Information Warfare: How To Win Against Logic and Reality

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July 24, 2013: The Pakistani Taliban, and the many Pakistanis who believe that Islamic radicalism is the only way to solve Pakistan’s problems with corruption and poverty, have managed to convince many Pakistanis that some recent high profile Taliban atrocities are actually efforts to defend Pakistan from Western plots and conspiracies. For example, back on October 9, 2012, in Pakistan's Swat Valley, a 14 year old girl (Malala Yousufzai) was shot in the head by a Taliban assassin. Two other girls on her school bus were wounded. Malala has become famous in Pakistan during the previous three years for opposing Taliban efforts to prevent girls from going to school. She began by writing an anonymous blog about her experiences trying to get an education despite Taliban opposition. Eventually she went public and the Taliban threatened retaliation, but few thought the terrorists would attack an individual teenage girl. Many teenage girls have been killed by Taliban bombs but the Taliban had not been known to target individual girls. Malala survived the shooting and the government arranged for her and her family to move to Britain, to avoid further attacks. Malala recovered from her wounds and is now speaking out again, including a recent speech at the UN (on her 16 th birthday). While the Taliban initially took credit for the shooting, they had to quickly come up with some excuses because the shooting caused an anti-Taliban uproar throughout Pakistan and the world. Since then the Taliban and other Islamic radical groups backed away from approving of the shooting but never denied that they were responsible. The government offered a $100,000 reward for the capture of the shooter and soon announced that they knew who the attackers were. Conservative Islamic clerics who usually approve of the Taliban policy on education for women were initially silent about this incident.

But in the last six months the Taliban and their Islamic conservative allies have managed to convince many Pakistanis that Malala was actually working for the West and is probably on the CIA payroll. This is all described as part of an American plot to enslave Pakistan and harm Islam. This sort of paranoid fantasy has always played well in Moslem nations because Islam was founded as a militant religion and its teachings are full of praise for making war on non-believers and being alert to enemy schemes. Because of this mindset even some people in Swat now believe this, although most of the “Malala is evil” crowd consists mostly of people with little up-close experience with the Taliban.

The people of Swat know better. The Swat Valley has been a battleground between the army and the Taliban for years. The Pakistani Taliban claims to have regained control of much of the tribal territories, including the Swat Valley (right outside the tribal territories). This is propaganda, not reality. The Pakistani Taliban still have armed men in many parts of the tribal territories, often operating from bases across the border in Afghanistan. The Pakistani Taliban are still very much at war with Pakistan and are loudly striving to "avenge" the death of Osama bin Laden and other foreign terrorists who had come to help the Pakistani Taliban. Attacks, like those against Malala Yousufzai, are supposed to remind everyone that the Taliban are still around.

The Taliban took control of the Swat Valley for two years starting in 2007, and were then driven out by the army. But there remained a lot of hostility towards the government. It's all about corruption and lack of a rule of law. The Taliban got in partly on the promise of driving out corrupt government officials and providing fair Islamic courts. The Taliban then destroyed their popularity by also trying to impose unpopular lifestyle rules (no schools or jobs for women and no video, music, or shaving for men). The government brought back the corruption, despite knowing this was a major problem. This has driven some Swat Valley residents to support the Taliban again.  But many of those supporters were appalled by the shooting of Malala Yousufzai.

One of the biggest problems Islamic terrorist organizations have is their tendency to use excessive violence against Moslems and destroy the popular support that they gain fighting against corruption and tyrannical governments. That was the pattern recently in Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and Somalia. Now it’s happening in Pakistan, a nation that has, for over three decades, been very enthusiastic about Islamic radicalism and terrorism. But at least a third of Pakistanis have become quite convinced that Islamic radicalism is the way to go. This is the result of three decades of government sponsored propaganda backing Islamic terrorism.

That support is slowly drying up in Pakistan, all because too many of these Pakistan based Islamic terror organizations are doing things that most Pakistanis do not approve of. It’s one thing to carry out terror attacks in the name of God outside of Pakistan, but when this nasty behavior comes back home that support evaporates. The Pakistani Taliban has seen its popularity slipping over the last decade. Two years ago it sank to 50 percent (of Pakistanis approving the Taliban) and then to 20 percent in May, 2012. Then it sank even lower because of the attack on 15 year old Malala Yousufzai. Since then the Taliban have had nowhere to go but up in the opinion polls and their propagandists (and their allies in the military) have been working hard to make the Taliban appear to be patriots, not thugs. This has not been easy, but it has succeeded inside Pakistan, despite continued Taliban atrocities against women.

Two months after Malala was shot, Taliban gunmen launched a widespread attack on female health workers who were trying to vaccinate children against polio. This began on December 18th, and nine health workers were killed over the next few days. Just as with the attack on Malala Yousufzai, the murder of nine young Pakistani women working on a vaccination program horrified most Pakistanis. This time senior Moslem clerics were compelled to join together in condemning the Islamic radicals for such barbaric behavior. Clergy speak out against the Taliban at great risk. The Taliban regularly kill, or try to kill, Islamic clergy who criticize Islamic radicalism. But there is some safety in numbers, for this time clerics representing 24,000 Mosques are speaking out. If the Taliban start killing or threatening any of these clerics there would be even more support for destroying the Pakistani Taliban and other Islamic radical groups allied with them. It’s not just the Moslem clerics who are speaking out. Many former supporters of Islamic radicalism are now openly against these groups. These critics like to point out that these extremist movements have achieved nothing beneficial and have gotten a lot of innocent Moslems killed in the process. But much of the Taliban support is rooted in tradition and faith and has proved very resistant to logic and reality.

 

 


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