Fishy Tales

02 May 2005

What Terrorists Want

The world has changed since September 11th 2001.
How much does that sound like stating the bleeding obvious?

But think - exactly how has it changed? It's not like terrorism was a new thing (hello, IRA). It's not even that global terrorist networks such as al-Qaeda (founded 1988) were a new thing. Neither were terrorist attacks on the home turf of Western nations (hello again, IRA). Suicide bombings of various kinds had been happening for years (hello, Hamas et al).

No, it was simply the most "effective"/murderous/high body-count (and for me to use Hollywood terminology is sick, but sadly apt) act of terrorism to date, and crucially, it happened on US soil. Which is part and parcel of it being such a devastating act of terrorism, as (a) the security services and security procedures weren't in any way up to scratch due to inexperience and/or a failure of the imagination and (b) huge iconic skyscrapers, visible for miles around, present a hugely tempting target.

So this is how the world changed - the US changed.
And now we're all caught up in Bush's "War Against Terrorism".

In the spirit of knowing our super-arch-enemy, it's worth asking:
What do Terrorists want?

Some like to adopt the cute no-brainer line of "They're just a bunch of madmen, jealous of our freedom, resentful of our way of life, who want to see us all dead." A beautiful approach that prevents the need for any further thought on the matter - and mine's a pint. But for those who are unconvinced that there could be quite so many complete nutters with so little grasp of reality, who nonetheless manage to coordinate sophisticated and well-targeted operations, let's carry on.

Well, Terrorists want Terror. Easy. They want to create conditions where a specified group of other people live in constant fear. This is stating the bleeding obvious once again, and is well-demonstrated by the way that al-Qaeda have managed the media, and that more recently, Iraqi "insurgents" (hang on, are these terrorists or not? do terrorists come from outside a country, insurgents from inside? D'oh, mine's a pint, let's treat them the same for now) have issued videos of decapitations over the Web etc. Excellent stuff - a world-wide web of fear.

Onward and downward:
Why do Terrorists want to make others live in fear?
For that we need to go back to the roots of the word terrorism , in the Reign of Terror in France (1789). Terrorism started out as an intentional product of an authoritarian state, a means of wiping out any foolish enough to put their heads above the parapet and speak against the state, of silencing their associates and of subjugating anyone else to the extent they would probably hardly dare think the wrong thoughts in case they came out at the wrong time. I'm reminded once again of George Orwell's 1984 and thoughtcrime. This reminds me in turn of what's happening at present, and I'm not the only one to draw the analogy (though I'd add that Bin Laden makes a good Goldstein, and I wouldn't be surprised if he never gets caught). Frightened people are easily manipulated.

Anyway, the point is that, although terrorists may actively want to kill a select few people, what they really want is to control a lot more people, to wit entire countries. The ideal terrorist act from that viewpoint is one where a minimal effort causes the maximum disruption to the lives of the maximum number of people for the maximum length of time. And one that leaves those people with a grave uncertainty about when and where the next outrage will occur.

This is exactly what September 11th has achieved.
It was the perfect terrorist act.
And while we allow our rulers to restrict our own freedoms and severely abuse (mostly other people's) basic human rights; while we allow pre-emptive wars, occupations and regime changes, all in the name of freedom; we perpetuate September 11th and further prove its perfection.

Please vote carefully.


  • Good Blog. I have been researching on this for a while. I found however another site that goes real into depth about terrorists or extreme muslims which are causing this.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 23/7/05 18:43  

  • Whilst I'd agree that we have been guilty of being much too soft on extremist preachers and organisations in the UK - at least until now - I reckon Larry Elder's line again plays into the hands of terrorists.

    The picture he paints is of an extremist Muslim army, implicitly descended from Mohammed via Saladin, bent on world domination, intent on the destruction of all we hold dear. It is very strongly implied that we should fear this army. Certainly Mr Elder paints a frightening picture.

    Anything that gives a small bunch of terrorists the status of an army (partly by allying them with less extreme Muslims, assuming they will all subscribe to the same interpretation of the Koran), anything that therefore gives Bin Laden et al the status of commanders, anything that even implies we should fear these people, is pretty close to treason in my book.

    But thanks for the reference, Anon.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 24/7/05 20:14  

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