Counter-Terrorism: November 29, 2004

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While al Qaeda remains the center of everyones attention in the war on terror, more and more attacks are being generated by al Jazeera inspired independent operators. The constant stream of anti-American propaganda from al Jazeera, and other Arab media, must not be underestimated. Al Jazeera programming is delivered internationally, and is viewed by Arabs world wide. Al Jazeera programming influences other Arab media with their constant stream of America is making war on Islam messages.  Al Jazeera editors know what kind of coverage will appeal most of their audience, and to the leaders of Arab nations who can knock the network off the air if their reporting dares cover the Arab worlds real problems.

The actual number of major international attacks planned and executed by al Qaeda has been quite small. In the 1998 there was the Kenya embassy bombing, which killed 231 (mostly Kenyans). Then there was September 11, 2001. In May, 2003 there was a bombing in Morocco that killed 33. In August and October, 2003, there were attacks in Indonesia that killed over 200 people. In November, 2002, there was an attack in Saudi Arabia that killed 17. In November, 2003, there were attacks in Turkey that killed 60. In March, 2004, there was an attack in Spain that killed 191. Since early 2003, most al Qaeda activity has been in Iraq, where over a thousand Iraqis have been killed by suicide bomb attacks. But these attacks are local operations, taking place in the heart of al Qaedas homeland. Same with the violence in Saudi Arabia, where local al Qaeda terrorists are losing a battle with their arch-enemy, the Saudi monarchy. Remember, the United States became an al Qaeda target because of American support for the Saudi monarchy. 

There have been other major Islamic terror attacks since September 11, 2001, but they have been traced to non-al Qaeda groups. These are the work of local terrorists, carrying on local rebellions. Chechen terrorists have killed nearly a thousand in several spectacular attacks, but they were fighting the Russians long before al Qaeda came along. The October, 2004 bombings at the Egyptian Taba resort, and killed 34, turned out to be the work of Egyptians angry at Israel, and not connected with al Qaeda. The attack killed some Egyptians, and put thousands out of work. While al Jazeera played this up as a blow against Israel, a lot the damage was done to Egyptians. 

Al Qaedas goal was to enable Islamic terrorists to operate internationally so that they could hit Western targets. Thus the enormous significance of the September 11, 2001 attacks. With al Qaedas Afghan base gone, and their leadership arrested, dead or on the run, carrying out international terrorism is not much of an option. But international terrorism is still a threat. Thats because al Qaeda gained enormous publicity from the September 11, 2001 attacks. Osama Bin Laden became icon and folk hero for angry young Moslems. Their anger springs from sources close to home, but their inability to improve their conditions, especially in the oil rich Arab nations, made bin Ladens call for war against the infidels (non-Moslems) appealing. This was especially true since bin Laden was offering, for the vast majority of young Moslem men, a virtual war. Few of them were willing, or able, to become international terrorists. Becoming a suicide bomber was widely praised, but is largely a spectator sport. From his base in Afghanistan, bin Laden offered training and technical specialists that made Islamic international terrorism work. Without the base (al Qaeda in Arabic), Islamic terrorists had to strike close to home, if at all. Bombing your own people was a losing propositions, as the Egyptian Moslem Brotherhood discovered in the 1980s and 90s. 

Because of its location, Iraq was an easy journey for many eager Islamic warriors wanting to kill infidels. Yet few (less than a thousand) showed up. Many of those who did get to Iraq had little, or no, experience with terrorist, or military, operations and were of little use. Most of the anti-government fighters are former Saddam thugs who want their jobs back, and more interested in terrorizing Iraqis.  Nearly all of the terrorism in Iraq is Iraqis threatening and killing other Iraqis. The foreign terrorists are often dismayed when they find themselves asked to kill Iraqis, when they had come to Iraq to kill Americans. 

Islamic terrorists have an easier time setting up shop in Europe, but even that has not resulted in a lot of terror attacks. European nations, in an attempt to be accommodating, allowed Moslem immigrants to segregate themselves and maintain the customs of the countries they came from. This also suited the locals, as Europe does not have a tradition of assimilation. The United States is different in that migrants are encouraged to assimilate. The vast majority do. While many first generation migrants cling to the language and customs they grew up with, their kids tend to become very American, very quickly. While the media often says otherwise, census and other survey data shows that assimilation is the rule. This means that in Europe, Islamic radicals can find hospitable and familiar communities where they can hide. Its also possible to plan and carry out terrorist operations from these European ghettos. In the United States, its much more likely that at least one member of any immigrant neighborhood will report suspicious activity to the police or FBI. This was not always the case before September 11, 2001, mainly because suspicious activity was likely to be local gangsters. Informing on these guys was dangerous, primarily because the police often took their time going after the crooks. But with Islamic terrorists, the police respond quickly, and take pains to protect their informants. 

But Arab migrants in Europe and North America are constantly exposed to al Jazeera, and other Arab language media that gives a radically different version of what is going on in Iraq, and the war on terrorism. This continues to bring in some recruits, and confuse that part of the al Jazeera audience that also has access to non-Arab media. Without al Qaeda, and even with the Internet, the new recruits are, in a few cases, terrorizing their adopted countries. But when you add it all up, international Islamic terrorism, in the pre-2001 style, is not likely to make a comeback. 

 


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