrorist is not pursuing purely egocentric goals. . . .  The terrorist is fundamentally an altruist: he believes that he is serving a ‘good’ cause designed to achieve a greater good for a wider constituency . . . which the terrorist and his organization purport to represent.” 43.  Thus, from the Young Bosnians, to the Weather Underground, to Osama bin Laden, to Fruit of the Loon (just read that one today – awesome), the most prominent terrorists have been the product, not of poverty and strife, but rather a very comfortable lifestyle that they come to despise because they were educated to believe that those things actually separate them from the rest of their countrymen.

“Now Kyle, you only just listed like 4 terrorist groups, and you didn’t even say al Qaeda, you said Osama bin Laden.  And the Young Bosnians and Weather Underground don’t count – they are ancient history in the terrorism world.”

Yeah, I’m not saying that every terrorist is some wealthy, disassociated person.  Most of the underlings, the ones that strap bombs to their chests and then blow themselves up in the marketplace in Afghanistan, are from the lower rungs of society.  But they’re not being the prototypical terrorist, in that they aren’t attacking the oppressor, rather they are simply inducing random violence to keep the country on the news.  I mean, if CNN/MSNBC/CBS/ABC/AP/BBC/Reuters/Fox News wouldn’t report on the bombings that didn’t kill an American (or British or [Insert foreign nationality here]), do you think the American public would really care?  Probably not.  We might hear about it from one source, say “Oh, that’s too bad.  Who won on American Idol?  Where can I download ‘Pants on the Ground’?”  Then move on.  But, if they keep doing it every day, and we hear about a new one every day, we’d probably get bored of it, making us wish something different was happening “over there.”  I mean, imagine 365 straight days of reruns of that crappy Britney and Kevin reality show, at the same time, on every single channel.  And they only played the same episode.  I’d likely strap on my own panty bomb just to put myself out of my own misery.  (And pause.  Now giggle because I said “strap on”).

Well, this is essentially what those underlings are doing in Afghanistan and Iraq – wearing us down.  The prototypical terrorist knows that this isn’t what needs to be done.  They ascribe to the idea that instead of wearing us down, they simply need to land one good hit.  Then scurry back to hide in whatever cave they came out of.  “May persons [. . .] harbor all sorts of radical and extreme beliefs and opinions, and many of them belong to radical or even illegal or proscribed political organizations.  However, if they do not use violence in the pursuance of their beliefs, they cannot be considered terrorists.  The terrorist is fundamentally a violent intellectual, prepared to use and indeed committed to using force in the attainment of his goals.” 43.  The underling wants to annoy us.  The terrorist wants us out of their country/out of the Middle East/destroyed altogether/to adopt socialism/to adopt more socialism, and in order to do this, visits violence on us.

What America especially needs to realize now, is that the type of religious based terrorism we face now is very different from that of the IRA or PLO or ETA.  Instead, groups like al Qaeda and others can’t be bargained with.  We can’t send them more aid, because those who are out there preaching this corrupt version of Islam don’t need any aid.  They’ve got their rich families and other various supporters.  We can’t appease them with acceptance into the political process.  “[T]raditional counterterrorism approaches and policies may not be relevant, much less effective, in the face of [religious terrorism].  Political concessions, financial rewards, amnesties and other personal inducements that have often been successfully applied against secular terrorists would be not only irrelevant but impractical.” 128.  That’s where the recognition of the fact that the typical “terrorist” is some downtrodden impoverished person only out seeking the betterment of his survivors would actually put America on the path to bringing an end to the “War on Terror.”


P.S. – All quotes are from “Inside Terrorism” by Bruce Hoffman.  And, this was a copy printed in like 1999 or 2000, so the more recent copies may have different quotes, page numbers, etc.  Get over it – it was an old textbook from college.  Just be glad I actually did some research and not just made up a bunch of stuff.

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