Misconceptions about misconceptions about terrorism

Today Dr. Alfred Evans, CSUF Professor of Political Science, had a piece in the Fresno Bee called “More misconceptions about terrorism“. One of them was described thus:

A sixth misconception is that the actions of terrorist organizations that target the U.S. are motivated directly and primarily by their hostility to our values. Some have said that terrorists attack us because they hate our freedom.

That explanation is rejected by the consensus of experts on anti-American terrorism. The late Gen. Wayne Downing of the U.S. Army (who served as Commander of Special Operations and later as the president’s chief adviser on terrorism) summarized the results of opinion surveys in several Middle Eastern countries by saying, “It is U.S. regional policies — not a clash of values, religion or the ‘Al Jazeera factor’ — that influence anti-American attitudes in the Middle East.” The Defense Science Board report of November 2004 underlined the same point.

Michael Scheuer, who formerly headed the unit in the CIA that tracked Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida and whose books have been praised highly by experts on terrorism, says flatly that none of the reasons for which bin Laden is waging war on us “have anything to do with our freedom, liberty and democracy, but have everything to do with U.S. policies and actions in the Muslim world.”

But the ‘experts’ and Evans are missing an important point. The terrorists of al-Qaeda, have a radical Islamist philosophy. What does this mean and what does it imply?

Muslims, once in control of much of the civilized world, have done very poorly in the past few hundred years, economically, socially, and politically in their confrontation with the modern, technological West. Islamism is one reaction to this. Daniel Pipes writes,

Islamism holds that Muslims lag behind the West because they’re not good Muslims. To regain lost glory requires a return to old ways, and that is achieved by living fully in accordance with the Shari’a. Were Muslims to do so, they would once again reside on top of the world, as they did a millennium ago…

In their effort to build a way of life based purely on the Shar’i laws, Islamists strain to reject all aspects of Western influence – customs, philosophy, political institutions and values. Despite these efforts, they still absorb vast amounts from the West in endless ways. For one, they need modern technology, especially its military and medical applications. For another, they themselves tend to be modern individuals, and so are far more imbued with Western ways than they wish to be or will ever acknowledge…

The modern world frustrates and stymies traditional figures who, educated in old-fashioned subjects, have not studied European languages, spent time in the West, or mastered its secrets. For example, traditionalists rarely know how to exploit the radio, television and the Internet to spread their message. In contrast, Islamist leaders usually speak Western languages, often have lived abroad, and tend to be well versed in technology…

Islamists…have ambitions to tame the West, something they do not shy from announcing for the whole world to hear. The most crude simply want to kill Westerners. In a remarkable statement, a Tunisian convicted of setting off bombs in France in 1985-86, killing thirteen, told the judge handling his case, “I do not renounce my fight against the West which assassinated the Prophet Muhammad. . . . We Muslims should kill every last one of you [Westerners].” Others plan to expand Islam to Europe and America, using violence if necessary…

The more moderate Islamists plan to use non-violent means to transform their host countries into Islamic states. For them, conversion is the key. One leading American Muslim thinker, Isma’il R. Al-Faruqi, put this sentiment rather poetically: “Nothing could be greater than this youthful, vigorous and rich continent [of North America] turning away from its past evil and marching forward under the banner of Allahu Akbar [God is great].”

Does this sound like they are objecting to our policies and actions rather than our values?

If, for example, we were to stop supporting Israel, Mubarak, the House of Saud, etc., would they then leave Europe and Britain alone? Or would they simply celebrate their victory — as Hamas responded to Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza — and press harder to Islamify every nation where there are Muslims, including the US?

And Islamists, Shiite as well as Sunni, clearly see themselves in this light:

In an article, the Iranian weekly Sobh-e Sadeq, the mouthpiece of Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei circulated among the Revolutionary Guards, has stated that Hizbullah sees itself as part of an Islamic movement striving towards Islamic rule of the world – not just as a Lebanese organization. — MEMRI

I want to add a word about Michael Scheuer, one of Evans’ experts. He has an ax to grind, and it is against Israel. Here’s an example of Scheuer’s point of view:

After 30-plus years of America exposing itself to steadily increasing danger and expense because of the infantile inability of Israelis and Palestinians to live together, we had a chance to walk away and let the cards fall where they may. True, it surely would not have been fair to both sides to do so; after all, the Israelis have a conventional army and a large, undocumented array of weapons of mass destruction, while the Palestinians have AK-47s, the less-than-mighty Qassim missiles, and a steady supply of martyrs and rocks. Life is always tough, however, and the elimination of one or both sides would have no discernible impact on life in North America.

If this is how Scheuer sees the conflict — a quarrel between ‘infantile’ Israelis and Palestinians, with no mention of any external influences such as (historically) the Soviets and their client states, and today Iran, Saudi Arabia, etc. — he is truly an idiot. Of course he doesn’t. What he does understand is that without US support, Israel will not survive, something that would apparently be fine with him.

Scheuer and others like him would very much like us to believe that we were attacked on 9/11 because of our “policies and actions”, in particular, our support for Israel. And the next step in the argument is that all we have to do is abandon Israel and we can say goodbye to terrorism.

Unfortunately, the goals of radical Islam stretch far beyond Israel, which is today simply the front line in its struggle with the West (or rather, one front line — Europe is another).

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One Response to “Misconceptions about misconceptions about terrorism”

  1. Shalom Freedman says:

    What an odd statement to make. Islamic fundamentalists whether Iranian Shiites or Saudi Sunnis hate democracy, freedom and aim to wipe it from the world. ‘Terror’ is a means to realize a clear program and ideology.
    Since the terrorists say this themselves I do not see how anyone can seriously question that , except perhaps if they have the motive of blaming the U.S. for the terror it is resisting.