Information Warfare: July 8, 2005

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Al Qaeda, and Islamic radicals in general, would not be a world terrorism problem were it not for global Islamic media, and media coverage in general that treated the goals of the Islamic radicals with seriousness and respect. For decades, Islamic radicalism only played in its own backyard, trying to replace Islamic tyrants with Islamic religious dictatorships. These Islamic terrorists didnt get much publicity overseas, and what they did get was mostly negative. Most Islamic nations were dictatorships, with the local media  tightly controlled. That changed, for a while, in the 1980s, when the fight between Moslem Afghans, and atheist Russians, was given ample, and positive, publicity by the media in most Moslem nations, and throughout the Western world. The battle in Afghanistan was considered a jihad (Holy War) by Moslems, and what good Moslem could refuse to heap praise on that. The thousands of Moslems who went to Afghanistan (Pakistan, actually, which was where the Afghan rebels rested between missions), were considered heroes when they returned home. Many of these Afghanis soon ended up in jail, for spouting off about how great it would be to have a little Islamic revolution at home. Moslem countries went to war with their Islamic radicals in the 1990s, an event largely unnoticed in the West. There was always some unpleasant violence going on in Moslem countries. Either religion or politics would set things off, and this wasnt news in the West. 

That changed in 1996, when al Jazeera, an international satellite news network began. Now the millions of Moslems in the West could get news delivered using modern, compelling methods, but with a Moslem slant. That slant was quite different from the view of the Moslem, especially Arab, world provided by Western news. The biggest difference was how Israel, and Islamic terrorism, was explained. To Moslems, Israel was a great crime inflicted by the West on the Arab world. To the Arab media, Israel did not deserve to exist, and any Western nations that supported Israel, especially the United States, were enemies of Islam. Extreme stuff, but the sort of line you had to run with if you wanted to succeed as a journalist in the Arab, and Moslem world. This line was supported by most Arab governments, because if took attention away from the fact that most Arab governments were corrupt dictatorships that had never done much for the Palestinian people the Israelis were accused of oppressing. 

The only large scale opposition to Moslem corruption and dictators was Islamic radicals, especially in the form of al Qaeda. But this opposition failed in the 1990s, and al Qaeda decided to turn its attention to targets in the West. According to al Qaeda, the ultimate cause of all the problems in the Moslem world (the corruption, the poverty, the dictatorships) was Western influence. Decadent Western media, and political influence in the form of Western support for Israel and current Moslem governments, must be destroyed before al Qaeda could clean things up in the Moslem world. Once the Moslem world was purified and united under one religious dictator, the rest of the world could be converted to Islam, and a planet wide Islamic religious government establishment. This is what al Qaeda wants. Does anyone believe they have any chance of achieving it? No one does, except millions of Moslems mesmerized by the al Qaeda message, and the thousands of al Qaeda warriors ready to die for the cause. Many of these al Qaeda supporters were in Moslem communities in the West. Thanks to al Jazeera, the Internet, and other satellite based media, the twisted logic of al Qaeda, was presented as news. The rabid anti-Israeli and anti-Semitic reporting so common in Arab media, but absent in the West, was now available anywhere in the world. 

This created an enormous expatriate patriot effect. This is what happens when expatriates become more enthusiastic about violent solutions than the folks back home. This was seen rather vividly among Irish immigrants to the United States in the 19th century, where these Irish patriots formed armed groups, and engaged in terrorist acts in North America, in support of liberating Ireland from British rule. After this happened in the 1920s, the expatriate Irish still maintained the most anti-British attitudes. In the 1970s, when Irish terrorism began again, in Northern Ireland, which was still under British rule, much of the monetary support came from Irish overseas. The Irish in Ireland were much less enthusiastic about Irish terrorism than were the Irish overseas. The same thing is now happening with Moslem support for Islamic terrorism. In Moslem nations that have suffered from Islamic terrorists, places like Algeria, Egypt and Iraq, al Qaeda is hated. But among Moslem communities in Europe, there is a rather more idealized and romantic view of these Moslem martyrs. Recruiting is easier in Europe, as is raising money. While only a small minority of the expatriate Moslems support the terrorists, that amounts to over a million supporters, and thousands of volunteers for suicide attacks and terrorism. 

There is another problem, particularly with Europe. When confronted with a growing Moslem minority, and its enthusiastic adoption of al Jazeeras breathless coverage of Islamic terrorists, and the usual anti-Semitic coverage of Israel, Europe blinked. Rather than resisting this, Europe again went for appeasement. This didnt work with the fascists in the 1930s, or the Soviets during the Cold War. But appeasement is a very popular policy in Europe. It isnt working with Islamic radicals who, like the nazis and communists, want to conquer the world, and are willing to kill millions to get the job done. Appeasement is deeply embedded in the European psyche. Even after the nazis made it clear what they were all about, and had conquered much of Europe, many Europeans preferred to collaborate with the new tyranny. Even after the Cold War was over, many Europeans are nostalgic for the failed experiment of Soviet communism. If only someone else could come back and try it again, and do it right this time. This same twisted logic is being applied to al Qaedas mad march towards world conquest. 

Al Qaeda lives on Moslem frustration at not being able to deal with cultural, economic and political problems at home. Moslem media, especially the international networks that reach the expatriate community, prosper on reporting al Qaedas propaganda as news, rather than nonsense. Al Qaeda killers are often described as martyrs and defenders of Islam. The Arab networks, like al Jazeera, also play international politics. For example, al Jazeera persists in describing Islamic terrorists in Iraq as freedom fighters, trying to liberate Iraq from foreign (U.S.) occupation. What al Jazeera wont admit is that Iraq is mainly a battle between Shia Arabs who, by and large, are seen as allies of Shia Iran and enemies of the Sunni Arab world of the Persian Gulf and Middle East. Officially, Shia and Sunni Moslems get along. Unofficially, Sunni Arab governments (all Arab governments, except Iraq, are run by Sunnis) are terrified of Iran, the most powerful Shia Moslem government in the world, and a traditional enemy of Arabs. Iraqis know that al Qaeda is allied with the Sunni Arab minority trying to regain power, but to al Jazeera, this battle between Sunni and Shia in Iraq does not exist. 

While no government on the planet officially supports al Qaeda, the terrorist organization still has the support of several percent of the Moslem population. Al Qaeda maintains the loyalty of those Moslems, especially the wealthier and better educated expatriate Moslems, via the relatively favorable reporting in the international Moslem media like al Jazeera. You cant shut down this media, which includes the Internet, but you cant ignore it either if you expect to deal with the terrorism. There are many historical examples of this kind of terrorism, and the only way to deal with it is to infiltrate the terrorist networks, hurt them as much as possible, and wait a decade or more until popular support for the killing fades away. It will be back, under a different banner. But thats something for future generations to worry about.

 


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